Cayman will be heading to the polls on 14 April, more than one month earlier than previously planned.
Governor Martyn Roper, following consultation with Premier Alden McLaughlin, announced Thursday the decision to dissolve Parliament, triggering early elections and angering opposition members who say Premier’s request to do so was politically motivated.
“I will, by proclamation, set Wednesday 14 April 2021 as the date for the next General Election, replacing the May General Election date, as the Constitution sets out a maximum of two months between the dissolution of the Parliament and a General Election. This date ensures that no newly registered, eligible voters are disenfranchised,” Roper said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.
The governor said he will be issuing a proclamation on Sunday, 14 Feb., dissolving the Parliament, in accordance with Section 84(2) of the Cayman Islands Constitution.
McLaughlin, in a statement following the governor’s announcement, said, “After careful consideration, I have therefore determined that it is in the best interest of the country for Parliament to be dissolved immediately, which will have the effect of vacating the seat of the Speaker.”
He added, by doing this, “Mr. Bush will no longer be the Speaker of the House and the country, by way of earlier elections, will determine who they wish to serve as their representatives – this includes the voters of West Bay West deciding whether they wish Mr. Bush to be re-elected to Parliament.”
Roper said returning officers will be issued writs setting the new nominations day as Monday, 1 March 2021.
“This date, just over two weeks from the dissolution of the Parliament, allows time for potential candidates to prepare. I have been assured by the Supervisor of Elections that the Elections Office will be able to deliver a smooth, fair, and transparent General Election on this new date,” he said.
Roper encouraged voters to cast their ballots.
“Cayman Islands General Elections have historically had excellent voter turnout, and I encourage all voters to exercise their democratic right and vote in the 14 April 2021 General Election,” he said.
On Wednesday, Opposition Leader Arden McLean, in a statement, said six opposition MPs have signed up to call for a special meeting of Parliament to debate his no confidence motion against Bush.
Those who signed the request for the special meeting were Newlands MP Alva Suckoo, Savannah MP Anthony Eden, Bodden Town West MP Chris Saunders, West Bay North MP Bernie Bush and North Side MP Ezzard Miller. George Town Central MP Kenneth Bryan, the seventh opposition member, had not added his name to the request which was prompted by Bush’s conviction on assault charges in December.
While appearing on the 10 Feb. episode of The Resh Hour, McLean said he was “disgusted” to learn of the dissolution of parliament.
McLaughlin, in his statement, addressed the motion, saying that despite the fact that Parliament was due to be dissolved on 29 March and no further meetings are being planned by the government, the Opposition and “others continue to press for the removal of the Speaker“.
“Currently, and for the second time, the Leader of the Opposition is circulating a letter seeking signatures of at least 7 Members to call a special meeting of the House to debate a motion of no confidence in the Speaker. He has not yet obtained the requisite number of signatures, but it is plain that as long as Mr. Bush remains as Speaker, the controversy over his recent convictions will not abate,” McLaughlin said.
In explaining his decision, the premier said his Unity Government is made up of seven members of the Progressives Party, three independents and two members of the Cayman Democratic Party, which Bush leads.
“Mr. Bush has indicated repeatedly that he will not resign the post of Speaker and as I have said publicly on more than one occasion, I believe the forcible removal of Mr. Bush by the Government would threaten the stability of the Government. Were that to occur, it is almost certain that the Governor would be forced to dissolve the Parliament in any event,” he said.
McLaughlin said a “rancorous” session of Parliament debating the no confidence motion may not have ended with the removal of Bush as some Opposition members could decline to vote in favour of the motion despite having signed a letter calling for a special meeting.
“But it will create rancor in our community and likely amongst members of my Government. Without question, it will be a massive distraction from the critically important work we are engaged in, which ranges from dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts at reopening the economy while keeping Cayman safe, to addressing the continued threat of EU blacklisting,” he said.