Ernest DeCouto (1926-2017)
Ernest DeCouto, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, has died at the age of 91.
Mr DeCouto, who was appointed CBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1999 for his community work, passed away yesterday morning.
The father of three served as MP for the Smith’s North constituency between 1972 and 1993.
He became the first Speaker of Portuguese descent in 1993, and held the position until 1998.
Sir John Swan, the former premier, led tributes yesterday to a parliamentarian who he said always demanded “integrity, honesty and action”.
Sir John added: “Ernest was a thoroughly decent man. He was a very conscientious individual who subscribed to the principle of thrift in thought and thrift in action.
“He made a big contribution in Bermuda. As Speaker he did his homework and made sure he understood the requirements of the procedures and was able to hold MPs to account for their actions.
“He did not suffer fools gladly, but he really wanted people to be themselves but do good for others. I want to extend my sympathies to all his family at this time.”
Mr DeCouto was first elected to the House of Assembly in June 1972 as the United Bermuda Party representative for Smith’s North, and was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports in 1981.
He became Deputy Speaker of the House in 1989, a position he held until he was elected to the post of Speaker.
Other Government service included stints on the Tourism, Public Transportation, Education and Immigration Boards as well as being a member of several Joint Select Committees and Parliamentary Secretary posts.
Former premier Michael Dunkley told The Royal Gazette that Mr DeCouto “always carried respect by the way he carried himself”.
He added: “When I became an MP for the first time, he was Speaker of the House and he immediately made me feel more comfortable. He was a pillar of the community and I had a huge amount of respect for him.
“As a Speaker he was first class — he ran a very good House. He ran a very direct debate and was extremely fair.”
Mr Dunkley added: “He did so many things outside of politics in the community with very little fanfare.
“He was a home-grown community man who worked to make Bermuda better.”
Former UBP MP John Barritt said: “His election as Speaker came about when I was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1993.
“I was Government Whip at the time and got a crash course in parliamentary procedure, which continued during his tenure over the next five years as Speaker.
“I can honestly say that I never stopped learning at his hands and credit Mr DeCouto with teaching me how to navigate my way around the rules of the House.
“He had a very good grasp of the rules of parliamentary procedure and prided himself on keeping abreast of rulings and interpretations throughout the Caribbean, in particular, and the Commonwealth generally.”
Mr DeCouto served as a member of the Smith’s Parish Vestry from 1955 to 1971 and was a member of the Smith’s Parish Council.
Mr DeCouto was educated at the Whitney Institute, the Gilbert Institute, Warwick Academy and the Bermuda Commercial School.
His working life began in 1943 at the Department of Agriculture.
From there he moved on to Master’s Limited, Colonial/Eastern Airlines and Rego Limited Real Estate.
He set up DeCouto and Dunstan Real Estate in 1960 and maintained an association with that firm until he retired as president in 1992.
Former UBP colleague and cousin Trevor Moniz said Mr DeCouto was “a steady hand and a good businessman”.
Mr Moniz added: “He was a founding member of the National Sports Club, where Somersfield Academy now stands.
“He was a great public servant as an MP, but also as a Minister of Youth and Sports and the speaker.
“Ernest was always very consistent in his actions and a role model for many.”
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