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OBA infighting continues

Heads must roll: Justin Mathias has the knives out for Leah Scott, the acting leader of the One Bermuda Alliance (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Two high-profile members of the One Bermuda Alliance clashed last night over the sequence of events that led to Jeanne Atherden’s replacement as Opposition leader by Craig Cannonier.

Justin Mathias, who quit as OBA chairman this week, called on Leah Scott, the acting party leader, to resign.

He accused Ms Scott of a “personal vendetta” against Ms Atherden and himself and said she had tainted the process of choosing a new party leader.

The row centres on the way eight OBA MPs ousted Ms Atherden by holding a vote of no confidence in her at a meeting last Wednesday night. Ms Atherden was not at the meeting.

Mr Mathias said in an interview on Sunday that the MPs — Ms Scott, Mr Cannonier, Cole Simons, Scott Pearman, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Sylvan Richards, Susan Jackson and Ben Smith — then chose to “directly go to the Governor and get the Governor to swear in Mr Cannonier”.

He said that was an “unprecedented step” as it was the job of the party chairman to send a message to the Governor.

But Ms Scott hit back on Tuesday and insisted that there was “no abuse of process, as implied by Mr Mathias”.

She wrote in an e-mail: “When Jeanne Atherden realised that she did not have the support of the majority of the MPs she did the honourable thing and resigned. Once Ms Atherden resigned, a letter had to be sent to the Governor.

“The Governor was not notified until after Ms Atherden resigned.”

The Royal Gazette has obtained the letter sent by the MPs to John Rankin, the Governor, dated Wednesday, September 19 and marked “by hand” and Ms Atherden’s letter of resignation to Mr Rankin, dated Friday, September 21,

Ms Scott said yesterday that though the letter from the eight MPs was dated last Wednesday, it was not delivered to the Governor until “either” Thursday or Friday.

She said: “I will chase up and revert back to you with a timeline, but I don’t have access to that detail here and I don’t have the time to chase it at the moment.”

A party source, who asked not to be named, said the letter from the eight MPs was delivered by hand to Government House at 9.15am on Thursday — more than 24 hours before Ms Atherden’s resignation arrived.

Mr Rankin is understood to have called Mr Mathias to be briefed on the situation.

The source added Ms Atherden’s letter to the Governor was delivered at 11am on Friday.

The sequence of events detailed by the source was put to Ms Scott yesterday afternoon.

She said: “You know more than I do, in terms of detail set out ... So I can’t say if it is right.”

Mr Mathias said: “The acting OBA leader is grossly misinformed on the facts when it comes to the letter that was sent by the group of eight to the Governor last week on Thursday.

“I was in discussions with the Governor on Thursday and Friday to get the matter resolved amicably.

“Now that the acting leader has shown her hand and is going forward with this personal vendetta against Mrs Atherden and myself, and prejudicated the nomination process and the leadership process, she should do the honourable thing and resign.”

Mr Cannonier was sworn in as Opposition leader by the Governor on Monday.

He will, however, need to win an election on October 12 to become party leader, which is a separate role.

E-mail invitations to last Wednesday’s meeting from OBA whip Susan Jackson, also obtained by The Royal Gazette, did not mention a no-confidence vote.

The first, sent on September 17, advised them the meeting was for “elected parliamentarians only”.

Ms Jackson urged members the next day to attend or contact the party HQ if they were off island to register their views on “leadership and strategy”.

Ms Jackson e-mailed the other ten Opposition MPs after the meeting.

She told them: “The eight MPs held a vote to support Craig Cannonier as the Leader of the Opposition under Bermuda’s Constitution and the eight MPs signed a letter to the Governor attesting to that.

“We’ve contacted Jeanne and asked her to reconsider her position as party leader.”

Ms Scott did not respond to further questions about the chronology last night. She said: “Instead of publicly trying to derail the new and revitalised course the OBA is taking under Craig Cannonier’s leadership, I would encourage Justin to talk to me or other MPs who voted in favour of the motion of no confidence in Jeanne Atherden to sort out the issues he has.”