PREMIER CLEARS THE AIR ON SPEAKER CRISIS
By Staff Writer
Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin has expounded publicly for the first time on the thorny issue of the call to remove the Speaker of the Parliament, Hon. McKeeva Bush.
Mr Bush has been under pressure to step down or to be forced out following a conviction and suspended sentence last year on assault charges against a woman.
A few days ago the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition, Arden McLean filed a motion of no-confidence against the Speaker which was seconded by Hon. MP for North Side Ezzard Miller who was previously the opposition leader.
In an accompanying press release, they also chided the Premier for failing to take action against the Speaker.
The issue was put to Premier McLaughlin during the annual general meeting of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce this past week, where he had given the keynote address and was taking questions.
It was clearly a question he was anticipating.
VERY, VERY, REGRETTABLE
“I was wondering when the Speaker Bush question or comment would come,” he chuckled when the issue was broached.
“The situation with Speaker Bush which resulted in him being charged before the court and convicted and sentenced and all those things is very, very regrettable,” he Premier stated.
“There is nobody in my government that would say, otherwise.”
“One of the great challenges of leadership,” he opined, “is the exercise of judgement.”
He compared the Parliament of the Cayman Islands with its 19 members, 12 on the government side, to UK Parliament with 650 members “where you have lots of choice”.
Mr McLaughlin who leads the coalition Unity Government headed by his People’s Progressive Movement Party(PPM) repeated a point he had made when the matter was first put to him during a recent press conference.
“I remain absolutely certain that an effort on our part to remove Mr Bush would have and probably even now would trigger the collapse of the government.”
HAD TO MAKE THE CALL
In expanding on that perspective, he referred to the timeline of events from when last February when the assault happened, to the outbreak of the pandemic and the focus on managing its impact locally, Mr McLaughlin concluded that “to throw the government - and the country - into early elections at the start of the COVID-19 crisis” was something he could not contemplate.
“I had to make a call and I said ‘I can't, I can't do this to the country at this stage’.”
He offered that if he were in opposition (inserting the proviso opposition with a small ‘o’) he probably would have “taken the view that many of the others have”.
But he further qualified that by stating that “ultimately our responsibility which all of us...and I know I do take very seriously... is what is the overall best interest and welfare of the people that we have sworn to protect and you have to make these calls.”
The Premier said his government has “taken much heat and I'm sure we take some more” over its stance on the issue.
He termed the motion on no-confidence as “a publicity stunt” considering the short time left before May 27th general election and with the Parliament scheduled to be dissolved by the end of March.
“Ultimately,” he declared, “the electorate is going to have an opportunity to make its views felt on this and other issues about the government’s performance, and on Mr Bush.”
CONTEMPLATED EARLY ELECTION
Giving further insight into his thinking on the matter, Mr McLaughlin indicated that his preference would be for early elections “if we were dealing with ideal circumstances.”
“I would love it to have one in March rather than to wait until May,” but admitted that it would “throw off a whole lot of things which we are trying to get done in relation to managing this crisis and it would throw things into internal turmoil that would force the election office to have to go into overdrive.”
He disclosed that he had discussed the prospect of early elections with the Governor “about five times since this incident has happened”, but said each time he came away “with the very sober thought about whether that is in the best interest of the country or not.”
In that respect, the PPM leader who is serving the second and final consecutive term at the helm of government, is confident that in that scenario his party would have been victorious.
“I think my government would be better off if we had all the elections at the stage because not many people are prepared, or are as prepared as we are.”
“But,” Mr McLaughlin conceded, “I can't allow that kind of consideration to override what's in the overall best interests of my country and my people so I'll just have to continue to take the licks for it until elections and then we'll see whether Mr Bush returns or not.”