Bermuda unprepared for ‘full measure of self-governance’ – report
A report showed that Bermuda is unprepared for the “full measure of self-governance” according to a series of indicators against which the island’s readiness was measured, the House of Assembly heard today.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform, told MPs that the study made no recommendations about how to attain full autonomy.
She tabled Carlyle Corbin’s Assessment of Self-governance Sufficiency in conformity with internationally-recognised standards, which can be seen under ‘related media’.
Ms Simmons said: “The report utilises a comprehensive, internationally-recognised diagnostic tool, the ‘self-governance assessment’, to evaluate our political status and governance arrangements; with the goal of determining the level of compliance with the minimum standards of self-government, as recognised under relevant international criteria.
“Essentially, what is being measured in the report is the extent of the political power differential within the existent dependency governance arrangement, and the degree of preparedness for self-government through the existence and exercise of delegated authority to the territory under the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968 (as amended) to attain the full measure of self-government.“
MPs heard that “despite perceptions” that the island had a high level of self-governance, Bermuda had a dependency governance status in international law.
Ms Simmons said there were ten self-governance indicators such as the UK’s compliance with international obligations on the matter and the right of Bermuda’s people to determine "the internal constitution without outside influence“.
Other measures included the degree of autonomy in economic affairs as well as the control and administration of internal security.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Minister of Legal Affairs and Constitutional Reform, said that Bermuda’s self-governance sufficiency was evaluated against indicators on a sliding scale of one to four.
She added: “A score of one represents the lowest level of preparedness for self-governance and a score of four being indicative of the highest level of preparedness for self-governance, for the specific self-governance indicator concerned.”
MPs heard that the report showed the following scores for their respective indicator:
• The UK’s – as the administering state – compliance with international self-determination / decolonisation obligations. Score: 2
• Level of unilateral applicability of laws to the territory. Score: 2
• Degree of awareness of the people of the territory of the legitimate political status options, and of the overall decolonisation process. Score: 2
• Right of the people to determine the internal constitution without outside influence. Score: 2
• Extent of evolution of governance capacity through the exercise of delegated internal self-government. Score: 3
• Extent of evolution of governance capacity through the exercise of external affairs. Score: 2
• Degree of autonomy in economic affairs. Score: 3
• Control and administration of internal security. Score: 3
• Control and administration of military activities. Score: 3
• Indicator of ownership and control of natural resources. Score: 3
Scores of between one and four were awarded for each measure, with four showing the greatest level of readiness for self-governance.
The minister said: “Bermuda’s scoring across the ten self-governance indicators demonstrates that we have not achieved preparedness for the full measure of self-governance under any of the indicators.
“Bermuda is scored level two for five of the indicators and level three on the remaining five indicators.
“The rationale for the scoring is explained fully within the report, which I would refer honourable members and the public at large to read in detail.“
She highlighted: “To be clear, this report does not make recommendations on the path, or mechanisms, for how Bermuda should approach gaining a full measure of self-governance.
“Those discussions, and the framing of any such steps, are reserved for the decision of the Cabinet.“
Ms Simmons told the House that the report represented a “marked advancement for the project of constitutional reform” for the island.
She added: “The report reiterates that Bermuda, as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, remains listed as a ‘non self-governing territory’ according to the United Nations.
“The inalienable right of a people to freely decide their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development is foundational to the United Nations Charter.”
Ms Simmons said: “We must understand that the UN Charter mandates certain obligations are placed upon state parties, such as the United Kingdom, to assist their territories with achieving the full measure of self-governance.
“The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation monitors the progress towards decolonisation of the remaining non-self-governing territories.”
She told the House: “Just as independent small island states – such as Barbados – consider their continued constitutional relation with the UK sovereign, it is timely that Bermuda, too, resume the evaluation of our position and relationship with the United Kingdom under our existing constitutional arrangements.
“The report being introduced in this honourable House today, shines a lens on the historic constitutional evolution of Bermuda through respective periods of dependency governance under the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968.
“In doing so, the author draws comparisons to the circumstances in other non self-governing territories.”
• To read the report and the minister’s remarks in full, click on the PDFs under “Related Media”.