Bean suggests a Bermudian Governor General to replace role of Governor
The Governor should be replaced by a Bermudian Governor General, Opposition Marc Bean has argued.
Mr Bean called for a Governor General — now the UK Crown's representative in independent Commonwealth countries — after Premier Craig Cannonier announced a $1.5 million budget for Government House in the coming year.
The figure is a decrease of $94,000 on the previous allocation, which Mr Cannonier said reflected a voluntary ten percent pay cut by Governor George Fergusson, and also included reduced projections in areas such as travel, official functions and repairs and maintenance.
Mr Bean said he had “enough trust and faith in our Bermudians, whatever their political stripe” to replace the Governor as Governor General.
And he questioned the value of the Governor, who he accused of “shirking” his Constitutional responsibilities.
Mr Bean said: “I personally do not accept this idea that when things go bad, based on the Constitutional responsibilities of the Governor, when things go bad, it's all hands off.”
He added: “That, going forward, will not be acceptable.”
And he compared the Island's situation to Turks & Caicos and Caymans — although they have differing constitutions — where Governors had taken a much more active role.
Mr Bean added that there were more than 50 meetings scheduled with the Premier in the upcoming financial year, compared to just 15 with former PLP Premier Paula Cox in 2012-13.
And he said: “That shows a taste for the general improvement in relationships our lowly legislators have with our head of state, His Excellency.”
Shadow Education Minister Walton Brown also questioned the role of the Governor, claiming that there was no accountability for taxpayer dollars spent on the Governor's budget.
“There's no accountability because neither the Premier or any other member of the Cabinet can account for the expenditure of the Governor's office — we effectively have no ability in this chamber to question the use of that money,” Mr Brown said.
He said that performance measures for the Governor related to the number of meetings he attended but instead should focus on a “clearly definable set of measures” relating to his responsibilities in external affairs, defence and internal security.
And he questioned why the Governor was given the task of “maintaining secure governance”, arguing that that would broaden Mr Fergusson's powers beyond the scope of his remit.
“How can the Governor have responsibility for maintaining a secure government when there's no such remit given to him under the Constitution,” Mr Brown said.
“It leads to a much broader range of powers for the Governor because it means you have to go beyond internal security, defence and external affairs. And so the question that I pose is, in light of the constitutional responsibilities of the Governor, has it been your experience honourable Premier that the Governor has acted in areas that he has no constitutional responsibility for?”
Explaining the planned increase in his meetings with the Governor, Premier Craig Cannonier said that Mr Fergusson had “a different style” to that of former Governors.
“The Governor is much more personable and likes to keep abreast of things on a week-to-week basis,” he said.
“Every week he has that opportunity to do so and I haven't found him anywhere close to falling out of his remit. He likes to discuss things as they happen. He has not overstepped his boundaries.”