Official Opposition members, in response to a call by MLA Ezzard Miller for a special sitting of the Legislative Assembly, say they simply do not have the numbers to request such a meeting, and instead urged government members to do so.
They said that without the support of George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan, the Opposition does not have the requisite number of signatures to prompt a meeting.
In a statement issued Monday morning, the Opposition members said they had met over the weekend to consider the North Side MLA’s call for the meeting to debate a vote of no confidence in House Speaker McKeeva Bush, as well as the election of a new Deputy Speaker.
“Unfortunately, the Official Opposition could not get unanimous support as one member of the Group, MLA Kenneth Bryan, was not in support. Without his support, the Opposition cannot get the signatures of seven members, as required by Standing Orders, to request the meeting of the Legislative Assembly,” the Opposition statement said.
In the statement, the Opposition members said, “Members of the Legislative Assembly have two choices in this matter. Either we rise to meet the demands of our office, or we pull our office down to a lower level. We cannot say we value fairness and accountability and be silent or passive when we were elected to be the voice of the voiceless.
“We now urge all elected members of Government to support the opening of the Legislative Assembly to address this urgent matter.”
The call for the meeting was prompted following reports that Bush was allegedly involved in an assault on a female manager of the Coral Beach bar on West Bay Road on 21 Feb. Since then, he has taken a leave of absence from his role as Speaker. Subsequently, MLA Bernie Bush resigned as Deputy Speaker. As McKeeva Bush officially remains the Speaker, his duties would be taken up by a Deputy Speaker, who must be elected from among the sitting MLAs.
In their statement, the Opposition members that they believed “the public should expect, and rightfully so, that those who seek, and are privileged to hold public office, should be held to a higher standard of conduct and that they are duty bound to protect the integrity of the people’s House.”
They added, “While we are also aware that there is also an ongoing criminal investigation, we think it would be rather hypocritical of us, as political leaders, to require members of the Public Service to … ‘not, at any time, engage in any activity that brings his ministry, portfolio, statutory authority, government company, the public service or the government into disrepute’ … but have a different standard for our conduct.
“Inaction is therefore not an option!”
On Friday, Miller, who has been vocal in his call for McKeeva Bush to resign over the assault allegations, called on the Opposition to join him in convening the special sitting.
“The Cayman Islands is on the verge of a constitutional crisis,” he said. “To forestall this, we, the Members of the Legislative Assembly, must assume our responsibility by invoking the relevant provisions of the Cayman Islands Constitution and the Legislature’s Standing Orders to deal with such matters.”
Seven members of the House are required to sign a ‘written requisition’ to trigger a special session of the House.
Premier Alden McLaughlin said that, at the next meeting of the House, members would elect a new Deputy Speaker.
He said the member to be offered for election as Deputy Speaker will be announced in “due course”.
The premier indicated Thursday that no date had been set for the next Legislative Assembly sitting.
Miller: Action needed
Miller said in his statement that it is obvious that the Speaker “will not do the honourable thing and resign”, nor will the premier and the Unity Government revoke the current Speaker’s election.
Miller instead is attempting to invoke the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Order 8(2), which states that “the Presiding Officer [the Speaker] may, in his discretion, summon a meeting of the House and shall do so on the written requisition signed by not less than seven members, stating the terms of the motion or motions which they wish to debate. Notice of any such meeting shall be given to Members as soon as possible by the Clerk”.
Miller invited the Leader of the Opposition and his five colleagues to join him in requesting a special meeting of the Legislative Assembly.
“I would be happy to sign as the seventh Member in accordance with the stated provisions of the Standing Orders,” he said.
“As duly elected representatives of the people in the nineteen electoral districts, it is our responsibility to act in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and do the right thing for these beloved Islands in safeguarding the reputation of the Legislative Assembly and of the Cayman Islands,” Miller said.
The North Side MLA said that the matter was “urgent,” as while there is no written code of conduct for legislators, there is an implicit code to which every member subscribes.
“At the core of our unwritten code of conduct is a pledge to safeguard the respect necessary to maintaining the trust and confidence of the local population and the international community. When we damage that respect, as has so obviously happened in this case, then our fidelity to the institution that we serve and represent must be challenged,” Miller said.
He explained that invoking the relevant constitutional and legislative provisions to address the situation has become necessary.
The Compass reached out to the Office of the Premier for comment on Miller’s call, but no response was received by press time Sunday.
Meanwhile, the RCIPS has said its investigation into the alleged assault is “still ongoing and progressing expeditiously”.
“However, at this time, we are unable to divulge any specific details of the investigation to the public as this could hinder ongoing inquiries,” the police told the Compass Saturday.
“Detectives are aware that there were a number of patrons present at the time the incident occurred and are still seeking the assistance of patrons,” police said.
The police renewed the call for patrons who were at the Coral Beach on the night of the alleged incident to come forward and speak with the RCIPS or call its confidential line at 949-7777.