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Former premier hits out at Burt’s demand for interview by reporter of his choice

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David Burt, the Premier (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Premier yesterday came under fire from a previous head of government after he demanded the right to pick which journalists were allowed to interview him.

David Burt drew criticism from Michael Dunkley of the Opposition after The Royal Gazette was scheduled to interview him, but Mr Burt insisted that only a journalist chosen by him was acceptable.

Mr Dunkley, a former One Bermuda Alliance Premier and now a shadow minister, said he found it hard to believe that Mr Burt had tried to influence the choice of reporter.

He added: “When I went to the gym at 5am, as I always do, and read that, I nearly fell off the treadmill.

“I could not believe that a premier would have the audacity to demand that.

“It is totally unacceptable.

“The very foundation of democracy is the freedom of the press.”

Mr Dunkley said: “I realise he is facing a very difficult time but that is down to poor decision-making.”

Mr Burt was told that The Royal Gazette would decide for itself who would question the Premier and the interview offer was withdrawn.

The Premier has faced criticism on a range of areas in recent months.

Delays in the coronavirus test system sparked what some travellers said were scenes of “chaos and confusion” at the airport on New Year’s Day as people waited on overdue results to board flights.

Michael Dunkley, a former OBA Premier (File photograph)

The airport problems were followed by delays in the reopening of schools after the Government insisted that the new term would begin on time as planned.

Parents were not told that nearly all schools would remain shuttered until the night before they due to open.

Carika Weldon, the director of the Molecular Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, announced last week that she would quit her post leading the island’s battle against Covid-19 at the end of the month.

Dr Weldon resigned after she told the Government several times that the system faced being overwhelmed by a flood of tests for schoolchildren and staff before the start of the new school term.

She said that a return to classroom teaching should be delayed and also warned of a shortage of staff at the lab.

Mr Burt said that there had been a “difference of opinion” with Dr Weldon.

Mr Burt also apologised for the “inconvenience” caused to travellers because of breakdowns in the Covid testing system.

The surge in cases of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus also had a knock-on effect on emergency services with many frontline workers forced to take time off because of the infection.

Mr Burt insisted that he took the right decision to go on a family holiday to California over Christmas as Covid-19 cases rocketed because he needed to “recharge”.

The Opposition accused Mr Burt and several ministers of being “missing in action” over the crisis.

Information released by Rena Lalgie, the Governor, revealed that acting ministerial appointments were approved for 11 intervals over a period of seven weeks from the end of November.

Cover was approved for eight members of the 13-strong Cabinet over the period.

The statistics showed that six of the acting appointments were for over the Christmas and new year period.

It is understood that some of the approved absences were related to ministerial business.

Mr Burt insisted that he and his ministers were “human” and entitled to a vacation.

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Published January 12, 2022 at 7:37 am (Updated January 12, 2022 at 7:37 am)

Former premier hits out at Burt’s demand for interview by reporter of his choice

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