Seven representatives led by Wayne Panton attended a public meeting Friday evening called by newly-elected member for Prospect Sabrina Turner to confirm she has returned to the group.
Hundreds of people packed into the Seafarers Hall as Panton revealed the bid for an independent-led government is back on track, though the necessary numbers are not yet confirmed.
The meeting was called to welcome Turner back into the fold after the Progressives had announced her as part of their bid to form the government.
Panton, who received a hero’s reception to shouts of ‘my premier’ as he got up to speak, said “games and misinformation campaigns” had derailed the initial agreement presented to the governor on Thursday, but Turner was “a woman of courage” to admit she had made a mistake.
He said the group was there to “celebrate and support Sabrina” who has been offered a ministry position if he is able to achieve his aim of forming an independent-led government next week.
He said people had been asking for change and he intended to deliver it.
“We want to deliver a good government that reflects the wishes of the people and is balanced.”
Chris Saunders, MP for Bodden Town West, struck a similar conciliatory tone over Turner’s brief dalliance with the Progressives. He said 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,” Saunders said.
Turner told 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 said.
Addressing the first-time voters in the audience she added, “I will not disappoint you.”
The mood in the hall was celebratory as independent candidates lined up to support Turner in front of her electorate and promised they would deliver a government.
Kenneth Bryan, the MP re-elected to represent George Town Central, asked the public to be patient with the process. “We are doing everything we can to deliver what you want: an independent-led government.”
No coalition in place
So far, their numbers do not add up to the 10 elected members required to form a government. Both Panton’s group and the Progressives’ alliance have nine members.
There was no sign or mention of McKeeva Bush, the man in the middle, who met with Panton and his team earlier on Friday.
However, neither side has announced a deal with him.
The numbers remain in flux and two elected representatives thought to be members of Panton’s group, Jay Ebanks and André Ebanks, were not at the meeting. There is, however, no information that would suggest they are no longer affiliated with Panton. Katherine Ebanks-Wilks, who was elected in West Bay Central, said people should not read anything into anyone’s absence.
Isaac Rankine is no longer with the coalition and was named by the Progressive as part of their plans to form a government.
Bryan urged 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 asked people to call Rankine and urge him to “give the Cayman people what they want”.
Need for a coalition government of independents
Saunders said the audience in attendance at the meeting showed, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.”
He said people were witnessing the power of the special interest group in Cayman, but it could no longer rule the country.
The things he said the independents want to achieve, like free healthcare for children and seniors, and consumer protection, were going to upset the merchant class, Saunders said.
“It is the first time you have a premier they cannot afford to buy,” he added, referring to Panton.
Echoing Saunders, Bryan said there were some serious things the independents needed to do on behalf of the people to improve their quality of life. For that to happen somebody had to give something up, he said.
Negotiations are continuing on both sides and nothing will be finalised until a session of Parliament is called and a new government is sworn in.
Panton seemed confident that could still happen on Wednesday.
He 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.
“We will come back to the country when we are able to speak very specifically about how we are able to move forward,” he said.
He said the country had voted for an independent-led government and he is seeking to achieve that.
These plans would include Panton as the leader, Saunders as his deputy and Alric Lindsay as Speaker.
- James Whittaker contributed to this story.