In the first meeting of Parliament under the new administration, Cayman Brac East MP Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, who accepted a Cabinet role in Wayne Panton’s government just hours before legislators were sworn in on Wednesday, defended her decision to leave the Progressives opposition.
O’Connor-Connolly, in her speech in the House, said if she had not joined Panton, the Sister Islands would have been left without a voice in government. Moses Kirkconnell, the representative for Cayman Brac East and Little Cayman, remains on the Opposition side.
The veteran politician, who has been elected seven times, said she expected this to be her final term in office.
She said she had turned to God and the Bible on what to do in the week following the election, when both the Progressives and the independents battled to form a majority government, and said it was one of the most difficult decisions of her life.
O’Connor-Connolly, who was education minister in the Progressives Cabinet, said she had been given a mandate, as a current minister, by her constituents “to return in a ministerial position”.
She said there had been no campaign like this most recent one, which she and several other MPs said was marred by social media attacks, slander and misinformation.
Describing the members of the Progressives as her “family”, she said she had made a choice to “put country first”, but acknowledged that there may be a perception that she was “turning my back on the party I ran with and encouraged other people to support”.
She said she wanted to put it on record that she was not turning her back on anyone.
Once it became apparent that Panton had enough members to form a government, she said she then made the decision “without any special interest groups, without any pressure… that my first duty and calling was to the people of Cayman Brac East, Cayman Brac West and Little Cayman to ensure we have a seat at the table in Cabinet”.
O’Connor-Connolly said she could have taken the easier option of being a backbencher and attend meetings “three or four times a year”, and therefore have been able to spend more time on Cayman Brac with her grandson. Instead, she said, “I did not get elected for my own personal benefit, I got elected to build these beloved isles Cayman… Elections are gone, it’s over, it’s time for Caymanians to unite.”
“I took the decision, cost what it may,” she added.