Mac hits out at critics
(CNS): The country’s premier was unrestrained in his anger Thursday morning as he hit out at those who had criticised his budget presentation. McKeeva Bush took aim at the UK, the opposition, the media and even the Speaker when she attempted to curb his tirade. Bush described his critics as “vindictive” as he attempted to defend Monday’s budget presentation. He denied that he was responsible for the implementation of the COLA cut back or that he could do anything about the size of the civil service, and staunchly defended his Nation Building Fund. Although he admitted to “rambling a bit” in his budget speech, he said sometimes he had to do that to make the point.
During his closing remarks on the budget debate (which had rolled late into the night on Wednesday) when the legislators returned to the House Thursday morning, Bush reminded them of the days when speeches were far longer than his had been on Monday. He recalled both himself and the late Jim Bodden speaking for three or four days during legislative debates before the rules were changed to limit the time members could have when contributing to the debates.
Bush had received considerable criticism for the length of his budget presentation on Monday and the lack of significant content but he hit out at the media in particular, which he said should not be putting opinions in the reports but saving it for the editorials. He said that “vicious parts of the media” were “aiding and abetting” the opposition and that the press was vying for who could be the most opposed to government.
Pointing the finger at the Caymanian Compass as well as CNS, which the premier described as “nasty and dirty” and said that was why he was suing them and that he was going to win. He said there was precedent for suing on-line newspapers in the region.
“They can run but they can’t hide and they are going to pay,” the premier told the House, as he spoke about the ongoing legal actions he is embarking on against CNS in relation to a Viewpoint published last year. (See related story Mac files suit against CNS)
Bush railed against the UK and the governor as well and claimed that the UK did not want him to be premier because he was from the wrong side of the tracks and because they couldn’t push him around.
He also attempted to defend the ‘community enhancement fee’, which he said was considered because there was nothing left to do. He claimed he had not wanted to introduce any kind of taxation. However, he said he was happy that he did not have to go through with it and was grateful to the private sector for coming up with alternatives.
“If it was a mistake, we pulled it back,” Bush said. “I am glad we did but the opposition didn’t want us to do that as they wanted to use it as a stick to beat us with.”
The premier spent a considerable time during his remarks defending his Nation Building Fund and railed against those who were criticising him for it. The UK had gone after him for it during the budget process, he said, because the opposition had fuelled the flames by making such a fuss about it, which made the UK officials hone in on the fund.
Bush said that it was not about buying votes but helping people, as he pointed to issues like the youth programmes which kept young Caymanians out of jail as well as hurricane shelters being built by the churches, which was better than government funding it.
He said there was nothing wrong with the fund being held by his ministry as he was the minister for finance and had always been a politician who was a “social thinker” and interested in these issues. “They can dig all they want but I am not cutting these church based programmes,” he added.
According to the budget, despite the cuts that government has made to operational expenses elsewhere, the premier’s National Building Fund is more than $4.5 million, even higher than the appropriation in last year’s spending plans.
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