OBA accuses Premier of stoking 'real tension in the community'
David Burt, the Premier, was tonight accused by the Opposition of stoking “real tension in the community” over perceptions of unequal treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cole Simons, the One Bermuda Alliance leader, called for “fairness and accountable leadership” over the handling of construction at the St Regis resort, rules for farmers and fishermen, and the handling of a labour dispute with bus drivers.
Mr Simons said the public sought “real equity from Government during this very stressful and difficult time”.
“They want principled, honest and transparent leadership, with no more evasive behaviour or evasive responses.”
The Opposition resumed its attack on the issuing of an exemption to last week’s stay-at-home order for construction work to continue at the St Regis, only for permission to get pulled two days later.
Renée Ming, the Minister of National Security, said the exemption had been given in error and without her authorisation in the midst of a flurry of requests.
Mr Burt declined to state who specifically signed off on it.
Mr Simons maintained the minister had been scapegoated, claiming they had both approved the exemption and withdrawn it after “blowback” from the community.
He added: “A true leader would have said that the hotel plays a vital role in Bermuda’s tourism strategy, that it will create jobs for Bermudians, and that it will support more capital investment and hence the difficult decision was made to issue the certificate of exemption.”
Mr Simons said the Premier ought to have “owned the problem” by taking responsibility and stating its rationale.
“A similar scenario played out for our farmers and fishermen, who initially were not allowed to set up stands or sell their produce and fish on the streets.”
Mr Simons highlighted “unbalanced treatment” with athletes initially not given permission to train for the Tokyo Olympics, while he said there was “no question about restricting SailGP competitors from training” for the upcoming Grand Prix sailing.
He vouched for the Opposition’s support of the sailing but said the difference in treatment meant protocols were “flawed from the start”.
Mr Simons took the Government to task over a dispute last week with bus operators taking time off work for coronavirus tests.
Drivers insisted they had been given time off work until getting test results, while the Government maintained they were to resume work after the tests, and would not be paid for the extra time off.
Calling the drivers “essential”, Mr Simons said docking their pay had been “unconscionable”.
He accused the Government of being “callous” and said others would have been put at risk if drivers went back to the job and later tested positive.
Asking for accountability over the decision, Mr Simons added: “The Premier must do a better job and manage for all and not play favourites.”
The Opposition leader warned a fall in public confidence with the Premier could erode compliance for Covid-19 protocols.