LA ruling raises concerns

| 12/04/2011

(CNS): A ruling made by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on Monday is of significant concern, the leader of the opposition has said, as it goes the very heart of parliamentary privilege. Following a heated dispute on Friday between opposition and government benches over correspondence between the then PPM government and CUC relating to the licence negotiations, the speaker has introduced a new ban on members using certain types of documents in the LA. The speaker said sources of documents used in debates must be revealed and letters can’t be used unless the senders or recipients have given permission. Alden McLaughlin pointed out that this could seriously constrain the opposition’s ability to fulfil its role to challenge government actions.

In her ruling made in the LA at the start of proceedings yesterday, 11 April, Speaker Mary Lawrence said that correspondence between two parties cannot be introduced into a debate in the LA unless clearance has been received from the parties concerned. “The use of confidential documents; papers either from cabinet, government, private sector, business, banks etc. will not be allowed on the floor of this House while I sit in this chair,” she stated.

Speaking after the Legislative Assembly was adjourned on Monday afternoon, the opposition leader said he was very worried that this ruling would prevent him and his PPM colleagues as well as the independent member from challenging government over issues that may be questionable. It could also undermine their ability to pursue information given to them by whistleblowers under the cover of anonymity.

“This is the very stuff that opposition is made of,” McLaughlin pointed out, referring to documentation that may come their way from people concerned about a particular government action. McLaughlin said he would be writing to the speaker setting out his concerns that this could be a breach of parliamentary privilege.

He explained that the whole point of the protection afforded MLAs from law suits was to enable them to be free and frank in their discussions and to allow awkward or difficult issues to be raised in the course of debate.

“If someone comes and says, here is a scandal and here is the letter, if the speaker enforces this ruling, we will be prevented from using a document that may expose wrongdoing in the legislature,” he said, adding that in those circumstances the opposition would have to consider other options to then question government.

“Part of the reason why parliamentary privilege exists,” he explained, “is to protect members in difficult situations and allow them to probe without fear of legal action when talking about what could be serious scandals or matters of national importance. It is part of our job to challenge and raise questions and draw attention to issues. This ruling threatens that right,” McLaughlin added.

In her statement to the legislators in which she implemented the ban she also reminded members that the conduct of the presiding officer (namely, the speaker), along with members of the royal family, the governor, judges and other officers of the crown could not be raisedor impugned expect during a substantive motion.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Reading this story i am very disappointed by this ruling.i thought that this woman was fair minded and would be nuteral it is now clear why the bodden town people rejected you at the poles so often. me myself was very sad about you losing the time i voted for you. now i know how FOOL I WAS FOR VOTING FOR YOU. but some times when you get more than you expected it usually go to your head. you madam speaker you have no qualifation or experence for this job, you was lucky to get a job and this is what you are doing to the caymanian people. you rea a DISAPPOINTMENT TO THE WOMAN OF THE COUNTRY. resign and go back to rearing chickens

  2. Anonymous says:

    There must be something we can do to reverse this undemocratic, dictatorial ruling?

  3. Rafaelle says:

    Here lies a person who the people of Bodden Town rejected over 6 times for a political office spanning more than 3 generations. Sadly political power attracts those who should be denied it?

    • Anonymous says:

      LOL. I think you mean 3 decades rather than generations.

      • Anonymous says:

        If you accept 20 years as a generation then generations are probably more accurate than decades.

    • Anonymous says:

      I sincerely hope that this person’s most recent actions will forever close the door on her lifelong unsuccessful attempts to be a part of the running of this country. We need less, not more, people like this running our country.  

  4. Anonymous says:

    It seems from reports that, rather than regulating the debate of the Legislative Assembly, Madam Speaker has chosen sides and is actively suppressing legitimate opposition.

    Speaker of the House is a crucially important role in the functioning of the Legislative Assembly and the duties of the position seem clearly laid out.  It is not only depressing but dangerous for Cayman if the person filling the position is unwilling or unable to remain aloof from partisan politics.


  5. Anonymous says:

    You notice that Buzzard is silent on this one. He never goes up against Mary.

    In fact you will recall that in the campaign leading up to the UDP win, Buzzard publicly announced that while he was running as an Independent he would be supportive of a UDP Government. Based on that McBungle agreed to Buzzard’s wish to appoint his old friend, Mary, as Speaker as a type of peace offering to get Buzzard’s support. Also it made Markey and Johnny Boy look good as she is a resident of Bodden Town.

    She should never have been appointed Speaker in the first place. Absolutely no background whatsoever to qualify for that position. So what you are now seeing is simply because of her ignorance and her ties to McBungle’s money bag strings.

    Now that things are turning out the way they are with Buzzard looking more and more like the true Opposition, one has to wonder what the relationship is between him and Mary. Probably as tight as ever but Mary simply will not jeopardise that $14,000 per month salary for anything. Probably the most money she has made in her life!!! And don’t forget she goes nowhere without her Sergeant-at-Arms, not unlike our Deputy Premier!!!

    They’re all alike. Greedy for money and position and couldn’t care less about the Country and its people.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Another confirmation that the clock keeping time of democracy in Cayman is running down.

    Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc, Tic-Toc.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I was feeling sorry for all the bashing Ms Mary and Mac were getting on CNS until I remembered their extraordinarily generous pensions (Mac is getting his, she will get hers when she is removed from office or steps down). At least Mac has worked a job for the last few decades and earned it but Ms Mary……..? that’s another story.

  8. JTB says:

    Speaker Lawrence appears to have blown her credibility. Mind you, some of us think she lost it with her hysterical reaction to the Brent Fuller story and her assertion that she could close off press scrutiny of LA affairs.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Shame, disgraceful and selfish to categorise oneself with Royalty.

    • Anonymous says:

      It certainly appears as if the whole bunch considers themselves Cayman Royalty.


  10. Anonymous says:

    Letters can’t be used unless the senders or recipients have given permission. Who does this woman think she is? Seems like another McKeeva puppet to me! Let’s get this started!! Lawrence, retract your statement or step down. With one statement, you’ve made yourself a disgrace to all Caymanian’s. You obviously have chosen sides in the LA when it is your job to remain neutral, shame on you! MBE! That should read McKeeva Bush’s Entourage. Anyone ever see that car insurance commercial with the guys living under the rocks, well it looks like that is the direction Cayman is heading in.

  11. Concernced says:

    Never in my days would I have imagined such a disgrace!

    Is this Government for the people? Is this Government for the Cayman Islands?

    The Speaker and whomever has influenced this outrageous decision need to wake up… stop playing dress up… stop playing House!

    The Government no longer is looking out for us Cayman.  What are WE going to do about this as a country?  We give the Government power.  The Government does not give the people power!!  We need to take action now!

  12. Anonymous says:

    WOW!! Totally flabbergasted by this decision. The Speaker is clearly out of her depth on this one.

    This must be challenged and defended to the last.

    I just expected more from the Speaker than this her true character will be displayed if she is able to humbly apologize and admit her error,retract this decision and allow the democratic process to run its course. However if she is hell bent on being wrong and strong she has to resign, there is no other alternative.

    Democracy has to run its course in this Country to allow otherwise will cause irrepairable damage.

  13. Anonymous says:

    So if I make an anonymous FOI request and want to share the result with my MLA should the speaker have the right to refuse the use of my FOI in the house simply because it was received anaoymously? Why is it that anonymity is good for one branch of Government but not good for the “home” of democracy? The speaker is completely wrong here and she needs to retract her “ban”

    • Anonymous says:

      It is just another UDP ploy to find out which real Caymanians are not in support of McKeeva Bush.  Richard Nixon in the US had his "enemies" list and McKeeva Bush is making his.


      • Anonymous says:

        In McKeeva’s case, he could just take the voter’s list and discard the few that he thinks still support him.

  14. Knal Domp says:

     "Negotiations"- but I like "negations"! Probably closer to the truth. You guys have the 2003 AG (at the time) Esdaile report on CUC, don’t you? Worth a read…

  15. Anonymous says:

    That woman is a disgrace to the word democracy. With a single ruling she has removed the possibility of the House having an effective debate on corruption. All the corrupt have to do is claim confidentiality and refuse to give their permission for their misdeeds to be submitted into evidence.

  16. Edmund Burke says:

    She is totally out of her depth which is no surprise to those of us who were astonished at Mr Bush’s cynical placing of her in that position. Sad and embarrassing but Mac got her her MBE so she can retire now.

  17. Anonymous says:

    time for ms lawrence to re-consider her position…she seems out of her depth…..

  18. Michel Lemay says:

    I fiind this very interesting and I am extremely concerned and I quote : ” the speaker of the house has introduced a new ban on members using cettain documents, papers from practicly anyone, making the role of the opposition and the independant member from certain questionable actions frrom Government impossible to debate; I wonder why ?.I don’t pretend to know much about politics but I can recognise the difference between transparency and attempted cover up. I honestly believe that this is a travesty of Justice and call on everyone concernedf to fight this to the very end. Madame Speaker with due respect you do hold an important post as Madame Speaker of the house of the Legislative Assembly and I have to respect that and I have a lot of respect for you personnally BUT our Leader put you there and please don’t compare yourself to Royalty that I believe is going a little too far. And you I believe, have also a Great responsability in making certain that our Legisslative Assembly is run fairly and without prejudice towards everyone and anyone concerned. We have enough concerns at the moment and honestly why are you doing this for? Lt’s never good to have to depend to the marl road whre rumours abound like the good old days. God Bless you Madame Speaker.

  19. Libertarian says:

    ***** Wow… I don’t know what to say! There must be a reasonable explanation for this. When you meet Ms. Mary Lawrence, you find a white haired elderly lady who is kind and expresses devotion and love for her country and traditional values. Before she was Speaker of the House, I recall such a humble and God-fearing person. To me, she is a mentor to the many women leaders of society. Next time I see her I’m going to ask her about this ban and what it does to the FOI and our Freedom of Speech? I could never imagine Mrs. Lawrence on the wrong side. My heart is troubled, because even the Church that she goes to in Bodden Town, relies on certain freedoms like the freedom of religion to remain in existence. How can you have love without absolute freedom? ***** Libertarian

    • Anonymous says:

      Libertarian: you have never crossed Ms Mary, obviously.

      • Libertarian says:

        ***** I think you are right. You don’t know someone until you cross them. *****

    • Michel Lemay says:

      That my friend Libertarian is the question? I feel exacly the same way as you. I have respected and admired this lady for decades. Very hard one to swollow and I will go to sleep tonight pray a lot about it and hope that there will be a good explaination. I hope that our Leader did not get to her as well. That would be very sad and the last straw and we can’t take much more and I am normally an easy going guy. I really worry about our people and only prayers will deliver us from this evil or worse.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Ms. Mary we need to hear the evidence. It does not matter where the evidence comes from, as we do have a confidentiality law for whistleblowing. What concerns it is where the information comes from? If its legit, allow it to be reveal. XXXX Huh! Governor its time for you to become active in that LA. Do not allow McKeeva to suppress the opposition and the evidence. We the Caymanian voters need justice.

    • Libertarian says:

      ***** Why do you cry to the Governor when he authorizes the sort of government we have now? The MLA’s merely play the game of chess under his watch! *****

  21. Judge Dredd says:

    What a load of nonsense.  This undermines the very essence of parliamentary privilege.  It grossly favours the sitting government.  This "ruling" must be challenged.

  22. Anonymous says:

    No one should be surprised at this. Ms Mary is a small islander with that typical reliance that so many of her generation have here on their very limited word by word interpretation of old fashioned rules and bureaucratic traditions. The last paragraph of the CNS article stating her views about herself and other precious untouchable people is pathetic but bears out what I have said. And of course Anon Tue 16:44 is correct unfortunately because it means that Ms Mary’s daughter’s "contract" (which no one knew about but has been much scorned since its discovery) is safe from scrutiny in the House. We need to do better, Cayman.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Having listened to that exchange last Friday, no one raised the question of whether the document that McLaughlin was wishing to read was marked confidential. If it wasn’t and it was as he described it ‘corresponednce between the ERA and the then Minister’ on the matter of the CUC licence which has long been negotiated and signed, there is nothing to preclude that document from being released under FOI.
    The Speakers ruling was just another flex of authority without knowledge. Sad. I hope that McLaughlin pursues a FOI request and carries it back to the House with a nice bow on it!!

  24. Anonymous says:

    If you can’t take the heat….

  25. Anonymous says:

    I guess that means we are not going to see a copy of Jan’s contract as the Liaison Officer for the State of Florida.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Wikileaks led the way, now comes Cayleaks….. keep tuned.

    Then the opposition can make reference!!

    There you go Madame Speaker.

    You want to shut down FOI, you have demonstrated that lound and clear. That also goes for the UDP.

    Crookedness good, exposing crookedness bad. The NEW Cayman Islands Decree Order.

    Mr. Ezzard please move a “sutantive motion”.

    Fed up with Dictators!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Road Block or Moral Issue? What is “transparency” ?