Opposition pushes to be heard

| 23/03/2011

(CNS): The leader of the opposition was doing all he could in the Legislative Assembly last week to provoke a debate over the situation surrounding the Public Accounts Committee but was blocked by the government and the speaker. Despite the increasing difficulty the opposition faces in getting the subjects it feels are important on the floor of the country’s parliament, Alden McLaughlin says he intends to “push and shove” and do “all it takes” to ensure the opposition participates and is not merely a silent observer to the actions of government. Efforts by McLaughlin to use Standing Orders to force the government to address the PAC chairmanship may have failed but not for want of trying.

Following the resignation of Ezzard Miller from the Public Accounts Committee and with no sign of the government placing the vacancy problem on the agenda during Thursday’s sitting of the Legislative Assembly, McLaughlin wrote to the speaker ahead of the opening. He raised his concerns in the correspondence that government had not placed what he considered to be an urgent matter on the order paper.

Although the premier did make a statement criticising Miller over the resignation and comments he had made in an article on CNS, there was no debate as the rules of the LA prohibit the opposition from responding to government statements, other than questions of clarity.

With no apparent intention by government to tackle the problems which had led to Miller’s resignation to allow PAC to continue its business, McLaughlin sought to use an adjournment debate to provoke the House into a discussion of what needed to happen over the future of the committee.

In his letter to the speaker the opposition leader described the PAC as “crucial” in its “function as the watchdog of the public purse”, and that Miller’s frustrations over not being able to get a quorum had led to his resignation.

“It should therefore be obvious to the government that it is not only necessary to fill the vacant chairmanship position, but also to address the issue of the attendance of members and the quorum of the committee,” the leader of the opposition wrote in his correspondence to Mary Lawrence. “These are issues of urgent national importance and they ought to be addressed at the earliest possible opportunity, that being today’s sitting of the House.”

McLaughlin said he wished to raise the issue on a motion to adjourn under Standing Order 11, which says any member is entitled to move a motion between two items of business for the purpose of debating an important matter unless the speaker considers it an abuse of the rules. The goal of such a motion is not to adjourn the House but it is one of the few ways opposition members can focus attention on a specific issue which government is not addressing and create a debate.

Despite making it clear in his letter the spirit and intention of the move when he attempted to bring the motion to the floor, the emphatic objections from government set off a heated dispute across the floor as the premier and his team fought to stop McLaughlin’s efforts.

Members of the government front bench accused McLaughlin of using “tricks” to bring the matter to the floor, despite admitting that it was indeed a critical issue that the government members were seeking to avoid. McLaughlin denied it was a trick but said it was one of the “few tools available to the opposition” to raise important matters, as was the case in question over PAC and how to deal with the committee’s make up in the future.

However, the wrangling between the government and opposition benches led to the speaker allowing McLaughlin to propose the motion but refusing him the opportunity to speak to it, closing down the debate.

Miller also indicated that he had made a request to the speaker to make a statement to the members regarding the reasons for his resignation but he said he received no response from Lawrence and was also unable to raise the subject on the floor of the parliament.

In his statement the premier said government intends to change the line-up and structure of the committee during the budget sessions, which is currently expected to meet sometime in May. McKeeva Bush has not yet made it clear how he intends to restructure the committee in order to ensure enough members turn up to make a quorum. Nor is it yet clear how the auditor general will now make his reports public or tackle the outstanding public accounts with no legislative committee to report to.

Speaking after the sitting, McLaughlin said he had hoped to suggest increasing the committee from five members to seven — one each from the government and opposition benches– but maintaining the quorum for a meeting at three. He said this would focus government’s attention on the committee because, if Miller was to reconsider and return under those circumstances as chair, it would mean a quorum could always be formed with opposition members, motivating government to make sure at least one of its four representatives would show up.

However, speaking at a press briefing on Monday morning, Miller said he would not return under those circumstances as he felt that the manipulation of the committee was the wrong way and that the rules of parliamentary democracy cannot keep being bent because people are not obeying by them. He said he was still waiting to hear what the premier’s original offer to him would have been before his underlings muddied the water with their accusations.

“I still want to know whichof the three government members of the PAC the premier was offering to remove that he did not feel was doing the job they were elected to do,” Miller pondered.

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Comments (26)

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  1. FED UP says:

    I like Alden but I would like him more if I just seen him sweat one time. Just once. I could be wrong, but he looks like he refuses to get his hands dirty. Get in there and fight man. I refuse to believe you been hanging round Kurt too long.

  2. petermilburn says:

    With all due respect to the learned House Speaker I feel that she should be a little more heavy handed when dealing with certain members of the house and in particular the Govt.members.Too many times while listening to debates in the House a certain member will continue to argue with the opposition members even though the Speaker is trying to maintain order.Maybe its time to bring back the old Tamarind switch again?

    • Anonymous says:

      The Speaker’s daughter received $48,000 to be the Cayman Islands Government’s Liaison Officer in Florida. I’m not certain what the job entails, but I’m sure Peter can follow the dots……………………..

    • Anonymous says:

      No Tamarind switch in this world can help THIS government, my friend. Perhaps we should try a shovel…and a verydeep pit? Remember too that the Speakers job is to MAINTAIN order, not TRYING to maintain order. But then again she WORKS for the Government, right? Oh, and, yes, Peter, follow those dots, my friend.

  3. Michel Lemay says:

    Well I cannot comment on the Radio show talk on what was said because I was not able to listen to it. However reading the article above I have come to the conclusion that a Speaker of the House should be totally neutral to both parties and any Independants that are elected by the people of the Cayman Islands. But of course this won’t happen anytime soon. It should bein the Constitution I believe. I think Ms. Mary is a wonderful person but I do have a problem how the House and some of their elected members conduct themselves and anyone can see that it’s not fair play. I am no longer a voter of West Bay or am I of Geogetown or North Side for that matter. I supported our Premier since his very first term but I must say that I never though that becoming Premier would come to this. As far as Mr. Ezzard goes I always admired him for the simple reason that he says it how it is and as always been the same towards me. As an MLA, Minister or a NorthSider. Alden do not give up. I know you too well to doubt your intentions and further more I know how much you care. Yes I do agree that you have a lot of challenges ahead but a good Leader cannot accomplish great achievements without a good team behind him. Do roll up your sleeves and don’t look back .By the good Grace of the Lord and those who know you and have confidence in you the light at the end of the tunnel will get brighter. God Bless.

    • BORN FREE says:

      Everyone who has followed Cayman politics over the past 3 decades will know that this is how Mckeeva Bush operates, making every attempt to silence the opposition. That is how every dictator operates. A dictator wants to be heard, but must silence the opposition, press & the people. What the opposition leader (Alden) is accusing Mckeeva Bush of doing is nothing new, he has built his political career around silencing everyone else, including the opposition, & it seems he has even gone a step further in the last 2 years, he has also silenced his UDP colleagues!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Can’t you all see that Alden is trying. But they would not even give him time to speak and presenthis views and opinions. Even the speaker makes Mac tell her what to do, and she better listen to him or else she will go back to the days of retirement. Madam Speaker you cannot afford to be bias or onesided in your position, everyone including the opposition need some time to express their side of the situation, and to think that you did not believe that PAC is very important not so much by what you said but by your actions, then I think you are being on-sided (i.e. UDP sided). Only God Almighty can help us in the mess we are in right now, come on christians rise up, and pray for an end to all thats going on right now in our beloved Island of Grand Cayman.As for Little Cayman and the Brac well thats another story for another time.

  5. Anonymous says:

     Why not take a walk with the MACE?  See how much time the lopsided chair and the UDP dumbbells would have to argue after that.

  6. Anonymous says:

    On the radio today the leader of the opposition offered a suggest as to changing the make up of the committee.

    Then a caller Mr. Billy Adams called and made some very sensible comments in disagreement that I completely agreed with.

    Mr Adams wants to raise the level of performance of elected politicians and remove those who are unable or unwilling to meet performance standards.

    For the sake of the country and the future of good governance raising the bar is what needs to be done. Ignoring non performance by our elected representatives is wrong and lets them get away with poor performance.

    In other words the dead wood needs to be cleaned out from all political parties.

     

    • Anonymous says:

      Who would be left then?

    • Austin Tacious says:

      As part of my 2011 New Years resolution, I gave up listening to that crap for good. I have to say it changed my life forever, I am in a much better place. The negativity has left my soul and every now and then I actually manage to get some work done. You should try it, I highly recommend it.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re New Years resolution, Great! You could find yourself in an even better place if you also gave up reading  the papers and these posts.  Away from reality is good for your health now.

        • Austin Tacious says:

          I did consider giving up CNS for lent but to be honest, I’m a Civil Servant and I do need a little something to help get me through the day. Maybe next year.

      • Judean People's Front says:

        I could not agree more.
        I gave up listening to the morning talk radio shows back in 2008. Within four days my ears had ceased to bleed and the negativity levels had dropped to belows 70 per cent.
        After the first week, I noticed that the negativity level dropped to less than 30 per cent and people actually wanted to be around me more.
        The amount of profanities used in daily conversation also dissappeared.
        Within a month my small radio in the kitchen ceased to be covered in breakfast cereal in the mornings.

        I have now built up a sufficient enough immunity to be able to ignore it at work and be adequately indifferent at my co workers who are glued listening whilst having their breakfast in work time.

      • Anonymous says:

        the talk shows are so bad they are good …(for a laugh)….

  7. I see you says:

    I listened to Alden this morning on the radio and am struck by the opposition’s unwillingness to take on the systemic problems within this Government perpetuated by members of the UDP

    Why is Mr McLaughlin making no fuss whatsoever about the fact that none of the committees chaired by McKeeva, Elio, Cline or John John are even bothering to meet.

    It would appear that neither the UDP nor the PPM had any appreciation for the importance of PAC until Mr. Miller took it over and had some 17 meetings.

    Now everyone wants to jump on the Ezzard bandwagon for political expedience, either for or against him.

    The PAC while important, is no more important and no less required by the constitution,  than the committees chaired by Mr. Bush, Mr. Soloman, Mr. Glidden or Mr. Seymour which are accomplishing absolutely nothing as they are not even bothering to meet even once.

    Come on Alden, be a real leader of the opposition and like Ezzard do some research about what else is not getting done properly in Parliment and be man enough to speak up about them.

    • Anonymous says:

      So you really think that Ezzard’s resigning and leaving the Committee leaderless and non-functional is good leadership and will address the “systemic” issues you think need to be addressed? What i understood Alden to be saying is that we must get the PAC up and running again. As Leader of the Opposition he has to take some responibility for that and his pragmatic appraoch is to find a way quickly to make that happen. Arguing for the next 2 years with the UDP about provisions for attendance will get him and the country no where. Truth is Ezzard should not have quit. He should have stayed and fought to get a quorum. I was struck at His willingness to wash his hands of the responsible office of Chairman of the PAC..

      • I see you says:

        Perhaps you would benefit from reading my post more carefully. Nowhere did I say what you appear to assume I was saying. Please consider the following points for clarification:

        1. Ezzard is the lone INDEPENDENT member of the LA, what is he supposed to be the LEADER of? Himself? He at no time accepted the position as leader of any political party, neither the Government nor the Opposition therefore your critisism of him as a leader is misplaced. There are those in the LA who accepted this responsibility; all I am asking is that they do the job that their positions demand, not sit back and wait for Ezzard to point out a problem then junp on one side or the other, either for or against him for political expedience.

        2. Ezzard had little recourse left to him as the sole independant but to bring this redicilous situation to a head as I heard him talk about the lack of attendence by the

        3 Government back benchers in speaches in the LA, on the radio and at his meetings in North Side and read what he had to say about it in the Compass and on this Blog ……… and absolutely NOTHING was done about it by the Government nor the Opposition. How was Ezzard supposed to "fight for a quorum"? Go to their homes and pull them out on the day of the meeting? Good for you Ezzard and the Country, they are all talking about it now.

        4. It is rather disingenious for you to argue that Alden wants to make sure that the PAC functions properly. Have you forgotten that Ezzard also exposed the fact that under the PPM government and PAC leadership when Ozzie was the Chairman, there were NO meetings. Get real. Perhaps if Ozzie had the B**LS to resign then, something would have been done and Ezzard would not have found the mess that he had to clear up withh the countries accounts going as far back as 2006. So please spere me the rubbish about "pragmatic approach to find a way to make this happen" the statesman intentions of Alden come at an eleventh hour.

        5. Ezzaed did the right thing in resigning from what had become an impotent PAC committee.What good would it have done to continue to beMr. Important PAC Chairman when the PAC is unable to conduct business because of a lack of interest of the UDP members to even assist in forming a quorum. I for one hope that Alden and the PPM will put some preassure on the Government to get the finance committees that McKeeva Bush chairs up and functioning, likewise the Registery of MLA interests committee that Elio Soloman chairs, the review of the Office of the Complaints Commissioner Committee that Cline Glidden chairs and the House Committee that Duane Seymour chairs NON of which have held the meetings required by the constitution let alone managed to get a quorum for a meeting. My biggest fare is that Ezzard has once again exposed an inadequacy in the Government and neither the Government nor the Opposition will say one word about it unless Ezzard finds a way to bring it to a head.

      • I see you says:

        And the reason why the Opposition is not kicking up a stink about the fact that the Finance Committee chaired by Hon McKeeva Bush. The Registry of Interest of MLA’s committee chaired by Elio Soloman, The Review of the OCC Committee chaired by Gline Glidden and the House Committee chaired by Duane Seymour is what?

        I contend that any of these committees are just as important as the PAC yet there is no outrage about their lack of performance being put up by the Opposition. They are certainly no less a requirement of our constitution.

        If there is real concern by the Opposition and not just jumping on the Ezzard bandwagon then let us hear how we are going to be “pragmatic and find a way to quickly make that happen”

  8. FED UP says:

    Well get back in there and fight. When you gonna make a statement on the North Sound, the oil refinery or protecting our MANGROVES? Your a little to silent for our taste man. Roll up your sleves and show us you mean business.

    • Anonymous says:

       need chuckie if you want action 

    • Anonymous says:

      Alden has made a number of statements on the North Sound dredging and on the oil refinery , in the Caymanian Compass, on CNS and on the Rooster Show. You need to a pay a little more attention or are you just compelled to criticise the man?

  9. JTB says:

    Democracy in action folks. Read it and weep.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone tell me what options the opposition has to legally bring down the current government and call for new elections ?

     

     

     

    • Anonymous says:

      None. A vote of no confidence requires the support of all of the UDP backbenchers.