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Ombudsman conference under way

An international conference held to highlight the work of ombudsman and human rights teams opened in Bermuda yesterday.

The conference included a panel of speakers who talked about the balance between strong relationships with organisations and the maintenance of independence.

Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and home affairs minister, gave opening remarks at the 10th Biennial Caribbean Ombudsman Association conference at the Fairmont Southampton.

He looked back on the history of Bermuda's Office of the Ombudsman, which opened in 2005.

Mr Roban said: “Not everyone was happy and there were many who did not understand what the role was supposed to be.”

He added there had been “some scathing reports that have probably ruffled a few feathers” during its history.

But Mr Roban told delegates: “Bermuda and the Caribbean will certainly be better with the work that you do.”

Victoria Pearman, the Ombudsman for Bermuda, is the CAROA regional president for the Caribbean and Latin America region. Earlier she said she was pleased to host the event as the conference was held on the island for the first time since 2008.

The theme of the conference, which will finish on Friday, is Strengthening the Role and Performance of the Ombudsman and Human Rights Institutions in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The keynote speaker yesterday was Victor Ayeni, the head of UK-based Governance and Management Services International, a consultancy and training firm set up to improve governance and public sector management in “developing countries and transitional democracies”.

Dr Ayeni told the event that CAROA had “flourished into a leading association”.

He explained: “At first it was just a Commonwealth body, but it has since widened to nearly all the countries in the region.

“Membership has almost doubled.”

Patrick Wellington, the Ombudsman for Trinidad and Tobago, chaired a panel session that included Jonathan Bell, a senior reporter at The Royal Gazette; Gitanjali Gutierrez, Bermuda's information commissioner; Venous Memari, from the Centre for Justice; and Lisa Reed, the executive officer of the Human Rights Commission.

Mr Bell spoke about the “delicate balance” between keeping a good relationship with authorities and the pursuit of stories that might be controversial.

He fielded questions from delegates on the strength of Bermuda's Media Council and whether people with power on the island were able to influence the media's ability to report events.

Ombudsman panel at Fairmont Southampton. From left: Jonathan Bell, Venous Memari, Lisa Reed, Gitanjali Gutierrez, Victoria Pearman (Photograph by Blaire Simmons).

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Published May 29, 2019 at 4:31 pm (Updated May 29, 2019 at 4:31 pm)

Ombudsman conference under way

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