House Speaker McKeeva Bush issued a warning to legislators on Thursday to be mindful of their words.
It came as he blasted statements from West Bay North MLA Bernie Bush, who recently asserted that he was not for sale.
Bernie Bush made the comment when he crossed the floor to join the Opposition during debate on the Referendum Bill last week.
“When you say, ‘I am not for sale’, it leaves the impression that others are. Think of what we are doing,” the speaker said in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday as he marked 35 years of service in the Cayman Islands.
“Despite freedom of expression, words do connote particular meanings which we need to be mindful of so that collectively we will be worthy of emulation,” he said.
Bush pointed out that he was silent as the West Bay North MLA made his comments because he wanted members to have their say.
However, he raised the matter as he described his path to 35 years of service, commenting on the political growth he has seen.
“Members, we have come a long ways. As I said in the beginning, utterances impugning improper motives and insinuating … bad comments which can bring the members and yourselves into disrepute is unacceptable. No member needs to play lily white,” he said.
Looking back over his lengthy tenure, Bush recounted the changes he has seen, from electricity reaching his community and the first road being paved.
He said the political path he took was not easy, as he shared his experiences as a legislator in the 1980s when labour laws and pensions were first brought to the Cayman Islands.
At that time, he said, there was the slave law, and workers who toiled for 40 years were left with nothing.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, he said, was one who supported pensions back then, as well.
“I know at times when I slept on the floor because we were … threatened particularly over the pension. I pulled my mattress off the bed and put my two children on it because I was threatened. I could not sleep on the bed; I was being that cautious,” he said.
Against this backdrop, he reminded legislators about the power of their words as they not only affect members, but also their families.
“So, I am not going to tolerate [this], for members and their families, for you all to get to that point because of what members will say without proof, but by insinuations and by other means,” he said.
Bush also commented on the budget currently being debated in the House, saying it was the best he has seen in 50 years.
He said he wanted to share that comment even though he knew it would be construed as political and he would be criticised for it.
He said, in his first four years as a legislator, he brought 92 motions to the House.
“It has been a distinct honour and privilege to serve and continue to do so in the interest of the people of these islands and particularly the people of West Bay all these years,” Bush said.