The historic opening of Cayman’s newly minted House of Parliament was accompanied by many grand speeches.
Unfortunately, the words that resounded most clearly were those that were left unsaid.
The disgraceful behaviour of Speaker McKeeva Bush has been met with near total silence by his parliamentary colleagues.
Only independent legislator Ezzard Miller has dared suggest he be removed from one of the most prestigious offices in the country, even a week on from his public admission of a drunken assault on a woman.
The message from many of the speeches at last Friday’s event was that Cayman was taking a bold new step towards political maturity that would bring greater independence and international respect to these islands.
The sentiment, however, was totally undermined by the continued presence of the Speaker, front and centre, at the official ceremonies.
Only 24 hours earlier Bush had sat, head bowed in the back of the courtroom, as video footage of the assault was played in court. The only defence he has offered is that he was too drunk to remember a minute of it.
When the allegations first surfaced – and Bush offered a partial admission and a qualified apology – we called for him to resign.
If, as appears the case, he is disinclined to do the honourable thing, it is now time for the decision to be taken out of his hands.
This situation is no longer one where parliamentarians must wait for the wheels of justice to turn. Bush has pleaded guilty to two counts of common assault and one count of disorderly conduct stemming from the incident at a West Bay Road bar.
On the evidence of the video, shown in court, he could hardly do otherwise.
The footage clearly shows him throwing plastic tubs at a female member of staff and pushing her around the kitchen as he grappled to grab her phone. He is also alleged to have thrown punches at the woman, who came to his aid after he fell over drunk, leaving her with bruises on her arms and legs.
The extent of his sentence remains to be seen. It is possible that, as his lawyer requested, he may avoid a criminal conviction being recorded for his actions.
But the acceptable minimum standard of behaviour for someone holding one of the highest offices in the land should not start and end with criminal conduct.
Neither should our elected officials need a code of conduct to know that one should not stumble blind drunk across the island and assault anyone.
Most Caymanians would expect to lose their jobs in such circumstances. Why should the Speaker be any different? And what message does his continued presence in the role send to victims of drunken violence, especially women, about their government’s respect for them?
It is hard to imagine an elected politician in the UK – or any modern democracy – remaining in office after admitting to allegations of this kind. The pressure, both internally from colleagues and externally from the media and the public, would have made their position untenable.
The elevation of Cayman’s Legislative Assembly to become a House of Parliament will be meaningless if all that changes is the words over the door.
If Cayman’s elected officials want the prestige associated with being MPs instead of MLAs, they must hold themselves to that standard.
Sitting idly by and keeping quiet in the face of such behaviour taints the reputation of all Members of Parliament and leaves the impression that this is a house where political expediency trumps common decency.
Holding the speaker fully accountable for his behaviour is the only acceptable step commensurate with the respect that should be conferred to a parliamentarian.
Anything else looks like a lack of regard for the role.