West Bay North MLA Bernie Bush has resigned as Deputy Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
His announcement came less than 24 hours after House Speaker McKeeva Bush said he will be taking an immediate leave of absence in the wake of allegations that he was involved in the assault of a female bar manager Friday night.
Bernie Bush, in a statement released Thursday, said, “The Speaker of the House has admitted that he will be seeking the help he needs, and I wish him and his family well in what will be a long and difficult process. But with great powers, come great responsibilities, and as a representative of the people I must always strive to lead by example. I therefore in good conscience cannot step up to fill a role that has been tainted by the weakness of the Unity Government to take the morally right, rather than politically expedient, course of action.”
He contended that he started his political service on the premise that his principles will not be “for sale or rent and remaining in the post as Deputy Speaker, in view of the current circumstances, would very much go against my core values”.
He said the recent alleged assault incident which resulted in a female member of the public being injured, “only to be followed by the Speaker taking a temporary leave of absence, leaves me in an untenable situation when considering the severity and seriousness of this incident and the implications of the Speaker’s planned leave”.
His resignation now leaves the Speaker’s chair open for a new Deputy Speaker to preside in the absence of McKeeva Bush, who despite taking a ‘leave of absence’, officially remains as the Speaker of the House.
Bernie Bush left the Unity Government backbench last year during the port referendum debate.
In his statement Thursday, he thanked all members for electing him as Deputy Speaker.
“It has been a great privilege to serve as Deputy Speaker of the House and an honour that I will cherish long after I cease to be a member of the Legislative Assembly,” he said.
With this latest development, Premier Alden McLaughlin now has to name a new Deputy Speaker from among the elected MLAs.
According to the Constitution, the Speaker of the House can be chosen from outside the pool of elected representatives, but a Deputy Speaker must be an MLA who is not a government minister.
McLaughlin, in a comment to the Cayman Compass on Bernie Bush’s announcement, said he was not surprised by the resignation.
“Mr. Bernie Bush and I discussed his resignation as Deputy Speaker during the last meeting of the House in January. At the next meeting of the House, members will proceed to elect a new Deputy Speaker.”
He said the member to be offered for election in the House will be announced in “due course”.
No date has been set for the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly.
Bernie Bush, in explaining his decision, said, like many members of the public, this issue has prompted conversations not only within his personal circle, and with constituents, “but also with the Leader of the Opposition and some of my other colleagues as well”.
He said he was “encouraged” by the many people who were refusing to stay silent or compromise their principles.
“More and more people are choosing to do the hard but right thing, instead of going along, trying to justify the easy wrong,” he said.
The phrase #sheissupported has been trending locally as a show of support for the female manager whom McKeeva Bush referenced in his statement.
Bernie Bush added, “I ask that you all continue to pray for the victim and the many other victims who have the unfortunate experience of dealing with violence. I also ask that you pray for the many perpetrators of violence so that they may turn from the errors of their ways and find the peace that they need. As a community, we are making strides in standing up for what is right.”
He said that he cannot condone violence against anyone, and “as an elected leader, I certainly expect to be held to a higher, not lower standard, of conduct”.
“Caymanian women have always had a strong role to play; they were the backbone when our grandfathers and fathers went off to sea and through nature, remains our first nurturers and teachers,” he said.
Members will elect a new Deputy Speaker at the next Legislative Assembly sitting.
The Deputy Speaker must be an MLA, who is not a government minister.