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Commission of Inquiry ‘illegal’

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Larry Mussenden believes Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney had no authority to convene his Commission of Inquiry into the governing bodies of cricket and football on the Island and as such said the inquiry ‘did not exist’.

Mussenden, president of Bermuda Football Association and a former Attorney General, also branded the inquiry ‘unlawful’ under the Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1935.

According to section one of that Act, parts of which the Progressive Labour Party amended in 1999, the only person on the Island who can convene a Commission of Inquiry is the Governor.

The BFA president has accused Blakeney of acting ‘beyond his powers’ and called the entire episode ‘an utter shambles’ and ‘amateur hour at the highest levels of Government’.

In an in-depth interview with

The Royal Gazette this weekend Mussenden also:

n Challenged the Minister to appear before a commission should the Governor choose to convene one to justify his actions.

n Said he would not abide by the Access and Confidentiality clause in the current terms of reference that meant the inquiry would be held in private.

n And claimed the Minister had been ‘disrespectful’ in keeping himself and Reggie Pearman, Bermuda Cricket Board counterpart, in the dark until after the inquiry was made public last Thursday.

“I don’t think that the Minister or anybody else, has looked at this,” said Mussenden. “The Minister does not have any authority whatsoever to issue or set up a Commission of Inquiry, which, as is quite clear here, he has sought to do.

“I’m saying that he has acted ‘ultra vires’ (beyond the powers) and as such there is no Commission of Inquiry. He’s purported to have appointed a number of people to be on the commission and a chairman, but he has no authority to do that either.

“So, there is no Commission of Inquiry and there are no commissioners.”

The former Attorney General also said he would be stunned to learn that the Minister or his advisors were not aware of the Commissions of Inquiry Act and expressed his surprise that Cabinet had not considered that either.

In an e-mail to

The Gazette yesterday Blakeney confirmed that he had spoken to his Cabinet colleagues before launching the inquiry. “After I made the decision to set up a commission I informed my colleagues that I intended to formally launch the inquisition,” he wrote.

Mussenden said he would be writing to Governor Sir Richard Gozney to ask him if he had set up the inquiry because ‘he hasn’t said anything about it’.

“I think that this leaves a lot to be desired at the highest levels of Government,” said Mussenden. “I want the Governor to explain whether or not he has set up a Commission of Inquiry because he hasn’t said anything about it.

“When I look at this as a whole it appears a complete and utter shambles. In my view the Governor needs to sort this matter out and I would be very surprised at this point (to find out) that the Governor has delegated this responsibility to the Minister.”

The announcement of the inquiry itself came as a surprise to Mussenden, who said both he and Pearman had been caught off guard by Blakeney’s interview with The Gazette on August 29 when he first floated the idea of the commission.

Mussenden revealed that members of the cricket and football executive had attended a meeting with the Minister the day after in which he admitted to not having thought the idea through and said he initially hoped to have an inquiry formed and completed by the end of October.

The BFA president also revealed that he and his BCB colleague had written to Premier Paula Cox asking for her involvement when Blakeney failed to respond to requests for information on the make-up of the inquiry.

Premier Cox reportedly waved off the concerns of the sporting governing bodies and told Mussenden to meet with Blakeney, something he tried to do, including on the morning of the official announcement last Thursday afternoon.

“We knew nothing about a public inquiry prior to the announcement in

The Royal Gazette on August 29,” said Mussenden, “but on August 30 the Minister called us to a meeting, cricket and football, and said the following things:

n He had not consulted with the Premier or his Cabinet colleagues.

n He had not consulted with his Permanent Secretary or his Director of Sport in relation to setting up this commission.

n He had not consulted the BFA or the BCB. He had not settled the terms of reference for the inquiry.

“The Minister said he would consult with us on the terms of reference but up until September 20 we had not heard anything from him. On September 20 I wrote to the Premier asking to have a meeting with her and the Minister, because we had heard nothing more nearly three weeks later. And the Premier declined to meet with us saying that in fact we should meet with the Minister.

“So, the Minister then replied to us saying he was available to meet to explain what the details are. I wrote back to him and requested the details on September 20 and again on September 22.

“I still hadn’t received anything from him and then his assistant sent us his statement from that press conference.”

Having launched the inquiry, Blakeney said that it would be held in private but would report to him shortly after its November 21 deadline and he would publish the findings.

However, if the Governor chose to launch an inquiry, Mussenden said he would want it to be held in public and would also want the Minister to appear to justify his decision to drastically reduce the level of funding received by the BFA.

“We talk about openness and transparency, let’s have it. Whatever we have, whenever we have it, it should be open. The Bermuda Football Association will not hesitate whatsoever if it was a commission and it was private, we will be making all our submissions available to the public.

“They can keep it private all they want, but I am here to tell you that we will tell the public exactly what we said to the inquiry, before, during and after.

“If the Governor does appoint a Commission of Inquiry then I challenge the Minister himself to appear before the commission, then maybe he can explain how it is that we have in writing that the BFA will be granted $15 million over a period of five years.

“But, he the Minister for the last three years has cut the funding quite significantly to the point now where we have $750,000. I think the public will want to know from the Minister what factors he took into account to be able to cut our funding from the $3 million a year.”

Overall, Mussenden believes that Blakeney’s actions have been a disaster and accused the Minister of acting unlawfully and Government of behaving in an amateurish fashion.

“I think this whole procedure of setting up the commission, of not consulting with us, not even telling us there was going to be a commission and then later on, having promised to discuss the terms of reference with us, to go off and announce it in media statement, I think it’s disrespectful to the two national associations.

“It seems to me like this is amateur hour at the highest levels of Government because between the Minister, Cabinet and Government House they’ve got this absolutely wrong. And they’ve got it lawfully wrong, as such I would call the Commission unlawful.”

Sports Minister Glenn Blakeney
Larry Mussenden

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Published September 26, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 26, 2011 at 9:14 am)

Commission of Inquiry ‘illegal’

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