West Bay West MLA McKeeva Bush has returned to the Speaker’s chair for the first time since taking a leave of absence in February. On Wednesday, he presided over the first meeting of the 2020-2021 sitting of the Legislative Assembly.
Opposition MLA Ezzard Miller protested Bush’s return by absenting himself from the Speaker’s opening speech, the only legislator to do so.
Bush had taken a leave of absence from his speakership duties following criminal charges arising from an alleged incident in a bar.
Miller, speaking with the Cayman Compass during the lunch break Wednesday, said he does not agree with Bush’s return.
“I’ve taken a principled position that the Speaker should not be allowed to come back into the chair while he is facing criminal charges at the court. There is not much I can do as a lone member. We tried earlier to bring a motion of a confidence, which the government said was sub judice. So that route was not available,” he said.
Miller said absenting himself from Bush’s opening speech was his way of being consistent, “and defending my principles because we can’t expect the lowest level civil servant to be suspended when charged for anything that goes to court. But here we are in the exalted and honourable position of Speaker and we ignore the standards.”
Bush is set to stand trial in December for the alleged common assault of a female bar employee in February.
He said in February that he was taking a leave of absence to seek grief counselling for the loss of his daughter in 2011 and, more recently, the loss of his mother.
On Wednesday, when the House resumed, Bush delivered his opening speech before government and official Opposition MLAs in the chamber.
However, independent North Side MLA Miller was noticeably absent during the Speaker’s ceremonial speech.
Bush, speaking with the Compass Wednesday, said he had not realised that Miller’s absence was a protest.
“I will say that [Mr. Miller] would be the last one to make any reference to any personal matter that I, or anyone else in this House may have or have had, he is in no position to talk about it. There’s been no crime against this House. And the whole matter is sub judice. He still keeps raising it, which could reflect on the case,” he said.
Bush is scheduled to stand trial in Summary Court on 7 Dec. before Magistrate Valdis Foldats. He faces three counts of common assault and one count of disorderly conduct. He has maintained a not-guilty plea.
The charges arise out of an alleged incident on 21 Feb. involving the veteran politician and a female member of staff at Coral Beach Bar on West Bay Road.
Wednesday’s official opening of the Legislative Assembly did not feature the usual pomp and circumstance of a parade.
During this sitting, MLAs will debate the Legislative Assembly (Management) Bill, Defence Bill, Registered Land (Amendment) Bill, the Prescription (Amendment) Bill and the Public Health (Amendment) Bill, among others.
This new sitting is expected to run for two weeks and could be the last as a ‘Legislative Assembly’, since constitutional changes renaming the assembly to the ‘Parliament of the Cayman Islands’ are expected to be formalised soon by the Privy Council.
Bush, in his opening speech, commended those who played a major role in the management of COVID-19 in Cayman.
He lauded Premier Alden McLaughlin, Health Minister Dwayne Seymour and civil service personnel for their hard work in managing the health crisis.
Bush also highlighted the work of corporate Cayman, the churches and local teachers during the lockdown period.
He said while this was his first time in the chair since the pandemic began, he has been working in the community assisting those in need of support, as well as carrying out his Commonwealth Parliamentary Association responsibilities.
Miller entered the chamber at the end of Bush’s near-15-minute speech.