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Dunkley defends Cabinet role for ex-Premier

Former Premier Craig Cannonier speaks at Government House following the Cabinet shuffle, flanked by Governor George Fergusson, left, and Premier Michael Dunkley, right (Photo by Mark Tatem)

Premier Michael Dunkley has defended his decision to appoint Craig Cannonier as Minister of Public Works despite the Police investigation into the Jetgate affair that led to his resignation.

The Progressive Labour Party accused Mr Dunkley of “extremely poor judgment”, describing the move as “an endorsement of the dubious conduct that led to Mr Cannonier’s disgraceful exit from the office of Premier”.

Mr Cannonier resigned in May last year amid Jetgate and his dealings with US businessman Nathan Landow.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette after yesterday’s swearing in ceremony at Government House, Mr Dunkley said: “I fully expect that there will be questions from certain sectors of the community, but what I will say very clearly is that I have known Craig very closely in politics over the past couple of years and I have every confidence in him.

“He did something eight months ago that very few people, if anybody, would have done — he stepped down because he wasn’t as open and transparent as he should have been about what took place.

“In the eight months that have transpired since then he has had a chance to rethink things, to rebuild himself, and I know he is dedicated to moving forward.

“Craig is an experienced person. He can come to the table and get the job done in Public Works, and he has a personality to work with people as well.

“He has always had my confidence and the most important factor is we have always had a relationship through good or bad. We will be real with each other and he has offered me the full-time commitment to do the right thing and I will support that.”

Mr Cannonier, when asked whether he felt nervous about returning as a minister following Jetgate, told The Royal Gazette: “I wouldn’t be standing here if there was.

“The only lesson that was learned is that politics is a big boy’s game and you can get very dirty at times. I am comfortable with who I am and what I am doing and I don’t have to look over my shoulder.

“It’s great to have the support of Cabinet and my OBA members after resigning and it’s nice to be back into, I don’t necessarily want to say in the limelight, but nice to be back in the seat where I can effect change. That’s what I am after.

“Public Works is the engine room of the country. Because of Public Works, people say [Bermuda] is so beautiful and clean and that is because of civil servants who have taken pride in the country.”

The PLP strongly criticised the appointment.

“Let us not forget that the Jetgate scandal that drove Craig Cannonier from office is still under police investigation,” a party statement said.

“Craig Cannonier violated the Ministerial Code of Conduct. The results of the OBA internal investigation into the $350,000 back room deal with casino developers was never made public, as was promised by then OBA chairman Thad Hollis.

“The OBA’s internal investigation into serious allegations of ‘pay to play’ was sabotaged by the leadership of the OBA, who refused to permit OBA Cabinet ministers to be investigated and led to the resignation of then OBA chairman Thad Hollis.

“Premier Dunkley’s decision to place an individual with unresolved criminal investigations relating to corruption at the head of one of the most important Government ministries, involving millions of dollars in contract is foolhardy and reckless, and brings into question his own judgment.”

OBA chair Lynne Woolridge described the PLP reaction as “sadly predictable and simply another attempt to distract the people of Bermuda from the good, solid work this Government is doing”.