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Parliament to elect a new premier today

Published:Wednesday | April 21, 2021 | 12:17 AM
Wayne Panton (left) and Roy McTaggart, the main contenders for the post of premier of the Cayman Islands.
Wayne Panton (left) and Roy McTaggart, the main contenders for the post of premier of the Cayman Islands.

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CMC):

The battle for the leadership of the government in this British overseas territory is continuing with the two main contenders issuing contrasting statements ahead of today’s sitting of the parliament to elect a new premier.

Wayne Panton, who says he has the support of the majority of the 19 elected legislators, has named an interim cabinet.

“I am humbled to be leading a team with such diverse backgrounds which reflects a mix of political experience and youthful energy. It is clear from the electorate that they wanted the torch pass to the next generation, and I am honoured to be at the helm of such a transition in our history,” said Panton, who is heading the group, PACT Independent Group.

But former finance minister and leader of the Progressives, Roy McTaggart, who has already urged supporters to remain calm, said he is aware of the announcement by Panton, with former Speaker W. Mckeeva Bush being retained in the post.

Outgoing Premier Alden McLaughlin had asked Governor Martyn Roper to dissolve Parliament on February 14 in preparation for last Wednesday’s general election, and the change was seen by political observers as a move to avoid a no-confidence motion against Bush, who had received a two-month suspended jail sentence in December 2020 for assaulting a woman in February that year.

McTaggart said if the composition of Panton’s cabinet is maintained, “then he will have nine members in government seats with an opposition that also has nine members.

“In effect, this would be a hung parliament, incapable of passing legislation or even, as their first act, being able to elect a premier.

“Parliamentary convention throughout the Westminster system of government in the

Commonwealth requires that the casting vote given to the Speaker to break a tie be exercised only to preserve the status quo, not to pass legislation or to elect a new premier. Panton does not, therefore, have a viable government at this stage.

“This is merely a ruse, and while Mr Panton may be able to fool some of the country with this tactic, he will not be able to fool the majority,” the former finance minister said, adding that the Progressives “remain committed to working with elected members to form a government that can manage the affairs of state and one that can stay together through the difficult time ahead”.

Panton said he wanted to thank McLaughlin and his team for their service, adding, “I also want to use this opportunity to thank the other parliamentarians who also served our islands over the past four years but were unsuccessful at the polls. In their contributions, they have left their fingerprints on the development of our islands.”