Bean challenges jet trippers to admit they were wrong
Opposition Leader Marc Bean has challenged three Government ministers to admit they were ‘wrong’ to take a two-night trip on a private jet to Washington DC, paid for by potential foreign investors in Bermuda.
The opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP) claims the trip was worth some $35,000 for the flight alone.
Asking whether the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) Government had “something to hide”, Mr Bean said that the lack of information about the trip, where Government has refused to name the investor concerned, raised more questions that answers.
“If it was just information exchange then why is it confidential?” he said.
Mr Bean said his party had already been judged by the electorate on December 17, when they were turfed from office after 14 years in power.
The PLP leader went on the offensive during a feisty Motion to Adjourn debate in the House of Assembly on Friday night, and said no matter what the events of the past, “right is right, and wrong is wrong”.
His comments came after shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert had been forced to admit that he too had taken a flight paid for by an investor, this time to Las Vegas. That brought a sharp rebuke from his OBA counterpart Shawn Crockwell, who said that any attacks on him, Premier Craig Cannonier, and Attorney General, Mark Pettingill, were “hypocrisy”.
Calling Mr Crockwell’s comments a “salient point”, Mr Bean again challenged the Minister of Tourism to say whether he felt taking the trip was wrong or not.
“He did call it hypocrisy,” said the PLP leader. “The question I have for the Honourable Member is ‘is it right, or is it wrong?’ I’d like for him to shout across the floor right now, and tell us if that behaviour that they are wallowing over is right, or wrong. If it was wrong then [for Mr Furbert], then what they did a few months ago is wrong now.”
In response, Mr Crockwell said: “If the developer paid for it, then it [criticism] is hypocritical.”
Mr Bean’s comments towards the end of a four-hour debate, after which he ordered Mr Furbert to sit down during a speech that saw him mix-up ‘discussions’ and ‘negotiations’ as he attempted to defend his trip to Las Vegas.
Despite the howls of derision emanating from the Government benches, Mr Bean said the focus had to remain on the OBA, pointing out “we are not the Government”.
“Whatever errors we [the PLP] made, and all the allegations that was said toward the PLP Government, our judgement came December 17. Today the light of scrutiny rests on the One Bermuda Alliance. No matter how many excuses they choose to give. Right is right and wrong is wrong. I think the public is getting tired of ‘well, you did it, so we’ll do it’.”
Government has come under fire since it emerged that the Premier, the Attorney General and the Tourism Minister, had been flown to Washington DC in a private jet for a meeting with potential investors, at their expense.
The PLP charged that accepting the trip was a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
It emerged in the House of Assembly debate on the matter that the three had a five-hour meeting but spent two nights in the US capital in March — with the tab for accommodation also being picked up by the investors.
Mr Crockwell accepted the Opposition’s criticism that the Washington DC trip should have been disclosed to the House of Assembly earlier. The Minister also accepted that questions could be raised if the investment group ended up bidding on a project.
The Attorney General had, however, made it “abundantly clear” that any application would have to go through the normal bidding process.
And he argued that it was “inappropriate” to reveal the identity of the investors since they had not made any official application to the Government.
“We have a duty not to disclose that identity.”
Government insists that the Ministerial Code of Conduct was not breached as no negotiations took place. “The reality is simple. It was an individual who saw Bermuda as a place where there could be economic development and he and his team had a myriad of questions to ask. And we answered them,” Mr Crockwell said.
He continued: “If we were a bit overzealous we put up our hands.”