5pm update: Progressives leader Roy McTaggart has said talks to form a government are still very much on as he continues to negotiate with independent members.
Speaking with the Cayman Compass Sunday evening, McTaggart said, with discussions continuing, neither side could claim, at this point, to have the 10 representatives needed for a majority.
He appealed for calm and an end to the “online bullying” and “intimidation” of representatives as they negotiate.
“Following a general election, every elected member is free to decide who to support for government and their preference for premier,” McTaggart said in his statement issued earlier on Sunday. “That is the democratic process.”
In his interview with the Compass, McTaggart said he was hopeful his appeal will bear fruit.
“What we have seen is that the temperature is rising within the wider Cayman Islands community because of the uncertainty and the unknown at this point, since we don’t have a government.
“But this happened in 2017 and it’s playing out again in the same way. I think it’s important that people just let the process take its course, we will get a government. At the end of the day I think Cayman will be pleased with what actually comes to fruition.”
Dwayne Seymour, the health minister and independent member aligned with the Progressives, released his own voice note Sunday, telling his constituents that there was real possibilities that the alliance group would still form the government.
“No minister lost their seat in the election and this is a clear indication that the people want us to continue leading this country with a blend of other members creating balanced representation, especially during a pandemic,” Seymour said in his message.
Countering suggestions that the Progressives lost the election, McTaggart said this was not the case.
“How can I concede an election when we have eight Progressives Alliance candidates who were successful, plus one of the other independents, Mr. Isaac Rankine, who has joined the Progressives in support of our government…. Six of the incumbent ministers were reelected resoundingly by the public and that is important,” he said.
He said the fact that these ministers were voted back in sent “a clear message to us that we don’t want a change in government,” adding, the Progressives did not field candidates in all constituencies, instead opting to endorse select independents with whom they had arrangements should they be elected.
“There was no competition between independents and the Progressives so it is difficult to claim that somehow the country voted resoundingly in favor of independents,” McTaggart said.
There has been no word from the Panton camp this evening, after the Compass reached out for a response, but he issued a press release Saturday urging the Progressives to “accept the will of the people” and concede. He said the results of the election showed that people wanted an independent-led government.
The Compass visited the White House, formerly DMS House in George Town, where the independents have been meeting. North Side MP Jay Ebanks was seen leaving the compound.
He declined to comment on discussions, saying Panton will issue a statement.
McTaggart, speaking Sunday afternoon, accused Panton, who heads a team of independents now known as PACT, of double standards over his talks with McKeeva Bush, who has re-entered the fray.
Panton had previously cited the Progressives failure to remove Bush, who was convicted of assaulting a woman, from the speaker’s role as a reason for him leaving the party.
McTaggart has claimed the party did not deal with the Bush situation at the time because they were concerned about destabilising the government amid the pandemic.
He said the Progressives and their partners have not held any talks with Bush on this occasion and are attempting to form a coalition with other independents.
“I have had no discussions with Mr. Bush with regard to being a part of our government,” McTaggart said.
He said the current turmoil being experienced is not on the shoulders of the Progressives.
“A big reason for why we are here today is that when we went into the election there were assurances that we had received from a number of independent candidates who had indicated to us if they were successful at the polls, they would be happy and would come and join and work with us. That did not materialise at the end of the day.
“So some [candidates] who had made commitments had reneged on them. The only candidate who upheld his commitment to us was Mr. Isaac Rankine,” he said.
Attempts to influence elected representatives to form a government with a group of independents led by Wayne Panton in recent days are an attempt to derail the political process, according to the Progressives.
In a statement issued on Sunday by Roy McTaggart, the leader of the Progressives said, “I am deeply concerned by what appears to be a deliberate attempt by those who support Mr. Panton’s PACT to destabilize the process by public protests, threats and abuse of lawfully elected candidates in the recent election.”
Panton initially appeared to have secured a deal of 10 independent representatives and informed Governor Martyn Roper of his intention to form a government in a session of Parliament on Wednesday, 21 April. However, two of the signatories, Sabrina Turner and Isaac Rankine, subsequently left the alliance to side with the Progressives.
Turner has since returned to the group of independents but, as of Sunday, Rankine remains with the party that formed the last government.
Both elected representatives have been subject to pressure not only by voters in their district but also on social media and protesting supporters of the PACT alliance.
On Saturday, protestors moved to the home of Rankine after he cancelled a meeting of East End constituents, citing threats and public safety concerns.
“Following a general election, every elected member is free to decide who to support for government and their preference for Premier,” McTaggart said. “That is the democratic process.”
McTaggart said the protests and threats were potentially harmful to Cayman’s reputation as a financial centre, stating, “I hope that the RCIPS will take a dim view of yesterday’s events and ensure that all elected members receive the protection necessary to prevent this harassment and intimidation and frankly to prevent the attempt to hijack the democratic process.”
He called on Panton to join him in appealing for an end to what he called “uncharacteristic aggressive behaviour by a loud minority of [Panton’s] supporters”.
McTaggart said it is regrettable there was still no clear picture as to the composition of the next government, claiming that Panton’s PACT comprised of eight candidates compared to the Progessives’ nine.
The leader of the Progressives called it “presumptuous” that Panton’s press releases stated they were issued by the “Office of the Premier Designate”.
“Mr. Panton may very well make decisions on a cabinet on paper but to actually form a cabinet he first needs to form a Government and be selected as Premier,” he said.
Currently, Panton did not have the support of the majority of elected MPs, unless he chose to include McKeeva Bush in his government, McTaggart added.
“If he does do so, then the irony of that choice will be obvious given that his reasons for leaving and campaigning against the Progressives was his not wanting to work with former Speaker Bush. Indeed prior to the election he indicated that he would not run with the Progressives because of Mr. Bush. Time will tell how deeply his convictions run.”
McTaggart said, “The process will play out and will end as it always does, but I implore my people to ignore the online bullies who attempt to use you for their own purposes. This is not a style of politics that we practice here, and it is not a healthy style of politics to adopt.”
- Additional reporting by Michael Klein