Thu | Dec 7, 2023

Cayman swears in new premier

Published:Thursday | November 16, 2023 | 9:35 AM
Juliana O’Connor-Connolly. - CMC photo

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands, CMC – Former Deputy Premier, Juliana O'Connor-Connolly, has been sworn in as the new Premier of the Cayman Islands, a few hours after the incumbent, Wayne Panton, had survived a motion of no confidence in his coalition PACT coalition.

Panton will now become the Speaker of the Parliament after he agreed to step down following the widespread condemnation of his leadership during the opposition inspired motion of no confidence on Tuesday.

A statement issued by the Parliament on Wednesday evening, confirmed that the Speaker Katherine Ebanks‐Wilks, had resigned in what has been termed as an effort to maintain stability and support the government in meeting its constitutional requirements.

“I found myself in the position where my casting vote would need to be relied on as the Speaker in a hung Parliament,” said Ebanks‐Wilks, who made no mention of her new role in the statement.

“Our Parliament deserves better than this, and I took an Oath to serve the people of the Cayman Islands so I had to make the very hard decision to do what is best for our country when neither side was able to find a solution between themselves,” said Ebanks‐Wilks, who is expected to be sworn in as the new Minister of  Sustainability and Climate Resiliency.

Panton's coalition government had survived the motion of no confidence late Tuesday night with the opposition failing to receive the necessary two-thirds majority required to unseat the administration.

When the vote was taken, eight legislators voted in favour of the motion, while seven voted against with three abstentions. Two of those abstaining came from the ruling PACT coalition.

Both the government and opposition have nine seats each in the 19-member chamber, leaving Ebank-Wilks with a critical casting vote.

The new premier's deputy is expected to be Andre Ebanks. The two legislators had abstained in the vote on Tuesday, opting not to support the embattled administration.

Media reports on Wednesday night said that the new-look government will include former labour minister Dwayne Seymour and McKeeva Bush, both of whom had quit the coalition government.

Bush, who resigned from the PACT government last Thursday, had said he agrees with the Leader of the Opposition, Roy McTaggart, for the formation of a government of national unity, saying that he is prepared to serve within that administration.

The reports said as a result of the discussions over the composition of the new Parliament, the government will enjoy an 11-7 majority

Tourism Minister Kenneth Bryan said that the new members of the government have given a commitment to cooperate and keep the government intact through the budget and into the next general election.

“Much of the spirit of the PACT government is still there but in the interest of moving forward in a slightly different direction, we have changed the categorisation and it is now called the United People's Movement,” he told the Cayman Compass publication.

O'Connor-Connolly, a former education minister, is now heading a government in the Cayman Islands for a second time.

She previously served as premier in 2012 at the head of a minority government fallowing the removal of Bush as premier after he was charged with corruption in relation to credit card expenses. He was later cleared in the courts.

She became deputy premier of the PACT government when Chris Saunders stepped down earlier this year.

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