Allowing Bush to fail us is failing ourselves
The ongoing farce of McKeeva Bush’s continued leadership in the face of three separate police investigations is now reaching the point of ridicule. In any other democratic country a leader facing such intense police scrutiny would have stepped aside months ago in order to allow investigations to be carried out swiftly and successfully and in order to prevent further damage to the reputation of the government and of the country itself.
But Bush’s petulant refusal to let go of his power even temporarily not only risks making Cayman a laughing stock, it also makes it very difficult to take his own political position seriously.
Who could seriously acknowledge Bush’s calls for fiscal prudence at the Caribbean Development Bank meeting, for example, in light of the knowledge that his own financial irregularities are under intense police scrutiny? Who will listen to a leader who urges others to exercise financial caution when the Stan Thomas letter, revealing his demand for a $350,000 payment which still remains to be properly explained, is in public circulation? Even if Bush’s claims that the payment was for ‘consulting fees’ are true, the proximity of his wife’s company’s involvement in the West Bay land deal seems too close for comfort for those who hope to see complete professionalism and impartiality from a political leader.
And when one reaches the point at which the highest elected official of the Cayman Islands goes publicly on record with a damaging, babbling and paranoid statement of aggression against the representative of the British government in Cayman, any voter must start to ask whether the price of keeping Mac in office isn’t becoming too high for that office to bear.
How great is the value of Bush’s questioned, debated and investigated leadership compared to the cost of irrevocably damaging the relationship between the premier’s office and the governor? Are we really so desperate to keep a man in office who we KNOW requested the release of an illegal shipment of dynamite despite a complete lack of proper licensing that we are prepared to watch him reduce the office of premier to little more than a public joke?
Bush’s insistence on remaining in office must inevitably damage the position of premier, as it has required him to make several weak attempts to swipe at the accusations against him, each one only resulting in making him look more desperate, as he tries to twist language and motive to conceal the truth rather than clarify matters. While Bush was quick to try to dismiss allegations surrounding the Stan Thomas letter by blaming his assistant, Richard Parchment for making a simple ‘mistake’, the sentence “I have ensured that all of the proposed re-zoning issues have been agreed and approved by Cabinet” is pretty hard to explain away as a misunderstanding.
Indeed, Bush’s subsequent letter, which he has provided as ‘proof’ that he immediately rectified the situation, reads “I need to clarify to save any misunderstanding that the bill sent to you today for the West Bay Seven Mile Beach purchase transaction is for consulting fees for work carried out and advice given by Windsor Development Corporation. The rezoning was done before and without Windsor participation.”
Yet it was not Windsor Development, but Bush himself, a member of Cabinet at the time as Leader of Government Business, who was in a position to influence the Cabinet decision on re-zoning. So whilst the claim that Windsor Development had no influence on the Cabinet may be technically true, it is in fact completely beside the point and fails to address the issue of Bush’s influence at all. (Not to mention reports that a witness statement given to police casts doubt on Bush’s claims anyway.)
Of course, even if Bush’s claims about his involvement in the whole affair are completely accurate, they still present a worrying picture of a government minister deeply involved in and influencing local deals and land transactions in a way that many would consider inappropriate anyway. He told the Cayman Compass “My job was to convince Gil Freytag to sell the property to Stan Thomas,” with the Cayman Compass reporting that he added “there was another developer interested in buying the property, but he was able to convince Mr. Freytag to sell it to Mr. Thomas instead.”
Is this the level of influence and involvement we want an elected minister to be having in local business transactions? And can it possibly be ethical for him to be involved in this way when he also sat on the Cabinet which made the decisions about zoning to enable such schemes to go through, whether or not he claims to have acted impartially in this instance?
The deeper one looks at Bush’s administration and activities, and the more closely one investigates his attempts to deflect the allegations against him, the more doubtful it seems that he is the best person to lead Cayman forward in a fair, accountable and impartial manner.
What kind of political acumen and wisdom can we expect from a man who lashed out in an undignified and apoplectic fit to hurl utterly groundless accusations and conspiracy theories at the UK’s highest representative in the Cayman Islands? Even the very statement itself was highly embarrassing, with a confused and enraged Bush seeming to utterly contradict himself by both accusing Governor Taylor of having “done nothing for three years” and “doing nothing of substance” and yet simultaneously suggesting that he was “stealthily and insidiously” working against the success of Cayman.
The very idea is farcical, but what should concern voters far more is the arrogant selfishness with which Bush is prepared to throw around such damaging and unfounded accusations in order to defend his own precarious position, with utter disregard for the damage it could do to the office of premier and the relationship between the Cayman Islands and the UK.
In almost any other democratic country in the world Bush would by now have been forced to step aside before he drags the position of premier into the dust. No, there is no legislative requirement for him to do so as a result of his being the subject of police investigations, but this is probably not a constitutional decision so much as an assumption that a person in such high public position would naturally have the decency and respect for his office to do so voluntarily!
But neither have Bush’s political allies and funders shown the backbone required to force him to step out of the limelight – and this is where Caymanians are not only allowing Bush to fail them, but also failing themselves.
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