The future of the Speaker of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly hangs in the balance over an alleged incident of assault and a public statement he has issued in connection with the matter.
The controversy stems from an altercation reported to have happened at the Coral Beach establishment on Friday, February 21st.
According to a Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) report, “a Public figure in the Cayman Islands had assaulted a female…resulting in her receiving minor injuries”.
In a statement, Hon. McKeeva Bush said he expressed “profound and sincere apologies to the management and staff of Coral Beach, the public, my colleagues, my constituents and in particular the General Manager of the Coral Beach for the incident which occurred on Friday, February 21st.
Reaction to the development has been swift and extensive both in the public domain and in official circles.
His Excellency the Governor, Martyn Roper OBE has said he is “greatly concerned by any allegations of assault especially when these relate to violence against women.”
In a brief press release following a broadcast interview, Governor Roper stated: “…this is now a matter for the RCIPS who began an immediate investigation headed by a senior officer.
“I have every confidence that they will deal with it in accordance with the law, which applies to everyone equally”, adding that, “it would not be appropriate for me to comment further until this process is complete”.
The Hon. Premier Alden MacLaughlin has also addressed the swirling issue.
“I wish to express my deep regret and that of the Government at this most unfortunate incident and to extend our support to the lady that has suffered injury and distress as a result. She deserves our support. I want her to know that everyone in the Government wishes her a speedy recovery,” the Premier stated.
In acknowledging the account given by the Speaker McKeeva Bush about the February 21st incident, Premier MacLaughlin said: “I appreciate the candour of the Speaker’s statement and his recognition that he has problems with which he needs to deal.”
He, however, implored the Speaker to seek help and offered to support him through this process.
“Therefore, the most important immediate issue is for the Speaker to seek the treatment that he references in his statement. I and all in my Government will do all we can to help in his efforts to access appropriate professional help at this time.”
The Hon. Premier who is currently in London on official business, said he will discuss the matter directly with the Speaker Bush who is also due in London this week.
It is expected that a decision could be made regarding Mr Bush’s official position role at least in the short term.
“I also recognise that the incident that occurred over the weekend will have consequences. The police investigation is underway and I have confidence in them to carry that out thoroughly and effectively.
“I will be sitting down with him to discuss his statement and the efforts to deal with his problems and to talk about the actions that need to be taken as a consequence of the incident itself,” the Premier stated.
Meanwhile, in a joint statement issued on Tuesday, February 25th, four opposition MLAs have put the onus on the government of Premier MacLaughlin to take action against the Speaker.
Issued by Hon. V. Arden McLean on behalf of Opposition members Anthony Eden, Alva Suckoo, Christopher Saunders and Bernie Bush, the statement notes:
“In the absence of him(the Speaker) voluntarily choosing to stand aside to seek the professional help he clearly needs, a decision must now be taken by the Unity Government of which he is a member.”
Putting the ball squarely in the court of the Premier, the four opposition members add:
“Recognising that our Constitution requires a two-thirds majority for the removal of the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition contacted the Premier, yesterday, 24th February 2020, to discuss this issue and the way forward. The Premier confirmed that he is in discussions with his caucus.”
Noting Mr Bush’s explanation and apologies for his actions, the four MLA opposition members also chided the Speaker for what they see as his failure - also admitted by Mr Bush - to deal with his personal challenges.
“It is clear that he is not dealing with the challenges of his grief and use of alcohol," they wrote.
"However, what Mr Bush fails to note in his public statement, is the very privileged and public role that he occupies as Speaker of the House."
The four opposition MLAs are concerned that “whilst this matter remains under criminal investigation, this incident leaves a very public stain on our Legislative Assembly.”
“The seriousness of this incident means it may very well progress into a criminal matter and the public must be cognisant that the vast majority of registered voters are potential jurors. In addition, there are disciplinary procedures within the Legislative Assembly that may be employed.
“However,” they note, “ in the interest of fairness and natural justice, our actions as legislators must not be seen to impede, prejudice or influence a criminal investigation that may result in a matter before the courts.
“We must all continue to support the victim in the matter and leave judgment and atonement for Mr Bush in the hands of his family, the electorate and the justice system.”
The tone adopted by the four signatories to that statement contrasts with the stance of another opposition MLA.
Representative for North Side Ezzard Miller, has called on Speaker Bush to step down.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Mr Miller demanded that “it is in the best interest of both Mr Bush and the people of the Cayman Islands that Mr Bush resigns from the role of Speaker forthwith.”
Failing that, he is of the view that “the necessary action be taken to remove him from office.”
While there has been both support and concern expressed for Mr Bush, there are nevertheless quite adamant comments demanding his resignation.
The issue has been dominating public discourse throughout the community and across various channels especially social media.
Some of the remarks have been particularly scathing towards the long-serving politician.
The ensuing fall-out from this development are being closely observed for any consequential political or legal consequences.