Members of the Opposition and the Unity Government clashed ahead of Monday’s meeting of the Legislative Assembly.
Leader of the Opposition Arden McLean charged government with disregarding checks and balances in previous sittings and putting Cayman “in danger of devolving into a dictatorship”.
Alongside an announcement of parliamentary questions and private members’ motions submitted for the session, the Opposition accused government of shirking its responsibility to hear private member’s motions during the last session, held in April.
Premier Alden McLaughlin dismissed the remarks as being out of touch with the current crises facing the world.
“Let the Opposition members beat their old familiar drum,” McLaughlin told the Cayman Compass.
“Meanwhile, the Government continues the important work the country needs done. The Opposition seems dangerously unaware that Cayman and the rest of the world are navigating both a public health and economic crisis, the likes of which no living person has known, and continue [to] play politics as usual.
“I do hope that at least they attend the upcoming meeting and participate and not abandon their parliamentary duties and walk out as they did last month. The issues and challenges Cayman is facing are far too important for the Opposition to be ‘gone fishing’ when the House is meeting.”
The comments came in response to an Opposition press release issued Thursday. The release said Opposition members were not permitted to submit motions during the last Legislative Assembly meeting and now faced a backlog of issues to address during the coming session.
“Our system of government requires that the role of the Opposition is to hold the government to account, influence debate and represent our constituents’ interests. Although we have been allowed to submit our business for this meeting, it remains to be seen whether the government will make any attempts to answer the 19 parliamentary questions,” said Leader of the Opposition Arden McLean.
“It has now become a regular practice for the government members to treat parliamentary questions with [disdain], rather than embracing the opportunity to publicly explain and justify their policies and decisions. Without these important checks and balances, we are in danger of devolving into a dictatorship.”
Deputy Opposition Leader Alva Suckoo commented that is was regrettable to address two meetings’ worth of items in a single session.
“It is also disappointing, when you consider the numerous times the Opposition has abandoned ‘politics’ to help the government get its agenda through,” Suckoo wrote.
“We have supported all the government’s financial services bills in solidarity with the government despite the recent failings, which landed us on the E.U. Blacklist, and we supported the Constitutional amendments which were passed unanimously. The premier says that this is not the time for politics; I think he needs to take his own advice now.”
Private members’ motions
Three of the five private members’ motions submitted by the Opposition have been moved by Bodden Town West MLA Chris Saunders and seconded by Savannah MLA Anthony Eden.
Those motions consist of a motion to align maternity leave between the civil service and the private sector; a motion to increase the normal retirement age for civil servants; and a motion to make all Cayman Islands laws available online for free.
Two other motions were moved by Eden. A motion to make it a criminal offence to obstruct a beach access has been seconded by Suckoo, and a motion for protection of the marine environment was seconded by McLean.
In addition, Saunders has seconded two motions by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller requesting provisions to the Customs Tariff Law. Those provisions would allow duty exemptions for warranty replacements and duty-free importation of medicine, and medical and surgical supplies.