Dunkley Q&A: Sage recommendations acted on
Michael Dunkley was quizzed yesterday about conscription, same-sex marriage and the size of the Civil Service during an online chat with readers of The Royal Gazette.
The Premier spent 50 minutes at his computer at the Cabinet Office answering questions from participants in our live session on this year's Throne Speech.
The discussion was wide-ranging but several topics were raised repeatedly by participants, including queries about when the Bermuda Government would truly end national service, whether it would take a legislative stance on same-sex marriage, and if it would implement the recommendations made by the Sage Commission to trim waste in the public service.
Our chat kicked off at 10am when we asked Mr Dunkley if he felt anything in November's Throne Speech had not received the attention it deserved.
He cited a pledge to close one of the prisons because of low inmate numbers as an important one, saying such a move would still ensure the provision of “necessary capacity and services”. Several readers asked Mr Dunkley if the recommendations in the Sage Commission's report, released two years ago, would ever be implemented.
“It is being used,” he said. “We noted the public service reform initiative in the Throne Speech.
“This is an implementation platform and the work is ongoing.”
A reader going by the name Turbot Slayer posted the next query.
“In the 2013 Throne Speech you promised to end conscription,” wrote the reader. “In the 2014 Throne Speech you promised to end conscription. And again in the 2015 Throne Speech you promised to end conscription. Yet you did not end conscription.
“In another Throne Speech you also committed to having a referendum on gaming in the first quarter of 2014. Yet this did not happen either.
“Does the OBA have a problem of putting the cart before the horse? Of promising big and delivering small? If so, how much weight should we put behind the pledges and promises as found within the current Throne Speech?”
Mr Dunkley replied: “We have delivered on our commitment. Conscription was not used for the 2016 recruit camp and we feel very comfortable with the way forward.
“We are confident that the Royal Bermuda Regiment will be able to attract the numbers required and fill their role and responsibility.”
Another reader asked if the regiment was “accepting almost anyone to volunteer just to beef up [the] number of volunteers for PR purposes”.
The Premier wrote: “No. There is still a process to ensure volunteers for the Royal Bermuda Regiment meet the requirements. I would encourage anyone interested to explore this exciting opportunity to serve Bermuda.”
Same-sex marriage — and the lack of any mention of it in the 2015 Throne Speech — was clearly on the minds of many readers.
A reader called Quinton asked: “What is your position on same-sex marriage and transgender protections?”
Another, dubbing themselves Fancy Pants, inquired: “Why no promise to amend the Matrimonial Clauses Act to allow for same-sex marriages to not be voided? Why let the courts decide? Courage ... convictions ...”
Mr Dunkley did not answer Quinton directly, but said: “The [Home Affairs] minister has made it very clear that our approach is to allow the discussion to take place in a respectful manner so we can ascertain the wishes of the people.”
Others questioned the leader of the country on whether banning dark visors on motorcycle helmets — a Throne Speech pledge — would be effective in the fight against violent crime.
He said it was part of a series of measures aimed at making the Island a safer place.
• To read the full discussion, visit www.royalgazette.com/section/live