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Poll: Brown inquiry ‘politically motivated’

More than half of people believe the investigations into Ewart Brown and the Progressive Labour Party are politically motivated, according to a new poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette.

The vast majority of those think the One Bermuda Alliance has reason to highlight the possible wrongdoings of its political opponent to tarnish its reputation during an election year or because of a vendetta against the former premier.

However, Dr Brown's suggestions that the inquiries are race-related won less support, with a bit more than one third in agreement with him.

The Global Research survey was conducted from March 15 to 20, shortly after the Commission of Inquiry published its report offering support for active police investigations into seven government dealings that showed evidence of “possible criminal activity”. Five of those were directly connected to Dr Brown.

Michael Dunkley, the Premier, had invited commissioners to look into matters highlighted in the Auditor-General's report for the fiscal years 2009 to 2012, while the PLP was in power. Meanwhile, Dr Brown has been the subject of police investigations into allegations of corruption for nearly six years, and a civil lawsuit filed by the Government against the Lahey Clinic accuses him of profiting by ordering excessive and unnecessary diagnostic tests via his local medical practices.

PLP members have claimed the actions are mired in politics, while Dr Brown and Derrick Burgess, the former minister tied to three of the contracts containing possible criminal activity, have alleged a racial agenda and pointed to the make-up of the commission, which had one black member and three white.

Our telephone poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 5 per cent, asked 400 registered voters whether they believe the investigations into claims of corruption by Dr Brown and misuse of public money by the PLP government were racially motivated, and a second question asking whether the claims were politically motivated.

Responding, 55 per cent of voters said they believed the inquiries were politically motivated, 30 per cent disagreed, with 15 per cent saying they do not know.

A breakdown by race shows 68 per cent of blacks and 30 per cent of whites believe there is political motivation. The figure is 79 per cent among PLP supporters and 31 per cent among OBA supporters.

Asked to explain why they think there is political motivation, 76 per cent of those respondents said there might have been political reasons to expose the “crimes” or “wrongdoings” of the PLP because of the upcoming General Election, or an agenda against Dr Brown, who led the party from 2006 to 2010.

Of those who believe there is no political motivation, 58 per cent said people needed to be held accountable and that justice must be served, regardless of who was in power. The next highest response, 14 per cent, said the PLP needed to be held accountable for “mismanaging the country's funds”.

Meanwhile, 37 per cent of voters said they believed the investigations were racially motivated, with 49 per cent disagreeing and 14 per cent saying they do not know.

A breakdown by race showed 51 per cent of blacks and 10 per cent of whites think there is racial motivation. The figure is 63 per cent among PLP supporters and 14 per cent among OBA supporters.

Giving an explanation for their answer, 61 per cent of those believing there is racial motivation pointed to Bermuda's culture of racial division, with another 24 per cent saying white-collar crimes committed by white Bermudians have been ignored.

Among those that disagreed, 32 per cent pointed to the genuine need for an investigation and accountability, and 25 per cent simply said race was not a factor.

Contracts flagged up for possible criminal activity by commissioners were the new court and police complex in Hamilton, the Transport Control Department emissions testing project, Port Royal Golf Course and Heritage Wharf cruise ship pier — subject collectively to overspending of more than $72 million — as well as GlobalHue advertising, Ambling consultants and purchase of a sand and rock for asphalt.

As well as Dr Brown and Mr Burgess, Senator Vic Ball, of the OBA, was named for his involvement in one of the projects.

Police investigations had already begun into the many of the matters arising from the Auditor's report. The commission said it supports inquiries continuing. The Port Royal project is also the subject of a lawsuit, filed by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz against former trustees of the golf course, including PLP MP Zane DeSilva, and his company, Island Construction.

Dr Brown has repeatedly criticised the investigations against himself and business colleague Mahesh Reddy. He told a press conference last September that people were out to ruin him because he was a successful black man and because of his political status.

“There are some people in Bermuda who have decided our practice is too successful and therefore they are trying to undermine it, dismantle it, so it can go the way of many black-owned businesses,” he said.

Taking the stand before the commission last October, Mr Burgess suggested the questioning was an attempt to “re-enact slavery” and said he felt like he was before a “lynch mob”.

In its report, the commission reflected that Mr Burgess's reaction and demeanour became evasive and offensive when he was asked questions about his relationship with the principal who would benefit financially from a contract he handled.

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Graphic by Byron Muhammad

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Published March 27, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated March 27, 2017 at 3:00 pm)

Poll: Brown inquiry ‘politically motivated’

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