Premier: Jet offer shows investors are interested
Premier Craig Cannonier has once again defended his decision to accept an offer to fly to a meeting with potential investors on a private jet.
“If a group of investors choose to spend their money to fly us in to meet them, that is their decision — not mine,” he said yesterday when asked whether other options such as teleconferencing had been considered.
And asked if he considered that there might be an appearance of bias or conflict or interest should the investor group win rights to develop properties here, the Premier said: “Neither I, nor the ministers that accompanied me, are part of any tendering process.”
Mr Cannonier would not reveal the identity of the investor group.
“The fact that foreign investors are interested in Bermuda enough to arrange a one-day meeting to discuss the merits of conducting business here is a good thing,” he said via an e-mail sent by his press secretary.
“As I've said publicly, there are a number of investors who have shown keen interest in developing Bermuda properties. I've even gone so far as to name a few of those properties which include Ariel Sands, Pink Beach and Club Med. The group asked about the status of a number of properties. The meeting was purely exploratory in nature.
“To ask the names of the interested parties is highly premature and confidential. If and when their interest becomes more concrete, I will be happy to disclose more information.”
Attorney General Mark Pettingill and Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell accompanied the Premier to Washington, DC, on the jet.
The Opposition Progressive Labour Party has criticised the trip, saying it raises questions of ethics about the One Bermuda Alliance Government. But Government insisted that there had been no breach of any ethical code, and they had accepted the offer because there was a “scheduling conflict” among the investors who “presented development options for Bermuda” and wanted to know the status of properties, including Club Med.
Government's response to the PLP's criticism was rejected by the party's leader in a statement issued last night.
“The latest in a string of debacles reveals an OBA that is naive and inexperienced at best, or at worst, believes that it can operate outside the confines of global ethical standards,” said PLP Leader Marc Bean.
“We note with interest that the Premier has failed yet again to answer serious questions about the conduct of his government. His evasive response to questions surrounding their junket to Washington, DC, raises even more questions.
“Would the OBA have revealed this back room arrangement if the press had not revealed this? What else are they not telling us?
“We cannot use the desire to bring jobs and opportunities for Bermudians as an excuse to toss our good sense and commitment to honesty and integrity out of the window. We cannot send the message to the world that the Bermuda Government can be influenced by a few perks and trinkets.”
We asked the Premier whether he had had any contact with the investors prior to the election, and whether the discussions involved business opportunities for himself. There was no response by press time last night.