Members of the Official Opposition today walked out of the Legislative Assembly meeting in what they described as a protest of the Unity Government using their majority to prevent the Opposition’s rights to raise motions and questions.
In a joint statement outlining their course of action, the opposition MLAs led by Hon. Arden McClean state that “although notified regarding today’s meeting, no opportunity was given for private Members business to be allowed, per their rights to do so.
The argue that “instead, the Government decided to only discuss amendments to several bills required ahead of the upcoming Caribbean Financial Action Taskforce inspection.”
The aggrieved opposition members referred to the situation as: “Regrettably, today’s legislative assembly session was a masterclass on the consequences of running the country as a lastminute.com.”
Elaborating on the package of legislation tabled today dealing with the financial services sector, they state that: “The Cayman Islands ended up on the EU Blacklist because the Government buried its head in the sand and refused to listen and now, we are in danger of being on the wrong side of the CFATF.”
The Opposition MLA group state that they “were in the process of filing several motions and questions on issues that matter to every resident in this island and will impact their quality of life.”
These range from pensions to utility bills which they said they wanted to bring to the floor of the Assembly “that we needed to urgently discuss.”
These were: “The impact of the curfew on smaller businesses; the disparity in retirement age between the private sector and the Civil Service; delay in accessing pensions and the National Pension Report which is 10 years overdue; and the lack of action by Ofreg at a time when most people will be getting their largest bill ever from CUC, despite oil prices being at its lowest.”
The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Arden McClean stated, “We are clearly walking on slippery slope regarding our constitutional democracy and its deeply regrettable, that the people entrusted to uphold these principles at all cost, are prepared to sacrifice them in the name of political expediency.
“This misuse of majority power further erodes the established checks and balances that differentiate our democracy from a regime of totalitarianism,” he stated.
Mr McClean added: “The Opposition takes the responsibilities entrusted in it, by the people, seriously and will not participate in any proceedings which will curtail the rights of the minority by the majority.”
Alva Suckoo, MLA Newlands, said walking out of the Legislative Assembly was not an easy decision, but, he emphasised “it was the right one.”
He said: “It shows our disappointment that the Government does not wish to honour our democratic principles and allow the Opposition to raise concerns or challenge the government. The bad faith exhibited by the government, is the type of behaviour you would expect in countries headed by dictators. Every one of the Opposition members was duly elected and have to speak on behalf of our residents.”
Chris Saunders, MLA Bodden Town West accused the government of not wanting to be held accountable “despite accountability being a basic tenant of our democratic principles.”
“This level of arrogance by the Government and their bad management, cannot be allowed to go unchecked. Democracy is not easy but it’s a far better system than a banana republic,” he added.
The Bodden Town West MLA also stated: "I appreciate the Premier is on his way out, but we cannot allow him to insulate his leadership actions from scrutiny, especially as it is clear that his cabinet, does not have the fortitude to do so in the first place.”
Mr Saunders concluded his comments on today’s walkout by stating that, “This is a Constitutional democracy, not a parliamentary democracy and this is exactly why I had concerns about advancing the constitution to give the Cabinet more power when they are already abusing what they have. Thank goodness for civic-minded people and civic groups like CPR.”
Anthony Eden, MLA Savannah said: “History has shown us what happens when governments tries to suppress the voice of its people either directly or through their Opposition elected members.
Adding that “we all have a stake in our islands and deep abiding love for its prosperity,” Mr Eden felt “it is therefore regrettable, that the government does not wish to engage on those topics that matters the most to residents.”
Bernie Bush, MLA West Bay North defended the walkout saying that the members who quit the meeting “had no choice but to make a stand. The government cannot make up the rules as they see fit.”
“What good are rules and conventions if they are not followed for the sake of political expediency?” he asked.
Mr Bush said, “The PPM should be reminded of their chorus against the UDP, ‘substance over process’. We all must be given a chance to represent our people and our constituencies.”