Education minister silent in budget debate

| 07/11/2017 | 45 Comments
Cayman News Service

Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly (in pink) remains seated during the 2017 budget debate

(CNS): Despite significant criticisms from the opposition benches and entreaties for much more spending on education over the last week during the debate on the government’s 2018/19 two-year budget, the new education minister has remained silent. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly was the only minister not to speak during the debate, which began last Wednesday and in which funding for education has featured heavily. The debate drew to a close Monday evening and expectations that O’Connor-Connolly would speak about the plans for her significant portfolio were never met.

On Monday evening, when the only MLAs that had not spoken were O’Connor-Connolly and CDP member Bernie Bush, Speaker McKeeva Bush called on members wanting to speak three times, but the education minister, who represents Cayman Brac East, remained seated. Bernie Bush, who was absent from the chamber, also missed the last call and so Finance Minister Roy McTaggart and then Premier Alden McLaughlin were called on to wrap up the debate.

It is not clear why O’Connor-Connolly chose not to address the criticisms and questions raised about spending for education but it meant that the minister also missed the opportunity to outline the policies she will be pursuing, not just in the area of education but in other areas of her large ministry. O’Connor-Connolly is also responsible for youth, sports, agriculture and lands.

Since taking up the post, the minister has spoken only briefly about her return to Cabinet and her new portfolio, having spent the last four years of the PPM administration in the speaker’s chair.

Formerly a member of the UDP, O’Connor-Connolly became premier for a few months in the interim Cabinet which limped on for the last part of that 2009-2013 administration after then premier McKeeva Bush was arrested on charges of abusing his government credit card. (He was eventually acquitted at trial.) As a result, this is the first time that O’Connor-Connolly is sharing the policy responsibility in a Cabinet led by McLaughlin.

So far she has promised an increase in salaries for teachers to around $5,000 per month, and although there is extra cash budgeted for education, it is not clear if it will be enough to meet that target. It is also understood that when she spoke at a recent graduation ceremony at UCCI, the minister encouraged those who believe education is still underfunded to lobby their MLAs.

Whatever the reason for O’Connor-Connolly’s silence, she will be part of Finance Committee, which began Tuesday, and she is likely to face significant questions during the process.

Since Bernie Bush was also silent during the debate and CPD Leader McKeeva Bush now sits in the speaker’s chair, the only CDP member of the Unity government to make a contribution to the budget debate was Capt Eugene Ebanks. He gave only brief remarks late Friday and it was not clear where he stood on the formation of policy, though he offered his support to the premier and finance minister. The contribution and support from the CDP members of the Unity government, which is dominated by the Progressives, therefore remains difficult for the public to determine.

Questions had been raised by opposition member Kenneth Bryan, the representative for George Town Central, about how much of a contribution the CDP and independent members in the government have made to shaping policy for the next two years.

Financial Services Minister Tara Rivers, who has been close to the PPM since the beginning of the previous PPM administration, when she was also a Cabinet member and bound by collective responsibility, appeared to be well in step with government policy.

Similarly, Dwayne Seymour, who as health minister is now also bound by that same collective responsibility, seemed to be toeing the Progressive line and happy to go along with the policies, as during the debate he read from notes that had clearly been prepared for him, since he made references to himself in the third person.

The backbench member for Prospect, Austin Harris, who has denied speculation that he intends to join the Progressives, wavered on the government line marginally when he questioned the lack of provision in the budget to help with the foreclosure problem. And while he said he still had to be totally convinced to embrace the cruise port policy, he retreated some distance from his opposition to the project on the campaign trial and appeared in step with the Unity government’s policies in all other areas.

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Category: Government Finance, Politics

Comments (45)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    She made an excellent speech at the Teachers Conference and promised us a $5k pay rise. What we got was an absent Minister od Education. I thought nothing could be worse that Tara Rivers but how wrong I was. They both know nothing about education but Ju ju knows more about driveways.

  2. Anonymous says:

    If you have nothing to contribute then its better to sit down. But at least she studied sports so she could have at least made some comment on that subject. Don’t worry Brackers will put her back again for perfect attendance. When discussing lands she will rise to the occasion we will see. Poor Cayman Islands.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You commenters here, don’t understand and you never will. Silence is eloquence!

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow! Can she get away with this?. She sure was vocal at the UCCI graduation. Urging the graduates and everyone in earshot to call, email , text etc. all the members of the LA and ask them why education is not funded better. Sounds to me like she was talking with the Opposition. However the Premier cast the blame on the civil servants in the education ministry. I hope the students and the public follow her instructions and call her with their questions. If she does not want the job perhaps she should not have stood for election or perhaps she should have declined to become minister of education. Madam you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Another tentacle trying to hold this stupid – ass government together.

      • Anonymous says:

        ThIs Education Minister is a joke. She knows nothing about education nor is she interested. However she does know a lot about driveways.

    • Diogenes says:

      The people of the Cayman Islands aren’t paying Juliana O’Connor Connolly $14,215 a month, for silence, we want her to speak and be eloquent.

      She is entrusted with overseeing the Ministry of Education arguably the most important ministry within the government for the Caymanian people, and she doesn’t feel the need to get up and speak when the oppositions main points were about education costs, even if hypothetically everything they said were lies I would still expect her to get up and use her whole two hours to defend her Ministry


    • annonymous says:

      Agree 6:23pm.

      Perhaps she is silent because she don’t trust herself to speak. What she might say and reveal, would not go down well for this Government.

      She is not a hypocritical woman; what you see is what you get, a strong honest individual.

      I believe she is unhappy with things and many are beyond her control. Many people think its the Ministers who control things, but often it is the CO’s as it should be, since we say its the people’s money.

      She obviously feel the best course of action at this time, is to be quiet. I would do the exact same if it is for the reason I think it is. If she spoke there may no longer be a Unity Government.

  4. Veritas says:

    She was also silent when her constituents got their driveways and private roads paved by Government for free.This lady needs to understand on her stellar salary the public is entitled to explanations on contentious matters within her responsibility.

  5. Diogenes says:

    You would think that with almost all of the opposition members making education their main point of contention with the budget and a major point within their debates, that the Education Minister would get up and rebut their claims.

    Maybe she didn’t bother getting up and embarrassing herself because what they are saying is true and the government has no response, other than silence.

    Keep Voting PPM people in George Town and the Sister Islands, seems to really be working well for you

    JGHS in your district and serves your children yet the Opposition members, only one of whom is from a constituency in GT had to get up and fight for education funding and call out the inadequacies in the budget in relation to education

    Common sense really ain’t so common anymore.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Juliana where is the promised raise for teachers?

    Your silence on the budget debate proves you are a coward

    • Anonymous says:

      Proves actually her knowledge of education could be written on her thumb. Lets be honest though she is very knowledgable on how to get votes.

  7. Anonymous says:

    She was probably too busy praying to speak.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Would have felt more comfortable talking about buying wotes with free paving.

  9. Lo-Cal says:

    You often hear people say that each generation is worst than the last one and people are always quick to blame the lack of parenting and supervision for the shortcomings of the children. What we fail to do is to see how the lack of policy affects the children and hold the responsible minister accountable. Its pretty clear to see that there is no vision forward for education when the minister responsible has nothing to say.

    Anything about a trade school?
    Anything about changing the enrollment age?
    Anything about smaller class rooms?
    Anything about emphasis on math or english?

    All the politicians talk about looking forward or looking ahead, sometimes you need to look behind and see the legacy you are leaving.

    • Anonymous says:

      11:03 am what about changes to the number of children bring enrolled in the government schools. These children are coming here from near and far and is causing problems in the system. Their are too many children, who need specialist teachers to deal with them. Too much liability on the CI Government. How many mire are we going to allow through the open door?

    • Diogenes says:

      The whole “youth and younger generations are bad, and we were never like this” thought process or occurrence is sometimes referred to as “Juvenoia” while it isn’t a very highly regarded or defined term. It happens with every generation, as the newer generations try to slip out from under their thumbs and be rebellious. Doesn’t help that some older persons can’t relate to younger people these days

      The younger generations today will be doing and saying the same things about the kids and teens of the future in 15 to 20 years, watch


    • Anonymous says:

      Your 4 “Anything” steps are spot on. Each of those should and can be implimented immediately.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Lack of respect for the voting public! This Minister has consistently shown disrespect for public processes and transparency. This latest “act” shows her contempt. She doesn’t deserve to be elected again.

  11. Anonymous says:

    kids comin back from college cant find jobs? so manyopting not to go?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Education is important, but a new cruise ship dock is importanter!

  13. HOT OFF THE PRESS says:

    Austin selling out to PPM he might as well join up

    Julie not concerned as long as the money good

    Capt Eugene spoke about spear fishing zzzzzz

    Bernie is the wildcard that will soon cross the floor

    Tara is not an independent in any way shape or form

    Jon Jon cannot believe his drinking buddy Alden the Weak made him minister for health and environment

  14. PD says:

    Come on now, what do you expect her to say or do? Never has been a spark plug but just a follower to the leader (who ever it may be at the time)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Quite possibly, it’s a silent protest against government’s lack of funding for education.

    • Anonymous says:


      More like… Lack of ideas, motivation and work ethic!!

    • Anonymous says:

      Ignorance is obviously bliss. It is not lack of funding that is the problem. The Amount spent per child in Cayman far exceeds that spent in many developed countries. The problem lies in classrooms with poor behaviour management, hiring in teachers not equipped to deal with the issues we face, poor leadership in the Dept of Education and poor parenting. Add to that a dynfunctional DCFS and right there you have the perfect storm.

  16. Anonymous says:

    What a joke JUJu turned out to be

  17. Anonymous says:

    What a mess, all these so-called ministers are so far out of their depth, it’s not even funny anymore. Yet they get paid these out-of -this-world salaries, FOR DOING NOTHING, but giving lip-service.

    There is no hope for the future generations.

  18. Anonymous says:

    ju-ju …yet another reason why permanent residents should be allowed to run for office….

  19. Anonymous says:

    thank you bracers…….zzzzzzzzzzzz


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