Opposition Leader Arden McLean and independent North Side MP Ezzard Miller have teamed up in a new bid to oust West Bay West MP McKeeva Bush from the Speaker’s chair.
The senior legislators have filed a no confidence motion against the veteran politician.
The motion, which was filed with Parliament on 28 Jan., comes almost one month after Bush was convicted on three assault charges following an altercation at a local bar involving the female manager.
This is not the first attempt by legislators to remove Bush. Last year a similar motion was overruled by deputy speaker Barbara Conolly on the grounds that it was sub judice. At that time, the case against Bush was still in court.
Back in December Bush was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment on each assault charge, to run concurrently, which was suspended for two years. He was also ordered to adhere to a curfew of 6pm to 6am, Monday through Sunday, for two months and was fined $700 for disorderly conduct.
Three days after that conviction, McLean wrote to Premier Alden McLaughlin after no action was taken against Bush.
The premier, commenting on the conviction at a press conference in December, said, “I am not sure the country will be well served now by my taking action which precipitates the collapse of the government and the holding of early elections. So, we have to bear that in mind.”
McLean, in a statement issued 28 Jan. announcing the no confidence motion, said the speakership is one of the most esteemed roles an elected member can hold under the Constitution.
“It was the hope of many Caymanians that the Speaker, Honorable McKeeva Bush, would have done the Honorable thing and resigned in light of being convicted in a court of law. While it came as no surprise that Speaker Bush refused to resign despite his criminal conviction and suspended custodial sentence, I am surprised that Premier Mclaughlin, as the leader of the Unity Government, refused to demand his resignation or take the necessary steps to remove him,” McLean noted in his statement.
According to the motion, McLean and Miller are asking Parliament to express “its lack of confidence in the Speaker by two-thirds of the membership of this august body voting in the affirmative; and be it further resolved that this honourable Parliament proceeds with immediate effect and elects another Speaker as provided for in section 65 of the Constitution”.
They contend, in their motion, that the conviction of the Speaker “has brought the integrity and sanctity of the role of Speaker of Parliament into public and international disrepute and demonstrates a lack of character and suitability to operate in a public leadership role and manage the affairs of this Parliament”.
Bush has indicated that he will not be stepping down.
There has been no indication from government when the next sitting of Parliament will be held for the motion against the West Bay West MP to be debated.
The motion will have to be approved by the House business committee, which is led by McLaughlin.
“It was my hope that Premier McLaughlin would have exercised the same moral conviction, integrity, and leadership that he displayed more than 8 years ago when he moved a No Confidence Motion against McKeeva Bush after he was arrested and charged,” McLean said in making his case for action against Bush.
Miller, who has been consistently advocating for Bush’s removal since he was first arrested last February, said the refusal of the Speaker to resign and government’s inaction “displays the highest level of dishonor and disrespect to our women and every single person that calls the Cayman Islands home”.
“Both our Court of Law and our Court of Public Opinion have found Speaker Bush guilty and it is not right that a convicted criminal should hold one of the highest positions in our Parliament,” Miller said.
“I am also saddened that members of the Unity Government, especially the women MPs, have chosen to remain silent on this issue where a woman was assaulted, and the perpetrator was found guilty in our courts. What message is this sending to women and the community?”
Now that the motion has been filed, the presiding officer of the next sitting of Parliament will have to review and determine whether to approve the MPs’ motion.
Following approval, the motion will be placed before the business committee which will decide at which meeting the motion will be added to the order paper for debate.
McLaughlin was asked about the motion at a Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday. In his response, he said had things been different back in February last year he would have acted differently when he first learned of the Bush incident while he was in London. At that time, he said, the pandemic was just starting and Cayman was uncertain about a lot of things, like procuring tests etc.
“The government was already grappling with how we were going to manage this COVID-19 crisis… unprecedented. None of us knew, we had no testing ability… this was a really stressful period. If we had been in different times, I, although the decision would not be entirely mine, I certainly would probably have taken a different view about how we went about that,” McLaughlin said at the meeting, according to an audio clip shared with the Cayman Compass.
Audio of McLaughlin’s comments
He said to throw the government and the country into early elections at the start of the COVID-19 crisis would not have been the responsible thing to do.
“I don’t care who they put there. They would have to start from scratch because they wouldn’t have known. They wouldn’t have had that background and knowledge that the current government did,” he explained, adding, “I had to make a call.”
McLaughlin acknowledged that he and his administration have “taken much heat. I’m sure we’ll take some more”. But he believes the current motion is a “publicity stunt at this stage”.
The premier maintained that should Bush be removed, the National Unity government would topple and the country would face early elections, something which he suggested would favour his administration in terms of preparations to contest the polls.
However, he said, that would not benefit Cayman as there was still more work that needed to be done in relation to managing the COVID-19 crisis.
“Believe me, I have talked to the governor about this at least five times since this incident has happened and each time I come away from the discussions very sober about whether that is in the best interest of the country or not. I mean, I think my government would be better off if we had the elections at this stage because not many people are prepared,” he said.
McLaughlin said the country is eight weeks away from the House dissolving and the electorate will have an opportunity to voice their opinion on Bush and the government.
“I just have to continue to take the licks for it until elections and then we will see whether Mr. Bush is returned or not,” McLaughlin said.