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OBA accuses government senators of being unprepared

Silence: Ernest Peets, the Government Senate leader (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Government senators have been accused of being unprepared after they failed to take part in a debate on the future of development.

During yesterday’s session of the Upper House, Lindsay Simmons, the junior minister for home affairs presented The Bermuda Plan 2018, and put forward a motion that it be approved.

Ms Simmons said the “importance of the plan cannot be understated”.

But while all three Opposition Senators and three Independents commented on the plan and questioned Ms Simmons in great detail on its impact, no government senator contributed to the debate.

Presenting the plan, which will guide development while conserving green spaces, Ms Simmons read out the exact same brief that her party colleague, home affairs minister Walter Roban presented to the House of Assembly last Friday.

“The Bermuda Plan 2018 is a development plan prepared by the Department of Planning to guide development for the island for many years to come,” she declared in her short presentation.

There followed a lengthy debate and question and answer session, during which both One Bermuda Alliance and Independent senators expressed their enthusiasm for the plan.

The Opposition’s Robin Tucker said that the content of the 229-page document “impacts everyone in Bermuda”.

Her colleague, Marcus Jones, agreed. “It’s a well-written and well-put together report,” he said, adding that it was “comprehensive and forward-looking”.

“It considers more than just the physical layout of land in Bermuda and how it’s zoned and how it will be used.

“I was very pleased with the social aspect of it, the healthy community aspect of the plan I found very intriguing, so in short I just want to commend the minister and his team for putting this report together.”

Independent senator John Wight said: “I was impressed with the preparation of this report – it was very well thought out.”

And OBA Senate leader Ben Smith emphasised the importance of having a plan to guide development into the future.

“We have an impact on our island and we have to understand what that impact is having on our environment,” he said.

Independent senator Michelle Simmons also focused on the environment – and the significance the plan will have in protecting Bermuda.

She said: “I fully support this plan and hope that, as decisions are made going forward, those who are responsible for making those decisions will adhere to the tenants in this plan.”

Senate president Joan Dillas-Wright wrapped up the debate before Ms Simmons responded to questions. The plan was then approved without objection.

Following the conclusion of the two-hour virtual session, Mr Smith questioned why no government senator contributed to the debate.

He told The Royal Gazette: “Everyone was present but it was obvious that none of the government senators wanted to speak.

“When you’re bringing something this important forward, you would have thought they would want to show support for the minister who brought it before the House.

“In fact when I was doing my homework for this debate, I listened to Friday’s debate in the House, and, apart from the minister, there was only one government MP – Christopher Famous – who spoke. Most of the debate came from the Opposition.

“I just find it very interesting, considering they went to the trouble of bringing it to the Senate.

“It took so long to create and has such an important value. And yet the debate nearly collapsed because we were waiting for someone from the government side to speak.

“The question is, were they prepared? This was an important debate and you would have thought they would have had a discussion about it beforehand.

“We certainly did our homework. It was a lot of work going through all the details and seeing what needed to be addressed.

“We were expecting a long day to be honest. But we finished just after midday.”

This newspaper e-mailed questions to Government Senate Leader Ernest Peets through the Department of Communications. No response has been received.

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Published June 10, 2021 at 7:50 am (Updated June 10, 2021 at 7:23 am)

OBA accuses government senators of being unprepared

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