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Roban attends conference for OTs in London

Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Deputy Premier asked the British Government yesterday to ensure “appropriate succession planning” is carried out for roles appointed by the Governor.

Walter Roban said the Bermuda delegation to the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council had raised controversy over the new Chief Justice and Commissioner of Police, neither of whom were born in Bermuda.

Mr Roban, also the Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, said: “We raised the point around the recent appointments of the new Commissioner of Police and of the Chief Justice.

“We did raise some points directly with the minister on that, I also raised it as part of the conference deliberations.”

He added: “In relation to the position that the UK Government currently holds, their position is linked to the 2012 White Paper which discusses constitutional reform. It says there is no interest at this time of pursuing major constitutional reform with the Overseas Territories.

“With that in mind, our view is that if that is the case, where the UK Government has responsibility such as the appointment of constitutional positions, such as the Chief Justice and Commissioner of Police — which is under their prerogative of security, foreign affairs and internal security — that they should also ensure that the appropriate successor planning within each territory is also properly deployed.

“They are in support of our sustainability as a jurisdiction of their governance and opportunities that will ensure that they will have less responsibility for our affairs.

“They should ensure that the appropriate succession planning around these appointments is done in the meantime and that should come with their responsibility.’

Mr Roban was speaking as he and Kimberley Durrant, the director of Bermuda’s London office and the official island representative in the UK, held a series of meetings in London.

He said discussions were dominated by the implications of the UK’s decision to quit the EU — Brexit — but that Constitutional affairs and disaster management were also on the agenda.

In a statement released today, a spokesman for the Deputy Premier said that the Bermuda Government stands alongside its counterparts and will “take all necessary measures to ensure that the UK Parliament does not interfere in the domestic affairs of an Overseas Territory”.

He said: “The main issue that was raised by a number of territories was this concern about the British Government’s overreach further into domestic matters, contrary to the path that many have been on ... since the early 2000s — continuous constitutional reform, greater domestic responsibility for affairs and just a more partnership-type arrangement with the British.”

Mr Roban said the subject caused a “quite heated discussion”.

Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, two weeks ago criticised the Bermuda Police Service’s management for its failure to prepare a Bermudian successor for Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva, who will retire today.

The appointment of British Chief Superintendent Stephen Corbishley was announced on May 30 by John Rankin, the Governor.

David Burt, the Premier, earlier claimed the appointment of Narinder Hargun as the next Chief Justice was “an affront” to the Government.

Mr Roban said the talks also raised the possibility of British Overseas Territories citizens applying for British passports if they feel their rights in the EU are reduced compared to British people after a deal is reached on Brexit.

He explained: “We received clarification from the minister and the Cabinet Office that as far as they’re concerned there is a guarantee to a right of access to those Overseas Territories citizens to the Schengen area, which should not be affected by Brexit.

“But here’s the other part of it, as we all know that Brexit negotiations aren’t finished and we don’t know what they’re going to look like in the end.

“The British Government did also say that if, at the end of a deal with the UK and the EU, that British citizens have different rights or more rights than British Overseas Territories citizens, the British Government has welcomed the possibility of Overseas Territories citizens applying for British citizenship. “So if they find themselves in a situation where they have a difference in rights — there are more rights for British citizens post-Brexit — they can apply for British citizenship.

“But it is the British Government’s position that the status quo will remain upon conclusion of Brexit negotiations.”

The Deputy Premier’s visit to London also included a meeting with Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the UK’s Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

Mr Roban said Lord Ahmad “understood” the Bermuda Government’s position that it did not recognise UK legislation designed to enforce public registers of company ownership in Overseas Territories.

He said: “We don’t recognise the authority of the UK Parliament to legislate over Bermuda outside of the prerogative powers that already exist in our constitutional order section 62 — that is understood by the elected minister and agreed with.”

He added: “Bermuda will only do what is passed in the Bermuda Parliament.

“Bermuda is already adhering to international standards that meet the criteria that is required.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the office of the Deputy Premier and Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs said today: “As a result of the passing for an Order in Council under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act, together we stand with Governments of the Overseas Territories and the UK Government that we will take all necessary measures to ensure that the UK Parliament does not interfere in the domestic affairs of an Overseas Territory. Discussions on upholding democracy were strong. It is clear the domestic affairs and legislative process are the responsibility of the local elected officials.

“Moving forward there will be a collaborative approach and the existing Exchange of Notes with the National Crime Agency and the Bermuda Monetary Authority to provide Beneficial Ownership Information within a 24 hour period will remain in effect.

“Together with the recent developments of UK Parliament’s interference and the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Prime Minister has recognised the need for all Overseas Territories to begin discussions on constitutional review and advancement. The Prime Minister has appointed Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon David Lidington CBE, MP to oversee constitutional discussion or review with any Overseas Territory who desires change.”

He added: “The Minister raised the issue of a succession plan of qualified Bermudians to senior appointments under the responsibility of the Governor. This is relevant where the UK Government requires all Overseas Territories to be self-governing and self-sustainable as stated under the 2012 White Paper.”

UPDATE: This story was amended to include additional detail from a statement released by a spokesman for Walter Roban today. To read that statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”