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Cayman lawmakers oust premier a week after arrest

  • Article by: DAVID McFADDEN
  • Associated Press
  • December 18, 2012 - 7:20 PM

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Lawmakers in the Cayman Islands voted Tuesday to oust the premier of this British territory in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence a week after he was arrested on suspicion of misconduct.

Governing party, opposition and independent legislators joined in voting 11-3 in favor of the motion. It effectively ended McKeeva Bush's role as head of government for the Cayman Islands, a three-island Caribbean territory that is the world's sixth largest financial center and a major haven for mutual funds and private equity.

The 11 lawmakers who backed Bush's ouster had called on the House speaker earlier in the day to summon the emergency session for a debate on Bush, who rejected calls to resign after being questioned by police investigators for two days last week.

There was no immediate comment from Bush or his chief of staff. The premier abstained from the vote.

It was uncertain whether the splintered governing party could form a new government or whether parliament would have to be dissolved to pave the way for early elections. A vote has been scheduled for May.

But during a Tuesday night phone interview, Deputy Premier Juliana O'Connor-Connolly told The Associated Press that she believes the Britain-appointed governor is not in favor of early general elections. She says the islands' constitution "puts the process in the hands of the governor."

"Our information is that there is certainly going to be every effort to ensure that the country is not put into an election at this stage because we believe firmly that this is not in the best interest of the country" right now, O'Connor-Connolly said.

When asked if she expected to become the next premier, she said a wait-and-see approach was required.

"I've learned one thing in politics which is until the ink is dry expectations are not legitimate," she said.

Gov. Duncan Taylor, whom Bush has described as his "enemy" and implied was behind his arrest, was expected to consult with the ousted premier on Wednesday about the next step for the islands' government.

Before the special legislative session, Education Minister Rolston Anglin told AP that a majority of Bush's parliamentary bloc of eight had asked him to step down and allow the police investigations to continue without any appearance of conflict. He said the premier rebuffed his colleagues during meetings in recent days.

"This whole matter has created tremendous uncertainty in our country. There has also been a loud outcry from our populace to put this matter behind us. We cannot allow that to continue any longer," said Anglin, an accountant who helped Bush found the United Democratic Party in 2001.

Police have said the probes into Bush involve suspected theft related to misuse of a government credit card and breach of trust, abuse of office and conflict of interest for the alleged importation of explosive substances without valid permits. He has not been charged with anything.

Bush has described the investigations as part of a "very vindictive" political plot to destroy his reputation and career.

Three members of Bush's government voted against the no-confidence motion.

A no-confidence motion was first filed Friday by opposition leader Alden McLaughlin, who said Bush's arrest was damaging the territory's reputation and harming the government's credibility with foreign investors. He has called for early elections.

During a visit to Jamaica last week, Bush insisted he had done nothing wrong and said he intended to remain in power as the investigations ran their course.

When he returned to the Cayman Islands, Bush told TV station Cayman 27 that the territory's Britain-appointed governor and the opposition "have some of my people stabbing me in the back."

Bush was elected premier in May 2009 when his United Democratic Party won nine spots in the 15-seat Legislative Assembly. He is the islands' longest serving politician, having first been elected in 1984. He has wielded great power within the territory because he was in charge of finance, tourism and development as well as being head of government.

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David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd

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