As it happened: Wayne Panton elected as Cayman’s new premier

Updates from the swearing-in ceremony

7:05pm update:

Panton, in his first speech as premier, which lasted about 30 minutes, touched on many of the issues that he campaigned on – including the environment, climate change resiliency, affordable healthcare, good governance and cost of living.

He also reassured that his government would not reopen Cayman’s borders “until it is safe to do so,” adding Cayman was one of the few places in the world that had not had to go back into lockdown. “We cannot revert to the stress of worrying about being one medical emergency away from destitution and poverty,” he said.

He also called for an end to fractious exchanges that went on during and after the election.

“The campaign and uncertainty of government is over,” he said, “and the songs, memes, posts, photos, dances and rants that have filled up our social media space during the campaign and shortly thereafter must now cease. We must always ensure that our behaviour reflects dignity and respect, even for those we may disagree with and this contributes positively to our national discourse.”

- Advertisement -
Premier Wayne Panton addresses the crowd in front of the Parliament building after being sworn in. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

6:35pm update:

Cayman’s new premier, Wayne Panton, addresses the country, thanking the people for coming out to vote. Describing the last seven days since the election as “one of the longest weeks of my life”, he called now for unity, saying that while the week involved “differences, disagreements, discord and dissent… it also recognises we should have debate, discussion and dialogue to arrive at a consensus”.

6:25pm update:

Here’s the full list of cabinet members, in order of being sworn in:

Premier Wayne Panton is formally signed in alongside the seven other elected members of his Cabinet, as Governor Martyn Roper and Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose look on. Photo: Andrel Harris.

Premier: Wayne Panton

Deputy premier: Chris Saunders

Cabinet: Andre Ebanks, Kenneth Bryan, Bernie Bush, Sabrina Turner, Johany Ebanks, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.

Under the constitution, the cabinet can consist of the premier, seven ministers – one of whom is the deputy premier – and two non-voting ex-officio members (in this instance, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson and Attorney General Samuel Bulgin).

The ministerial role each one will hold has not yet been officially announced.

Premier Wayne Panton, beside Deputy Premier Chris Saunders and Cabinet members Andre Ebanks and Kenneth Bryan, at the swearing-in ceremony for cabinet members. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

6pm update:

Now that the MPs have been sworn in, the formalities have moved outdoors to the front of the Parliament building, as the ceremony to swear in the cabinet members gets under way.

5:30pm update:

With comparatively little fanfare, after a week of backroom negotiations, there has been a smooth transition of power and Wayne Panton is now the new premier of the Cayman Islands.

He accepted the official instruments of office from Governor Martyn Roper with a smile of satisfaction, and that is the end of the proceedings inside the parliament.

They will now move outside for a swearing-in ceremony for the 19 MPs.

5.25pm update: 

Wayne Panton is elected as premier without the need for a vote.

Heather Bodden, Panton’s running mate, nominates him for the role with Kenneth Bryan, as seconder.

There are no other nominations and Panton is appointed premier to cheers from the gallery.

Roy McTaggart is going to be leader of the opposition. We are now awaiting the governor to swear them in.

There was no point for the Progressives in putting a nomination forward, given the way the numbers stood. They have conceded that the battle for government is over and we will have a Panton-led PACT team of independents.

A reminder for anyone who missed it earlier this morning, East End MP Isaac Rankine and Sister Islands representative Juliana O’Connor-Connolly switched over to Panton’s team, giving him a clear majority to form a government.

5.20pm update: 

There’s an election for deputy speaker with Katherine Ebanks-Wilks nominated from the PACT side and the Progressives again putting Barbara Conolly forward as an alternative.

There’s another secret ballot, that follows the same form as before. The vote  goes 11-7 and Ebanks-Wilks, the first time representative from West Bay Central who defeated Captain Eugene Ebanks at the polls, will be Bush’s deputy as the presiding officer of parliament.

There is still some formalities ahead and there could yet be surprises but as it stands now the new government looks like this.

Premier: Wayne Panton

Deputy Premier: Chris Saunders

Cabinet: Sabrina Turner, Andre Ebanks, Kenneth Bryan, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, Johany Ebanks.

Speaker: McKeeva Bush

Deputy Speaker: Katherine Ebanks-Wilks

Leader of the Opposition: Roy McTaggart

Deputy Leader of the Opposition: Joey Hew

4.50pm update:

Bush, back in the speaker’s wig and gown, says this is a momentous day for Cayman.

Bush back in the speaker’s chair. Photo: Taneos Ramsay

“Our democracy, once again, has been tried and tested and our democracy remains intact. No guns boomed,” he says.

He congratulates the MPs on their election and thanks them for electing him as speaker.

“The campaign is over,” he tells the assembled group.

“We have a tremendous responsibility before us to serve our people.”

There’s a moment’s silence for the Duke of Edinburgh and Bush continues.

He thanks his team for helping him through the “worst bouts of criticism”.

Now he has some words of praise for Wayne Panton, who will soon be elected as premier, describing him as a “capable lawyer and businessman” and vows to help him “control us for the betterment of our people”.

He also praises soon-to-be deputy premier Chris Saunders, the “young, energetic” Kenneth Bryan, and the rest of Panton’s team.

“This cabinet is as good as any I have seen,” he said. “They must be give the chance to do the work they were elected to do.

“With the manifestos of all of us and the demands and needs of our people, we have enough to do.”

He says there is work to be done and insists, “Caymanians must pull together and there is no time to bicker and plot.”

He closes with a quote from poet Robert Frost: “I have miles to go before I sleep” – perhaps a riposte to those who thought his political career was over after his assault conviction.

“Mistakes are in the past, we move forward now. We move forward ever upwards and onwards.”

4.40pm update:

McKeeva Bush is elected speaker. The MPs voted by secret written ballots which were placed in a locked box. Deputy Govenor Franz Manderson read the votes aloud one by one.

The vote went along the lines of the alliances confirmed this morning.

So it is a 12-7 confirmation for Bush to return as speaker. That was tense for a moment but largely because of the order in which the results were read out.

It seems all of Panton’s coalition voted for Bush to return to the chair and we assume the Progressives and Dwayne Seymour voted for Conolly.

Bush is now taking the oath of office to be speaker. After all the controversy surrounding his assault conviction and all the discussion from candidates on the campaign trail about whether they would work with him, Bush is back in the chair, presiding over parliament.

4.25pm update: 

Jay Ebanks has nominated McKeeva Bush to be speaker, seconded by Katherine Ebanks-Wilks.

Roy McTaggart has put forward Barbara Conolly as an alternative, seconded by Joey Hew, and there will have to be a vote.

Bush is almost certain to be speaker but there will be a vote. The MPs are filling in ballots.

Cayman’s new administration on the two government benches. – Taneos Ramsay

4.20pm update: 

Governor Martyn Roper gives a brief speech, praising the election supervisor Wesley Howell and his team and drawing attention to the high turnout at the polls.

He tells the newly elected MPs, “You are privileged to have been chosen by our people to represent them… I urge you to have the best interests of the people of these wonderful islands in your hearts and minds.”

He highlights challenges ahead to “reopen the borders and build back better in the midst of this global pandemic”.

He pays tribute to outgoing premier Alden McLaughlin for his service and for his leadership during COVID and says he looks forward to working with the new government, respecting the autonomy of Cayman’s parliament and playing his part as the UK representative to ensure a bright future for the islands.

Roper expresses confidence in the new crop of MPs and in the new government.

There’s some shuffling of chairs and North Side’s Jay Ebanks is now on the front bench, suggesting he will be a cabinet minister.

4.10pm update:

All 19 MPs have now taken their oaths of allegiance and there are 12 lined up on the government benches, including McKeeva Bush who we expect to be speaker.

There are seven on the opposition side. Roy McTaggart is going to be opposition leader and he is there with five of his Progressives, including former Premier Alden McLaughlin, and their alliance partner, independent MP Dwayne Seymour.

In terms of the composition of cabinet, we are seeing Panton on the front bench with Chris Saunders, Kenneth Bryan, Andre Ebanks, Bernie Bush, Sabrina Turner and Juliana O’Connor-Connolly – a last minute convert to the PACT alliance. There is space for one more cabinet member, we’re not sure who that will be.

4pm update: 

There was a huge roar from outside as Wayne Panton was sworn in as an MP. He will shortly be elected Premier.

We are starting to see the make-up of cabinet confirmed with Sabrina Turner joining her colleagues on the front bench. Katherine Ebanks-Wilks, for now, is on the back bench. We’re awaiting confirmation of portfolios.

3.45pm update: 

The crowd watch on the large video screen outside as the swearing-in continues. Thunderous applause for Kenneth Bryan, who we understand will be a cabinet minister in the new administration.

There’s a large George Town Central crowd, it seems, and the reception for Bryan outside the building can be heard inside parliament.

Bryan, Bernie Bush and Andre Ebanks have taken seats on the front bench which seems to confirm they will be cabinet ministers.

3.35pm update:

The swearing in of the MPs has begun and the first to take the oath of allegiance is McKeeva Bush. He is wearing the speaker’s neckerchief, which suggests he could take the chair today. They seem to be going in a kind of geographical order with the West Bay MPs first.

McKeeva Bush is sworn in as an MP before Governor Martyn Roper.

3.25pm update:

The governor is in the speaker’s chair and will preside over the oaths of allegiance from the elected MPs. We’ve had the British national anthem and the Cayman Island’s national song and the business is about to begin.

3.20pm update:

The 19 MPs are all lined up together currently in the seats behind the opposition benches.

Despite the sometimes fractious negotiations that have taken place over the last few days, relations seem cordial. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, despite her last minute defection from the Progressives, is dressed head-to-toe in red and seated next to her fellow Sister Islands representative Moses Kirkconnell.

The elected members seated together ahead of the ceremony.

We have no final confirmation on the cabinet posts as yet. The chief officers in every ministry will be as keen as anyone to find out who their new bosses are.

They are lined up behind the government benches. We can see Stran Bodden, chief officer in the Ministry of Tourism, and Financial Secretary Ken Jefferson among a group of Cayman’s most senior civil servants.

3pm update: 

We are at the scheduled start time for the ceremonies but this is not going to begin for a little while yet. The dignitaries are filing into the building. Irma Arch is on site. She might well be the speaker, for today at least. The first serious business of the afternoon will be to elect the speaker and deputy speaker.

McKeeva Bush has been lined up as the long-term speaker – at least if the agreement with Panton’s PACT announced Monday remains intact – but Arch could take the chair today.

That was initially planned as a workaround to ensure Bush could vote in Panton as premier. It is not clear if that is still necessary, however, given the moves this morning to shore up PACT’s majority.

The crowds had started to gather under the canopies outside the Parliament building from 3pm.

2:45pm update:

The roads are closed around the Parliament building and tents have been assembled for the ceremonies.

The MP-elects are starting to fill their seats in the house.

Bernie Bush has taken his position on the front benches on the government side, confirming, as expected, that he will be a cabinet minister in Panton’s PACT administration. The ceremony is scheduled to start shortly with the national song and prayers.

2:30pm update:

Wayne Panton is poised to be sworn in as premier alongside his cabinet this afternoon. The official ceremonies start at 3pm.

It has been a long and rocky road to get to this point, but exactly a week after the General Election, we can say with certainty that Cayman will have a new government this evening.

Panton’s partnership with former speaker McKeeva Bush gave him the 10th member he needed to endorse his election as premier. Once that was confirmed, he was able to convince East End representative Isaac Rankine and Sister Islands legislator Juliana O’Connor-Connolly to come over to his side.

Roy McTaggart is set to be opposition leader, with his remaining team of Progressives and independent Dwayne Seymour still lined up together, as far as we are aware at this point.

Today’s ceremonies will see the swearing-in of all ministers, the election of the speaker and the election of the premier, by votes among the MPs.

Here’s what we can expect in terms of a running order:

- Advertisement -

Support local journalism. Subscribe to the all-access pass for the Cayman Compass.

Subscribe now