Dunkley backs Operation Ceasefire
Newly appointed Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley has pledged to reinforce police resources and take a comprehensive approach to combat gang and gun violence.
Cognisant of the need to create viable employment in a recession however, the Minister said he is fully aware of the challenges and promised no quick-fix solutions.
In an extensive interview with
The Royal Gazette, Mr Dunkley admits the road ahead won’t be easy.
First and foremost he said the responsibility of any government is to provide safety and security for its citizens. There will be no honeymoon period for the new administration.
The election victory placed the One Bermuda Alliance Government in a “unique position” said Mr Dunkley.
“The Premier has a Throne Speech coming up at the end of this month when Parliament reconvenes, and then we have the budget debate.
“In that Throne Speech we will lay out clearly some of our initiatives in public safety and what we want to do.
“We’ve got to devote a lot of our time to making sure we get the budget right in trying economic times in a Ministry that requires funding to be effective.”
While reluctant to release his top initiatives, the Minister said he will pilot a specialised Bermuda Operation Ceasefire programme. He will take a comprehensive approach to gun violence but admits it won’t be easy.
“We’ve got an economy that is shuddering and we need to create opportunity employment for Bermudians; we need to bring investment in Bermuda.
“For us to do that, and I believe that the current government is in a unique position to do it, but if we’re going to do that we have to have a safe community.
“I was concerned by previous budgets and the reduction in police funding, although in the last budget the police had sufficient resources in tough times and I think they used the money wisely.
“Our goal is to take a critical look at that budget, make sure they’re still armed to do what they have to do but still look at being as cost effective as possible in spite of a tough economy.
“Its amazing what we can do if we take a fresh look at things and how we can use our dollars more effectively.
“Many businesses have proved that during these tough times because everyone is struggling,” he said.
“We’re going to try and make sure we get the best bang for our buck and then build a comprehensive plan to fight the gang and gun violence using all the resources we have.”
He also commended the previous administration on a number of initiatives including the Report on Gang and Gun Violence headed up by Randolph Horton.
“On the front end and the back end we will help where its needed and I think you will see in the next couple of weeks initiatives that will show that.”
In the interim however, it was only eight days after the election that the urgency to deal with gun violence rang through loud and clear.
Numbed by news that Bermuda recorded another gun murder on Christmas Day, the Minister said the murder of Malcolm Augustus hit close to home. The victim was the son of a Dunkley’s Dairy employee.
“With anything that happens in Bermuda that’s tragic its going to go right to the core especially on such a special day.
“To wake up early and get a report of what took place, I can only say I was numbed and then to find out that it hit very close to home, it rocked my world for the entire holiday.
“The young man’s mother has worked at Dunkley’s Dairy for a few years, she has three children and I know two of them pretty well; the young one comes in the office almost everyday.”
Both he and Premier, Craig Cannonier went to visit the young man’s family on Christmas Day.
“On such a special day and under such terrible circumstances I think it was very comforting for everyone involved to be there.
“The broader family was there, it was very comforting and I think the family was in need of some solace and comfort.
“After the election and during the holiday season the Lord finds a way to put your feet on the ground real quick. But I’ve never been under any illusions that there are going to be any quick fixes and solutions.
But he was confident the police will continue to be “effective in hunting down the perpetrators of these ghastly incidents”.
“There has already been someone in court for this recent murder, and the police have been effective in closing some of the cold cases.
“I’ve been on record as saying that until you deal with the problem the lulls in shootings are going to stop and something else is going to happen. We know we have work to do.”
When asked if he will enforce a ban on full face visors or designate an amnesty period for guns he replied: “I support any initiative that’s going to help us take guns off the street.
“We’re looking at the opportunity to have some type of gun amnesty. Its something that I personally would like to take a look at and I will speak to my Cabinet colleagues.
“The community has been crying out about the violence taking place over the past couple of years,” he said.
“When the Premier asked me to take this Cabinet position I accepted it wholeheartedly. It’s a tremendous challenge but I’m never shy with any challenge.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity to serve and I will do everything within my energy and ability to try to make a difference and make Bermuda a safer place.
“Its my challenge now to try to come straight out and face up to the critical situation we find ourselves in and work to craft a better model to stop the shootings.
“I think we can make progress because I’m not going to sleep and I’m not going to stop until we make significant progress, after all this is our island home.”
When asked if he will be a full-time Minister he replied: “Yes, I’m here full-time, we have a great strong team at Dunkley’s Dairy.
“Am I totally removed from the business — no. But I’m devoting my time here and my responsibilities at Dunkley’s will not suffer.”
On that note he concluded: “The milk will still get delivered.”