The Progressives-led administration is planning not to show up at next week’s sitting of the Legislative Assembly.
House Speaker Juliana O’Connor-Connolly called an emergency meeting to deal with two motions concerning police management and efficiency on the 13th of April.
Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin says there is no pressing need for the emergency meeting ahead of the planned April 25th session. He told Cayman 27 he is unwilling to let the opposition distract the government from critically important matters the government is dealing with.
In addition to preparing at least 14 bills for passage in the April 25th session, the Premier told Cayman 27 government is crunching to prepare the budget for the next fiscal year. This budget will be unique in that it will cover an 18-month period as opposed to the typical 12-month budget.
“The budget has to be brought to the house by about the middle of next month. It is an 18-month budget, the first we’ve had in the transition process to multi-year budgeting. A great deal of work has to go on on that front,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
But Mr. McLaughlin says even these aforementioned matters are eclipsed in importance by the circumstances Cayman is facing in the wake of the Panama Papers scandal.
He told Cayman 27 government, and other overseas territories, have faced increasing pressure from the United Kingdom since millions of documents leaked in that scandal.
“What has happened in the aftermath of the Panama Papers, and because of the Panama Papers is that the pressures to be able to reach an arrangement with the United Kingdom have increased hugely,” he explained. “So a great time and effort is being spent by myself, the Minister of Financial Services, and the Ministry of Finance, as well as the Governor in discussions with the United Kingdom about these issues.”
He countered the opposition’s suggestions that skipping the session equates to dereliction of duty.
“The real dereliction of duty is them attempting to disrupt and distract the government at a critical time like this when the government is quite frankly fighting to ensure that the financial services industry remains viable going forward,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
He believes the opposition members motions have merit, and those members will have the opportunity to present them in the April 25th session.
“The issues raised by those motions are important issues,” Mr. Mclaughlin told Cayman 27. “While I worry a great deal about the consequences of the house finding that it has no confidence in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and what that does to our national security, I would defend and will defend with my last breath the right of elected members to debate those issues.”
“As Premier and elected leader of this country, I have to determine what are the priorities for the country,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “The reason why we are the government is because we have the majority of seats. The reason they are the opposition is because they don’t. They do not have the responsibility we do, which is to administer the affairs of this country and to look after the welfare and interest of the people of this country. I cannot and I will not allow the opposition to determine what are the priorities for the government. If and when they get into government that will be their responsibility.”
He said he understands full well the role of opposition politics, but stressed that in this case, the stakes are too high to play politics as usual.
“There is absolutely no reason why these private members motions cannot be dealt with until the 25th of April,” said Mr. Mclaughlin. “When the leader of the opposition and Mr. Ezzard Miller and others accuse the government of dereliction of duty because I have said on the government’s behalf we will not accommodate that meeting, they should think again.”
If every member of the government benches does not show up, quorum will not be met to hold the sitting.
After next week’s emergency meeting, the house is set to meet on the 25 April.