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Premier ‘reset the dials on what she means by good governance’ OBA

Citing Government’s recent pledge to high standards of governance, the One Bermuda Alliance has demanded that Premier Paula Cox give an explanation for a Planning controversy involving three members of her Cabinet.

But the Progressive Labour Party has in turn accused the Opposition of beating a dead horse on the issue.

Outcry over former Environment Minister Walter Roban’s approval of development applications sent in by two other Ministers ended last week in Mr Roban’s resignation.

Mr Roban has stood by the decisions which he made on his final day in office before his transfer to Public Works.

Calling the two Planning appeals outstanding matters that he had considered over “a number of weeks or months”, Mr Roban said: “There was no intention to ingratiate or enrich anyone that was special in any manner.”

However, Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier last night charged that Mr Roban’s approval, granted to fellow Ministers Zane DeSilva and Wayne Furbert, “calls into question not just personal motivations, but also the system”.

On November 2, Mr Roban granted approval in principle to a development proposal by Zanzara Trust owned by Mr DeSilva to build three more warehouses on the Island Construction site alongside Devonshire Marsh. The same day, he approved Mr Furbert’s proposal to build homes on a Hamilton Parish property.

Both matters had been turned down by the Development Applications Board, and were under appeal.

The new Environment Minister, Marc Bean, has promised to review the appeals himself.

Mr Cannonier said the OBA welcomed the review, but added: “This does not alter the facts of the controversy as they are known.”

The Opposition Leader continued: “We cannot have Government Ministers working the system for private gain, regardless of their rights as private citizens. A line must be drawn and maintained if we are to uphold the integrity of the system.

“Government Ministers must be, and be seen to be about the people’s business. That has not been the case in this matter and is deserving of a full and complete explanation by the Premier.”

Mr Cannonier pointed to the Premier’s Throne Speech pledge that Government has “zero tolerance for behaviour and practices that do not accord with the highest standards of good governance”.

“The working of the system in this instance clearly did not accord with the highest standards of good governance,” Mr Cannonier said. “Yet ex-Minister Roban said no one had asked him to resign, adding that the Premier ‘reluctantly’ accepted it.”

He charged that Mr Roban’s remarks gave the appearance that “no one is policing the system”, and urged Ms Cox to “conclusively reset the dials on what she means by good governance”.

The Opposition Leader asked if the Premier was satisfied that only Mr Roban was at fault.

“Did Ministers DeSilva and Furbert know about the decisions made by Mr. Roban? Objectors were informed, so it follows that the Ministers were informed.

“Did ex-Minister Roban communicate with Ministers DeSilva or Furbert about their Planning applications prior to or after his decisions on the applications were made?

“Did Ministers DeSilva and Furbert ever mention their Planning appeals to Environment Minister Roban?”

Ms Cox is currently in London, attending an Overseas Territorial Council Meeting, and was unable last night to respond to the OBA statement.

However, a PLP spokesman said: “It is not surprising to hear the Opposition Leader on Monday parroting questions that (former UBP/BDA Chairman) Michael Fahy posed on Friday. It reinforces what many Bermudians are confused about, who is actually calling the shots at OBA headquarters.

“As much as the OBA would like to continue beating this dead horse, the facts are: the former Planning Minister Roban has resigned. The current Planning Minister Bean is reviewing the decisions in question

“The PLP is focused on the future. We will continue to promote the solutions outlined in the Throne Speech, which has been well received across all segments of the community. No matter how many distractions the OBA may present, we remain steadfast in our commitment to shape a better tomorrow for our people. The PLP Government is working hard to build one another together, we’d invite the OBA to join us and the people of Bermuda in a constructive discussion about our country’s future.”

One Bermuda Alliance leader Craig Cannonier says Premier Paula Cox needs to give an explanation over the recent planning row involving two of her Ministers.

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Published November 22, 2011 at 8:58 am (Updated November 22, 2011 at 8:57 am)

Premier ‘reset the dials on what she means by good governance’ OBA

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