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Dunkley questions legitimacy of committee

Michael Dunkley, the former premier, questioned last night if a parliamentary committee established to inquire into a clash between protesters and police outside the House of Assembly had been properly set up.

The Parliamentary Joint Select Committee was designed to investigate a clash between police and demonstrators who blocked Parliament in December 2016.

Protesters were pepper-sprayed, and several officers reported they were assaulted after the demonstrators stopped MPs from entering the House of Assembly for a key debate over legislation for the controversial redevelopment of LF Wade International Airport.

The seven-member group, chaired by Progressive Labour Party MP Kim Swan, began meeting last month.

In a letter sent on Monday to Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, Mr Dunkley wrote that “it is my understanding that a resolution to establish this Joint Select Committee has not yet been passed by each House of the Legislature” in accordance with the Parliament Act.

Mr Dunkley said he would be “more than willing” to appear before the committee, and that a January 30 letter from Mr Swan had requested a statement of his actions at the time of the protest, when he was premier.

He added that standing orders of the House allowed for a Joint Select Committee to be appointed at the request of either Parliament or the Senate with the approval of the other House.

Mr Dunkley said that “to the best of my knowledge this has not been done”.

He added: “Thus, in my view, it is not properly constituted and, until it is, it has no jurisdiction or authority to commence any proceedings with the result that no work should be done”.

The One Bermuda Alliance MP added in the letter that he was “most concerned that certain members of the PJSC will not be able to conduct themselves in an unbiased way having regard to the comments made by them during this debate”.

Along with Mr Swan, the committee members selected by Mr Lister were Joan Dillas-Wright, Senate president, PLP MPs Tinée Furbert, Michael Scott and Neville Tyrrell, OBA MP Ben Smith and OBA senator Andrew Simons.

Mr Swan declined to comment on Mr Dunkley's letter yesterday and said the committee's work was a matter for the Speaker.

Mr Lister said he had not yet seen Mr Dunkley's letter.

He added: “We are on the eve of starting the next parliamentary session.

“This whole country knows that my approach is to be fair to every member, no matter which side of the political spectrum they sit upon.”

Mr Lister added: “If Mr Dunkley wants to address this properly, I will arrange for us to sit and have this discussion.”

Mr Dunkley said that he had “the greatest respect for the Speaker”, and that Mr Swan's letter had asked him to reply by this Friday, when MPs return to the House.

He added: “December 2 was a very serious matter and I want to make sure I do everything I can to comply with a duly constituted PJSC.”

Constitutional challenge: Michael Dunkley (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published February 07, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 07, 2018 at 7:05 am)

Dunkley questions legitimacy of committee

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