A good shout could be had for Premier’s Answer Time
On July 13, the first session of Premier’s Question Time took place. Among other questions asked by others, I posed questions to David Burt in regards to Arbitrade.
It has been well documented that it is a company that has raised red flags for a number of reasons:
• A press conference during which it said it would take no questions
• It made numerous commitments for more than $1 million in donations
• It talked of a chicken farm run by gang members
• It stated that it would be purchasing a building in Hamilton
• It talked of being granted title to $10 billion in physical gold, which was to be stored on the island
My first question referred to a social-media post by the Premier on May 31, in which he lauded a presentation by “newly incorporated #Bermuda company @Arbitrade”.
He went on to say that “the team demonstrated their #cryptocurrency platform and explained plans to create more opportunities in Bermuda for #Bermudians”.
I asked Mr Burt who made up the Arbitrade team that demonstrated its platform and who is the local contact.
Mr Burt answered that he could not recall the person who presented on that day and said that he would follow up.
No answer was provided as to who the local contact is. While I appreciate the commitment to provide details, I suggest if one was impressed by a presentation on a key platform pledge of a third pillar for our economy, and having met with them on a number of occasions, it seems likely a name can be remembered, especially the local contact.
I contrast this to a question to the Premier by a government backbench MP on company incorporations, and he was able to provide specific numbers! My follow-up question asked Mr Burt if he has met with anyone from Arbitrade since the presentation and, if so, what date(s) and with whom did he meet.
The Premier said he “believed” — yes, “believed” was the word used — that he had met with Arbitrade at a point in time and at Consensus 2018 and said he knew they came to Bermuda after that. He again committed to follow up with information.
While it is likely that the Premier will not have answers to some questions asked, unless they are “softball” or set-up questions from government members, I find it interesting, to say the least, that he was unable to provide any information at all to these two seemingly key questions.
Having said that, I view it acceptable for Mr Burt to obtain the information and then follow up in a timely manner. However, as of today, in spite of the commitment to provide answers, including an e-mail last week from me as a reminder, followed by a brief conversation with Mr Burt in the House last Friday as another reminder, no answers have been provided.
This is unacceptable. The Premier has sufficient resources and consultants to give instructions for answers to be supplied, but now 13 days on, Mr Burt has launched the question period with a poor start in openness and transparency.
By way of contrast, Minister of National Security Wayne Caines, to his credit, has followed up in writing to the House with answers that he was unable to provide during Questions Period after the past two sessions.
This government has demonstrated that it does not like to be questioned. However, it is the Opposition’s job to carefully review the work of a government, and the people we serve can be assured we will continue to do so, supporting what is appropriate and calling out when we have questions or concerns.
Michael Dunkley is the Shadow Minister of National Security and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)