Premier: Independents not fit to lead

Premier Alden McLaughlin has highlighted division among the Opposition ranks as evidence that groups of Independent candidates are not equipped to run the country.

McLaughlin said the resignation last week of Ezzard Miller as Opposition leader and the apparent rifts within his loose coalition of independent legislators showed the importance of political parties with a shared platform of ideas.

There has been a growing favouritism among the electorate for Independent candidates in recent years as the two-party system, dominated for more than a decade by McKeeva Bush’s United Democratic Party and McLaughlin’s People’s Progressive Movement has crumbled. That culminated in the 2017 election result when independents won 9* of the 19 seats but were unable to form a government. Instead, the PPM joined forces with the UDP and several independents to form what they labelled the government of national unity.

Miller was initially backed to lead the independent members who did not join the government.

But he resigned Thursday as support for his leadership disintegrated.

McLaughlin said the turmoil on the opposition benches showed the value of the party system.

Ezzard Miller

“In effect, the country is witnessing firsthand why it is not practical for a group of independent candidates to get elected and then seek to come together in the country’s interest,” the premier said in a statement. “They are too busy pursuing their own individual agendas to even try to develop a shared view.”

He said the Opposition members had indicated, in a letter to Miller, extracts of which were published by the Cayman Compass, that he should not speak for them because they wanted to “maintain our independence and the political platform we are all elected on”.

He added, “Previously, these members have tried to paint themselves as a government in waiting. But if they cannot maintain any coherence in opposition, what chance is there that could form an effective government? Disunity, disorganisation and dark deeds fuelled by personal, political ambition are not what this country needs to take us forward.”

He said it did not help the country to have a divided or weak opposition and highlighted Miller’s own words, in his resignation statement, as evidence that political parties, rather than independent legislators, were needed to govern effectively.

“I do hope that the country as well as the members of the opposition learn from the lessons that the opposition members themselves are providing – it takes a committed team to govern – one that, to borrow somewhat from Miller, has the level of cohesion, industry and commitment necessary to serve in the best interest of all the people of these islands.”

***Editor’s Note: The original version of this story incorrectly stated the number of seats won by independents in the 2017 election.***