Turner back with independents, Panton looks to form government

Update at 8:05pm: Panton makes no further comment as he leaves meeting

Panton told Compass business editor Michael Klein he had no further comments to make at this stage, as he departed the Prospect meeting.

Update at 7:55pm: Panton applauded as he takes the stage

A hero’s reception for Wayne Panton and shouts of ‘my premier’ as he gets up to speak, saying the country deserves a government led by independents.

He says the group is here to “celebrate and support Sabrina (Turner)” who is now definitively with the independents’ coalition and has been offered a ministry position.

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He says the process is continuing and asked for patience.

There does not appear to be a deal to announce with McKeeva Bush, despite his meeting with Panton and others earlier today.

“We will come back to the country when we are able to speak very specifically about how we are able to move forward,” says Panton.

The state-of-play, as we understand it right now, is that Panton’s group has nine members. The Progressives’ alliance has nine. Bush is the man in the middle and neither side is announcing a deal with him. Those numbers remain in flux, but neither side has named the 10 they need to form a majority government at this point.

Panton emphasised his is the only letter of intent to form a government that has been presented to the governor and he is still hoping to get his full team solidified before a proposed meeting of the Parliament on Wednesday.

He said the country had voted for an independent-led government and he is seeking to achieve that.

Update at 7:41pm: Bryan pitches for more independents 

Kenneth Bryan has taken the mic and urged Isaac Rankine to “come home” to the independents.

“It is important that Isaac Rankine understands it is okay to make a mistake, no one is perfect,” he said. Bryan asks people to call Rankine and urge him to “give the Cayman people what they want” – which he says is an independent-led government.

It is not clear yet that they have the 10 needed to form a government. With Turner back in the fold that would give them nine. There has been no mention of Bush as yet and the appeal to Rankine suggests it is not quite over yet.

They are presenting a very united front for the core group, however.

Bryan acknowledges things can change before Wednesday but seems extremely confident that the independents will form a government.

Update at 7:32pm: 10 members of Panton group still unclear

Turner confirms she is a ‘member of the independent government’ as she describes it.
“I am going nowhere,” she said.

Panton will be leader, Chris Saunders his deputy and Alric Lindsay speaker, she says.

“We are still in negotiations, that is exactly how it is, but come Wednesday you will be governed by an independent-ruled government, thanks to Mr. Wayne Panton, and I will be with this government.”

Heather Bodden, Katherine Ebanks-Wilks and Bernie Bush are also on the stage with Turner.

The MP-elects for West Bay South, André Ebanks, and North Side, Jay Ebanks, are not present at the meeting. It remains unclear if that has any bearing on the status of negotiations. Ebanks-Wilks stated people shouldn’t read anything into anyone’s absence.

Update at 7:30pm: Turner back with independents

Turner tells the assembled room “We are still in negotiations. One thing I can ensure you tonight, I am proud to be a member of the independent government.

“I will not waiver and will humbly apologise for any doubt,” Turner stated, confirming she is not part of the Progressives-led group.

Update at 7:25pm: Independents express confidence they have a majority 

There is a celebratory mood in the hall tonight. They seem to think they have the numbers for a Panton government. No sign or mention of McKeeva Bush but it is certain Turner has come back to the group.

“The power in the people is greater than the people in power,” Saunders says as he takes the mic.

“12 independent candidates got elected,” he says, arguing that an independent coalition is needed to beat out “special interests”.

He confirms Rankine is no longer with the coalition but Turner has come back to the group.

He says she has been welcomed back and there is new respect for her.

“An error does not become a mistake till you fail to correct it.”

Update at 7:15pm: Lindsay says independents working together for a year

Lindsay is introducing Turner with a host of supporting independents lined up behind her.

He says many of the independents have been working together for over a year and didn’t want to go public with their affiliation for fear of being attacked.

His speech is interrupted by huge applause as Panton arrives. It looks like the group is poised to announce a new coalition with Turner involved.

Update at 7:00pm: Packed audience at Prospect community meeting

Turner takes to the stage at Seafarers Hall, having departed the White House, formerly the DMS building, in George Town today, where she was in talks with Panton.

Bryan, Saunders and Lindsay were also on the stage alongside Turner.

 

Original story:

Wayne Panton and his group of independents are converging on the Seafarers Hall in Prospect tonight where more details are expected about their efforts to form a government.

Newly elected Prospect MP Sabrina Turner is hosting a constituency meeting there from 7pm.

She was among a number of independents huddled with Panton at the White House, formerly the DMS building, in George Town today.

McKeeva Bush was also involved in the talks and was seen leaving the building, wearing a Panama hat.

Wayne Panton departs the White House in George Town on Friday ahead of Sabrina Turner’s constituency meeting in Prospect. Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Asked for an update Panton, said, “I can’t express any comment at this point. I can’t comment on anything.”

Asked about the presence of Turner at the meeting – one of the MPs who has been named by both groups as a part of their coalition – Panton advised people to tune into her meeting at Seafarers Hall tonight.

“I don’t want to speak to her but the fact that she is here speaks for itself,” he added.

Asked specifically about whether McKeeva Bush was involved in his group he said he could not comment.

Bush declined to comment as he left the meeting in the company of Johany ‘Jay’ Ebanks, the North Side independent, who is another pivotal figure in the talks to form a government.

Kenneth Bryan asks the public for patience while negotiations continue. Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Kenneth Bryan, the George Town Central MP, had a brief word for reporters as he left the centre in his vehicle, requesting patience from the public.

“Difficult times but we will get through it, hopefully we will have some more news soon.”

Asked about Bush’s involvement he referred questions to Panton, who he described as the “Premier elect”.

Alric Lindsay heads to Turner’s community meeting after further negotiations with Panton and his team of MP-elects on Friday. Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Alric Lindsay, who was not elected but was named as a possible speaker (a role which can go to an unelected official), was also on site and he referred the Compass to the meeting at the Seafarers Hall.

It is understood that the group believes it has the numbers to derail the Progressives-led alliance announced last night. That statement followed an earlier declaration from Panton that he had formed a viable coalition of independents, at that point without Bush involved.

The negotiations in both camps continue with the Progressives-led alliance still hopeful of forming a coalition. Isaac Rankine, the East End MP, was not on site with the independents today. He was part of Panton’s initial team, but later joined with the Progressives and his current status is not clear.

Whatever governments are announced – and there have been two so far – remain provisional until a meeting of the Parliament is called and the new government is sworn in.

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