Independent MLAs call for deferral of new seats
(CNS): A motion to defer the introduction of three new members to the Legislative Assembly at the next election will be filed by the Independent member for North Side when the country’s parliament resumes for the next sitting. Given the current financial difficulties facing the Cayman Islands government, Ezzard Miller believes that there is no need to increase the size of the legislature in May 2013 and that the additional seats can wait until the 2017 election, when hopefully the public purse will be in better shape. The motion is being supported by Arden McLean, the member for East End who recently resigned from the opposition People’s Progressive Movement.
Miller, in partnership with the newly independent McLean, said he hopes to garner support for his motion, which he believes could save government a considerable amount of money over the next four budget years, not just on the three salaries and benefits but by avoiding the creation of a new ministry.
“The constitution says ‘may’ and not ‘shall’, so there is no legal requirement that forces government’s hand,” Miller said. “We simply cannot afford the extra politicians at the moment and it seems sensible to both myself and Mr McLean that the government could reconsider installing the three extra seats and save some money.”
The proposal is certainly likely to gather support from those in the wider community who believe that Cayman’s parliament is already too big for the size of the country. However, both the premier and the deputy premier have ministries which have been described by officials as "super ministries" because of the number of departments falling under their care.
The plan to grow the country’s parliament by three new MLAs, one of which would also be a Cabinet member, is set out in the constitution and is driven mostly by the change in the constitutional position of the financial secretary, who is no longer a Cabinet minister. The 2009 constitution took the responsibility for financial matters from the administrative arm of government and placed it in the hands of elected members, creating a minister of finance, a post taken up during this administration by McKeeva Bush.
The added ministry, coupled with the belief that the workload in the country’s public sector was too small for five elected officials to handle, resulted in the need for a sixth ministerial Cabinet post. As a result, the parliament needs to be increased by three members in order to retain the important democratic balance between Cabinet and backbench MLAs on both government and the opposition sides of the Legislative Assembly.
The purpose of that is to ensure that the people’s representatives on the backbenches could, if they were so inclined, work together to oust an unpopular government. However, in practice, where the government has a majority its own backbench MLAs have proved very reluctant to utilize that parliamentary power.
Although the proposal was written into the constitution to add the three MLAS at the general election in 2013, Miller believes that it is not a compulsory requirement and government can seize the opportunity to defer the growth of the Cayman Legislative Assembly for another four years
The move to add the three seats and increase the size of Cabinet will add to government expenditures from 2013. It has also already caused considerable controversy over how the seats can be absorbed into Cayman’s electoral system, more so since the premier rejected the results of the referendum on one man, one vote, leaving the continued likelihood that two of the seats will be added in George Town and a third in Bodden Town.
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