Allegations should not be glossed over
On any view, Mr Editor, the recent allegations made against two government ministers and the former Attorney-General are serious. Very serious.
In fact, and let's be clear on this, what's being alleged constitute criminal offences if made out. You cannot get any more serious than that when it comes to allegations. They cannot be brushed aside or glossed over or simply put behind us. Nor should they be.
In the circumstances, a police investigation is warranted, and this we are told is under way, regardless of what may or may not happen in the Supreme Court proceedings, in which the allegations were levelled and denied. That investigation needs to be thorough and expeditious, and the results made known at the earliest opportunity. What has transpired to date strikes at the integrity and credibility of government. This cannot be allowed to linger for any prolonged length of time.
In other more developed jurisdictions, relevant parliamentary committees most likely would have already swung into action. Or at least have attempted to. One can only imagine the lightning speed at which they would have moved in London or Ottawa, by way of example. If only we had such a system here. We don't. But we should. This is an important component of the oversight that the Legislature is meant to provide. Those who sit on the back benches, both Government and Opposition members, should be working to hold to account those who sit in the Cabinet and who wield executive power. Where the exercise of oversight is swift and open to public scrutiny, as it should be, so much the better. It is supposed to help to keep ministers on their toes and, where and when possible, not always after the fact. Decisions and expenditure should be subject to review as and when they happen as well. There is a lot to be said for being proactive and contemporaneous on major projects rather than reactive.
But it isn't just accountability that people are looking for; it's the truth as well. In view of all that we have heard, and all that we have been able to read, both sides cannot be right. Someone's not telling the truth here. There are consequences — or there should be. But, and to be fair, those involved are also entitled to due process. Nevertheless, and in the interim, there are some fundamental questions that arise for consideration and answer. Indeed, one might reasonably expect that they have been asked already by the Premier, the man in charge of Cabinet, the answers to which are critically important to not only his administration, but that of the One Bermuda Alliance government.
In view of all that has been alleged and denied, what we have heard and what we have read, voters may reasonably wonder:
• How did the Premier at the time and ministers concerned put themselves in this position in the first place?
• Were they negotiating on behalf of the Government of Bermuda; that is, were they negotiating with the knowledge and the authority of Cabinet?
• If so, why wasn't a senior civil servant involved to keep notes so that there was a record of what was being said and done — and not just for their protection, but ultimately ours?
• How is it that a third party was apparently able to insert himself in the discussion and dialogue that occurred with the appearance of being both knowledgeable and connected?
• And from whom did he obtain his information? Bearing in mind, the controversy that was stirred up over the role this individual played in the sad, sorry spectacle known as Jetgate that led to the resignation of the Premier and a change in leadership, not just in the OBA but for the country?
People's memories are not that short. They have not forgotten.
They have been once more been reminded.
It is also worth recalling here the oath of office that MPs are required to take on elevation to the Cabinet. It is a requirement under the Bermuda Constitution Order — and for good reason: see sidebar.
It falls to the Premier to not only ask but to answer these and other questions, and in so doing address the concerns that people quite rightly have; and it isn't just reassurance that they seek, Mr Editor, but a clear and unequivocal statement.
As it turns out, the Premier will have a golden opportunity to do just that when the House resumes on Monday, August 17 — if not before.