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Bermuda's 2017 December History and Newspaper Reports

Events that made newspaper headlines in the twelfth month of this calendar year

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online

world via computer

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See at end of this file all our many History files

Bermuda's Royal Gazette newspaper is not published on Sundays or Public Holidays.

December 30. John Rankin, the Governor of Bermuda, is taking legal advice on giving assent to a controversial Bill designed to replace same-sex marriage with “watered-down” domestic partnerships. Government House confirmed the Governor had asked for legal opinions on the Domestic Partnership Bill in line with provisions in the island’s Constitution. A spokesman said: “The Governor is continuing to consider the Bill in accordance with Section 35(2) of the Constitution. In considering the Bill, he is taking legal advice as appropriate.” The Domestic Partnership Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling in May that paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in Bermuda. The Constitution does not stipulate a time frame for assenting to Bills. It is understood that legal arguments over whether the Bill is in line with the Constitution, and international obligations, have to be considered. The Foreign Office said this month: “While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.” Section 35 (2) of the Constitution outlines procedures for the Governor to sign a Bill. The Governor has to signify that he assents or that he withholds assent or that he “reserves the Bill for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure”. The Governor has to “reserve for the signification of Her Majesty’s pleasure any Bill which appears to him, acting in his discretion ... to be inconsistent with any obligation of Her Majesty or of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom towards any other state or power or any international organisation”. The section also allows the Governor to refuse to sign a Bill that is considered to be “in any way repugnant to or inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution”.

December 30. The death toll on Bermuda’s roads in 2017 is one of the worst in recent years. Fifteen lives have been lost, with drink-driving, speeding, dangerous driving and inattention listed as leading factors. This year’s figure was exceeded in the past 17 years only by 2008, which featured 17 road deaths, and is equaled by 2014. Statistics show the majority of fatalities are black men, who have a 60 per cent higher risk of death than other road users. Alcohol and drugs also played a huge role, with 75 per cent of road deaths involving an impaired driver or rider. Inspector Robert Cardwell, head of the roads policing unit, said: “Running red lights and stop signs, third-laning, excessive speed and drinking and driving are the behaviors we need to significantly reduce on our roads. Driving and riding become so routine that it is often the case that we only think about where we are going rather than how we are going to get there. The reality is that there is a strong possibility you will not arrive at your destination because your concentration is elsewhere. We see in the crashes caught on our CCTV network, which we have released on our Twitter feed, that the collisions are avoidable. All of them.” Bermuda has one of the worst rates of road-related deaths in the developed world, close to three times the average for countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Progressive Labour Party has signaled it will introduce roadside sobriety testing and speed cameras. Walter Roban, the Minister of Transport, has said the island cannot legislate its way out of the problem. He was backed by the Bermuda Police Service, which said that enforcement is only one piece of the puzzle. Experts said the entire community would have to play a part, from legislators and enforcement officers to people getting behind a wheel. Mr Cardwell said: “Road safety is everyone’s responsibility but we are having major challenges in Bermuda in this area.” He warned: “We cannot ticket our way out of this problem and adjusting existing legislation and creating new legislation will not fix the problem either. Getting everyone involved and being conscious of their driving and riding behavior will go a long way to not only reducing the number of collisions annually but also the number of road deaths.” Bermuda Hospitals Board statistics show that for every death on Bermuda’s roads there are 200 road accident injuries. This year, there have been about 3,000 people injured on the roads. Injury victims include Shachkeil Burrows, an aspiring football coach who lost his leg in an accident in July and is now focused on raising funds for a bionic leg. The police service called an emergency press conference after 21 road accidents were logged over just three days this month. Mr Cardwell pledged to crack down on dangerous driving and said that more officers would be assigned to traffic duties. Mr Cardwell also made the grim prediction that there would be another death on the roads before Christmas. The fifteenth fatality came six days before Christmas Day. The BPS has also launched a Twitter account to highlight road incidents caught on CCTV footage and update the public on enforcement measures. This year also featured the launch of the documentary A Piece of the Rock, made with the help of the Bermuda Road Safety Council and anti-alcohol abuse charity Cada, which explored the problem. The film identified three main solutions — roadside breath tests, the installation of speed cameras and mandatory graduated licensing. Roadside tests are expected to be approved by MPs in this parliamentary year. Shari-Lynn Pringle of A Piece of the Rock said: “Cultural, legislative and personal change is key. I’m praying that we stand still at 15 deaths for 2017 and see a significant reduction in 2018. I encourage parents to sit down with their children and watch the documentary, social clubs to watch with their members, churches to watch with their congregation, schools to watch with their students and discuss the statistics and, as a community make the decision to make Bermuda’s roads safer.” The Bermuda Police Service’s new Twitter account is @bps_rpu. A Piece of the Rock has information available via Twitter at @piece_oftherock and on Facebook at /makeBermudaroadssafer. Visit www.cada.bm for information on impaired driving and the Bermuda Road Safety Council’s Facebook page at /Bermuda Road Safety Council for general information.

2017 Bermuda Net DebtDecember 30. Opinion, by Martha Harris Myron.  "New Year is fast approaching, now almost 20 years into the new millennium. It’s once again a time to reflect, to put aside the past year’s less-than-positive outcomes in your work, relationships, health, and philosophies. Whether you defined these as mere blips on the radar of life or utter failures, they are over, gone, never to be thought of again. It is time to look forward to, motivate and plan for continued successes for yourself, your family and your community. But, whether you do or not, you’ll be doing your best to bring fresh perspectives to your life, making changes as necessary to stay on track with your financial plans, and career goals. It is time for change. Change is inevitable. Change is the one thing in our life that is a constant. Embrace change, or be left behind. 

Enough said.

Thank you, readers! A great big thank you to the many readers who took precious time to write to me this year with questions, topics of interest, commentary, compliments, critiques, and research/reference sources. I am so appreciative of all your efforts. You readers are the reason I continue to write on local finance. Please continue to contact me with any items of interest, or help on specific topics. I am always happy to answer your queries, in general, as well as referring you for specialist help of your choice for personalized individual problem advice. These are just some of the topics of interest scheduled for Moneywise commentary for the Year of our Lord, 2018.

Additionally, some of many information requests from readers:

The Bloomberg headlines of February 27, 2017: “JP Morgan software does in seconds what took lawyers 360,000 hours”, by Hugh Son, is a perfect example of workplace threats and opportunities in the future. https://goo.gl/7RwMuW. Are we ready for these changes? Change is the one thing in our life that is a constant. Embrace change, or be left behind. Keep writing to me with your questions. I welcome them all, and will respond personally, or with a composite case article (to protect all confidential information). Happy new year and may the force be with you. The very best wishes for you, dear readers, and continued personal financial success in 2018.

December 30. Bermudians who helped organize the America’s Cup are among a host of names recognized in the New Year’s Honors List. Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour awards are being presented to more than 20 people who led ACBDA committees or worked “extraordinary hours” over the past two years to help deliver “a successful America’s Cup”, according to a press release from the Bermuda Government. They are joined by Bermuda Audubon Society president Andrew Dobson, social worker Glenda Edwards and educator Catherine Lapsley, who also collect the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour. The Government press release stated: “The organisation of the 2017 America’s Cup was a unique accomplishment. It was achieved through a combination of exemplary volunteer assistance and professional contribution. “The efforts of those involved in delivering and managing the America’s Cup resulted in the national image of Bermuda being considerably enhanced around the world. The America’s Cup would not have been achieved without the contribution of the recipients’ time, knowledge, professionalism, leadership and dedication.” America’s Cup leaders winning recognition are Lieutenant-Colonel William White, Steve Cosham, Arthur Wightman, Garry Madeiros, Michael DeCouto, Denise Riviere, Fiona Beck, Joseph Froncioni, Lieutenant-Colonel Brian Gonsalves and Tom Miller. A collective group award is also given to 11 more individuals. The Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to public life or committed themselves to serving and helping Bermuda. The Bermuda Government provided the following details on the individuals receiving recognition:

ACBDA group award

December 30.  Former police sergeant and activist Takbir Sharrieff has died at the age of 74. The brother of Philip Perinchief, the former government minister and attorney-general, Mr Sharrieff described himself as a “child of the Sixties” whose political consciousness was forged in the civil rights struggle. Mr Sharrieff was a supporter of the Progressive Labour Party, as well as an anti-drug crusader and a champion for Bermuda independence. Last night, Mr Perinchief said that he and “Tak” had shared “a very close, ever-evolving political bond”. He added: “My brother, Takbir, held strong views and values about life in general, and politics and religion in particular. For the most part, he lived these views and values, and did not brook any nonsense, nor suffer fools lightly or gladly. Our household during his presence, was never without rigorous debate, even pure rancor at times, and a thorough analysis of current or past events. Takbir was an embodiment and perennial expression of everything our parents, Florence and Earl, who were activists in the Theatre Boycott of the Fifties, instilled in all of us at an early age and expected us to pass on to our children.” The family ethos, he said, was to “think through the rationale for which you hold a point of view, speak your truth, and be prepared to defend and/or suffer the consequences of the position you take”. He added: “Takbir did that. He was a soldier for justice, fairness and equality for all to the end. He was, and is today, the bedrock of my political foundation and the catalyst for the ideology I hold now. Hopefully, I can reward him with bringing into being the independent Bermuda of which he and I often spoke.” Mr Sharrieff’s police tenure spanned 1963 to 1972, and retired Chief Inspector Roger Sherratt recalled him as “first-class and everybody thought the world of him”. His police work ranged from the cycle squad to the dog section, and he was instrumental, along with Mr Sherratt and Ray Sousa, in setting up the police cycle gymkhana. Later in life, Mr Sharrieff worked as a traffic officer and airport policeman for the Transport Control Department. Much of his career was devoted to private security. He founded Supreme Security Services in 1976 and went on to direct security at the Elbow Beach Hotel. Mr Sharrieff was a passionate advocate for the PLP and remembered a key chapter in the party’s formation in a 2003 letter to The Royal Gazette. Mr Sharrieff said he became an early admirer of Hugh “Rio” Richardson, a founding figure for the PLP known for hosting vigorous debates at his home. The young Mr Sharrieff, born Gary Perinchief, became a neighbor around 1954 when the Perinchief family moved to Serpentine Road in Pembroke. Mr Sharrieff wrote: “Perhaps the strong language and stream of new faces let us know that serious business was taking place.” He added the meetings grew “hotter and more frequent”. But he said: “I did not realize at this time that the PLP was being born”. Mr Sharrieff also remembered watching the Theatre Boycotts in 1959 “as vividly as if it was today”. He took a new name after his conversion to the Muslim faith. Mr Sharrieff first joined the Nation of Islam and developed contacts with activists in the US, including the Black Panthers. Drug use was a factor in undermining the cause and was a major influence on Mr Sharrieff’s lifelong hatred of narcotics. Mr Sharrieff blamed American authorities for creating a drug epidemic. He told the Mid-Ocean News in 2006: “There was a lot of revolutionary activity and they wanted to break it up. They got a lot of revolutionaries involved in drugs and it devastated the cities and devastated the civil rights struggle, because people stopped thinking about the struggle and started thinking about making dollars.” Mr Sharrieff was a major force in the formation of Bermudians Against Narcotics in 2005. The group demanded action against drug activity hotspots and pushed for mandatory drug testing to be introduced for MPs. Mr Sharrieff moved from the Nation of Islam to the orthodox faith and helped to unite the island’s Muslim community in the process. Friend Khalid Wasi in an online tribute called Mr Sharrieff, his wife Edna and wider family a “backbone” for the island’s Muslim community. Mr Wasi said Mr Sharrieff was a “pragmatic believer”. He added: “He was never ambivalent, I don’t recall ever having to guess where he stood on a matter. He was always resolute.” Mr Sharrieff emphasized the influence of his faith on his activism when Christians and Muslims banded together to campaign against drugs. He said: “In the past we have been a private group of people, but now we see a need to enter the society in terms of politics and economics. We are citizens of the island and engage in many activities. I am excited about the fact that we have decided to step out as a strong and united community, as to not make a contribution would be a sin.” Philip Perinchief called his brother “a strong, righteous, and fearless freedom fighter, a loving father, and a loyal and supportive brother who will remain with me always”. Mr Perinchief added: “Death cannot separate us, and has merely deepened our bond.”

December 30. Olivia Hamilton’s self-confidence took a nosedive at the beginning of the year. After singing and performing for close to two decades, the 28-year-old started to question why she hadn’t had her “big break”. “It was definitely a hard time this year and I began feeling like my window for opportunity in the music industry had passed, like I was too old to pursue my dreams.  I felt like I should let it go and move on, but my faith is what helped to change my mind. I know that God doesn’t make any mistakes and that He has given me this gift for a reason. I just had to stop playing small and go for it. I took a leap of faith and the opportunities have just started coming.” Ms Hamilton is the opening act at the City of Hamilton’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. American R&B artist Keri Hilson and Bermuda band Working Title will also perform at the free event on Front Street. It’s just one of the gigs she’s been blessed with recently. “It’s amazing what happens when you make the decision yourself for your life,” she said. “Only you and God know how you feel and what it’s going to require to chase your dreams. And only you have to deal with the consequences. I have to constantly remind myself of that so, while 2017 was a year for learning and challenges, I believe 2018 will be a year of restoration. I’m hoping everything will get back into alignment and believe everything I’ve been through career-wise, professionally and personally, has brought me to where I am today and has made me ready for such a time as this.” Ms Hamilton started singing in the church as a young child. Her faith grew at Heritage Worship Centre where her grandfather, Reverend Dr Goodwin Smith, was the Bishop. “I believe the opportunities and the blessings coming to me now are because of the faith I was raised in,” she said. “I’m an adult and have strayed from my faith along the way, but those early years were the foundation in my relationship with God and what I always go back to. It’s what keeps me grounded.” One thing God helped her to overcome this year was her pattern of negative thinking. The second she realized He was truly on her side everything started to change. She realized God was boosting her self-confidence, telling her that He had given her the power “to do anything. So I feel like, for me, one of the biggest lessons I have learnt in 2017 is to decide who you are according to God, and not who people say you are. We live on a small island and everyone thinks they know you, but the second you start to see yourself the way that God sees you — that you are fearfully and wonderfully made — that’s when things get better. Even when a million people around you are saying ‘no’ and doors are closing in your face, God has the final say. He knows you are worthy.” Ms Hamilton has decided to commit “100 per cent” to her music this year. She had built up a hair extension supply business but realized the venture wasn’t fulfilling her the way that singing always had. “I didn’t think I could do that for the rest of my life because I wasn’t passionate about it,” she said. “That’s when I felt in my spirit and told myself, ‘You know what, I’m going to at least try to do the things I love and see if my gift will make a way for me’.” Danilee Trott at the City of Hamilton helped open up opportunities: Ms Hamilton was host on the red carpet at the City Fashion Festival; in March she will perform as part of an international tour with Savvy Entertainment. Ms Hamilton is confident those who come out on Sunday won’t be disappointed. “This is an amazing free event and it’s going to have amazing entertainment, food and music, as well as good vibes,” she added. “You can come out and bring your kids or your elderly parents and there will be something for everyone to enjoy.”

December 29. The Editors, Bloomberg View. Opinion. "Seven years ago, the US led an effort to address a problem facing governments everywhere. Each year, people manage to avoid paying an estimated $2.5 trillion in income tax — a giant sum that could be used to combat poverty, update infrastructure or lower tax rates for law-abiding citizens. Now, however, the US is becoming one of the world’s best places to hide money from the tax collector. It’s a distinction that the country would do well to shed. In 2009, amid growing budget deficits and a tax-fraud scandal at Swiss bank UBS AG, the Group of 20 developed and developing nations came to an agreement: they would no longer tolerate the network of havens, shell companies and secret accounts that had long abetted tax evasion. A year later, the US passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which required foreign financial institutions to report the identities and assets of potential US taxpayers to the Internal Revenue Service. Under threat of losing access to the US financial system, more than 100 countries — including such traditional havens as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands — are complying or have agreed to comply. The US was expected to reciprocate, by sharing data on the accounts of foreign taxpayers with their respective governments. Yet Congress rejected the Obama Administration’s repeated requests to make the necessary changes to the tax code. As a result, the Treasury cannot compel US banks to reveal information such as account balances and names of beneficial owners. The US has also failed to adopt the so-called Common Reporting Standard, a global agreement under which more than 100 countries will automatically provide each other with even more data than FATCA requires. While the rest of the world provides the transparency that the US demanded, the US is rapidly becoming the new Switzerland. Financial institutions catering to the global elite, such as Rothschild & Co and Trident Trust Co, have moved accounts from offshore havens to Nevada, Wyoming and South Dakota. New York lawyers are actively marketing the country as a place to park assets. A Russian billionaire, for example, can put real-estate assets in a US trust and rest assured that neither the US tax authorities nor his home-country government will know anything about it. That’s a level of secrecy that not even Vanuatu can offer. From a certain perspective, all this might look pretty smart: shut down foreign tax havens and then steal their business. That would be the kind of thinking that’s undermining America’s standing in so many areas, from trade to climate change. Instead of using its power to establish an equitable system of global governance, it’s demanding a standard from the rest of the world that it refuses to apply to itself. That isn’t leadership."

December 29. Census results for 2016 are to be examined by Cabinet in the new year. The census, which gathered a range of statistics on the island’s population, was completed between May 2016 and last March. Government said the survey had a 95 per cent response rate. All residents are required by law to complete a census questionnaire. The information is used to help Government, the private sector and the non-profit sector make decisions about Bermuda’s future. Census data has been used to develop plans for building, education, health, employment and other economic and social programmes.

December 29. Sagicor is planning to establish a reinsurance operation in Bermuda, according to an International Monetary Fund report on Barbados. The financial-services giant moved its holding company to Bermuda last year, but continues to be operated from Barbados, its home for 170 years. A report by Barbados Today said the IMF draft report on an October mission in Barbados at the invitation of regulator the Financial Services Commission states that as a follow-up step to the relocation of the holding company, Sagicor plans to establish a reinsurer in Bermuda. “During the mission team’s discussion with the senior management team at Sagicor, we were advised of plans to establish a reinsurance operation in Bermuda, and of the company’s request to the Bermuda Monetary Authority to be the agency responsible for group-wide supervision,” stated the draft report by the three-member IMF team of Ralph Lewars, Lawrie Savage and Rodolfo Wehrhahn. The team noted that the insurance giant had not established any operational entity in Bermuda as of the date of the mission, and the senior management team was still operating out of Barbados. The Sagicor group does business through more than 50 subsidiaries in 21 countries including the US, spanning a range of businesses such as general insurance, commercial banking, mutual funds, investment advisory services, property management, pension fund asset administration and other financial and non-financial businesses. The IMF team had concerns over the effectiveness of the regulation of Sagicor, saying the FSC in Barbados was “currently not in a position to conduct group-wide supervision, and solo supervision is weak”. The report added: “Ultimately, the intensity of supervision carried out by the BMA will depend on the type of entity [or] entities that Sagicor ultimately establish in Bermuda, and the importance and risk posed by that [or] those institutions to Bermuda. Both questions are central to avoid supervisory gaps of the Sagicor Group.” Sagicor is incorporated as a publicly listed holding company with total assets of more than $13 billion.

BitcoinDecember 29. The marketplace for cryptocurrencies has this year expanded from $20 billion to around $450 billion. And it could be heading for $1 trillion, according to Stan Stalnaker, who helped create the world’s first digital currency, the Bermuda-based Ven. He has shared his views on cryptocurrencies, highlighting the opportunities and the dangers. “We see digital assets like Ven and bitcoin and everything else as a new asset class. They are not an equity and they are not a currency or a commodity. They are a digital asset, often a tokenized asset, that represents something else. It is that token that everyone is mad for right now,” he said. As has been seen during the past two weeks, this new asset class is not for the faint-hearted. The value of bitcoin, the world’s best-known cryptocurrency, has swung from $19,000 to $12,000 and back to $14,000. “The question is, is it a bubble? Yes. But how big is the bubble going to get and how much of it is fundamentally real, so that after the bubble bursts or a major decline in valuations, how much will be left over in this new industry?” Mr Stalnaker is a founding director of Bermuda-headquartered Hub Culture, an online social network with 45,000 members around the world. The organisation created and manages Ven, a digital currency which has existed since 2007. A number of countries are starting national cryptocurrency exchanges, with India due to launch its next month, and China will be close behind. “In the US you have many exchanges cleared and operating with regulatory oversight,” said Mr Stalnaker. Examples of exchanges in the US are Gemini, in New York, and GDAX. “So, all of a sudden it is legitimate and it is being regulated and people are looking at the AML [anti-money laundering] and KYC [know your customer] and on-board funds. In a way, it has been co-opted into the main stream. There is a lot more room for growth. With the clearance on the Nasdaq and the CME it is almost inevitable that bitcoin will be on every exchange in the world, or most of them. Beyond that the top 20, or top 100 digital currencies will follow it onto the trading markets. So this is not day one, but it’s pretty much week two. It will hit a trillion dollar market, or more.” But Mr Stalnaker also strikes a cautionary note. “How much of that is froth and over-exuberance remains to be seen. But clearly a large portion of it is. The ultimate fundamentals are somewhat divorced from the reality of the prices right now.” Looking at the wider economic picture, he said it is possible that digital currencies will be the “saviour” of the Federal Reserve. Noting that the Fed has pumped $1 trillion into the US economy since the financial crisis of 2008, he said money flowing into digital assets was “soaking up some of that extra dollarisation. Even if there is a crash in the markets, that will vaporize some of that extra money the Fed put into the economy, which will strengthen the overall economy. If cryptocurrencies become too collateralized it would present a systemic risk. That’s a very different thing. But at the moment these are credit assets, not debit assets, we are not borrowing against these things. It’s the credit side of digital assets that are creating all the momentum and value. People are putting money into this new asset. If the asset vaporizes, as long as it is a credit asset and not collateralized, it should not have too much of an impact on the wider economy, and it would probably be good to vaporize some of that money that got plugged into the general economy. But if you’re a general investor you would not want to see it vaporized.” And he warned: “We always tell people not to invest anything more than they are prepared to lose because anything can happen. An exchange could be hacked, the protocol could be hacked, and the markets could swing the other way.” Looking ahead to where bitcoin might go next, he said: “Internally we thought there was a one-in-100 chance of bitcoin getting to $10,000, but now that it has hit that, we think there is a one-in-ten chance of it getting to $100,000. From a percentage gain standpoint it is all happening at what we call the alt coins. For example, ripple went up 300 per cent the other week. There are many different coins launching that have multibillion dollar, or hundred-million dollar market caps, and a lot of the money that is in bitcoin can flow out and go into those alt coins. So you could still see tremendous growth just because there is so much money sloshing around in the market.” As for Hub Culture and its digital currency Ven, Mr Stalnaker said: “We are building a markets function on Hub Culture that will have pricing between fiat currencies and all sorts of digital assets so you can, at least ,compare pricing, and we have syndicates that are booming right now. A lot of people buying Ven are then going to the digital asset section of the store and investing in the syndicates.” He said Hub Culture is also having discussions with a “major online retailer” that wants to include Ven in a possible new storefront.

December 29. Telecommunications firm TeleBermuda International Ltd has been bought out by the East End Group in partnership with Celeritas Ltd. EEG owns the wireless internet service provider Bluewave and is a public safety and wireless communications provider. Celeritas is a Bermuda-based telecommunication investment firm and a subsidiary of the Mayfair Group. TBi provides voice and internet services, as well as managed information technology services. In a press release today, the EEG stated: “This acquisition ensures that TBi will continue to provide the highest level of service to their clients, and more importantly, remain a Bermudian-owned company. The purchase also offers the opportunity to leverage synergies between EET, TBi and Bluewave, Bermuda’s newest high-speed wireless internet service provider. The aim is to build on each company’s core competencies to solidify their positions as consistent providers of innovative products and services. To ensure a seamless transition for TBi clients, its current president Greg Swan will be retained during the transition period. TBi clients will be directly contacted regarding this acquisition. It is anticipated that the immediate impact on their accounts will be insignificant.”

December 29. Former government minister Jeff Baron has hit the road on a Harley Davidson in the US to raise cash for charity. Mr Baron’s epic motorbike trip through Texas, Arizona and on to the California coast will cover more than 1,350 miles to support children’s charity Big Brothers Big Sisters. Mr Baron — riding under the banner of “just me, a Harley and the road” — said on his GoFundMe page: “A penny a mile? A dollar a mile? You decide. Any amount will help kids here in Bermuda find mentors and lifelong friends.” A post and video on his Facebook page called on donors to join in and “start the new year off by making those less fortunate a little more fortunate”. Mr Baron, a former One Bermuda Alliance senator and now the party’s MP for Warwick North East, started his trip yesterday in Dallas and traveled almost 800 miles to the Lone Star State’s Fort Hancock. He is scheduled to head into Arizona today and travel from Phoenix to Yuma before the final leg to San Diego. The appeal had notched up $3,384 of Mr Baron’s $5,000 goal by noon Texas time yesterday. The weather in West Texas is cloudy but relatively warm, at least by day, with temperatures above freezing in Fort Hancock — a small community on the border between the US and Mexico.

December 29. A Pembroke man caught with a small quantity of cannabis and scales was yesterday fined $1,800. Michael Clamens was stopped on Gibbs Hill in Southampton on May 11 after police spotted him driving erratically. Officers arrested the 40-year-old on suspicion of impaired driving after smelling intoxicants on his breath and noticing he was unsteady on his feet. When Clamens was searched, police discovered two twists of cannabis in his pockets, more than $200 in cash and a set of scales. Clamens admitted possessing cannabis which was intended for supply and possessing scales for use in connection with the preparation of a controlled drug. Clamens told the court: “The whole situation was just a reckless situation. I do apologize.” Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo imposed a fine of $1,500 for possession of cannabis and a $300 fine for possession of the scales. The fines must be paid by January 31.

December 29. A fight in which a woman threw gasoline over another woman and tried to set her ablaze has led Southampton Rangers Club to organize an anti-violence forum. Jason Wade, president of the club, said the Christmas Eve attack was “a very unfortunate incident that occurred in the public road outside the club”. He added the “chat and chew” event at the club would be used to try to come up with ways to deter violence and antisocial behavior. The move came after sports clubs earlier this year vowed to tap into the community to clamp down on disorder. A symposium organized by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity was held in March. It is understood a woman has been arrested in connection with the gasoline attack, which came after closing time and was unsuccessful, and Mr Wade commended Rangers’ security for leaving their post inside the club grounds to tackle the fight. He added: “The club has been fully co-operative in assisting authorities with this matter and the offender has been banned from the premises. With all of the positive community events that the club has been hosting, the Southampton Rangers community will not let the actions of this individual deter us from the goals the club has set.” Mr Wade said: “The January gathering is planned for the public to collectively come together to give ideas and assistance to make the club a better community club for all.”

December 28. The US tax overhaul is symptomatic of growing protectionism around the world threatening the global business model of Bermudian reinsurers. That is the view of Bradley Kading, outgoing president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, who added that provisions in new tax laws that discriminate against foreign reinsurers could spark a trade war between the US and the European Union. The US reforms, which will slash the US corporate tax rate to 21 per cent from 35 per cent, and which will levy a base erosion anti-abuse tax on affiliated reinsurance business, will have an “individualised” impact among Abir members, Mr Kading said. Meanwhile analysts at US investment bank Keefe Bruyette & Woods said they expected such intra-company cessions to “largely disappear” under the impact of Beat. While US domestic insurers would be the winners under tax reform, consumers would be the losers, Mr Kading argued. He said that according to economic reports partly funded by Abir, affiliated reinsurance represents about $18 billion of supply to the US market, or about one eighth of the total reinsurance market — and the loss of it could lead to US consumers paying more than $5 billion a year extra for insurance. It would also require insurers to hold tens of billions of dollars more in capacity simply to cover today’s probable maximum losses. “The bigger picture is that this US tax law is an example of growing protectionism around the world,” Mr Kading said. “We estimate that there are 24 jurisdictions with restrictions on cross-border reinsurance. If you are a global reinsurer and your business model is to pool global risk on one balance sheet to get the benefits of diversification, then protectionism, in the form of regulation or tax provisions, is dangerous.” Before the US Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, finance ministers from the largest EU economies, as well as the Swiss Government and the European Commission, all wrote to the US Treasury stating that new legislation would be in breach of international trade rules. The possibility of retaliation by the EU and a potential consequent trade war could spark further protectionism and greater difficulties for global businesses like Bermuda reinsurers, Mr Kading added. The outgoing Abir president, who retires at the end of this year to be replaced by John Huff, added that it was impossible to gauge the impact on the Bermuda market as a whole. “There are four separate and distinct parts of the market: captives, property and casualty, life and the alternative capital sector — and the tax legislation will affect these different sectors very differently,” Mr Kading said. Company impact will depend partly on the concentration of US business, particularly that written by a US subsidiary which then cedes premiums back to the Bermudian reinsurer. This affiliated business is targeted by Beat, which effectively imposes a gross tax of 5 per cent on these transactions next year, rising to 10 per cent from 2019 and 12.5 per cent from 2026. Beat was “designed to be punitive”, Mr Kading said. According to Meyer Shields, an analyst with Keefe Bruyette and Woods, the new tax will not only virtually end the practice of cross-border affiliated reinsurance, but will also make third-party business — not impacted by Beat — less attractive. “From a financial perspective, we think lower domestic US tax rates will roughly offset taxes associated with intra-company cessions (particularly excise taxes and taxes applied to presumably profitable ceding commissions) that we think will largely disappear under the new tax regime, which is why our Bermuda earnings per share estimates aren’t changing much. On the other hand, we think there’s something of a strategic downside to the Bermudians, for two reasons. First, they are losing the pricing advantage embedded in tax rates that had been lower than those anticipated for domestic carriers. Second, and probably less significant, the shrinking difference between US and Bermudian tax rates means an incrementally smaller opportunity for tax arbitrage that should incrementally reduce demand for reinsurance. This is not to suggest that tax arbitrage outranks capital needs and earnings and/or balance sheet protection as a motivation for buying reinsurance. But it seems important to recognize that on the margins, one of the benefits of buying reinsurance from unaffiliated third parties is declining.”

December 28. The impact of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and major wildfires in the US, is clearly shown in a graph tracking combined ratios for reinsurance companies. Data up to the end of the third quarter shows that this year is on track to be the worst year for reinsurers, in terms of combined ratio profitability metric, since 2005 when the US gulf states were hit by hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Combined ratio is calculated by taking the sum of losses incurred and dividing by earned premium. A ratio above 100 per cent means a company is paying out more money in claims and expenses than it is collecting from premiums. The combined ratio for Guy Carpenter Reinsurance Composite is above 110 per cent after the first nine months of this year.

2017 reinsurance composite graph

December 28. Bermuda-based reinsurance firm Validus Holdings is sponsoring a $400 million catastrophe bond issuance. The issuance will be made through the newly formed Bermuda special purpose insurer Tailwind Re Ltd in the form of three tranches with varying levels of risk. The bonds will be listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange, which confirmed the admission to listing yesterday. The transaction will provide retrocession and reinsurance to Validus Re, Talbot Underwriting and Validus’s syndicate at Lloyd’s of London, Western World and other subsidiaries of the firm, according to the alternative risk transfer website Artemis.bm. The Tailwind Re 2017-1 cat bond will provide coverage for multiple perils of US, Canada, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, named storms and earthquakes. The reinsurance protection from the Tailwind Re 2017-1 cat bond will run for a four-year period. Artemis reported that the offering was increased 23 per cent from the initially targeted amount to $400 million during marketing, as strong demand allowed the price guidance to drop below the initially marketed range for each tranche.

Validus Group

See item above

December 28. The Salvation Army has been given $10,000 by the owners of the Hamilton Princess. The Green family made the donation in support of the charity’s work during Christmas and throughout the year. Andrew Green thanked the organisation for “the important work that the Salvation Army does in our community”. He added: “We are pleased to make this contribution to assist with their many important programmes over the holiday season and into the new year.” Salvation Army spokesman Calvin Ming said the charity had been “blessed by their support for some time”. Mr Ming added: “With 1,200 families and as many as 1,800 individuals in need this holiday season, donations such as this are particularly welcome. Our work also continues throughout the year, and we look forward to continuing to serve the Bermuda public in the new year, in the name of God and our generous donors, such as the Green family.”

December 28. A would-be Christmas Eve robber armed with a saw blade fled empty-handed after a supermarket cashier refused to hand over cash. A senior staff member at Arnold’s in St John’s Road, Pembroke, said yesterday: “Our butcher was talking to a customer at the back of the store when he heard the cashier at the front calling. He ran to the front but he was already gone before he got there. The man said to the cashier he didn’t want to hurt anyone, he just needed money. But the cashier told him she couldn’t open the register.” Staff said the raider wore a helmet and a surgical bandage over most of his face when he entered the store. The masked man fled the supermarket after he threatened the woman with the blade. The incident happened at about 6.40pm and police have appealed for witnesses. In a separate incident on Saturday, police said a passenger on a motorcycle was arrested after he was caught by police with a knife and “a quantity of plantlike material”. The man was caught after the bike was stopped at a police checkpoint on South Road at about 8.30pm. A police spokesman added that 48 people were arrested for various offences over the Christmas period. A total of ten people were arrested on suspicion of drink driving and 50 tickets were issued for offences including drugs, theft and traffic violations.

December 28. A woman tourist was fined $1,000 after she admitted dodging a hotel bill and cab fare. Molisa Muyembe checked out of the Rosemont Hotel in Hamilton on November 2 — but the bank card used for the reservation was declined, Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday. She told staff that she could not pay the $324 bill, but that a friend had a credit card. Muyembe, 24, from Britain, left the hotel in a cab but went straight to the airport, where she told the driver she would have to use an ATM to pay the $42 fare. Instead, she went into the airport and was waiting to board a plane when police arrested her. Defence lawyer Victoria Greening said Muyembe had been invited to Bermuda by a friend from university for what she was told was an “all-expenses-paid” three-day trip. But on arrival she found out they were only to spend a single night on the island. The pair fell out and the friend left her cashless with the hotel room booked in her name. Ms Greening said Muyembe took the taxi to the airport in “desperation” to catch her flight. She added that the hotel had been paid and Muyembe intended to pay the taxi driver. Muyembe apologized to the court and promised it would never happen again. Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo told Muyembe: “When you lay down with fleas, you will get up with them too. This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and must be discouraged.” Mr Tokunbo fined Muyembe $500 for each offence and also ordered she pay the taxi fare.

December 28. A Christmas Eve bid to set a woman ablaze after a clash at a sports club was yesterday being probed by police. A woman threw what is believed to have been gasoline over another woman and tried to set her on fire with a lighter after an argument at Southampton Rangers Sports Club. But her attempt to burn her victim was unsuccessful and a brawl broke out, which was ended after others stepped in. Executives at the club — which has been hit by antisocial behavior and violence — met last night to discuss the latest incident. Jason Wade, the club’s president, told The Royal Gazette: “This was indeed a very unfortunate incident that occurred in the public road outside the club once the event had ended. Our security that were on duty must be commended as they left their post inside the club grounds to deal with this incident. The club has been fully cooperative in assisting authorities with this matter and the offender has been banned from the premises. With all of the positive community events that the club has been hosting the Southampton Rangers Community will not let the actions of this individual deter us from the goals the club has set. The Southampton Rangers Club will be hosting a community Chat and Chew in January where the community can collectively come together to give ideas and assistance to make the club a better community club for all.” Earlier this year, Mr Wade urged the Government to maintain “constant involvement with the clubs”, rather than responding after incidents. Other football clubs have also become unwilling magnets for violence and troublemakers. Southampton East MP Zane DeSilva, also Minister of Social Development and Sport, last night said: “We are trying to get Rangers and the community to do more together — and they are. Unfortunately, there are some in the community who make this a challenge — but we will keep battling.” Mr DeSilva last year called for government financial assistance to help reduce the club’s reliance on alcohol sales. He added that Rangers faced extra pressure as the only club to pay rent for its field. Mr DeSilva told the House of Assembly at the time: “It is no secret that one of the biggest revenue generators in our clubs is the sale of alcohol.” Patrons at the club on Tuesday afternoon reported a number of armed police in the area. But The Royal Gazette understands that the presence of the firearms officers was not linked to a specific event.

December 28. A 74-year-old taxi driver was arrested last night on suspicion of driving while impaired, according to police. Police attended the scene of the accident on North Shore Road, Devonshire, just before 9pm, where the driver had apparently lost control and struck a wall. A police spokesman said that an investigation had been launched.

December 27. Chubb Limited, which has offices in Bermuda, expects to record a one-time benefit from the new US tax law in excess of $250 million in the fourth quarter of this year. Chubb’s preliminary estimate reflects the one-time impact of the reduced US corporate income tax rate and the deemed repatriation of foreign subsidiary earnings on the company’s net deferred tax liability position.

December 27. A new company is to offer enhanced due diligence investigations and reports aimed at helping businesses avoid falling foul of increased regulations, and suffering reputational damage. Searchlight is a spin-off from Oyster Consulting (Bermuda). The team will include experienced staff who have worked in the fields of law enforcement, investigation, compliance and fraud detection. Henry Komansky is part of the team, and he explained the importance of knowing who you are dealing with in the business world, whether it be your own staff and directors, or clients and third-party vendors. He said that need has never been higher because getting it wrong can result in substantial damage to a business’s brand and reputation. Reputational damage is now widely viewed as the top risk-management concern globally. It has topped the list of a number of surveys in the past few years, including this year's Aon PLC’s Global Risk Management Survey. And with more stringent regulations being enacted, including anti-money laundering and antiterrorism financing regimes, and Bermuda’s Bribery and Corruption Act 2016, there is a need and demand for enhanced due diligence services, according to Mr Komansky. “We see a need in the regulated industries and other areas,” he said. Mr Komansky is a consultant at Oyster, and he has extensive experience in business compliance and analysis, including working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He is confident Searchlight can provide the enhanced due diligence that is needed by drawing on the in-depth expertise of its team. “We have got a lot of experience and we are excited about the product we offer. We have done enhanced due diligence work, and we want to set the standard.” He explained that businesses need to conduct checks and be diligent about the staff they have in critical positions, about their clients, potential clients, and third-party vendors and consultants. A certain level of information can be obtained through open source researching, but more comprehensive checks can be undertaken through other avenues, including closed sources. Mr Komansky said the services being offered by Searchlight would be useful for a number of reasons, such as better protecting a business from involving itself in an individual or client that could present a reputational risk. “There are lots of examples of business going under because of this [reputational damage].” He said that it was important to know the background of directors, or potential directors, and of other leading officers within an organisation. Searchlight will be able to offer considered opinions based on its analysis of a person or entity. By having an enhanced due diligence regime “you set yourself up to a higher standard”, said Mr Komansky. “You protect your business and you are more comfortable with the clients you are bringing in. It enables a business to go to the next level because it has a better handle on who its clients are.”

December 27. A Bermudian actress has landed a role in one of the biggest video games of the year and a place in the Star Wars universe. Kristen Darrell’s voice is among those featured in Star Wars Battlefront II, which has sold millions of copies since its release last month. “Realising that I was going to be a part of the Star Wars universe was amazing,” Ms Darrell said. “It was like Christmas and my birthday all at once. I still can’t believe it has happened.” Ms Darrell, who has appeared in numerous theatre productions locally, moved to London, with the goal of making a career in acting. She has landed several roles since, including in music videos and a commercial for Kyleena. “It’s been great hearing from people telling me that they have seen me on TV,” she said. “I came home for a bit this summer, and I was amazed at how often the commercial was playing. Every time I see it, I smile.” She said her most recent role came about after her agent won her an audition. “I loved the material they gave me at the audition and I really hoped I’d get the role,” she said. “I didn’t hear back for a while, and then my agent called me to ask if I was available for recording, and I said I was definitely available. I enjoyed the voice acting process because you don’t have to worry about what the rest of your body is doing, you just have to make sure it’s all in your voice. It was challenging at times, but in the best way. It helps you to realize how important your voice is in acting, and that you need to take care of it just as much as the rest of your body.” Unlike theatre acting, she said she had to create much of the scene and story for her character in her head. “You have to have a really good imagination, and you have to be good at taking direction because they can ask you to do a take five times, and you have to do something different every time,” she said. The game features a story mode, which details the period between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and an online multiplayer mode set throughout the Star Wars series. While Ms Darrell said she couldn’t say much about her character, she thoroughly enjoyed the game. “I thought it was amazing,” Ms Darrell said. “It’s really cool to see the direction they took it, and it was amazing to hear myself while I was playing. It was distracting sometimes though, and I would lose a life sometimes because it took me by surprise.” Ms Darrell has many other projects in the pipeline, many of which she cannot discuss, but she also has a role in the Bermudian-based Maternal Secrets. Asked what advice she could give to other Bermudians looking to pursue a career in acting, she said they need to learn where their strengths lie as a person. “When you get in front of people in the industry, they want to see you, not what you think they want you to be. Most, if not all, of the best actors in the business are successful because they stayed true to themselves. Also, if acting is what you truly see yourself doing, you have to keep at it. It’s not going to be easy, but eventually the hard work will pay off.” Ms Darrell said those interested in acting can start locally by working with theatre groups around the island. “There are many local drama organisations that put on shows and workshops in Bermuda, and they are always looking for new people to get involved.” The advice and encouragement I got locally is one of the reasons I decided to pursue acting as a career, and I will always be grateful for it.”

December 27. A police officer has kept his driving licence — after he drove the wrong way down a one-way street and forced terrified motorcyclists to swerve out of his way. Officers who found the off-duty officer and an off-duty colleague in a bar after the incident but failed to take any action have been disciplined. The incident, which happened on Church Street and Parliament Street in Hamilton, was captured on CCTV and has now been referred to the Police Complaints Authority. It is understood patrol officers tracked down the car, which was parked on Front Street, and later traced the two off-duty male officers to a nearby bar. The two were not in uniform and the car was privately owned but the pair were recognized as police officers. The incident happened on June 22 at around 12.30am. Motorcyclist Sirkka Huish was one of the people who had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. She said: “As I rode along Church Street, I saw a car coming towards me at speed. I kept thinking the car would stop or change direction but it just kept coming straight at me. It’s the last thing you expect to see on a one-way street. I had to swerve at the last-minute to avoid an accident. There were tourists on another bike screaming that the car was going the wrong way.” Ms Huish, a former reporter at The Royal Gazette, added: “It was at the end of the America’s Cup and it was only luck that someone wasn’t seriously injured or even worse. This could have easily resulted in a very serious accident.” Ms Huish was not asked to give a witness statement as part of the investigation because police said they had enough evidence from CCTV footage to prosecute. She added: “This was by far the worst display of driving I have seen in Bermuda. The off-duty officer demonstrated the epitome of dangerous driving and this is, ironically, the type of behavior police are trying to stamp out on the island’s roads.” The officer behind the wheel of the car was later fined $800 and had ten penalty points imposed on his licence after an appearance in Magistrates’ Court. The Bermuda Police Service apologized on behalf of the officer who was driving the car and said he had “let them down” and showed “exceptional disregard for traffic laws”. Acting Chief Inspector Robert Cardwell wrote in an e-mail to Ms Huish: “This incident of exceptional disregard for the traffic laws in place in the City of Hamilton was captured on the CCTV. The off-duty officer driving the car the wrong way and the off-duty officer with him were both identified. The driver of the car was prosecuted for an offence of driving without due care and attention after we consulted with the Director of Public Prosecutions on the appropriate charges to bring. The on-duty officers initially attending this report have been dealt with internally under the Police (Conduct) Orders 2016 as a result of perceived performance issues that came to light in reviewing their response to this report and their perceived inaction in dealing with it appropriately at the time.” Mr Cardwell also apologized on behalf of the officer for his “extremely bad judgment”. He wrote: “We try hard within the police service to ensure that all of our staff act appropriately at all times. The reality is that we are an organisation of humans so there will always be the few that will let us down.”

December 26. Bermuda’s Gombey troupes took to the streets today for their traditional Boxing Day performance. Neighborhoods across the island were greeted by the sounds of drums and dancers. Places Gombeys danced across Devonshire this morning and H&H Gombeys performed in the Crawl Hill area of Hamilton Parish. Dozens of revelers crowded My Lord’s Bay Lane in Hamilton Parish this morning to watch the troupe perform. One spectator, who asked not to be named, said: “This is the Bermudian spirit. This is who we are. “It’s important that we keep this, pass it on to our children, because it’s a unique part of our culture, a beautiful part of our culture.” Gombey troupes perform at events throughout the year, but come out in force on Boxing Day. The root of the performance comes from Africa - “gombey” means “rhythm” in Bantu. The Bermuda Gombey tradition started with slaves, who were allowed to gather on holidays, especially Christmas. Gombeys were banned in 1761, but the tradition survived and the ban was later lifted.

December 26. Flu shots designed for babies and toddlers are expected to be available this week. Supplies of Trivalent — for children aged from six months to 35 months — could be in clinics by Friday, depending on clearance. Quadrivalent influenza vaccine, suitable for adults and children aged three and up, is already available and the Department of Health said the shots can be had at Government clinics and at some private doctors’ surgeries. The cost of the vaccine is $10 for adults and children. Seniors, those aged over 65, get the shots free. Flu shots are available on the ground floor of Hamilton Health Centre between 8.30am and 11.30am and on Wednesdays only between 2pm and 4pm. Warwick Health Centre will provide shots between 2pm and 4pm on Tuesdays throughout January. St George’s Health Centre will make the shots available every Thursday in January between 2pm and 4pm. A spokesman for the health department said: “Flu vaccine can keep you from getting flu, make flu less severe if you do get it and keep you from spreading flu to your family and other people, especially newborns and young infants, children, seniors and persons at risk of complications from the flu. It can help reduce absenteeism from work or school due to influenza.” He added: “By protecting yourself against influenza, you are also protecting your family, your household, your workplace and ultimately your community.” People under doctor’s care for chronic medical conditions and children aged under three should get a prescription for flu immunization from their private physician. For more information on influenza visit https://www.gov.bm/health-data-and-monitoring under disease fact sheets or call 278-6460.

December 26. Boxing Day Public Holiday.

Monday, December 25. Christmas Day Public Holiday. Hundreds of revelers gathered at Elbow Beach this morning to celebrate Christmas with sun, sand and champagne. Santa hats and swimsuits lined the beach as part of what has become a modern tradition. Doug Watford, who is visiting the island with his family, said he was told about the festivities only after arriving earlier this week. “As soon as we heard, we knew this was something we had to do,” he said. “The sun is out, the weather is good, the kids are having a blast. I don’t know if I can go back to winter in New Hampshire.” As of 11.30am, parking had already become a challenge with the steady stream of beach goers showing no signs of slowing.

Sunday, December 24. Christmas Eve. Derek Morris, an entrepreneur and musician whose businesses entertained locals and visitors alike, has died at the age of 66. A keen observer and commentator on the island’s hospitality industry, Mr Morris ran Bermuda Island Cruises with his brother Donald, operating tours and themed parties for decades. The group’s “pirate parties” and other festive excursions to Hawkins Island ran during the heydays of local tourism, but many of the Morris brothers’ clientele were locals seeking a good night out. In a 2005 interview, Mr Morris looked back on the struggle balancing his early days working as an accountant with his late nights playing music, ultimately leading him to a job with Kitson & Co, and his introduction to the cruise business. “They owned the BIC then, and my first job was entertaining on the boats, talking to the tourists, and occasionally playing for them,” he recalled. Mr Morris rose in the ranks, eventually taking over the company’s group tours — which he and his brother bought in 1984. Spotting a growing market, the brothers developed touring, with Donald Morris “the leading force”, his brother said — building new boats and developing group charters and evening tours. Mr Morris also ran Bermuda Incentives & Conventions. “Put the customer first,” was his business mantra, Mr Morris told The Royal Gazette. He brought his hospitality expertise to the Bermuda National Trust, where he served as executive director for a stint in 2007. Mr Morris also served as a union representative for entertainers. Reggae singer Biggie Irie paid tribute to his “boss and friend” in a post online, extending condolences to his wife Kyle, his son Alex and daughter Stephanie. Recalling Mr Morris’s passion for music, he wrote: “I will always remember and love Derek Morris. He was a great human being and a gentleman. I will miss him.”

December 23. By Governor John Rankin. Christmas Message.  "I have now served in Bermuda for a full year and I am grateful for the warm welcome I have received from all those whom I have met since my arrival, both officially and unofficially. A lot has happened in those 365 days; there have been times of celebration and some times of sorrow. There have been many occasions to celebrate Bermuda and its people, including of course at the annual Bermuda Day Parade and at Cup Match. The year 2017 included the successful hosting of the 35th America’s Cup on the Great Sound, which was attended by among others, the Princess Royal, and in which Team BDA contested so well in the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup. There were also excellent performances from our athletes in other sporting arenas — at the Island Games in Gotland, Sweden; at the Central American and Caribbean Swimming Confederation Championships in Trinidad & Tobago; and at the Caribbean Women’s Under-17 football qualifiers in Haiti. I also know that much of the island celebrated when Nahki Wells helped to promote Huddersfield Town to the Premier League and when Flora Duffy won her second consecutive World Triathlon Series title in October. Both of these athletes are fine examples to the young people of Bermuda of how far hard work and commitment, combined of course with great skill, can take you. Commitment, hard work and achievement were also recognized during the visit of Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex in March. While here the Earl met some of the many young people who participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award programme on the island each year and presented them with their Award certificates. In a year of hurricanes, Bermuda has been fortunate to have only had a few close calls. The same could not be said of our neighbors to the east, in Texas and Florida, and the south. While Bermuda was spared the wrath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, our sister islands of Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, among others, were not as fortunate. All of Bermuda can be proud of the way that the members of our Royal Bermuda Regiment and the Bermuda Police Service volunteered to deploy to the affected islands and help with much needed hurricane relief. They endured very difficult conditions, but made a real difference in helping so many people whose homes and lives had been very badly affected by the hurricanes. At a thank-you reception held at Government House soon after their return home, I had a chance to speak with many of the volunteers who all said how rewarding they had found the experience and how invaluable their training in Bermuda had been, allowing them to provide the help that was needed. Here at home in Bermuda, also, I have been struck by the excellent work done by so many charities and volunteers in helping those in need. Organisations such as Pals, providing support and assistance to cancer patients; Family Centre, working with vulnerable children and families; and Scars, tackling child sex abuse, can and do make a real difference. I applaud all those who voluntarily spend so much of their time and resources in support of such charitable work. While having much to celebrate within our community over the past year, the island has also suffered losses. We have lost too many members of our community to road traffic accidents, while others have suffered serious injury. Many of these accidents are as a result of behavior that can be changed. We all must do our best to discourage impaired driving and speeding, and to encourage people to slow down and drive safely. We have also lost far too many members of the community, in particular young men, to the scour of drugs and gang-related atrocities. I welcome the efforts of all those who are working to address this issue. If all of us do our part, perhaps we may see a change for the better in 2018. My thoughts and prayers go out to anyone who has lost a family member this year, as a result of violent crime, a road traffic accident or through some other fashion. There are many responsibilities connected to my role as Governor of Bermuda, including defence, policing and internal security. I also have responsibilities for external affairs and it is my duty to help to ensure the observance of international obligations. In that context, I was pleased that in March of this year Bermuda’s commitment to gender equality was marked by the extension to this country of the United Nations Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. I also, of course, work closely with the elected government. In July, I experienced my first General Election here and saw the proper and peaceful transition of power from one political party to the other, and had the honour to swear in the new government. In some parts of the world, such peaceful transitions cannot be taken for granted. Bermuda remains a fine example of the continued respect for the tradition of parliamentary democracy, which we must all hold dear. There are two specific occasions that I also find particularly meaningful. First, Remembrance Day, when we remember all those veterans who have served our country in war, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice to maintain the human rights and freedoms that we enjoy today. I was pleased to meet the servicemen and women who took part in the Remembrance Day parade, and it is right to recognize their contribution. The second event, which I find particularly important, is the hosting of honors and awards ceremonies at Government House. At these ceremonies, I have the privilege to present the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour to those who have been recognized in the Queen’s New Year Honors List or Birthday Honors List, as well as long service medals to members of our four services — Bermuda’s regiment, police, fire and corrections. These award recipients are deservingly recognized for their dedication and commitment in support of our community. Both occasions also provide a further opportunity for me to meet Bermudians from all different backgrounds and to learn more about what they do and why. In 2018, I look forward to meeting many more of you and learning what you do to help your fellow men, women and children on this island. At this time, I wish you and your families a very happy Christmas."

December 23. By Premier David Burt. Christmas Message. "There is an African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” As I reflect on those words during this holiday season. I have to pause and acknowledge the significant contribution that my family have played in my life. I must recognize the value of the small but fundamental lessons that I learnt as a child, through our family’s traditions. While having to sit through dinner before we were allowed to open our presents helped to teach us patience, we learnt to appreciate what we were given. I watched as my mother and father welcomed people into our home during the holiday season; that raised my awareness of reaching out to others less fortunate, and the concept of togetherness. I learnt the value of sharing, and that wherever I was able, I should do my part in helping to bring joy to another person’s life. So at a time when most people are racing around buying presents, decorating their homes and preparing a wonderful meal, I encourage you to extend an invitation to someone who will be spending the holidays alone. Many in our community have lost a loved one this year, including my own family. I encourage you to remember families who may be grieving and need a little extra support this Christmas. Take a pot of soup and visit someone that may be ill, buy a bag of groceries for a family that may be struggling this season ... reach out and spend some time with a neighbor who may be alone. Every gesture can go a long way in building a community that truly understands the value of togetherness. As I pass on these values to my children, and spend the holidays enjoying our family, I pray that you and your family have a safe, peaceful and joyous holiday and a happy new year."

December 23. By Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition. Christmas Message. "It is my honour, as leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, to offer my very best wishes for Christmas and the new year to Bermudians near and far and to all Bermuda residents. Christmas provides the perfect opportunity for us all to pause, reflect and celebrate the things that we cherish. It is a time when we turn our minds to what is important: family, friendships, good citizenship and helping others. Christmas is an auspicious time to brighten the spirits of those in need in our community, and giving the gift of time and attention is one of the most beautiful gifts of all. At this time especially, those of us who are fortunate enough to have a festive Christmas should be mindful of the need to reach out to others who, owing to loss, illness or financial circumstances, are going through a challenging time. If one has more than enough, share some of your good fortune with others so that they, too, can have at least enough. The holidays are also an important time to reflect on the “health” of our community; the “Bermuda community”. We are a diverse community composed not only of different ethnicities, races and religions, but of different social backgrounds and life experiences as well. Are we our brother’s (sister’s) keeper and looking out and supporting one another? It is too easy to fall into negative patterns that can have far-reaching effects. We must remember that, as a small country, it is more important than ever to show goodwill towards one other and to strive for peace and unity. It is crucial that we build unity by engaging in acts of kindness, caring and tolerance towards others. We must lift each other up by being respectful, encouraging and understanding, quick to forgive, by staying positive and humble, and sharing our knowledge and experiences. Christmas is also the perfect time to remember the unsung heroes, of which Bermuda has so many. Teachers, caregivers, protective services, our first responders and medical personnel, to name a few. The list is long, but it is the perfect time to thank them for all they do throughout the year. Our recent sporting and other successes on the world stage show that there is much to be proud of as a country, and much to build on as we prepare for the new year and look ahead with hope and courage to realizing all the possibilities that it presents. Looking towards the future, we, as your opposition party, fully appreciate the need to listen more closely to what is being said. It’s about championing causes and supporting legislation that reflect the best interest of the people of Bermuda because indeed we are one Bermuda. In 2018, my new year’s wish is that we think about and reconnect to the values that we want Bermuda to be known for, here and abroad: helpfulness, friendliness, family values, looking out for each other. Make a resolution to put these values in practice. Let the words “Proud to be Bermudian” be our call to action. If we have the will, we have the power. On behalf of the One Bermuda Alliance and my family, I would like to wish everyone a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a new year full of harmony, promise, good health and fulfillment."

December 23. The needy, the homeless and the downtrodden said they felt a true sense of belonging as they gathered for a wholesome Christmas feast. About 200 guests braved the rain on Thursday evening for the Grateful Bread event in the St Andrew’s Church Hall, Hamilton. They received a full plate of homemade food and the opportunity to take home some donated clothes and toiletries. It is the twelfth event this year thanks to Juliana Snelling, her Grateful Bread team and a growing cadre of volunteers who helped to bring not only some festive cheer to the guests but a sense of acceptance and love. There was a high turnout of seniors including one man who enjoyed a rendition of Happy Birthday having recently celebrated his 89th birthday. Sitting down to his ice cream dessert, he told us: “They sang to me — I was born on December 13, in 1928. This event is a good idea — somehow they find a way that they can give back to the community. The good God provides for us.” Another senior named Darlene said the event helped to relieve the stress that comes at Christmas time when you are struggling financially. “I don’t have much, I am living on a pension — a fixed income. I lived in the States for a while so wasn’t paying into the pension. Tonight, I got a full meal — I had some mac and cheese, some turkey, pasta, mash and veg and even some ice cream. I also got a few clothes for my granddaughter and my family. I got this little stuffed animal for my granddaughter, she will love it, it looks almost new.” Her friend Sabirah added: “This is really wonderful for the seniors and the less fortunate. The people serving the food have been beautiful, everything is so well organized.” One woman said that Bermuda’s prices made it difficult to get by day to day. She said: “This is important because it helps the needy people. “For me to buy some stuff it would be hard — Bermuda isn’t cheap. I am not with this church but I do go to church and this is what it is all about. There are people with very few friends or family but here they can have company and good food in a warm safe environment.” Grateful Bread was launched by Ms Snelling and a group of her colleagues at Canterbury Law in January. Every month on the last Thursday they put on a meal for the needy at the hall. In the beginning there were about 30 volunteers but that figure has rocketed to about 120. The volunteers were full of smiles rushing around serving, cleaning, dishing out clothes and engaging with the guests to make them feel at home. Volunteer Stacy Thakur reluctantly shared some thoughts on volunteerism to encourage others to get out and give. “I love volunteering and giving back — I keep coming every month. I like people and like giving to those less fortunate, my mom raised me like that. It fills you up — it is God’s work. The people have been so grateful and happy. Some of them can be upset but you have to understand they are going through tough times.” She said of volunteering: “You won’t know until you go. People can be antsy about seeing the other face of Bermuda but it is not scary — any of us can wear these shoes, life happens. I have done this most months this year and you start seeing the same faces and eventually they becomes a little family — the Grateful Bread family. If you are not comfortable serving the food you can jump into something else — you can do washing up or help set up or just drop off your baked goods once a month. There’s always a way. These people know that once a month they will be fed and treated with respect and loved on for a couple of hours.” Ms Snelling was in her Mrs Claus outfit and despite having her arm in a sling she was happily doing the good work. She said: “Despite the drizzle there has been a great turn out. Some have been waiting outside since 4.30pm [for a 6pm start]. This is our 12th month. It is really a celebration of thanksgiving. Volunteers cook some of the food but if you are busy like me or you are a bad cook we have volunteer restaurants that give each month — Primes give soup, Bermuda Waterworks donates pure water, Costanzo at Blu gives us pasta dishes, House of India donates delicious curry. Docksiders will cook some food and some of their customers donate money towards it and MarketPlace also donates.” She added: “There are two Bermuda’s as much as we try to deny it. We have seen the racial and political divisions that led up to the election that made everybody feel awful. In this room all of that is absent — there is no religion, no race, no politics, no class, it is everybody getting together. There are a lot of people here who can’t afford a nutritious meal or to go out with friends. We had a couple of guests who are now hosts and two who we will pay to clean the venue after the event.” Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to Grateful Bread can call Canterbury Law and mention the Grateful Bread programme on 296-8444.

December 23. Flora Duffy’s groundbreaking year was hailed by Triathlete magazine, who named her Short-course Female Athlete of the Year in their Best of 2017 awards. In addition, the American publication said the past 12 months was “The Year of Flora Duffy” and placed her dominant campaign as No 1 in their “17 News Stories That Shaped Triathlon in 2017”. The magazine reported that the 30-year-old Bermudian “pocketed almost $300,000 in prize earnings alone — more than any other professional athlete, male or female, in the sport”. Indeed, after finishing eighth at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016, but winning the International Triathlon Union World Series, Duffy set about this year in utterly dominant fashion. After missing the first two races of this year’s WTS, she won six of the seven remaining events, including the Grand Final in Rotterdam in September, to take the title with a perfect score. She finished second in the only race she lost, in Montreal in August, claiming victories in Yokohama, Leeds, Hamburg, Edmonton and Stockholm, as well as the end-of-season showpiece in the Netherlands. Not content with a second successive WTS title, she went on to win a fourth consecutive Xterra World Championship crown in October, before rounding off her sporting year in fine, but typical style, by winning the star-studded Island House Invitational in the Bahamas last month. And 2018 could be an even bigger year for Duffy, who married South African former Xterra pro Dan Hugo in Cape Town last week. A Commonwealth Games gold medal is a strong possibility in the Gold Coast, Australia, on April 4 — although she will face stiff competition from the only woman to beat her last year, home favorite Ashleigh Gentle. But the highlight is sure to be when the World Triathlon Series comes to Bermuda on April 28 and 29. “The course being along Front Street [in Hamilton] is very special for me,” Duffy said when the event was announced. “This is where I started, in the Front Street Mile at nine years old, and I was inspired to compete internationally. To be competing as the world champion on home soil, is a feeling that’s hard to express.” Who would bet against her enjoying another medal-filled 12 months? As Triathlete says: “Is there anything Flora Duffy can’t do?”

December 23. Why is Christmas music so important? Because it has the power to rekindle in us our earliest experience of the festival’s magic. It was obvious on Friday from the first note of the first programme item, Praetorius’ Psallite, that the 100 singers and musicians gathered in front of us were at peak skill and energy, completely comfortable with their material and confident in their ability to immerse us in its emotional and spiritual beauty. Whether the Praetorius piece was familiar to us or not, its delivery was such that we all felt a distinct frisson of delight as it unfurled at St John’s Church in Pembroke. Next, Bach’s Sleepers Awake showed how well the Bermuda Chamber Choir and Orchestra and the Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir were integrated. The orchestra’s sound was warm and deep, behind the choir’s declarative, and then syncopated, singing. As usual, Marjorie Pettit was the director of this annual Christmas concert and Jennifer Sheridan the orchestra leader; supporting the orchestra in an unobtrusive but critically important way were bassist Brian Swan and percussionist Shelton Bean. One cannot imagine Bach or Handel chorales without timpani punctuation, nor the Spanish carol Fum, Fum, Fum without castanets and drone. Highlights of the first half of the concert ranged from Kerri Dietz’s moving and masterful solo of Sherri Porterfield’s arrangement of Rossetti’s Winter Carol, with its simple declaration of faith, through to the unabashed medieval dance sounds of Masters in the Hall, to Matthew Ross’s perfectly executed virtuosic trumpet solo, Voluntary in D Major by John Stanley. Ross voiced each individual ornament note with such clarion precision that one could almost hear the valves of the instrument closing on their seals. A talented newcomer made her singing debut: Zoe O’Connor. A member of the Bermuda School of Music Youth Choir, she delighted us with a punchy, joyous and humorous version of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. Peter Nash sang David Willcocks’s arrangement of the traditional French carol Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing? It was a new item for many of us as indeed was Howard Blake’s immensely moving piece Walking in the Air from Raymond Briggs’s 1980 The Snowman. Joanna Sherratt-Wyer gave us a beautifully tender Mary’s Boy Child and joined Kerri Dietz in the recitative Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind be Opened, with the linked airs He Shall Feed his Flock and Come Unto Him showing the subtle differences between the two soloists’ voices. The choirs then joined to conclude this wonderful evening with Hallelujah Chorus .

December 22. The island’s cruise tourism is set for a “sharp rise” outside of the traditional summer trade, with the 2018 schedule released today.  The 2017 Cruise Ship Schedule is RG3782011222.pdf. The boost, which includes 17 more cruise calls for April, October and November, marks a joint strategy between the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, and the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Compared with this year, April’s cruise calls will jump from 12 to 20, while October rises from 18 to 24 visits and November goes from six to nine. Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, said that extending the cruise season beyond summer would increase tourism work opportunities for locals. Water Roban, the Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs, said the island looked forward to Disney Cruise Lines making its first calls in October 2018. The ongoing relationship with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings will bring smaller cruise ships such as the Oceania and Regent Seven Seas brands back to Hamilton and St George’s. According to the 2018 Bermuda cruise ship schedule, cruise calls are projected to rise 12 per cent and cruise visitor arrivals are forecast to jump 13 per cent. Bermuda is expected to receive 180 cruise ship calls bringing approximately 470,000 passengers — amounting to 19 more cruise ship calls and 53,500 more passengers in 2018 over 2017. Meantime, 2017 proved a growth year for the island’s cruise travel market. Bermuda received 161 cruise ship calls, bringing 416,049 passengers — an increase of 18,145 visitors, or 4.6 per cent over 2016. The total estimated economic impact of visitor spending and government tax revenue is expected to be more than $72 million, including an estimated $50 million in visitor spending and $22 million in tax revenue. In 2018, the total projected economic impact of both visitor spending and government tax revenue is $84.8 million, with $59.8 million estimated in visitor spending and $25 million in tax revenue. The total economic impact would be an increase of approximately $12.7 million. The City of Hamilton will see 17 calls in 2018, down from 26 calls in 2017. According to a ministry statement, the Hamilton increase in 2017 was primarily due to the 35th America’s Cup, which brought additional luxury callers during the summer. St George’s will see 16 calls in 2018, up two from 2017. The ports in Hamilton and St George’s were described as better suited for small cruise ships that make occasional calls. The Norwegian Breakaway is being replaced in 2018 with the Norwegian Escape, which can bring roughly 500 more passengers. The Escape is set to make her inaugural call on April 25, 2018. The NCL tender between the Royal Naval Dockyard and St George’s, which began in May, brought approximately 45,000 passengers to the East End. Pat Phillip-Fairn, the BTA’s chief product and experiences development officer, said the commencement of the tender operation had stood out as a highlight of the year. She added: “The potential economic impact of direct calls to the East End and the dedicated tender service, in addition to arrivals from the public ferries, is something the town can build upon further.” The NCL tender is scheduled to maintain annual summer service exclusively for NCL guests through 2022. Meanwhile, Bermuda’s partnership with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines continues with regular calls from its Quantum-class ship as well as occasional calls from Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Club Cruises, RCL’s smaller affiliated lines. In 2015, RCL partnered with the Bermuda Government to dredge the North Channel — making way for the Quantum-size Anthem of the Seas. Carnival branded ships will make 13 calls to Bermuda in 2018. The Carnival Corporation also has interests in Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Adia Cruises, Cunard Line, Costa Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line and P & O — all of which will make stops in Bermuda over the next year. In total, Carnival Corporation brands will make 32 calls to Bermuda in 2018, which is up from 21 calls in 2017. Disney Cruise Line is coming to Bermuda for the first time in October 2018. The Disney Magic will sail to Bermuda five times next year from New York City. The BTA is collaborating with Disney and local businesses to build unique experiences for Disney passengers with specific holiday wishes. 

December 22. RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd expects a $40 million reduction in income as a result of the passing of the US tax bill. In a statement the Bermuda-based company said it had conducted a preliminary assessment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was passed by Congress on December 20. “The tax bill amends a range of US federal tax rules applicable to individuals, businesses and international taxation, including, among other things, altering the current taxation of insurance premiums ceded from a US domestic corporation to any non-US affiliate,” RenRe said in its statement. “As a result of the reduction in the corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 21 per cent effective January 1, 2018 pursuant to the tax bill, the company anticipates that it will write down a portion of its deferred tax asset and currently estimates that this anticipated write down will reduce its net income by approximately $40 million in the period in which the tax bill is enacted.” Other than the write down of the deferred tax asset, RenRe said it presently estimates that the economic impact of the tax bill to the company will be minimal. However, it added: “Uncertainty regarding the impact of the tax bill remains, as a result of factors including future regulatory and rule making processes, the prospects of additional corrective or supplemental legislation, potential trade or other litigation and other factors.”

December 22. Bermuda could be in line for a new professional services tax, the island’s Fiscal Responsibility Panel said yesterday. The annual report from the three-strong panel of experts predicted that the new tax could come in the next financial year. The report said: “We understand that for the next fiscal year the new government may proceed with part of the planned further payroll tax reform and the introduction of new taxes on some professional services...” The news came in the panel’s third annual assessment of the island’s economic state and warned that Bermuda’s high debt levels mean the island is at risk from outside threats. The panel said Bermuda’s economy faced danger from external events, but was “poorly equipped” to deal with them because of its deficit and other problems. The report added: “We have pointed out a number of specific risks and uncertainties that could adversely impact the economy. In some cases, the result could be a severe financial crisis which would affect the well-being of all Bermudians. We have reassessed these risks in this report. But while some of the risks we identified last year have diminished, and some can, and are, being mitigated by determined government actions, others remain or have increased, and new ones will emerge." The report warned: “The high level of government debt and other contingent public financial liabilities leaves the island poorly equipped to deal with the potentially severe financial and economic impact if any one was to materialize. Moreover, given likely future expenditure needs arising from an ageing population, the Government can ill-afford to continue spending such a high proportion of its budget on debt service, which is currently the largest single category of government expenditure. For all these reasons deficit and debt reduction should remain a high priority. We therefore welcome the new government’s commitment to achieve budget balance by 2019 and to continue progress thereafter in reducing the volume of government debt accumulated in recent years so as to achieve the longer-term targets of reducing debt and debt service respectively to 80 per cent and 10 per cent of revenues.” The report by financial experts David Peretz, Peter Heller and Jonathan Portes, is the first since July’s General Election victory for the Progressive Labour Party. The panel said: “In our previous reports we have highlighted Bermuda’s vulnerability to external events, as a small open economy competing in a global marketplace. Progress, however, has been mixed. In 2016-17 the fiscal deficit came out slightly lower than projected in the 2016 budget, with spending significantly below plans. The most recent fiscal plans for 2017-18 and beyond are those set out by the previous minister in his 2017 budget. Relative to the plans set out in the 2016 budget, these represent a significant degree of slippage, with a slowing of deficit reduction in 2017-18 and the target date for achieving budget balance pushed back from 2018-19 to 2019-20. Looking forward, it is our understanding that the new government’s present intention is to permit a larger deficit in 2018-19 than foreseen in the 2017 budget, albeit a deficit less than the contribution to the sinking fund thereby avoiding any increase in net debt, while sticking to the target of budget balance the following year. This further slippage for 2018-19 coming on top of the slippage in the 2017 budget is unwelcome — such slippage can easily become a bad habit.” The panel said last year that the One Bermuda Alliance government’s aim to increase tax revenue by 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent of gross domestic product to reach its financial targets was “appropriate” — but that it would not be easy. The latest report added: “This is even more true today. On expenditure the challenge will be to contain the total within the current allocation, absorbing the costs of new initiatives and the recently agreed increase in wages and salaries through increased efficiency. We welcome the Government’s intention to pursue increased efficiency with more determination than hitherto.” The report said the tax position was “more complex and the task more difficult”. It added: “The former government introduced a reform of the payroll tax giving it a degree of progressivity, which we welcome, and new taxes on banking and insurance. The intention was to meet the revenue targets for 2018-19 largely through a second stage of the payroll tax reform and the introduction of a new general services tax. We understand that for the next fiscal year, the new government may proceed with part of the planned further payroll tax reform and the introduction of new taxes on some professional services but intends to leave a decision on whether or not to introduce a full GST until it has the report of the new Tax Reform Commission, which will not be before the summer of 2018.” The panel said: “We are disappointed that, despite our clear recommendation last year that the Office of the Tax Commissioner should be provided with additional resources, a number of posts remain unfilled because of a failure to streamline the necessary government recruitment approval processes. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Additional resources for tax collection and enforcement should pay for themselves many times over in additional revenue. Looking farther forward, with the growing needs of an ageing population, we believe that over the longer term the revenue share will have to rise from its current level of around 17 per cent GDP to a level nearer the 22-23 per cent share seen in comparable small island economies. This will be necessary both to ensure a stable and robust fiscal position and to accommodate future expenditure pressures. The work of the Tax Reform Commission is thus critically important. Both the public-sector pension schemes and the contributory pension fund remain substantially under funded. It will be important to address this over time with a range of measures that should certainly include, as in other countries, a rise in the retirement age — a measure that also has the merit of increasing the working-age population.”

December 22.  The East End Group Ltd and Omnuim Bermuda Limited are looking at buying internet service provider TeleBermuda International Ltd. The Regulatory Authority of Bermuda has conducted an assessment of the proposed transaction and has said it is satisfied that subject to compliance with a set of conditions, the transaction would “not create an entity with a dominant position, nor substantially lessen competition in any relevant market, nor harm the public interest”. According to a notice on the RAB website, East End Group and Omnuim Bermuda have said they do not intend to make any of TBI’s staff redundant. TBI has offices on Victoria Street. It provides voice, internet and managed IT services. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Javelin Connections group of companies. Javelin is an end-to-end solutions provider of managed IT and data services for establishing and managing offshore jurisdictions. The proposed change of control would see all shares of TBI being purchased by East End Group and Omnium, from Javelin. The East End Group provides consolidated group functions in the areas of accounting, finance, human resources and information technology services. Walter Roban, Minister of Transport and Regulator Affairs, has given his consent to the proposed change of control of TBI.

December 22. Scooter Mart has become one of the first businesses on the island to accept payment in bitcoin. The business, located on Lovers Lane in Paget, was launched early this year by Nick Thomson, a former accountant at professional services firm KPMG, along with his business partner Wayne Burgess. The company is a used bike dealership which offers services like a guaranteed repurchase scheme for shorter-term residents, with a guaranteed repurchase price, as well as a trade-in programme so owners can upgrade to another model. Mr Thomson, who is in his mid-20s, believes bitcoin is the way forward, hence his decision to accept it as a payment for the dealership. He said: “We at Scooter Mart have been proponents for bitcoin and other digital currencies like verge and ethereum for some time now. Our first sales with digital currencies were in March, when we sold some Vespas to Hub Culture in the ven currency. We believe that the global economy is on the cusp of entering an era of technology that will revolutionise industry globally — the era of decentralization. We have seen the first stages of industry decentralization with Uber, Alibaba, Airbnb, and more and we are now beginning to see stage two, with the rise of bitcoin and other blockchain distributed ledger technologies. Some people have concerns about the volatile valuation of bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, which started this year trading below $1,000 per unit and was yesterday afternoon trading at around $15,200. We understand why the older generations have a hard time understanding this technology and we don’t blame them. But just like it was hard for older generations to feel comfortable using plastic credit cards; and just like it was hard for even older generations to use paper representations of gold reserves as currency, eventually the market will accept bitcoin or another similar digital currency. When this happens transactions will be much faster, cheaper, and more secure. And the benefits of this technology go far beyond just transactions — we will soon see some almost unimaginable innovations stem from this technology including decentralized cloud storage, and even possibly offline internet.” Mr Thomson believes that bitcoin will not be going anywhere for a while. “This is an exciting time in history. Scooter Mart accepts bitcoin because it is the future, and it’s here to stay,” he added. Scooter Mart is having a Christmas blow out sale and selling bikes for the value of 0.15 bitcoin.

December 22. The first gay couple to marry on a Bermudian-registered P&O cruise ship is also set to be one of the last. British couple Victoria Marno and Siobhan Crosby are due to marry in the Caribbean next month on the cruise line’s MS Azura. But the just-passed Domestic Partnership Act will outlaw same-sex marriage not only on the island but also on any P&O ship around the world. Ms Marno told The Royal Gazette: “When we first looked into a wedding at sea, we knew that it would just be ceremonial. However, I was confident the law would change by the time the date came round, which it did. When I noticed in the newspaper that the law was possibly being changed back, we were devastated.” She added: “Thankfully, I believe our marriage will still be legal in Bermuda. It had certainly been a stressful time and especially with less than a month to go. To be told you can and then months later be told maybe you can’t is not fair. We wanted to make history for the right reasons and not just because we will be one of the very few to be married legally.” The couple said they were thrilled after Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons’s landmark ruling in May paved the way for marriage equality in Bermuda. But they started to worry when they heard that Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, had tabled the Domestic Partnership Bill, which was designed to replace same-sex marriages with watered-down domestic partnerships. The Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday confirmed that Ms Marno and Ms Crosby’s wedding, as well as three other scheduled same-sex marriages in Bermuda, will be legal even after the domestic partnerships law comes into force. A ministry spokeswoman added that any same-sex couples who posted banns before the Bill is signed into law will also have their weddings honored. Parliament last week approved the Domestic Partnership Act, which signaled an end to marriage equality on the island. John Rankin, the Governor, however, has yet to give assent to the Bill and make it law. P&O, which had announced it would offer legal same-sex marriages on its ships for the first time, said in British gay newspaper Pink News yesterday that it was “very unhappy” over the Bermuda decision. A spokesman for the cruise line said: “We are very unhappy about this decision and we do not underestimate the disappointment this will cause those guests who have planned their weddings.” Ms Marno and Ms Crosby have appeared in an article on P&O’s website to celebrate that they would be the first gay couple to marry on one of its Bermudian-registered ships. The Ministry of Home Affairs also confirmed that marriage banns for same-sex weddings are still being accepted in the run-up to the expected law change. A spokeswoman for the ministry said: “Until the law takes effect, the Registry General is still accepting same-sex marriage applications. Application forms for domestic partnership will be available on the date the law takes effect.” But Ms Marno said: “I think it is out of order for a government to revert the law within such a short space of time. I feel as though the Bermudian government does not have the right to change the law without allowing the people of Bermuda to have a vote. I think they should have a binding referendum.”

December 22. RG Editorial. “Since Bermuda has a large measure of internal self-government, the British Government has no authority to intervene in this matter." Foreign Secretary David Owen, Autumn 1977. The notion that British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson could intervene in 2017 over the Bermuda legislature’s plans for same-sex marriage on the grounds that to ban it would go against “British values and principles” is utterly reprehensible. When set against a disturbing and redefining period in the history of this country, as the mother country refused infamously 40 years ago to get involved in the last act of capital punishment carried out here — notably eight years after the death penalty had been abolished in Britain, having been suspended four years earlier — any form of interference at this stage would be rightfully shouted down for touching the heights of hypocrisy and double standards. That is at the least; at the worst, it could spark a constitutional crisis. The deaths by hanging of Erskine “Buck” Burrows and Larry Tacklyn set in motion days of rioting, burning and looting — and more death — after repeated attempts to gain a Queen’s pardon were rebuffed. Jonathan Smith’s Island Flames recounts those horrific days and what led to them as though they were yesterday, the British Parliament taking the decision ultimately that the Queen could not be trusted to determine for herself whether the prerogative of mercy was warranted. Thus the ball was batted back into the court of the governor of the day, Sir Peter Ramsbotham, himself barely in tune with the Bermuda mood, given his newly minted status. His hands tied, Sir Peter acceded to the wishes of the government of the day, then headed by Sir David Gibbons, the leader of the United Bermuda Party — and Burrows was put to death for the assassinations of the Governor, Sir Richard Sharples, and his aide-de-camp, Captain Hugh Sayers. The Governor’s dog, Horsa the Great Dane, was also killed. Tacklyn was acquitted of the Government House murders but found guilty of the Shopping Centre killings of Mark Doe and Victor Rego, and was executed shortly before Burrows in the early hours of December 2, 1977. So with that as a pretty grisly backgrounder, why now would or could Britain look to dip its big toe into waters in which no one has paid the ultimate price? The mess over same-sex marriage was made in Bermuda and should be sorted out by Bermuda. Boris would be better served casting a glance across the Irish Sea, for the last time we checked Northern Ireland had yet to follow the rest of the United Kingdom in legalizing same-sex marriage. To play Big Brother to a smaller yet also self-governing “subordinate” would not go down too well at all. But not if you believe The Mail on Sunday. The British Sunday newspaper has a mass circulation approaching 1.3 million in Britain, making it the second-highest circulation weekend paper in Britain, after The Sun on Sunday. But as far as universal credibility is concerned, it and the Daily Mail, the sister paper whose ethos it shares, are not to be confused with the “quality press” in Britain — The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, the Financial Times and The Independent, which has resided solely online since March 2016. The final paragraph of the Daily Mail’s Wikipedia description provides a modicum of insight: “The Daily Mail has been widely criticized for its unreliability, as well as printing of sensationalist and inaccurate scare stories of science and medical research and of copyright violations.” Still trying to get over his foot-in-mouth moment from the state visit to Iran this month to speak on behalf of the detained Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, an Iranian-British national charged with spying, Boris has his own credibility and suitability issues to contend with. As an Independent editorial concluded when he appeared to fan the flames in the theocratic republic by suggesting Zaghari-Ratcliffe was merely training journalists: “It would be wrong to move him [from his position] for a mistake for which he has apologized and sought to make amends. But he was a poor choice as Foreign Secretary in the first place, and his handling of the responsibilities of this great office has not been so impressive that he has made a compelling case for long service. When the Prime Minister, strengthened by her success in Brussels this week, comes to refashion her Cabinet in due course, there is a strong case for appointing as Foreign Secretary someone with more subtlety, principle and, above all, tact than the present incumbent.” It can be argued that the Foreign Secretary’s greatest contribution to British life came when as Mayor of London in 2010 he launched the Boris Bikes scheme that has had the effect of popularizing cycling through the country. But it is as a diplomat that Boris is now judged and with his contribution to a worrying Brexit and now the Iran incident on his CV, Bermuda should not be gagging to be used as a tool for “the floundering haircut” to sharpen his teeth. We have enough problems — and same-sex marriage is but one of them. The politicians have been beat up enough about this, and we shall beat them up some more. For, quite truthfully, they cocked it up. When given what proved to be an 18-month head start after Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ruled that gay couples had legal rights to be treated the same as heterosexual couples, they did nothing while all around them engaged in the cattiest of catfights. The timing of the next General Election was not helpful, for the parties had long shifted into electioneering mode, and what got lost were the people who are truly affected. Had the One Bermuda Alliance pushed through its Civil Unions Bill, much of today’s fuss might have been about nothing. That Bill, which has been tweaked in areas to now sit as the Domestic Partnership Act as presented by the Progressive Labour Party government, contained much of what gays have been fighting for throughout the 21st century. It would have put Bermuda in a quite unique position, as being the first country that is significantly slanted against gay marriage — for as far as could be determined through the ill-fated June 2016 referendum — to confer benefits making domestic partnerships marriage in everything but name. Given the uproar since Parliament passed the Act on to the Governor for Royal Assent, you would have thought that we had retreated to the pre-Stubbs era and banned homosexuality altogether. “Ashamed” Bermudians and those Bermudians and Bermuda residents who colluded to give #BoycottBermuda wings in social-media circles have done more reputational harm to the country than Walton Brown can have done during his worst excesses. By putting Bermuda in a spotlight so that even the likes of “Screaming” Howard Dean can take pot shots at us and urge his several thousand Twitter followers to steer clear of an island that he has yet to visit or appreciate, we risk cutting off our nose to spite our face. The final decision to be made is for the Governor and the Governor alone. He should find the solution far easier to arrive at than the more complex questions to be posed on Quiz Night during his casually low-key forays into the community. As part of a team, the Governor often would be minded to defer to a colleague’s superior local knowledge, but on the subject of rejecting a government Bill, especially one so emotive, this is one time when he would be ill-advised to leave it to Boris."

December 22. The Bermuda Union of Teachers today welcomed the appointment of Kalmar Richards as the new acting Commissioner of Education. Union leaders said it was vital that there was some stability within the Education Department, which has seen a succession of ministers and commissioners. BUT president Shannon James said that Mrs Richards, who was principal at CedarBridge Academy for nearly two decades, was an excellent principal who was well qualified to take on the Commissioner’s role. He added: “We have had much instability within the top levels of education and we are ready to move on and work closely with Mrs Richards to help further improve the quality of education.” Edmond Heatley left in April 2014 after only seven months in the job and was replaced by an acting Commissioner, Lou Matthews, who was acting for three months. Freddie Evans, who was appointed as Commissioner of Education in March last year, was sacked from his post. The case is now going to court as Mr Evans’s lawyer, Mark Diel argues that Mr Evans could only be sacked from the post within his probation period. Mr Diel says that did not happen and is claiming damages on behalf of his client.

December 22. A rare sighting of Arctic birds at an island golf course will be the nearest Bermuda gets to snow this Christmas. Two snow geese, which usually breed in Alaska, Greenland and Siberia, were spotted at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton. The birds basked in warm local conditions after they were spotted flying over the Causeway and landing on the golf course on Monday. They joined a brant goose, another unusual visitor which winters mostly on the west coast of North America. Andrew Dobson, president of the Bermuda Audubon Society, said the snow geese would feed on grass and may spend the winter on the island before flying back to their summer home. Mr Dobson said: “This is the closest Bermuda will get to snow over Christmas. Snow geese have been recorded in Bermuda in small numbers every year for the past 20 years. Sometimes it is a solitary individual that makes it to the island instead of spending the winter on the eastern seaboard.”

December 22.  Children’s author Shangri-La Durham-Thompson used the birth of her first grandchild as inspiration for a book to celebrate “the gift of her smile”. The book is to be presented to the Bermuda public at a special book signing on Christmas Eve at Brown & Co’s bookstore on Hamilton’s Front Street. Dr Durham-Thompson said: “I think babies are sent from heaven to bring happiness to earth.” She added the book “teaches us to value the importance of a simple smile”. Dr Durham-Thompson said she was inspired in part by reading to granddaughter Nina Solei, who will be 3 next February. The illustrated book Presenting Princess Solei on Her First Birthday, was promoted by Dr Durham-Thompson at Toronto’s Word on the Street literature festival in September. Little Nina was at the book signing in Toronto and will also be at Brown & Co this Sunday from 2pm to 4pm. Dr Durham-Thompson added: “I wanted to pass on something positive to the world.” Published by AuthorHouse, the book is $22 in paperback and $32 for a hardback copy.

December 21.  US tax reforms approved this week by the US Congress will be “credit negative” for the Bermuda re/insurance market, Fitch Ratings says. The US credit rating agency added that it expected the tax reforms, which will take effect from January 1, to benefit US reinsurers at the expense of Bermudian and other international reinsurers serving the US. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will cut the US corporate tax rate to 21 per cent from 35 per cent, reducing Bermuda’s tax advantages over US rivals, and a new tax on premiums ceded by US insurers to foreign affiliated reinsurers will be levied. “We do not anticipate immediate rating implications as we expect Bermuda will largely maintain its strong position in the global reinsurance market, continuing to benefit from its underwriting expertise, strong and efficient regulatory regime and full Solvency II equivalence,” Fitch said in a statement today. “Moreover, partly in anticipation of US tax reform, Bermudian reinsurers have been adapting their businesses and increasing their geographic diversification. Nonetheless, the US continues to be their most important market. Significant declines in business or earnings could prompt negative rating actions.” The corporate tax cut and the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax will reduce the tax advantage of reinsuring US risks to Bermuda, with more reinsurance business and capital incentivised to stay in the US. Bermuda does not have a corporate income tax but most Bermuda reinsurers pay income and other taxes given their international operations. Notably, they pay a US excise tax on premium payments from the US to offshore affiliates that is currently 4 per cent on direct premiums and 1 per cent on reinsurance premiums. The added Beat will be at a significantly higher rate: 5 per cent in 2018, then 10 per cent until 2025 and 12.5 per cent thereafter. Fitch said Bermudian reinsurers’ US business is largely written in US subsidiaries and then transferred to Bermuda. “From a group perspective, the tax changes may affect the location of the business rather than the amount, with the business and associated capital more likely to be retained in the US subsidiaries,” Fitch said. "We expect most Bermudian reinsurers with US subsidiaries will take up the option to pay US corporate taxes on the subsidiaries’ profits instead of Beat. Any reduction in supply of reinsurance capacity from Bermuda following the US tax changes is likely to drive global reinsurance premium rates up. Rates in some lines of reinsurance are already on the rise following this year’s high catastrophe claims.”

December 21. Four gay couples who are planning to marry at sea on Bermudian-registered ships will still be able to tie the knot, the Government confirmed today. Marriage banns have been posted by the Registrar-General for the unions, with two of the ceremonies due to take place this month and a further two in January. Parliament approved legislation last week to replace gay marriages with domestic partnerships, signaling an end to marriage equality on the island. But a Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman confirmed today that the four maritime weddings for which banns have already been posted would be able to take place. And she said the Registrar-General would still accept applications for the posting of same-sex marriage banns “until the law takes effect”. Application forms for domestic partnerships will become available on the date the law takes effect. As of yesterday, John Rankin, the Governor, had yet to give assent to the Bill to enable it to become law. A Government House spokesman: “The Governor is considering the Bill in line with his responsibilities under the Constitution.” P & O and Cunard cruise lines, both owned by Carnival Corporation & PLC and who offer weddings at sea, said they were aware of the repeal of marriage equality on the island and were “awaiting further updates regarding same-sex marriages on our ships” from the Bermuda Government. A Cunard spokeswoman said: “Once we have confirmation on the final outcome, our priority will be to update those same-sex couples who have booked marriages.” Gay couples have been able to marry in Bermuda and on ships registered on the island since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in May. A total of eight couples have taken advantage of the decision, with seven weddings at the Registry-General and one private ceremony elsewhere. British tabloid newspaper The Mail on Sunday claimed at the weekend that Mr Rankin was taking advice on requesting Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s authorization to veto the Bill. But the article quoted a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman, who said: “The UK Government is a proud supporter of LGBT rights and continues to support same-sex marriage. “While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.” The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 was approved by MPs on December 8 and by senators last Wednesday. Gay and straight couples will be able to enter into domestic partnerships but same-sex weddings will no longer be allowed once it is enacted after gaining Royal Assent. The first gay couple to wed here were Bermudian lawyer Julia Aidoo-Saltus and her partner, Judith, who spoke out against the plan to reverse the court ruling. The most recent couple was two men, one of whom was Bermudian, who tied the knot in the Registry-General’s marriage room. The tiny South Atlantic Ocean island of St Helena, also a British Overseas Territory, this week approved same-sex marriage by a parliamentary vote of 9-2.

December 21. Transport minister Walter Roban’s trip to Washington for a series of education meetings cost about $3,100, according to the Government’s travel expenses website. Mr Roban was in the United States between November 29 and December 6 with Permanent Secretary Aideen Ratteray Pryse. The total cost of the trip amounted to $3,182, which included $750 on air travel and $1,650 on accommodation. The total bill also included $374 on ground transportation and $328 on meals. Mr Roban attended the Harvard Kennedy School for an executive education presentation called “Recovering the Public in Public Value” during the trip. He was also accompanied by Ms Ratteray Pryse to meetings with several space and satellite specialists.

December 21. The chairman of the board at CedarBridge Academy has been asked to step down, The Royal Gazette can reveal. Leonard Santucci confirmed last night that Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, had told him he wanted to replace him with a chairman of his own choice. Dr Santucci said: “The Minister of Education has indicated a desire to hire a new chair and deputy chair, but he has also asked me if I would remain a member of the board.” Dr Santucci said he was asked to quit in an e-mail sent on Sunday. He added he was not aware of any reason why he would be asked to stand down. Santucci confirmed he had written an affidavit backing former education commissioner Freddie Evans, who was fired in October and who has taken legal action against the Governor, Ministry of Education and the Public Service Commission. Dr Evans’s lawyer Mark Diel said only the Governor could fire Dr Evans and only then inside his probation period, which had expired by the time he got official notice. Dr Santucci, a former Bermuda College professor and United Bermuda Party senator, has been chairman of the board at CedarBridge since 2015. He joined the school board in 2014 under Nalton Brangman, Minister for Education in the previous One Bermuda Alliance Government. Mr Rabain last month gave “special thanks” to Dr Santucci in the House of Assembly. He said Dr Santucci was “determined to make CedarBridge the Secondary school of first choice”. Mr Rabain was speaking after the school’s successful re-accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. The Ministry of Education did not respond to a request for comment last night.

December 21. The legal dispute over the sacking of education commissioner Freddie Evans is to go before the courts early next year. Dr Evans is seeking a judicial review of the decision to fire him from that post in October. The parties were told at a hearing yesterday that the case may not be heard until March. Both sides in the dispute were instructed to prepare their skeleton arguments by mid-January in case an earlier court date become available. Dr Evans was removed from his position after a public dispute between the education commissioner and the Department of Education. The dispute started when Dr Evans was told by the Ministry of Education that he had been removed from the job. Dr Evans, however, said that only the Governor had the power to dismiss him from his post. The Public Service Commission later sent a letter to Dr Evan’s lawyer Mark Diel and Ministry of Education permanent secretary Valerie Robinson-James to say “an administrative error” in correspondence to Dr Evans meant he had not been fired. However, the letter added “nor has he been confirmed in his post”. The Governor removed Dr Evans from his position on October 13. Mr Diel claimed his sacking came too late to be valid. Mr Diel said that Dr Evans could be fired by the Governor only during his probation period, which ended more than a week before Mr Rankin confirmed Dr Evans’s dismissal.

December 21. Bermuda’s move towards embracing cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies has been welcomed by the man who brought leading fintech innovators and thinkers to the island this year. And Stan Stalnaker believes Bermuda can become the world’s first digital free port — that is a major digital storage vault with global standing, and also a platform for start-ups “looking to operate and think globally”. Mr Stalnaker is a founding director of Bermuda-headquartered Hub Culture, an online social network with 45,000 members around the world. The organisation created and manages Ven, the world’s first digital currency. Hub Culture hosted a three-month innovation campus at Ariel Sands during the summer, which was attended by innovators and influencers from a range of fields, including cryptocurrency and digital ledger technologies. Last month, the Bermuda Government signaled its intention to be a welcoming jurisdiction for companies and innovators involved in those technologies by creating a digital ledger technology task force to develop and put in place strategies for the island. Mr Stalnaker said: “We were very happy to see the Government’s announcement about the crypto working groups. It shows it is paying attention to what is going on and also being very cautious about it. They are not rushing into anything, they are evaluating it in a considered way.” Bermuda’s task force is split into two working groups, with one focused on business development and the other on legal and regulatory matters. Government technical officers, officials from the Bermuda Business Development Agency, and legal and industry specialists in fintech are members of the task force, which is under the direction of Wayne Caines, Minister for National Security. Mr Stalnaker said other countries have similar objectives, including the US, China, Russia, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Singapore and Barbados. “There are many small countries in the realm that Bermuda is, and they are ahead. They have dozens of companies and have been very active over the last two years. But Bermuda has a golden opportunity to participate in this and get involved, and also maintain its gold standard.” Hub Culture was formed as a company in 2006 and chose Bermuda as its base, having looked for the best location to structure a digital asset. It holds events mostly as temporary pop-ups around “important moments” in the world. For the past decade it has been a media partner to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. At the 2018 event, which takes place next month, Hub Culture aims to stimulate more interest in Bermuda and its potential as a digital free port. It has already started the process of spreading the word with the creation of a new website, called Bermuda Standard. “We are working to create digital capabilities to promote Bermuda as the world’s best place for identity, AML (anti-money laundering), KYC (know your customer), beneficial ownership information — to create a digital layer between the nation state and the individual, where you have secured data that is managed out of Bermuda. You start to think of Bermuda as the world’s first digital free port. Over the next five years there is going to be tremendous demand from citizens all over the world to store their digital assets in secure places, in secure jurisdictions.” Those digital assets could include property title deeds, marriage certificates, vehicle registration documents, ownership contracts and crypto currencies, such as bitcoin, ripple, and Ven. I imagine Bermuda as this giant digital storage vault for digital assets, where you have IP protection, good governance, legal and trademark protection and then a security layer, so a person can park a digital asset here in Bermuda and know that it is safe in the long term. It starts with digital currencies, but it is already moving into all types of digital identity and information, which is why we are building Bermuda Standard.” Mr Stalnaker said digital assets will end up on blockchain, a decentralized, verifiable digital ledger technology. “And if you can have digital governance for a digital free port here in Bermuda, it will attract people to store their digital assets here.” Mr Stalnaker imagines that by 2020 Bermuda could be the best place in the world for the storage of digital assets, and that is a message Hub Culture will promote at the World Economic Forum next month. Hub Culture will focus on three topics in Davos, namely cybersecurity, conscious machines, and innovative states. Explaining the innovative states programme, Mr Stalnaker said it would look at “how you get to innovation within countries, and this idea of Bermuda as a location for storing digital assets”. He added: “By next summer, if the Government is diligent about getting in front of the category, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to have new interest in Bermuda. We are already seeing it. We have five companies that we are talking to that are interested in opening in Bermuda. Now that the Government has sent signals that it is open to being innovative, we are talking to those companies about setting up here.” Hub Culture and BDA representatives have visited California’s innovation centre, Silicon Valley, where meetings have been held to promote the advantages of Bermuda to start-ups that want to operate and think globally. Mr Stalnaker said his goal is to see a number of companies working in digital assets come to Bermuda by the end of next year. And Hub Culture’s higher profile presence in Bermuda is set to continue, with the organisation close to securing a sponsorship deal with the Bermuda International Film Festival, and an expected creation of a virtual reality category in festival line-up. There is also the chance of a possible return of the innovation campus to the island in the summer. Hub Culture has a website at hubculture.com. 

December 21.  Bermuda-based insurer Ironshore announces that its Pembroke Managing Agency has been granted “in principle” approval by the Lloyd’s Franchise Board to create GIC Re’s syndicate at Lloyd’s. GIC Re is ranked twelfth among the top 40 global reinsurers, according to Standard & Poor’s. It has an established footprint in the Afro-Asian region, where it has been operating for more than 45 years. Alice Vaidyan, chairman and managing director of GIC Re, said: “The syndicate formation marks an inflection point in our corporate history through provision of global business access in collaboration with a globally respected brand and will help us broaden diversification and leverage deployment of capital resources. Due to the significant growth of the Indian re/insurance market, our portfolio has become more India-centric over the past few years. The Lloyd’s platform will help us access quality international business and provide us with enhanced balance and diversity.” Chris Brown, strategic partnership director at Pembroke, said: “GIC Re will be the first syndicate of its kind backed solely by aligned capital from an Indian reinsurance group.” Ironshore was acquired by US-based Liberty Mutual earlier this year, but continues to operate under the Ironshore brand.

December 21. Volunteers are hard at work delivering Christmas presents to Bermuda’s war veterans and widows after a successful poppy appeal by the Bermuda Legion. Grocery gifts have been dropped off at homes, as well as to people in nursing homes and hospital. Funds are still coming from November’s annual poppy appeal, when the Legion also got an official visit from the Royal Canadian Legion. Canada’s ex-service association came to the island to compile a report into Bermuda’s Second World War veterans and widows, and to meet dignitaries and war veterans. Bermuda Legion is affiliated with the Canadian group, as well as with the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Service League in London, which allows island veterans and widows in financial need to apply for a small extra pension. Carol Everson, welfare caseworker for the Legion, thanked former Bermuda Regiment commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel David Gibbons for the use of the Gibbons Company store at the corner of Queen and Reid Streets as a pop up poppy shop. She also thanked John Rankin, the Governor and Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers for pitching in to help with the organization's tag day. Ms Everson also saluted the St George’s Kiwanis for a celebration to honour veterans, as well as hardware store Gorham’s and Martin Buckley of Brown & Co for fundraising help and “all the kind people and businesses who gave their time and donations”. She added: “We’re extremely grateful to all the schools who contributed and to the 90-plus year-old war veterans and widows who also collected.” People who need assistance from the Bermuda Legion or help in applying for the REEL pension should e-mail Ms Everson at bermudalegion@gmail.com or call 293-3975.

December 21. A talented young footballer who was caught with a small amount of cannabis in has possession has been given a conditional discharge. Kamali Davis was with several friends in a car driving along Kindley Field on January 1 this year when the vehicle was stopped by police. Officers searched the passengers due to the smell of marijuana and Davis, 19, was taken back to Hamilton Police Station. A small wrap of cannabis, which weighed just over four grams, was found on Davis after a search. Davis, who has no previous convictions, later pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis. Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo imposed a 12-month conditional discharge on the teenager on Tuesday because of his early guilty plea, the small amount of the drug seized and his lack of previous convictions. Davis apologized for his actions and said he had learnt from his mistake.

December 21. It was all smiles for world champion Flora Duffy as she married fellow triathlete Dan Hugo at a lavish ceremony in South Africa. The couple tied the knot at Hugo’s family’s farm in Worcester, near Cape Town, last Saturday. The big day capped a memorable 2017 for Duffy, 30, who won the ITU World Triathlon Series for a second successive year and the Xterra World Championship for a fourth time in a row.

December 21. A 34-year-old man has denied a string of money-laundering offences. Jeron Douglas will stand trial next year accused of five charges under the Proceeds of Crime Act. It is alleged that Mr Douglas, from Sandys, converted around $45,000 in criminal proceeds into other currencies to help another avoid prosecution. The offences are all alleged to have taken place in Pembroke Parish between October 2014 and February 2015. Mr Douglas was released on bail until a trial date is set on January 10.

December 20. US tax reform legislation has today cleared its final political hurdle and will next go to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was today approved by the House of Representatives for a second time after the US Senate passed it in the early hours of this morning. Some provisions had to be removed from the Bill approved by the House yesterday after technical flaws were pointed out before its passage in the Senate. And so the amended version was returned to the House today for a final vote. Enactment of the new tax rules will mean a busy end to the year for executives at many Bermudian-based insurance groups. Some of the provisions in the Act that will affect them will take effect on January 1, 2018. The changes will slash the rate of US corporate tax to 21 per cent from 35 per cent. Perhaps the biggest direct impact for the island will come from the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax, known as Beat. It will hit Bermuda-based insurance groups with US subsidiaries, which cede premiums to their affiliated reinsurers in Bermuda, by effectively levying a 10 per cent tax on the transaction, rising to 12.5 per cent from 2026. This will impact several major groups including XL Catlin, Arch Capital and Axis Capital. Many Bermudian companies have already been working on restructuring in response to the new rules. Will McCallum, head of tax with KPMG in Bermuda, told a Bermuda Chamber of Commerce event last week that the industry will see its cost of doing business going up when the reform takes effect. Some companies will opt to be treated as a US taxpayer for their affiliated business emanating from the US and they will likely have to shift hundreds of millions of dollars of capital to the US. However, judging from conversations with clients, he views a mass exodus of jobs from the island as unlikely.

President Trump

See above story

December 20. The Guardian Newspaper, London. Senate Republicans have passed a sweeping overhaul of the US tax code, placing President Donald Trump on the brink of scoring his first major legislative victory. The Senate approved the $1.5 trillion tax bill, which includes permanent tax breaks for corporations and temporary tax cuts for individuals, by a final vote of 51-48. Once enacted, the legislation will represent the most drastic changes to the US tax code since 1986. The bill was passed along party lines, with every Senate Republican present voting in its favor and all Democrats voting against it. Arizona senator John McCain, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, was the lone member to be absent for the vote. Although the bill’s passage was expected, tensions boiled to a surface as the final vote was held, as Democrats sharply criticized Republicans for a bill independent analysts have projected will disproportionately benefit the wealthy and corporations. The legislation must go back to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday for final approval, but is expected to pass. The bill lowers the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 37% and slashes the corporate tax rate to 21%, a dramatic fall from its current rate of 35%. In remarks on the Senate floor, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Republicans would “rue the day” when they passed the bill, which he blasted as a “disgrace”. A visibly frustrated Schumer then chastised Republicans for talking during his speech. “This is serious stuff. We believe you’re messing up America,” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, told Republicans. “You could pay attention for a couple of minutes.”  As the vote occurred, activists in the press gallery shouted “Kill the bill, don’t kill us”. The chaotic proceedings were eventually called to order by vice president Mike Pence, who was presiding over the chamber for what will soon mark a rare but significant achievement for the Trump administration. After the bill passed, Republicans celebrated the moment in a late-night press conference where Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell hit back against criticism that the tax overhaul was unpopular among the public. “If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work,” McConnell said. The Senate vote came hours after House Republicans passed the tax bill by a vote of 227 to 203, with 12 Republicans voting against the plan and no Democrats supporting it. The House will nonetheless be forced to vote on the legislation once more on Wednesday, after it was discovered that the bill they passed fell short of the necessary rules for Senate Republicans to pass it with a simple majority. The Senate subsequently stripped out the minor provisions that were in violation of the rules, clearing the way for House Republicans to hold a second vote on Wednesday and then send the bill to Trump’s desk for his signature. Democrats say the failure to write a bill that would comply with Senate rules – an avoidable misstep – underscored the slapdash manner and lightening fast speed at which Republicans assembled their tax overhaul. The urgency among Republicans to pass a tax bill before the year’s end was similarly underscored when they provided lawmakers with a copy of the 500-page tax plan hours before an initial vote was scheduled on the legislation. In an online video, Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, called it “Washington DC at its worst” as he flipped through the pages, showing off the handwritten changes in the margins. After the House vote,  President Trump praised House Republican leadership for delivering the $1.5tn tax cut plan.  Despite the delay, Congress is still expected to send the bill to Trump in time to deliver what he has promised would be a “big, beautiful Christmas present” for the nation. Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, went so far as it call it “the worst bill in history” in a press conference on Tuesday. She described it as “an all-out looting of America, a wholesale robbery of the middle class” and said: “The GOP tax scam will go down, again, as one of the worst, most scandalous acts of plutocracy in our history.” The tax plan enacts a deep and permanent cut for corporations, slashing the top rate from 35% to 21%. The bill also includes tax cuts for individuals and families of all income levels, with the largest breaks going to the wealthiest Americans. The individual tax cuts are slated to expire in 2025, a move to comply with Senate budget rules, but Republicans said a future Congress would extend them. “This is one of the most important pieces of legislation that Congress has passed in decades to help the American worker to help grow the American economy,” Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, said moments after the bill passed. “This is profound change and this is change that is going to put our country on the right path.” Congressman Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, added: “Today the impossible became the inevitable again.” Democrats were excluded from the closed-door sessions where the plan was crafted. They have condemned the measure as a handout to the wealthy and corporations, and promised to use it as a cudgel against Republicans in the 2018 midterms. "The GOP tax scam will go down, again, as one of the worst, most scandalous acts of plutocracy in our history", said Nancy Pelosi. Republicans have long pushed tax reform as a way to simplify the US tax code, but the proposal would keep all seven existing tax brackets for individuals. The bill has faced significant criticism because it would limit tax deductions for home mortgages and state and local taxes, as well as adding over a trillion dollars to the budget deficit. The bill would not only reshape tax policy in the United States. It also contains provisions to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge, and would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which requires Americans to either buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Despite being heralded by Republicans and the White House as a major accomplishment, the bill is deeply unpopular. A CNN poll released earlier on Tuesday found that 55% of voters had a unfavorable view of the plan and only 33% view it favorably. Ryan dismissed criticism of the bill, saying “results are what’s going to make this popular”. Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress but have so far failed to achieve a major legislative victory, relished the moment hours before the vote was scheduled on Tuesday.

December 20. Premier David Burt yesterday took a temporary break from his role as a tough “taskmaster” by having his Cabinet don Santa hats for a festive photo-shoot. Lining up in the grounds of City Hall, Cabinet ministers, including Mr Burt, wore hats with the word “Nice” emblazoned on the front. However, what may be less well known is that the word “Naughty” was stitched into the reverse of the hats. It is yet to be made clear if the real Santa is aware of the hidden message. Despite all the festive cheer generated by Mr Burt’s gesture, a Grinch was revealed among the Cabinet. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the public works minister, refused to don his Santa hat despite much coaxing from his Cabinet colleagues. Mr Burt did not comment on this startling omission. However, he did take time to tell The Royal Gazette: “I said at our last Cabinet meeting that as much of a taskmaster as I am, we will not be having a Cabinet meeting on Boxing Day. I said we would put everyone in hats and have a picture outside. There is serious business all the time but there is a little time to relax as well.”

December 20. The Progressive Labour Party extended a helping hand to families in need this Christmas by asking its members to donate children’s gifts to the Salvation Army. The party has also donated to Family Centre and to disadvantaged members of the community. The Salvation Army recently made a public appeal due to a lack of donated gifts this Christmas. In response, the PLP held an event at its Alaska Hall headquarters on Monday evening to encourage its members to give back. Party representatives, stationed on the Cabinet grounds, yesterday helped to load gifts including Barbie dolls, headphones and puzzles on to a Salvation Army truck which will then be distributed to those in need. David Burt, the Premier, was on hand in his Santa hat along with Cabinet members, members of the executive and members of the party’s youth wing. The Premier said: “There are kids in Bermuda who can’t afford to have presents, so from the perspective of the work we do in this area, I think it is important to give back in whatever way possible. Members of the PLP have done things throughout the country such as handing out gifts to seniors in my constituency, and some constituents are giving out turkeys, doing community service and visiting rest homes to show our support. On the government side, we need to do more and make sure that we can support people in our community who need it. These are some of the discussions that we are having in Cabinet when talking about how we will approach the next session. We will be identifying our priorities and recognizing the severe challenges which exist inside Bermuda.” Terry Battersbee, the Salvation Army representative and driver of the gift truck, said: “We appreciate everything that is being donated to us because it goes a long way and helps out those who are in need. Any gift from one package to 100 packages is a help. We asked that people specify age groups for the toys and once it all comes in, they can allocate it as such. This is my first year doing this for the Salvation Army, but I have done other things like this and I have seen how the children’s faces light up when they receive their presents.”

December 20. Shareholders of Aecon, the company overseeing the project to build Bermuda’s new airport terminal, have approved the sale of the company to a Chinese firm. CCCC International Holding Ltd, a subsidiary of China Communications Construction Company Ltd, offered $1.5 billion, or $20.37 per share, for the Canadian firm in October. At that time, Aecon stressed that the takeover would have no impact on the airport project. More than 99 per cent of the shareholders who voted backed the deal, with 33.85 million in favour and 204,000 against. Steve Nackan, president of Aecon Concessions and chairman of Skyport, the company overseeing operations at LF Wade International Airport, said after the deal was first proposed in October, that it would be “business as usual” in Bermuda. “This sale will have no impact on the day-to-day construction of the new airport terminal or Skyport,” Mr Nackan said. “The Aecon management team and friendly Bermudian Skyport employees will remain in place and the new airport will be completed on time and on budget with the guarantee of the Canadian Commercial Corporation. We look forward to delivering a state-of-the-art terminal in 2020.” The Globe and Mail reported that the takeover has already received a “no action” letter granting approval under the Canadian Competition Act and Aecon has been advised by the buyer that it has approval from the National Development and Reform Commission, a Chinese economic planning regulator. It still faces a review under the Investment Canada Act.

new airport

See above item

December 20. Six young Bermudians have been offered jobs on the island after completing an internship linked to the Bermuda airport redevelopment. Je-Shae Pace, Barak Bremar, Owen Chisnall, James Gould, Ricardo Graham-Ward and Jordan Lawrence all took part in a six-month programme in Toronto this year. Ms Pace has landed a job as with Skyport as a project coordinator, and the other five have offers elsewhere in Bermuda. The programme was a partnership between Skyport, Aecon Group Inc. and the Department of Workforce Development. According to a press release from Skyport, Aecon helped place six candidates representing a range of industry disciplines, including engineering and architecture, with both Aecon and several consultancy firms across Ontario that have a level of involvement in the Bermuda Airport Redevelopment Project. The objectives included the development of industry knowledge, leadership and technical skills, as well as building their professional networks, and experiencing Canadian culture. Frank Ross, Aecon’s executive director of infrastructure, said: “These six Bermudians have spent the past six months working with top companies in Canada and learning from the best in their industries — our design and architecture partners on the Airport Redevelopment Project. They return to Bermuda equipped with the knowledge needed to further their careers in engineering, architecture, health and safety and design. We wish them all the best in their endeavors moving forward.” Throughout the course of the six-month internship, each of the candidates was paired up with an “Aecon Buddy” engineer to assist with navigating a new work landscape, networking, and answering any questions. The interns were also responsible for making monthly presentations to members of Aecon’s senior leadership team about new challenges and lessons learnt. Ms Pace, 26, interned with Scott Associates Architects to gain experience in the field of architecture, which she studied at university. Mr Bremar, 23, worked with Mulvey & Banani International as an electrical design intern. Mr Chisnall, 22, spent half of his internship with H.H. Angus and half with Aecon to gain experience in the fields of mechanical engineering and project safety. Mr Gould, 24, interned with Aecon to experience in construction management and safety. Mr Graham-Ward, 24, interned with WSP Global and Quinn Dressel Associates, which allowed him to further his career in civil and structural engineering. Mr Lawrence, 20 spent three months with H.H. Angus and three months with Aecon gaining experience in mechanical engineering and construction management. Aaron Adderley, president of Skyport, stated: “We are happy to have Je-Shae join the Skyport team. She is a young vibrant professional and her skill set is a welcomed addition to the technical team. This internship programme was about investing in young, talented Bermudians and providing them with opportunities to grow professionally, which aligns with our community investment goals at Bermuda Skyport.”

December 20. The search has begun in Bermuda and overseas for a replacement for Chief Justice Ian Kawaley. The Judicial and Legal Services Committee today said the recruitment process is under way, after Mr Justice Kawaley announced he would be stepping down next July. The committee stated: “A recruitment process is under way to fill the post of Chief Justice which will be vacated by the incumbent Ian Kawaley on July 14, 2018. The Chief Justice Kawaley had already advised the Governor of his intention to step down in July 2018, having been appointed in April 2012 on the understanding that he would serve for a term of not less than five years. The post will be advertised locally and internationally today.”

December 20. The Royal Bermuda Regiment today stepped up its recruitment efforts as it prepares for life after conscription. National security minister Wayne Caines joined Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel David Curley for a rallying call at the Regiment’s new pop-up recruiting office in Hamilton. They highlighted that recruit camp will take place from January 14 to 28, and the deadline for applicants is January 4. Mr Caines said: “We want to highlight the importance of ensuring that we have a full slate of volunteers for the upcoming Regiment Recruit Camp. “Government has worked extensively with the Royal Bermuda Regiment to move to an all-volunteer force. In recent years we have had solid participation from the men and women in our community, who have chosen the path of becoming recruit volunteers. This year, we recognize the critical importance of maintaining a suitable complement of volunteers.” They listed the following benefits of volunteering:

Mr Caines said: “As Minister of National Security, I’m encouraging those able-bodied men and women in our community to seriously consider volunteering for the Bermuda Regiment. It is a rewarding experience, both from a community standpoint and financially. I have served in the Bermuda Regiment and I am grateful for the time I spent there. I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand both the work and training involved and there is nothing that gives a person greater pride than being able to serve their country. So we want to encourage the next batch of leaders to join these ranks.” Colonel Curley said: “I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all residents of Bermuda between the ages of 18 and 35 who can spare the odd weekend or evening, who can attend an annual two-week camp either locally or overseas in order to volunteer to serve our country. I volunteered for Military duty approximately 28 years ago and decided to be an officer because I wanted to learn and be able to help promote an environment that fosters good sound judgment, positivity, leadership, team building and personnel interactions among our future soldiers.” Interested individuals can either visit Warwick Camp, the Hamilton recruitment centre or go to www.rbr.bm to sign up. For more information, call 335-0252.

Bermuda Regiment Caribbean hurricane relief-boundDecember 20. Life is slowly getting back to normal for some in the Caribbean less than four months after their homelands were battered by hurricanes. While the recovery still has a long way to go on some islands, Bermuda has played its part in helping people to get back on their feet. Kenneth Morgan, a former Bermuda resident who lives in the British Virgin Islands, which was badly affected by Hurricane Irma, said international assistance had proven invaluable. Electricity has been restored to parts of the country, he said, while a curfew in place for safety reasons will be lifted before Christmas. Mr Morgan, who lives in Tortola, said: “It has had a huge impact. We are a small place and when something like this happens, assistance is invaluable. Just having electricity is crucial to getting back to normal. Having the teams from Bermuda, Canada and Jamaica to help has been invaluable, as was getting police here to help keep law and order. “We’re now at the point where the curfew is being lifted at the end of the week, which will be another step towards normalcy.” While Bermuda escaped untouched during hurricane season, Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean in September, damaging or destroying 95 per cent of buildings on Barbuda, including its hospital, schools and hotels. A state of emergency, the first in the territory’s history, was declared in BVI with authorities estimating it would take many months for power to be restored to the islands. While the region was still reeling from Irma, Hurricane Maria ripped through Dominica, causing extensive flooding and landslides. An estimated 98 per cent of homes suffered roof damage in the storm and infrastructure in Roseau, the capital, was left in ruins. Maria also caused lasting damage in Puerto Rico, destroying the territory’s power grid to leave all 3.4 million residents without electricity. Hurricane Irma has been blamed for 134 deaths and more than $66 billion in damages, with Maria responsible for more than $103 billion in damages and more than 500 deaths, according to some media reports. Bermuda was one of many nations who offered assistance to the affected islands, with teams from Belco, the Royal Bermuda Regiment and Bermuda Police Service helping with the restoration efforts. A team of Belco linemen flew to BVI to aid BVI Electric Company’s efforts to restore the power grid. They were joined by a group from the Bermuda Police Service, who assisted with internal security. The Royal Bermuda Regiment flew 30 soldiers to Grand Turk Island to help after Irma. The soldiers remained on the island as it was struck by Maria and worked to clear roads to key emergency service centres and deliver supplies in the storm’s wake. Numerous charity groups also launched fundraising campaigns to support the Caribbean community. Mr Morgan said the majority of Tortola residents, himself included, lost power when Hurricane Irma passed over BVI. “I still don’t have electricity and I may not get it back until February,” he said. “Many people don’t, but I’m fortunate in that I have, and have been using, a generator. People who don’t have that are obviously in a worse place. If you have a job and you have a roof over your head, then you have a sense of normalcy. More and more people are getting into that position, but it will take a long time before anything is close to normal. There are a lot of people still in a bad way, but overall the movement is towards a return to normal and people are getting back into their lives.” Jeannette Forte, who came to Bermuda with her family in the wake of the storm, said they hope to return home to Tortola in June. “We decided to remain in Bermuda because we have three children, one of whom is completing his final year at school. At the time of evacuation and relocation it was unknown how long it would take to get the school up and running with the complete programme in place — bear in mind that teachers and administrators were also displaced with damage to their homes and there was damage to the school, which thankfully was not too bad.” Mrs Forte said she has been keeping abreast of the restoration work and that there had been slow progress. “We constantly hear about recovery and the best news is that our neighborhood on Tortola is being worked on this week for power restoration.  I believe insurance companies have now been round to assess all the claims, but it is taking time for some, so many places are still not yet being rebuilt. Tortola was hit with flash floods and another tropical storm about a week later and so the roads suffered further damage, making some places impassable and relief efforts hampered.” Alan Joell, who has family in Dominica, said he was thankful that the loss of life was not greater. “People are still struggling with the infrastructure,” he said. “There are still a lot of areas out of power, but they are receiving a lot of international assistance. The main town is easily accessible, but once you get out towards the mountains, there’s quite a lot of work that needs to be done there. The main thing, of course, is the loss of life. Everything else you can replace.”

December 20. Western Union is looking to work with a new partner in Bermuda to undertake international money transfers. The global financial-services giant told The Royal Gazette that its services on the island were unavailable now as its agent had “ceased money transfer operations”. Paula Barifouse, regional global money transfer communications leader at Western Union, told The Royal Gazette: “Bermuda is an important market for the company, and Western Union has offered money-transfer services in alliance with our agent, Bermuda Financial Network (BFN), since 2008. “At this time, our services are unavailable, as BFN has ceased money transfer operations. Western Union has been working to restore services with another agent as soon as practicable, in line with our commitment to provide our customers with reliable and efficient services. Our customers have trusted our services for many years and we apologize for the inconvenience caused by this service disruption.” The Western Union service, has been down for several months. In September this year, Ms Barifouse said that BFN was “undergoing enhancements to ensure compliance with Western Union’s policies and procedures, as well as local regulations”. BFN declined to comment on the matter. Money-transfer services are popular among foreign workers looking to send cash home to their families overseas. A spokesperson from the Filipino Association said: “As far as the Filipino community is concerned, they still send their money through Moneygram and through online banking.”

December 20. Anthony Brown, of Pembroke, was today named as the motorcyclist killed in a crash in Hamilton Parish. Mr Brown, 51, was traveling east on North Shore Road when he collided with a van turning into the Esso Tigermart, at about 2.55pm yesterday, according to police. He was taken to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, where he died from his injuries. It is Bermuda’s 15th road death of 2017. Witnesses are urged to contact PC Tavoris Douglas at the Road’s Policing Unit on 295-0011.

December 19. Bermuda was one of the world’s most Googled travel destinations this year. Bermuda was tenth on the list of most searched, with Las Vegas coming out on top. Travel + Leisure Magazine , who published an online article on the results, said tragedies in Las Vegas and Barcelona, which was in second spot, may have led to increased searches for those tourism hotspots. But the rest of the top-ten list are made up of a range of popular vacation destinations. Other high-ranked places included the Turks and Caicos Islands, Bali, the Maldives, US ski resort Aspen, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and Mexico’s Cancun. The news was celebrated by the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Victoria Isley, BTA chief sales and marketing officer, said: “Breaking into the Google destination searches Top Ten List is another sign that the level of exposure for, and interest in, Bermuda reached epic proportions in 2017. At the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s Annual Tourism Summit in November, we shared that we are squarely focused on enhancing the island’s digital footprint to better engage consumers and convert them into Bermuda visitors.” Meanwhile Jamari Douglas, digital marketing manager, added: “Our next big step is a unique partnership with Google, where we are working closely with local tourism businesses to claim and manage their Google My Business Accounts. We have already begun this process with webinars and presentations. We hope a greater number of stakeholders will join us in this important effort to improve Bermuda’s digital presence and capture the imaginations of the next generation of travelers.”

December 19. Bermuda-founded law firm Appleby has launched breach of confidence proceedings against the Guardian and the BBC. According to the Guardian, Appleby has also demanded that the two news organisations disclose any of the six million documents that informed their reporting of the Paradise Papers investigation. The revelations, which pitched Bermuda in the middle of an international storm over tax affairs, were unveiled after a year’s work by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Files include financial statements, e-mails and loan arrangements going back decades. The Guardian and BBC say they will “defend robustly” the legal action. Appleby has said the documents were stolen in a cyber-hack and there was no public interest in the stories published about it and its clients. Appleby said in a statement on the Guardian: “Our overwhelming responsibility is to our clients and our own colleagues who have had their private and confidential information taken in what was a criminal act. We need to know firstly which of their — and our — documents were taken. We would want to explain in detail to our clients and our colleagues the extent to which their confidentiality has been attacked. Despite repeated requests the journalists have failed to provide to us copies of the stolen documents they claim to have seen. For this reason, Appleby is obliged to take legal action in order to ascertain what information has been stolen.” A spokesman for the Guardian said: “We can confirm that a claim has been issued against the Guardian. The claim does not challenge the truth of the stories we published. Instead it is an attempt to undermine our responsible public interest journalism and to force us to disclose documents that we regard as journalistic material. This claim could have serious consequences for investigative journalism in the UK. Ninety-six of the world’s most respected media organisations concluded there was significant public interest in undertaking the Paradise Papers project and hundreds of articles have been published in recent weeks as a result of the work undertaken by partners. We will be defending ourselves vigorously against this claim as we believe our reporting was responsible and a matter of legitimate public interest.” A BBC spokesman stated in the Guardian article: “The BBC will strongly defend its role and conduct in the Paradise Papers project. Our serious and responsible journalism is resulting in revelations which are clearly of the highest public interest and has revealed matters which would otherwise have remained secret. Already we are seeing authorities taking action as a consequence.”

December 19. Billionaire investor Michael Lee-Chin sees a bright future for Bermuda — a view he has backed with hard cash in the form of his purchase of a controlling interest in Clarien Bank. The charismatic Jamaican-born chairman of Canadian firm Portland Holdings is not troubled by the growing pressure being applied on the island by major countries looking to clamp down on tax avoidance. In an interview, he said he saw opportunity amid the uncertainty, guided by his long-term confidence in both the island and its wealth-management industry. And he spoke of his penchant for wealth-building opportunities at times of crisis, of moving in when other investors are moving out. On December 1, Clarien Group announced agreement on a deal that would give companies controlled by Mr Lee-Chin’s Portland group of companies a 68 per cent stake in the Bermuda company. Portland Private Equity, which initially invested in Clarien in April 2016, will hold a 17.9 per cent interest in Clarien under the terms of the deal, while NCB Financial Group will own 50.1 per cent. Edmund Gibbons Ltd owns the remainder. Speaking from Canada, Mr Lee-Chin explained the thinking behind this substantial investment. “I’m very bullish on Bermuda, because Bermuda has a phenomenal global reputation, and because its current situation has given us an opportunity to enter the market.  Also, wealthy people from around the world still want to protect their assets, so there will be an opportunity to service their needs.” He said the attention focused on offshore financial centres like Bermuda from tax-hungry major countries had created an improved investment opportunity. “We are firm believers in the Chinese definition of the word crisis,” Mr Lee-Chin said. “Crisis = danger + opportunity. We can’t get the opportunity unless there is a crisis. When there is a crisis, most people focus on the ‘danger’ component, but those with long-term thinking recognize the opportunity.” Global financial institutions were pulling out of offshore centres, he said, something he described as a “kneejerk reaction” to today’s circumstances. “In five or ten years from now, the global players will want to return,” he said. “With the benefit of time they will realize that there is still a strong demand from clients to protect their assets and Bermuda has developed a reputation as a safe place to do that. The rising demand for asset protection is a long-term, secular trend and I always want to invest in a business with a rising tide that will lift all boats and will lift ours.” The island’s advantages included its British legal system, the fact that it is English speaking, has a great mid-Atlantic location, and also that it has a strong reputation for stability, he added. An example of how Mr Lee-Chin’s opportunity-from-crisis investment philosophy has worked for him came with Portland’s purchase of National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd in 2002. At the time, NCB had 24 per cent market share in Jamaica, where Canadian banks, one of which had a 54 per cent market share, were dominating. He recalled: “At the time we bought the bank, staff morale was low because they couldn’t compete against the Canadian banks, their IT infrastructure was outdated, inflation was about 30 per cent and the currency was depreciating. The year before we bought it, NCB made a profit of US$6 million — in the year through September 2017, it made US$150 million and now it has a 44 per cent market share. Over the 14 years, it has made about US$1.5 billion in profits and paid about US$475 million in corporate taxes.” The fact he highlighted taxes paid highlights another aspect of Mr Lee-Chin’s approach to doing business. The Portland mantra is prosperitas cum caritate, or prosper with care for people, which speaks to his desire for his businesses to “not only do well, but also do good.  I want every staff member to come to work believing there is a direct connection between their efforts and the well-being of the next generation,” Mr Lee-Chin said. He personally works on developing such a community-minded culture in his businesses, he added, striving to lead by example through his own personal life and values. Mr Lee-Chin was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica in 1951 and moved to Canada in 1970 to study civil engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. He went into the mutual fund industry and became a financial adviser at 26. Having achieved some success, at the age of 32, he borrowed money to buy $500,000 of Mackenzie Financial stock, which appreciated sevenfold over the next four years. He then bought a small Ontario investment firm called AIC Ltd with $800,000 of assets under management — 20 years later it was managing more than $15 billion. In 2009, he sold it to Manulife. Now he is chairman and CEO of Portland, which has invested heavily in the Caribbean region, owning stakes in wealth management companies, insurers, banks, telecommunications groups and the Wallenford Coffee Company, the largest cultivator of Jamaica Blue Mountain and Jamaica High Mountain coffee. He said there were three preconditions that he looked for in potential investments. “When all three are present, that gets us excited,” he said.

The first thing Mr Lee-Chin said his investment will bring to Clarien is to bolster its balance sheet, which would in turn help the bank to bolster its asset-management and trust services, as well as strengthening the back office and front office. Asked whether the bank would be likely to add to its staff, Mr Lee-Chin said: “That will be a function of how well we do over time. If we are successful, more staff would be a natural by-product.” And the advice he would give to any budding entrepreneur? “Understand the eighth wonder of the world, as it was described by Albert Einstein — compounding,” he said. “If you don’t understand compounding, it’s difficult to lead a successful life. It’s about reinvesting and growing. Investing the experiences you had yesterday to make you stronger tomorrow. Doing the same thing over and over, versus flipping from one thing to another. Persevering, bringing forth everything you’ve learnt to this point in your life.”

December 19. Tim Morrison is the new general manager of the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club. Mr Morrison will lead the resort team and oversee operation of the 400-room hotel, three restaurants, meeting rooms, marina and the Beach Club at Sinky Bay, according to a press release. He has more than 27 years of experience in the hospitality industry and was general manager of luxury hotel Fairmont Royal Pavilion, in Barbados, since 2015. Before his move to the Caribbean, Mr Morrison was based in Canada, where he joined Fairmont in 2012 as the hotel manager of Fairmont Royal York, in Toronto. He was also general manager of the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier, in North Vancouver, and at Pan Pacific Whistler, Mountainside Resort — Village Centre Resort, and Dubh Linn Gate Old Irish Pub, and as the Food and Beverage Director of the Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver — AAA 5 Diamond Hotel. From 2006 until 2010, Mr Morrison was the managing director of the Athlete Villages in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. He led a team of up to 2,000 employees, during Games time, and managed the accommodation and servicing for 6,000 athletes and officials. Heather McCrory, executive vice-president of AccorHotels North and Central America, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Tim to Bermuda and to have him taking the reins of Hamilton Princess & Beach Club. We are confident that his leadership will guide the hotel through its next chapter.” Mr Morrison said: “I am delighted to have been appointed the General Manager of Hamilton Princess and Beach Club and to have moved to Bermuda. As a result of the recent $100 million renovation, the hotel has been positioned as one of the most exciting hotel destinations on the island and I look forward to building on this.”

December 19. A 51-year-old man died after a road collision in the Crawl area of Hamilton Parish yesterday. The death is the fifteenth on Bermuda’s roads this year. According to a police spokesman, the crash occurred shortly before 3pm, when a van traveling east on North Shore Road indicated and began to turn into the Esso Tigermarket. It appears that the male on a motorcycle, also traveling east, attempted to overtake and collided with the van, subsequently hitting a wall. No further details will be given by police until next of kin have been notified. Witnesses are asked to contact police on 295-0011.

December 19. Campaign group Take Back Our Park is urging the Bermuda Government to unveil its plans for Southlands. The environmental organisation praised Government for passing legislation designating the land on South Shore as a protected area earlier this month. But it said a great amount of work is now required to restore the landscape and buildings in the 37-acre estate. A spokesman said: “It has been a very long saga that has seen many unfulfilled promises, but credit where credit is due, and this Government has taken up the mantle and made sure the area is now protected as a national park. That is something TBOP and a lot of other people and organisations have been wanting to see for some time and we are delighted that this designation has finally been made.” Southlands was earmarked for a hotel but after a series of protests against the plan, the area was formally obtained by Government in 2012 as part of a land swap deal, with the developers getting 80 acres at Morgan’s Point. The spokesman said: “Since then there have been many commitments in various Throne Speeches about making Southlands a national park, but nothing ever happened. As a result, it has fallen into terrible disrepair. Lovely lawns are now covered with weeds and trees, buildings have rotted and the estate, as a whole, has been woefully neglected. The restoration of the landscape and buildings is going to take a tremendous amount of work, and so we have to ask the question: what next? Are there now plans to restore the estate? Will we see some innovative ideas for its use? Would Government be prepared to let the buildings, for instance, for a peppercorn rent if an entrepreneur came up with a workable plan? Southlands could be a tremendous asset for Bermuda for locals as well as tourists. At the moment, instead of being a national resource, it has been allowed to become a national disgrace which is a tragedy.”

December 19. Pembroke South East MP Rolfe Commissiong is to be the new chairman of the parole board. Mr Commissiong replaces Ashfield De Vent, who has held the post for almost six years. The Progressive Labour Party MP will be joined by Vaughn Caines, Lakeitha Cunningham, Azeem Khan, Delmont Tucker and LaVerne Furbert as new appointees to the board. Therapist Cherita Rayner and Ernest Peets Jr, a family therapist and PLP electoral candidate, are the remaining members of the former board.

December 18. Bermuda-based reinsurers are weighing restructuring options in response to US tax reform legislation that could be signed by President Donald Trump as early as this week and come into effect by the start of next year. Tax expert Will McCallum said that the island’s major industry will see its cost of doing business going up when the reform takes effect and some companies will likely have to relocate hundreds of millions of dollars of capital to the US. However, judging from conversations with clients, he views a mass exodus of jobs from the island as unlikely. Mr McCallum, managing director and head of tax for KPMG in Bermuda, was speaking at a US tax reform update session hosted by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce on Friday morning. “I don’t see how anybody can say this a good thing for Bermuda, but it doesn’t feel apocalyptic,” Mr McCallum said. Late on Friday, US Republicans put forward the latest version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act fashioned from the different Bills passed by the House of Representatives and by the Senate. Members of the House and Senate are expected to vote on it this week, with Republicans hoping to get it to President Trump’s desk before Christmas. The US corporate tax rate will be slashed from 35 per cent to 21 per cent, reducing Bermuda’s tax advantage over US rivals. But perhaps the biggest direct impact for the island will come from the Base Erosion and Anti-Abuse Tax, known as Beat. It will hit Bermudian insurance groups with US subsidiaries, which cede premiums to their affiliated reinsurers in Bermuda, by effectively levying a 10 per cent tax on the transaction, rising to 12.5 per cent from 2026. This will impact several major groups including XL Catlin, Arch Capital and Axis Capital. Mr McCallum told a business audience, which included John Rankin, the Governor, and Wayne Furbert, the Junior Minister of Finance, that his impacted clients in the insurance industry had been working on their restructuring options. He said Beat would effectively be a gross tax with no apparent deductibles. The Bill includes an option to be taxed as a US entity — with regard to affiliated US business — instead of paying Beat, an option that Mr McCallum believes most impacted groups will take. If the Bill becomes law before the end of the year, Beat will come into effect on January 1, 2018, meaning insurance companies face a “busy couple of weeks” preparing. For the first taxable year, the rate will be a reduced 5 per cent. Mr McCallum explained that many US subsidiaries of Bermudian insurance groups used quota-share reinsurance contracts with their parent companies, to transfer substantial amounts of risk from the US to the Bermuda balance sheet. He argued that this was “a standard way of managing risk, not a tax play”. Much of the premium goes back to the US in the form of ceding commissions and claims, Mr McCallum said. And he added that the diversification of global risk and scale of the Bermuda balance sheet was what allowed Bermudian insurance groups to take on so much American risk. He said the 10 per cent Beat tax was “not a gross tax, but it works that way” and would be so punitive to affiliated quota-share deals that most groups would take the option to file as a US taxpayer for this particular part of their business. They would effectively “draw a box around their US earnings” and pay US corporate tax on those profits. “Why would a Bermuda company opt to be a US company for tax purposes?” Mr McCallum said. “Because it’s a better outcome. The bad thing is that they will have to restructure their businesses in a way that they don’t want to, not for good business reasons. It will mean that some capital will have to be relocated to the US to satisfy the regulators. But the bottom line is that there may not be much change in Bermuda.” Bermuda reinsurers write business from all over the world that will be unaffected by the US tax changes, he said. Also, Beat would not apply to third-party business from the US. He did not expect to see mass relocation of underwriting teams to the US, but he said this would depend on each group’s circumstances and its concentration of US business. The Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers is a member of the US-based Coalition for Competitive Insurance Rates, which expressed “disappointment” over the latest version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and urged a rethink. The effect of Beat would be to “unfairly slap US consumers and small businesses with higher insurance premiums — undoing potential tax relief they had hoped to get from this bill”, the CCIR stated. “The global insurance and reinsurance industry is concerned that Congress would include a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that will serve only to ‘Americanise’ risk by decreasing capacity benefits to insurance markets globally, thus increasing US prices. This is truly a blow to consumers and business, particularly those in Florida, Texas, California, South Carolina, Louisiana and other disaster-prone states who rely on this capacity in times of catastrophe. The only winner under the double-taxation that will result from Beat is a group of highly successful domestic insurance companies who stand to benefit greatly from the market distortion this provision will trigger. CCIR welcomes continued dialogue on this issue.”

December 18. Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, is under pressure to veto Bermuda’s ban on same-sex marriage, a UK newspaper said yesterday. The Mail on Sunday, a conservative tabloid that sells around 1.28 million copies in Britain, added that John Rankin, the Governor, had taken “advice on requesting Mr Johnson’s authorization to veto the bill”. The newspaper also said Mr Rankin had to get approval from the foreign secretary before he could withhold consent on an Act passed by the island’s Parliament. The news came less than a week after the Senate backed the Domestic Partnership Bill, which is designed to replace same-sex marriage with a watered-down legal relationship open to both gay and straight couples. The Mail on Sunday said Mr Johnson’s position was “fraught with difficulties” and that a veto would “spark uproar and accusations of neocolonialism” in Bermuda. It added that if the Act is signed into law by Mr Rankin, Bermuda would face a backlash from a boycott of its tourism industry. A foreign office spokesman told Mail on Sunday: “The UK Government is a proud supporter of LGBT rights and continues to support same-sex marriage. While the UK Government is disappointed with the implications of this Bill, this is a matter for the Bermuda Government acting within the terms of the Bermuda Constitution and in accordance with international law.” The article, published yesterday, also quoted Chris Bryant, a former Labour government Overseas Territories Minister, who called on Mr Johnson to let Mr Rankin veto the Act. Mr Bryant said: “A British citizen, regardless of what part of Britain they’re from, should have the same rights. If approved, the law would make Bermuda the first country in the world to cancel gay marriage after previously allowing it.” Political heavyweights in the US have also hit out at the island’s removal of marriage rights. Howard Dean, a former presidential candidate, a former Governor of Vermont and one-time chairman of the Democratic Committee, tweeted on Friday: “Progressive Labour Party in Bermuda just eliminated gay marriage. Americans who really are progressives should find another vacation spot.” The tweet had nearly 1,500 re-tweets and more than 3,300 likes by yesterday afternoon. Same-sex marriage became law in England and Wales in 2013 and in Scotland, which has a devolved Parliament and its own legal system, a few months later in 2014. Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Northern Ireland after it was blocked by the hardline Democratic Unionist Party in the province’s Assembly. Civil partnerships for gay couples had become law nine years earlier and applied across the UK. Government House yesterday declined to comment on the Mail on Sunday story and referred to its statement last week that “in considering this matter, the Governor will continue to act in accordance with his responsibilities under the Constitution.”

December 18. Lawyer Mark Pettingill is to consider a constitutional challenge to legislation designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. Mr Pettingill told The Royal Gazette that a gay couple had approached him to weigh up the potential of taking the case to court on constitutional grounds. The former Attorney-General played a major role in the island’s human rights battle over same-sex marriage when he represented Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche in the civil case that led to a Supreme Court ruling that enabled gay couples to marry in Bermuda. Mr Pettingill stressed the couple had yet to decide “if, and it’s very much if, we were to proceed”. He added: “A couple is seeking advice with regard to a challenge on the basis that their constitutional rights are being infringed by the passing of this Bill. We are in the process of considering that position. Certainly, it’s not a novel concept, where Bills have been challenged in the past, both in Bermuda and other jurisdictions. There is a lot of precedent for this. More importantly, a constitution has to be read as a living, breathing document in modern time. The fundamental rights of the individual in accordance with section one of the constitution are sacrosanct.” Mr Pettingill was a prominent critic of the Domestic Partnership Act 2017, which was approved by the Senate last week. He said it was “disheartening”, and a “watering down” of human rights. The legislation, which would offer partnerships to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples, was put out for public consultation last month by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs. Mr Brown said the debate had been “a prolonged matter of great division”. A home affairs ministry spokeswoman said there had been 3,024 e-mail responses, including 16 received after the consultation deadline. The majority, 2,836, were “robot” e-mails from overseas, all in support of same-sex marriage. The ministry received 188 e-mails from Bermuda residents. A total of 22 of them came from “a local activist”. The spokeswoman added there were six e-mails from opponents of same-sex marriage, and four from “persons who gave specific comments about the Bill”.

December 18. Bermuda was the focus of a feature by Canadian airline WestJet this month. A three-page story in WestJet Magazine highlighted island attractions including Tom Moore’s jungle, the Crystal Caves and Horseshoe Bay. The article suggested an ideal three-day tour of Bermuda. It said the island was a “nearby slice of paradise” and offered more than beaches. The article reads: “There are 34 fabulous beaches and coves around the island, but there’s so much more to see, including lush tropical forests, massive underground caves and vibrant cities. What’s more, it’s easy to get around Bermuda thanks to its reliable public transportation. Base yourself in centrally located Hamilton, the island’s capital, to experience the best of this beautiful destination.” Local bars and restaurants singled out, included Sweet Saaks Bakery and Wahoo’s Bistro in St George’s, Devil’s Isle and The Dog House in Hamilton, and the Frog and Onion in Dockyard. WestJet operates flights between Bermuda and Toronto. A Bermuda Tourism Authority spokesman said: “Canadians are responding favorably to the Bermuda brand and our island way of life. The proof is in the 21 per cent growth among leisure air visitors so far this year from Canada. The BTA’s public relations efforts generate the kind of coverage seen in WestJet Magazine this month and our work continues to find additional opportunities to target Canadian travelers and propel further growth.”

December 18. The owners of St George’s Club have come under fire from members after fees rocketed. One timeshare owner said the assessment of his annual maintenance fees had risen by more than 60 per cent. The source added the club had told members the increase was to get rid of the club’s deficit. But he said he believed it was an effort to drive timeshare owners away as the property moves to a hotel model. The member said: “We love Bermuda and that is why we bought the timeshare. We have been coming to Bermuda for well over 20 years. I consider it my second home, but this action by the St George’s Club cannot be supported or condoned.” Sally Kyle, general manager at the club, said in an e-mail to members in November that the club needed to “eliminate the deficit that is sitting, and has been agreed is due from the members”. The e-mail added that after consultation with the Ministry of Economic Development and Tourism, the club amended the declaration of club membership rights and obligations to require that members would be responsible for the “accumulated financial assessment” immediately rather than in the final year of their contract. The e-mail said the club had increased the estimated amount to be made by members next year to accomplish its goal. It was revealed last year that the owners wanted to change the club into a hotel, and a potential buyer was said to be interested in investing in the property. The proposed sale did not go ahead but the owners decided to continue the move to a hotel. The e-mail from the club said: “It is clear from the recent ‘buy-out’ that while many members did take the opportunity to exit from the time-sharing scheme at the St George’s Club, nearly an equal number wished to continue, even understanding that the St George’s Club was becoming more of a hotel operation.” We are now at the point that we are more hotel than timeshare, and we need to address the deficit that is left after all funds from the ‘buy-out’ were used to reduce the large deficit and with it the accounts payable outstanding. Ms Kyle said that the club was aware it was a controversial move and that management expected be criticized. But she added: “Hopefully our commitment to change the way the club operates while maintaining your ability to visit each year when you want and stay in your allotted unit is some consolation, especially as we are also committed to ensure that this is the final time that we will be billing you an additional assessment. We want The St George’s Club to succeed, and we want everyone to be satisfied with their experience when they visit. We are working to that end and will continue to do so.” One timeshare owner told The Royal Gazette that his annual maintenance fee assessment had risen “significantly”. He said: “They have increased the timeshare members’ annual maintenance fees in excess of 60 per cent with the intent to drive the timeshare members out. Each of the members have paid a substantial upfront fee to guarantee a specific cottage, week and number of years as a timeshare owner that is willing to pay an annual maintenance fee to cover additional expenses to maintain said facility. This fee is usually pegged to inflationary increases. This latest assessment does not appear fair or reasonable. In my estimation it is not at all promoting Bermuda.” Ms Kyle said last Friday that no one liked price increases but the hike was needed to meet the cost of running the resort. She added: “We have not had a significant rise for some time. Increases in utilities, payroll costs and of course taxes has required that we have had to pass this to the consumer. It should be noted that the fees are still less than renting a cottage with full kitchen at the club as a hotel guest so it is still excellent value.” Ms Kyle said the timeshare model does not work in Bermuda and the club would move towards a hotel model but preserve the rights of membership to use their specific cottage in their week. She added: “The St George’s Club has enjoyed a marked increase in hotel rentals from 2016 and we are busy updating the plant where we can to reflect our new status. We have a new hotel manager with vast experience joining us in the New Year to assist with this transition and we feel that with the development of the St Regis next door these are exciting times for the town of St George.”

December 18. Somers Ltd, owner of Bermuda Commercial Bank, said net income fell nearly 40 per cent to $19.4 million for the year ended September 30. The financial-services holding company with interests in the UK, Australia and Ireland said BCB had made a $1.1 million profit, while the group had slashed its total borrowings to $4.5 million from $26.5 million a year earlier. Warren McLeland, chairman of Bermuda Stock Exchange-listed Somers, said it had been a “strong year” for the group, with increases in the value of its 62 per cent stake in Australian lender Homeloans and its 62.5 per cent stake in UK wealth manager Waverton Investment Management. “With supportive capital markets, our investments have been able to grow their assets under management and this has had a positive impact on their financial results,” Mr Mcleland said. “Unlike in 2016, currency movements have been mildly positive for our valuations with both sterling and the Australian dollar strengthening against the US dollar.” Somers reported an 11-cent decrease in net asset value per share to $18.55, mainly due to the issue of shares from the pro rata bonus warrant issue at a discount to net asset value earlier in the year. Mr McLeland added that another UK investment, PCF Group, had received a British deposit-taking licence in July. “Since then, PCF has built up its deposit base to £53 million ($71 million) and this will assist their future growth,” Mr McLeland added. The Somers board declared a final dividend 28 cents per share, to bring the total dividend for the year to 48 cents per share, up 4 cents on 2016. This represents a 3.4 per cent yield on Somers’ $14 share price at the end of the period. Today, Somers was trading at $14.50 on the BSX. Homeloans is now Somers’ largest investment with a value of $107.5 million and reported assets under management of A$10.2 billion ($7.8 billion). The values of investments in Homeloans, Waverton and PCF all rose, driving a $15.2 million gain in Somers’ investment portfolio. But the valuation of BCB decreased “due to the delay in BCB implementing its new strategic plan”, Somers said. Somers added BCB had a capital ratio of 22.5 per cent at September 30, with 49 per cent of assets in cash and high quality liquid assets. Waverton posted pre-tax income of £9.4 million, up from £7.9 million in 2016, and assets under management of £5.2 billion. During the year, Somers sold its stake in Ascot Lloyd for £15.3 million and used the proceeds to pay off bank debt.

December 17. Sunday.

December 16. Premier David Burt was among the speakers at a two-day conference on infrastructure held in Jamaica this week. The Caribbean Infrastructure Forum, which was held on Monday and Tuesday at Montego Bay, focused on the development of essential infrastructure in Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Topics covered included energy, water, ports, healthcare and tourism infrastructure. Charlene Cartwright-Robinson, the Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, also spoke on the development of infrastructure. Steve Beatty, the global head of infrastructure for KPMG, moderated the heads of government panel, where the discussion covered social, economic and political challenges faced by island governments. Jamaican business magnate Michael Lee-Chin, the chairman of Portland Private Equity, delivered the keynote speech. According to Mike Morrison, the CEO of KPMG, more than 20 Bermuda delegates attended, with panellists including Lester Nelson, the CEO of the Bermuda Airport Authority, and Tawanna Wedderburn, CEO of the Bermuda Health Council. Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, also took part in a panel on water and waste water infrastructure.

December 16. The new chairman of the Bermuda Tourism Authority has been named Hotelier of the Year by the Bermuda Hotel Association. Paul Telford, managing director of Rosewood Bermuda, said the award was “a huge honour”. He added: “I’m blessed with an incredible team and I accepted the award on their behalf and it’s a reflection of them.” The Rosewood resort was again the only local hotel to win the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Award this year. Mr Telford said that Rosewood would be “aggressively” pursuing five stars. He added: “I’d like to think I helped bring some guidance and direction towards getting there.” In the 25 or so years since he started in the industry by taking a summer job clearing tables at Elbow Beach Hotel in Paget, Mr Telford said he had seen a sea change in the product sought by visitors. He added: “When I came back to Bermuda nine years ago, it was a complete change. It was less about the crystal and silverware and more about the personable service, the experience, the connections visitors could make with Bermudians. What’s really different now is that it’s about having a special, unique experience, and it’s a lot of fun.” Mr Telford said Bermudian staff brought an “authenticity” to the job. He added: “Being Bermudian, I was warm by nature.” Mr Telford said that “nothing would make me happier than to see one of the young Bermudians on my team become the next managing director of this, or another, resort”. He said he had predicted two years ago that a current member of staff was “definitely going to get there, and that gives me great joy”. Mr Telford added: “I hope this example shows every young Bermudian considering this career that they can actually achieve whatever heights they want to rise to.” Rosewood Bermuda is to close for three months in the new year for a $25 million revamp after it was sold earlier this year to Miami-based hotel investment firm Gencom.

December 16. A Royal Fleet Auxiliary disaster relief ship yesterday made her first call on Bermuda as part of her Atlantic patrol duties. RFA Mounts Bay is deployed to the region as the Royal Navy’s presence in the Caribbean Overseas Territories and Bermuda. The ship, sent to the region to give support during hurricane season and on anti-drug trafficking duties, was Britain’s first military response to Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria. Mounts Bay will provide logistical support to the Royal Bermuda Regiment and host a presentation on its disaster management capabilities for the Emergency Measures Organisation during its three-day visit. The Bermuda Sea Cadets and the Bermuda Scouts Association will also tour the ship. Commanding Officer Captain Steve Norris visited John Rankin, the Governor, and David Burt, the Premier. Mr Rankin said he had seen the ship’s “invaluable” work in the Caribbean during the recent hurricanes. He added: “I have no doubt her presence in the affected areas in the immediate aftermath of the recent storms saved lives for which we are all eternally grateful.” Mr Rankin said: “Thankfully, Mounts Bay visits us in calmer conditions and her visit provides a great opportunity for the sharing of experiences and capabilities between our own Emergency Measures Organisation and that of the RFA Mounts Bay itself. This can only help strengthen preparations should such extreme weather conditions befall Bermuda in the future.”

December 16. Ernest DeCouto, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, has died at the age of 91. Mr DeCouto, who was appointed CBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1999 for his community work, passed away yesterday morning. The father of three served as MP for the Smith’s North constituency between 1972 and 1993. He became the first Speaker of Portuguese descent in 1993, and held the position until 1998. Sir John Swan, the former premier, led tributes yesterday to a parliamentarian who he said always demanded “integrity, honesty and action”. Sir John added: “Ernest was a thoroughly decent man. He was a very conscientious individual who subscribed to the principle of thrift in thought and thrift in action. He made a big contribution in Bermuda. As Speaker he did his homework and made sure he understood the requirements of the procedures and was able to hold MPs to account for their actions. He did not suffer fools gladly, but he really wanted people to be themselves but do good for others. I want to extend my sympathies to all his family at this time.” Mr DeCouto was first elected to the House of Assembly in June 1972 as the United Bermuda Party representative for Smith’s North, and was appointed Minister of Youth and Sports in 1981. He became Deputy Speaker of the House in 1989, a position he held until he was elected to the post of Speaker. Other Government service included stints on the Tourism, Public Transportation, Education and Immigration Boards as well as being a member of several Joint Select Committees and Parliamentary Secretary posts. Former premier Michael Dunkley told The Royal Gazette that Mr DeCouto “always carried respect by the way he carried himself”. He added: “When I became an MP for the first time, he was Speaker of the House and he immediately made me feel more comfortable. He was a pillar of the community and I had a huge amount of respect for him. As a Speaker he was first class — he ran a very good House. He ran a very direct debate and was extremely fair. He did so many things outside of politics in the community with very little fanfare. He was a home-grown community man who worked to make Bermuda better.” Former UBP MP John Barritt said: “His election as Speaker came about when I was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1993. I was Government Whip at the time and got a crash course in parliamentary procedure, which continued during his tenure over the next five years as Speaker. I can honestly say that I never stopped learning at his hands and credit Mr DeCouto with teaching me how to navigate my way around the rules of the House. He had a very good grasp of the rules of parliamentary procedure and prided himself on keeping abreast of rulings and interpretations throughout the Caribbean, in particular, and the Commonwealth generally.” Mr DeCouto served as a member of the Smith’s Parish Vestry from 1955 to 1971 and was a member of the Smith’s Parish Council. Mr DeCouto was educated at the Whitney Institute, the Gilbert Institute, Warwick Academy and the Bermuda Commercial School. His working life began in 1943 at the Department of Agriculture. From there he moved on to Master’s Limited, Colonial/Eastern Airlines and Rego Limited Real Estate. He set up DeCouto and Dunstan Real Estate in 1960 and maintained an association with that firm until he retired as president in 1992. Former UBP colleague and cousin Trevor Moniz said Mr DeCouto was “a steady hand and a good businessman”. Mr Moniz added: “He was a founding member of the National Sports Club, where Somersfield Academy now stands. He was a great public servant as an MP, but also as a Minister of Youth and Sports and the speaker. Ernest was always very consistent in his actions and a role model for many.”

December 16. A sailboat sustained smoke and heat damage after it was spotted smouldering in Riddell’s Bay, Southampton, yesterday. A statement by Sergeant Delton White of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service, said officers responded to the incident shortly after 7am. The statement read: “The Fire Service responded with one vehicle staffed with four firefighters. Two men dressed in full protective gear entered the boat and opened the doors and hatches to assist with ventilation before continuing the search for the source of the smoke. There were no visible flames found but the interior of the boat suffered smoke and heat damage,” The service thanked boatman Andrew Marshall for assisting firefighters to gain access. No injuries were sustained, and the cause of the incident is under investigation.

December 15. Amendments increasing fees for health insurers have been approved by the Senate. According to the Government, insurers did not object to the increases, which will help to fund the work of the Bermuda Health Council. The Health Insurance Amendment 2017, establishes a tiered fee structure for the renewal of approved health insurance schemes and the renewal of insurance licences. Both fees had previously been set at $1,000, the amendments set out a range of significantly higher rates based on gross premiums. The new fees will range from $12,500 in the lowest band, when annual gross revenue falls below $25 million, to $187,500 when annual gross premiums exceed $175 million. Crystal Caesar, starting the debate in the Senate, said the increase would go towards the BHC. She called the $1,000 fee “insufficient. Health insurance currently finances 62 per cent of all health system expenditure. The need to provide adequate and affordable health insurance coverage to all residents in Bermuda becomes more pronounced as the population ages and the incidence of chronic diseases increases. Within this context, the Bermuda Health Council has increased oversight focusing on areas of non-compliance and risks to the health system resulting from the business activities of health insurers and approved schemes. Regulatory oversight is especially important in the context of employers’ and public demand for more affordable health insurance premiums.” Ms Caesar added that the island’s health insurers were consulted about the increase and understood the reasoning for the change. She said: “The Bermuda Health Council held individual consultation meetings with all four insurers, two out of three approved schemes, the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers, and the Association of Bermuda International Companies. Stakeholders do not object to the proposed fee increases; they found the level and the logic of the fee increase acceptable assuming corresponding health insurance premium decreases, sustainable health system savings, and care delivery improvements. This amendment provides for licensing fees for health insurers and approved schemes to be aligned to the total premiums collected, with more rigorous scrutiny and onerous requirements applied where material amounts of business are transacted with respect to health insurance claims.” The legislation also expanded Mutual Reinsurance Fund Coverage by changing “haemodialysis” to “dialysis”, in a bid to fix what Ms Caesar said was an error. She told the Senate: “Covering all dialysis is crucial as research confirms that people with end-stage renal disease live longer and have more productive lives if they are able to access peritoneal dialysis before transplantation or starting haemodialysis. All dialysis was priced out of the Standard Health Benefit and into Mutual Reinsurance Fund. Therefore the premium to pay for both haemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis is being collected by the MRF, with no such funds in the SHB premium making it unaffordable for any insurance group with dialysis patients and, in particular, for HIP and FutureCare, which cover 80 per cent of all dialysis patients in Bermuda.” The Bermuda Health Council said it was “elated” by the passing of the amendment, saying that allowing MRF to cover dialysis will help to increase efficiency and reduce health costs. The BHC added the increase in licensing fees would help to improve regulatory oversight. Ricky Brathwaite, director of health economics, said the legislation as a “win” for the island’s healthcare system. Dr Brathwaite said: “The increased funds will be put towards improving quality care, standards and transparency in Bermuda’s health system.”

December 15. Senators agreed yesterday that importers of food and other goods should face fines of up to $5,000 if they fail to provide information to a new commission set up to look at their import costs and profit margins. The Upper Chamber approved the Price Commission Amendment Act 2017, which will see the Price Commission renamed the Cost of Living Commission and new members appointed. Junior government reform minister Vance Campbell said it was not the Government’s intention to control prices because that would discourage importers from bringing in some products. Mr Campbell explained the aim of the legislation was to obtain information about import costs and profit margins. He said: “The commission will then process this information and make recommendations.” Fines for failing to provide information will rise tenfold from $500 to $5,000 under the Act, with additional daily fines of $500. Government senator Jason Hayward said Bermuda had one of the highest costs of living in the world and it was at an “unsustainable level for many”. He added: “Bermuda is becoming a difficult place to live for many.”

December 15. Kevin Dallas will not face a backlash from his superiors in the Bermuda Tourism Authority after he asked senators to vote against a Bill designed to repeal marriage equality, The Royal Gazette can reveal. Mr Dallas, the BTA chief executive, wrote to members of the Upper House in advance of their Wednesday vote on the Domestic Partnership Act 2017. He told them the Bill, which passed by a vote of 8-3 and will become law if assented to by the Governor, could cause “serious reputational damage” to Bermuda as a tourism destination. But the BTA board of directors later emphasized that it was a “non-political entity”. Tourism minister Jamahl Simmons told The Royal Gazette last night that he expressed his “disappointment” to BTA chairman Paul Telford over the letter and admitted suggesting that the board should clarify its position if it were different from Mr Dallas’s, but stopped short of saying outright that he should be disciplined. “I suggested to the chairman that if the position of the board did not reflect the position presented by Mr Dallas in his unauthorized statement, that they consider clarifying that,” the minister said. Mr Telford earlier published a joint statement with Mr Dallas on the BTA’s website. “Our strategy will continue to focus on showcasing Bermuda’s genuine hospitality and diverse, inclusive culture — traits that have always been valued and true,” the chairman said. “The board of directors has every confidence that the talented Bermuda Tourism Authority team is up to the challenge of delivering on that strategy.” Mr Dallas added: “Our role at the Bermuda Tourism Authority is to support the island’s economy by promoting tourism and welcoming all guests to our beautiful destination. The focus for the Bermuda Tourism Authority is to work on behalf of Bermuda’s reputation, her visitors and her tourism industry workers.” Mr Dallas wrote to members of the Senate on Tuesday: “We should send a message that Bermuda continually and permanently lives up to its well-earned reputation as a warm, friendly and welcoming destination. A no vote on the Domestic Partnership Bill will make that message crystal clear to the world.” A source with knowledge of the board’s discussions over Mr Dallas’s letter said: “It’s all done and dusted. There are no thoughts of him leaving. The board is absolutely 100 per cent behind him. What he said was right.” The source added the island’s 2016 tourism statistics showed it had tapped into a younger market of visitors from New York and the BTA planned to build on that in other US gateway cities. The source said: “That was a huge success. The new people who came, 70 per cent of them were under 45. Their views on this are more likely to be in tune with the younger generation here than the older generation.” The source added the letter gave senators important information on the potential impact of the Bill and they voted with that knowledge. The source said: “In hindsight, the one thing where he probably overstepped the mark was where he said ‘you should vote against it’. “That technically is getting into the politics piece. He should have just stopped and left out that one sentence and the message would have been just as strong.” The statement issued by the board of directors on Wednesday said it had “full trust in Bermuda’s elected and appointed officials to effectively carry out the democratic process on behalf of Bermuda’s citizens”. A second source with knowledge of the board’s discussions questioned whether any “right-thinking individual” would believe that Mr Dallas should be disciplined for the letter. “If a ferry captain can crash a ferry into a dock and keep his job, are we really going to fire Mr Dallas?” said the source in reference to a 2008 incident involving a Department of Marine and Ports worker. The source asked: “Isn’t that a bit severe?” The source said it was no secret that Mr Dallas was a supporter of gay rights and that he had the right to speak freely as an individual. The source added: “We need to make sure that people are clear when they are speaking for the company they work for or when they speak for themselves as individuals. There are certainly things that can negatively affect tourism. It will be the BTA’s responsibility to point out those things.” Mr Simmons added: “I was informed by BTA board chair Paul Telford that the statement by Mr Dallas was issued without his approval. While ultimately Mr Dallas’s actions are a matter for the board and chair, I did communicate my disappointment with this unauthorized statement and will support the board in whatever action they wish to take to ensure the established processes and procedures surrounding public statements are respected.” Mr Simmons declined to give a view on whether he thought Mr Dallas had done a good job in selling the island’s tourist industry. He said: “Mr Dallas’s performance is not the issue here. The issue is the need to ensure that established processes and procedures surrounding public statements are respected by every employee of the BTA.” There have been seven gay weddings in Bermuda and on island-registered cruise ships since a Supreme Court ruling in May enabled them to take place. No more will be allowed under the Domestic Partnership Act. But a last-minute addition to the Bill last Friday in the House of Assembly means all same-sex marriages conducted here or abroad up to the Bill becoming law will still be recognized.

December 15. Royal Gazette Editorial. "Just in case anyone out there is of the belief that we have lost our minds and legalized cannabis in Bermuda, get off whatever it is you have been smoking — or drinking. The decriminalization of cannabis is about to come into law for the specific purpose of decriminalizing our young men; in particular, our young black men. But under no uncertain terms is this country giving them or anyone else a free pass to be skanking up and down our streets on a conscious high. Cannabis is illegal in Bermuda and long shall it remain illegal, save for the possibility of medicinal use being cleared in future for those who absolutely need it. Until such time, the police are well within their right to disrupt the lives of anyone found in possession of a drug that has brought more negativity into our lives — see the virtual manual on why gangs exist in Bermuda and the fallout from their existence — than it has brought positivity. The only difference the change to the law brings is that they will not be hauling offenders in front of the courts when they have been caught in possession of anything less than seven grams. The key word to take from the previous sentence, though, is “offenders”, for that is what they are. The very same arguments that have been presented for the raising of the limit should be the reasons that our young men shouldn’t be delving into drug use in the first place. It is quite rich to say job opportunities, school opportunities and opportunities to travel have been taken away from those who have criminal records as a result of a cannabis conviction. But not enough is said of them avoiding the drug altogether — especially when the risks have been made evidently clear over generations. This is not a new drug. Nor are the penalties new. So why the repetitive moaning and groaning of an unjust system that targets our young black men when our young black men should have the sense to know that what they are doing is frowned upon by the law and presents worst-case scenarios that can have lasting effect. To look death in the face and still try to cheat it is as insane as some of the driving that can be found on our roads — most of it by the same people, no doubt. One of the first acts that Larry Mussenden put into effect when he replaced Rory Field as Director of Public Prosecutions in March 2016 was to outline how the country can help our young men who are caught up in cannabis use/abuse, while also giving warning by way of a “three strikes” regulation that could land offenders back in front of a magistrate — the very thing that the new legislation was drafted to prevent. So just for clarity, here are the key points to note when our “young black men”, or any Bermuda resident for that matter, are caught with cannabis:

On a third arrest for possession, a caution may be granted on the following conditions:

So there appears nothing to suggest in these regulations that drug offenders are getting an easy ride; it is just that duty police officers should not view this as yet another reason to turn a blind eye when the smokers’ brigade is stinking up another very public social gathering, ie, football match, cricket match, concert, etc. They are committing a crime and should be dealt with accordingly. And in the instances where they are found with in excess of seven grams, possession with intent to supply can be offered as a charge in front of a magistrate. So there you have it. Try walking down Front Street in this “New Bermuda” with a spliff hanging out of the corner of your mouth at your peril. Other than stinking up the joint — pun intended — a first strike awaits, as long as our police service are not driven to distraction by a contact high."

December 15. A total of 20 healthcare workers have passed an advanced course in dementia care. The course was organized by Yana Swainson, owner of Bermuda In Home Care, who invited Bernice Perzel, a dementia care training specialist from the American-based National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners, to run the training session. Ms Swainson said: “Dementia is a very difficult disease and requires skilled caregivers to care for those affected with the disease. “Dementia is a disease that steals someone’s life from underneath them. Can you imagine losing all memories of your life and not recognizing your loved ones?” Ms Swainson, a home healthcare co-ordinator who specializes in wound and dementia care, added the training was needed to help caregivers understand the disease. She added: “Recently, we have been inundated with phone calls for dementia care. We, as caregivers, needed to step into the world of a dementia patient to understand the way their brain works. This is exactly what this training was about.” The seven-hour training for the caregivers, 18 of whom work for Bermuda In Home Care, was held over two days in September. Ms Swainson explained: “The training involved interactive role-play and activities that let us see into the world of someone with dementia.” It also included different techniques on how to provide care if a patient becomes combative. All 20 participants who completed the training and passed the exam were presented with certificates and pins during a ceremony on Saturday. Ms Swainson said they will have to renew their certification every two years through “continuous education”.

December 15. Police were called to TN Tatem Middle School in Warwick yesterday after three men drove on to the school premises on motorbikes and assaulted two students. A letter sent to parents yesterday afternoon by principal Garita Coddington said that two of the men on bikes targeted two pupils and snatched chains from them. Ms Coddington described the incident, which occurred at about lunch time, as a “sensitive issue and said that police had acted immediately with urgency. I am writing to communicate about a sensitive issue that occurred at our school this afternoon,” Ms Coddington said in the letter. “At the end of the lunch session today we had three males come on our property on bikes, without permission. Two of the males stayed and snatched chains off of two of our students. Protocols were immediately put in place to support the two students who were assaulted. The matter is now with the local police who acted immediately with urgency. Know that the school is doing all within our remit to ensure the safety of our students. Thank you for your continued support and assistance with all matters relating to our school and our students.” Police said witnesses or anyone with relevant information should contact the Criminal Investigation Department on 247-1744 or the independent and confidential Crime Stoppers hotline 800-8477.

December 15. Bermis are on the road. The island’s newest electric car has been licensed by the Transport Control Department, and customers can now buy the nifty runarounds. Mike Swan, the entrepreneur who brought the pocket-sized vehicles to the island, is hopeful that the cars will also soon be part of the island’s vehicle rental market. “We have been approached by some of the major hotels and smaller bed-and-breakfast properties. They are interested in having the Bermi as an option for guests. There is a definite demand for this car,” said Mr Swan, who while driving one of the cars has been approached by visitors asking if they can rent it. He has also had e-mail enquiries from people overseas, and from international business companies on the island, asking about the availability of the Bermis. At present the only vehicles available for rental in Bermuda are auxiliary bikes and the electric Twizy minicars that were introduced earlier this year. Mr Swan, who runs Localmotion, believes there is room for more competition. And with the two versions of the Bermi there are additional features on offer such as rear-view cameras, air conditioner, electric windows, sunroof and radio. The larger of the two models, the Bermi 400, also has power steering. “It is a quiet ride, and it is safer than a bike. There has been a lot of interest from expats, single mothers, single guys, older people, and those who use a bike for their job,” said Mr Swan. His ambition to enter the vehicle rental market with the vehicles is on hold at the moment while Government completes a transportation survey. Mr Swan hopes the survey will be finished by April, and that he then gets a green light to rent Bermis. “I want to give people more than one option [of rental minicar].” The vehicles can be bought from Localmotion, on Happy Valley Road, with prices ranging from $14,800 to $16,900. TCD has given the vehicle a Class A designation. The larger of the two models, the Bermi 400, has seats for four people and is 8.3 feet long, and 4.2 feet high. The two-seater Bermi 200 is one foot shorter in length. The compact size has advantages when it comes to finding a parking slot. Mr Swan said: “You can park it almost anywhere and get into places that you couldn’t with a full size car.” The vehicles can be charged from a 110v or 220v supply. Using the first option, which matches the standard domestic supply, it would take about eight hours to fully recharge the car’s battery from empty. The higher voltage option would halve the charging time. Mr Swan estimates that on a full charge the Bermi 400 can cover about 55 miles in Bermuda’s road environment, while the lighter Bermi 200 would manage between 60 and 65 miles. Those distances can be improved to around 80 miles if the standard maintenance-free lead battery is swapped for a lithium model, at an additional cost of about $3,000. Solar panels can be added to the roof, providing a charge boost for an extra six to 12 miles. The cars come in a variety of colors, including red, blue and brown. Localmotion has a website at localmotion.bm and can be contacted on 292-4552.

December 14. Bermuda will make its beneficial ownership register public when all members of the G20 are required to do so, Attorney-General Kathy Lynn Simmons said yesterday. She told the Senate the island would “certainly comply” at that point and would, in the meantime, continue to encourage other countries to come up to the level of the “Bermuda standard”. The beneficial ownership register, which holds information on the real owners of Bermudian-based companies, is held by the Bermuda Monetary Authority. The BMA shares information from the register with other tax authorities — but it is not a public document. The G20 is an international forum that brings together the world’s 20 leading industrialized and emerging economies. Senator Simmons was outlining comments she made at the fifth Annual Caribbean and Latin American Corporate Counsel Summit 2017 last month in Miami. She said she told the summit how Bermuda was dealing with media coverage of the Paradise Papers hack — a leak of millions of documents from Bermudian-founded international law firm Appleby. Ms Simmons added: “I let the assembly know that Bermuda is not a tax haven and is not a jurisdiction to hide money. Bermuda has a fair, strong and robust regulatory and legislative framework that is internationally known to be compliant with the ever-changing international standards. I also spoke to Bermuda’s reputation as being one that stands equal to any international measurement and, in some cases, exceeds the regulatory rigor of our critics.” Ms Simmons said “targeted action had been taken by the Government to “manage the continuing impact of this disclosure” including the formation of a Cabinet sub-committee on cyber crime. All relevant government ministries are working together to co-ordinate responses as required. Systems of oversight are being strengthened where necessary.” The Progressive Labour Party Senate leader also spoke yesterday about how the Government had to balance the best interests of Bermudians with the economic necessity of having a foreign working population. “We derive almost 30 per cent of our GDP from the international business sector. We have a society of contradictions with mounting demands from our local population for bold leadership. This involves making tough — and thoughtful — decisions to craft policies in favour of Bermudians within an atmosphere of mounting pressure from international business, which presently requires skilled, mostly non-Bermudian employees. Finding the right balance can be an extremely complex exercise.” She cited the Government’s decision to pass legislation to ensure the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act had primacy over the Human Rights Act as an example of that balance. “The policy intent of restoring the primacy was to continue to enable the promotion and protection of Bermudians in the workforce and the protection of land for Bermudians. This is perfectly justifiable and absolutely necessary given the geographical and economic profile of Bermuda. In order to address the gaps that disadvantage our nationals, the Minister of Home Affairs stated Government cannot entertain claims of non-Bermudians who now feel they are being discriminated against contrary to the Human Rights Act 1981 and who feel they are entitled to the same rights as Bermudians.”

December 14. A controversial law change to give the Government more control over the gambling watchdog was backed by the Senate yesterday. The amendments were designed to empower the responsible minister to give policy direction to the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission after consultation and to fire commissioners. Progressive Labour Party senator Crystal Caesar, who claimed there had been a “media disinformation campaign” about the amendments, added that the minister will also be able to “revoke the appointment of a member who is unable or unwilling to perform his duties as a member or in such other circumstances where the member’s conduct may amount to misconduct or breach of best regulatory practice, or is likely to bring the commission or the Government into disrepute”. One Bermuda Alliance senator Justin Mathias said his party could not support the amendment and that it was an attack on the commission’s independence. Mr Mathias said: “I don’t see how a gaming commission can have that independence when this is held over the commission’s head.” Independent senator James Jardine said the commission should listen to the Government, but that there must be a way to resolve disputes when the commission has reason to disagree with directions from the minister. He suggested that disputes could be handled by independent arbitration. Mr Jardine said the changes were “too invasive” and he could not support them. Jason Hayward of the PLP said that the amendments were in line with Singapore legislation used as the basis for the rest of the Act. He added the new gaming commission had no objection to the amendments. Mr Hayward also questioned “why is it when the PLP attempts to do something it’s marred with this level of controversy”. He added that the PLP was accountable to the public and that the direction of gambling must be in line with the will of the people. Michelle Simmons, an independent senator, said that the commission was “essentially a quango” with a minister responsible for its actions. She added: “The BCGC must have a degree of independence to get on with what it’s responsible for, but there’s also a need for the commission to be able to work with the minister that is responsible for the establishment of said commission.” Ms Simmons said she backed the amendments and that it was a matter of best practice to have a legislated method to remove a commissioner. She added: “When you make an appointment, you also need to have the means for removing or adjusting those appointments.” But the OBA’s Andrew Simons also branded the legislation as an attack on the commission’s independence. PLP senator Kathy Simmons, the Attorney-General, questioned claims that the amendments would damage the island’s international reputation. She claimed public comments by the outgoing Gaming Commissioner Alan Dunch were more damaging. She said much of the debate had become a battle of personalities. Ms Simmons said: “Let’s stick to the details of the Bill. Let’s stick to best practice.”

December 14. Risk industry professionals across all levels and responsibilities in the US have received an average base salary increase of 3.5 per cent this year. In Canada, the average salary rise was 2 per cent. Those details are among the findings in the Rims 2017 Compensation Survey. The survey is conducted every two years, and when this year’s data is compared to the previous survey, it shows that the average base salary for a chief risk officer in the US increased 11 per cent to $190,800. In Canada, the biggest increase was an 8 per cent rise to $130,000 for directors of ERM/strategic risk management. “In a competitive job market, it is imperative to have the tools to formulate compelling compensation programmes,” said Mary Roth, CEO of the Risk Management Society. “Understanding the elements that impact compensation and career growth, provides risk professionals with a road map for advancement.” The 93-page survey details and analyses compensation by industry, location, and position. It also explored the impact of education, experience and demographical data on compensation. The survey incorporated data from 781 risk professionals in the US, and 138 in Canada.

December 14. A panel discussion about the protection gap and how the insurance sector can address it got off to a blunt start when Michael Millette cast it as a fake issue. The phrase describes the shortfall that exists between insured losses and total economic losses for a given event, such as a hurricane, earthquake, flood or drought. But Mr Millette, managing partner of Hudson Structured Capital Management, said it was a polite term the industry used to talk about the falling penetration levels of insurance coverage. “Fortune 250 companies wonder out loud what they are getting from insurance, and they think about captives,” he said. “We have an industry that channels 40 cents of every dollar into expenses and distribution, and then we talk about protection gap? Please, let’s talk about tech penetration and efficiency. Those are the things we need to be talking about. Protection gap is the polite way to evade our real issues.” Mr Millette was one of four guests on a CEO panel at the EY Global (Re)Insurance Outlook forum, held in association with The Insurance Insider, at the Hamilton Princess. Kathleen Reardon, chief executive officer of Hamilton Re, saw an education gap that needs to be closed, referring to “the disconnect between the worth of the product and what you think it costs”. She noted reports that Bermuda-based reinsurance companies will pay in the region of $25 billion to $30 billion towards insured losses from events in the third quarter, which include hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Regarding the penetration gap, she said public-private partnerships have worked well, in particular in the aftermath of Harvey. She said the US National Flood Insurance Plan was buying reinsurance for the first time. “It is responding and it has already responded to the Harvey hurricane. PPPs are working; we should explore them. That’s an avenue to bring some success in closing that gap.” Ms Reardon said the industry’s value chain was wrought with expense and inefficiency and needed to be disrupted, broken apart and rebuilt. Mentioning the success of market disrupters Airbnb and Uber, she said: “They know what their product costs, which is an advantage that we don’t have. But in other industries, he who has the lowest expenses wins. We need to start embracing that sort of mindset, and not be passing on 40 cents [of cost] to the consumer in our insurance product.” Fellow panel guest Kathleen Faries, head of Bermuda, at Tokio Millenium Re, said there had to be an entrepreneurial mentality to find ways for the industry to disrupt itself. “We have to ask great questions and be willing to change. Disrupting your own organisation is very hard to do, but it is something that we have to do,” she said. The panel was moderated by David Brown, senior partner for EY Bermuda, and regional insurance leader. When he asked for final thoughts on ways the insurance industry can control expenses, Ms Reardon reiterated the need for streamlining rather than passing extra expense onto customers. “And learn how the micro insurance initiatives in the developing world are working; how are they able to sell policies in Zimbabwe for pennies of expense on the dollar. How they are they making it work. These are relevant policies for farmers who need it just for that crop season. How do we reverse-engineer that back to the developed world and embed those into our product offerings?” Hamilton Insurance Group, the parent of Hamilton Re, is a founding member of Blue Marble Micro insurance, a consortium of eight insurance companies working to close the protection gap in developing countries. Its first venture was in Zimbabwe. The fourth member of the panel, Lixin Zeng, CEO of AlphaCat Managers, said the marketplace would force the industry to cut expenses. While Mr Millette said: “The most expensive thing about the industry is not that it uses too much paper in the copier [machine]. The most expensive thing is that the industry is so segmented. People fall into very narrow specialties, and then vigorously maintain the necessity of those narrow specialties. Other parts of finance are more athletic than insurance, and it’s exciting. It’s a better job if you wake up and you think about different things over the course of your year and the course of your career.”

December 14. The One Bermuda Alliance has released its response to the Bermuda Government’s report on its fiscal performance in the first half of the fiscal year. It reads as follows: "It is with considerable satisfaction that the Opposition provides comments on recently released reports on Bermuda’s economy in 2017 and the Government’s performance in the first half of the fiscal year 2017/18. Since the PLP became the government in July 2017, both of these reports, in fact speak to the efforts and impact of policies established by the OBA Government on Bermuda and the economy. Therefore, they represent the last reports on the performance of the OBA government. These reports reflect the good stewardship of the OBA and the progress being made towards balancing the budget. Revenue is up, current expenditure is down, there has been a reduction in the total deficit and we are on track to balance the budget in 2018/2019. In the future these reports can be used to evaluate both the Government’s performance and the state of the economy. The half-year report shows some excellent results for Bermuda with total revenues, for the six month ending September 2017, of $31.2 million or 6.3% above September 2016. So significant is the 2017 revenue growth resulting from the higher collection of Payroll Taxes and Customs Duty, that the Government release actually states that the strength of their receipts “ increases the chances of meeting the total revenue target of $1.042 billion for the current fiscal year.” Government’s Report on the Bermuda Economy 2017: Updated Economic Review published at the same time as the 2017/18 First Half Fiscal Year Performance speaks to the impact of the OBA’s fiscal prudence. The report noted increases in: visitors, visitor spending, value of new construction and employment income. The Summary Economic Indicators: Updated Economic Review 2017 confirm the previously anticipated tourism and America’s Cup results. The 10% increase in Air arrivals to September 2017 plus the 8.4% increase in cruise passengers resulted in a 9% increase in visitor arrivals compared to last year. But more importantly total visitor spending in the first 9 months rose by $55.3 million or 21.9%. We should attribute much of the $307 million spent to visitors coming to Bermuda to be part of the America’s Cup experience. Construction projects that the OBA signed off on are now producing for Bermuda. The Economic Review indicates that the total value of new construction projects started for the first six months in 2017 increased 600% over the $67.8 million recorded for the same period in 2016. “In the second quarter the Airport Redevelopment and St. Regis projects began that are worth over $500 million in total”. These projects are now more than “ shovels in the ground”; new contracts continue to be awarded which are resulting in jobs for Bermudians. It is significant that a developer has recently stated that the Bermuda’s new airport was a “game changer” in the decision to buy a hotel property. When you couple this with the fact that current expenditures, excluding debt service, for the same period ending September 2017 are $6.4 million lower than in September 2016, the OBA has made a lot of progress towards managing Bermuda’s debt. The confirmation that Government recorded a $57.6 million current account surplus excluding debt service for the first 6 months of the year is validation of the projection made by the OBA February 2017 Budget Statement that “at end of the 2018/19 fiscal year the Current Account is projected to record its fourth straight annual surplus before debt service.” This projection was partly based upon the substantial progress that had been identified in February 2017 Budget Statement that “Tourism, an industry once given up for dead, is being restored through the formation and success of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, new Hotel development and the America’s Cup”. Other positive factors noted in the review such as employment income increased by 3.1% and retail sales up 3.2% all reflect the growth that the OBA projected. Findings of both of these reports results show the good stewardship of the OBA for the last 4 Years. The OBA planned that at the end of the 2018/19 fiscal year that the Current Account Surplus would cover interest charges and capital expenditure and we would have a balanced budget. Progress towards a balanced budget was achieved by controlling costs; this includes the reduction of the civil service and simultaneous salary freezes. Those approaches, were not unique to Bermuda. They promoted efforts to “live within our means”. Budget discipline measures are never easy because governments must prioritize what is deemed important to the country and make hard choices to reduce the size of the budget and manage the debt while trying to find ways to increase its revenue. We are so close to digging ourselves out of this financial hole if we can stay the course. Bermuda should not have to borrow on a yearly basis to make ends meet or pay higher rates for loans for important projects or reduce our support for social programmes to service our debt. We should be able to identify what we want to achieve over a period of time, make a plan and have some confidence that we will not be mortgaging our future in order to achieve that plan. There is some evidence that the PLP government will not continue the budget discipline measures used by the OBA to reduce spending. The question then becomes what will the government put in its place in order to maintain the momentum, that the OBA has achieved, to get us unto a better financial footing. The reason why the effect on the 2017/2018 budget is so important is because the planned savings in this year was to put Bermuda within reach to produce a Balanced Budget in 2018/ 2019. The OBA promised a balanced budget in its February 2017 Budget Speech. The rating agencies are expecting Bermuda to achieve this. If as a country we fail to balance the budget we will pay higher rates of interest when we next borrow money As the Government wrestles to deliver on its promises to the electorate it will have to balance what Bermuda can afford. If the promised efforts to grow Bermuda’s economy are successful it will relieve the pressure on cost containment and fiscal control. We are at least encouraged that the PLP Platform promised to balance Bermuda’s Budget by 2019. The role of the OBA as the opposition party is to raise and advocate for matters of national importance and the balanced budget is one of these issues. The OBA will look at the upcoming budget through this lens because we cannot allow the PLP government to ignore the critical importance and impact of a balanced budget not only in the present but for the future economic health of Bermuda."

December 14. Butterfield Bank today announced that it would raise lending rates and its fixed-term deposit rates for savers after the US Federal Reserve’s rate hike yesterday. Clarien Bank said yesterday that it also plans to raise rates for savers and borrowers, with details to be released next month. HSBC Bermuda said yesterday that any impact on rates would be communicated “through our usual channels” after the US central bank raised its key Fed Funds rate target by quarter of a percentage point. Butterfield said: “To provide customers with the opportunity to earn higher returns on Bermuda dollar and US dollar deposits, rates paid on six-month fixed-term deposits will increase by 0.35 per cent, and rates paid on one, two, three, four and five-year fixed-term deposits will increase by 0.5 per cent. “Changes will be effective December 14 and detailed deposit rate information will be available online and at Butterfield banking centres from Monday, December 18.” Butterfield’s borrowers will see an increase in their interest payments in the coming months. The bank said its base rate for Bermuda dollar residential mortgages and consumer loans will increase from 4.5 per cent to 4.75 per cent. The base rate for Bermuda dollar corporate loans and US dollar loans will increase from 4.75 per cent to 5 per cent. The rate increase on loans takes effect immediately. The rate increase on residential mortgages will take effect on March 18, 2018. Butterfield added: “With respect to the rate adjustments announced today, qualifying floating-rate mortgage holders may opt to maintain current payment amounts by extending mortgage terms.” For more information on rates and payment terms, customers can contact Butterfield’s Consumer Credit department on 298-4799 or their relationship managers. An HSBC Bermuda spokesperson said: “HSBC Bermuda considers multiple factors (including but not limited to, the Fed rates), in our ongoing reviews of the bank’s lending and savings rates. Any impact on the rates will be communicated through our usual channels.”

December 14. The Bermuda Hospitals Board has been voted Workplace of the Year by an international employee recognition programme. The BHB won the award at the annual WOW! Awards gala in London, while the BHB’s Child and Adolescent Services came second in the WOW! What a Team category. Venetta Symonds, BHB CEO, said: “This win is not only good for BHB, it’s good for Bermuda. “Showing the world that we value our patients and our employees breeds confidence in the way we treat each other on the island and the way we do business here. Our staff members have demanding, stressful jobs — our community depends on them to safeguard their health and well-being. It’s up to us as employers to ensure our staff are taken care of in return and given the best chance to succeed in providing exceptional care.” More than 20,000 nominations were submitted, with the BHB beating finalists including City University in London, Help to Buy South West, Imperial College, London and the University of Gloucestershire. Derek Williams, CEO of The WOW! Awards, said: “Bermuda Hospitals Board really impressed the judges with the focus that they have put on their employee engagement strategy. Allowing the employee voice to be heard throughout the organisation, creating employee wellness programmes and providing teams with new gym facilities are just some of the examples of keeping employee happiness at the heart of the organisation.” Durham Constabulary beat the BHB Child and Adolescent Services for the What a Team award. Members of the BHB team also used the trip to London to visit the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. Moffatt Makomo, an occupational therapist, said: “The recognition our team received at the awards ceremony was truly motivating for us. We’ll continue to do our best for Bermuda’s youth.”

December 14. A gay rights organisation in the United States is urging Bermuda’s Governor to reject legislation which will replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. The Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer civil rights organisation, issued a statement in response to the Senate voting yesterday in favour of the Domestic Partnership Act 2017. The group noted that the island achieved marriage equality through a Supreme Court ruling in May this year, after Bermudian Winston Godwin and his Canadian partner Greg DeRoche brought civil proceedings against the Registrar-General for rejecting their application to marry. It said the effort to repeal marriage equality was led by the Progressive Labour Party, which took power in July, leading to the House of Assembly voting in favour of the Bill on Friday, followed by the Upper Chamber yesterday. “It now goes to Governor [John] Rankin — who is the representative of the British monarch — for consideration,” said the statement. “If the measure becomes law, the British overseas territory will become the first territory in the world to take away the right of same-sex couples to marry.” Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global, said: “If Governor Rankin signs this measure into law, it will rip away the right of loving same-sex couples in Bermuda to marry. That’s unconscionable. With international business and tourism as its major industries, Bermuda’s people, international reputation and economy would all be harmed by this legislation. It is crucial that Governor Rankin reject this assault on equality.” The HRC statement said under the “guise of passing domestic partnership benefits” the Bill sought to strip same-sex Bermudian couples of the right to marry. It noted that Kevin Dallas, executive director of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, had warned of the negative impact on tourism of such a decision. Human Rights Watch, a separate organisation, based in New York, also commented on the Senate decision today. Boris Dittrich, the group’s LGBT rights advocacy director, said: “The year 2017 has been great for marriage equality, with new laws in Germany, Malta, and Australia, but the year does not end well. In Bermuda, the parliament stripped marriage rights from same-sex couples and replaced it with a domestic partnership law. If Bermuda’s Governor John Rankin will sign the law, Bermuda will become the first country in the world to cancel marriage equality. Let’s hope Bermuda will remain a one-off incident and that in 2018, new countries will introduce marriage equality.” Yesterday’s debate in the Senate, when the Bill passed by 8 votes to 3, has prompted headlines all over the world. The United Kingdom’s Guardian and Telegraph newspapers are both running stories on the decision today, as well as ITV News, based on an Associated Press report. Earlier in the week, Newsweek and the Daily Beast ran articles on the Bill passing in the House, along with many other publications, including the UK’s Catholic Herald and Attitude magazine. There have been seven same-sex marriages in Bermuda since the May ruling, according to the Registry-General, with another set to take place before the end of the year. If Mr Rankin gives assent to the Bill, no further gay marriages will be allowed. His private secretary said on Tuesday: “In considering this matter, the Governor will continue to act in accordance with his responsibilities under the Constitution.”

December 14. The island’s tourism quango yesterday distanced itself from a letter from chief executive Kevin Dallas to warn senators that a vote to end gay marriage would adversely affect visitor numbers. Tourism minister Jamahl Simmons also criticized Mr Dallas for his “unauthorised statement” and pledged to support the BTA board in taking action to ensure processes and procedures are “respected”. Earlier this week, Mr Dallas wrote to senators and appealed for them to reject legislation to replace same-sex marriage with watered-down “domestic partnerships”. Yesterday, senators passed the Domestic Partnership Act in any case. Responding to Mr Dallas’s letter, the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s board of directors said it was “focused on driving the success of tourism in Bermuda, by making our island an appealing destination, and marketing it to potential visitors”. It added: “We strive to provide useful information to support any tourism-related debate in Bermuda, including the Domestic Partnership Bill. As an organisation we respect all views and opinions on this matter, and remain focused on our primary objective — bringing more visitors to Bermuda." But the board said: “To be clear, however, the Bermuda Tourism Authority is a non-political entity and decisions about Bermuda’s policies and laws are outside the Bermuda Tourism Authority’s remit and are the responsibility of Parliament. We have full trust in Bermuda’s elected and appointed officials to effectively carry out the democratic process on behalf of Bermuda’s citizens.” In a statement on Bernews.com, Mr Simmons said: “I take note of the statement on the Domestic Partnership Bill by Kevin Dallas, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, as well as his lobbying efforts throughout the community. I have been informed that this statement and accompanying lobbying efforts were done without the knowledge, or the consent of the BTA chairman Paul Telford or the board. While ultimately Mr Dallas’s actions are a matter for the board and the chair I have, on behalf of the Cabinet, communicated my disappointment with Mr Dallas’s unauthorized statement and will support the board in whatever action they wish to undertake to ensure the established processes and procedures surrounding public statements are respected.” Mr Dallas told senators: “We believe the Bill poses an unnecessary threat to the success of our tourism industry. We urge you to vote no and appreciate the opportunity to lay out the reasons why. Importantly, we do not view domestic partnerships as a negative in isolation. In fact, many jurisdictions permit domestic partnerships without adverse impacts on their economies.” But he warned: “Bermuda is different — and troubling — in one important way — same-sex marriage is already the law of our island and to roll that back for what will be seen as a less equal union will cause us serious reputational damage. We are convinced it will result in lost tourism business for Bermuda.” Mr Dallas added that the island not only risked a loss of LGBT tourists, but also a backlash from companies, consumers and travelers — especially younger tourists — who had strong pro-gay marriage views.

December 14. A man sentenced to 12 years behind bars for possession of a firearm has lost an appeal against his conviction. Eston Joell, 48, argued that he had been ambushed by new evidence in the middle of the trial, and that the jury should not have heard about his previous conviction for lying to police. Joell’s earlier Supreme Court trial heard that on September 1, 2015, police had surveillance on Joell’s co-accused, Lekan Scott. Scott visited Joell’s home that day and left after 12 minutes. Scott was then involved in a collision with another motorcycle on Middle Road in Paget and fled the area on foot, leaving his belongings behind. Among the items was a Colt 45 handgun with five rounds of .45 caliber ammunition, which was later found to have Joell’s DNA on it. The next day, police searched Joell’s home and found several items in a “secret room” attached to his bedroom, including fourteen rounds of hollow point small-caliber ammunition and 38 rifle rounds. Scott told police when arrested that Joell had given him an item to take to the Botanical Gardens, where it was to be collected by someone else. Joell, however, said he had no knowledge of the firearm or the contents of the secret room, but a jury found him guilty of possessing both a firearm and ammunition. He later launched an appeal and argued a range of points including that the jury should not have heard evidence that, years earlier, he was convicted of giving police false information. The conviction was shown to the court by Scott’s counsel after Detective Sergeant Kenton Trott, the officer of the case, said he was not aware of any previous convictions against Joell. Sergeant Trott later said that while the original record had been destroyed, the copy of the conviction presented to the court was accurate. Lawyer Susan Mulligan, representing Joell, said that the information was more prejudicial than probative and should not have gone before the jury. However, in their judgment, the Appeals Panel found that the co-defendant had the right to bring the conviction to the jury’s attention. “Had his 1991 conviction been disclosed to the appellant at the same time as it was disclosed to the co-defendant, the element of surprise would have been avoided, but the co-defendant would still have been permitted to introduce it,” the judgment said. “No details were available of the conviction and the appellant was otherwise a person of previous good character.” Regarding the secret room, early in the trial officers told the court that they did not notice any evidence that the room had been locked. Giving evidence on the stand, Joell repeatedly said that there were no locks on the door to the room. However, prosecutors later presented the court with photographs showing a pair of locks on the inside of the door. While counsel for Joell argued that the picture should not have been admitted, the panel wrote: “The evidence of the photograph was properly admitted because of the appellant’s unforeseen assertions that there were no locks on the room.” The panel also dismissed complaints about the trial judge’s directions to the jury and handling of CCTV evidence during the trial.

December 14. Legislation to expand the list of national parks and amend park fees were today approved in the Senate. Legislation to expand the list of national parks and amend park fees was yesterday approved in the Senate. The Bermuda National Parks Amendment Act makes changes to the number of parks and nature reserves, as well as the composition of the Parks Commission. Included in the amendment is the official recognition of Southlands as a national park. The Warwick property had been earmarked as the site of a hotel development, but after a public outcry the Government organized a land swap with Morgan’s Point in Southampton to protect the site. The Bermuda National Parks Amendment (No 2) Act “makes amendments to provide for the validation of fees and provides a provision for the minister to order to waive fees due to impromptu or in exceptional circumstances”. Both amendments were approved by senators after a brief debate. New Opposition senator Justin Mathias delivered his maiden speech in the Upper Chamber on the first Bill, noting it had the support of the One Bermuda Alliance. Of the second piece of legislation, he said: “I believe that this is a great initiative.” Junior public works minister Vance Campbell said the aim of the new fee structure was not to enable Government to make a profit from parks but to ensure it represented the true value of services provided. “The public has been consistently charged for the services offered by the Department of Parks,” he said. “They already have an expectation of and are accustomed to paying a fee.”

December 14. Health insurance has come a long way from the traditional role of paying out when individuals are ill to a more proactive role in managing patients’ own healthcare cost. And not only in Bermuda is the role of the health insurer changing. This was one of the topics discussed by Shakira Warner, population health specialist at Argus, at the Hamilton Rotary Club this week. “Improving population health is not something that we can do alone,” Ms Warner said. “We do not have all of the skills and resources necessary. Strategic partnerships with community-based services, such as the Diabetes Reversal Programme, can improve the co-ordination and experience of care for patients by leveraging the infrastructure and expertise that exists out in the community.” For some patients and providers, who deal with insurance companies in their traditional role, there is some frustration, Ms Warner believes. Therefore health insurers must be open to partnering with providers to research and test new payment models that create alignment and promote value in care delivery. Ms Warner thanked Premier Health for being a pioneer in this regards. The speech came a day after Argus reported a loss of $2.3 million, driven by rising health insurance claims. “At Argus, we are not ashamed to say that we do not have all the answers and there are some challenges that we’ve identified,” Ms Warner said. “For example, there are limitations to our claims data — sometimes it may be incomplete, it’s a retroactive way of looking at experience of care, and it does not capture the distribution of healthcare factors, like smoking and undiagnosed hypertension, in the population.” Other factors that can impact the cost of care and the health of individuals include ageing and technology, employment status, family support and education level. The Argus Thrive Programme is still relatively a siloed effort, although we are involved in community initiatives such as Healthy Schools and the Well Bermuda Partnership — alignment that extends beyond health insurance and healthcare delivery is helpful,” Ms Warner added.

December 14. Artex employees and their family members helped remove invasive Brazilian pepper trees from Trunk Island. The island in Harrington Sound, owned by the Bermuda Zoological Society, is used for overnight camps, educational workshops and nature encounters. Last week, a team of 17 people from Artex culled and removed the invasive trees to help restore of the island to its native habitat. Colin Brown, president of the BZS, said: “Thank you to the team from Artex for all their hard work during their corporate day of giving out on Trunk Island. It is with this kind of support that we can continue to work towards our goal of returning the island to its native and endemic state, in order to preserve it for future generations.” Robert Eastham, managing director of Artex in Bermuda, said: “Artex has been part of the Bermuda community for 20 years and we’re proud to support its continual development. The conservation of our island and the ability to teach both children and adults to understand and respect what makes us unique is a privilege. We’re so happy that we have the chance to give back to our local community.” For more information about Trunk Island, visit www.bamz.org/community/trunk-island.

December 14. The man who brought controversial speaker Ayo Kimathi to Bermuda has launched legal action against Hamilton Princess claiming he was discriminated against. David Lee Tucker was fired by the hotel in December 2015 for “serious misconduct”. But Mr Tucker alleged he was mistreated during his ten years as a bartender at the hotel. He claimed he was dismissed because of his place of origin, his union activities and his links to Mr Kimathi. But hotel owner Hamilton Properties Limited asked the court to strike out the claims and said the allegations were frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the courts. Mr Tucker alleged in his complaint that his affiliation with Mr Kimathi was a reason for his dismissal, along with his position as a shop steward, a spinal disability, his age and his Bermudian status. Mr Tucker organized a presentation by Mr Kimathi in Bermuda three months before he was sacked. The presentation, promoted as a talk on African culture, sparked outrage. Mr Kimathi’s speech was described by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley as “an unfiltered message of hate” that targeted gay people and white Europeans. Mr Kimathi was later placed on the stop list. Both Mr Tucker and Mr Kimathi launched an appeal against the decision, but the ban was upheld by the Supreme Court. In two hearings before Shade Subair Williams, the Registrar of the Supreme Court, the hotel sought to strike out Mr Tucker’s claims against it. Ms Williams’s ruling said: “On the case pleaded by the defendant, the plaintiff’s termination resulted from serious misconduct. However, the plaintiff alleges that he was mistreated during the course of his employment and that the true reasons for his dismissal were muffled behind what was stated in the written termination notice.” Ms Williams’s ruling, released on Monday, struck down Mr Tucker’s claim for unfair dismissal because of jurisdictional issues and a wrongful dismissal claim was struck out by agreement between the parties. Mr Tucker’s claim that he was discriminated against due to his age was also dismissed because there was no reasonable cause of action disclosed. But Ms Williams said complaints that Mr Tucker was discriminated against on the grounds of disability and place of origin would be heard in front of a court. She added that several claims of breach of contract would be also allowed to proceed. These include allegations that the hotel failed to provide adequate training and support staff, did not institute a minimum three-day work week and changed Mr Tucker’s written job description without consultation.

December 14. A clash between two charities has threatened the Bermuda International Film Festival’s private screening of an island film. But producer Brooke Williams said the movie Maternal Secrets would have its private screening as scheduled tomorrow night at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. The Triventure Films screening, however, will go on without the BIFF banner. The news comes after BIFF got into a row with the BUEI, which said it wanted to use its premises to develop its own brand of films. The film group asked the BUEI last month to donate time for a screening of Maternal Secrets, produced and directed by Ms Williams and Lucinda Spurling, for today and tomorrow night. But sources close to the group claim that the BUEI has moved from its original purpose to a profit-seeking enterprise. A November 6 e-mail seen by The Royal Gazette from Mel Ferson, director of BUEI and husband of Ginny Ferson, the Deputy Governor, said: “It is not a good fit for BUEI to work with BIFF”. The institute was said to want to build its own film brand, and Mr Ferson advised that the BUEI had to raise funds from the hire of its rental spaces — and that giving space free was “extremely rare”. The film charity was advised that Ms Williams had contacted BUEI and that the waterfront venue was prepared to look at whether the film could be shown under its own brand — but not under the BIFF banner. Maternal Secrets, a thriller shot in Bermuda under the working title of Babymoon, has been sold to MarVista Entertainment for distribution next year. The charity’s licence agreement with Triventure Films, who produced the movie, would not allow them to charge guests to attend the screening. BIFF director Patrice Horner said film group had a “long history of rentals for the BUEI meeting rooms” as well as its Tradewinds Auditorium. Ms Horner said she had contacted Mr Ferson hoping to “right the ship” after “an abrupt change last year” in their relationship. BIFF was advised by BUEI chairwoman Faith Conyers in a November 10 e-mail that the two organisations were at present unable to work together — and that the matter was “closed”. A spokesman for the underwater exploration institute said: “BUEI’s Tradewinds Auditorium has been booked for a private rental on December 14. As far as we know that rental still stands. The Bermuda International Film Festival is not the organisation which has taken the rental. BUEI is not currently in a position to accommodate BIFF’s requirements but does look forward to continuing to work with the organisation in the future as we do with all organisations.”

December 14. Sue Riihiluoma had always loved Bermuda’s Gombeys and marching bands. The beat drew her in. So when she saw the crowd of drummers on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue she stopped, gob-smacked. “It was just outside the Apple Store,” she said. “A bunch of 80 women, drumming. The whole front of the glass building was shaking.” The group was Batala NYC, part of an all-women Afro-Brazilian band that plays samba-reggae rhythms all over the world. “It planted the seed,” Mrs Riihiluoma said. Five years later she’s started a female troupe in Bermuda, Coral Beats. The group of mainly untrained drummers made its debut on May 24, performing for runners and race spectators near LF Wade International Airport. “We only knew one song and we stood at Stone Crusher Corner and drummed,” Mrs Riihiluoma said. “The runners loved it. They didn’t know we only played the one piece, because they only heard it for 30 seconds or so. The spectators, well that was a different story.” It was an auspicious start for 20 people with little musical experience. Mrs Riihiluoma pulled together the group, ranging in age from 25 to 70, from all parts of the island: friends, friends of friends and people who just happened upon them as they practiced at Warwick Academy each week. The jump-start came after a trip with her husband, Jay, to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil for the 2016 carnival. She’d been told she’d be able to see Batala in action and buy drums and costumes for the band she had in mind here. “My children laughed before we left and said: ‘Mom, dad, you’re going to the biggest party in the world. What are you thinking?!’ I should have listened. I didn’t realize carnival starts at 10pm and ends at 5am, way past my bedtime.” Mrs Riihiluoma returned home empty-handed, thinking her dream “was never going to happen”. She wasn’t completely defeated however. She decided to take drum lessons while she figured out her next move. An introduction to musician Kim Deuss, stepdaughter of the late vet and ocean conservationist Neil Burnie, proved “serendipitous”. She’d studied drums for nearly a decade, performed and recorded with bands in New York City and Los Angeles and recently played at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. “I love music,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what instrument, what genre, I love it all. I had a period where I was obsessed with samba and when Sue approached me I liked the concept — all female, the drums especially. It’s not an instrument you think of females as playing. I found it very empowering. I’ve done theory training and composition so I can interpret music and write. We had no sheet music and I hadn’t studied Brazilian music but I went on the internet and did research. The first song was my interpretation of some Brazilian music I’d heard.” The pair started practising and then had to work out the next hurdle, finding drums to accommodate the band they had in mind. “I had a group of crazy ladies willing to give it a go,” Mrs Riihiluoma said. “I brought my friends together and Kim brought a few friends. I knew it would take off and we did it without advertising. Just one person saying, ‘Can my sister come? Can my friend come?’ We had a core group of 12 who were committed to it and we’ve since grown to probably up to 25 committed, with no real [music] training.” She learnt of an American woman selling drums and got on a plane to Manhattan. “I kept coming across stumbling blocks and then, I stumbled on to them. My husband and I brought 16 drums back in the middle of a snowstorm in New York. The biggest is about 24 inches across. They pack like Russian dolls so we had four bags containing four drums each.” Ms Deuss was able to provide a few more and then a music teacher offered to help them learn “a few rhythms.  We’ve been practising once per week since the beginning of March,” Ms Deuss said. “That says a lot for a group that had never played, to pick something up and start performing with not even a year’s experience. I think that’s truly incredible.” They performed their new repertoire at a fundraiser for the Neil Burnie Foundation last month. “We don’t typically dance, but we do step in time with the music and often there is lots of hand movement so it adds elements of entertainment and adds to the energy.” Added Mrs Riihiluoma: “What’s important is that we have fun. Nobody’s going to know the difference if we’re not perfect. But we’re having a ball and people enjoy it.”

December 13. Legislation to enable the creation of a central land title registry and make it easier to access information on property ownership was passed in the Senate today. Government senator Jason Hayward said of the Land Title Registration Amendment Act 2017: “This is huge, this is significant. This is momentous in Bermuda.” Mr Hayward said the change to the law was “a significant shift from how we were operating to how we are going to operate” in “one of the few developed countries in the world without a system of land title registration.” Mr Hayward added that the amendment would ensure proof of ownership and interests in land were held on one register. He said: “In Bermuda there have been historic property disputes within families. This particular system will ensure that everybody is clear on who is entitled to what pieces of property.” Public works minister David Burch had earlier told the House of Assembly that the registry was created by legislation passed in 2011 but had yet to be brought into operation. Lieutenant-Colonel Burch said: “In a word, this legislation provides safety and security for those who own land in this country.”

December 13. The first Bermudian to marry her gay partner on island has spoken out against steps to repeal same-sex marriage, declaring: “One day all will know that love is love.” Julia and Judith Aidoo-Saltus, who were married on May 31, spoke as senators prepare today to debate legislation to introduce domestic partnerships. Yesterday, the couple told The Royal Gazette in a joint statement: “Love is love. Our marriage remains lawful under the laws of Bermuda and is sacred before our friends, our families and our God.” Julia, a Bermudian lawyer, married her Ghanaian-American partner Judith after a landmark Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for same-sex marriage in Bermuda. However, last Friday, MPs voted 24-10 in favour of the Domestic Partnership Act to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. The couple pointed to a comment from late American marriage equality activist Edith Windsor, who said: “Marriage is a magic word. And it is magic throughout the world. It has to do with our dignity as human beings, to be who we are openly.” They added: “Accordingly, we will continue to pray for all those who are struggling with this basic issue of marriage as a measure of a society’s understanding of human dignity and, ultimately, respect. Fortunately, we believe in miracles and in God. One day, all will know that love is love. And it is free.” Yesterday, Kevin Dallas, chief executive of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, warned that the Bill would damage tourism and urged senators to vote against it. Bermudian Bruce Whayman married his partner, Roland Maertens, on the island in September. The couple said they were “disturbed and saddened” by Friday’s events in the House of Assembly and branded the Government’s “backward agenda” an “international embarrassment”. Mr Whayman said: “Bermuda is being run by a party that is progressive by name, but not by nature. The country has a net debt of $3.7 billion and growing daily, yet one of the first policy decisions from this government is to discriminate against a minority of its population and simultaneously discourage an untapped new market from coming to Bermuda and spending up on what would be the happiest moment of their lives. A legal marriage offers equality under the law. Equality is what this is all about. Please don’t patronize the LGBT community by offering domestic partnership agreements. They are widely unrecognized worldwide. Our last hope is that equality and common sense prevail, and the Bill will not receive the requisite signature from the Governor of Bermuda.” Meanwhile, an American man who also wed in Bermuda said repeal of same-sex marriage would create inequality within the island’s gay community. The man said he was “struggling” with the reality that should the Act become law his relationship would be classified as a marriage while other same-sex couples would have partnerships. “We will have inequality in our own section of the community,” said the man, who spoke with the Gazette on the condition of anonymity. “I find this so strange. To be one of the six or seven couples with that title doesn’t make me feel good — it makes me feel even more divided than ever.” The man and his partner were married on November 6. It was the sixth same-sex marriage performed in Bermuda. A Ministry of Home Affairs spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that one additional same-sex marriage had since been performed, with another “scheduled to take place before the end of the year”. The man said he had experienced the same debate on same-sex marriage in the United States, and that he had hoped to come to Bermuda with his husband to “live a normal life”. However, he added: “But as I visit more and more I feel like I’m going back in the closet more each day. This doesn’t represent all of Bermuda, but certain interactions I’ve had, either going to a restaurant with my husband or going through immigration and customs and mentioning that I am married to a Bermudian, doesn’t always get the warmest welcoming. Sometimes it’s easier for me to blend in like a tourist because no one looks at me differently.” He said that the couple had worked with an on-island lawyer who advised they marry as soon as possible ahead of changes “coming down the pipeline”. He said he and his partner together decided to tie the knot ahead of a possible change in law. It meant not being able to take time to plan a ceremony that included family and friends. “Marrying at the Registrar was not what either of us wanted for our special day. But it had to be done to safeguard our relationship.” He said he hoped that John Rankin, the Governor, would not sign off on the Act should it pass in the Senate. OutBermuda, a gay rights advocacy group, said it felt the consultation period on the controversial legislation had been inadequate. “Most importantly, our efforts to engage in good faith with the Ministry of Home Affairs during the consultation process should not be viewed as our approving the spirit of the domestic partnership legislation,” the group said on Facebook. The organisation said it would continue to advocate for all issues affecting Bermuda’s LGBTQ population, including marriage equality. Questions sent to representatives with Preserve Marriage and the Rainbow Alliance had not been responded to by press time.

December 13. Former Progressive Labour Party senator Kim Wilkerson has criticized a Bill aimed at replacing same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships as a “step back for human rights”. Ms Wilkerson, who was instrumental last year in blocking legislation designed to restrict marriage to opposite sex couples, told The Royal Gazette she was “disappointed” and “disheartened” by the proposed law, which will be debated in the Senate today. She predicted that the PLP’s five senators would vote in favour of the legislation and that the Bill would also win the support of enough of the three independent members to ensure its safe passage through Parliament. “I don’t know how the new [PLP group in the] Senate will vote but my expectation is that they will vote in favour of it, because they are all new,” she said. “For them, it gives a set of rights, a legislated framework. They will take the view that ... that’s better than nothing at all.” Her view differed, she said, because section 53 of the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 — which says a marriage is void unless between a man and a woman — would actively remove the right of gay couples to wed, despite a Supreme Court ruling from May this year which determined that it was discriminatory to deny them marriage. “It’s just retrograde,” said Ms Wilkerson, who remains an active member of the PLP. “I was very disappointed, disheartened [when it was tabled]. I think it was a step back for human rights. I believe singularly that it must make us unique in the entire world: to have come to a place where we had marriage equality and then we take it away.” In July 2016, Ms Wilkerson helped to quash a Private Member’s Bill tabled by fellow PLP parliamentarian Wayne Furbert. The Bill, which sought to restrict marriage to opposite-sex couples by amending the Human Rights Act, was approved by MPs but lost by six votes to five in the Senate, with Ms Wilkerson the only PLP senator to go against it. She said she searched her heart when deciding how to vote, ultimately deciding the “role of the legislator is to enhance and build upon the rights of citizens, not to take them away”. Ms Wilkerson said party leader Marc Bean made clear it was a vote of conscience and she was not criticized afterwards for opposing it. “There were some who said party members were unhappy with me, within the PLP caucus. But there was no backlash whatsoever. There was a clear understanding that we — that I, at least — was going to be voting on conviction. I was never challenged within the PLP caucus on that and I was grateful for that.” She said the Bill to be debated today was “very much” an attempt by the Government to strike a compromise, since so many constituents — and party members — were opposed to gay marriage. “My sense is that a majority of people within the party probably accord with the view against same-sex marriage,” said Ms Wilkerson. “Irrespective of how I feel, an overwhelming view of constituents is that they would prefer not to see same-sex marriage legal.” She suggested that independent senator James Jardine, who voted against Mr Furbert’s Bill, might be inclined to support domestic partnerships on the basis that they are a “reasonable middle ground that gives a legal framework” to gay couples. Neither Mr Jardine nor fellow independent Joan Dillas-Wright, who supported Mr Furbert’s Bill, would comment on how they plan to vote today. Michelle Simmons, the other independent senator, could not be reached for comment. Opposition Senate leader Nandi Outerbridge said it was “safe to say” the One Bermuda Alliance’s three senators would oppose the Bill. She said the party’s position was “it’s wrong to take rights away from people” and the status quo should remain. OBA senator Andrew Simons made a plea for all his colleagues in the Upper Chamber to delay the Bill for a year by voting against it, whatever their view on same-sex marriage. “This goes beyond politics,” he said. “The role of the Senate is not always to block legislation but delay it, at times. If this piece of legislation was delayed for a year, you might find that the mood of the island has changed, The need for this legislation would diminish further. People’s hearts would have softened. There would be a greater understanding.” He noted that global opinion on gay marriage — once an “impossible idea” — had changed dramatically in the past 20 years and would continue to evolve. “Equality doesn’t harm anyone, but for people who can suddenly get married it makes a huge change,” he said. If the Act is approved, it will need the assent of John Rankin, the Governor, to become law. A Government House spokeswoman said: “In considering this matter, the Governor will continue to act in accordance with his responsibilities under the Constitution.”

December 13. Bermuda Tourism Authority chief executive Kevin Dallas has written to senators urging them to vote against legislation to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. Mr Dallas says the BTA is convinced that the legislation would result in “lost tourism for Bermuda” if passed. The Domestic Partnership Bill is due to be debated by senators tomorrow, after it was passed by MPs in the Lower House late on Friday night. “Since last Friday’s vote, we have seen ample evidence of negative international headlines and growing social-media hostility towards Bermuda that we feel compelled to express our concern about what the negative consequences could be for tourism if the Domestic Partnership Bill passes the Senate this week,” Mr Dallas said. “We believe the Bill poses an unnecessary threat to the success of our tourism industry. We urge you to vote no and appreciate the opportunity to lay out the reasons why. Importantly, we do not view domestic partnerships as a negative in isolation. In fact many jurisdictions permit domestic partnerships without adverse impacts on their economies. The circumstance in Bermuda is different — and troubling — in one important way: same-sex marriage is already the law of our island and to roll that back for what will be seen as a less equal union will cause us serious reputational damage. We are convinced it will result in lost tourism business for Bermuda.” In the letter to senators, Mr Dallas highlights two examples of states in the United States — North Carolina and Indiana — that have suffered a tourism decline after legislation that impinged on the rights of the LGBT community. He states that the LGBT community contributes $165 billion worldwide per year, of which $65 billion is spent in the US. Mr Dallas writes: “The Bermuda tourism economy, and the workers and businesses who make it thrive, deserve their fair share of the LGBT market, as we all continue the uphill climb towards tourism resurgence. Significantly, it is not only LGBT travelers that care about equal rights based on sexual orientation. Our research indicates many companies, consumers and travelers, including the overwhelming majority of the younger visitors powering Bermuda’s growth, care about this issue.” He told senators: “While it’s not possible to project the precise ramifications of a yes vote for Bermuda, we are confident the impact will be negative,” Mr Dallas said. “The ominous headlines since last Friday signal the hazards ahead. The yet-to-be-written headlines associated with a yes vote in the Senate could be damaging enough to derail the seven consecutive quarters of growth the Bermuda tourism industry has enjoyed dating back to January 2016. Tourism workers are getting more hours on the job, visitors are spending more of their money on-island and entrepreneurs are flocking to the tourism economy because they sense a bright future of sustained growth. Let’s not jeopardize that growth. We should send a message that Bermuda continually and permanently lives up to its well-earned reputation as a warm, friendly and welcoming destination. A no vote on the Domestic Partnerships Bill will make that message crystal-clear to the world.”

December 13. Legislation to decriminalize small quantities of cannabis tonight won universal support from senators. The Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalization of Cannabis) Amendment Act will decriminalize possession of less than 7 grammes of cannabis - but police will still be able to seize any amount of cannabis. The Act was endorsed by Government and Opposition senators, as well as independent senators, as it was debated this evening. Progressive Labour Party MP Jason Hayward said: “What we are doing is not promoting drug use and we are not encouraging young persons to use cannabis. We want to further the education regarding drug abuse in our society to protect our young persons. We plan to take a full review of drug policies in Bermuda through a Green Paper.” Opposition Senate Leader Nandi Outerbridge said that the new Bill would be supported by the One Bermuda Alliance and confirmed that it did not make it legal to smoke cannabis. Independent senators Michelle Simmons and James Jardine both spoken in support of the Bill. Ms Simmons said it was “long overdue”. The minister will also draw up regulations for substance abuse education or treatment for those caught with the drug under the new legislation. A similar Bill was debated and approved by the House of Assembly in May, but the legislation never reached the Senate because of the General Election. Both Bills aimed to decriminalize possession of less than 7 grammes.

December 13. Decriminalization of cannabis must be followed up with further laws and programmes to change Bermuda’s drug culture, according to an anti-racism charity. Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda welcomed the passing of legislation by MPs last weekend, which it said would help to lower conviction rates among young people. But president Lynne Winfield said legalizing cannabis and providing services including detox and therapeutic communities would make a more meaningful impact. Ms Winfield said: “Decriminalisation is an important first step and goes some way to ensure that the criminalisation of our youth is reduced. However, a more holistic approach including legalisation will transform lives and society. It is only a combination of changes to the law combined with services such as detox, therapeutic communities, destigmatisation, employment opportunities and education that will transform the drug culture in Bermuda and how the criminal justice system and health system respond.” According to the United States’ National Institute on Drug Abuse, medical detoxification — the first step of addiction treatment — safely manages the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with stopping drug use. Therapeutic communities are a common form of long-term residential treatment for substance use disorders. Curb, which advocated for legalizing the drug in its 2017 Racial Justice Platform and in its submission to the Cannabis Reform Collaborative in 2014, chimed in after the Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalization of Cannabis) Amendment Act 2017 was passed in the House of Assembly in the early hours of Saturday morning. Ms Winfield highlighted Portugal as a country that combined legalisation with other measures. She said: “Portugal’s ongoing 17-plus year success with their programme of legalisation combined with treatment continues to provide statistics that prove that a focus on drug treatment programmes and funds for job programmes produce positive results for the community and individual. If the idea when talking about addiction is to understand that it is a chronic disease, a health issue, then to move it out of Bermuda’s prison system is a clear improvement and from a mental health perspective allows society to drop the stigma.” Activist Stratton Hatfield, of the Cannabis Reform Collaborative, also applauded the move as a “good step in the right direction”, but said it was long overdue. He added: “It’s my hope that less people are going to be dragged through our justice system for possession of a small amount of cannabis. In particular, it’s my hope that young black males will not be dragged through the court system for simple possession.” Mr Hatfield said many countries had recognized that the “war on drugs” had failed and that substance use and abuse required a health-centered approach. He added: “People that use substances should be seen as patients that should be treated and cured as opposed to criminals that should be convicted and prosecuted.” And although Mr Hatfield added that the move was necessary, he said the Bill fell short “on establishing the necessity for a long-term plan towards a regulated and controlled market”. Mr Hatfield said the CRC’s report An Analysis of Cannabis Reform in Bermuda in 2014 “outlined the need for us to create something that was culturally appropriate for Bermuda”, with a focus on drug prevention and moving towards a regulated and controlled market. Mr Hatfield added that such a market would have quality control, price control and distribution control and it would also be able to limit minors from using cannabis. He said: “You also have a way to generate revenue and to ultimately lead by example.. The decriminalization model did not address some of his key points, specifically quality control, distribution and cultivation." He also highlighted the need for more public education. “So many people are very confused not only about the medicinal qualities of the plant, but more so what would be considered appropriate for use — we discouraged public use, as an example. And, if anything, we suggested that in a decriminalization model, you could possess up to a certain amount but you could also cultivate on your private property as long as you had a permit.” The legislation, tabled by social development and sports minister Zane DeSilva, was designed to decriminalize possession of less than 7 grams of cannabis. But police will still be able to seize any amount of cannabis and the minister will draw up regulations for substance abuse education or treatment for those caught with the drug. The Director of Public Prosecutions can also still proceed with charges if there is evidence the drugs were intended for supply. The Bill must be backed by the Senate and approved by the Governor before it becomes law. A similar Bill was debated and approved by the House of Assembly in May, but the legislation never reached the Senate because of the General Election.

December 13. Paul Scope has been elected as the new chairman of the Bermuda Business Development Agency. And insurance industry veteran Shelby Weldon has been appointed as a new director of the government-backed agency. Their appointments were among several changes announced by the 11-member BDA board following its Annual General Meeting today. Mr Scope, who is chairman of Willis Towers Watson Bermuda, succeeds Kiernan Bell as chairman, while director Stephen Weinstein, group general counsel for RenaissanceRe Holdings, becomes deputy chairman, taking over from David Cash. Ms Bell and Mr Cash remain on the board as independent non-executive directors. Additionally, BDA directors Derek Stapley and original board chairwoman Caroline Foulger have retired from the board; both have served the agency since its inception in 2013. “I feel honored to take up the chair of the BDA, and having been on the board since inception, I have seen first-hand the contributions of the previous chairs, Caroline Foulger and Kiernan Bell,” said Mr Scope. I want to follow their lead and continue to promote free thinking and positive mentoring from the board level to BDA staff, and progressive promotion of the jurisdiction with accountability to our stakeholders. Mr Scope added that Mr Weldon’s “many years with Bermuda’s regulator will benefit us greatly”. Mr Weldon was a former director of licensing and authorizations at the Bermuda Monetary Authority, where he worked in various capacities over 15 years. Currently a member of the senior management team at Marsh Management Services, he serves as senior vice-president, team leader, supervising finance and insurance managers. Mr Weldon has 30 years of experience in Bermuda financial services, having started out as an auditor. “It’s a great honour to join the board of the BDA, and I’d like to thank my fellow directors for this opportunity,” said Mr Weldon. “I have worked closely with the agency since its inception and have always been extremely supportive of its initiatives. I look forward to representing the insurance sector in general, and the captive insurance sector in particular, as we continue the BDA’s important work of promoting Bermuda as one of the world’s premier financial-services marketplaces.”

December 13. A prominent voice from the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People has praised local efforts to grapple with the island’s legacy of racism. Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, commended the latest round of truth and reconciliation “community conversations” organized by the group Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda. “It’s a very good idea — the only way we can move forward is by being able to reconcile where we have been and what we are, and move forward to where we need to be,” Mr Shelton said. The activist, who serves as the NAACP bureau’s senior vice-president for advocacy and policy, visited the island last week as a guest of Curb and the United States Consul General to Bermuda, Mary Ellen Koenig. Acknowledging the “painful element of the past” was essential, Mr Shelton said — and critics of the exercise were “missing the point — they’re just not taking into consideration the value of getting to know their neighbors better.  It’s about finding shared values. The more we have these conversations, the more we see how alike we really are.” Curb had just completed a second round of small group dialogues, in which members of the public gathered over six weeks of private sessions to share and discuss experiences of race. Participants followed up in a talk circle with Mr Shelton at the US Consul’s residence, covered by The Royal Gazette on condition of anonymity. One woman told the group that the narrative of “two Bermudas” endures, with demonstrations for worker’s rights “swarmed by the black community” and LGBT rallies “swarmed by the white community”. She added: “In these separate dialogues, their agendas are totally different.” A biracial woman responded that “people who show up represent people who want to show up”, and reflected that the shock of the Parliament protests of December 2, with pepper-spray used on demonstrators, had grown only more painful one year on. While the white community was often said to duck the issue of race, she noted that white participants in the Curb talks had proved receptive. And a black Canadian expatriate, who said she “sounds white down the phone”, described the difficulty of navigating Bermuda’s racial divisions — telling the group: “I haven’t been disadvantages — but I haven’t been advantaged either.” A white Bermudian man suggested “three Bermudas”, with “a middle where there’s great interaction between blacks and white. I understand that we have to get our past experiences out, and divest ourselves of our frustrations. If we’re able to talk with each other and agree with each other’s perspectives, we’re well on the road to recovery, but we have to do so realizing that we may not agree.” A white woman who said she had “pretty much given up hope of unity before this process” said she had found the Curb talks “transformative and elevating”, adding: “I have vastly more hope today than I had three months ago.” Another said the impetus of the talks should be directed towards pushing for legislative change. Mr Shelton recalled the activist Martin Luther King, Jr telling a reporter in 1964 that he would “continue to move to change hearts and minds in this world — but I need policy”. A black male participant said that veterans of the talks “need to engage people who are too afraid or not open minded enough to get involved in something like this. I’m not somebody who just wants to do this for seven weeks and then stop.”

December 13. An American educator is to be extradited to Bermuda to face sexual assault charges — more than ten years after his alleged offence against a teenage student at a local school. The accused, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has been ordered by an Alabama district court into the custody of United States marshals, prior to being handed over to British authorities. According to the ruling, the accused claimed the allegation from May 3, 2007 could “equally be described as roughhousing” — but Magistrate Herman Johnson Jr found that the evidence submitted supported a “reasonable belief” that a sexual assault had been committed as defined by Bermuda law. The 17-year-old complainant, said to have been a friend of the accused’s daughter, reported being approached in a classroom by the teacher after he shut the door and touched about her body. During the incident, she “evinced discomfort with the alleged behavior and sought escape”. After breaking free, the complainant “immediately reported the incident to her relatives and school officials”. The accused took a one-way flight to the US that same day after he was confronted by the school principal about the allegations, and suspended from work. He faced charges in 2011 for multiple counts of sexual abuse while working as a fourth-grade teacher in Huntsville, Alabama, and a warrant was issued by local authorities after the matter was reported in The Royal Gazette. However, Bermuda police were never told that an Alabama grand jury had failed to indict the accused, and his whereabouts were unknown after charges were dropped. US Customs and Border Patrol contacted local police in December 2016 to report that the accused was returning to Alabama on board a cruise ship, and a fresh warrant was issued, followed by an extradition request from the Bermuda courts in January 2017. He was arrested by Alabama police in July. While counsel argued that the Bermuda authorities had dragged their feet in tracking down the accused, the court refused to recognize the right to a speedy trial as a defence. Nor was the statute of limitations argument accepted, as Bermudian law “provides that felonies chargeable by indictment do not have any limitations period against prosecution”. The case was referred to the US Secretary of State pending the surrender of the accused “to the United Kingdom’s designated agents”.

December 13. A UK-bound flight was forced to divert into Bermuda in the early hours of Wednesday after a female passenger became ill. The 56-year-old woman and her husband disembarked the aircraft after landing at 12.30am and were rushed to hospital where she was treated for a “medical condition that required immediate attention”. The TUI Boeing 787, which was carrying 290 passengers and nine crew, was on its way from Jamaica to Birmingham in England when it was forced to divert. The aircraft and passengers remained on the island all day after a maintenance issue was discovered and because crew had completed their maximum number of shift hours. The passengers and crew were taken to local hotels before the plane finally departed for Birmingham at just before 8pm.

December 13. Kenny Harris, one of the island’s veteran broadcasters and an accomplished jazz musician, has died at the age of 90. According to friends, Mr Harris had been living in Brandon, Suffolk, with his wife and fellow broadcaster Nell Bassett, when he died on Sunday. Well known in his native UK for his role in groups such as the British Jazz Trio, Mr Harris found Bermuda in the early 1960s after a drumming career in New York, where he had emigrated in 1955, A Royal Air Force veteran, Mr Harris played initially on transatlantic cruise ships before returning to Britain, recording music and performing on the BBC with the Ralph Sharon Sextet. Mr Harris later joined Sharon’s trio in the United States, where he was also a session player for companies such as RCA, Capital and Atlantic Records. Among his nicknames was “Mr Brushes”, for his drumming style. A recording engineer and producer, he ran the Kneptune record label and publishing company. Radio host Mike Bishop, who first worked with Mr Harris at ZBM in 1978, recalled him as “incredibly organized — he ran the promotion department really well”. Mr Bishop added: “We all enjoyed working with him. Kenny was a nice person with a great sense of humour, very much in control — I never saw him lose his cool.” The two also worked at VSB on productions such as the Bermuda Sunrise Show, launched in 1991, which Mr Harris directed. Mr Harris’s musical skills brought him to Bermuda, where he performed on the hotel circuit with local bands such as the Joe Wylie Trio. Mr Wylie, also director of entertainment at the Princess Hotel, described him as very easygoing, comfortable with himself, and a talented jazz man. We first met when ZBM was downtown. Kenny was still playing at night. He started getting involved in radio production, where he honed his skills — that would have been around 1963. I had a pretty good band at the Princess. We did a recording at ZBM for the show BBC Jazz Club. We also did an important recording called The Music of Arthur Schwartz — Arthur was the entertainment director for Warner Brothers, a legend. He came down here and we became friends.” ZBM also produced records for a pantheon of local artists whose albums list Mr Harris’s role. While Mr Harris “loved it here”, he also traveled, enjoying a rich career in Canadian broadcasting, Mr Wylie said. He had worked in broadcasting in Calgary, and made a name for himself as production director at CKNW, one of Vancouver’s top stations. Former minister Quinton Edness, a programme manager at ZBM during Mr Harris’s early days, called him “very talented, a tremendous personality — it was always a pleasure to know him”. Mr Edness added: “We were good friends. I actually introduced him to Nell — he was crazy about her.” Ms Bassett, known to many as “Auntie Nell” from her children’s show on ZBM, pursued a formidable career in American broadcasting. Her romance with Mr Harris was “a great love story”, Mr Bishop said: “They met, they worked together, went their separate ways and eventually found each other again about 20 years ago.” The couple married in 2000. Mr Harris was “vibrant and energetic”, keeping involved with VSB and contributing “great ideas that served us well”, Mr Bishop said. “He was still writing the occasional scripts — he’d retired, but he was still in touch with VSB right up until everything shut down.” Mr Harris wrote a biography of the American jazz drummer Don Lamond — and in 1998 he documented his life as a musician at sea in Geraldo’s Navy, an account of playing on the Cunard and Canadian Pacific shipping lines under the direction of Gerald “Geraldo” Bright. His life was the subject of a Bermuda Government Treasures television programme produced in 2009.

December 13. Clarien Bank will be raising lending and savings rates next year after the US Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point. The bank said today it had anticipated the US central bank’s action and it planned to increase deposit and savings rates, as well as its Bermuda dollar base lending rate. “Further details and an effective date will be declared in January 2018,” Clarien stated. “In addition to increasing published board rates, the bank will also be introducing a series of attractive promotional deposit products to provide its client base and the overall community with a variety of savings and investment vehicles to grow and save for the future.” Clarien borrowers will be advised via written notice of adjustments to their repayment requirements. Clients are encouraged to contact their relationship manager or lender for additional information.

December 12. The Bermuda Government has signed a major tax agreement with the United States. The Country by Country Competent Authority Agreement means that the Government has satisfied the Internal Revenue Service’s data safeguards review and complies with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting tax transparency standards. Under the new agreement, Bermuda now automatically provides corporate income of Bermudian-based multinational enterprises that have any US income-generating activities. David Burt, the Premier, said: “The agreement we have put in place with the United States demonstrates Bermuda’s continued commitment to being transparent, co-operative and compliant with international tax authorities. As a leading jurisdiction in global tax transparency we will continue, without reservation, to show that Bermuda is no place to hide money. We stand by our call for other countries to meet the Bermuda Standard.” The agreement was said to complement Bermuda’s other automatic exchange of information agreement with the USA, signed in 2013 and designed to give access to income information on US taxpayers under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. The country by country treaty is also in line with an agreement signed earlier this month between Bermuda and the United Kingdom. The UK agreement, like the US agreement, enables the automatic reporting of corporate income on a country-by-country basis for UK tax enforcement purposes. Bermuda is the first UK Overseas Territory to sign a CbC Competent Authority Agreement with the UK and now also the USA.

December 12. Before an audience of hundreds of business delegates, Jamahl Simmons said Government will not interfere with independent regulatory organisations in Bermuda. He gave the assurance after explaining why he had brought to Parliament the Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017, which made alterations to the relationship between the Bermuda Government and the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission. The Minister of Economic Development and Tourism said the Act had been amended from the one he tabled last month “because we now have a relationship with the gaming commission that is based on mutual trust and respect”. The Act, as previously tabled, would have allowed the Government to give policy direction to the commission and fire members who did not follow legal directions issued by the Government. Those proposed changes caused an outcry. Alan Dunch resigned as chairman of the commission, as did his deputy Garry Madeiros and another commissioner, Derek Ramm. Before resigning, Mr Dunch warned that the amendments were a “potentially sad and seriously backward misstep” and would compel the commission to give up its independence. On Friday, during a question-and-answer session at the EY Global (Reinsurance Outlook forum, Jessel Mendes, of EY, asked Mr Simmons: “When government gets involved, does that take away from the credibility of the regulator?” Mr Simmons said the adjusted Act, which was passed by MPs later that day, meant that the ability of the minister to direct the commission would now only be in written form, as it is for the Bermuda Monetary Authority. “The legislation has evolved to reflect exactly the BMA. So there will be no whispered conversations in the hall, there will be none of that. All the transactions have to be transparent.  As to the removal of members, we have reduced the overall broadness of it and given specific reasons.” As an example of reasons, he said bringing the reputation of the government or the country into disrepute. Mr Simmons told the audience at the Hamilton Princess that by working with the new gaming commission team it had been possible to craft something “that they were comfortable with, and that we were comfortable with. I will not have the capacity to decide who gets a licence and who doesn’t. I will not have the capacity to decide if an investigation continues or not. It is merely to ensure that when things need to be delivered from a governmental standpoint we have the ability to provide direction — and the ability to remove members based on specific criteria as you see in other jurisdictions. I want to know that if someone wants to do business with Bermuda I can send them to a body I can trust to provide them with advice I can trust, and [who] will be responsive to the needs of Government in terms of its responsibilities.” Mr Mendes, partner and regional growth markets leader, financial service organisation, EY, then asked: “So there is no risk of creep into other regulatory bodies; getting involved in the BMA and others?” Mr Simmons said: “No. It’s not about being able to dictate, it’s about being able to work together.”

December 12. Bermuda is to launch a bid to make money out of its first live satellite, the Minister of Transport told MPs on Friday. Walter Roban said Bermuda’s current role in the industry was small. “In line with the Government’s commitment to diversify our economy and seek out new opportunities, these meetings afforded us a chance to renew our relationships with existing partners and introduce ourselves to prospective new associates,” he added. BermudaSat-1 — Bermuda’s only live satellite network — is a joint venture between SES and EchoStar. Mr Roban said that partners planned to take “proactive steps” to commercialize the network. He added: “We came away from the meeting with SES and EchoStar encouraged about the future of Bermuda’s satellite network but mindful of the need for further progress. The Government will continue to drive SES and EchoStar hard to do more with our asset and return more of our investment of time and effort.” Mr Roban said a meeting of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was “reassuring”, and that shared benefits with the mobile tracking station at Cooper’s Island would continue. He added: “Nasa benefits from being able to offer the full complement of range assets for expendable launch vehicle operations and Bermuda has access to data collected at the station to track shoreline erosion.” Mr Roban said that new space trends and activities being explored required “some regulatory framework”. He added: “Bermuda is already a hub of international business, and the potential synergy with our vibrant property and casualty insurance sector present further exciting possibilities for the island.” Mr Roban said the Government would consider the creation of a working group of satellite operators. He added: “The space industry presents real economic opportunities for forward-thinking, business-friendly jurisdictions. We should strive to become one of the most enabling economic jurisdictions for space-oriented business in the world. Mr Roban said the meetings demonstrated the potential for “immediate and long-term benefits” open to Bermuda businesses.

December 12. The Bermuda Chamber of Commerce has partnered with KPMG to host a breakfast update session on the impending US tax reform. Will McCallum, managing director and head of tax for KPMG in Bermuda will speak at Friday’s session. He will provide an update on US tax reform and discuss the potential implications to businesses in Bermuda. Both the US Senate and the House of Representatives have approved tax reform legislation in recent weeks. The House and Senate are now working on reconciling the differences between their respective bills, with the aim of enacting new tax laws by the end of this year. The session takes place at the Chamber, at 1 Point Pleasant Road, Hamilton, from 8:30am to 10am. The session will cost members $50 and non-members $65 to attend. For more information go to the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce website, bermudachamber.bm. Those interested in registering can contact Korrin Lightbourne by e-mail at klightbourne@bcc.bm or by telephone at 295-4201.

December 12. Bermuda’s financial crisis and the battle to pull the island back from the brink of disaster has been chronicled in a book by Bob Richards, the former Minister of Finance. Mr Richards left political life after he lost his seat to Christopher Famous in the One Bermuda Alliance’s defeat in the July polls. Now he has written about “how we got into the mess” and “how we got out”. Mr Richards said: “The important thing is that we don’t do it again.” He warned that Bermuda Back from the Brink “stayed away from personalities and political groups — if people think my book will be about politics, it’s not”. Mr Richards said the book was an overview of the long-running economic crisis that gripped the island. He added: “I stayed at a cruising altitude rather than getting down in the weeds.” The former minister said the 190-page paperback was “specifically written for the lay person — I’ve used various and sundry analyses to make points, and used context that the average person will get, while steering away from technical jargon”. Bermuda’s economic tailspin — like other countries — began with the global recession that hit in 2008. But Mr Richards said a “key question” in the book was: “How did the six-quarter recession in the United States turn into the six-year depression in Bermuda?” Mr Richards said it was “a story that had to be told”, but did not herald a return to politics. He added: “My innings is over and I’m back in the pavilion having a nice couple of libations. I’ve been getting healthier, losing weight and getting rid of that stress.” The book was edited with help from a number of sources, including his sister, the novelist and lecturer Angela Barry. Mr Richards will sign copies of the book at 7pm on Friday at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. He said he had no intention of becoming “an armchair quarterback” over the new Progressive Labour Party’s stewardship of the island’s finances, But Mr Richards added the island’s surging debt was “the most troubling” factor that confronted the new government at the end of 2012. He said: “It was out of control — it was going up more than $200 million a year.” Mr Richards added that in an island without natural resources “you can get to a tipping point — and once you get past that, it’s virtually non-stop down to Third-World status”. He said: “We were teetering on that point when the OBA took over in 2012. There had been a loss of confidence in Bermuda — and we depend on foreign capital and foreigners and their money to maintain our prosperity and standard of living. Without that, Bermuda could have — and still can — revert to something very different from what it is today. Politically, we’re more vulnerable than we were 30 years ago. Our principal industry is financial services and insurance. In addition, a decision by a small number of people can make a really big difference in Bermuda, as opposed to tourism, where hundreds of thousands of people had to change their minds. The Government was not in control of itself, but most important is the confidence that was lost in Bermuda by those that provide us with money. We had to start correcting that.” Mr Richards traced the island’s tough times back to the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 — which “created a bonanza in Bermuda that it had never seen before”. He said: “All the ills of the world turned into bonanzas. As somebody once said, nothing exceeds like excess. It was a bubble economy, and it burst at the end of 2008.” The book also examines recovery efforts, including the successful bid to host the America’s Cup and Bermuda’s continued battle against “tax haven issues”. Mr Richards said that external threats still existed. He added that media storms like the Paradise Papers, millions of documents hacked from Bermudian-founded law firm Appleby, were “all part of the narrative that it’s got to be somebody else’s fault”. But Mr Richards said: “We’re in much better shape than we were in 2012, which is why the book is so-named. We hauled Bermuda back from the brink of failure. We had to make unpopular and tough decisions. We made them, and I think Bermuda is the better for it.” Mr Richards explained he had been “prepared for it to be tough” and confident he could avert disaster when he took over as finance minister. He added he was “pleased” with the Progressive Labour Party’s economic performance so far — but that time would tell. Mr Richards said he had enjoyed his time in the political limelight — but had no qualms in handing over the reins. He added: “I’ve been on both sides. I’ve won and lost elections. Some people who haven’t might have found it devastating. I was surprised — but I think I’m quite lucky. I would not have wanted to be an Opposition Member of Parliament.”

December 12. A foul smell on Front Street has been pinpointed to a broken main sewage pipe, the City of Hamilton said yesterday. The odor, which has plagued the junction with King Street for at least two weeks, was at first blamed on the release of “odorous residual grease” as a result of a blocked main. But a spokeswoman for the City yesterday said the source of the problem was now believed to be a fracture in the force main. She said: “Crews are endeavoring to do pipeline camerawork in the area this afternoon. Once the fracture has been identified, a trenching schedule will be confirmed, and traffic management will be in place so that work to repair the fracture and resolve the issue can take place with expediency. Motorists are asked to be aware of this development and to be on the lookout for signage in the area. There are many moving parts to resolve the issue and the City thanks the general public in advance for their patience and understanding as it makes these necessary repairs to the City infrastructure.”

December 12. The removal of the right to same-sex marriage highlights a massive generation gap in Bermuda, young island commentators said yesterday. Dwayne Robinson, of online current affairs show It’s That Type of Party, said the Domestic Partnership Act “very clearly” highlighted the age divide on the issue. He said: “The older generation holds tight to their faith and religious beliefs. The older generation embodies ‘Bermuda is another world’ and they will fight to protect that. Younger folks are much less traditional and have been exposed to a collective, progressive mindset that most millennials tend to share.” Trae Cannonier, Mr Robinson’s co-presenter on ITTP, agreed. He said: “Most of us were raised in some form of religious household — however, as we’ve grown our mindsets have changed. I’m not going to say that our generation is more open-minded but I would say we have instant access to significantly more information than our parents did.” Mr Cannonier’s father, One Bermuda Alliance MP Craig Cannonier, voted for the new Act. But Trae Cannonier said he and his father had always separated their political viewpoints from their personal relationship. He added: “He very much respects my opinions and admires my ability to think for myself as that’s what he raised me to do. We disagree a lot but are still able to do so respectfully and we still remain as close as ever.” Mr Robinson said that the duo was disappointed by the new Act but not surprised. He added: “We know that Bermudians like to stay in their bubble and for the status quo to remain the same. That’s one of the main reasons our youth are running out of this country the first chance they get.” Mr Robinson predicted the watered-down option for gay couples would “stain” Bermuda’s reputation overseas. He said: “We feel that the repercussions will be felt a bit further down the line when the word begins to spread. The PLP may find itself in a similar position of the previous government with an unsatisfied group of citizens knocking on their door.” Mr Robinson said ITTP would back any non-violent bid for marriage equality. He added: “The next step is for us to join in with other advocates and continue to try and make a change. We don’t want this to turn into a clash of conflicting mentalities but into a chance to gain mutual understanding.” Civil rights group the Centre for Justice also said the change in the law was not a surprise — but it was still disappointed that Government “chose to roll back full marital equality”. The comments came after MPs on Friday voted 24-10 in favour of the Bill to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships. But the Centre for Justice said it was “encouraged” by an amendment that gave recognition to all same-sex marriages celebrated outside of Bermuda. The organisation also said it was encouraged by the “change of tone” in many speeches made by MPs during the debate in the House of Assembly. The Centre for Justice added: “Several MPs acknowledged that this issue highlights a generational gap and philosophical difference between parents and their young adult children whose worldwide view in more inclusive and progressive.” Justin Mathias, chairman of the Future Bermuda Alliance, the youth wing of the OBA, said the legislation was a “sad day” for Bermuda. Mr Mathias added: “For us to be this close to being the first country to renege on same-sex marriage is baffling. There is a huge generational gap with many issues in our country, but on this single issue I believe it is at its greatest. The younger generations are far more progressive and believe that everyone within our community should have equal rights under the law. The majority of FBA members backed same-sex marriage. The one thing we unanimously agree on is that it isn’t right to take away rights that have already been given to people within our community. We are in a new age and the world is changing.” Eron Hill, of youth group Generation Next, did not respond to requests for comment.

December 12. Bermudian horse trainer Marvin Ford has been hailed as a future star after a stunning singing performance on a hit BBC show. Mr Ford landed in the limelight after he was hired to be a body double in an advertisement — but instead became the Unexpected Star of Michael McIntyre’s Big Show, watched by millions in Britain. He said: “There was lots of praise, lots of tears. It seemed like everybody who watched it was it tears.” Mr Ford added: “To me, singing is just something that I do. I didn’t know that my singing touched people the way it did, that it could touch people this way.” Mr Ford, who left the island to pursue a career as a horse trainer, was signed up for the comedy show’s Unexpected Star segment by his wife, Ellen. She convinced him that he had been offered a job as a body double for an actor scared of horses in a cowboy-themed TV advert for cologne to be filmed in London — and kept up the pretence for eight months. Mr Ford was brought on to a fake set, climbed on a horse and said his line — only to have a curtain fall to reveal he was on stage in front of a live audience of 2,500 people. He returned to the stage at the Theatre Royal an hour later to deliver an emotional version of Lionel Richie classic Stuck on You and won a standing ovation. Mr Ford said: “It all happened so fast, so quickly. The song was something that they picked out of the repertoire of songs that I do. The vocal coach was an absolutely fantastic guy. He really went through it with me, telling me to hit some things a little lighter, hold some notes a little longer. He kept pushing me, using as much of the short time that we had to get things it the best place he could.” Mr Ford was secretly recorded backstage as part of the prank, with Mr McIntyre feeding lines to a group of actors in on the joke. Viewers saw Mr Ford try to stifle laughter as his fellow actor shouted like a cowboy, did an impression of a zombie and messed up his only line. Mr Ford said: “When the actor started yee-ha-ING and stuff like that, I thought the guy was crazy. Then he jumped on the horse the wrong way, but there was still no doubt in my mind this was real. What was going through my mind is I couldn’t believe that they had hired this idiot to do this ad. It was funny. I was sitting there laughing, but of course he was really doing his job to a tee.” The prank continued with Rachel Riley, from British quiz show Countdown, doing maths on a whiteboard to explain why she was late and the actors praising a foul “fragrance”. But Mr Ford said he only realized the entire scene was part of the joke after the curtain dropped. He was among the estimated 6 million people who watched Saturday’s show. He and his family met around 25 friends and neighbors — many enlisted by his wife to pull off the surprise — at a West Sussex scout hall to watch the show. Mr Ford said: “It was wild watching myself on television. I’m still just struggling to believe that it really happened. There was a lot of cheering, and a few tears as well. It was a very, very positive reaction. I'm still on a big high from it. My seven-year-old daughter has been watching the video on YouTube in a constant loop. As soon as it’s over, she presses play again.” Mr Ford’s friends in Bermuda hosted their own viewing party at the Daylesford Theatre in Hamilton. He said: “I wish I could have been there. It was really nice to see so many people come out, supporting me. Viewers across the UK also praised Mr Ford’s talents on social media and many said he was better than the episode’s professional musical guests. As soon as the show ended, he was bombarded with calls, tweets and Instagram messages about his performance. Mr Ford has also been interviewed by the UK’s Spirit FM, and was due to appear for a live interview on BBC Radio Sussex. But he played it cool when it came to capitalizing on his London TV debut. Mr Ford said: “It is early days. Everything is still up in the air. We need to basically take one day at a time and see what comes in before we start pushing anything out.”

Tuesday, December 12. A 37-year-old Bermudian man died after he suffered a medical emergency on board a flight to the island. Police and first responders were called to the airport shortly after 10pm on Sunday. The man, believed to be a Smith’s resident, was on board a JetBlue flight from New York. The aircraft cabin crew battled to save the man, who has not been named, and life-saving efforts continued as he was taken to the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. But he was later pronounced dead by doctors. Police said: “Foul play is not suspected and identification of the deceased is anticipated in due course once his next of kin has been notified.”

December 11. Importers of food and other goods will face fines of up to $5,000 if they fail to provide information to a new commission examining their costs and margins. The Cost of Living Commission, renamed from the Price Commission, will be established by legislation which passed through the House of Assembly in the early hours of Saturday. David Burt described the Cost of Living Amendment Act as “the first step in tackling the cost of living in order to improve the quality of life that this Government promised voters at the last General Election”. The Premier and Minister of Finance added: “The number one concern we have on the doorstep clearly that I know that we all hear is the cost of living in Bermuda and how expensive it is to live in Bermuda. We do know that this is the most expensive country in the world to live in, as is given by international surveys and any government has a responsibility to tackle this issue. Of course, we are looking at it from both sides, looking at it from this side and we are also looking at it from the living-wage side.” Mr Burt said the Government had no intention of controlling prices and that the commission would focus on getting information from importers of food and other goods about their import cost and margins. He added: “The commission intends to then process this information, and submit various reports containing its recommendations to the minister on approaches to contain the cost of certain goods.” The Bill paves the way for higher fines for those who do not comply with information requests from the commission. Mr Burt said the penalty would increase from $500 to $5,000, with an additional daily fine of $500 in the case of non-compliance. Mr Burt added that Senator Anthony Richardson, who served on the last Price Control Commission, would chair the new commission and that they would get to work as soon as the Bill had passed. One Bermuda Alliance leader Jeanne Atherden said the change was a “very good idea”. She hoped the commission could look at the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, which “had played a very significant part of the expenditure of the Bermuda resident”. Progressive Labour Party backbencher Rolfe Commissiong was happy the Premier and the PLP government had moved in this direction. But he said that the Bill was “just one piece” and pointed to the work on the living wage and the Tax Commission, which is looking at comprehensive tax reform. Mr Commissiong added: “I think we all want to see us move from a status quo which is no longer serving Bermudians, at least not enough Bermudians, to an era where we can have a greater degree of social equilibrium and bring those persons who need the most help in society, to a point where we can again foster a greater degree of social cohesion and social harmony.” Grant Gibbons, the shadow economic development minister, said the change was “nothing new under the sun”, with the Cost of Living Commission mirroring the original purpose of the Price Commission, set up under the former United Bermuda Party administration.

December 11. A three-strong panel of financial experts has highlighted “slippage” in Bermuda’s bid to balance its books. David Peretz, chairman of the Fiscal Responsibility Panel, said: “The last Budget showed a little bit of slippage — whereas previously the objective was to reach Budget balance by 2018-19, now it’s 2019-20. From our point of view, that’s not a welcome development, but that’s happened.” Mr Peretz, an independent consultant on international finance who has worked at the UK Treasury the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, added it was the group’s first visit to Bermuda since the government changed in July. He said: “We are very pleased that the new government has followed the old one in committing itself to basically the same objectives.” Mr Peretz said the arguments in favour of reducing Bermuda’s Government net debt — now close to $2.5 billion and with 17 per cent of Government income spent on debt service — were “as strong as they were”. He added: “But more important is that the new Government has committed itself to the same objectives, which is good news.” Jonathan Portes, principal research fellow at the UK National Institute of Economic and Social Research, said he had seen “quite a lot of common ground” between Government, the business world, analysts and trade unions who “all shared an understanding of Bermuda’s position. There are good things going on in Bermuda, but it’s facing some long-term challenges.” The group was speaking in advance of its full report, the third of its kind, due to be released before Christmas. Mr Peretz said: “What we have also done each year is look at the risks facing the island.” He added the biggest risks include moves towards US tax reform, the risk of blacklisting and the upcoming assessment of Bermuda’s anti-money laundering regime. Mr Peretz added: “If any of these risks were to materialize, the island is very badly placed to deal with it due to the Government debt.” And he warned: “If any one of these went badly wrong it could be very bad news for the island.” Other dangers highlighted included the massive cost of healthcare in Bermuda and a pensions black hole caused by under-funding. Mr Peretz said some of the risks, including a poor grade on anti-money laundering, had “subsided a bit” — but that a good report was “not yet certain”. Mr Peretz said that the Paradise Papers — a massive release of documents hijacked from Bermuda-founded law firm Appleby — had focused attention on the island and helped fuel “a general rise in protectionism around the world.” But he added: “Although the Paradise Papers have caused a lot of fuss, Bermuda has not been blacklisted. It’s been gray-listed and Government has been given a year to do something about companies here without any substantive presence.” Mr Peretz said that Bermuda had “quite a good record” on transparency. He added: “It means nobody can hide their money here and there is agreed reporting between tax authorities and Bermuda is recognized as having a very good record on that. I don’t think the overall assessment has changed very much from last year. Some things have got better, some things have got worse. A real plus is that there has been a change of Government with no real change in objectives.” Peter Heller, retired deputy director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department and an expert in pensions, healthcare and long-term demographic trends, said he had seen “good thinking going on” on the island over healthcare costs and long-term care. He said: “That gives me more confidence than last year — I’m seeing some real change there.”

December 11. Royal Gazette Editorial. "On occasion when planning a newspaper, editors face a quandary in making the decision over which of two viable candidates should be the lead story — or “the splash”. Such was the case on Friday in anticipation of the much awaited parliamentary debates to do with the Casino Gaming Amendment Act and the Domestic Partnership Act — both with laudable claims and both which command a huge public interest, casino gaming and same-sex marriage having captivated national attention pre and post-Election 17. The decision fell on which in a worst-case scenario would have the more far-reaching effects for the country should there be adverse ramifications. For what the implications might be should the Government’s plans to exert ministerial control over the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission turn pear-shaped, it meant that story had to take priority. Just. However, one debate took barely an hour and a half, while the other lasted for 4½ hours — and in doing so showed our elected officials at their collective worst. It is no wonder that the One Bermuda Alliance, despite having drafted the initial Civil Unions Bill, and the Progressive Labour Party as the Opposition had their hands forced by Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons in May — left to their own devices in the Lower House, which in this instance is befitting of the name, they were woefully ill-equipped to appreciate the hardship felt by the LGBTQ community. The discomfort seen on some faces was demonstrable, as though they wished they could be at any place where they were not required to talk in depth about this particular topic, trying to make sense of their support or lack thereof for the Bill brought by Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs. The speakers veered from inspirational (Walter Roban), to combative (Patricia Gordon-Pamplin) and impassioned (Jeff Baron), to sermonical (Scott Simmons) to clueless (Neville Tyrrell) and downright offensive (Derrick Burgess). Some didn’t speak, most notably the leader of the country and his predecessor, and that approach in hindsight should have been the preferred route by many to spare those in the public gallery and the listening public the agony of grown men and women stumbling over themselves, struggling to get words out in a coherent manner so as to make them remotely believable. How does it go? “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt.” One by one they got up, armed with the privilege of having a half-hour to torment us, and torment us they did. Gordon-Pamplin was strong and later showed pit bull tendencies in refusing to let go after a show of names ushered the Bill through. But by then she had already elicited something akin to an apocalyptic wish for the adult population of this generation. Pushed back by the Deputy Speaker, her “you will die” refrain to reflect that today’s older views will be improved on by the next generation was downgraded to “expire” before being withdrawn altogether. Not the former Opposition leader at her finest. Baron, in recalling Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes, first needed a dressing-down from the Deputy Speaker for auditioning for the gallery before settling into his work. We could have done without being brought up to speed on Lawrence Scott’s sexual conquests, such was the casual approach taken to some of this rather serious debate, while Leah Scott reminding that she is against same-sex marriage but is also against the stripping-away of rights presented one of the greatest contradictions of the night. Then came Walter Roban, and for the first time you were left with the belief that if David Burt ever does get to go on that “New York trip that never happened” and is trapped in a parallel universe while being fitted for emperor’s clothing, we would have an able deputy to carry the day. As far as quitting while you are ahead is concerned, all talking should have stopped once the impressively measured and articulate Roban concluded that evolution will lead to same-sex marriage being broadly accepted and legalized in Bermuda. It is just that we are not there yet. His was the only speech worthy of a standing ovation — some of what followed made you want to stand and rush for the exit. Given the PLP’s decided advantage in the House, and with an element of this projected in its election platform, we knew this Bill was going to pass, come what may. So why subject us to the additional speeches beyond the prescribed minimum? And so they continued. And so we were forced to suffer as reasonably bright and electable individuals shrunk before our eyes — forced to speak on a subject they know little of and have inquired even less about. No one was more uncomfortable than Neville Tyrrell. And it was a pity he had no colleague to his immediate left or right to rescue him from himself as he waffled on for what seemed an eternity without adequately making a clear point or offering a position on same-sex marriage. The only truism to be taken from his 20 torturous minutes was the identifying of the Editor of The Royal Gazette in the audience and that we will report on the proceedings, which while accurate was as relevant to his address as Juanae Crockwell, sister of the late Shawn Crockwell, being sat not far away — nothing more than stalling tactics while trying to arrive at the right words. They never came. A good and principled man, this was not the Warwick South Central MP in his finest hour, and his party colleagues would be best advised not to leave him high and dry as a public speaker on this most complex of subjects. Advanced in years but inexperienced in the House, Tyrrell was not the only respected parliamentarian who could do with a do-over. Grant Gibbons, so often the most august and respected of speakers, allowed himself to get flustered with an untypical “whatever” when corrected over the LGBTQ acronym. It was at that point for those of a same-sex marriage persuasion that you could not be faulted for thinking: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?” But taking the biscuit, and claiming the “what was that about?” award was Michael Scott, he of the dulcet tones who for all of half an hour elucidated — to borrow a phrase from Trevor Moniz — how he would go against the Bill. But then when names were called, he fell into line with his party. At least with Burgess, you know what you’re going to get: guns blazing and talk of racism and social inequity ... deflection. But the Hamilton East MP’s crude analogy of children walking in on their two fathers “getting busy” in the bedroom has no place in the House of Assembly — as though children walking in on mommy and daddy is any more appropriate. Well versed in parliamentary procedure, Burgess is far better suited to the Speaker’s chair than he is to matters that warrant empathy married to humanitarianism. No pun intended. So we have a Domestic Partnership Act whose genesis could be found in the Bermuda Bred case when Chief Justice Ian Kawaley advised the legislature that something needed to be done to provide amenable rights to same-sex couples. The legislature did nothing, expensively in the case of the non-binding and ultimately invalid referendum, putting Justice Simmons in an invidious position when Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche challenged the Registrar-General to have their marriage banns posted. Not including theirs, six marriages have taken place since that ruling, and the rub now for the LGBTQ community is that Brown’s Act removes those rights. Enshrined into law, any immediate legal challenge is likely to fail, but Roban is right. As the European Court of Human Rights comes under increasing pressure to acknowledge same-sex marriage and have provisions placed in the convention, so, too, will Bermuda get swept up in the revolution of evolution. Unless the PLP wishes to test the waters of independence, where it will find that the country’s appetite for breaking away from Britain is even less than it is for embracing same-sex marriage, natural justice means that full marriage equality is on its way. And quite contrary to the motivation behind Gordon-Pamplin’s “you will die” outburst, that justice will be all the sweeter if many of the foot-in-mouth types are alive to see it."

December 10. The volume of retail sales in September fell 0.8 per cent as sales of motor vehicles and fuel declined, bringing to an end six successive months of year-on-year sales volume increases. However, when factoring in the retail rate of inflation of 2.6 per cent, the value of sales for the month was $96.3 million, or 1.9 per cent higher than September 2016. The figures are contained in the Retail Sales Index report released by the Department of Statistics. The motor vehicles sector had the largest decline in sales volume, down 10.1 per cent, while building material stores saw the volume of sales rise 12.6 per cent. The volume of fuel sales at service stations were down 3.3 per cent, but the increase in the cost of premium fuel, which was up 13.7 per cent, resulted in the value of sales rising 9.8 per cent. Food sales were up 1 per cent by volume, while liquor store sales were down 4 per cent. Apparel stores recorded a 2.3 per cent increase in sales by volume, and a 4.5 per cent rise by value. Sales volume in the “other store” category were down 4.7 per cent, with marine and boat suppliers reporting a 74.4 per cent drop in sales value due to lower high-ticket item sales. Residents declared $4.8 million in overseas purchases during September, which was 4.3 per cent more than for the same month last year.

December 9. New legislation to let the tourism minister fire members of the Casino Gaming Commission and issue policy direction to the regulatory body was passed by MPs on Friday night. The Casino Gaming Amendment Act 2017 came under strong criticism in recent weeks. Opponents of the change said it eroded the independence of the commission. Jamahl Simmons, who tabled the amendment Act, insisted that the approach in the new Bill was “not unusual, not unique and not unheard of”. Mr Simmons said the Government had taken note of concerns about the Act and made the two changes to the original Amendment Act after consultation with the new gaming commissioner, Cheryl-Ann Mapp. The first amendment said that the minister can “from time to time after consultation with the Commission give to the Commission in writing such general directions as appear to the minister to be necessary in the public interest and the commission shall act in accordance with such directions”. The second amendment added: “The minister may at any time revoke the appointment of a member who is unable or unwilling to perform his duties as a member or in such other circumstances where the member’s conduct may amount to misconduct or breach of best regulatory practice, or is likely to bring the commission or the Government into disrepute.” Mr Simmons told the House that the new provision for directions to be in writing ensured they would be clear, while the second amendment provided greater “specificity in terms of reasoning”. But Opposition MPs said the new amendments only watered down the overall impact of the legislation and did little to address their main concern of government interference with an independent body. Mr Simmons began the debate with a condemnation of a “calculated, malicious and divisive media campaign” designed to portray the PLP as “inherently corrupt, incompetent and dictatorial”. He said: “This government rejects those stereotypes. The Government has been given a mandate and it is right that mutual trust and respect exists for Government to execute that mandate.” Leah Scott, the deputy leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, told MPs it was vital that the Commission was seen to be independent and asked Government to reconsider the legislation. She added: “I don’t think that internationally it gives a good perception that the minister can interfere in this way.” OBA MP Grant Gibbons also told Mr Simmons that he should “let this legislation die on the order paper”. Mr Gibbons said the Act was “ill advised and wrong”. He added: “This will do a great deal of harm to our gaming industry and damage to our reputation.” But PLP MPs Kim Swan, Michael Scott and Zane DeSilva jumped to the defence of the Act. Mr Scott said the legislation was “reasonable, moderate and responsive”. Former premier Michael Dunkley joined the OBA chorus of opposition. He said the law change was “draconian” and insisted that the Commission should be “as apolitical as possible”. Mr Dunkley predicted: “It’s a wrong move, it’s a bad move, it will backfire.” But David Burt, the Premier, hit back at Opposition MPs. He said the new legislation was “very simple”. Mr Burt added: “We will continue to prove we are up for the job and we are going to make sure we do it right.” Mr Simmons pointed out that the Casino Gaming Commission’s initial membership had been “political appointees”. He also confirmed that three commissioners had resigned. They are chairman Alan Dunch, his deputy Garry Madeiros and Derek Ramm, with Dennis Tucker and Judith Hall-Bean remaining in position. Mr Simmons said: “These changes in the legislation will not allow me, the future minister or the next government to interfere with corruption investigations. They will not allow me to decide who gets casino licences.” The legislation passed with a vote on party lines after a two-hour debate, with the Government side winning 17 to 12. Six PLP members were absent from the chamber at the time of the vote: education minister Diallo Rabain, junior finance minister Wayne Furbert, whip Michael Weeks and backbenchers Derrick Burgess, Renée Ming and Michael Scott. Only Mr Weeks had declared himself absent at the start of the day.

December 9. Legislation to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships was passed in the House of Assembly last night. The Domestic Partnership Act 2017 was passed following a five-hour debate after a vote in which 24 MPs supported the Bill being reported to the House, while ten opposed it. Home affairs minister Walton Brown, who introduced the Bill, said it would provide same-sex couples with a raft of legal rights but prevent any further same-sex marriages. He also confirmed that the legislation would not have retroactive affect on same-sex marriages after the Supreme Court ruling in the Godwin and DeRoche case against the Registrar-General. In that case, Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons ruled that the Registrar-General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda and that the common law definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was “inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation”. During yesterday’s debate, PLP backbencher Lawrence Scott said the Bill brought balance and gave “the LGBTQ community the benefits it has been asking for”, while keeping the “the traditional definition of marriage”. He said: “As it stands now, they can have the name marriage but without the benefits. But after this Bill passes, they have the benefits and just not the name marriage. The benefits are what they really want.” However, shadow home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said she could not support the Bill “having given a community something only to take it away”. She added: “I don’t like to accept that it is OK for us to treat our sisters and brothers differently, whether fair or unfair, to treat them differently under similar circumstances.” Leah Scott, the deputy leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, also said she could not support the Bill because it took away a right that already existed. However, PLP backbencher Wayne Furbert said he supported the Bill even though it was not everything he wanted. He added: “I support it because at the end of the day it removes the right to same-sex marriage and it tells the court that this Parliament will stand for what is right.” However, Jeff Baron, the Shadow Minister of National Security, said it was a “very flawed and, frankly, shameful Bill”. Instead of protecting equality, he said, it was “stripping Bermuda’s reputation naked for the world to see”. Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier, supported the Bill and said it came from of a “desire to bring some sort of stability on how the country will manage itself around this issue”. But the Minister of Transport said: “This is an issue in progress. It is going to be shaped and moulded by us and it is going to be shaped and moulded by the generations to come. So do not believe what we decide here is final.” Craig Cannonier described the Bill as “lukewarm” and said: “It’s half and half. It’s a compromise Bill. I would prefer it if you were hot or cold.” PLP backbencher Michael Scott acknowledged that the Act was a “compromise” but added that his conscience did not allow him to support the Bill because “if falls short”. He added: “I will not rob same sex couples of that opportunity. I have seen same sex couples raise children with great success. Every citizen must be allowed the liberty to freely choose. Shadow legal affairs minister Trevor Moniz described the Bill as a “retrograde action”. He said: “To take that right away from them is something that is abhorrent to me.” PLP backbencher Neville Tyrrell threw his weight behind the Bill. He said: “A lot of people are saying this is a compromise, I don’t think it is. It’s a middle road. Nobody is really going to win.” PLP MP Scott Simmons described the Bill as imperfect but said: “This Government has decided to address this issue that no one else wanted to deal with. We said we would repeal and replace but we cannot satisfy everyone. It’s not perfect. But we have to go with what we have got.” Sylvan Richards, the shadow minister of planning, said he would support the Government’s Bill, which he described as a “halfway house” that achieves what needs to be achieved at this time. “It’s going to give individuals the rights they need and it’s going to keep marriage between a man and a woman, which was my goal. Then it’s going to be the future generations that will take it to the next step.” However, shadow education minister Cole Simons would not support the Bill. He said: “This country has to evolve like other countries.” Meanwhile, PLP MP Derrick Burgess said he would back the Bill, which “is not all I wanted, but this is what we promised. This is the best solution. I support this Bill and believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.” Grant Gibbons, the shadow economic development minister, confirmed he would not be supporting the “regressive” Bill. He said: “This is a human rights issue. We are taking away marriage equality rights from the LGBTQ community.” Opposition leader Jeanne Atherden added: “We are taking away rights that have been granted to communities of individuals who want to start families.” Mr Brown concluded: “We need to find a way in Bermuda to fully embrace greater rights for all members of the community. But the status quo will not stand. On the ground, the political reality is that if we do not lead we would have a Private Members Bill tabled to outlaw same-sex marriage. That Bill would pass because more than 18 MPs are opposed to same sex marriage. If that Bill passes same sex couples have no rights whatsoever. This is tough for me. But I don’t shy away from tough decisions.” Jeanne Atherden, Jeff Baron, Michael Dunkley, Grant Gibbons, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, Susan Jackson, Trevor Moniz, Leah Scott, Cole Simons and Ben Smith opposed the Bill being reported to the House.

December 9. A Bill to decriminalize small quantities of cannabis was passed in the House of Assembly last night. The Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalization of Cannabis) Amendment Act, tabled by Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Social Development and Sport, was designed to decriminalize possession of less than 7 grammes of cannabis. But police will still be able to seize any amount of cannabis. The minister will also draw up regulations for substance abuse education or treatment for those caught with the drug. A similar Bill was debated and approved by the House of Assembly in May, but the legislation never reached the Senate because of the General Election. Both Bills aimed to decriminalize possession of less than 7 grammes. But the latest specifies that the Director of Public Prosecutions can still proceed with charges if there is evidence the drugs were intended for supply. The Health Insurance Amendment Act 2017 and the Price Commission Amendment Act 2017 were also passed. In addition, consideration of the Constitution of Bermuda (Constituency Boundaries) Order 2017 was approved.

December 9. Home affairs minister Walton Brown batted away questions in the House of Assembly yesterday over alleged links to developer Michael MacLean. It was claimed that Mr Brown told Mr MacLean that he would help resolve his dispute with the Government over the removal of his lease on the Hamilton waterfront. Opposition MP Patricia Gordon-Pamplin posed a parliamentary question to Mr Brown on statements that the minister was said to have made on public radio on November 8 that: “Mr MacLean approached him concerning the waterfront matter, and there was agreement he would assist in resolving the matter”. Ms Gordon-Pamplin said that on November 18, Mr Brown told the House that he had not been involved in “any dialogue or any sort of negotiations on the matter, either before or after becoming minister”. Mr Brown told Ms Gordon-Pamplin yesterday: “As that is currently under police investigation, it is not advisable that I make further comment.”

December 8. Telegraph, London. The European Commission has announced that "sufficient progress" has been made in the first phase of Brexit talks and discussions can now move onto trade.

Brexit deal agreed

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, appeared alongside Theresa May this morning where he announced they had made the "breakthrough we needed." He said: "We can now start looking towards the future — a future in which the UK will be a close ally."   The Prime Minister said the latest Brexit deal was a "significant  improvement" which had required give and take on both sides. She said that it included a financial settlement which was "fair to the British taxpayer" and a guarantee that there will be "no hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic, preserving the "constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom". Mrs May said the deal would guarantee the rights of three million EU citizens in the UK "enshrined in UK law and enforced by British courts".  It comes after diplomats worked overnight to hammer out a Brexit agreement on maintaining a soft Irish border. A mooted agreement between the UK and EU was torpedoed on Monday by the DUP after the party objected to plans for "regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland and the Republic to maintain a soft border between the two. Arlene Foster, the party's leader, has told Sky News secured “six substantive changes” to the text on the Irish border. She said: "There is no red line down the Irish sea and clear confirmation that the entirety of the UK is leaving the European Union, leaving the single market and leaving the customs union." Mrs May and David Davis are in Brussels where they have met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. The Prime Minister and her Brexit Secretary arrived at the Berlaymont shortly before 7am Brussels time (6am GMT) on Friday morning. Mr Juncker's head of  cabinet Martin Selmayr tweeted a photograph of white smoke gushing from the  chimney of the Sistine Chapel - the traditional way of signaling that a new  Pope has been chosen.  The agreement will be signed off by all EU leaders at next week’s European Council summit. On Thursday evening, Mrs May spoke to European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker, after he had phoned Irish PM Leo Varadkar. 

December 8. Bermuda is being unfairly targeted by international groups which show a “wilful lack of understanding” of the global economy, David Burt said today. The Premier insisted some European officials said the island is on the right track with its efforts on tax transparency when he took part in meetings last week. However, he said some non-governmental organisations are attempting to apply standards to Bermuda that are not applied to European Union, OECD and G20 jurisdictions. He was speaking in the House of Assembly, after the EU’s economic and financial affairs council, known as ECOFIN, reaffirmed Bermuda’s status as a co-operative tax jurisdiction. The British media highlighted how the island is among 47 jurisdictions warned to take extra steps to prevent corporate tax avoidance. Mr Burt told MPs: “Notwithstanding our sound regulatory environment and fair and transparent tax regime, Bermuda remains a target of some who seek to pursue a political agenda pushed through by certain international non-governmental organisations on global tax reform that seeks to apply standards to Bermuda and other offshore jurisdictions that are not applied to EU, OECD and G20 jurisdictions. Much of this unfair effort is based on inaccurate and misleading representations and a wilful lack of understanding of the efficient functioning of the global economy. Last week, following my meetings in London, I had the pleasure of speaking and meeting with Ministry of Finance officials from France and Germany. Those officials support Bermuda’s efforts and indicated that we were on the right track with our leadership in the area of global tax transparency. They suggested that Bermuda could serve as an example for other jurisdictions, and it is our intention to do so. Bermuda plays its part in the global effort for greater transparency in tax regimes. We will ensure that Bermuda fulfills the commitments we have made to the European Union Code of Conduct Group to further enhancements to our transparency regime, and will continue to offer our support to the EU and OECD in an effort to make their standards globally applicable across varying tax regimes. However, we will continue to aggressively fight any effort to place us in a disadvantaged position through unfair treatment based on inaccurate information, often promoted by NGOs and their supporters, designed to serve their own political ends. To this end we must continue our dialogue in Brussels and in other European capitals with senior Government and political influencers to protect Bermuda’s reputation and to ensure continued prosperity for Bermuda and Bermudians.” Mr Burt, who is also Minister of Finance, also repeated his statement that “Bermuda is not a place to hide money”. He said the island has demonstrated its commitment to transparency and fairness through participation in the Common Reporting Standard and Country by Country automatic reporting regimes. and by our membership in the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion & Profit Shifting. He added that any legitimate tax authority can request and receive information from Bermuda under 114 tax-transparency relationships pursuant to the OECD multilateral tax treaty. He said Brussels recognises Bermuda as a soundly regulated insurance market, and that it has achieved compliance with Solvency II, an achievement matched only by Switzerland and Japan.

December 8. Bermuda is trying to find ways of making money out of its first and only live satellite, transport minister Walter Roban told the House of Assembly today. Mr Roban was speaking after a series of meetings in Washington on the space industry earlier this month. He said Bermuda’s current role in the industry is small. He added: “In line with the Government’s commitment to diversify our economy and seek out new opportunities, these meetings afforded us a chance to renew our relationships with existing partners and introduce ourselves to prospective new associates.” BermudaSat-1 — Bermuda’s only live satellite network — is a joint venture between SES and EchoStar. Mr Roban said that partners indicated they were “taking proactive steps” to commercialize the network. He added: “We came away from the meeting with SES and EchoStar encouraged about the future of Bermuda’s satellite network but mindful of the need for further progress. Going forward, the Government will continue to drive SES and EchoStar hard to do more with our asset and return more of our investment of time and effort.” Mr Roban added that a meeting of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was “reassuring”, and that shared benefits with the mobile tracking station at Cooper’s Island would carry on. He added: “Nasa benefits from being able to offer the full complement of range assets for expendable launch vehicle operations and Bermuda has access to data collected at the station to track shoreline erosion.” Mr Roban said that new space trends and activities being explored required “some regulatory framework. Bermuda is already a hub of international business, and the potential synergy with our vibrant property and casualty insurance sector present further exciting possibilities for the island. Government would consider creating a working group of satellite operators. The space industry presents real economic opportunities for forward-thinking, business-friendly jurisdictions. As such, we should strive to become one of the most enabling economic jurisdictions for space-oriented business in the world. Mr Roban said the meetings demonstrated the potential for “immediate and long-term benefits” available to Bermuda businesses. He added: “We will build on our current efforts going forward.”

December 8. Giving national certification to tradesmen will help create a level playing field, according to education minister Diallo Rabain. Mr Rabain gave an update on the National Certification programme and training initiatives in the House of Assembly today. Under the programme, those operating as a welder, electrician, automotive service technician and landscape gardener are required to be nationally certified. Mr Rabain told MPs: “National Certification is directly aligned with workforce development initiatives, and is meant to create a level playing field and build a competitive advantage for all Bermudian trade professionals. “This process is instrumental to providing enhanced work opportunities for Bermudians and was designed to ensure an outcome of potential growth, increased confidence, and improved quality and efficiency of our workforce.” In September 2017, the Department of Workforce Development was given a mandate to have Certification in place before the end of 2017. As of Monday this week, 793 people were registered, including 38 welders, 193 electricians, 102 automotive service technicians and 460 landscape gardeners. Of the total registrations there were 350 work permit holders and 443 Bermudians. The minister previously announced that $265 application fee would be waived until December 31, 2017.

December 8. Government will finalize its National Fuels Policy this month, according to Walter Roban. Speaking in the House of Assembly today, the Minister of Transport and Regulatory Affairs said the policy is hoped to be published within the first six weeks of 2018. Mr Roban said: “The purpose of the policy is to direct the island’s fuel sector towards a future that is affordable, sustainable, safe and secure, helping inform the Integrated Resource Plan and Bermudians’ involvement with the IRP process. “All sectors of our economy are dependent on imported fuels, and Bermudians’ concerns over the monetary cost, as well as the environmental and health costs, point to a need to chart a more sustainable course for the energy sector. This involves making a key distinction between conventional fossil fuels and low-carbon fuels, and endorsing actions that shift our use from the first to the second. However, I should point out we have not lost sight of the significance of displacing fuels — whether low carbon or conventional fossil fuels — with clean renewable sources of energy.” Mr Roban said the Government understands the need for reliable energy and is working with Belco to find a “equitable way forward” for both the company and the island. “Any licensed entity in the electricity sector is effectively in the public service, and it has to purchase equipment and pay for personnel to operate that equipment or manage the grid,” he said. “There would be no reason for any utility to ensure that its equipment was modern, efficient, safe, and reliable if it could not make a reasonable profit from it. This is the essence of the regulatory compact. The regulator examines the costs of providing service to the public, and determines what the utility may expect to be compensated for. There is a duty to be fair to the rate payer, but also fair to those providing energy to the grid- both large and small energy producers, and to those providing the infrastructure to get that energy to the customers. This noted, we must simultaneously make certain that Bermudians have their say and have their preferences honored, while ensuring there is healthy and sensible competition.” Mr Roban stated that the Government supports clean energy and energy diversification in general, saying that the adoption of new green technology could be a boost for the economy as well as the environment. “The benefits of keeping more currency in Bermuda, circulating in our economy, as opposed to purchasing foreign oil, are numerous and cannot be ignored,” he said. Air quality improves, just a little both locally and globally, with every solar panel on a roof. A little extra money stays in the local economy with every conservation measure. There is a job for an installer with every PV system purchased. The renewable energy sector will provide jobs for electricians, technicians, computer and software specialists, repair and maintenance specialists, salespersons, marketers, engineers, and design professionals. It all adds up, and these benefits should no longer be considered as vague externalities because there are real and tangible benefits for Bermuda.”

December 8. The number of births in Bermuda rose last year for the second time in five years. But the number of marriages fell to 450 from 509 in 2015 — an 11.6 per cent drop. Walton Brown, Minister of Home Affairs, said: “In 2016, there were 591 births — an increase of eight or 1.4 per cent over the 583 births recorded in 2015.” Mr Brown was speaking as he tabled the Annual Report of the Registry General for 2016 in the House of Assembly. The report said 80 per cent or 473 of the births had at least one Bermudian parent. The statistics also showed that 492 resident deaths were recorded, up from 478 in 2015. A total of 11 non-residents died in Bermuda last year. The estimated population increased by 99 people to 65,391, with 2,751 more women than men. Marriages between people who were both non-Bermuda residents accounted for 231 — 51.3 per cent — of the 450 marriages performed. Mr Brown said: “This figure still is in keeping with the trend over the past five years for marriages between non-residents to exceed the number of marriages between residents and marriages between a resident party and a non-resident party.” Four hundred and sixty-eight marriages were performed aboard 28 Bermuda-registered ships last year — a decrease of 97 or 17.2 per cent on the 565 performed in 2015.

December 8. British firm Ramboll will be paid $400,000 to design the replacements for Longbird Bridge and Swing Bridge, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said today. The public works minister revealed both bridges have a lifespan until 2021, and that he expects Ramboll’s study to be completed by January so that rebuilding can begin. Colonel Burch also assured MPs that the Causeway is sound, adding: “There is no structural or economical argument to support the construction of a new Causeway.” Swing Bridge, the gateway to St George’s built in the 1960s, has fallen into disrepair in recent years and no longer opens to shipping. Longbird Bridge, a 60-metre twin carriageway bridge at the east end of the Causeway, was built in the 1950s. It closed to traffic ten years ago, when it was bypassed with twin Bailey Bridge structures. Colonel Burch told the House of Assembly: “Over the past decade, there has been an increased awareness of the significance of bridges to our nation’s economy and the safety of the traveling public. At all levels of government, a concerted effort has been made to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges that require significant maintenance, rehabilitation, or replacement. Corrosion is a serious threat to the long-term function and integrity of a steel bridge. This is true for all bridges, but it is more serious in Bermuda where salt water and warm weather are the perfect storm to accelerate corrosion on a steel structure.” Colonel Burch said the typical lifespan is 50 years for bridges such as Swing and Longbird. He said: “Our latest studies on the Swing Bridge show that this bridge will have to be replaced within five years. The work completed earlier this year will allow us to extend its lifespan until 2021, but it is time to rebuild this essential piece of infrastructure.” He said of Longbird Bridge: “It was condemned several years ago. Two single spans of Bailey bridge were erected to accommodate traffic as a temporary solution. This temporary solution was put in place in 2007. Accelerated corrosion on these bridges forced us to change deck plates earlier this year. In ordinary climate conditions, these plates should last 25 years, but in Bermuda they lasted only ten years. This bridge is safe, but its lifespan is similar to that of the Swing Bridge.” He said of the Causeway: “Several inspections were performed on the Causeway and various scenarios were also looked at to see what would be the best improvement, for both safety and investment for the taxpayer. The Causeway is an old structure, but I am pleased to advise that the Causeway is sound.” Colonel Burch said the design contract was tendered in February this year. He described Ramboll as an award-winning, experienced engineering company which has completed many successful bridge projects around the world. He said with modern technology the target lifespan of the new bridges will be 100 years. Colonel Burch added that Ricardo Graham-Ward, a young Bermudian engineering trainee, will undergo a six-month secondment with Ramboll as part of the contract. He said: “This secondment will allow this young Bermudian civil engineer the opportunity to work on this project at the very beginning and be trained by the best moveable bridge engineers in the world. I am certain this attachment will provide him with invaluable training and experience that would otherwise not be available to us.”

December 8. The Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain announced CedarBridge Academy principal Kalmar Richards as Acting Commissioner of Education yesterday. Mr Rabain said Mrs Richards had provided “exemplary leadership” in education over the past 20 years. Mr Rabain said: “Mrs Richards is no stranger to us or to our community. For the past 20 years she has provided exemplary leadership and stewardship as principal at CedarBridge Academy. Mrs Richards is respected by her peers, parents and students and known as caring and firm. She is a leader that believes in change and making a positive impact in our community. We are very appreciative that she has agreed to this assignment.” The move follows the removal of Freddie Evans from the post in October. No mention was made of Dr Evans, who is taking legal action over his removal. Mr Rabain said that Mrs Richards will serve in the position until a new Commissioner of Education is hired. Mr Rabain added: “The next step will be for the Board of Education to begin the search for a suitable candidate. The Board of Education is responsible for advertising, interviewing and selecting a candidate for referral to the Public Service Commission for final approval.” Mr Rabain also highlighted Plan 2022, which detailed reform of the education system last week. He said: “Implementation will begin in January 2018. As I stated in Parliament last week, this plan will not sit on the shelf. It will be implemented because we are accountable to our students and to all those who supported the design and drafting of Plan 2022.” Mr Rabain added: “We received such positive and honest input from community groups, churches, former educators, current teachers, union stakeholders, parents and students. He said: “The Department of Education is ready to begin the implementation and I am pleased to learn that steps are being taken and recruitment has begun to have all the necessary staff in place to carry out the objectives set forth in Plan 2022.”

December 8. A bid to launch dune buggy tours in the West End is “a different proposal entirely” from a plan to introduce all-terrain vehicle tours through local beauty spots, the Bermuda Tourism Authority said yesterday. The applicant, Juanita Jones of Bermuda Island Tours & More, said last night that the guided tours, which would cover parts of the East and West Ends, had been planned for four years. She added: “I’ve owned my tour company for almost 30 years and this is a great idea that my customers put forward.” Ms Jones said the buggy tours, which the BTA said was a “low-noise, electric-vehicle tour experience that will travel via public roadway in the West End making stops at key sites” will cater to “history buffs and adventure seekers”. She added that some people “have challenges walking about but still want to go off the roads — these buggies are electric, not gas”. Ms Jones said some of the Bermuda Off-Road Adventure Tours would involve use of the Railway Trails. But she stressed that the vehicles were quiet and slow. Ms Jones said: “We’re not going to be creating a ruckus and the tours are guided. You won’t be getting into a buggy and going off by yourself.” She added that all of the tours would be guided by certified tourism ambassadors. The project is now under review but Ms Jones said she hoped to launch “immediately and, as soon as we’re clear, we will be out on the road”. She added she was not affiliated with the ATV proposal, which sparked opposition from West End residents, farmers and the Bermuda National Trust after it went out for public consultation last month.

December 7. Bermuda’s traditional May 24 holiday will never fall on that date again. The Progressive Labour Party ignored a last-ditch bid to change the wording of legislation, which was designed to allow the holiday to sometimes take place after May 24. The Public Holidays Amendment Act, which was approved by the Senate yesterday, changes the Bermuda Day holiday from the fixed date of May 24 to the last Friday of the month. One Bermuda Alliance senator Andrew Simons pointed out that when May 24 did land on a Friday, the final Friday of the month, and by extension the date of the holiday, would fall on May 31. He added that meant the earliest date the holiday could fall was May 25. Mr Simons said: “Whenever May 24 is actually on the Friday, the holiday moves to the following Friday, because that’s when there are five Fridays in the month.” He suggested changing the wording from the final Friday to the fourth Friday. The Bermuda Day holiday originated from a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday. It was renamed Bermuda Day in 1979, based on recommendations by the Pitt Report into civil unrest in the 1970s, but the date of the holiday was unchanged. PLP senator Jason Hayward, who tabled the legislation, explained that the change was intended to prevent the disruption caused when May 24 falls during the week. He told the Upper House that thousands of pupils fail to attend school the day after the holiday. Nandi Outerbridge, the Opposition Senate leader, said that similar changes had been proposed before, but the OBA did not adopt them because polls indicated that the public were against the move. She said: “But this Bill is not one that I deem to be very contentious, and the OBA will support this.” PLP senator Anthony Richardson argued that the holiday brings people together and a change of date would be better for the wider community. He said: “Sometimes it may be at the end of the month, but overall if you go forward to the next ten years, there are not that many instances when it’s going to cause a challenge.”

December 7. A Bill designed to replace same-sex marriage with domestic partnerships is set to be approved without amendment by MPs tomorrow, despite criticism from across the community. Groups on both sides of the divide called for the Domestic Partnership Act 2017 to be altered before it becomes law, but sources told The Royal Gazette yesterday that it was not likely to be changed. It is understood that the vote tomorrow will be one of conscience for the Progressive Labour Party’s 24 MPs — the Speaker of the House would be required to vote only in the event of a tie — as opposed to a vote along party lines. But two government backbenchers told The Royal Gazette that no PLP representatives were likely to oppose the Bill. One predicted that home affairs minister Walton Brown, who tabled the legislation on November 24 after a two-week public consultation period, would “prevail”. Another said the legislation would pass because there was “no dissension within the ranks”. Preserve Marriage, a group opposed to gay marriage and civil unions, asked on Tuesday for the Bill to be widened in scope to allow people not in an “intimate relationship” with one another to get legal benefits of domestic partnership such as next of kin and inheritance rights. The Centre for Justice, meanwhile, urged the Government to withdraw a section of the bill giving primacy over the Human Rights Act to a clause in the Matrimonial Causes Act which makes marriages void unless between a man and a woman. The civil liberties organisation said the section would “roll back ... those rights” conferred to same-sex couples by the landmark Supreme Court judgment in May this year which paved the way for gay marriages. The Human Rights Commission and the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda have also criticized the Bill. They said it was a “removal of rights” for gay couples. Preserve Marriage president Melvyn Bassett said yesterday that he believed the Bill would pass in its present form whether MPs were allowed to vote with their conscience or under orders from the party whip. Dr Bassett said he liked to think there would be a PLP MP with a strong enough view against same-sex marriage to propose the amendment requested by Preserve Marriage. But he added he was not hopeful and predicted that even junior finance minister Wayne Furbert, the party’s most vocal opponent of gay marriage and civil unions, will vote in favour of the Bill. Dr Bassett said: “He fears that if anything is added there might be some argument over the amendment. So he and others are saying ‘let’s make sure this thing passes’.” Dr Bassett said Preserve Marriage viewed the Domestic Partnership Act as creating a union “almost identical to marriage” and that was unacceptable. He said a better solution would be to create an entirely different kind of legal partnership, available to everyone, whether or not they were in an “intimate relationship”. Dr Bassett added removal of the “intimacy” aspect of the Bill would make the law less likely to be challenged in court. He said: “Preserve Marriage agrees that under the European Convention, the Government is required to acknowledge same-sex couples by providing them with legal rights but those rights are very similar to what others could benefit from. Two sisters, for example, could choose to enter into a partnership for legal reasons if they wanted to own property together. If there is a parallel to marriage, it will open government up to legal challenges. We are suggesting they could eliminate the legal challenge. We don’t want to fight in court on a parallel Act. It would seal it, I think.” Lawyer Rod Attride-Stirling, who represented the HRC in the civil proceedings that led to the judgment on same-sex marriage, said MPs should think long and hard before approving the Domestic Partnership Act. Mr Attride-Stirling said: “There is lawful same-sex marriage in Bermuda and there have been several marriages now, so the Government is taking away a right that exists. If the Supreme Court had not already ruled on this, then the position would be very different. In that instance, the previous government’s civil unions Bill would have been seen as giving something, where there was nothing. However, what is happening now is that the Government is giving something that’s secondary, the right to a domestic partnership, and taking away something primary, the right to marriage.” Mr Attride-Stirling added: “The fact that no country in the world has ever done this should give us pause. We will look foolish and oppressive, at a time when we can ill-afford this, in the light of everything going on and the spotlight shining on us for other reasons.” He said the May judgment declared all same-sex marriages involving Bermudians were lawful, whether here or overseas, if they took place after the Human Rights Act was amended in 2013 to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Mr Attride-Stirling said: “There are a bunch of marriages that have taken place here since the judgment. But there is a much larger number of marriages that have taken place overseas since 2013. Those earlier marriages were effectively declared to be lawful by the judgment and this Bill does not recognize that. It protects those marriages that took place after the judgment but it does not protect the earlier marriages that took place overseas. That’s a serious technical problem as it is rendering lawful marriages unlawful, that is, taking away crystallized rights, which would be unconstitutional." Deputy Opposition leader Leah Scott said the One Bermuda Alliance opposed the Bill and that its 12 MPs would vote against it on party lines. She said: “It won’t be a conscience vote.” David Burt, the Premier, told The Royal Gazette in July that his opposition to civil unions had “not changed”. He told Bermudian students in London last week: “We are making sure we carry out our platform promise that same-sex couples and heterosexual couples have similar legal protection under the law.”

December 7. The One Bermuda Alliance is redefining itself in Opposition, deputy leader Leah Scott said yesterday. The Southampton East Central MP dismissed the idea of a third party reshaping Bermuda’s political landscape and said that would “only fragment both the OBA and the PLP”. She also brushed off suggestions that the party might not survive its battering at the polls in July. Ms Scott pointed out that the PLP’s parliamentary ranks had been chopped to just seven seats in 1985, but reached 24 this year. She said: “They had dissension, and all the things you have when people come together with diverse personalities and ideologies. Why can’t we do the same?” Ms Scott, one of 12 OBA MPs to retain her seat in the General Election, said the OBA would be “branded by design, not by what someone else says we are”. She added: “It’s important for people to understand that we want to attract people from all walks of life. It isn’t limited to any one race, gender or nationality, because that’s not what Bermuda is.” Ms Scott said she was not aware of any members of the old guard prepared to step down in favour of new blood in the party, which was formed from the former United Bermuda Party and the One Bermuda Alliance. She said: “I can’t name anyone interested in leaving. As with all things, there are some former UBP people looking to transition out. But new people will come in.” Ms Scott warned that “change will not happen overnight”. She said that MPs had to build a network of connections “external to Parliament” and include members of the business community. Ms Scott added: “We also want people to be socially sensitive, recognize the challenges we face, and be willing to participate in whatever changes are needed to make the social agenda in Bermuda fairer.” The OBA promoted itself as a party of diversity when it was created in 2011. Ms Scott said a renewal of that promise “has to be something that we not only say, but that we actually demonstrate”. She added: “The unfortunate thing is that back in 2012, when we won, we were who we said we were in terms of diversity, and we had black people in the room taking part. Through an unfortunate series of events, when Craig Cannonier was no longer premier, there was a paradigm shift in the ideology of the party, with Michael Dunkley coming in, and it reverted back to UBP thinking. We know that change is going to be a slow process. We want to move forward but also recognize we need stability. Change will be progressive. We will change the faces in our group of MPs but that will take time. As we attract new people, we learn from the knowledge base in terms of parliamentary procedure and political history. There are some people who will have to leave, but there are also people who carry a lot of political knowledge. We have to be strategic.” Political observers called on the Opposition to make tough choices in the wake of its defeat. Former OBA candidate Rodney Smith warned that the PLP would aim to take even more seats away from the party. But Ms Scott said: “That’s a projection I can’t make at this time. Both parties need to settle and do the best they can. The PLP has a lot on its hands to balance the Budget for 2018/19, and I’ll be interested to see how they do that. We are also in an environment where Bermuda is getting a lot of press in terms of its regulatory environment and we have to be very careful as we don’t need political instability right now.” The deputy leader, also the Shadow Minister of Tourism, said she tended to get on well with government MPs. Ms Scott added: “I think I have a very cordial relationship with most people, but I could be fooling myself. I have a good relationship with Jamahl Simmons, the tourism minister, and we have agreed to be open.” She said the PLP “have their own challenges” with a large group of MPs. Ms Scott explained: “Twenty-four people is a lot to manage. I’m sure there were people who thought they would get ministerial positions and didn’t, and I’m sure there is some unhappiness with that.” Ms Scott said that “change is possible” when it came to the adversarial style of politics. She added: “Changing the Westminster system has been discussed, but that’s something the younger generation will have to do. The OBA aimed to be a constructive but effective Opposition. The seats being 24-12 don’t change that. It’s up to us to voice our concerns and get our challenges on record. Where we can support, we do, and we are just as vocal about that. We plan in the new year to get out and connect with people, to hear what their needs are and what they expect from us.”

December 7.  Brit Ltd is to relocate its Gibraltar-based captive reinsurer to Bermuda. The international general insurance and reinsurance group, which is headquartered in the UK, said it expects to complete the relocation of Brit Insurance (Gibraltar) PCC Ltd by the end of the year. Brit already has an office in Bermuda, which it set up in 2013. Matthew Wilson, Brit, chief executive officer, said: “This is a natural move for us as we continue to expand our Bermuda platform, while it is also highly complementary to our continued focus on the US market.” And Mark Allan, Brit’s chief financial officer, said: “Bermuda is an important hub for Brit, and its combination of a mature regulatory environment, including Solvency II equivalence, and access to highly qualified and experienced people makes it the right home for Brit Re to support the Group’s longer term strategy.” A spokesperson for the company said the move will not involve any major change in staffing levels in Bermuda, although a top executive at the reinsurer is expected to relocate to the island. Welcoming the move, Ross Webber, CEO of the Bermuda Business Development Agency, said: “Once again this is a tremendous endorsement of our jurisdiction. It’s a recognition of the power, strength and reputation of our regulator, particularly following Solvency II. We all acknowledge that our reputation on the international marketplace is of paramount importance, and this sort of move from a world-recognized insurer is further endorsement of Bermuda as a unique, elite jurisdiction.” When relocated Brit Insurance (Gibraltar) will become Brit Reinsurance (Bermuda) Limited.

December 7. A former executive of BMO Bank of Montreal has joined the board of BF&M Limited. Gordon Henderson recently retired as president and chief executive officer of BMO Life Insurance Company, where he had oversight of the bank’s creditor insurance, life insurance and reinsurance businesses. Before joining BMO he held senior executive positions with Aetna Canada. Gavin Arton, BF&M Limited board chairman said: “Gordon brings deep experience and understanding of the insurance industry, from both business and legal perspectives. His insights will be invaluable as we continue to implement effective strategic guidance and good governance.” The BF&M board is currently made up of 12 directors, of which nine are Bermudian.

December 7. Civil liberties organisation the Centre for Justice has urged Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, to delay putting an amendment before the House of Assembly tomorrow that would allow him to fire leading members of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission without cause. Despite the resignation of Alan Dunch as chairman of the commission, and the subsequent departure yesterday of Garry Madeiros, his deputy, Mr Simmons plans to proceed with a Bill that could lead to the independent body coming under ministerial control. It is a move that has been widely criticized by gaming industry experts in advance of Bermuda’s first steps into casino gaming. “Following the tabling of the Casino Gaming Amendment Bill 2017 (the “Bill”) on Friday 10 November 2017, we wrote to Minister Simmons urging him to postpone the debate of the Bill until such time as there has been full consultation with key stakeholders,” the Centre for Justice said in a statement released late last night. Centre for Justice does not involve itself in areas that fall outside CfJ’s remit. Gaming, in and of itself, is one such area that does not concern CfJ. However, in this instance, the Bill seeks to make changes to existing legislation that appear to deal with matters of good governance.” The statement added: “The legitimacy of legislation, in a free and democratic society, is derived from the full participation of the public through consultation.CfJ’s strong recommendation is that the debate of the Bill be postponed with a view to engaging key stakeholders and the general public in consultation.”

December 7. Plans to set up an aquaponics farm on Smith’s Island have been approved by the Department of Planning. The farm, earmarked for the site of a former cottage, is described as a pilot scheme to test the viability of the farming method in Bermuda. Aquaponic farms blend conventional aquaculture, the farming of marine animals like fish or prawns, with hydroponics, which uses water to grow plants. The planning application, submitted by Uwe Lipfert and Dana Masters, proposed a “residential scale” facility on the island. Their application said: “This is a pilot project to determine the scalability of this type of farming model and the layout is a proposal of potential maximum usage. If we achieve success and can sign a long-term lease, we will apply for commercial status.” The farm would include a 480 square foot shaded area covering three 8ft by 8ft tanks for fish, along with 736 square feet of deep water culture troughs and a 1,152 square foot hoop house to protect vines and vertical crops. Concerns, however were raised about who would have legislative oversight over aquaponic farms. Technical officers said that the Agricultural Act 1930 is “very specific” about which livestock is covered, and does not include fish. The officers said that if amendments were made, it would be likely that freshwater fish and the agricultural elements would be under the Board of Agriculture, while saltwater fish would fall under the mandate of the Marine Resources Board. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources would be interested in operational matters, while the Department of Environmental Health would be involved in the sale of any products produced. A technical officer’s assessment said: “Aquaponic farming is a form of intensive agriculture being used in many parts of the world. “The brownfield site in Smith’s Island is considered a good location for a pilot scheme to test this form of food production.” The Development Applications Board approved the application on November 22.

December 7. Burnt-out boats are an eyesore in Warwick and could harm the environment, local residents said yesterday. The two yachts were destroyed by a fire four months ago at a private dock in Riddell’s Bay and are now stuck on rocks near the mouth of the bay. Mark Riihiluoma, who lives in the area, said the boats have remained untouched since they hit the rocks. He added: “I haven’t seen any action — nothing. I have been calling Marine Police and the Department of Marine and Ports, but nothing is happening. It seems like the onus lies with the owner, but if an owner doesn’t have insurance then it seems to me that it might not be in their best interest to move the boat if something happens.” Mr Riihiluoma said that apart from the visual impact, he was worried chemicals could be leaking out of the damaged vessels and into the water. He added: “You can see that the condition of the boats is not great. I don’t know what’s inside them, but it can’t be good for the environment. If there is a hurricane and the wind comes out of the wrong direction, I can imagine them getting pulled off the rocks and out into the water, where they could collide with other boats.” A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport and Regulatory Affairs said there were a number of abandoned boats around the island, with some as a result of past hurricanes.

December 6. Ten years after the start of the global financial crisis that shook the world, a panel of experts discussed the issue of where financial stability is today. The topic was explored at a Bermuda Monetary Authority industry event, held following the conclusion of a meeting of the Group of International Financial Centre Supervisors. Present were 30 representatives from more than 20 jurisdictions. It was the first time in 40 years that the group had held its biannual plenary session in Bermuda. On the panel was John Aspden, former banker and supervisor, and now chairman of the Group of International Financial Centre Supervisors He was joined by Dame Amelia Fawcett, chairwoman of the Standards Board for Alternative Investments and a member of Bermuda’s Financial Policy Council, Sir Andrew Large, deputy chairman of Bermuda’s Financial Policy Council and a former deputy governor of the Bank of England, and Professor Karel van Hulle, university professor, member of the BMA board of directors, and former head of insurance and pensions at the European Commission.

December 6. Bermuda enjoyed an economic boost during the second quarter of this year as it hosted the 35th America’s Cup. 

2017 December comparison of imports

There were double-digit percentage increases in the number of air arrivals and the amount of money those visitors spent while on the island. Revenue levels for hotels were markedly higher, as was the value of imported goods. The number of workers employed in the hotel industry at the end of April, a month before the start of the America’s Cup, was 2,486 — up by 103 year-on-year, although the number of Bermudians working in hotels fell by 25. And employment income for the quarter increased by $32 million, or 4 per cent, to $832.4 million. However, the number of cruise passengers visiting the island between April and the end of June dropped by 8 per cent. The data is contained in the Quarterly Bulletin of Statistics, issued by the Bermuda Government’s Department of Statistics. The island welcomed 87,324 air visitor arrivals, which was up 15.3 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2016. Estimated expenditure by air visitors was $137.8 million, up 30.6 per cent. “Visitors spent $19.9 million more on accommodations and food as well as $12.4 million more on shopping, entertainment and transport services,” the bulletin reported. Hotel gross receipts, which include cottage colonies and guesthouses, were up 16.9 per cent at $112.4 million, with $11.9 million of that increase from a rise in room bookings. And hotels saw sales of food and alcohol rise by $1.5 million year-on-year. Total employment income was up 4 per cent, led by the international business sector where remuneration was up $18.1 million due to higher stock options. The wholesale and retail sector also saw a notable increase of $5.9 million. The value of imports hit $355.3 million for the three months, up 37.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2016. All commodity groups recorded increases, with the largest being recorded in the finished category and transport equipment such as yachts. During June, as well as the America’s Cup the island played host to the biennial Marion Bermuda Race, which saw 50 boats competing. There was a decrease in the number of cruise ship visitors during the three months, falling by about 12,000 to 138,760. Spending by cruise passengers was $22.6 million, a drop of $2.4 million. Residents declared $13.6 million in overseas spending, down by 4.5 per cent compared to the second quarter of 2016.

December 6. The deputy chairman of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission is expected to resign today. Sources told The Royal Gazette that Garry Madeiros was set to step down at the end of a meeting at the regulatory body’s office this afternoon. The meeting is the last to be chaired by Alan Dunch, who quit last month after tourism minister Jamahl Simmons tabled an amendment to the law to give himself the power to sack commissioners without cause. All five commissioners opposed the Bill, which is due to be debated by MPs on Friday. The amendment, if approved, would force the commission to follow “general directions” on policy given by the minister and allow him to remove commissioners in circumstances he “considers appropriate”. Mr Dunch issued a statement on behalf of the commission last month that warned that the amendment would give the minister the “power to interfere in all of the commission’s dealings and ongoing work”. The statement said: “It means the minister is asking Parliament to give him an absolute, unchallengeable right to tell the commission what to do and the commission, despite its own convictions and expertise, will be unable to refuse. It means Bermuda’s gaming industry may essentially become an arm of the Government. Who we issue gaming licences to and who we approve as operators, may no longer be based on our internal, and internationally recognized suitability standards, but those of the minister’s.” Mr Simmons told reporters at a press conference that the Government would push ahead with the gaming amendment, despite the concerns of the commission and overseas industry experts. He said that the change would not allow him to influence licence decisions. Mr Dunch’s successor as chairman will be magistrate Cheryl Ann Mapp. The remaining commissioners are Judith Hall-Bean and Dennis Tucker, both Bermudians, and Derek Ramm, the director of anti-money laundering for the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Richard Schuetz, the gaming commission’s executive director, resigned on July 18 and is serving out his notice period until the end of the year. A replacement for him has yet to be found. Mr Madeiros and Mr Dunch declined to comment yesterday.

December 6. The Bermuda Tourism Authority is offering funding to 23 new home-grown experiences next year.  Among the proposals approved through the Tourism Experiences Investment Process are a dune buggy tour, a water transportation app and the Bermuda Triangle Beach Experience at Clearwater Beach. Meanwhile local food and culture will be highlighted with Sip & Savour Bermuda Food Tours and Wild Herbs N Plants of Bermuda. And Bermudian performers will take stage in an expanded version of the Made in Bermuda festival. Pat Phillip-Fairn, BTA chief product and experiences development officer, said: “It’s rewarding to see so many passionate and creative new entrepreneurs gravitate toward tourism and we’re delighted that the quality this year is the highest we’ve seen since we began this process in 2014. We spend a lot of time communicating tourism trends to the public and we hold workshops to empower local entrepreneurs. That outreach is paying off and we see this as very encouraging for the future of Bermuda tourism.” Next year, the Tourism Experiences Investment Process will offer support to 55 experiences, including 23 new proposals. In total, $838,000 has been allocated for the various experiences, with about one-third of that funding going to newly supported experiences. About 70 per cent of the investment for 2018 will go to experiences characterized as sports and adventure, while the remaining 30 per cent is directed towards arts and culture initiatives. A BTA spokesman said that among the supported projects is Bermuda by Dune Buggy, a “low-noise, electric vehicle tour experience that will travel via public roadway in the west end making stops at key sites”. Also supported was WaterRide Transport, an app which was awarded a cash investment for its innovative approach as a water shuttle service.

December 6. The addition of Southlands to the list of National Parks was welcomed yesterday by Bermuda Environment Sustainability Taskforce cofounder Stuart Hayward. Mr Hayward said the environmental group was relieved that Southlands would at last get protection thanks to legislation passed by the House of Assembly. The National Parks Amendment Act 1 and 2, designed to modernize National Parks legislation and related fees, were approved by MPs at the end of last month. The move by Government marks the end of a 10-year battle, which was first launched to prevent development at the Warwick Beauty spot, by BEST to win National Park status for Southlands. Mr Hayward said: “As I understand it, to be added to this list the park has to have a management plan, so one assumes there is now a management plan for Southlands.” He added: “The whole process in Bermuda has been neglected because of a shortage of funds and administrative difficulties. What it should mean is that Southlands is now protected against being cut into pieces for different commercial purposes and interests. It provides Southlands with a degree of protection, and for that we are grateful. However, the devil is in the detail. It has taken so long to reach this point that you can understand why we are looking at it with a wary eye. The legislation still has to go through the Senate obviously, but we have taken a big step closer to where we want to be.” Former Premier Ewart Brown signed an agreement on behalf of the Government of Bermuda in 2008 with Southlands Ltd to swap 80 acres of land at Morgan’s Point for 37 acres of land at Southlands. The property was handed over to Government under the land-swap agreement in 2012, but it took five more years for the estate to be designated as a National Park. Mr Hayward added: “The reason BEST got involved in the first place was because there was a risk that 37 acres would be converted from near pristine woodland into a hotel and condo development. So to have that 37 acres protected from development is a signal accomplishment. It was our first major project and it’s a real boon to have Southlands added to the list on our tenth anniversary.” Under the new legislation, which has still to go before the Senate, 16 new protected areas are created including Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve, Clearwater Park, Stocks Harbour Nature Reserve and Southlands Park. The amendments also give the minister the power to waive fees under certain conditions and make changes to the membership of the Parks Commission. Mr Hayward said: “The modernizing of the fees structure is also a giant step forward. I’m not sure how they will look to allocate those fees to be used in the upkeep, but the concept is good and the intention is good. If the outcome measures up to the intention, that is another thing to feel good about.” The commission will now include representatives from the Bermuda National Trust, the Bermuda Audubon Society, the Bermuda Zoological Society, the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the National Museum of Bermuda. The amendments also pave the way to include two “users” of the park system and four people selected for knowledge of environmental protection, conservation and economic and commercial affairs on the Parks Commission. Mr Hayward said: “They have changed the make-up of the Parks Commission. One of the criteria states that two members must be “users of the parks”. I don’t know how they will do that and it would be nice to get some clarity on that aspect.”

December 6. A book about the last hangings on British soil and the riots that followed has been turned into a screenplay. Now the team behind the movie script Prerogative of Mercy is on the hunt for backers to help bring it to the silver screen. The movie is based on the book Island Flames, which told the story of the controversial 1977 hangings of Erskine “Buck” Burrows and Larry Tacklyn and the riots that followed. Author Jonathan Smith, a former Commissioner of Police, said: “When we announced this project in 2016, we recognized the opportunity to produce this dramatic Bermudian story on an international scale with overseas partners.” Burrows was sentenced to death for killing police commissioner George Duckett in 1972 and the murders of Sir Richard Sharples, the Governor, and his aide-de-camp Captain Hugh Sayers in the grounds of Government House in 1973. Tacklyn was acquitted of the Government House shootings but both men were found guilty of the 1973 Shopping Centre murders of Victor Rego and Mark Doe. Mr Smith, the president of Island Flames Limited, which owns the screenplay rights, added: “Prerogative of Mercy, the working title for the film, has significant potential for putting Bermuda on the map as a film production site and will realize employment benefits and injection of foreign capital at the production stage.” The screenplay, written by director Lucinda Spurling, writer and actress Liana Hall, and film-maker and former broadcast-news journalist Alia Hamza, was finished the same week Bermuda marked the 40th anniversary of the riots. Ms Spurling said the work was “no small task”. She added: “We are excited to finally share the story with potential partners in a bid to have it realized and further share this important story with the world. The professional goal and significance of this project is not only to bring a film production to Bermuda, but chiefly to tell this globally relevant story for an international audience.” Ms Spurling said 80 per cent of the film would be filmed in Bermuda and the rest in London.

December 6. An attempt to introduce domestic partnerships for gay couples is marriage by another name, pressure group Preserve Marriage said last night. The organisation claimed that Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown’s Bill to create legal recognition for same-sex couples would open the door to full marriage in the future. Melvyn Bassett, chairman of Preserve Marriage, said: “To legislate against same-sex marriage and simultaneously introduce civil unions under the guise of a Domestic Partnership Bill is an introduction of a parallel form of marriage.” He claimed: “The public is well aware that civil unions often give legal footing to the ‘separate but equal’ argument that has led to same-sex marriage rulings in the court in other jurisdictions.” Dr Bassett said: “To avoid a future legal challenge to Minister Walton Brown’s 2017 Domestic Partnership Bill, an appropriate amendment could be made that would offer a provision of legal recognition and benefits to all non-married persons and can be applied to a variety of relationships. “Such an amendment would grant legal authority and rights to a designated person or registrant which would include, but not require, an intimate relationship.” Dr Bassett added: “The legislation under these circumstances would not be seen as parallel to the Marriage Act and would less likely be used as a basis to appeal to the courts for same-sex marriage.” The group added that it was “pleased” that the Government was “moving forward with its commitment to uphold marriage as the union between a man and a woman”. But Dr Bassett accused the ruling Progressive Labour Party of stealing the former One Bermuda Alliance government’s “rejected Civil Unions Bill” of last year and giving it a new title. He claimed that the PLP had “campaigned on a platform to eliminate same-sex marriage”. Dr Bassett added that it was “perplexing why the Government ... is now introducing same-sex marriage in a different format”. Preserve Marriage conceded that by international human rights law, the Government “was obliged to provide same-sex couples with legal benefits”. Dr Bassett said: “The Government can legislate these benefits and still maintain its election promise by amending the current Bill.” The Supreme Court ruled in May that the island’s Registrar General could not reject a gay couple’s application to marry in Bermuda. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons said that the common law definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was “inconsistent with the provisions of the Human Rights Act as they constitute deliberate different treatment on the basis of sexual orientation”. The decision paved the way for same-sex marriage on the island. The first same-sex couple made their vows at the Registry General’s office less than a month later.

December 6. Nearly $16,000 in fines were handed out to 20 motorists convicted of driving without due care and attention in Magistrates’ Court yesterday. Most appearances at the packed court session were motorcyclists guilty of “third laning”, which is subject to an $800 fine and ten demerit points. The marathon hearing followed a weekend in which there were 21 separate crashes on the island’s roads. Bermuda Police Service Inspector Robert Cardwell said the crackdown on careless driving was sending “a strong message”. Zachary Foley, 18, from Paget, racked up $2,850 in fines for leading police on a chase through the streets of Hamilton on the night of September 13. Magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo heard that a police motorcycle patrol observed Foley doing a “wheelie”, driving with the front wheel off the road, on Par-la-Ville Road at about 9.30pm. Foley accelerated when officers put on emergency lights. The court heard the defendant ran several red lights and stop signs, and drove against the flow of traffic on Angle Street before he was halted. The chase ended when Foley lost control of his bike on King Street and crashed into a fence by Middle Town Road. He told police: “I had weed in my bike.” The licence sticker on the back of the bike had also been altered to suggest the vehicle was insured. However, both Foley’s insurance and driving licence expired in 2016. Foley, who pleaded guilty, was fined $300 for fraudulent use of a document, $150 for failing to stop for police, $250 for riding an unlicensed cycle, $150 for having no valid driver’s licence, and $1,000 each for dangerous driving and riding with no insurance. Mr Tokunbo also banned him from the roads for 18 months. In a separate case, William Tucker, 32, of Southampton, was fined $800 and had ten points added to his licence for driving a car without due care and attention on Camp Road, Warwick, on September 13. The court heard that a marked police car turned a corner and met Tucker’s car partially in the same lane. The police car hit the sidewalk after being forced to swerve to avoid a collision. Tucker subsequently got out and apologized to the officers.

December 5. Meetings aimed at strengthening ties between Bermuda and the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, particularly the business communities, were yesterday held in Florida. Premier David Burt was welcomed by Francis Suarez and Dan Gelber, the mayors of Miami and Miami Beach, respectively, during the one-day trip that was arranged by the Bermuda Business Development Agency. The Premier and members of the BDA also met other civic land business leaders, including the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. The discussions with the Chamber ranged from trade and tourism to fintech, infrastructure investment, and social and educational programmes of mutual benefit. “We made some valuable connections on several fronts,” said Ross Webber, CEO of the BDA. “There was good familiarity with Bermuda, and we were able to reinforce very positive messaging about the island. From our perspective, we will follow up and explore opportunities for new economic activity from this region.” While Alfred Sanchez, president of the Chamber, said: “It’s quite an honor to have the Premier and the whole delegation here and there’s obviously so much that is already happening and much more is possible. We talked about technology, especially fintech and healthtech, we’ve got free-trade zones — the sky’s the limit, and we just needed to start the conversation. Our members are eager to look for trade opportunities both ways.” Meanwhile, Mr Suarez promised to explore naming Bermuda as a “sister community” of Miami, while Mr Gelber presented the Premier with a ceremonial key to Miami Beach. Mr Burt said: “I was pleased to support the BDA on this very worthwhile initiative. It’s important to establish business links in cities where Bermuda already enjoys direct travel connections. Miami is going through an economic resurgence currently, with notable investment of new capital. We can certainly look to do things together, whether it’s deepening the links between our regions when it comes to insurance, or taking advantage of Miami’s healthcare institutions for Bermudians. These are all topics we will follow up on. It’s also important to establish political relations with civic leaders in gateway cities like Miami.” Mr Burt and Mr Suarez, held an informal 30-minute meeting. Among the Bermuda delegation was Mr Webber and BDA board member Lydia Dickens of the Ministry of Economic Development. The mayor and Premier traded insights on their recent transitions into leadership, and discussed common agenda priorities, such as reducing income inequality and building resiliency against hurricanes and climate change. And Mr Gelber, of Miami Beach, noted the Bermuda reinsurance sector’s important role in covering losses from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria “We rely on the reinsurance industry in a major way,” he said. “Windstorm damage in Miami Beach is a major driver of costs, so having available and affordable reinsurance is critical. Having Bermuda around the corner is important for us, and I’m glad the Premier and I got a chance to talk about that. Premier Burt is a millennial leader, but he’s got a vision for the future of his nation, which is important.”

December 5. Replacements for Swing Bridge and Longbird Bridge are in the pipeline after a contract for design work was handed to a British team. Both of the East End structures have suffered major deterioration in recent years, and Swing Bridge was subject to emergency repair work under the One Bermuda Alliance government. A press release from British firm Double Unit announced a contract for full design services has been awarded to lead consultant Ramboll, Knight Architects and Eadon Consulting after an international tender. The two bridges form a critical link in the infrastructure of Bermuda, connecting LF Wade International Airport with Hamilton to the west and the Town of St George to the east. Longbird Bridge was originally constructed in the 1950s as a 60 metres-long twin carriageway steel swing bridge at the east end of the Causeway connecting the island with the airport. However, the bridge closed to traffic ten years ago and was temporarily bypassed with twin Bailey Bridge structures. Swing Bridge spans 120 metres across Ferry Reach, linking St George’s Harbour with the west of the island, and is a critical link for both vehicular and marine traffic. The 1960s swing bridge has received extensive refurbishment and remains open to vehicles but no longer opens to shipping. According to the press release, the design team will undertake studies to determine the most appropriate solutions for the new bridges, including fixed and moveable structures. It added that robustness and durability are key factors as both existing bridges have suffered accelerated deterioration in the tropical climate, which is particularly aggressive to steel structures. In addition, the structures and their mechanisms must be designed to withstand the hurricane-force winds that Bermuda periodically suffers. The design team have collaborated on many bridge projects and between them are responsible for award-winning moveable structures, including the Twin Sails Bridge, Poole (Britain), Gateshead Millennium Bridge (Britain), Lower Hatea Crossing (New Zealand) and Merchant Square Bridge (Britain). Commenting on the appointment, Peter Curran, bridges director at Ramboll, said: “We are all delighted to be working on such an exciting project with the Government of Bermuda. We look forward to collaborating to deliver a strong and lasting landmark for the island, one which inspires, connects and can endure the heavy weather conditions that Bermuda has previously suffered.” Martin Knight, director at Knight Architects, said: “Bermuda is a beautiful and inspiring location for any designer, and it is clear how important these connections are in the everyday life in the island. These bridges are also the entry point for countless tourists every year and they offer an opportunity for gateway structures which reflect the culture and identity of a truly unique place.” Work on the project will start immediately.

December 5. Bermuda’s new airport was a “game changer” in a decision to buy the luxury Rosewood Tucker’s Point hotel, the new owner said. Karim Alibhai, head of Miami-based international hotel company Gencom, said the airport was a major factor in the decision to buy the resort, which went into receivership in 2013 and was put on the market two years ago. Mr Alibhai said: “Once the new airport opens that should definitely be a big game changer.” He added: “It was quite important — airlift is a very important part of our business. We’ve seen businesses conceived very, very well but they have not taken account of good airlift. We also see Bermuda as a market that can be expanded — what we are doing is expanding the market to other parts of the US as they get to know Bermuda is a great destination.” Mr Alibhai said: “Until two years ago, it was our perception that Bermuda had seen its best years.” But he added that a combination of factors, including the work of government and the Bermuda Tourism Authority, which had “a positive impact” on the tourism business, had changed Gencom’s view. Mr Alibhai said the firm planned to invest $25 million in a major revamp of Tucker’s Point — with further development in the future. The hotel will be closed for three months from the start of next year for renovations and will reopen in April with the new name of Rosewood Bermuda. Mr Alibhai added: “When we looked at the different things that were being planned, we could come in, make the investment and get what we and our investors need to make a return.” The 53-year-old businessman started his hotel empire with just one property — a two star Best Western hotel in Houston, Texas bought when he was aged just 19. He founded Gencom 30 years ago and the group now has a total of 75 properties in its portfolio, some managed by Gencom’s affiliate Benchmark Global Hospitality and which includes hotels in North America, Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean. The group includes four-star resorts and conference centres. Mr Alibhai said: “We were looking for situations with opportunities. What drew us into Bermuda? It’s a combination of things that got us attracted. A lot of our business plan is acquiring businesses that are depressed, investing in them and making them successful. We saw here a project with all the elements to be successful but one that got caught up in a combination of the financial crisis and an overspend when it was constructed. But, at the same time, under the right ownership, it’s a hotel with the potential to be very successful.” Mr Alibhai added that the America’s Cup, although “it did not drive as much business to the hotels as expected” it was a marketing triumph. He said: “As far as the publicity goes, I think that’s huge. It reminded people this is a great destination — I’m pleased with the marketing impact. It’s a sizeable investment to make in Bermuda, but that’s because we really feel the potential is there. Short term, we see the demand begin to grow as the BTA does its marketing and we do our marketing.” Mr Alibhai said he welcomed plans to bring other major hotel brands to the island, like Ritz Carton at the new Caroline Bay resort at Morgan’s Point in Southampton. He explained: “We don’t look at that as competition — that’s a positive aspect. It will expand the airlift and have passengers coming in. We’re very excited about being in Bermuda and our future.”

December 5. The One Bermuda Alliance’s battering at the polls proved it had gone down the wrong path, former leader and party founder Craig Cannonier said yesterday. Despite suggestions that the OBA is doomed, Mr Cannonier said the party “will be fine”. Mr Cannonier said, however: “We are not heading in the direction I would like to see the party heading.” The former premier and current shadow works minister echoed new party leader Jeanne Atherden’s view that new blood was needed. He explained: “I think that people are very much concerned that the OBA began to look very old school. When people voted for something new, that’s what they were looking for. We need to have new faces in the room and people who have not been involved in politics before.” Mr Cannonier said voters were no longer looking for the “old school argument” from politicians in either party. He added: “Those of us who are politicians, if we continue, whether we are young or old, in that format of tit-for-tat, are going to very quickly find ourselves being labelled as old school. People want to hear solutions. People want to hear about the future.” Mr Cannonier said the departure of former senator and party chairman Nick Kempe was “ironic”. Mr Kempe quit as party chairman after only five days in the post. It came only two days after he was replaced in the Upper House by Justin Mathias. Ms Atherden said last week she saw the job of party chairman as a “very major role”, and that there was “a lot to be done”. Mr Cannonier said that Ms Atherden’s reasoning for the change “holds no weight at all”. He explained that the same situation existed with Mr Kempe’s predecessor, Lynne Woolridge, who served as party chairman while also a senator. He added: “We’re just coming from that. I don’t know what Ms Atherden was thinking, quite frankly. At a time when you say you’re looking for young people to be involved, you p****d off a young person.” Mr Cannonier said Mr Kempe was a “very capable politician” whose short Senate stint showed that he could “stick to issues” and “look to ways forward”. He added that he “kind of chuckled” over Mr Kempe’s departure. Mr Cannonier explained: “This is someone who is coming from a United Bermuda Party heritage. And the irony of it is that he is looking for change.” Mr Cannonier said that although the OBA had problems, the writing was not on the wall for the party. He added the party’s downward spiral stopped on election day in July. Mr Cannonier explained: “We were spiraling before, which is what led to July 18.” He said that everything had come to a “standstill” after the General Election result. “That’s a good thing. People are now stopping and can think clearly and can say ‘what’s going on? What happened?’ In order for democracy to continue, we need a healthy and strong Opposition. And that won’t happen unless you see the teething pains that we are going through right now. We have got to get ourselves together in order for there to be true democracy on the island. And that’s what you see happening right now, people getting their act together.” Mr Cannonier quit as premier in the wake of the Jetgate row, where he, two other ministers and a friend traveled on the private jet of American businessman Nathan Landow to discuss potential hotel development on the island. Mr Landow later said that he and associates made a donation of around $300,000 to the Bermuda Political Action Group, which was not part of the OBA, to help the party’s 2012 election campaign. Mr Cannonier said that the immediate focus for the party was to improve discussion and debate in the political arena. He admitted: “Externally it may not always look healthy. But I believe that there are very strong individuals who are still there for a reason, and that is because they still believe change can happen. If and when you begin to see some of those strong individuals walk away, then that’s another discussion.”

December 5. A robber terrorized four female staff and the general manager in a raid at an up market Southampton resort yesterday. The man, who was wearing a full-face helmet, threatened Pompano Beach Club staff with a knife and demanded access to the safe. The raider ran off after being given “a small amount” of cash and escaped on the back of a motorcycle, which was driven by an accomplice. Larry Lamb, general manager of the resort, said the staff were shaken but unhurt in the raid. He said: “There wasn’t anything aggressively done to everyone, and thank God for that. A few of the ladies are shaken as no one ever expects this to happen. But thankfully no one was harmed.” Mr Lamb said he was in his office when the man burst in and demanded he open the safe. He added: “He came in looking for a safe but the thing is, we don’t really have a safe. Most of our business is done with credit cards. Mr Lamb pointed out the island is in the off-season so hotels would not be at peak capacity or have large amounts of cash takings. He said: “It was weird that they would choose this time of year to rob a hotel. They got a small amount of cash. Pretty small, really. They then took off. It all happened very quickly. Until they were leaving, I didn’t even know there were two people involved.” Mr Lamb said the incident lasted less than two minutes and that police arrived at the scene very quickly. He added: “We’ve never had something like this happen before. We have security, but I guess we’ll have to evaluate the situation and decide in what direction we need to go. You always evaluate these things, but police were Johnny-on-the-spot, and I’m confident they will apprehend the guys.” Mr Lamb said the hotel was targeted more than 15 years ago by burglars, who escaped with an empty safe. He added: “They dragged it all the way out, scratched the hell out of the floor and took it somewhere. But it was locked, closed and empty, so we got lucky on that.” A police spokesman said officers were alerted to an armed robbery at the hotel just after 11am. He added: “Initial reports indicate that two men on a motorcycle arrived at the hotel, with one entering the establishment brandishing a bladed article and demanding money. It appears that the other suspect was waiting on the motorcycle and both suspects then made good their escape, apparently with a quantity of cash.” Police have appealed for witnesses.

December 5. A total of 21 crashes were reported over the weekend with 11 resulting in some form of injury, police said this morning. Three of the collisions resulted in serious injuries, a further eight resulted in minor injuries and ten caused damage only. Additionally, four arrests were made on suspicious of impaired driving and more than three dozen tickets were issued for speeding. One of the offenders was clocked at 102km/h. Police said that officers continued to be “highly visible” on the island’s roads, conducting a number a “road-safety initiatives”. The Bermuda Police Service added: “However, the public must also do their part and take personal responsibility for their driving and riding behavior.” Police also provided updates on the conditions of a number of people injured in this weekend’s collision. A 16-year-old girl hurt in a single-vehicle bike crash on South Road, near Southcote Road, on Friday night remained in stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit. The crash happened shortly before 8pm. A 58-year-old Paget man injured when his bike collided with a truck on Wilkinson Avenue in Hamilton Parish on Friday afternoon remained in stable condition in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. A 37-year-old Hamilton Parish man injured in a single-vehicle bike crash on North Shore Road, near Limehouse Lane, in Hamilton Parish on Friday afternoon, was treated in hospital and later discharged. Police continue to investigate all three incidents. The BPS also provided details on a two-car crash that occurred in Smith’s last night. It happened on North Shore Road near Flatts Village at around 7.45pm. Police said: “Two people were initially trapped in one of the vehicles involved but were later extracted, conscious and breathing. Their injuries are not believed to be life threatening and an update on the condition of both individuals is expected in due course.” Anyone with information on this or any other crash is asked to contact police on 295-0011.

BPS WEEKEND STATISTICS

Source: Bermuda Police Service Roads Policing Unit on Twitter

Bermuda government debtDecember 4. Bermuda is continuing its glide path towards budget equilibrium, but there is still some way to go as shown by the latest revenue and expenditure figures. At the end of September the gross debt was $2.515 billion. The Bermuda Government aims to reach March 31, 2018 with a full-year budget deficit of $134.7 million. At the halfway point in the fiscal year it is on target to hit that mark, although current expenditures excluding debt service are presently tracking 0.8 per cent, or $3.8 million, above budget estimates. Interest payments on Bermuda’s debt equate to about $500,000 every day. The effect that has was shown in the first half of the 2017/18 fiscal year. During those six months, Government achieved a $57.6 million current account surplus, excluding debt service deductions. However, for the period, Government incurred a total deficit of $63.4 million. That is down from the $100.2 million deficit incurred during the corresponding six-month period in 2016. The rate of debt growth is slowing as the gap between revenue and expenditure narrows. The Government is looking to balance the budget by 2019. Figures released yesterday by the Ministry of Finance show that in the six months to the end of September there was stronger than expected Custom duty receipts and an uptick in payroll tax. Those, together with higher collection of stamp duty, led to a 6.3 per cent increase in revenue for the period, year-on-year. In a statement, the Ministry of Finance said this revenue boost was offset by lower collections in passenger tax and civil aviation receipts “due to the privatization of the airport and the transfer of the Department of Civil Aviation out of government”. Under the previous One Bermuda Alliance administration, Bermuda entered into a public-private partnership agreement with Canadian Commercial Corporation to redevelop LF Wade International Airport. CCC’s subcontractor Aecon will finance, construct and operate the airport over a 30-year concession period through the PPP agreement. Regarding yesterday’s financial statement, the Ministry of Finance said the economic data “is consistent with the expectation in the 2016 National Economic Report of Bermuda and the Ministry of Finance’s own macroeconomic forecasts”. It noted that most of the island’s economic sectors are contributing moderate growth, led by construction, tourism, employment, and retail sales, which together with a low level of inflation, point to projected steady growth for Bermuda’s gross domestic product this year. The statement added: “The Government’s efforts to create new economic pillars and enact policies to grow Bermuda’s economy, once fully realized, should provide sustained economic growth through the medium-term.” The figures show Custom duty tracking 10 per cent above budget estimates and $10.9 million higher than 2016, while payroll tax is tracking 5.8 per cent above estimates, and $27.2 million up on a year ago. Lower professional services costs were a factor in the decrease in current expenditures, excluding debt service, which were $6.4 million lower than at the same point in 2016. This was partially offset by increases in grants and contributions relating to the Bermuda Airport Authority and the America’s Cup. The Ministry also released an update on economic indicators for the calendar year to the end of September. Key figures showed:

In addition, economic indicators for the first six months of the year revealed:

At the end of September, Bermuda’s debt, net of the Sinking Fund debt, was $2.428 billion. The Government is obliged to pay 2.5 per cent of net debt into the Sinking Fund each year to help pay down debt.

December 4. Aecon Group, a partner in the redevelopment of Bermuda’s airport, has awarded of the electrical and communications work contract to Update Contracting Bermuda Airport Limited, and the baggage handling system contract to Glidepath Systems Limited. Update Contracting, a Dublin-based company registered in Bermuda, is a multidisciplinary provider of mechanical, engineering and plumbing services with experience in providing building services engineering to a wide range of client sectors. For the electrical systems contract, Update Contracting will work with Bermudian subcontractors to complete the following work:

The baggage handling systems contract has been awarded to Glidepath Systems Limited. Glidepath has engaged Koba Industries Limited as project administrators and will announce additional subcontractors at a later date. Frank Ross, Aecon’s executive director, infrastructure, said: “We are pleased to be working with many local companies on the airport redevelopment project. This latest round of contracts will ensure the electrical, communications and security work will be state of the art and modern. We look forward to working with these contractors.” The construction of the new airport terminal is expected to take 40 months to complete, and will be finished in 2020.

December 4. A new Bill to decriminalize small quantities of cannabis was tabled in the House of Assembly on Friday. The Misuse of Drugs (Decriminalization of Cannabis) Amendment Act was formally proposed by Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Social Development and Sport. The Bill would decriminalize quantities of cannabis less than 7 grams. However, the Bill states police will still have the authority to seize any amount of cannabis, and the minister shall make regulations to provide for substance abuse education or treatment for those found with the drug. A similar Bill was debated and approved by the House of Assembly in May, but the legislation never reached the Senate due to the timing of the General Election. While both pieces of legislation were aimed at decriminalizing quantities of cannabis less than 7 grams, the latest Bill specifies that the Director of Public Prosecutions can still proceed with charges if there is evidence the drugs were intended for supply. The new legislation also lacks a commencement date.

December 4. A local kidney transplant service would save lives and offer patients with chronic kidney disease a better quality of life, according to the Global Transplant Initiative (GTI). The Norwegian company has proposed setting up a live-donor transplantation programme in Bermuda, which it said would also save millions of dollars in healthcare costs. Transplant surgeon Tim Scholz told The Royal Gazette: “We feel it is time for the politicians to act. “A steadily increasing number of patients with chronic kidney disease are suffering unnecessarily and they are a huge burden to the health budgets. If Bermuda is willing, we can deliver a cost-effective live- donor kidney transplant programme in Bermuda that will save many lives and millions from the health budgets in the years to come.” It comes after the Bermuda Health Council announced it did not support on-island live-donor kidney transplantation “at this time” because of risks to patient safety and high costs. Bermuda Hospitals Board also said it does not have the infrastructure to “safely develop or deliver this service at this time” but is open to revisiting the idea if the situation changes. Christian Thjømøe, a chartered accountant with a masters in business administration, said: “A lot of people’s lives could be saved and they could get a better life”. He added: “That is the main benefit, because if you have a local transplant programme with live donors in Bermuda that would be offered to patients who would never get the chance to get transplants in the US.” Dr Scholz, who cofounded GTI with fellow surgeons Aksel Foss and Pål Foyn Jørgensen, said it would be impossible to start a live-donor kidney transplant programme in Bermuda tomorrow. However, he felt the programme would be “perfectly feasible” as long as safety requirements are met. He said: “Wherever in the world you would like to implement a new treatment modality, you have to start working on safety issues and establishing those facility needs at the hospital.” After visiting the hospital and studying the infrastructure, Dr Scholz said they believe this could be done in less than a year. He added: “There are lots of issues here that need to be discussed and solved before we can start, but to build the infrastructure in Bermuda is perfectly feasible and that is the important point.” Dr Scholz said this would need to be done in conjunction with local kidney specialists and other professionals. He added: “That’s where we would start working if Bermuda wants to see a transplant programme in one or two years from now.” According to Dr Scholz, a transplant in Bermuda would cost around $250,000 once the programme is fully established. This would include work and six-month follow-up with GTI. He added this would be paid back within “at least” two years because dialysis costs more than $200,000 per patient per year in Bermuda. Mr Thjømøe, who co-owns GTI, said the net value of a transplant to Bermuda would be between $2½ and $3 million dollars because patients would be taken off the dialysis budget and could return to a normal working life and thereby contribute to society. Dr Scholz said a local programme would also improve the island’s healthcare system because the procedures and tests could also be used for other diseases. He added patients would also not have to pay for overseas travel, accommodation and other costs. According to the Bermuda Health Council, there are 165 patients on dialysis and 971 patients with chronic kidney disease (prevalence). The Council said the cost of related claims for dialysis was $24.9 million and there were four to five transplants annually, with typical waiting times of two to three years. Mr Thjømøe said GTI believed about half of Bermuda’s dialysis patients could be transplanted locally, along with about 50 per cent of those who start dialysis every year. He added at least 20 surgeries would be needed per year “just to reduce the current need”. However, Dr Scholz said it would take several years to reach this volume. Dr Scholz added that although it would be “quite easy” to find live donors in Bermuda, more public education would be needed on the possibility and benefits of a local service. He explained that GTI proposes to start a pilot programme once the necessary requirements have been met and a list of donors and recipients has been created. Dr Scholz said they would start with one or two transplants that would be evaluated before the programme is fully implemented. He said surgeons would then take turns to come to Bermuda and perform four to six transplants over a two-week period. The Bermuda Health Council published an opinion on creating a local transplant programme last month, with CEO Tawanna Wedderburn stating it was “too risky” at this time. The opinion read: “In the meantime, more effort should be placed on preventing chronic kidney disease and ensuring better co-ordination when transplants are appropriate.” The document outlined the local and global context, potential benefits, risks and concerns. Ms Wedderburn said the Health Council was willing to explore on-island live-donor kidney transplantation in collaboration with local nephrologists, the health ministry, BHB, and patient advocates. She added: “As stated in the Opinion, should new information become available, we can review and reissue our opinion accordingly.” A BHB spokeswoman said the benefit of renal transplantation was well identified and would always be a goal in place of long-term dialysis. But she added: “There is a well-developed pathway established between our local specialists and US partners to deliver this service currently. We do not have an infrastructure to safely develop or deliver this service at this time. New models of care are always being described and as such we are open to revisiting this issue if the situation or guidance changes.” The full guidance document from the Health Council can be found at bhec.bm.

December 4. Developer Michael MacLean is still counting the cost of a deal to massively overhaul the Hamilton waterfront nearly five years on. “The whole case has cost me close to $4 million,” Mr MacLean said in the wake of his protracted legal battle. “All I can do now is continue to fight. I can still lobby politically with the people who know that what’s happening is wrong.” The deal ended up before an arbitration panel after Mr MacLean lost his 262-year lease on roughly 20 acres of Bermuda’s choicest real estate. Hamilton’s sweeping development, announced by then mayor Graeme Outerbridge in January 2013, was touted as “the dawn of a new Hamilton”, with Allied Development Partners, headed by Mr MacLean, chosen as the partner company. The new One Bermuda Alliance administration swiftly objected to the agreement, with home affairs minister Michael Fahy protesting that the Government had been left in the dark. Legislation was then approved in October 2013, which retroactively required any Corporation of Hamilton lease of more than 21 years to get parliamentary approval. Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs recently said that the arbitration, which started in 2014, was terminated last month and that that the Government stood ready to “bring this issue involving the voiding of the waterfront lease to an end”. Mr Brown added that the Progressive Labour Party administration was “fully mindful of the interests of those claiming redress for the cancellation of the leases and the public purse”. Answers were not forthcoming last week when The Royal Gazette asked for details on how the dispute would be put to rest. Meanwhile, Mr MacLean was adamant that no settlement had been proposed, saying he had “never been offered anything”. He was convinced that the Government ultimately planned to “leverage the waterfront away from the Corporation”. He said: “It will be exactly what I was going to do with it. The proposal I put forward was for a mixed-use development and an investment hub. The OBA took it from me and the PLP now has a free run at being able to take the waterfront.” Mr MacLean noted the PLP’s intense criticism of the voiding of the lease had gone silent since the party triumphed in the General Election in July. Mr MacLean said that he was now waiting on an explanatory document from Ian Kawaley, the Chief Justice, outlining his reasoning on wrapping up arbitration. The Government’s case, as outlined in the House of Assembly, was that Mr MacLean had failed to participate after his claim for $156 million in compensation was turned away, and his constitutional challenge against the arbitration also failed. Last week, the developer said he planned a new constitutional challenge once Mr Justice Kawaley’s documents were released. “The only way for me now is to find a lawyer and an advocate that can take my case,” he said.

December 4. The profitability and diversity of Bermuda’s captive insurance market and special purpose insurers has been highlighted in a new report. It shows that in 2016, Bermuda captives assumed 62 per cent of their risk in North America, and 25 per cent in Europe, with Japan accounting for 5 per cent. And the island’s captives cover a diverse range of industries and are “home to a broad range of industries utilizing captives as a key risk management tool”. Some 11 per cent of the parent companies of Bermuda captives are financial institutions. Other large groups represented are shipping, transport and storage at 14 per cent, and automotive, manufacturing and retail at 11 per cent. Those three sectors also account for the largest portion of premium share, with financial institutions taking a 54 per cent share, followed by shipping, transport and storage on 11 per cent, and wholesale and retail at 6 per cent. Presented by the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the BMA Captive/SPI Market Report shows where business was written by geographical region and lines of business. It also looks at the utilization of captives and SPIs by different industries, together with balance sheet assets and liabilities, and investment allocation. The details are based on year-end returns as of the December 31, 2016. “This report will provide further insight on how the Bermuda market continues to evolve and succeed,” said Craig Swan, managing director - supervision (Insurance), at the BMA. Considering the island’s leadership position in the global captive and SPI space, and its overall importance, there is naturally a level of interest generated from industry participants and peers.” In terms of profitability, the median loss ratio and combined ratio for Bermuda general business captives was 49 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively. The report reveals that 61 per cent of Bermuda captives are “pure captives” that only write the risk of their parent, affiliates or both. In terms of business lines, property coverage represented 55 per cent of all business written by Bermuda captives, while terrorism and cyber-risk accounted for less than 1 per cent of coverage last year. Bermuda captives wrote about 45 per cent of all business in casualty lines during 2016. Quoted investments accounted for 31 per cent of the balance sheet of the island’s captive market, with bonds by far the most favored representing 79 per cent of investments, followed by equities at 12 per cent. Meanwhile, Bermuda’s SPIs wrote coverage in 17 regions in 2016, led by North America at 69 per cent, and Europe at 25 per cent. The SPI reinsurance covers consisted primarily of catastrophe bonds at 44 per cent, followed by collateralized reinsurance at 36 per cent and sidecars at 18 per cent. For Bermuda’s SPIs, the most significant lines of business were property and casualty, which accounted for 77 per cent, followed by terrorism at 15 per cent. A copy of the report is available at www.bma.bm under ‘Publications’.

December 4. Opinion, by Michael Fahy, former Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities. "So which is it? Is the Government seriously considering the i-word (Independence) or not? You may recall that the Junior Minister of Home Affairs, Jason Hayward, who also happens to be the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, was the first government official under the Burt Administration to publicly mention it on September 4 when he said: “We have to now look at independence as a viable option for our people so we can set our own agenda, so we can create our own system and so we can see our people get ahead.” You may also recall that it took seven full days before anyone from the Government actually denied that the i-word was being discussed by the Government. Interestingly, it was the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism, Jamahl Simmons, who shot down the utterances of the Junior Minister of Home Affairs, not the Premier, when after being questioned by a participant at the Bermuda Captive Conference on September 11, he said: “The position is this; it was not in our platform, we have not discussed it.” A very definitive statement. However, when the junior minister uttered the i-word, many in the community believed that this was just the utterance of a person unskilled in the art of diplomacy wearing his BPSU hat and not the hat of a junior minister — that is a topic for another day — but others saw something else: a trial balloon to gauge the reaction of the wider community on the matter. After all, government-appointed senators are directly answerable to the Premier. This feeling was heightened after comments attributed to the Premier at the Progressive Labour Party black-tie gala on November 18, when he deliberately uttered the i-word in his speech, albeit to the PLP faithful. Coincidence? I think not. Why do I say this? Well, less than a week later, on November 24, the Premier said in a prepared statement to the House of Assembly in relation to his trip to London to attend an Overseas Territories conference, “the priorities for this year will highlight issues such as upholding our right to self-determination as enshrined under Article 73 of the United Nations Charter and that this continues to apply to the peoples of overseas territories, as the UK’s obligation”. The fact is Britain is not in breach of any legal obligations relating to Article 73 and, more importantly, no UN treaty or resolution has ever gone on to insist upon independence; rather it is encouraged where it is the express desire of the peoples of the territories in question. So if “we have not discussed it [independence]”, why mention it in a scripted statement at all? Further, in response to questions by MP Trevor Moniz about whether the Premier had intentions to take Bermuda to independence, the Premier reportedly laughed off questions and said that MPs should not be surprised to hear discussions about cutting ties with Britain, and that he was “endlessly amused” by opposition inquiries into the matter. He went on and said that the Opposition should focus “on its own agenda rather than that of the PLP” — ripe considering that the Opposition’s job is to focus on the Government. The glaring omission is any reported outright denial from the Premier. In my experience, there is no such thing as coincidence when it comes to David Burt, who is absolutely deliberate in everything he does. Interestingly, the person who has been suspiciously quiet on the matter has been the Minister of Home Affairs, Walton Brown. Or has he? Brown was, after all, a lone voice for many years when it came to independence, and it is arguable that his activity as Minister of Home Affairs is designed to try to create a constitutional crisis. Thus far he has presented one Bill to the Governor that restricts human rights and another one is on its way that reverses rights gained in respect of same-sex marriage, which by the way is legal in Britain — or, as the minister was quoted in Parliament as saying on October 6, our “colonial masters”. The amendment to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 was signed into law and I suspect when the Domestic Partnership Act passes, this too will be signed, since no Governor wants to be in the middle of a constitutional crisis by refusing to. I should also add that Brown has taken the position that those who are granted status are more likely to vote in a referendum against independence, which helps to explain why the PLP is so anti-immigration. It has more to do with independence than it does about anything else. So when you start to listen, to really listen, and consider the various contradictory statements made by a junior minister as opposed to Cabinet minister — and then the words of the Premier and the actions of the Minister of Home Affairs — it would seem that the i-word really is on the agenda. It is being discussed. It is and remains an integral part of the PLP’s desires and wishes. The PLP’s constitution is clear at Article III, which says that the party is “to serve as a vehicle in moving Bermuda to independence by political education, information and public meetings so that the people of Bermuda can be fully informed of what independence for Bermuda means, and the party will work towards achieving the necessary electoral reforms, which are preconditions for Bermuda achieving nationhood”. The electoral reforms referred to in the PLP constitution have long ago been carried out. So perhaps clarity can be given to allay the concerns of many that the campaign for independence has already begun? For the Premier to be “endlessly amused” is dangerous. Questions relating to Bermuda’s constitutional future should not be treated so dismissively as some cheap parlor game. I am betting that the next election will be based on independence. I also am betting that the election either will be solely on that issue — that was the method reportedly preferred by the PLP in January 7, 1994 — or an independence referendum will be held the same day as an election. This is not far-fetched. The stealth campaign for independence has already begun."

December 4. Nearly 150 complaints and queries have been made this year about employers failing to provide health insurance coverage. The Bermuda Health Council named a host of companies who have failed to comply with the Health Insurance Act. It said 147 complaints and queries have been made by the public this year, with the most common complaints including:

According to the Health Insurance Act, employers must provide health insurance coverage for all employees working more than 15 hours per week and beyond two months out of the year. Employers must provide the same coverage to an employee’s non-employed spouse. Employers may deduct no more than half of the monthly premium from an employee’s salary or wages towards the enacted health insurance policy. Employees should ensure that they receive health insurance as soon as they start employment, as well as an employment contract outlining their wages and required deductions and itemized pay stubs for their personal records. It is the employee’s responsibility to notify their employer of any changes to their non-employed spouse’s employment status. If an employee seeks medical attention and learns their health insurance policy is not active, they should submit the medical bills to their employer immediately for payment. A spokesman said: “Know your right to health insurance coverage and speak with your employer if there is an issue. The Bermuda Health Council wishes to remind employers about their obligations to obtain health insurance coverage for all employees. If an employer is non-compliant with the law and an employee incurs medical bills during a period of non-coverage, under the Act the employer is responsible for paying those medical bills, which are often more expensive than monthly premiums. Employers are encouraged to shop around and purchase a policy that is affordable so that payments can be made on time, thereby avoiding any disruptions in coverage. It is the employer’s responsibility to notify employees if a contract of health insurance is not in effect or if there are any changes to the health insurance policy.” For a full list of non-complaint employers, visit http://www.bhec.bm/non-compliant.

They include:

December 4. Dozens of local counselors have been given tips on how to spot and treat gambling addicts. The workshop, led by Loreen Rugle of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, was organized last week by the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission as one of a series of events designed to highlight problem gambling. Dr Rugle said there were issues in Bermuda even without the introduction of casinos. She said: “People are seeing clients who already have gambling issues or gambling is affecting their recovery, so we can start with what we have got, learn those strategies and techniques and build from that. When we look at the numbers, about one per cent to three per cent of the adult population may suffer with the problem, and that figure is slightly higher in young people.” Dr Rugle explained there was a lack of awareness of gambling addiction. She said: “There is a real need for public awareness, both for people who have the disorder or those who work with them, because it is under-identified and difficult for people to acknowledge the problem and get help. We need to get started with public awareness as soon as possible, so people know what the problem is and that help is available. It’s always good to be ahead of the game in getting counselors ready to understand that it’s not just the casino that’s going to create the problem. We already have folks in Bermuda dealing with gambling problems.” During the training session, which was held at the Ocean View Golf Club on Thursday, Dr Rugle worked with more than 60 local counselors on how to address gambling addiction, both as a problem on its own and as a “co-occurring” disorder along with substance abuse and mental health problems. Dr Rugle said: “While it shares a lot of features with other addictions, like substance abuse disorders, there are some unique features that have to be appreciated in order to work effectively with this population.” Dr Rugle highlighted some of the similarities and differences between drug and gaming addictions, and detailed the different types of problem gambler. Roger Trott, director of responsible and problem gaming, said the training was one of several being organized. In addition to the workshops for counselors, Mr Trott said events would be held for educators and the faith community. “This problem already exists in the Bermuda community,” Mr Trott said. “Having more training available now is only going to help people care for those in our community.”

December 3. Progressive Labour Party MP Tinee Furbert used her maiden speech in the House of Assembly on Friday to focus on enhancing the quality of life for persons with disabilities. The Junior Minister of Disability Affairs said disabilities were consistently excluded when people talk about human rights. Ms Furbert, who served as a senator before her victory at the polls in St George’s South on July 18, said: “I have heard from many people with disabilities in Bermuda who are discriminated against for job and learning opportunities, or people in our community who feel they are not worthy of inclusion when they can’t even interpret the local news because there is no closed caption, or they are not afforded the opportunity for an interpreter to help them communicate their needs to a police officer. I have heard from parents of children with disabilities who are excluded on decisions being made for their children when they should have every say. And I’ve heard from people saying access to entrances and exits of buildings or homes keep them captive.” Ms Furbert highlighted that yesterday marked the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, with this year’s theme being “transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for all”. She added: “The 2030 UN agenda is to leave no one behind. Persons with disabilities as both beneficiaries and agents of change, can fast track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development and promote a resilient society for all. It is my hope Bermuda can move in the same way.” Ms Furbert added: “I want us to get in the habit of including disabilities and not in ways that I have witnessed in this house by calling fellow members slow, or retarded or hearing-impaired. I do not take that language lightly. In fact I find it offensive to those who through no fault of their own, experience cognitive disabilities or are hard of hearing. To even those who consistently park in the disabled parking bays right on this very grounds, stop it.” She said people with disabilities deserve respect and acceptance. Ms Furbert added: “We must value those with disabilities as valuable members in our societies as they open our eyes and make a better life for everyone.” She said the Government had made a concerted effort to include persons with disabilities. Furbert, who is an occupational therapist, added: “We need to continue to enhance the quality of life for persons with disabilities and we can do this by collecting current data on persons with disabilities, improving the home school community structural environment, improving social well-being, improving rehabilitation opportunities, managing hobbies and activities, improving education and work opportunities, adopting the convention on rights of persons with disabilities, businesses designating staff members to look out for persons with disabilities, and creating disability policies in the workplace.” More important, she said, is creating legislation for disability rights. “Right now, accommodations are made out of the kindness of people’s hearts. But people aren’t always kind and we have to tick that box that says must and not should.” Ms Furbert added that “disabilities are not going away” and that whether temporary or permanent, congenital or acquired, disabilities “will affect us sometime across our lifespan”. She also spoke about her life growing up and her mother’s depression and addiction. Ms Furbert said: “Depression is what she developed from her experience of being abused as a child and young lady and not feeling worthy enough, and addiction was her coping mechanism. Her children were her first love and mind-altering became her second, but disguised as her first.” Ms Furbert spoke about how she was “blessed with enough funds through scholarships and loans to start and complete college”, and how she took her sisters in at the age of 24. She added that her mother, who died during the week of the Pathway to Status protests, “would be so proud to know that people stood on that hill representing people like her. She would even be more elated to know that her daughter is now the first occupational therapist to serve as part of this legislature in Bermuda.” Ms Furbert thanked all her constituents, colleagues, family and friends who played a role in her election victory and continue to be her support network. She also thanked David Burt, the Premier, for giving people with disabilities and those who work with people with disabilities hope for change. Mr Furbert added: “I get calls daily for help and resources, for directions, for navigation with the disabled population. I will continue to be an advocate for people because this is how the election was won.”

December 3. The island’s largest Farmers’ Market “in several years” was formally opened by public works minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch yesterday. Colonel Burch was joined by home affairs minister Walton Brown for the event at the Botanical Gardens and said: “The Bermuda Farmers’ Market is a welcomed attraction for both locals and visitors alike. “This year’s Farmers’ Market is noteworthy because the number of vendors has grown exponentially to its present size of 42. So, this is the largest Farmers’ Market to be held in Bermuda in several years.” Colonel Burch added that the home-grown event had become a “dynamic way for vendors to attract more people, by creating a community focused exchange of fresh produce and goods in support of our local economy. In fact the Farmers’ Market is considered the ‘hotspot’ to visit on Saturday mornings, where people can experience the hard work, talent and culture of Bermuda. So I wish to once again commend all the vendors for your efforts and commitment to not only ensure a welcoming event, but for simply providing an environment that reminds about being neighborly and supportive of one another.” Colonel Burch also acknowledged the Department of Parks for preparing the Botanical Gardens for the event and the Farmers’ Market Committee, headed by Lucinda Worrell-Stowe. The Farmers’ Market will continue until June 2018. During the pre-Christmas season, opening hours will be 8am to 1pm. These will shift to 8am to noon from January to the end of June.

Sunday, December 3. Bermuda Government’s debt hit $2.515 billion at the end of September. However, the rate of debt growth is slowing as the gap between revenue and expenditure narrows. In the six months to the end of September, stronger than expected Custom duty receipts and an uptick in payroll tax helped Government stay on track for a full-year projected budget deficit of $134.7 million. In the first half of the 2017/18 fiscal year the Government achieved a $57.6 million current account surplus, excluding debt service deductions. When debt servicing is factored in the surplus vanishes to leave a six-month deficit of $63.4 million. That is down from the $100.2 million deficit incurred during the corresponding six-month period in 2016. Revenues for the period were 6.3 per cent higher that a year ago, due to higher collections in customs duty, payroll tax and stamp duty. In a statement, the Ministry of Finance said these revenue boosts were offset by lower collections in passenger tax and civil aviation receipts due to the privatization of the airport and the transfer of the Department of Civil Aviation out of government.

December 3. Hamilton Princess and Beach Club has launched its own Bermudian-brewed Indian pale ale beer. The exclusive new beer is called Hamilton Princess Peach IPA, and has been brewed by local company On De Rock Craft Brewery. It will be served throughout the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club, including at Crown & Anchor and Marcus’. The hotel intends to roll out the beer at the Beach Club’s Tiki Bar and 1609 for the beginning of the tourist season next year. The beer, which is medium in body and bitterness, is 100 per cent made in Bermuda and has a distinct peach flavor. Diarmaid O’Sullivan, director of marketing at Hamilton Princess and Beach Club, said: “With its distinctive peach undertones and smooth taste, it is easy to drink and is the perfect choice for those enjoying the beautiful surrounding of the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club, whether beer fans or novices.”

December 2. A “comprehensive review” of last year’s protests against the airport redevelopment project must examine the role played by then acting Governor Ginny Ferson, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher said yesterday. St George’s West MP Kim Swan said: “We must get to the bottom of it, and we can’t get to the bottom of it by bypassing the role that (Ms Ferson) had in this play. It would be wrong to hold anyone accountable without looking at the very top.” Swan’s motion, passed in the House with an amendment, calls for the appointment of a Joint Select Committee to examine the events surrounding the protests. The Committee will “look into the events generally, including the decision-making and any directives the Executive and the then Speaker of the House gave to the police”. Government House, Mr Swan said, “doesn’t get a free pass if it participates in an act”. He added: “Scrutiny and accountability is the name of the game.” Mr Swan said letting Ms Ferson “off the hook” for her role in the protest was “not going to happen”. He added: “Because it’s wrong if it does. And we can’t condone wrong.” PLP backbencher Michael Scott said he was “concerned and interested” from a “legal perspective” about the decision that led to citizens being pepper-sprayed. Mr Scott recommended that the wording of the motion be changed to reflect that the JSC can recommend sanctions “because this House need not and should not be making sanctions”. He added: “The sanctions are for the courts, if indeed the findings warrant sanctions. Civil, criminal sanctions are what I am referring to in this regard.” Christopher Famous, Devonshire East MP, described December 2 as “the worst day Bermuda has seen for some time”. He said the events had “without a doubt” changed the mindset of how Bermudians think of police officers and how Bermudians see each other through racial contexts. Mr Famous added: “In a time as a country that we need to have good relations between police officers and its citizens, this motion to get to the bottom of this would help.” Wayne Caines, Minister of National Security, said that “people in Bermuda on both sides are ready to heal”. Mr Caines added: “You cannot fix what you do not face.” Lovitta Foggo, Minister of Government Reform, said that family and friends were among those pepper sprayed and injured, with one person still suffering. She said many believed justice had not been served and it was “incumbent” on Parliament to set up a committee and ensure recommendations are followed. Ms Foggo added: “Justice mandates that the matter be properly addressed. The people deserve to have that situation looked at properly.” Craig Cannonier, shadow works minister, questioned if a Joint Select Committee would “have enough teeth to get the answers”. But he commended Mr Swan for bringing the motion, telling the House that this was “not a one-sided experience”. Mr Cannonier added of the protests: “I was disgusted. I was afraid. I was scared for the people that were down there. So I hope that the public doesn’t walk away from what we are discussing tonight thinking that only the Government felt distressed about this.” Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, said: “It comes down to this. We know what happened. We need to figure out why it happened.” Mr Swan’s motion calls for the committee to submit a report of its findings to the House within three to six months.

December 2. The America’s Cup was a “silver bullet” that hit the target in time to save Bermuda’s economy, the Shadow Minister of Economic Development told Parliament last night. Grant Gibbons said the island’s economy would have continued to struggle if it had not been for the money-spinning international sailing event. Dr Gibbons, who met fierce resistance from social development and sports minister Zane DeSilva, said: “I know the Government likes to talk about economic ripples but what the PwC report found was that this was really a tsunami effect on Bermuda. In essence, hosting the AC35 provided the economic boost, the so-called silver bullet that Bermuda needed to continue growing and restore confidence on Bermuda and in our island.” Dr Gibbons added there had been speculation about the island’s economic well-being if it had not won the right to host the race. He said: “From my perspective, it is not difficult to imagine that Bermuda’s economy would have continued to struggle, requiring further public and private sector downsizing and even less spending on social services, social insurance, seniors and healthcare. It was pretty clear in 2014 that if something had not happened, we would be looking forward to higher deficits, more debt and higher taxes, certainly not a healthy option but that is where we were seemed to be headed.” Dr Gibbons was speaking as he moved a motion in the House of Assembly to “take note of the economic, environmental and social impact of the 35th America’s Cup on Bermuda and the foundation for further growth”. He detailed findings of an independent economic and social impact assessment on the event conducted by professional services firm PwC as well as the America’s Cup Bermuda Legacy Impact report. Dr Gibbons added: “In essence what the PwC report is saying, is that for every $100 invested by Government in producing the event, Bermuda received $500 or more than $500 in additional spending that wouldn’t have happened unless Bermuda had actually hosted the America’s Cup, so it was certainly a welcome, and rather large, stimulus to our local economy.” Zane DeSilva, Minister of Social Development and Sport, said he hoped Dr Gibbons was correct about the bump the event would bring to the Bermuda economy. However, Mr DeSilva took exception to the former economic development minister’s comment that the event had been the “silver bullet” for tourism. Mr DeSilva said: “You give me $100 million, I’ll get tourists to this island, too.” The minister, who was the only Progressive Labour Party member to debate the motion, also pointed to Mr Gibbons’s statement that taxes and the deficit would have risen had Bermuda not held the event. Mr DeSilva said: “I don’t recall in the OBA’s 2012 platform seeing an America’s Cup. Might I add they doubled the debt. So maybe if the America’s Cup hadn’t come around the debt would have been tripled.” The former government, Mr DeSilva said, “didn’t have a problem” finding money for the America’s Cup but couldn’t find funds to improve school infrastructure, complete bus repairs, or put towards raises for civil servants. Mr DeSilva said he thought the America’s Cup had been good “for some people”. He added: “I think that if we’re going to host world-class events, we have to ensure that they benefit a wider group of Bermudians.” Patricia Gordon-Pamplin described the America’s Cup as the “tourniquet that helped to stop the financial bleeding”. She said Mr DeSilva was correct in saying there was no mention of the event in the OBA’s platform in 2012. Ms Gordon-Pamplin explained: “A good government will be nimble to be able to advance and seize opportunities.” Michael Dunkley, the former premier, described the America’s Cup as the “deal of the century” for Bermuda. He added: “We have to make sure that it continues as we move forward.” The former government, Mr Dunkley said, was “rightly criticized on so many issues”. He added: “However, with the America’s Cup, we dug out of a hole — the economic abyss, the spiraling debt — through solid policy and vision and Bermuda today is better off.”

December 2. A new plan for public schools was unveiled in the House of Assembly yesterday. Targets include 75 per cent of all public school pupils up to recognized standards in reading and mathematics inside five years. School principals will be given powers to hire staff, while national health and safety standards will be applied to all schools. In addition, pupils will be given better preparation for college or vocational training. The Government also pledged a 30 per cent increase in funding for public education and a 50 per cent boost in funds for professional development of teachers. The promises came in Plan 2022, tabled in the House of Assembly by Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education. Mr Rabain said the plan was designed to improve public education but avoid the “waves of change” that had damaged the schools system in the past. He added: “Plan 2022 will be the driving force to ensure that the Board of Education, the Ministry and the Department of Education, inclusive of the Child Development Programme and all schools focus on the entire public education system, from birth to graduation so that all students are educated to lead personally and professionally, compete locally and contribute globally.” The plan includes five priority areas — higher academic standards and pupil engagement, good preparation for further education or work, improving the standard of teaching and the leadership of school principals, better infrastructure and teaching resources, and ensuring the overall success of the school system. The plan made no direct mention of the potential for schools closures to make the system more efficient — a move explored in the schools reorganization Score Report drawn up by the former OBA government. The plan also failed to mention signature schools which were discussed by American-based education expert Jeremiah Newell, who helped develop the strategic plan. Dr Newell was hired under the One Bermuda Alliance on the introduction of the national strategic plan for public education earlier this year. The plan aims for between 70 and 75 per cent of pupils to get a score at college entrance levels in recognized school-leaving exams and to be proficient or advanced in Cambridge curriculum checkpoints. The plan also wants 90 per cent of pupils who need learning support to be identified and helped. The number of pupils with major truancy problems will be cut by 25 per cent, while referrals for discipline will be cut by same amount. The plan will also introduce “modern and high-quality technical/vocational programmes” starting at M1 level and at M2, with a work placement in M3. More subjects will be taught and the dual enrolment programme run with Bermuda College will be expanded. A total of 90 per cent of teachers will be certified in their field by 2022, with 60 per cent reaching “highly qualified” status. In addition, 90 per cent are expected to attain certification in leadership. The report said: “High-quality instruction and school leadership have the single greatest school-based impact on student success.” Deputy principals will also work as instructional coaches. Parent power is also set to increased with Parent Councils having a say in school budgets. The plan promised that 75 per cent of schools will get adequate IT equipment. The Progressive Labour Party platform’s midterm education objectives promised that “all schools have functioning computer labs so our students have access to the latest technology”. Teachers will also get regular training in IT under a technology policy. The report also highlighted the need for “appropriate and equitable” wi-fi resources designed to help meet academic goals. It added the Government will “improve access, distribution and speed of internet in all schools”.

December 2. Government plans to create a Department of Disaster Management, the House of Assembly heard this morning. The department, comprising police and fire officers, will develop plans to deal with a range of possible disasters, Minister of National Security Wayne Caines told MPs. Mr Caines said: “Whether or not the likelihood of some of these events is high should not prevent us from being prepared for them or discussing them as a community. “This should include an understanding of what our initial actions should be to save out lives and the lives of our neighbors, should the unexpected occur.” He said the government will introduce legislation to create the department because the Emergency Measures Organisation lacks a legislated statutory framework. Mr Caines added: “This new Department will be immediately fit for purpose, relying on existing, experienced officers from the Bermuda Police Service and the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service.”

December 2. A man who tried to smuggle nearly $250,000 worth of cocaine into Bermuda was jailed for 7½ years yesterday. Raza Mirza was caught as he came through customs at LF Wade International Airport with the drugs hidden in the lining of his bag. Mirza, 22, arrived in Bermuda from Canada on June 9 this year. He was questioned by customs officers and claimed he had come to the island for “the carnival”. Authorities carried out forensic checks on his Samsonite bag, which showed the presence of cocaine. A search revealed five ziplock bags of cocaine in the lining of the case. Further analysis confirmed that the bags contained nearly one kilogram of cocaine with a street value of $233,000. Police later trawled through the Canadian national’s mobile phones, which contained several references to drugs. In one exchange, an individual called Andrew asked him: “Do you move white?” Mirza replied: “Yes.” Mirza had earlier pleaded guilty to the importation of drugs. He told the court: “This was a really big mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking. I am really sorry for what I have done. My family is now having to deal with it all now and my mom is very sick. It was sheer stupidity. I was not thinking about what I was doing.” The court heard that Mirza had no previous convictions in Bermuda or Canada. Mirza’s lawyer Vaughan Caines told the court his client took full responsibility for his actions and stood before the court “contrite and embarrassed”. Mr Caines said: “Here is a young man who was cash-strapped at the time and needed the money. He ultimately is sorry for his actions and his desperate attempt to make income.” Acting Puisne Judge Juan Wolffe said the number of drug importation cases was “disturbing”. He added: “One really wonders if the message of the court is being sent out to other offenders. The court must however continue to mete out sentences which send a clear and unequivocal message.”

December 2. A company owned by Jamaican billionaire Michael Lee-Chin’s Portland Holdings is set to take a majority stake in the parent company of Clarien Bank. If the transaction is approved, it will be the third time in four years that the majority shareholding of the bank has changed hands. Clarien said it intended to retain its branding after the deal and that it will remain committed to Bermuda, its employees and its clients. Jamaica’s largest financial institution, NCB Financial Group Ltd, has reached an agreement with Clarien Group Ltd to become its majority shareholder and plans to take a 50.1 per cent stake in the company. The transaction has received the approval of the Bank of Jamaica and there has been no objection from the Bermuda Monetary Authority. The deal is awaiting final approval from David Burt, as Minister of Finance, under the 1981 Companies Act. Financial details of the agreement have not been disclosed. Edmund Gibbons Ltd, once the sole shareholder of Clarien, will retain a 31.98 per cent stake after the transaction. The remaining 17.2 per cent stake will be held by funds managed by Portland Private Equity, which is also part of the Portland group. James Gibbons, director of EGL, CGL and the bank, said the partnership with NCB would strengthen commercial ties with two highly respected institutions and bring wider opportunities for Clarien. He added: “We are very excited by our partnership with NCB, which is one of the most successful financial services groups in the Caribbean, and the broader Portland group which includes operations in Canada and other international markets. It will enable us to expand our offerings locally, regionally and globally.” Mr Gibbons said: “NCB shares our client-focused philosophy and a dedication to providing high-quality services and a superior customer experience. Our partnership with NCB and PPE reinforces Clarien’s position as one of the largest privately held financial institutions in Bermuda. It will enable us to offer a wider range of products to our customers and facilitate the growth that will ultimately provide job security and career opportunities for Bermudians.” Edmund Gibbons Ltd and Ontario-based Portland Private Equity last year injected $12.6 million into Clarien, which enabled it to exceed the capital regulatory requirements of the Basel III standard. Mr Lee-Chin is president and chairman of the Canadian-headquartered Portland Holdings group of companies, which includes NCB and PPE. He visited Bermuda last month as the keynote speaker at the Progressive Labour Party’s gala celebration at the Fairmont Southampton. NCB is the financial holding company for the National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd. Patrick Hylton, NCB president and group chief executive officer, said: “Bermuda is one of the world’s premier financial jurisdictions and our alliance with Clarien is consistent with the strategic investments and joint ventures NCB Group identifies as key to growing our regional interests and driving continued growth and shareholder value. Our investment in Clarien reflects not only our confidence in the quality and value of the bank’s expertise, experience and services but also those of Bermuda itself. “In addition to its unquestioned natural beauty, the island has a natural affinity for business. As home to many of the world’s leading financial companies, Bermuda is respected as a stable, sophisticated legal and regulatory jurisdiction well equipped to meet the needs of international high-net-worth and institutional clients and one that is committed to meeting global standards of compliance, regulation, and transparency. We are committed to contributing to the growth of Bermuda’s reputation to attract more business to the island and thereby create conditions that will benefit the economy as a whole.” Clarien Bank, previously known as Capital G Bank, was controlled by Edmund Gibbons Ltd until January 2014 when it sold a four-fifths stake to a group of investors behind the Bermuda exempted company CWH Ltd. The bank rebranded as Clarien after the amalgamation. But in February 2015, EGL acquired a 50 per cent stake in CWH and two months later reacquired the remaining shares it had sold in Clarien and resumed total ownership of the bank.

December 2. A 26-year-old man has denied killing a woman by driving his boat dangerously. Andrew Lake, of Southampton, pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of New Zealander Mary McKee in Supreme Court yesterday morning. Ms McKee, 62, died after a marine incident in Hamilton Harbour on June 1 this year. Mr Lake also denied causing injuries to Mrs McKee’s husband, Arthur, and a second man, Charlie Watson, by driving his powerboat in a dangerous manner. Puisne Judge Charles-Etta Simmons released Mr Lake on bail before his trial on April 3, next year.

December 1. Non-Bermudians holding British Overseas Territories Citizen passports need a visa to visit the United States, Walton Brown warned today. The Minister of Home Affairs told the House of Assembly the issue was brought to light after the spouse of a Bermudian was denied entry to the US. He said: “There are persons who are not Bermudian but who possess BOTC status because they were born in Bermuda before 1983 or have been naturalized as BOTC citizens.” Mr Brown said that those holding BOTC passports that do not include the observation “Holder is registered as a Bermudian” will not be allowed to enter the US without a visa. He added: “Additionally, it should be noted that Bermudians traveling with BOTC passports that are not displaying the mentioned observation will not be eligible for entry to the US under the visa-exempt classification.”

December 1. Court requests for mental health reports have rocketed by nearly 300 per cent in the past three years, the Bermuda Hospitals Board has revealed. The BHB said that delays in delivering reports to courts were because of a shortage of professionals as well as the huge rise in demand for psychiatric evaluations. The news came after the Court of Appeal expressed serious concerns last month over “unacceptable” time gaps between conviction and sentencing in many court cases. Defence lawyer Elizabeth Christopher also highlighted cases in which the preparation of psychiatric and psychological reports had taken several months. A BHB spokeswoman told The Royal Gazette that the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute was two psychologists short, which had contributed to the delays. She said: “Due to a dramatic increase in the number of requests originating from the courts and other public bodies, combined with two psychology vacancies, there is an acknowledged delay in the provision of reports at the current time from MWI. The number of reports requested from the courts has risen more than 280 per cent over the last three years, from 24 in 2014 to 68 in 2017 as of November 27.” The spokeswoman added: “Each report takes between five to 15 hours to complete on average and can take longer. Currently there are three psychologists and one psychiatrist providing the bulk of these reports. Clinicians for the two vacant psychology posts have been identified, but they are overseas and so cannot immediately take up the positions. The first is hoped to arrive in January 2018.” Court of Appeal president Sir Scott Baker said last month he would raise the problem with Chief Justice Ian Kawaley in a bid to find a solution. The BHB spokeswoman said: “MWI staff members are working within the approved MWI budgetary allocation, while accommodating the extra workload generated by the court system and continuing to meet the rising day-to-day clinical needs of service users at MWI. She added the BHB appreciated an increased focus on the mental health of defendants by the courts and admitted more work was needed to “streamline the process in order to improve efficiency while maintaining quality”. The spokeswoman said: “We continue to meet with our colleagues at the courts on a regular basis to enhance the service we are expected to provide. We also note that the issues referred to by Mr Justice Baker were not solely due to delays in provision of psychological and psychiatric reports but appear to be related to other procedural issues within the courts themselves.”

December 1. The old guard of the One Bermuda Alliance is set to be sidelined to make way for new blood, new party leader Jeanne Atherden signaled yesterday. Ms Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, said her party was in a transition to “rebuild, re-brand and reconnect”. She added the OBA needed “to get more people into the room”. She explained: “We have to expand diversity not only in gender but racially and in age. If we can do that, we can focus on what we should be doing.” Ms Atherden said that the Future Bermuda Alliance, the party’s youth wing, was “very important because as the more seasoned people move out, we have people to take their place”. But Ms Atherden said older party members had a role to play in guiding the next generation. She said: “You can’t transition without some people having training in how to get out and work with their constituents. That is all part and parcel of us rebuilding the team.” Asked to respond to criticism that her party had failed to provide effective opposition thus far, Ms Atherden said: “We know that we have to become a viable Opposition because Bermuda demands that. If there’s something that we support, we’ll support it, but if we feel it is not the best for Bermuda, we will give the Government and the people of Bermuda our full attention. We will become more vocal, but vocal with a purpose.” Former senator Nick Kempe last week quit as OBA chairman after only five days in the post. Party sources said Mr Kempe was blindsided by his removal from the Senate two days before. An insider said the decision by Ms Atherden was not discussed with Mr Kempe. Ms Atherden said: “I made an appointment with Justin Mathias as the senate replacement. As a consequence, that meant Nick was the person who came out.” Ms Atherden said she saw the job of party chairman as a “very major role”, and that there was “a lot to be done”. She added: “It meant Justin going in and Nick going out.” Ms Atherden said the OBA had to reconnect with voters “from Somerset to St George’s”. She added the party had to meet constituents in their communities and talk to them about the issues and what had to be done to improve Bermuda. Ms Atherden said: “Just because we are not the government that doesn’t mean we can’t work to improve the lot of Bermudians, not just trying to win political votes. “We want to be the party that truly represents the issues that are important to them.” Ms Atherden was appointed party leader less than two weeks ago after she beat former party leaders Craig Cannonier and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin.

December 1. Spot checks on commercial vehicles are being carried out by the traffic enforcement section of the Transport Control Department. TCD is reminding commercial vehicle permit holders that vehicles licensed under their respective permits are only to be used under the terms and conditions of the permit. Only employees of the permit holder are permitted to operate and be transported in any commercial vehicle unless approval has been granted otherwise by the Department.

December 1. A Washington lobbying firm run by president Barack Obama’s former senior political strategist has landed a $20,000-a-month consulting contract with the Government of Bermuda.  

June 11 2009 Uighurs arrive in Bermuda

Art Collins is fifth from right when Uighurs landed on June 11, 2009 , see story below

TheGroup, which describes itself as an independent strategy, policy and communications firm based in Washington, was hired on November 1 for three months. The company’s managing partner is Art Collins, who served as a senior political strategist for the Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign before becoming a public liaison for the Obama-Biden Transition Project to the White House after Obama’s inauguration. Another company led by Mr Collins, Public Private Partnership Inc, was previously linked to Bermuda after The Times of London reported that it came up with the idea to resettle four Guantánamo Bay detainees on the island. Mr Collins was photographed with the Uighurs when they landed on the tarmac at LF Wade International Airport on June 11, 2009. He was described at the time by US political website The Hill as a lobbyist for Bermuda’s government. The Hill quoted Glenn Jones, press secretary to Ewart Brown, then premier, as saying: “Art Collins does indeed do work for the Government of Bermuda but he did not propose the transfer of innocent detainees from Guantánamo Bay to Bermuda. He did, however, assist in facilitating this humanitarian gesture.” The previous year, Dr Brown had attended a sporting event in New Orleans as a dignitary; Mr Collins was listed as a dignitary at the same event. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman, in response to questions from The Royal Gazette, said yesterday theGroup’s services had been secured for three months, after which there would be a competitive tendering process for a company to provide the Government with “ongoing lobbying, communications and public relations services in Washington DC”. The spokeswoman said: “The cost for services is $20,000 a month. TheGroup DC represents the Government of Bermuda in Washington DC, and advocates Bermuda’s interests and lobbies the US Congress, US Federal Government and the US financial services industry. TheGroup DC works with the Government of Bermuda and members of Abir [Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers] to develop and implement communications strategies to present Bermuda’s key messages of tax transparency, co-operation and compliance to senior US government officials, the general public and other stakeholders.” She added: “In the coming weeks, the Government will issue an RFP [request for proposals] for a company to provide ongoing lobbying, communications and public relations services in Washington DC.” Mr Collins is described on theGroup’s website as a “powerhouse Democratic strategist” with more than 25 years of experience as a “trusted and valued adviser on corporate and political strategy and public policy”. Both chambers of the United States Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, are controlled by the Republican party.

December 1. Digicel Bermuda has unveiled the speeds and pricing for its new “fibre to the home” offerings, which have been in the works for most of this year. And a section of the company’s store on Church Street has been remodeled as an interactive lounge-type area where customers can try out the new multi-feature TV experience. The company is offering home internet speeds all the way up to 200 Mbps, together with three fiber TV plans and fiber phone options. Speaking about the area of the store now devoted to the new fiber offerings, Raynesha Lawrence, retail manager, said: “We wanted something that would showcase fiber here in Bermuda. It is a brand new product. And we wanted to bring a new retail experience to customers with a place where people could come and experience fiber TV for themselves.” The seating area includes a number of flat screen TVs where customers can flick through the more than 100 channels on offer and try some of the special features, which include the ability to pause a live show, rewind to any point in the broadcast, and even scroll back through seven days’ worth of TV scheduling to watch a programme they might have missed. It is also possible to record and store 50 hours of programming for later viewing, and there are options to increase that storage total to 200 hours. And a multi-screen ability allows family members to watch on up to five different TVs or wi-fi enabled devices, such as a tablet, and be tuned into different channels. High-definition channels, which make up more than half of the choices in each plan, come as standard at no extra cost. For the past 11 months Digicel Bermuda and Bermuda Telephone Company have built and installed a “fibre to the home” network as part of a $50 million investment in Bermuda to upgrade the companies’ telecommunications network. At the same time One Communications, one of the island’s other major players in the telecoms market, has been upgrading its network and introducing high-speed internet plans. Digicel believes it has an edge as it takes fiber-optic cabling all the way into customers’ homes, rather than stopping at the curb and taking the signal into a home through copper cables." There is no loss of signal over fiber. It is not affected by the weather, and the picture quality is guaranteed,” said Ms Lawrence. The Digicel store also features a multi-screen wall showing channels available through its fiber TV plans. With the aim of keeping things simple, the company offers only three TV tiers, starting with a plan that includes 55 channels, and going up to plan with 129 channels. Additionally there is a sports pack of ten premium channels, all in HD. There are bundle packages featuring TV and internet plans. For example, the 104 channel TV option, together with 25Mpbs internet, is priced at $185 per month. While for customers looking for stand-alone fiber internet options, the Fiber 25 plan has download speeds of 25 Mbps, upload speeds of 10 Mbps, and is priced at $105 per month. The store will hold a “Fibre Day” on December 7, promising big prizes to be won by customers who sign up for a fiber bundle that day. Further details on Digicel’s fiber to the home are available by calling 500-5000.

December 1. The island’s charity for military veterans has launched a campaign to recover a ceremonial sword that was stolen more than 20 years ago. The sword was taken from the historic Old Rectory, then the home of Lieutenant-Colonel Brendan Hollis, during the annual Christmas Walkabout in the town of St George. A Bermudian historian as well as a soldier, Colonel Hollis, who will turn 87 this month, is said to be still hopeful that the sword will be returned. Colonel Hollis now lives with wife Barbara in Calgary, Canada, and the couple are said to be “delighted” by the Bermuda Legion’s attempt to locate the sword. Carol Everson, case worker at the Bermuda Legion, said the sword was “a cherished possession, presented to him by his wife when he was awarded his commission as an officer”. She added: “He and his wife were, and still are, devastated at the loss.” Patricia Hollis, Colonel Hollis’s niece said: “He was deeply distraught — it was very, very sentimental, and he is thrilled that someone would care enough to try and get it back.” The sword disappeared during the Bermuda National Trust’s Christmas Walkabout, when historic premises of the Olde Towne are opened to the public. The couple were custodians for many years of the Old Rectory, a heritage gem in the East End, but after the walk they noticed the sword was missing from its mount on a wall. Nothing else was taken. The Wilkinson standard rifle sword, engraved with BODH for Brendan O’Donnell Hollis, has a bugle engraved on the hilt and was in a leather scabbard. Anyone with information on the sword’s whereabouts should contact the Legion at nosoldierleftbehind@hotmail.com or call 703-1020 or 293-3975. The sword can be returned to the Royal Bermuda Regiment or handed in at the front desk of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

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Last Updated: June 12, 2018
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