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Burt refuses to confirm warning from Governor over cannabis law

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David Burt, the Premier (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Premier David Burt last night refused to confirm whether he had held any discussions with the Governor on cannabis regulations approved by the House of Assembly last week.

Asked if he had consulted with Rena Lalgie, the Governor, or any former Governor about whether the legislation would receive Royal Assent, Mr Burt said he would not publicly disclose the nature of any discussions with the Governor.

Mr Burt said: “Any paper that goes to Cabinet is shared with the Governor at the time of it coming to Cabinet.

“Every week, just as the Prime Minister of the UK meets with the Queen every week, the Premier of Bermuda meets with the Governor.

“I will never, ever disclose the conversations in public that I held in my weekly audiences.” (See video starting at 43:00)

The Premier however maintained that the legislation, if approved by the Senate, could receive Royal Assent despite concerns raised in the House of Assembly.

Mr Burt said: “Here are the facts: The Government laid out its position on this Bill. The Government went through a lengthy and extensive consultation process.

“The Government took external legal advice with regard to international treaties and regulations. The Government is not going to put forward something that they do not believe can conform and comply with that.

“If our regulations were modelled after what is in place in Canada – another realm of the commonwealth where the Queen serves as head of state – and those are acceptable there, I cannot possibly imagine why they would not be acceptable here.”

But Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney General, admitted in the House of Assembly on Friday that the bill exceeded the limits of international conventions on cannabis and that Britain had an obligation to uphold these conventions. Therefore, as written, the law would not get Royal Assent from the Governor.

She added: “The UK Government through Government House has confirmed support for Bermuda’s policy and legislation only so far as it does not contravene the UK’s international obligations.

“To be clear, the Governor has indicated that she will be unable to give assent to any legislation that contravenes those international obligations.”

Mr Burt said there were times when the Cabinet and the Governor were not on the same page, but he believed that democracy would prevail.

He added: “My view is very simple. We execute things based on what is outlined in our platform.

“There is one thing that is clear – the Government which I lead takes measures that are put inside of platforms seriously and advances them, and the only time those are changed is through consultation.”

Mr Burt maintained the Government was confident it was on solid legal footing with the regulations and be believed it would receive Royal Assent.

He said: “We live in a time, a point and place where we can be free to make our own laws and Bermuda has a long tradition of internal self governance and that tradition, I expect in this case, will be upheld and respected.”

Both former Premier Michael Dunkley and former Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean have accused Mr Burt of manufacturing a confrontation with the Governor to drive support for Independence.

Mr Burt also challenged the suggestion that the Government should avoid conflicts with the UK to protect the flow of Covid-19 vaccines.

He said: “I am not going to be bought or silenced in any way, shape or form by trinkets.

“I am appreciative of the relationship which we have, but I am also appreciative of the fact that in a democratic society with full internal self-governance the democratic will of the locally elected assembly should be upheld and observed.

“Nothing is going to stop me from expressing that opinion because that is what I believe, that is what my oath is to the people to whom I serve.”

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Published February 24, 2021 at 8:35 am (Updated February 24, 2021 at 9:02 am)

Burt refuses to confirm warning from Governor over cannabis law

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