Premier attacked over handling of report
The Progressive Labour Party fiercely attacked the Government’s handling of the Commission of Inquiry report, accusing the Premier of disrespecting the House of Assembly.
Opening the debate on Motion to Adjourn on Monday, Walter Roban, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, questioned why Michael Dunkley, the Premier, announced the report was publicly available in the middle of a Budget presentation rather than in a Ministerial Statement.
Calling the inquiry a matter of “serious political significance”, he said: “The House was not given the courtesy of receiving the report. We were told it was online. That was how it was received; the public publication of this very important report.
“I cannot help but wonder, was the Premier afraid to bring this as a Ministerial Statement with questions from the House?”
The Commission, which was tasked with investigating a series of government projects, found that seven dealings had evidence of “possible criminal activity”, adding that it supports ongoing police investigations.
Potential wrongdoing was found in five projects related to former premier Ewart Brown, three connected to former Works and Engineering minister Derrick Burgess and one to One Bermuda Alliance senator Vic Ball.
Opposition leader David Burt later echoed Mr Roban’s statements, saying the announcement had shown disrespect to Parliament, and that the Parliamentary Code of Conduct stated that significant policy announcements should be made in the House if it is sitting.
“This Premier and Government doesn’t like scrutiny,” he said. “That is the reason why when we ask personal questions it’s sometimes difficult to get an answer. That’s why when the Premier gives a statement, he won’t share his brief with the Opposition leader but he will send it to the media.”
And he attacked the Government for pursuing civil cases while criminal investigations are ongoing, saying: “A government that believes in the rule of law should let the rule of law rule the land and not try to engage in situations where they take the law into their own hands.”
Wayne Furbert, meanwhile, called it an “insult on Parliament” and the Speaker of the House, noting that the Commission was approved and funded by the Legislature.
“It’s absolutely wrong and the Premier needs to give an answer why he decided to float it over the air,” he said.
Mr Furbert also noted the civil action launched by Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, over the Port Royal Golf Course project, questioning if Mr Ball would receive similar treatment.
“It’s clear that based on the report that there were some clear conflicts by Mr Ball,” he said. “In fact, they asked that the police look at this.”
Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott also raised the issue of the civil suits, saying: “Why did Mr Moniz issue proceedings against two ministers of the PLP and not issue proceedings against Mr Ball when he must have known at the same time of the findings.”
He said the Commission, which was tasked with investigating serious matters, had become mired in politics, leaving him with little confidence in the findings.
“I’m not troubled by the findings of an inquiry that has the reputation of being political,” he said. “I completely disregard its findings and recommendations for police investigations.”
Responding to the comments, Mr Dunkley said: “If he’s not troubled then certainly there’s a question on that side and the Opposition leader might need to think about a replacement because this report outlines serious concerns that this Government intends to deal with in a serious way.”
Mr Dunkley said that he had made the announcement in the House, as required by the Code of Conduct, and that the Opposition had an opportunity to ask questions on the topic as part of the Budget debate.
“I announced that the PDF was published online in Parliament, in the Budget debate,” he said. “Members had opportunities in that debate to ask questions and I will never duck questions from the other side because there’s no reason to duck questions from the other side.
“They don’t like the answers because the truth can hurt.”
He also challenged the record of the Opposition, saying that Mr Burt was junior finance minister when some of the overspending had occurred but “said nothing”.
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