Chaos in House over Throne Speech row

  • David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

    David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Both the Premier and the Leader of the Opposition were disciplined by the Speaker of the House yesterday in chaotic scenes in the House of Assembly.

David Burt was ordered by Speaker Dennis Lister to stop reading a ministerial statement — and earlier Craig Cannonier, of the One Bermuda Alliance, was kicked out of the session for repeated interruptions.

OBA MPs staged a walkout after Mr Cannonier was ordered to leave.

Mr Burt had earlier attempted to read a speech entitled “Throne Speech 2018 and Beyond” where he planned to lay out the Progressive Labour Party’s achievements and agenda for the future.

Mr Burt last month declined to use the traditional Throne Speech, delivered by the Governor, to outline the Government’s plans.

But the move enraged the Opposition, which claimed that the Premier’s decision to avoid a Throne Speech had left them without a way to reply.

OBA members interrupted Mr Burt several times and claimed he was “trampling on democracy” with a “Throne Speech in disguise”.

Mr Lister ordered Mr Cannonier to leave — and the rest of the OBA left the floor of the House in sympathy.

The Speaker demanded a copy of Mr Burt’s speech so he could examine it during a 20-minute recess.

Mr Lister ruled that the speech could not continue when he returned.

He told the House: “Premier, based on the exchange we had last night with regards to items I asked to be removed and are still not, I am ruling we will not.

“I expected that to have been respected. It was not respected. We are moving on.”

Mr Burt tried several times to make a point of order — but Mr Lister refused to allow it.

The Speaker continued to overrule interruptions as Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, attempted to rise on a point of information.

Mr Burt delivered sections of his aborted speech at a PLP delegates conference last month after he announced there would be no Throne Speech.

The statement, released yesterday, highlighted that last year’s Throne Speech contained many pledges which could not be completed in ten months “so it made sense for the Government to skip the ceremony while we kept working”.

Mr Burt said: “It is unfortunate that a change such as this has been compared to an erosion of our democracy when, in fact, the opposite is the case.” The section of the statement that Mr Burt did not read included a progress report on the PLP’s election promises and a call to “challenge the status quo” to create a Bermuda that works for everyone.

Mr Cannonier said later that Mr Burt had shown “disdain for the people of Bermuda”.

He added: “Mr Burt has repeatedly shown his true colours, which border on those of a wannabe dictator.

“His fear of being open to the sunshine of public scrutiny is palpable in everything he does.”

But Mr Burt hit back that Mr Cannonier’s ejection and his party’s walk out was “clearly staged”.

He said: “Everyone noticed that. They had a plan. The Opposition leader probably had a plan to get kicked out to draw attention.

“This is electioneering. That’s fine. They’re welcome to do that.”

Michael Scott, a PLP backbencher, said the Speaker’s actions were “a complete relinquishing of management of the ministerial statements”.

Mr Scott added that the speech was “ambushed” in a “travesty”.

But Ben Smith, the shadow sports minister, said: “The only thing we could do was object to what was being done, because he was doing something that was against democracy.”

He added: “We have no other way to actually allow for the Opposition voice to be heard. Our hand was forced.”

To read David Burt’s statement and Craig Cannonier’s speech, click on the PDF under “Related Media”

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Published Nov 16, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 16, 2019 at 8:33 am)

Chaos in House over Throne Speech row

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