Concern surfaces over David Burt’s leadership style
Concern was growing in the Progressive Labour Party last night over the Premier’s leadership after the Government was plunged into fresh controversy after the national security minister’s surprise departure from the Cabinet.
The unrest came as David Burt and Renée Ming remained at loggerheads over whether she quit her post or was fired.
But a senior party insider said that the Premier’s version of events – that he fired Ms Ming – was not trusted.
The source said: “Nobody believes his version of the story.”
The source backed Ms Ming’s claim that she resigned over disagreements with the Mr Burt.
The source added: “I do know that she had wanted to quit for a while now.”
The increased unrest in the ranks of the PLP came after a series of missteps by Mr Burt and the shock resignation of Curtis Dickinson as finance minister just days before February’s Budget.
Mr Dickinson quit after he fell out with the Premier over a Government guarantee for the massive revamp of the Fairmont Southampton resort.
Mr Burt, who has led the PLP for six years, is now in danger of a leadership challenge at a PLP delegates’ conference in October.
Ms Ming was praised by the last Commissioner of Police as the row over her departure continued.
Stephen Corbishley, who resigned last October, said on social media that Ms Ming was dedicated to the post and had dignity.
He added: “Resignation is a dignified act, sometimes needed when you are unappreciated, unfairly treated, or not respected/supported in doing what you think is the ‘the right thing to do’.
“Minister Ming was very committed to her role … and was a 24/7 minister – recalling many a time my phone would ping and ring late at night from her.”
The row increased disquiet in the PLP as it came just weeks after the Government was rocked by Mr Dickinson’s surprise decision to quit.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, refused to take questions on the controversy or Mr Burt’s position at a Covid-19 briefing on Thursday.
She insisted she would only talk about the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Burt said after he announced Ms Ming’s departure that he planned to carry out a Cabinet reshuffle on Monday and had revealed his plans to ministers on Tuesday.
He later added he had met Ms Ming later and that she “did indicate that she had come with a letter of resignation“.
Mr Burt said: “I informed her that I would not accept it as I had already advised the Governor of my decision regarding her appointment.”
But Ms Ming hit back: “I resigned for many reasons. He decided to do it this way, but I resigned.”
Ms Ming was one of a dozen PLP MPs who did not vote in the House of Assembly last Friday on controversial legislation to legalise the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis.
The legislation failed to pass the Senate, but the Upper House, which blocked it last year, no longer had the power to delay it and it has gone to Rena Lalgie, the Governor.
The Governor earlier warned that the legislation could breach British international treaty obligations on drugs.
Mr Burt made the Cannabis Licensing Act a flagship proposal and warned that if the UK blocked the legislation, Bermuda’s relationship with London would be “destroyed”.
A PLP spokewoman insisted the party would not be “distracted” by internal or external politics.
The spokeswoman said: “The focus of both the party and the leadership is economic recovery, addressing the cost of living and returning the island to a state of normalcy.
“With 30 seats in the House, there will be differences of opinion and challenging moments.
“However, the public can rest assured that this government, as a collective, will not be distracted by neither internal nor external politics.
“The people of Bermuda deserve our full focus and that is what they will receive.”
The spokeswoman added: “The Progressive Labour Party, under the leadership of David Burt, is committed to carry out the mandate promised at the polls in both 2017 and 2020 to the people of Bermuda, which resulted in the biggest electoral victory ever.
“Premier David Burt continues to exhibit strong leadership in the aftermath of a worldwide and economically destabilising pandemic.“
Ms Ming, the MP for St George’s North, drew support from across party lines yesterday.
Thomas Harvey, the OBA’s candidate for the St George’s West constituency, said the loss of a Cabinet voice for the parish was a major blow.
He said: “I think that it is rather tragic that St George’s has lost the benefit of having a representative in Cabinet.
“I am sad and disappointed over what has transpired with former minister of national security, Renée Ming. Premier Burt’s behaviour is unacceptable.”
Wayne Furbert, the Cabinet Office minister, is Acting Minister of National Security until a permanent replacement is announced.
Ms Ming was appointed to the post in July 2020 after Wayne Caines was forced to resign in the wake of a row over a party at a restaurant that breached Covid-19 regulations.
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