Ferson role in airport protests examined

  • A protester wipes  her eyes after being pepper sprayed by police outside the House of Assembly (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    A protester wipes her eyes after being pepper sprayed by police outside the House of Assembly (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A “comprehensive review” of last year’s protests against the airport redevelopment project must examine the role played by then acting Governor Ginny Ferson, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher said yesterday.

St George’s West MP Kim Swan said: “We must get to the bottom of it, and we can’t get to the bottom of it by bypassing the role that (Ms Ferson) had in this play.

“It would be wrong to hold anyone accountable without looking at the very top.”

Swan’s motion, passed in the House with an amendment, calls for the appointment of a Joint Select Committee to examine the events surrounding the protests.

The Committee will “look into the events generally, including the decision-making and any directives the Executive and the then Speaker of the House gave to the police”.

Government House, Mr Swan said, “doesn’t get a free pass if it participates in an act”.

He added: “Scrutiny and accountability is the name of the game.”

Mr Swan said letting Ms Ferson “off the hook” for her role in the protest was “not going to happen”.

He added: “Because it’s wrong if it does. And we can’t condone wrong.”

PLP backbencher Michael Scott said he was “concerned and interested” from a “legal perspective” about the decision that led to citizens being peppersprayed.

Mr Scott recommended that the wording of the motion be changed to reflect that the JSC can recommend sanctions “because this House need not and should not be making sanctions”.

He added: “The sanctions are for the courts, if indeed the findings warrant sanctions. Civil, criminal sanctions are what I am referring to in this regard.”

Trevor Moniz, Opposition spokesman on legal affairs and OBA Attorney General at the time of the incident, said he “congratulated the idea” of the motion.

Mr Moniz added: “We agree on this side of the House that there should be further investigation into the actions of December 2.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in Bermuda that doesn’t think that the happenings of that day were very unfortunate and were very negative for this community as a whole.”

Mr Moniz said he had “no further involvement” in the events of December 2 aparty from issuing a statement on the law more than a month later.

He added that committee members must have “an open mind”.

Mr Moniz said: “It should be left to the committee to form those conclusions, not for members of the House today.”

Christopher Famous, Devonshire East MP, described December 2 as “the worst day Bermuda has seen for some time”.

He said the events had “without a doubt” changed the mindset of how Bermudians think of police officers and how Bermudians see each other through racial contexts.

Mr Famous added: “In a time as a country that we need to have good relations between police officers and its citizens, this motion to get to the bottom of this would help.”

Wayne Caines, Minister of National Security, said that “people in Bermuda on both sides are ready to heal”.

Mr Caines added: “You cannot fix what you do not face.”

Lovitta Foggo, Minister of Government Reform, said that family and friends were among those peppersprayed and injured, with one person still suffering.

She said many believed justice had not been served and it was “incumbent” on Parliament to set up a committee and ensure recommendations are followed.

Ms Foggo added: “Justice mandates that the matter be properly addressed. The people deserve to have that situation looked at properly.”

Craig Cannonier, shadow works minister, questioned if a Joint Select Committee would “have enough teeth to get the answers”.

But he commended Mr Swan for bringing the motion, telling the House that this was “not a one-sided experience”.

Mr Cannonier added of the protests: “I was disgusted. I was afraid. I was scared for the people that were down there.

“So I hope that the public doesn’t walk away from what we are discussing tonight thinking that only the Government felt distressed about this.”

Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, said: “It comes down to this. We know what happened. We need to figure out why it happened.”

Mr Swan’s motion calls for the committee to submit a report of its findings to the House within three to six months.

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Published Dec 2, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 10, 2017 at 3:04 pm)

Ferson role in airport protests examined

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