PLP MPs defend government record — but offer little support for under-attack Premier
A beleaguered Premier last night appeared to get only lukewarm support from his own party in a stormy debate in the House of Assembly.
Michael Dunkley, the shadow health minister and shadow national security minister, threw down the gauntlet during the motion to adjourn and dared the government benches to back David Burt.
Mr Dunkley also demanded that David Burt and Curtis Dickinson, the former finance minister, explain why the latter had suddenly resigned this week.
Mr Burt thanked the former finance minister for his service — but did not give a reason for his shock decision to quit the job.
He added that the opposition MPs were only interested in political opportunism over the resignation of a finance minister it had attacked on a regular basis.
He said: “While the Opposition will merely wish for us to be distracted, try to mire us in silly scandal — that’s not what we are focused on.”
Mr Burt added: “They are paid to criticise. We are paid to deliver. and that is precisely what we will do — and we will not stop at Fairmont Southampton.”
He said: “Next week, Friday, we will be here to deliver the Progressive Labour Party government Budget — not Curtis Dickinson’s Budget, not David Burt’s Budget, the Progressive Labour Party Government’s Budget, which funds our priorities.”
Mr Dickinson did not speak during the motion to adjourn.
A total of 11 PLP MPs spoke in the motion to adjourn and defended the Government’s record.
They accused the Opposition of “political theatre” and appealed for national unity at a difficult time for the country — but few expressed confidence in Mr Burt on a personal basis.
Mr Dunkley said earlier that Mr Dickinson’s departure had “grave consequences and serious implications” and that the public deserved answers.
He added: “It was a shock resignation that caught the country and political colleagues by surprise. It’s unbelievable that a respected minister has resigned at this time — a very respected minister.
“What’s more concerning to me is that the finance minister was very dedicated and took great pride in the work he did and wanted to finish job he started. But he didn’t do that this time.
“It appears that divide between them was just not closable. That’s a concern. Differences in policies and approach were not reconcilable. The relationship appears unrepairable.
“What took place? What’s is going on?
“There has been little explanation or understanding. The people that we serve deserve insight. If the silence continues than trust in the PLP will erode. The current leader has once again failed — poor leadership and poor decisions.
“There is a big gap between words and delivery and that gulf leads to a lack of confidence. The resignation has exposed the Premier.”
Scott Pearman, the OBA’s spokesman on legal affairs, said: “Something has happened — and something big.
“I just can't shake the feeling that this week the wrong man resigned.”
Jarion Richardson, the OBA Whip, said the resignation on the eve of the Budget was “disastrous”.
Craig Cannonier, a former premier and the shadow public works minister and shadow tourism minister, added that it was “an impactful blow”.
Mr Cannonier said: “When that resignation came, Government got a glimpse of how everyone was behind the finance minister — everyone was rooting for this guy. So excuse us for asking questions as to what happened.
“This Government must answer questions to the issues that are out there. I haven’t heard any answers.”
Cole Simons, the OBA leader, questioned why Mr Burt took over the finance portfolio from Mr Dickinson.
He said: “When it comes to the concentration of power we are very concerned. This is almost unheard of in any modern democracy.
“I do not want the honourable Premier to be the king of ashes in Bermuda. I don’t want this concentration to be a recipe for disaster.”
The majority of government MPs played down the significance of Mr Dickinson’s resignation and insisted that the party had strength in depth.
But there was little support for Mr Burt’s personal performance.
Zane DeSilva, a former minister now on the back benches, highlighted criticism of Mr Burt by former premier and elder statesman Sir John Swan after Mr Dickinson resigned.
Mr DeSilva said: “To go after our Premier, to point at our Premier and try to make him look bad with his comments this week, is poor.”
Jason Hayward, the labour minister, highlighted that the OBA was critical of Mr Dickinson during last year’s Budget.
He said: “Somehow the former Minister of Finance is now the knight in shining armour of the Bermuda economy.”
Anthony Richardson, a PLP backbencher, said that the OBA was a distraction to the Government during challenging times.
He said: “Now is not the time for that.”
Scott Simmons, the Government Whip, admitted that voters appeared to be losing confidence in the PLP administration.
He said: “We need to focus in on the job at hand. We must as a government focus again on the people of Bermuda because there is a feeling that we are distracted — we are interested in everything else but what we need to be focusing in on.”
He appealed to voters: “You are beginning to lose confidence in us. Don’t lose confidence.”
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, supported the Premier.
She asked: “We have a Government that works for the people and so I ask myself — what is this all about?
“Is that our game? To get rid of the Premier? Why?”