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Simons queries vague Government pledge to change Constitution

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One Bermuda Alliance leader Cole Simons criticises the Throne Speech
Constitution questions: Cole Simons, the leader of the Opposition (File photograph)

The Constitution and parts of the island’s governance are in line to be updated in the new session of Parliament, it was announced in the Throne Speech yesterday.

Rena Lalgie, the Governor, who delivered the speech on behalf of the Government, said the administration wanted the Constitution to be amended “in keeping with the UK Government’s request for recommendations“.

She added: “Democracy is constantly evolving. The relationship between non-sovereign territories and administering powers must likewise evolve to reflect the realities of modern governance.”

But Cole Simons, the leader of the Opposition, later questioned what constitutional changes the Government had planned.

He said: “They had the same comments in last year’s Throne Speech. They didn’t elucidate on it then and they have not done it now.”

Mr Simons said the Government knew the Constitution was a “ hot potato, but it’s on their agenda”.

He added the Government did “not have the testicular fortitude to come out and say specifically what they intend to make under our Constitution”.

Mr Simons said: “It’s all very veiled, and one will question why.”

The Throne Speech said the Government would introduce amendments to the Public Access to Information Act “to centralise the processing of requests for information”.

It added: “This will create greater uniformity in the management of requests and relieve public officers of the task of handling more complex requests for information so that they can focus on their key job tasks.“

Ms Lalgie said there would be more changes to electronic transaction and personal information protection laws “to create a harmonised personal information privacy regime for online services”.

It was claimed the move would make the island more attractive to technology companies.

Ms Lalgie added training would be given to people appointed to Government boards and quangos, which have increasingly been given more powers and independence.

She said: “During this session, legislation will be advanced and amended as appropriate to mandate fiduciary training as part of service on boards or committees and to require that the members of certain boards include persons professionally qualified in either law or accounting.”

Mr Simons said that there were also fears that the office of the Information Commissioner could be weakened by proposed amendments to information laws.

He added: “It would premature of me to give an opinion because we haven’t seen the amendments.

“But the question is what is driving it at this point in time, because the information commissioner is doing an excellent job – she holds no prisoners and she’s objective and independent and why are we changing it?

“They haven’t presented substantive reasoning and it will be interesting to see whether the legislation detracts from the authority that the current commissioner has.”

The Government did not respond to a request for comment on its proposals for alterations to the Constitution.

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Published November 06, 2021 at 7:45 am (Updated November 06, 2021 at 7:45 am)

Simons queries vague Government pledge to change Constitution

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