(CNS): With close to 30 pieces of legislation on the agenda for the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly, the independent members claim to have been burning the midnight oil in order to scrutinize the upcoming bills. Criticising government for the number of laws coming before the parliament in this next session, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller told a public meeting in the district that he believed it was a record in the history of local politics for a government to bring so much new legislation in one meeting.
At the second in a series of public meetings the five independent members are hosting around the islands, the MLAs were critical of much of what government plans to steer through the House at the next meeting. As well as the content of the bills, a major concern was the way the legislation is being presented.
Alva Suckoo (Bodden Town), formerly a member of the PPM, told CNS that the MLAs were familiar with some of the legislation as there have been long public consultations on a few of the new pieces. And as former members of the government, he and his colleagues, Anthony Eden and Winston Connolly, had been involved in some of the caucus meetings regarding the earlier preparations.
But Suckoo said that with so many laws on the business paper, many of which had changed dramatically since the last time the opposition members saw them, it was a challenge now for them all to be prepared for the meeting starting on 4 October.
During the meeting in North Side, where around 20 people attended, Suckoo said he had started to become suspicious over the way laws were being presented and the content because there were so many problems and “glaring concerns” in the long list of laws. He said non-government members were battling to keep up with the barrage of legislation coming at them with just a few days to go before the meeting opens.
Suckoo raised the issue of the infrequency of parliamentary meetings, which was creating the heavy legislative load for the MLAs all at once.
All backbenchers and opposition MLAs are paid around $9,000 per month, regardless of whether or not the parliament sits, and although members are expected to work on behalf of their constituents all year round, Suckoo said it was the work in the parliament which was where they earned their salaries.
“The Legislative Assembly is not meeting anywhere near enough,” he said, adding that unspecified, but presumably government, people were “scared to come down”.
Suckoo raised concerns about the failure of the current administration to address the long-standing question of the independence of the LA, which has cross-bench support but it still hasn’t been tackled. He said efforts by the committee set up to look at the independence, of which he was a member, “wasn’t going anywhere”. He also pointed out that the only constituency with an advisory district council, established in the constitution to help MLAs communicate with their constituents and vice versa, was North Side.
Indicating that he was less than impressed with a lot of the bills that government is bringing to the next meeting, he suggested that government’s agenda was an “international one”, addressing things that are not important to the man on the street.
A number of the pieces of legislation that are being brought to the LA relate directly to the forthcoming Financial Action Task Force review that Cayman needs to get through to ensure it protects its financial services sector from the onslaught of continuing criticism of low tax jurisdictions, and by implication the jobs and money that sector generates.
But Suckoo said government’s trickle-down policies were failing the common man and he disputed the recent figures from the government regarding the fall in inflation and unemployment. While the government reports a significant decline in overall unemployment, Suckoo pointed to the high unemployment rate among young people. He said that the cost of living was on the increase, as certain important things, such as food and accommodation, had increased.
“We are being bombarded by constituents who genuinely cannot even afford to buy school uniforms,” he said as he lamented what he claimed was a failure on the part o government to do anything about youth unemployment.
The series of political meetings continues this evening (Thursday 22 September) at Prospect Primary School, and not as originally scheduled at the South Sound Community Centre, as a result of a double booking.