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SPEAKER'S POSITION HANGS IN THE BALANCE

Government 19 Sep, 2022 Follow News

SPEAKER'S POSITION HANGS IN THE BALANCE

By Staff Writer


 

The future of the Hon. Speaker of Parliament McKeeva Bush hangs in the balance following the publication of a letter to him from Hon. Premier Wayne Panton in relation to an ongoing police investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct.

In a letter dated September 15th on the letterhead of the Office of the Premier, and published by his office, Mr Panton gave Speaker Bush an ultimatum to step down from his official role by this Friday September 23rd.


 

“Dear Speaker, In light of the unfortunate incidents at the cocktail reception held on Tuesday evening last at the Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman, and considering your history of similar incidents, in respect of some of which you have existing convictions and an outstanding suspended sentence, this makes these latest incidents wholly intolerable. It is clear that your conduct is inconsistent with the integrity and decorum required of the Speaker of the House of Parliament of the Cayman Islands.”

In the strongly-worded letter, Premier Panton went on to state: “It is my strong view, a view shared by many, that it is now in the best interests of the people of the Cayman Islands if you were to tender your resignation as Speaker on or before 5pm September 23, 2022 as set out in Section 65. 2 (f) of the Constitution.”

Mr Panton, who had travelled to London to attend the state funeral for HM Queen Elizabeth II, concluded: “As Premier and Minister responsible for Gender Affairs, I will not look the other way or allow this matter to be swept under the rug. The time has come for men to hold each other accountable, especially for inappropriate conduct towards women. I strongly believe that against this background, your resignation from the office of Speaker, would be the best course of action for your constituents and your family.”

Up to press time, there was no official response from the Hon. Speaker.


 

The RCIPS had previously issued a cautiously-worded statement saying it is “aware of social media reports circulating of an incident/incidents of assault involving a senior politician on two women, which occurred at a formal event at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on West Bay Road, last night, 13 September.”

It did not name the person against whom the allegations were made and went on to say that no formal complaint had yet been made by either of the women concerned.

“The RCIPS has commenced an investigation and will interview both women to ascertain whether a complaint/complaints are to be made.”


 

The Opposition Progressives party has also added its concerns based on the statement issued by the RCIPS.

However, the party says it will defer any further comment until after the period of mourning for the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II which ends at midnight on Monday 19th September following the burial of the late monarch.

“Recent media reports and a press release by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) indicate that a senior politician allegedly assaulted two women on Tuesday evening at the Caribbean Tourism Organisation cocktail reception at the Ritz Carlton,” the Progressives’ statement reads.


 

“In deference to the death of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, the Opposition will withhold comment on this ma/er until the period of national mourning has ended.”

It is understood that while the police investigation will follow its legal course, in the political arena the implications could be far-reaching with the fallout potentially having significant repercussions.


 

Meanwhile, in a further statement dated Saturday, 17th September 2022, Premier Panton said, “It is disappointing that some Members of Parliament cannot show restraint. Prior to departing for London on Thursday afternoon 15 September, I issued a strongly worded letter to the Speaker, suggesting that he resign on, or before, Friday, 23 September 2022.”

He said that “whilst a formal written resignation has not been given, I can confirm that I received several messages from Mr Bush on Friday morning, stating multiple times his intention to resign as Speaker.”

In an initial comment on the matter, Mr Panton had said he had been made aware of the issue but that he would wait until after the period of mourning for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II before commenting further.

Since then, matters appear to have escalated as evidenced in the Premier's statement of Saturday, 15th September.

“It was my intent to wait until after the Official Period of National Mourning, and after Mr Bush had submitted his written resignation to the Clerk of Parliament, to issue any further statement on this matter.

As we conclude the final days of the Official Period of National Mourning, I encourage all residents to show respect and exercise restraint. Now more than ever, let us honour the legacy of Her Late Majesty and be guided by her example of

leadership, public service, humility, dignity and grace.”

Further developments are awaited in this swirling controversy that has engulfed the Speaker, the Premier and the PACT coalition administration.

In the political maelstrom that followed the 2021 elections, the inclusion of McKeeva Bush on the PACT coalition was one of the significant developments and tactical political manoeuvrings in securing the PACT’s parliamentary majority.

As reported then by Caymanian Times on April 21st 2021: “West Bay West MP McKeeva Bush will be returning as Speaker of the Cayman Islands Parliament after he announced on Monday that he has joined the Wayne Panton-led PACT Independents coalition.

In a detailed statement explaining his decision to sign on with the PACT group, Mr Bush said he agreed to be Speaker - giving them a slim one-seat majority at that point - to form the government, on the basis of several conditions.

Those included immediate implementation of a Code of Conduct for all Parliamentarians where any infractions would lead to immediate dismissal from their position, donating 10 per cent of his monthly salary to the Women’s Crisis Center, and continuing to support women's issues.


 

Mr Bush’s successful re-election in 2021 was clouded by his conviction and suspended sentence in 2020 for assaulting a woman.

Several candidates in the election, including many among the PACT new majority coalition, had distanced themselves from him and had voiced their reluctance to serve in a government with him.

The decision of the previous government to call the election early also pivoted on a move by some opposition MPs to remove Mr Bush as Speaker in a motion of no confidence.


 

In a crucial part of his statement, Mr Bush had referred to the incident (of 2020) which led to his conviction and the subsequent swirl of controversy around him, and made this apology:

“I would also like to use this opportunity to apologize for my prior conduct that led to this incident and pledge my commitment to sign the code of conduct once again. While I cannot change what happened in the past, I can learn from my mistakes and hope that my actions going forward also serve as an example for others to follow.”


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