By Caribbean News Now contributor
HAMILTON, Bermuda -- Following the refusal on Thursday by the governor of Bermuda to appoint a commission of inquiry voted for by the island’s House of Assembly, the opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP) said in a statement on Friday that it will no longer participate in parliamentary proceedings.
Opposition Leader Marc Bean. Photo: Twitter
“The actions of the unelected governor yesterday – in usurping the will of a democratically elected parliament, which last week voted unanimously for a commission of inquiry, is an insult to every single voter of this country. Parliament has spoken and the governor has a responsibility to act,” opposition leader Marc Bean said in a statement.
Governor George Fergusson’s decision followed a vote in the House last week to ask that a commission of inquiry should be established to look at “historic losses in Bermuda of citizens’ property through theft of property, dispossession of property, and adverse possession claims” and for compensation if the claims were proved.
Although Bean referred in his statement to a unanimous vote, the motion brought by PLP MP Walton Brown passed with support from government MP Suzann Roberts-Holshouser after several members linked to a likely target of any inquiry disqualified themselves from voting.
Fergusson said in a letter delivered yesterday to the speaker of the house that the debate had “raised serious concerns of public interest. Some may well be worth further examination. But they are not clear enough or urgent enough to require a Commission of the type proposed”.
The governor has power to order a commission of inquiry under a 1935 law, with the costs paid for out of the Consolidated Fund.
However, Fergusson wrote: “I have concluded that these concerns are neither so clear nor so urgent as to justify my taking the still unusual step of commissioning an inquiry under the 1935 Act.
“I am also conscious that such an inquiry would incur expenditure under the 1935 Act, which does not appear to have been the settled wish of the House, from either side of the debate.
“I would also need to be clear, under the 1935 Act, that such an inquiry would ‘serve the public welfare’.”
Fergusson added: “I would be open to consider this again, however, if the House gave me clearer references to the kinds of alleged abuses concerned and a clearer mandate for me to incur expenses from the Consolidated Fund.”
The PLP said it unequivocally rejects the governor’s action.
“...he has acted outside of his remit and, by undermining the people’s will, he has made a mockery of parliament and disrespected the Bermudian people. In his failure to act, democracy has been robbed from the people of this country,” the opposition said.
The PLP claimed that this is the latest of many steps by the governor, who represents the UK government, which are “questionable and problematic,” adding that the party “will not participate in a parliament which over the last 18 months has been reduced to a sham and a farce.”
Bean encouraged Bermudians to join the PLP in a march on Government House next Tuesday to call for the following:
• The immediate recall of the governor
• The restoration of the island’s limited democracy