Premier: self-governance report is about ‘educating the citizens of this country’
Bermuda needs to have a serious conversation about the “firestorm” issue of self-government, David Burt said as he ruled out a referendum on independence during the lifetime of this Parliament, which is slated to end in 2025.
The Premier used a post-Throne Speech press conference yesterday to declare that a new study on self-governance would “help educate the populace” on the island about going it alone.
Mr Burt said he had not fully read the report, did not recall when it was commissioned and twice failed to answer questions on why the study had been kept secret until last Friday when it was revealed in the Throne Speech.
The Premier said: “A referendum on sovereignty is not planned for this current Parliament.
“But that does not mean that we cannot discuss and educate the populace on issues related to self-governance.”
Mr Burt insisted voters needed informed dialogue on the emotive matter.
He said: “In Bermuda we cannot have mature conversations about self-governance, about modifying our constitutional arrangements and progress which are things which are mandated under the United Nations charters.
“So, from that perspective, I think it is interesting that we always … anytime anything is mentioned about alternate constitutional arrangements, that it creates a firestorm of controversy and criticism.
“The conversations will continue to happen because it is necessary and right for all persons to understand what are the options for their government.
“And it is important to know that as United Nations resolutions have indicated that all administering powers should be working towards self-governance for their individual territories.
“That is a United Nations dictate, that is not a Bermuda dictate.”
The Premier said the study was intended to “educate” the people of Bermuda.
He said: “The report itself is a very long one. It will be going to Cabinet and we will share it with the public. It is about educating the citizens of this country.
“Every time we speak about self-governance, every time we speak about change to the constitutional arrangements, it breaks down into back and forth on things which don’t necessarily reflect the reality.
“And, if we are going to have a serious conversation in this country, as all Overseas Territories are having, as the UK Government asks territories to look at their constitutional arrangements … I think that it makes sense to have a comprehensive report that can be shared so that persons can actually know, understand, discuss, what self-governance means.”
Mr Burt said it was Progressive Labour Party policy that if Bermuda became a sovereign state it would be a full member of the Commonwealth, retain the British monarch as head of state and keep the Privy Council in London as the highest court.
A Government House spokeswoman said Rena Lalgie, the Governor, has not seen a copy of the report.
“The UK Government maintains a longstanding position on independence for the Overseas Territories, which is that any change must be on the basis of the clear and constitutionally expressed wish of the people,” the spokeswoman said.
The comments came after it was revealed that the studyAssessment of Self-Governance Sufficiency in Conformity with Internationally-recognised Standards, by Carlyle Corbin, was commissioned and received by the Government.
It was stated in the Throne Speech that the document considered the “full range of self-government options for Bermuda”.