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THE BATTLE FOR ‘GAB’

Front Pages 04 Oct, 2022 Follow News

THE BATTLE FOR ‘GAB’

A day is a long time in politics it is said. And as witnessed just this week in the UK with a dramatic, face-saving - and possibly government-saving - u-turn on a major tax policy, the space of 24 hours can decide political futures.

All eyes are on 33 Fort Street(the Parliament) for who will control 133 Elgin Avenue (Government Administration Building).  We call it ‘The Battle for GAB’and it’s a simmering political drama that’s about to boil over or just evaporate into a mist of political accommodations. But that now seems increasingly unlikely in the growing febrile political atmosphere surrounding the future of the Hon. Speaker of Parliament, McKeeva Bush.

In the annals of Cayman’s political history, replete with its instances of political brinkmanship, the events which have been unfolding over the past several days (although a few have remained static) mark another riveting chapter.

UNANSWERED ‘CALLS’

As reported previously, the Hon. Minister for Agriculture Jay Ebanks had said that he had persuaded the Hon. Speaker of Parliament McKeeva Bush to step down over allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards unnamed women (or a woman).

Mr Bush himself is reported to have accepted that such allegations would not stop as long as he held a post in government.

The Hon. Premier Wayne Panton who had initially declined to comment on the issue while a police investigation was ongoing, subsequently issued a statement setting the Speaker an ultimatum to resign by the 23rd of September. He also claimed that Mr Bush had agreed to quit.

Mr Bush, to all intents and purposes, has ignored the Premier’s demand and had still not resigned by mid-week this week - 12 days later.

A meeting of Parliament set for this Friday October 7th will have made it a full fortnight - a full 14 days - since Premier Panton’s ultimatum, the intervening close call of deadly Hurricane Ian notwithstanding.

During that period HE Governor Martyn Roper had stepped into the fray and urged the Speaker to step down in light of the “shocking” allegations. Mr Bush hasn’t backed down.

In the midst of this morass, the RCIPS are still waiting on someone who may have been offended by the Speaker to come forward and file a complaint thereby substantiating the allegations.

THE GRAB FOR ‘GAB’

Entangled in this labyrinthine muddle of ‘did he?’, ‘will he?’, ‘won’t he?’ is ‘The Battle for GAB (the Government Administration Building)’.

The opposition Progressives had first called for a no-confidence motion against the year-and-a-half-old PACT government for what is said was a lack of leadership and failure to deliver on its promises.

Quite significantly without referring to the allegations in which the Speaker is embroiled, the Progressives motion chides the Wayne Panton government for ‘not bringing forward a Parliamentary Code of Conduct that would provide an effective means of holding members of Parliament accountable for their behaviour’.

That motion was filed two days before Premier Panton’s ultimatum on the Speaker to resign. Fast forward a few days and the Progressives are not only calling on Speaker Bush to resign. They have tabled a motion of no-confidence against him.

However, in order for that to succeed, they will need the support of the PACT pack of independent parliamentarians, a scenario which raises a separate set of questions of loyalty, principles and political practicalities.

The other questions are: Do the Progressives have the numbers to send PACT packing?

And, with their already stated lack of confidence in PACT to the extent that they want them packed up and out of office, will PACT back the Progressives to get rid of Mac?

Either way, how will the parliamentary arithmetic add up (or subtract?) and what political survival strategies will be factored into the calculation?

WILL BUSH BE PUSHED?

In the midst of all this Speaker Bush remains unmoved and defiant. A scrutiny of the constitution shows that removing the Speaker has to follow very rigid processes of which the experienced Speaker is aware. Politically, he has navigated these roads before and would know where the proverbial potholes are.

But, is Mr Bush now running out of road, or like a political cat does he have more lives left?

Depending on the parliamentary agenda - which he controls - Speaker Bush is likely to preside over the Progressives’ no-confidence motion against the PACT government.

It was PACT which had given him the fabled olive branch to help them form their coalition government. That had effectively brought the Speaker (and former Premier) back from the backbenches where he was destined after winning his seat in the 2021 election.

He was also central to the decision of the then-ruling Progressives to call a snap election last year thereby sidestepping a motion of no-confidence by the parliamentary opposition against Mr Bush who was the serving Speaker, following an assault conviction.

Now, it’s the Progressives’ in opposition who have tabled their own no-confidence motion against Mr Bush who was reinstalled as Speaker by the PACT coalition.

We await the outcome - or the next twist - in this surreal, serpentine, political drama and constitutional conundrum.


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