Financial Services and Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers, the representative of West Bay South, has announced that she will not be seeking another term in the April general election.

Rivers twice ran as an independent candidate and was first elected as a representative of West Bay in the 2013 election. She has served two terms, both under a Progressives-led coalition government.

During the previous administration, she was the minister for education.

Rivers, speaking at a press conference at her Centennial Towers MP office in West Bay, said her decision not to continue as an elected official beyond this term has “weighed so heavily on my mind and my heart”.

However, she pointed out that she made a promise to herself that she would serve as an elected representative for at least two terms.

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“I have fulfilled my promise to myself and to the people. So, in keeping my promise made in 2013, of not intending to become a career politician, it is now therefore left for me to declare that I will not stand for re-election in the upcoming general elections in April 2021,” she said.

Finance Minister and West Bay South MP Tara Rivers. Photo: Reshma Ragoonath

Rivers would not say what she planned to do next, stating that “there are lots of options” and that she hoped to “help the country in whatever capacity I can”. However, she said the first thing on her agenda was to “get some rest”.

With Premier Alden McLaughlin sitting at her side, Rivers expressed her gratitude to her constituents for placing their trust in her, and assuring that this will not be the last they see of her.

“My actions taken as your representative and minister have never been for personal gain. During my time in office, I have always put country first. While today’s (Wednesday) announcement represents an end of an era, at least for now, there are many exciting prospects ahead, including my ability to continue to serve the country albeit in a different capacity,” she said.

Throughout her two terms, Rivers remained an independent member of McLaughlin’s successive coalition governments.

She declined to name which candidate she would endorse as her successor, only saying, “stay tuned”.

Noting she would continue to be “very active in the community”, she added, “But a big part of why I wrestled with this decision for such a long time is to make sure that there was still that continuity of representation in West Bay South.”

Rivers, like many in the National Unity government, has faced public criticism for not taking action to remove House Speaker McKeeva Bush after he was convicted on assault charges in December.

She denied those negative comments affected her decision, saying it was a result of her “looking introspectively”.

Asked why she didn’t speak out to remove Bush, she said it is a “moot point” as the West Bay West MP is no longer Speaker with the dissolution of Parliament.

Rivers added, “There are times you speak your truth and there are times your truth speaks for itself. Far too many people in this country have been affected by violence.”

She said she does not condone violence against women in any form. Rivers pointed to her push to have the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) extended to Cayman so the country would have to say what is being done to promote gender equality.

Rivers said she did not get into politics to stay there all her life.

At present, Raul Nicolson Coe is the lone declared candidate for West Bay South. Cayman representative to the UK and Europe André Ebanks is rumoured to be joining the race in that constituency, but he has yet to formally declare.

McLaughlin, who also spoke during the press briefing, said his government had considered West Bay South as a “certain” seat for Rivers’ re-election, if she ran again, based on a survey that had been carried out.

He said her departure would leave a void, but she was doing what few politicians do – “she was leaving on her own terms… which is a rarity”.

Like Rivers, McLaughlin declined to outright endorse a candidate for West Bay South, only saying that he was talking to a number of people about running in the district.

The premier said he was not in a position yet to say if there was an agreement with anyone in that district to become part of the coalition.

“I believe most of the persons that we are aware of who will contest that seat will be prepared to work with the government,” he said.

Pressed on whether the Progressives will be fielding their own candidate in the constituency, McLaughlin said he didn’t think that would happen this close to Nomination Day, which is set for 1 March.

“But I do not rule out anything, I have been around this long enough to know that things happen. This announcement may trigger a reaction from people we have not thought about… so I do not rule many things out at this stage,” McLaughlin said.

He outlined Rivers’ track record during her two terms, saying that she was an “extraordinarily able lawyer” who has been admitted to four bars including New York and London.

“She has a great range of opportunities presented to her. She [will be] taking up a great position in due course,” he said.

Read Rivers’ media statement here: Minister Rivers Decides Not To Contest the 2021 General Elections (FINAL)

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