Speaker draws race card on public registers

  • Asking questions: Speaker of the House Dennis Lister

    Asking questions: Speaker of the House Dennis Lister

The Speaker of the House of Assembly questioned yesterday if race had played a part in the United Kingdom’s decision to impose public registers of company ownership on its Overseas Territories.

Mr Lister, one of four Bermudian MPs who attended a regional meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the Caymans this week, said British Crown dependencies, Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man, had not been asked to create public registers.

He said: “The territories in this region that were affected by this aren’t the only territories that fall under the Crown.

“Let’s accept that. Let’s accept the fact that the territories that haven’t been affected by this do similar business as those in this territory that have been affected by this registry.”

Mr Lister was speaking after former finance minister Bob Richards highlighted that Crown dependencies had not been told to take the same measures as Bermuda and British Caribbean territories.

The Speaker said: “They are territories just like us, even though they fall in a different category as far as naming, meaning they’re not Overseas Territories, they’re called Crown Dependencies, but the business model is the same.”

He said: “Let’s look at the racial make up of those countries that have been affected and those that haven’t.

“That’s a simple question I’m putting to you, look at it, you draw your own conclusion.”

Mr Lister said that the racial make-up of the Crown Dependencies compared to most Overseas Territories may account for the different treatment.

He added: “I can’t put myself in the mind of anybody else, I’ll put that on the table, but I can look at what’s obvious in front of me and until somebody can justify why, then you have to look at the obvious and try and make a decision on the obvious that’s in front of you.”

Mr Richards, who retired from politics after he lost his One Bermuda Alliance seat in last year’s General Election, earlier said the British Parliament’s decision to make the OTs reveal the owners of all their registered companies by the end of 2020 was a “huge retrograde step and totally unacceptable”.

He added that it was obvious why Crown dependencies were not told to take the same measures.

Mr Richards compared the difference in treatment to Britain’s “kith and kin” policy towards the former Rhodesia under the rule of white leader Ian Smith, who made a unilateral declaration of independence from the UK in 1965 in a bid to stave off black majority rule.

He said: “In other words, because the Rhodesians who were in charge of Rhodesia were the descendants of the white British, they were kith and kin. They had a different approach towards kith and kin.

“The folks in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey are also kith and kin.”

Mr Lister said on Thursday the work of the CPA conference, which included delegates from the Caribbean, Americas and Atlantic region, was to discuss how small territories can prepare for “global impacts”.

He added the enforcement of beneficial ownership registers would affect Overseas Territories in different ways,

But Mr Lister said: “The collective decision was that we have to recognise that we’re one and the same when it comes to the impact that this would have on our respective economies, as the individual territories.

“And we need to stand as a united front saying that this isn’t the way that these things should be forced down on any of us.”

Members of Bermuda’s Youth Parliament took part in debate on Britain’s decision to leave the EU at the conference yesterday.

Taj Donville-Outerbridge, 18, said the conference was “really interesting” the chance to spend time with parliamentarians was “a really great experience”.

Tierrai Tull, 17, added: “It was definitely an amazing experience to see other youth delegates and hearing their voices.”

The UK’s Foreign Office did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published Jun 23, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Jun 23, 2018 at 8:09 am)

Speaker draws race card on public registers

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