Cayman Islands' ruling party fails to reach consensus to oust premier

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands Tue Dec 18, 2012 5:06am EST

Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush speaks during a jobs rally in Seven Mile Beach outside Georgetown in this June 25, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Shurna Robbins

Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush speaks during a jobs rally in Seven Mile Beach outside Georgetown in this June 25, 2011 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Shurna Robbins

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (Reuters) - Members of the Cayman Islands' ruling party failed to reach a consensus on Monday to oust Premier McKeeva Bush, who was arrested last week on suspicion of corruption, a party official said.

Key members of the United Democratic Party met on Monday to determine if they would withdraw their support for the embattled leader, said Ellio Solomon, who represents the party in parliament.

Bush has said he will not resign over the corruption allegations, but his support among ruling party legislators appears to be weakening and he could be ousted by a no confidence motion in parliament.

Solomon said some members who would like to see Bush resign had reached out to opposition leaders about trying to force Bush from office through a no confidence vote.

Bush, 57, was arrested on December 11 by members of the Financial Crime Unit of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. He was released on bail until February, pending the possible filing of criminal charges against him.

Authorities have declined to give specific details of the investigation but said it included allegations of theft and misuse of a government credit card.

The three-island territory has about 55,000 residents and is a global tax haven and offshore home to more than half of the world's hedge funds.

Bush, who has served as premier since 2009, has denied wrongdoing and said he had been the victim of a political witch hunt by the British-appointed colonial governor.

"The governor and my opposition have some of my people stabbing me in the back," Bush told the Cayman 27 television station on Sunday.

Steve Moore, who runs Governor Duncan Taylor's office, denied there was any political vendetta against Bush.

Bush has faced growing pressure to resign. Opposition leader Alden McLaughlin said last week that allowing Bush to continue as premier after his arrest would undermine confidence in the Cayman government.

In order for a no confidence motion to succeed a handful of ruling party members would have to break with Bush. The United Democratic Party holds nine seats in the parliament, which has 15 elected members. The opposition has four seats and there are two independents. General elections are scheduled for May 22.

Solomon said he did not support ousting Bush since he has yet to be formally charged with any wrongdoing.

"It is my personal opinion that it is a very dangerous precedent that we would actually be setting," Solomon said.

(Writing by Jane Sutton and Kevin Gray; Editing by David Adams, Mohammad Zargham and Lisa Shumaker)

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