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STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE SPEAKER Honourable Katherine A. Ebanks-Wilks

Government 28 Nov, 2022 Follow News

STATEMENT BY THE HONOURABLE SPEAKER Honourable Katherine A. Ebanks-Wilks

Before I proceed to the next Order of business, I crave the indulgence of this honourable House just to say a few words.

Today, I am filled with gratitude to have been appointed to the Office of Speaker, which is a role that holds an enormous responsibility and authority. I thank God because I am here today only because of Him. I am humbled that Members have bestowed their trust and confidence in me.

Today, I feel a great sense of pride to have been given the privilege to follow in the footsteps of four previous esteemed, strong, female leaders of our country: the Hon. Sybil McLaughlin, the Hon. Edna Moyle, the Hon. Mary Lawrence; and last but not least, my fellow Elected Member for Cayman Brac East – the Hon. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly who has always displayed leading with a graceful force.

As a female Speaker, I want to publicly acknowledge all of their efforts as each of them did their part to pave the way for female parliamentarians in our country.

When I was first approached about accepting the nomination of Speaker, my first consideration was the other members who have more experience, particularly the Minister of Education who did a phenomenal job as Speaker. We often hear the honourable Minister of Education refer to “her children” and right now they are her priorities.

The second consideration, was whether or not this would impact my duties to my constituency.

Lastly, I considered the ongoing need to fill the vacancy of Speaker, in order to provide stability to our newly autonomous Parliament which has lots of items on the agenda to be actioned.

As fate would have it, a friend of mine was led to share an interview that Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had with a reporter in the UK. The reporter asked him if he finds it hard to advocate for his constituents as Speaker and he replied by a simple ‘no’. He stated that if he needs to advocate for his constituents he might not be able to say it on the Floor of the House but he has frequent meetings with the Prime Minister, which means that he is able to express the issues of his constituency directly to the Head of the government. He also stated that he had more access for his people that he didn’t have before.

Whilst I have always had access to the Government, what the words of Sir Lindsay did, was give me comfort in knowing that I can still advocate for my constituents of West Bay

Central by continuing to work in close daily proximity with Heads of government and their Ministers. I will have the same benefit to deal with matters at their first and final stages. It was at that stage that I was willing to embrace this opportunity that I had no idea would approach me so early in my political career.

I acknowledge the tremendous importance of this position and the need for the Speaker to preside over this House in a manner where fairness is apparent by both sides of this House. I give this House and this country my solemn undertaking that I will discharge my duties diligently, firmly and fairly.

As former Speaker Ms Edna Moyle stated in her maiden speech, “The Office of Speaker is an ancient and honourable one steeped in tradition and convention. It is an intricate feature of our system of governance; and the proper exercise of the functions of this office is critically important not only to the operations of the Legislative Assembly but, ultimately, to democracy itself. It is an awesome responsibility and a position of trust. It is the duty of the Speaker to ensure that there is fairness, decorum and decency in the Legislative Assembly and that democracy flourishes. Democracy is not just about majority rule, it is also about minority rights. Certainly, it is the duty of the Speaker to facilitate the work of the Government and to ensure that the business of the House gets done in an efficient manner. But, importantly, it is also the duty of the Speaker to protect the rights of the minority and to insist that the voice of the Opposition in and to insist that the voice of the Opposition in the House is not stifled. Adequate opportunity must be given to Members of the Opposition to make their points as forcefully as they deem fit within the bounds of common decency and parliamentary decorum.”

This quote best describes for me the impartial nature that the Speaker must possess and I give an undertaking to this honourable House that I will be fair and I too will follow in the footsteps of our previous Speakers.

I also give a commitment to go further than to aspire to lead with integrity and competence, as it is our obligation as leaders certainly my obligation as Speaker, to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct to continue to serve our people with dignity. Our people expect that we maintain the integrity and competence of the parliamentary profession.

The role of Speaker is not just that of a presiding officer but also one that should be focused on making it easier for the people of this country to engage with Parliament by improving the operations of Parliament and also by enhancing the Office of Speaker.

I will work closely with our very capable Clerk, Ms. Zena Merren and the parliamentary team. We will use technology to improve access to information and make it easier for the community to engage with the House of Parliament, to learn about the current affairs and our rich Parliamentary history. This will be done by launching a much needed new website and creating a greater social media presence.

As Speaker, I want to do my part to encourage people to get involved: every Member values your attitudes toward specific issues and political participation, we are a Government with the people and for the people, and these tools will give the public added power to make a positive difference in your community.

To the public, I want to encourage everyone watching or listening to participate in the development of your country, express your opinions on the world and how it is governed, and take part in it by shaping the decisions that affect you.

As I mentioned, once the new website is launched this information will be easier to access and understand.

As I approach the closing of my remarks, I want to take a moment to acknowledge my predecessor, the former Speaker for the West Bay West constituency. We thank him for his long service of over 40 years to his constituency and the Cayman Islands, especially for his speakership for the past five and a half years and all of his involvement with getting our Parliament to an autonomous standing.

I also want to thank my colleague, the Honourable Minister for West Bay South for allowing me to take part in much of the journey in Financial Services since election. I have thoroughly enjoyed the many meetings, both local and international, and I certainly feel that I have benefited from this experience. I am confident that the Minister is able to continue to take our Financial Services to a position of excellence as he continues to change the false perception that has been hanging over the Cayman Islands for far too long.

To the Minister of Education, I thank you so much for your mentorship and for taking the time to explain many processes and procedures to me. Most importantly, thank you for always leading by example. A woman of grace who is a force to be reckoned with, and I think we all have seen that here this morning.

I once again humbly thank all elected colleagues again for their belief and confidence in me in this role. This is indeed a significant achievement in my political career of which there is much to be grateful for. As former Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently stated, “it’s time to empower younger leadership”. Today, this has been done in the Cayman Islands.

To the people of the Cayman Islands, I will strive to always walk in the steps of all of our National Heroes and I vow to unconditionally serve the people of the Cayman Islands in the House of Parliament and to honour the words of our National Hero, the Honourable Sybil McLaughlin, “Whatever you do, do your best.”

Thank you.

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