Opposition calls for a few more resignations
The One Bermuda Alliance called yesterday for a “few other people” to resign over the planning appeals controversy which prompted Walter Roban to quit Cabinet.“This is precisely the kind of business-as-usual behaviour that must come to an end.”
Shadow Estates Minister Cole Simons told a press conference that Mr Roban’s resignation as Public Works Minister, after just 16 days in the post, was an example of how politicians “needed to lead by example”.
Mr Roban quit on Thursday evening after it was revealed that he approved two planning appeals for Progressive Labour Party colleagues Zane DeSilva and Wayne Furbert on his last day as Environment Minister on November 1.
Mr Simons said: “We have to be particularly careful that we don’t have two different rules; rules for people and rules for people in public places. Did he resign or was he asked to resign is the real issue?
“A few other people should resign and do the right thing. He shouldn’t be left carrying the flak on his own.”
Mr Simons added: “It’s really important that we remove any indication of corruption and bad management.”
He was speaking after Opposition leader Craig Cannonier delivered the official Reply to the Throne Speech in the House of Assembly.
The reply stated: “The Government has a poor record protecting Bermuda’s environment. Indeed, just this week, we learned of two instances where a Minister overrode zoning protections to allow two colleagues to develop land.
“As we’ve said before, it is very important that Government lead by example. But the example set this week is abuse of ministerial power, disregard for Bermuda’s development plan and favouritism.
Health Minister Mr DeSilva, whose application was to build warehouses on Devonshire Marsh, told
The Royal Gazette he would not be resigning as he had not done anything corrupt or morally dubious.
“Everything was, with regard to that, done according to the law and that’s what I hire architects for. I expect them to do what they are hired to do.”
Asked if he approached Mr Roban and asked him to approve the appeal, he replied: “Of course not. You shouldn’t ask that. You have to ask as a reporter but let me categorically state: no. That conversation of that kind, any conversation over that property, never took place.”
Mr DeSilva, speaking via telephone from the Cayman Islands, said he couldn’t comment on Mr Roban’s resignation as he didn’t know enough.
“I don’t really know what happened. I have heard about it, of course, but I don’t know what the details are. I have sort of been out of touch since I came here. Once I know the details then I’ll be happy to give a comment one way or another.”
He said the planning application for Devonshire Marsh was no different to previous ones he’d submitted and “some of the previous ones were done under the previous government and the same steps were followed and the same result was given”.
The Minister said the appeals process wasn’t flawed because another Cabinet colleague, Glenn Blakeney, turned down an appeal of his involving the rezoning of open space to industrial use, when Mr Blakeney was Environment Minister.
“I can understand the environmentalists,” said Mr DeSilva. “I support any environmental group in Bermuda. We have a finite resource and, on the whole, we do well.”
He said he believed Stuart Hayward, of Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce (BEST), had made the issue personal and political by “making comments about good governance and saying we have done things illegally”.
“It’s been done according to the process that is available and no different to that done under the previous government.
“The question I’d like to see you chase is some of the former UBP Ministers and some of the decisions that they received from colleagues.”
Asked why he thought so many people were critical of Mr Roban’s actions, Mr DeSilva said: “Read between the lines. I think Stuart Hayward in particular has a problem.
“If you read his full release last week it goes well beyond an environmentalist’s objection to a particular development on a particular piece of property.”
Mr Hayward said in a statement last night that BEST did not have a political axe to grind.
“We know and note that complaints about ministerial discretion aren’t new. Those of us who are seasoned environmental campaigners have spoken out about this over many years.
“Fortunately, modern communication features like talk shows, blogs and social media enable more of the public to become informed, engage their own analyses and, more importantly, to express their opinions.
“That’s a good thing. And while the current leaders may lament the depth of public response to their perceived errors, they are not being singled out. They are the victims/benefactors of progress: it’s a sign of the times.”
He said the system gave the Environment Minister discretion “but he must exercise that discretion in the public interest, not in the interest of friends, colleagues or other interested parties”.