McKeeva Bush was first elected as member of the Legislative Assembly in November 1984. In his seven terms and nearly 28 years in office, the Cayman Islands’ first premier has faced a number of controversies and he is now facing another; the announcement last month that he is involved in three separate police investigations.
Two weeks before that announcement, the Journal sat down with Bush at the restaurant Osetra Bay for a dinner conversation
As would be expected, Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush is a busy man and he’s constantly on the go. I was lucky to be able to book a slot for dinner with him for the Thursday evening before the four-day Easter holiday began.
I chose the restaurant Osetra Bay, partially because it is in Bush’s home district of West Bay, partially because it’s owned by his long-time friend Michael Alberga, and partially because I had been there before and the food was very good.
Our reservation was for 7pm, but when the clock slid past 7:30, I wasn’t concerned; Bush is often running behind schedule. At a speaking engagement to which he arrived late earlier this year, Bush joked that he normally began his speeches by apologising for being late.
“People who know me, know I’m usually late,” he told the audience. “I try to be on time for church, but I’m usually late for everything else.”
He is, after all, a busy man, whose job as premier leaves him precious little time for his personal life, including sleep. During a recent trip to Panama with the Chamber of Commerce Trade Mission, Bush’s schedule of meetings and visits kept him on the run constantly. After one appointment, he briefly sat down on a lobby sofa and looked like he could fall asleep in seconds. But he was on his feet and going again moments later.
His work schedule in Cayman is no lighter; when he’s not tending to official business, he’s often meeting with his constituents, many of whom come to his home in the evenings.
“I get about four hours of sleep every night; maximum five hours,” Bush admitted. “But I am tired and I don’t get the exercise that I need to get – most of us don’t get that – but it is burning the candle at both ends most of the time.”
Bush arrived at the restaurant at 7:35. He walked in the restaurant alone, his driver waiting outside.
Osetra Bay had a nice table – waterfront and centre – ready for us; the best in house, the hostess said. But the table was situated too prominently for Bush and other guests might have overheard our conversation. So Bush asked for a table in a quieter location. It was the right call.
There was a long holiday weekend coming and other than intending to go to a couple of church services, Bush said his only other firm plans for the weekend were to spend some time at home with his wife Kerry, possibly getting some fishing in and paying some visits to friends and family. He was more relaxed than I’m used to seeing him; and in a good mood.
Few restaurants on Grand Cayman can match Osetra Bay’s sense of tropical elegance when it comes to decor. With a South Beach style, Osetra Bay is sleek and chic, offering two gorgeous inside lounges and one open-air lounge. Dining is al fresco with some tables close to the water, but protected from the usually strong breezes coming off the North Sound by clear Plexiglas panels.
Just the fact that the restaurant provides an elaborate five-item amuse bouche is an indication that this is haute cuisine, at least by Cayman’s standards.
Bush is not accustomed to fine dining. He looks at the menu prepared for our meal. There are several French words, some Italian words and a number of unfamiliar ingredients. He wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“What is all this?” he asked.
“They said they know what you like,” I told him.
“That’s what they said?” he asked.
“That’s what they said,” I assured him.
When a server displays a tray with several kinds of bread, Bush instinctively reaches for a piece, only to be shown the tongs with which the server will grab the bread.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Bush. “I’m so used to helping myself, you see. My wife don’t do this for me at home; I have to manage myself.”
Bush admitted he’s not particularly fond of dining out.
“I’m not a big restaurant person,” he said. “A lot of people don’t know this. My wife, and her family is – they love to go to restaurants; but not me. I’m a home-cooked person. I love my home food.”
Our waitress, Felicitas Auer, is from Austria. She greeted Bush.
“It’s good to see you again,” she said. “It’s been a long time since you were here.”
Auer went through the menu with us.
“We have a special menu for you tonight,” she said. “The chef prepared something really nice.”
One course involved hot and cold pumpkin soup, something that doesn’t sound too appetising to Bush.
“I’m going to try the pumpkin soup, but not the hot and cold,” he said. “Just the hot pumpkin soup. I’m not a great fan of pumpkin soup, but I’ll try it.”
He also noticed that the fish has scotch bonnet pepper on it.
“Go easy on the scotch bonnet,” he said. “I can’t have pepper. I can’t have it at all.”
Osetra Bay’s sommelier, Sam Smallman, was in his final weeks at the restaurant before returning to his native Canada to take a job in Vancouver. I’d met him before and was always impressed with his wine knowledge, especially for someone in his early 20s.
Smallman was going to do the wine pairings, starting with Delamotte Champagne, but only for me; Bush declined.
Auer later served the amuse bouche, which she said was to help stimulate the appetite before dinner. There were five small items: a mini butternut squash and orange soup; a pineapple-coconut milk shake with a mahi fritter on top; a plantain chip; arancini with tomato and basil flavour; and a mini-burger made from chicken liver pate. Each item was served with a different and interesting service implement, which made the course as much fun to look at as it was too eat.
Bush at least tried most of it; but this was not his kind of food. It was my kind of food, however.
Cabinet Caymanian Status grants
Ask any McKeeva Bush opponent for two reasons why he or she opposes him, and one of those reasons will likely involve Cabinet’s 2,850 grants of Caymanian Status to expatriates in the second half of 2003, when Bush was Leader of Government Business.
Some topics never get old and the controversial Status grants remain a hot-button today.
Nine years later, Bush said he still has no regrets. He said several things happened to prompt the Status grants.
“One, people… particularly Caribbean people, were being abused on these Islands,” he said, telling a story about a Jamaican woman. “There was a woman who had worked here for 20-odd years… she bought a house and had children here. She worked in the social services. And they told her she had to go home.”
Bush said the woman came to his house to see him, crying.
“She said… ‘I have no home to go to. I have a home – I bought my home here and I have my mortgage to pay. I have my home’. And I said, you know what… that’s not right.”
In addition, Bush said there was initiative in the courts, initiated by a former Grand Court justice, to give all of Cayman’s long-term expatriate residents Caymanian Status if they took their cases to court.
Bush said that at that time, it was estimated that there were 16,000 to 17,000 long-term expatriate residents who fit the mooted residence requirement for Caymanian Status if something wasn’t done.
“If those people had taken it to court, the floodgates were going to have to be opened,” he said. “I said, ‘that’s a dangerous thing’.”
2003 was the year of Cayman’s Quincentennial celebrations so an idea was pursued to give Status to 500 long-term expatriate residents, Bush said.
“When we started to give Status through the Cabinet, we realised that there were just too many good people in this country,” he said. “In fact, we could have given much more. We could have given 6,000 and you would have still had good people left.”
However, the backlash for just giving the 2,850 Cabinet grants of Caymanian Status was harsh enough.
“Alden [McLaughlin] and [the Opposition] saw it being a very political thing,” he said, noting that the Opposition backed a failed attempt to challenge the grants in court. “But it was still a very strong political thing against me.”
Although he has no regrets for his government’s decision to grant many long-term residents Caymanian Status, Bush said that in hindsight, he might have done it differently.
“There were people there, that perhaps looking at it, I would have not given [Status to],” he said. “There could have always been a better system, but there was nothing we could have done at the time other than to do what we did.”
Bush said the threat of court action put time pressure on the decision and that if the court avenue to get Cayman Status were allowed, only a certain class of people would have gotten it.
“Only the people who could go pay lawyers were going to be able to get it,” he said. “But there were many good people in this country who had worked here for years and years and years, who had a little home and everything else, and still didn’t know what was going to happen to them from year to year. And they would not have gotten it through the court system. That could never be right. I could never agree to that. There always has to be a very healthy mix.”
Bush said the UDP paid a heavy price for the Status grants.
“We lost the elections in 2005 because of that,” he said. “I knew that could happen, but it’s fundamental to me because I do not believe that we can build a country by ourselves, with such a small population. We could not have gotten where we are with our high standard of living and the quality of living and getting the education our children are now able to get without having a very healthy mix of foreign nationals in the country.”
Some Caymanians still think expatriates are not needed for Cayman’s prosperity, but Bush disagrees.
“No matter how much we want to say ‘oh boy, I wish we never had all these people around’… well, if we didn’t have all these people around, we wouldn’t have the good things around, too. That’s the way I look at it.”
Osetra Bay’s Executive Chef Joseph Watters came out to present and explain the next course.
“Here we have the hot/cold,” he said. “So we have a beautiful Jamaican pumpkin velouté, which is very hot, and underneath you have a butternut gel, which is like a Bavarian mousse, and on top is the butternut ice cream. There’s a brioche tuile… and curried pumpkin seeds. It’s just a nice little contrast with the heat in the Cayman Islands… beautiful flavours.”
After Watters left, Bush tried the soup.
“I don’t know what he just said, but all I can tell you is this… it’s too sweet,” he said. “I can’t have sweets anymore.”
Bush is right; the soup is a bit sweet, but I’m able to balance the sweetness with the crisp acidity of the Tuscan Pinot Grigio Smallman served with it, making it a good pairing.
After a few more bites of the soup, Bush formed another opinion.
“This would have been nice… if this soup had some little pieces of pumpkin in it.”
Bush said he can’t cook himself, but that his wife Kerry is a good cook.
“She’s far too good,” he said with a smile. “Her mother was an excellent cook and Kerry was taught well.” His wife cooks all sorts of dishes, he said.
“But she’s good at all local foods: turtle, beef, fish – the various styles. Kerry’s an excellent cook. Not me; I can’t cook.”
After leaving most of his soup, the server with the bread returned.
“Mr. Prime Minister, some more lavash for you?” he said.
“Is that what you call it?” Bush asked.
“Yes, crispy lavash.”
“Indian bread,” Bush said. “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Philippines sir.”
“Oh, OK, My grandson is a Filipino.”
“Yes? How old is he sir?”
“He’s nine plus.”
This time, Bush pointed to several different kinds of bread and the server picks them out. I did the same. Osetra Bay’s breads, some of which change regularly, are outstanding. We both approved.
Development and foreign investment
Particularly over the last decade or so, Bush has been known to be very pro-development and it’s not something for which he apologises.
“How do we have one of the highest per capita incomes in the region,” he said. “How do we get from no running water, no inside toilets, nothing – no electricity – in 30-odd years, without foreign direct investment?”
He realises he takes a lot of criticism for his support of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman development, Camana Bay, and now for his proposed deals for the Shetty hospital and with China Harbour.
“One of our problems is, and I say this, we don’t like our neighbour, but we want to borrow his bicycle.”
He said that when the Dart family came here, they had a vision, so they started buying property from willing Caymanian sellers.
“They came and look at the beating I took for supporting Camana Bay,” he said.
“They can’t go and buy your house or land unless you want to sell it,” he said. “If you want to sell it and don’t sell it to Dart, you’re going to sell it to somebody else.”
Bush said he had the sense to know Cayman had to give up things to get things. In Camana Bay, he supported the Darts building two canals to the project. In return, Cayman got more than a hundred acres of land from them for the National Trust. In addition, he said the Dart Group has become a good corporate citizen that has impacted the community positively in many ways.
“I think they are one of the best things to hit Cayman in modern Cayman,” he said. “Alden says,‘well you got to watch them’. You have to watch anybody that comes in here. But what we have to do is evaluate what their contribution can be.”
During the financial crisis, the Dart Group’s construction activities at Camana Bay were critical for Cayman, Bush said.
“Where would this country have been without Camana Bay? What would we have had?” he asked. “This country has fared well because the Dart family came. They have given more in grants and donations than anybody else in this country.”
Bush said he has met with Ken Dart three or four times and with Bob Dart several times, but he wouldn’t classify the relationship as close one.
“I’m not close to them,” he said. “I know them, I respect them. They’re good business people and I respect and support what they’re attempting to do in Cayman. It’s long term, things Ken Dart will never see himself… getting any dividends back. His family might get it, but that’s the kind of vision they have.”
Bush said he couldn’t understand the outward antagonism shown toward the Darts by Kurt Tibbetts and Edna Moyle when he was in Cabinet with them back in the early 2000s when the Darts were going to construct the district parks on government land.
When we were in office and we were going to do the parks, Edna wouldn’t talk to them and Kurt… carried on and on with them,” he said. “Kurt used all sorts of indecent language in front of them. There were [Dart] employees there. [Tibbetts and Moyle] wouldn’t have none of it. They didn’t want none of it. They weren’t going to do none of it.”
Bush said it was only after the “coup” that removed Moyle and Tibbetts from Cabinet that they were able to move forward with the parks.
“They’re shortsighted, they’re vindictive and they don’t know what’s good for them,” Bush said. “They’re so protective, they’re so afraid to lose their votes, that they do not understand the good these people have done and can do for these Islands. Yes, we have to watch any big business that comes here. We must have things in place to protect Caymanians.”
Bush said he sometimes calls the Dart Group people for advice on international matters.
“They have good people there,” he said. “Why, as a leader, am I going to leave them out? Here’s a big resource.”
As much criticism as he’s taken over the years for Camana Bay, Bush knows the ForCayman Investment Alliance deal – which includes closing a section of West Bay Road and created a new landfill in Bodden Town – will bring much more criticism. He knows the Shetty hospital, the China Harbour deal and even the Cayman Enterprise City project have detractors because of the incentives offered.
“I have $4 billion of projects on the table,” he said. “Yes, we have to give some incentives. Sure we do. But the greatest states in the United States are saying ‘come to our state and we’ll give you this with no taxes’. The Bahamas is saying so. Aruba is saying so. Curacao is saying so. Barbados is saying so. Trinidad is saying so. Every island in the Caribbean is saying ‘come and we’ll give you this’. So what are we going to do? Sit back and think the world owes us a favour?”
Bush noted that all of the projects have private sector funding.
“Government wouldn’t have to guarantee; government doesn’t have to borrow for these things.”
The projects will help create a diversified economy that will be better able to withstand another crisis, Bush said. The Shetty hospital alone will create a lot of employment and spin-off business opportunities, such as more Caymanians going into nursing and medical technology, and businesses to service medical equipment and to sell medical supplies.
“Then, of course, there’s the tourism aspect of it. It’s going to put Cayman in a good position for many, many years.”
Originally from Canada, Watters is classically trained and has spent several years cooking in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe with some of the world’s best chefs. His food presentations are a strong point and he has a good sense of flow between courses.
It was not surprising then when a refreshing palate cleanser called 7 Mile Iced Tea was served between courses.
Bush talked about his passion for growing fruits and vegetables.
“I like to grow things,” he said. “I have an acre of land, at my house.”
Among the fruits growing in his yard are bananas, plantain, naseberries, mangoes, june plums, sweetsops, guineps and Chinese guineps.
“That’s probably the most exotic one that I have,” he said. “I just imported some big yellow coconuts – the really big coconuts – because I love coconut water.”
He also grows several vegetables, including sweet peppers, hot peppers, scallions, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, cassava, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.
“I love my own homegrown tomatoes,” he said. “I could eat tomatoes just by itself. I can sit down and make a tomato salad just by itself.”
Bush also has a chicken coup on his property.
“I get fresh eggs,” he said. “And I have some nice roosters that I eat as well. Because the best stewed chicken and the best chicken soup is the local chicken.”
Bush commented that he hardly ever eats American beef.
“I haven’t eaten American beef, on island here, in probably 20-odd years,” he said. “I eat all local beef when I’m on island. I might get a piece of steak when I go away, but I eat mostly seafood when I go away. I love my fish. I’m still too far a great lover of fried chicken and fried fish, but I am, I guess, of that age group that loves those kind of things.”
Although he takes a lot criticism for many things, Bush is astounded about the level of criticism over closing a short section of West Bay and rerouting traffic to the new Esterley Tibbetts Highway extension that the Dart Group will build and pay for.
He believes the vast majority of people support the move and that it’s a vocal minority objecting to it.
“I see no harm – there cannot be any harm – in moving a piece of road that gets damaged with every nor’wester and has the possibility – and has done it before – to cut West Bay off,” he said, adding that extending a multiple-lane Esterley Tibbetts Highway all the way to West Bay will give a more reliable access to that district.
“These people got to be blind… because that’s what they are, some of them, those pushers of the petition [against the road closure].”
Bush said he’s heard the objectors postulate that he must be getting some sort of personal pay-off for the deal.
“They’re evil-minded to believe that somebody is getting something out of it,” he said. “It’s absolute nonsense. I’m not getting anything out of it, except my joy is going to be that I have another road out of West Bay.”
Bush said the deal with the Darts to close the road and close the George Town Landfill was going to happen whether the objectors liked it or not, possibly as soon as this month.
Commenting on those who oppose him personally, Bush said some of them are from a class of Caymanians that do not want to see certain people get ahead in life.
“There was always that mentality that some people should have and others shouldn’t have,” he said. “If you compare the good things I’ve done and balance it out, you can say that McKeeva accomplished much more good than things that we didn’t like,” he said. “But it’s because of where I come from and because of who I am, they will never accept me. I know that. But that’s some of the prejudices that exist. They don’t want to see their own get ahead.”
Bush likened the mentality to crabs in a barrel, pulling others down and keeping them from getting ahead.
“They’ll have, but they don’t want to see you have,” he said. “And if you get, then you’re crooked, then you’re in drugs or you’ve stolen. That’s the whole thing, everybody else is a crook, everybody else is some kind of whore. That’s the mentality and that’s the thing that really hurts me more than everything else; that our people have not moved beyond that in this day of technology when we read so much and see so much on the Internet.”
Bush said he sees the same kind of elitist attitude in some of the younger people.
“Some of them have their nose in the air,” he said. “Some of them believe you have to be college educated and that I shouldn’t be there because McKeeva don’t have a university education. I see some of that. Thank God that’s not with all the young people; many of them are appreciative of where people like me come from and that we’re gradually getting out, bit by bit, of this prejudice attitude that existed. Thank God we’re moving out of it. Still, there’s far too many that believe that because of where I come from and who I am and because people can smear me, then I shouldn’t be where I am.”
Fish and potatoes
The main course – sans scotch bonnet peppers – was indeed what Bush liked best: crispy local red snapper over lobster bisque with kale and local sweet potato.
Watters again presented the course, noting that the menu, which showed the fish being American Red Snapper – was incorrect.
“This is actually fresh snapper,” he said. “We got the snapper from here.”
“It looks good,” said Bush.
Osetra Bay is known for its inventive way of serving its mashed potatoes, which, as one of their waiters once said to me, are just like his mother used to make. They’re creamy and buttery and they’re served in little mason jars.
Bush was half-way through his fish when he commented on the mason jar.
“What’s this one?” he asked.
Only because I had them before, I was able to tell him they were mashed potatoes.
“That’s what this is? My God,” he said with a hearty chuckle. “They’re hiding them from you.”
“Oh, this is good,” he said after one taste.
Smallman had poured Dog Point, Section 94, Sauvignon Blanc from New-Zealand for this course. It was a wine I had never had before and at first taste, I thought there was something wrong with it. I asked the sommelier about it.
“It’s the barrel fermentation,” Smallman said. “I thought I’d do something really special. I thought I’d throw a curve ball at you. I thought with the snapper, it would be a little bit more full bodied, but you still want to have that tartness you get from Sauvignon Blanc. I think it’s an acquired taste for that particular wine itself, but it’s pretty fun.”
Bad politics and the 2013 election
Bush had read previous Journal dinner conversation articles I had written after dinners with Ezzard Miller and Alden McLaughlin.
He commented on McLaughlin’s statement in one of the articles that the worst thing that ever happened in Cayman politics was McKeeva Bush.
“I don’t know how he could say so,” said Bush. “Let me tell you… when he talks about bad politics, what I saw him do to Ellio there… it was the worst.”
Bush was referring to a physical altercation that happened in the Legislative Assembly lunch room between McLaughlin and UDP MLA Ellio Solomon.
“I got in between them. Alden left the Chamber saying he was going in there to bust his ass. He left the Chamber to do that and he came in there fuming. That made me know, that Cayman had hit its low,” he said. “That people like him – who should know better – could do that. The papers, and other people, didn’t give Ellio a fair deal on this. Ellio didn’t do anything. In fact Alden punched him twice. And I had all I – I think I’m a fairly strong man – I had all I could to keep Alden away from trying to get him. But Ellio never struck him back. That is the depths that he has taken politics in this country, to do that to another member.”
Bush said there has always been “rowing” in Legislative Assembly, but it had never turned physical.
“I’ve seen Benson [Ebanks] and Haig [Bodden] row. Benson and Haig would row and some days Haig defeated Benson and some days Benson defeated him, but they got together and got in the car and went to Rotary.”
Bush said Ebanks threatened him on occasion.
“But he would never step forward to try to strike me; I believe that. I’ve seen some of the worst [verbal] fights there. When Jim [Bodden] couldn’t handle me, he used to fume at me, too. But then he would invite me to his house, and people didn’t know this, to 4am, and me and him sat down to drink. And that’s where I really got to know Jim Bodden.”
“But never what I saw with Alden.”
During the Legislative Assembly session earlier that day, Bush had taken a swipe at Ezzard Miller, presenting a copy of an email chain between Miller and others back in May 2005, when Miller was chairman of the Immigration Board. The email outlined a potential business opportunity for Miller and his family and friends involving bringing in workers from Cuba to work at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. Bush said Miller liked to act like he was so righteous, but he wasn’t.
“People don’t forget Ezzard,” he said. “If we had listened to him, we would have been a dead country today, believe you me. He broke up that last government that he was in. He made me and Roy Bodden walk away from it. He had that hospital project… and, certainly, if we had took that hospital deal, with one piece of it in the swamp and one piece of it where it’s at now, we would have been paying millions and millions of dollars for a double site. And we kicked that plan out and he never forgave me.”
When Miller was the director of the Quincentennial Office, Bush said he asked for a special favour.
“He asked me to create the Quincentennial Scholarship and give it to his son. And I did. And I created another one and I’m proud I gave them. But he asked me to do so. He forgets. Ezzard forgets.”
Earlier this year, Bush made a couple of public appearances where he seemed to intimate he was not going to run in the 2013 general elections.
He said he was just getting tired of the bad politics, especially after the death of his daughter last year.
“I had enough of the finger pointing, I had enough of these investigations because the British can’t control me. And the way they do it is they either control you or they make you look bad – and if they can lock you up, all the better,” he said. “And the PPM called their investigation, which failed. I had enough of it. And when I lost my daughter, my whole world fell apart. People saw me going, but my world fell apart.”
Bush said words can’t explain how the death of his daughter affected him.
“Every time I go and then come into West Bay, I cross the cemetery,” he said. “I’m bound to look and I can see her grave. You know, I haven’t put a headstone on her grave yet because to me, that is so final. Easter comes and Christmas comes and Mother’s Day and birthdays and stuff – very difficult. Very difficult for Kerry. I mean, Kerry still gets up in the morning and she’s crying. I keep busy, but nobody really knows how much this has taken an effect on me. It’s indescribable.”
The turning point where he decided he had to run again happened as a result of something MLA Arden McLean said during a public meeting in East End.
“[McLean] talked about how I said I wasn’t going to run. I didn’t say I wasn’t going to run. People got that impression,” he said. “And he said I was looking pity, and people came back and said he said I was using my daughter as an excuse. And the things he said, not that part of it – that was hurtful enough, but it made me say ‘look you can’t leave the country to these kind of nincompoops’. You can’t.”
Bush said he now intends to run again in 2013.
“And I will seek to lead the party in this coming elections, unless something drastic happens,” he said. “I don’t like the trend I see in politics. I got into it because there was no social amenities in my country. Of course, as I went on, the issues became greater and I got involved. I never thought I would be in Cabinet… much less being the leader and much less being the premier. If anyone thinks I had designs on that, they absolutely don’t know what they’re talking about. All I wanted to do was to get things done. I got in there to serve… and that’s what I want to do. I’m there to serve. If the people want us, well they want us and we’ll get back in. I will field a good slate there and some good candidates are lining up.”
At the time of our dinner, only one police investigation into Bush was known – one involving a land deal with American developer Stan Thomas. Still, it was weighing on his mind.
“As much as they have tried to smear me about investigations and they’ve called investigations, they haven’t found anything and they will never find anything because, while I wouldn’t say I didn’t make mistakes by trying to help people, I ain’t done anything crooked, you can bet that, and they will never find anything because I haven’t done anything. If you have pure heart and clean hands, you have nothing to worry about. But it is worrisome.”
Tortuga Rum Cake, Osetra Bay style
For dessert, Watters brought out pastry chef Lauren Morris, who described dessert.
“What I prepared for you today was a Mango mousse cake, but I kind of played in on the Tortuga Rum because we have so much on the Island, the same cakey type of Tortuga Rum cake, so I wanted to step it up a little bit more,” she said. “So I have a spicy mango mousse. The mousse is actually made with an Italian meringue so you’ll find it’s a little bit lighter than normal mousses; a little bit more refreshing for outside. Then we have a pineapple creme brulee in the middle; it’s a little bit creamy and then a coconut sponge soaked in Tortuga syrup. It’s served with a spicy caramel and a dark chocolate coconut swirl.”
Bush looked at the dessert and commented on the length of the description in comparison with the size of the dessert.
“That’s a lot of stuff in this little thing,” he said.
He tried it right there in front of Morris.
“This is good, this is good stuff,” he said. “I can’t eat a lot of it, but this is good.”
With dessert, Smallman poured one more wine: 2001 Chateau de Malle, Sauternes, a very pleasant and delicious surprise.
Even before Governor Duncan Taylor and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service announced the additional two investigations involving Bush, the premier said he thought the reason for the first investigation involving him, which has been going on since February 2010, was a result of his fighting against the United Kingdom’s wishes.
“I contend that was the only reason I was investigated – because I fought with them,” he said. “After I fought with them for so long, I did never think that anybody [at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office] liked me.”
Bush’s history of fighting efforts by the UK led to Cayman winning a court battle that was embarrassing for the UK over implementation of the European Union Savings Tax Directive in 2003. In the end, the UK threatened an Order in Council to force the Cayman Islands to accept the EUSTD, but Bush said the court victory gained him strategic concessions. Bush said he’s fought the UK on other issues as well.
“I took the governor out of Assembly and put our own independent speaker there,” he said. “There have been many issues so I have no doubt that I was not liked up there. And then it came to 2009, and I was told put in income tax and property tax and I said, ‘go fly a kite; that’s not our business model and I’m not going to do so’.”
Mr. Bush said he didn’t hold anything against Governor Taylor or against Overseas Territories Minister Henry Bellingham.
“I’m upset with the way the Foreign Office is trying to micromanage,” he said. “They have no business in doing this. They don’t pay one thing for us. They haven’t given us anything in life. And I’m mad about that. I’m mad that Alden put us in the hands of them for our budget – never in the history.
“Now, you can say some good things and I’ve said that Mr. Bellingham is a good minister, but under the way they try to micromanage, no. What are they trying to prove? That we must have a consultant to tell me that I need a dock? No. That I need an airport? No. Everything is being delayed by this so-called process.”
He said his relationship with Taylor was not bad.
“I think he’s one of the best family men that I’ve seen as a governor,” he said. “His wife is a darling and he’s a good family man. But his boss is the Foreign Office and he has to do what they say. So he’s going to carry with their line.
“All I’m saying is that I don’t think they should try to micromanage the affairs of this country. And they’re not responsible for policy. I am responsible for policy and [Taylor] says that sometimes, too. When it’s convenient for him, he says so. When the pressure is going to come down, he can run and say, oh, carry it to Mac; carry the petitions to Mac.”
Even though Bush said Bellingham told him the UK did not object to Cayman dealing with a Chinese firm for the dock project, Bush said he believes they don’t want to see the Chinese established here for ulterior reasons.
“Here’s what I believe. The UK just got permission to trade the [Chinese currency] RMB for the UK and Europe,” he said. “This is the first time this is happening. The next one could be where?”
Bush pointed his forefinger down as he tapped the table with it, indicating Cayman.
“But if China Harbour… is kicked out, the Chinese culture says ‘hands off Cayman, no more’. Do you know how much billions of dollars that would put into this country? And what, being in the finance business, it is this going to cost us? It’s going to give us more jobs. It isn’t going to cost us anything.”
The last course of the evening was really just Osetra Bay’s elaborately served version of petit fours, something that is like a second dessert.
Bush had his fill of sweets, so he passed on most of it. I took one for the team and tried everything.
When I took a rest room break, Auer came over to speak with Bush.
“Where you born and raised here?” she asked him.
“Right here,” Bush said. “Right in this district.”
“Yeah. West Bay? I live in West Bay, too,” said Auer, explaining she lived on Watercourse Road. “I like it there. People tell me it’s dangerous here, but I like it.”
“Oh, if you have any trouble, just come and call me, OK?” Bush said. “Or just tell them you’re going to call Mac. From the time you say you’re going to call Mac, they’ll run.”
Bush told me that he would announce the following week that the government will hold a referendum on single member constituencies in July, but asked me not to publish the information until then. This announcement came to pass as he said it would.
He said one of the reasons he didn’t like the direction Cayman politics is heading in is because of the way the politicians are pushing for major changes that aren’t for the benefit of the people.
“I didn’t like the clamour for the constitution we weren’t ready for and that we are not strong enough for as a country,” he said. “It’s made for 40 million people in England and not for 50,000 Caymanians.”
Now, he is concerned about all the clamour for one man, one vote.
“There are far too many things wrong with it,” he said. “Cayman’s too small for it. Let me tell you what your going to have. You’re going to dilute the indigenous vote in this country. Those people who are talking about protectionism, they’re going to dilute the indigenous vote. That one man, one vote is going to cause enclaves in George Town. You’ll get garrison communities and garrison constituencies where people cannot be moved forever.”
Bush said the UDP had decided to hold the referendum because all the political clamour was becoming divisive.
“I’m going to call the vote. If the people want it, then they got it. And they’re going to have to vote.”
Bush said he would campaign against it.
“Some of our group said we should just leave it open to people and I said, no, I sat back and kept my mouth shut on the constitution when I firmly believe some of this was wrong… and we could have done better things with it,” he said.
On a related topic, Bush questioned the need to expand the Legislative Assembly from 15 to 18 members, and the number of Cabinet ministers from five to seven.
“Do we need and should we have 18 legislators?” he asked. “I’m concerned about the number 18… about an even number.
He said two parties could possibly end up with nine candidates each after an election.
“It could throw the country into chaos. It has done that in so many other countries that have an even number in Parliament,” he said. “Should we ask the question – do we need three or two more representatives?”
Bush said at least one more Cabinet minister would be helpful, but he wasn’t convinced two more were needed.
“Now I can tell you the workload is heavy,” he said. “But because we are small, I have to take that load. If I had one more [Cabinet position] it would be better, but I don’t think we definitely need two more. I don’t think so. People who come in must come prepared to work.”