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Dunkley reveals $48,000 payout over protest

One person received $48,000 among government payouts to demonstrators hit by pepper spray during the airport protest of December 2, 2016, the House of Assembly heard last night.

It was said to be among 28 settlements made in money drawn from the Royal Bermuda Regiment's contingency fund.

Michael Dunkley, who was the One Bermuda Alliance premier at the time of the demonstrations over the new airport terminal, told MPs a “concerned Bermudian” received the figures in response to a public access to information request.

He spoke as members debated a report produced by the Parliamentary joint select committee after it carried out an inquiry into the clash between police and demonstrators, when several protesters were pepper-sprayed by officers.

The Ministry of National Security said earlier this year that an undisclosed settlement had been agreed with complainants who were seeking legal action against the Police Complaints Authority.

Mr Dunkley said last night the Pati response showed 28 payments were made on February 12.

He explained that the requester asked about the value of each payout and the information showed 27 were for $4,200 and one was for $48,000.

Another question was about “which government department and budget head” the funds were taken from.

Mr Dunkley said: “The answer was, the funds were paid from the contingency fund of department number six — the Bermuda Regiment.”

He added: “Money is taken from the Bermuda Regiment to pay out protesters.”

A statement on the payments from Wayne Caines, the national security minister, was postponed at the request of Dennis Lister, the Speaker, in February because the JSC had, at that point, still to deliver its findings.

The report was tabled by Kim Swan, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher and chairman of the committee, earlier this month.

Earlier yesterday, he had lodged a “formal complaint” during the debate after he said a sitting parliamentarian had breached House rules.

Although he did not name the individual, it was understood his comments related to Mr Dunkley.

Mr Swan said the bipartisan committee initially suffered a setback.

He explained: “It had been brought to our attention, first by letter and also through the media, that the committee had not been ratified in the Senate, and that was rightfully so.

“It proved problematic. It was challenged publicly as well by a sitting member of the legislature and this matter caused us a bit of concern, because the matter, in our respectful opinion, should have been dealt with clearly as a matter for this particular House.”

He added: “In my submission, we had an honourable member in breach of our own rules.”

Mr Swan asked the Speaker to consider his comments as “a formal complaint” from him in his position as chairman.

Mr Dunkley wrote to Mr Lister in February 2018 that it was his “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.

The former premier 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 then 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”.

Protesters outside the House of Assembly on December 2, 2016 (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published July 20, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated July 20, 2019 at 8:09 am)

Dunkley reveals $48,000 payout over protest

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