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Cayman shocker - Described as a 'friend of Jamaica', nation reacts to premier's arrest

Published:Wednesday | December 12, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Premier William McKeeva Bush

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

EMBATTLED Cayman Islands Premier William McKeeva Bush has been described as a friend of Jamaica who took risks to ensure locals are integrated into the life of his country.

"He has done a whole lot of things, especially for Jamaica and people of another nationalities who were struggling in Cayman," Dr Herbert Thompson, chancellor of the University College of the Caribbean (UCC), told The Gleaner yesterday.

"He did some risky things and the Jamaicans there will sing his praises everyday," Thompson added.

Bush was scheduled to be conferred with an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree by the UCC at a commencement ceremony in Kingston tomorrow.

However, on the eve of his visit to Jamaica, he was detained at his home by the Financial Crime Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police (RCIP).

RCIP spokeswoman Janet Dougall said Bush was detained "in connection with a number of ongoing police investigations".

She said the probes involve suspected theft related to misuse of a government credit card and breach of trust, abuse of office and conflict of interest for the alleged importation of unspecified explosive substances without valid permits.

Robert Hamaty, retired Jamaica honorary consul to Cayman, told The Gleaner yesterday that many people in Cayman have been shocked by the arrest.

"It is a sad day. No matter who it is or what it is, it is not a nice situation to have your first premier under investigation that led to what took place today (yesterday)," he told The Gleaner.

"I don't think anybody expected it to come to this," lamented Hamaty, who has declared his love for both Jamaica and Cayman. "It is a sad day, but we can't say anything until we hear what is happening. A person is not guilty until convicted," he added.

According to Thompson, Bush made
his presence felt at a time when several Jamaicans living in Cayman
were without status or citizenship.

Thompson appeared
sceptical about the timing of Bush's arrest, days before he was to be
conferred with the honorary degree.

"We don't know
what this is about. A lot of what is happening is a political thing, and
the timing could not have been worse," he

Thompson said the arrest had forced the
university to alter its plan, but did not rule out conferring the honour
at a later date.

"We had made it clear as to why we
felt that McKeeva Bush was a good person to be a commencement speaker,"
asserted Thompson.


Thompson said the university will be proceeding
with the commencement ceremony.

"We will make some
adjustments, but we are not passing any judgement and we hope that
whatever difficulties they have will blow over and the truth will come
out," he stressed.

"Whatever the allegations were, we
can't take part in that. We can't pronounce on that because we really
don't know what they are.

"McKeeva Bush, as premier,
deserves his day in court like any other person."

57-year-old Bush was released yesterday on overnight bail after a series
of interviews. Police said he would be questioned further

Cayman Islands police revealed last April that
they had a total of three investigations under way involving Bush and
that they had been investigating allegations of financial irregularities
involving him since late 2010.

Bush said he had done
nothing wrong and said the investigations were politically

The Cayman Islands' Chamber of Commerce
reacted to Bush's arrest saying it "demonstrates Cayman's robust law
enforcement and anti-corruption systems and the islands' intolerance
(of) any alleged unethical behaviour or corruption even at the highest
level of political office".

Bush's arrest followed
that of the former premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Michael
Missick, who was nabbed in Brazil on the weekend.