An error of judgement
It was the first real Parliamentary test for Premier Craig Cannonier — the issue of ‘Jetgate’, as it has now, inevitably, been christened.
Reports in this newspaper have shown that the issue started with a trip by the Premier and two Cabinet Ministers in a private jet paid for by an investment group that wanted “to discuss the current economic conditions in Bermuda”.
Later, it emerged that the Premier and Ministers also had a two night stay in Washington DC, also paid for by the investors. (Interestingly the Ministers were the Attorney General and the Tourism Minister — but not the Minister for Economic Development.)
Apparently, the reason they took a private jet was because “it would be very difficult to get them all to Bermuda and that he would prefer if a Government delegation could come to a meeting at his office”. Fair enough, but there are commercial flights to Washington DC.
Was there a mistake here? Yes, several, and it has created a huge mess for the Government. Why not admit it upfront, saying it was in the Country’s interests? Why not get a commercial flight? Why not offer, in the first instance, to pay for the cost of the flight and stay?
Was there a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct? This newspaper is not in a place to say, however, should the investors go ahead and actually put together concrete plans for Bermuda, will the Ministers involved recuse themselves when it reaches Cabinet? It is not really a question that needs answering: they will have to.
As stated, it was the Premier’s first real Parliamentary test and it allowed the Opposition to get Government on the back foot and to divert focus away from what Government said it was trying to do — encourage inward investment into Bermuda.
Unfortunately — and despite the revelation that former Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert also accepted a trip to Las Vegas paid for by an investor — the issue is unlikely to go away soon as the PLP has no doubt scented a weakness that can still be exploited for Parliamentary points.
But the whole issue has created a terrible impression. It was a big error of judgement from a Government that preaches transparency. It was very naive and one wonders what those same investors are thinking now.
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