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First black woman to be appointed governor

Bermuda's first woman and first black governor will take over the job later this year, the British Government revealed yesterday.

Rena Lalgie, the director of the UK's Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation at the Treasury, will succeed John Rankin in December.

The mother of two said she was “immensely proud” to become the first woman governor.

She added: “I am conscious that this announcement is being made in challenging times, as Bermuda looks to the future,

“I will work in earnest with the elected government, through the exercise of my duties, to support and promote the island's strengths and resilience.

“My family and I are looking forward to contributing fully to life in Bermuda as we get to know the people and culture.”

Ms Lalgie has also worked in the British Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, including a stint as the deputy director for the information economy and cybersecurity.

She was also head of the counterterrorism and security review at the Treasury from 2007 to 2008.

Mr Rankin told The Royal Gazette: “I am delighted at Ms Lalgie's appointment as my successor as governor.

“I know that she is looking forward to the job and I wish her every success in it.”

The news sparked calls for Britain — and Bermuda — to move the country farther down the road to self-determination.

Maxwell Burgess, a former MP, minister and senator for the disbanded United Bermuda Party who later joined the PLP, said Britain should also appoint a Bermudian deputy governor to help lead the island.

Mr Burgess, a former UBP transport minister and sports, youth and recreation minister, said he had asked for a black governor as an Opposition senator more than 20 years ago — and that a Bermudian deputy to the Queen's representative on the island could be appointed.

Mr Burgess added he had told the Upper House in 1999 that, as a majority black country, it was “not unreasonable to ask that we have a black governor, and the British ought to use their best endeavours to do so”.

He said he had made the same suggestion in 1978 in England to Lord Pitt, chairman of the Royal Commission set up to examine Bermuda's racial inequality after the riots of 1977.

Mr Burgess added: “It is something I have called for since way back when. I am excited to have finally lived long enough to see the day.”

He said Ms Lalgie's appointment was “serendipitous” after a Black Lives Matter demonstration that brought 7,000 people out to march last Sunday.

Mr Burgess added: “We ought to push now for at least a local deputy governor to support the new governor.

“If we finish with a black governor and a Bermudian deputy, that is just short of what I dream of for us.”

He said he was also pro-independence.

Mr Burgess added: “I do not foresee it in the near future, but nonetheless you press on.”

Alex Scott, a former Progressive Labour Party premier and a campaigner for independence, said: “It's quite progressive for Great Britain. Now it is time for us to become progressive.

“This is the British reflecting an awareness of the changing times.

“For Bermuda, and I mean no disrespect, we have just received another personality — another governor that happens to be female and happens to be black. Both of these represent an extraordinary appointment by the British.”

However, Mr Scott, who was premier from 2003 to 2006, added: “What we really crave and require is sovereignty.

“I am probably one of the oldest soldiers in politics. I regard this as progressive by the British.

“But it does not mean Bermuda is progressive and it does not change our status as a colonial entity.”

Mr Scott said the onus was now on Bermuda to “look to the day when there is a governor-general, when we move from colonial status to being a sovereign entity”.

He added: “Black lives matter and are significant and relevant. Hopefully, the former colonies that are now independent are also putting diversity in place.”

Mr Scott, who has just celebrated his 89th birthday, said: “I hope the Lord will spare my life long enough to see us obtain sovereignty.”

Elaine Butterfield, the executive director of the Women's Resource Centre, added the organisation was “ecstatic to add congratulations”.

She said: “This is a tremendous step towards demonstrating tangible change towards gender equality and in direct alignment with our organisation's vision for Bermuda to be a community free of inequality and sexism, where women are emotionally and physically healthy, safe, confident and able to realise their potential.

“The inclusion of women in positions of power and decision-making benefits all of us. The outcomes are more balanced perspectives and policies that benefit women, children and families in general.”

Ms Butterfield added that the charity hoped that “the signs of progress that we see are not just reactions but paradigm shifts”.

She said: “True change requires action, like we saw by the tremendous showing of solidarity at the Black Lives Matter march on Sunday and by such an appointment.

“We welcome the new governor on behalf of our organisation and valued clients, and look forward to establishing and building on the great relationship that we currently have with governor John Rankin and deputy governor Alison Crocket.”

Dale Butler, an historian and former PLP culture minister, also welcomed the appointment.

Mr Butler said: “I salute the fact that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is doing things differently for a change.

“She happens to be black and happens to be a woman, but I salute the decision based on her level of competence and experience.

“I don't want a black person just because they are black.”

Government House said that Mr Rankin will transfer to another appointment in the Diplomatic Service.

Historic first: Rena Lalgie, a director in Britain's treasury, was unveiled yesterday as the newly appointed successor to John Rankin, who steps down as governor in December, leaving Ms Lalgie to be the island's first female and first black governor (Photograph supplied)

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Published June 13, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated June 14, 2020 at 1:04 pm)

First black woman to be appointed governor

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