Leaders clash over independence support claim
The Premier asked the then-Leader of the Opposition for his support on independence for Bermuda, Craig Cannonier has claimed.
Mr Cannonier said that David Burt had told him he would back down on his stance against giving Bermudian status to long-term residents because after independence “it did not matter”.
He added the exchange came during one of a series of meetings between the two during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Mr Cannonier said in a filmed address released last night: “During at least two of those meetings, Mr Burt raised the issue that all of my fellow Bermudians need to know about. That is the issue of independence.
“Mr Burt asked me whether I would give him the Opposition's support in bringing Bermuda to independence. I was shocked at this overture, especially during a time of national crisis.
“Frankly independence, like this completely unnecessary election, should have been the last thing on Mr Burt's mind.
“He advised that he would remove his opposition to the granting of status to long-term residents, since he said that after independence it did not matter.
“Mr Burt asked for my assistance in this endeavour by speaking directly with international business groups to essentially sell this idea.
But Mr Cannonier added: “I told Mr Burt that Bermudians need to come together before any such matter is ever considered.”
Mr Cannonier alleged that Mr Burt called a General Election to advance a “barely hidden agenda” for independence.
He told the public: “I make this solemn promise to you. Should you put your faith in an OBA administration, I will not move Bermuda towards independence and I will not do anything without a referendum requested by the people, and a result clearly showing the will of the people.
“Such a referendum would be separate and distinct from a General Election.”
Mr Cannonier said: “Independence is not what Bermuda needs. Bermuda needs a strong economy, jobs for Bermudians, a vibrant education system, a healthcare system that works and public services that serve all Bermudians.”
A spokeswoman for the PLP said today: “Craig Cannonier and the OBA are desperate and they are making up stories yet again.
She added: “The United Kingdom has also been crystal clear that Bermuda cannot become independent unless Bermudians vote for independence in a referendum.
“The only person in Bermuda who thinks Bermuda can go to independence without a referendum is Craig Cannonier, a disgraced politician who resigned for being less than truthful to the people of Bermuda.
The spokeswoman said: “Let us be crystal clear. Craig Cannonier is lying — the Premier didn't ask him to support Bermuda going independent because politicians cannot make that decision, only the people can in a referendum.”
Mr Burt tweeted last night: “Bermuda cannot be granted full sovereignty — aka independence — from the UK without a national referendum on the topic.”
He added a reference to the Jetgate controversy, which erupted after a trip to Washington, DC by Mr Cannonier, Cabinet ministers Mark Pettingill and the late Shawn Crockwell, as well as OBA supporter Steven DeCosta, which led to Mr Cannonier's resignation as Premier in 2014.
Mr Burt said: “Anyone who tells you otherwise is just trying to take you for a ride — maybe even in a private jet.”
The politicians and Mr DeCosta travelled to the US capital on a jet operated by American businessman Nathan Landow to discuss a potential hotel development on the island.
Mr Landow later said that he and associates made a donation of around $300,000 to the Bermuda Political Action Club to help the OBA's successful 2012 election campaign.