By Staff Writer
Hon. Premier Wayne Panton this week said he sacked his deputy Chris Saunders after giving his former second-in-command of the PACT coalition the opportunity to resign.
Appearing Monday on the Radio Cayman programme For the Record with Orrett Connor, Mr Panton said it had not been an easy decision to make and he tried to make a fair decision and had offered Mr Saunders the opportunity to resign.
“He did not accept the opportunity to resign at that time,” the Premier said.
The Premier said thereafter he had to exercise his authority to advise the Governor to revoke the appointment of the Deputy Premier and Minister for Finance, Economic Development, Border Control and Labour.
But that assertion by Premier Panton directly contradicts what his former Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs and Labour claimed in a statement he issued on March 21st.
In a message to his supporters and the wider Cayman public, Mr Saunders said he split from the coalition PACT administration (People-driven, Accountable, Competent and Transparent) over differences with Premier Panton.
“Earlier today, I held a brief meeting with Premier Panton. It is clear from that meeting that the Premier and I have differences that are material to us working together, and as such, I have resigned as a Minister of Cabinet and a member of PACT effective immediately.”
Not so according to Premier Panton who himself put out a press release and held a no-questions-allowed press conference on the day his ex-deputy claimed it was he who had quit the government.
That release from the Office of the Premier, released shortly Mr Saunder disclosed that he and PACT had parted ways, spoke of creating “better synergies”.
It only vaguely referred to what might have prompted Mr Saunders’s departure while highlighting a Cabinet reshuffle.
“Today, Premier Hon. Wayne Panton announced several changes to the Ministers of Cabinet in order to create better synergies and improve delivery of results in the PACT Government’s stated priority areas…Over the past weeks, the Premier has been carefully evaluating the PACT Government’s performance over the first two years.”
A subsequent ‘press conference’ where no questions were taken saw the Premier repeating the contents of the earlier-issued press release but not going into the details he disclosed in his appearance on For The Record a week later.
CONCERNS OVER CONDUCT:
In a surprise disclosure, Mr Panton said the reason for Mr Saunders’ departure was over issues of conduct.
“People should be able to live and work without being harassed and berated, and not have to put up with “unwelcome approaches”, Premier Panton said, suggesting that was the behaviour Mr Saunders had displayed and which had given rise to his departure.
The Premier said that not only was it up to Government to ensure that people could live and work in an environment free from such behaviour, but they had to also ensure that identities were protected in case of future retribution, something he had to honour and respect.
NO RIFT WITH GOVERNOR FOR SPLIT:
Another issue which has circulated surrounding Mr Saunders’ departure from the PACT coalition was supposedly over a dispute with the outgoing Governor Martyn Roper, a claim denied by both the Governor and the Premier.
Mr Panton said the rumour by ine media house that there had been a disagreement between the Governor and Mr Saunders which culminated in Mr Saunders’ removal, but that was not the case at all.
ANOTHER TWIST TO THE MIX:
But the ‘was-he-pushed-or-did-he-jump debate rumbles on.
Following the Premier’s contention on Monday morning that Mr Saiunders was sacked over issues including harassment, poor conduct and “unwelcome approaches”, the former deputy premier put out a counter statement shortly after.
“I am not going to leave you in suspense any further to wonder what is really going on and where there were material differences between Premier Panton and me,” Mr Saunder said.
According to him, the first major difference is the Integrated Solid Waste Management System otherwise known as ISWMS, or the Dump Project.
“If you want the truth to what is really going on, I implore you to ask the Hon. Premier, Wayne Panton, to release the report from the Office of the Auditor General on the Regen project. For ease of reference, the report was sent to the Hon. Premier on Saturday the 4th of December 2021 at 12:30pm by the Auditor General.”
The former deputy premier and minister of finance claimed: “If the report is released to the public, you will know the truth and everything will be made clear to you. If the report is not released, I suspect that as usual the excuse will be “Commercial Sensitivity.” If that happens, I would suggest that the Premier be asked the nature of the Commercial Sensitivity and whose Commercial interest is being protected over and above the public’s interest.”
As things stand, we might not have heard the last of this, the half of it, and are yet to see the impact of it.
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