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Bermuda's 2017 March History and Newspaper Reports

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

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

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See end of this file for all of our many History files

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

March 31. Political interference has been implied in the fateful decision for Parliament to proceed after demonstrators blocked the gates leading to the House of Assembly on December 2. Parliament had been cancelled at the behest of Randy Horton, the Speaker of the House, who later told police that the session was to start at 1pm, according to the peer review of police actions released this week. David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, said it was the first disclosure he had seen that Parliament had been initially called off. Calling Mr Horton “incredibly stubborn”, Mr Burt said the reversal seemed out of character, and suggested that Michael Dunkley or others in the Government might have pressed for the session to go ahead. At about 1.15pm, police moved in on protesters barricading the entrance to Sessions House, grappling with the crowd in an unsuccessful attempt to clear the way that ended with officers assaulted, and demonstrators pepper sprayed. “Whoever made the call to insist that Parliament sit that day is responsible for what took place after,” Mr Burt said yesterday, telling the media that “in other jurisdictions, someone accepts responsibility and resigns”. He largely dismissed the Peer report, which criticised the police’s tactics and level of preparation, as “whitewash, collusion and cover-up”, suggesting that the Government was avoiding an independent investigation of the day’s events to avert being implicated. The Royal Gazette attempted to contact Mr Horton yesterday for clarification on the decisions made on December 2, but was unsuccessful. Opponents of the Government’s airport redevelopment had been called out in protest against the launch of its debate in Parliament — a decision which Mr Burt said he stood by. He criticised the report skirting the use of pepper spray on protesters as “insulting”, and called for Mr Dunkley to clarify his communications with police on December 2. “The report has not gotten to the bottom of exactly what was communicated between the Premier, the Commissioner of Police, and the Speaker of the House,” Mr Burt said. Last night, the Premier decried the comments made by Mr Burt as “misinformation and alternative facts. Bermuda is best served by sticking to the facts, so let’s do that,” Mr Dunkley said in a release. “For the record, I did not nor did any of my colleagues instruct the Bermuda Police Service at any time on police operations and tactics. The Police Commissioner confirmed as much by stating at the time that no order came from the Governor, or the Speaker, or the Premier.” The Opposition leader, Mr Dunkley said, wanted to “raise doubts about the day” for political gains. “He’s willing to cast responsibility for the events in every direction but his own,” the Premier said. “It’s gutter politics. Bermuda deserves better.”

March 31. The Bermuda Police Service has concluded its investigation into the protests outside Parliament on December 2, according to a police spokesman, with “a number of files” sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration. To date, 15 people have been issued with court summonses “relating to a range of offences”. Along with the BPS investigation into allegations of criminal conduct by some protesters, complaints from the public against police officers are being investigated, with a third issue being the independent peer review of the police response to the protests, prepared by a senior UK police officer. The use of pepper spray was outside the scope of the peer review, the spokesman said — but “multiple” complaints have been referred to the independent Police Complaints Authority. The results of its review have yet to be announced. The peer review, released by the Governor on March 28, has come under query for its scant reference to incapacitant spray, but that item was said to be outside the remit of the National Police Coordination Centre in London. “The report contains an independent assessment by an experienced public order practitioner of the planning, command, and tactics used by the police along with ten recommendations to be considered,” the spokesman said.

March 31. The system of selecting juries in Bermuda that allows for both the prosecution and defence to “stand down” jurors without providing reasons does not need to be reformed, according to Chief Justice Ian Kawaley. Mr Justice Kawaley’s comments follow a recent criminal trial involving three defendants in which it took more than a day to find 12 jurors to hear the case. The Chief Justice told The Royal Gazette that the peremptory challenge rights of criminal defendants were important to the fairness of the jury-trial process. “It will be difficult for an accused person to identify reasons for challenging jurors, if cause was required,” he added. “It would be even more time-consuming to adopt the US ‘voir-dire’ system whereby jurors are questioned by counsel to identify potential biases before they are selected.” In Bermuda, the prosecution can “stand down” jurors as they are called into the jury box. They do not have to give any reason or explanation for their decision. Similarly, a defendant has the right to make three objections once a jury panel has been chosen. He or she does not have to provide the court with reasons. In England and Wales, the prosecution and defence have no such right to stand down jurors. Mr Justice Kawaley said: “The abolition of the defendant’s right to challenge without cause in England and Wales in the late 1980s was controversial and, in my respectful view, contrary to principle. It is clearly consistent with principle for the prosecution to have the right to stand aside jurors. “It is on balance probably useful for this right to be unlimited in terms of the number jurors who can be stood aside, as long the power is exercised in the interests of justice and not in a disproportionate manner. The time taken to select juries in a small community in multi-defendant cases is not, all things considered, excessive and I see no need for any reforms.”

March 31. Rubis said it was too early to tell how much gasoline was released in a leak at their St George’s terminal earlier this week. In a statement sent to The Royal Gazette last night, the company said that an “accurate estimate” of how much gasoline was released and a timeline for the clean-up was “not available”. According to Rubis, the leak was detected in piping to a storage tank at the Ferry Road facility on Monday night. “We immediately put into action our spill response plan to stop the leak and work with authorities to begin clean-up,” the statement said. The company said the tank was contained within a “protective berm. The release posed no disruption in supplies to customers and no immediate threat to workers or neighboring properties.  However, to help assure public safety, we are working with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources to further assess how soil, air, and groundwater may have been affected and what additional clean-up actions are needed.” The statement comes after a well-placed source said the size of the spill was more than 22,000 gallons. The source — who spoke with The Royal Gazette yesterday afternoon on the condition of anonymity — also said several hours passed from the time when the leak was first detected by the company until the Government was notified. The Ministry of the Environment said it was informed of a “fuel tank breach” at the Rubis facility in a release issued on Tuesday. Information on when the leak was reported to the Government was not provided. Multiple requests for comment sent to Environment Minister Sylvan Richards’ media representative yesterday asking about the size of the spill and when the Government was notified were not responded to by publication deadline. In a statement released earlier this week, the Minister said he had visited the site on Tuesday. “There appears to be no immediate health and safety risk,” he said on Wednesday. Mr Richards said that Rubis had a team of environmental specialists arriving to deal with any damage caused by the spill. Government environment experts were also assisting with “pollution-control efforts”. Nandi Outerbridge, MP for St George’s West, confirmed to The Royal Gazette on Wednesday that the leak had been stopped. A date and time for the stoppage was not provided. Ms Outerbridge said she would be in the area this weekend speaking with constituents. Stuart Hayward, from the Bermuda Environmental and Sustainability Taskforce, complained about the “inadequate” information provided to the public after the spill. Mr Hayward said that more details of the nature of the fault — as well as the extent of the spill — should have been disclosed. “The information made available to the public about this spill has been inadequate. The authorities did not have to go into lots of detail but they should have explained what happened and why the experts needed to be brought in. That would have gone a long way to reassuring neighbors and residents. Transparency in a case like this benefits all parties,” Mr Hayward said. Earlier this week, Graham Redford, managing director at Rubis, said that properties near the facility would be visited to identify “potential issues”. On Wednesday, one area establishment told The Royal Gazette that they had been advised not to use their well, and to report any smell of gasoline. Yesterday, one Echo Lane resident confirmed that they had received a call informing them about the leak. “The sooner that the story is provided to the public, the better,” Mr Hayward said. “We should have been told what kind of leak this was; whether it was a tank or a pipe that broke, and whether the fuel has gone overboard into the sea.” Rubis said it was committed to “swiftly addressing” the incident and that it appreciated the patience of neighbors as they installed equipment needed for “monitoring and clean-up”.

March 31. US insurer Allstate is behind a new $375 million cat bond to be listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange. The BSX announced yesterday that the Sanders Re 2017-1 cat bond had been admitted for listing. The bond will cover Allstate and its subsidiaries against losses from a range of US perils, including named storms, earthquakes, severe thunderstorms, volcanic eruption and meteorite impacts, according to the Artemis website. Investors will receive a coupon of 3 per cent, Artemis reported.

March 31. NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — Bermuda-based Assured Guaranty is among bond insurers whose shares have been hit in recent days by speculation that its exposure to potential losses related to indebted Puerto Rico could turn out to be greater than previously expected. When Puerto Rico struck a deal more than a year ago to cut the government electric company’s $9 billion debt, one group was spared the hit: bond insurers, whose guarantees the island needed to win back the faith of investors. That agreement and the precedent it set are now at risk as Governor Ricardo Rossello threatens to use the bankruptcy-like powers the US has since given the territory to seek additional concessions from MBIA Inc. and Assured Guaranty Ltd. That’s triggered a decline in bond insurers’ shares over speculation about the scale of the losses they face as Puerto Rico moves towards the bigger effort to slash its entire $70 billion debt. “For an outsider coming in, like the governor, it probably doesn’t seem to him like the people of Puerto Rico got the best deal here,” said Chas Tyson, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. The push to reopen the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s December 2015 agreement — the only one the island has reached — marks an opening salvo in Rossello’s effort to pull the government out of a crisis that’s promising to impose deep losses on bondholders, who snapped up the territory’s high-yielding debt for years even as the economy contracted. Puerto Rico has already defaulted on a major swath of its debt and the fiscal recovery plan approved this month by US financial overseers would cover less than a quarter of what it owes between 2018 and 2026, assuming the government can accomplish its goals of cutting spending and raising revenue. Analysts say bond insurers have enough cash to weather their exposure to Puerto Rico and that’s reflected in the price of guaranteed commonwealth bonds, some of which trade for more than 100 cents on the dollar. But insurers’ shares have slid amid speculation the resolution will be more costly than previously anticipated. Since the end of January, MBIA has fallen 19 per cent and Assured 6 per cent, while Ambac Financial Group, which also insures Puerto Rico debt, has declined 13 per cent. The S&P 500 Index has gained more than 3 per cent over the same time. The companies that insured the debt of the utility, known as Prepa, were set to avoid paying out claims under the deal. Owners of uninsured bonds, including Franklin Advisers and OppenheimerFunds, agreed to accept 85 cents on the dollar by exchanging their securities for new debt backed by a share of residents’ electricity bills. Instead of covering payments on the other debt they guaranteed, the insurers agreed to fund a $462 million surety bond that would backstop the securities — providing investors with protection against a default. Assured and MBIA also purchased bonds from Prepa to provide the utility with cash needed to cover debt payments. Prepa’s uninsured debt is trading around 60 cents, indicating creditors got a good deal relative to the market, said Tyson. “Every dollar that you don’t spend on debt service can be passed on to utility customers in the form of lower prices,” he said. Rossello’s push has riled insurers and bondholders, who said it cast doubt on his ability to negotiate with other creditors and jeopardizes the government’s ability to return to the capital markets. If his administration can’t strike an agreement, Puerto Rico and the federal oversight board may turn to the courts to reduce what is owed, thanks to a provision included in a US law passed last year to give the island tools to deal with its debt. Puerto Rico is facing a deadline to reach out-of-court settlements with creditors by May 1, when a legal stay that’s sheltered it from the consequences of most lawsuits is set to lapse. The Prepa deal could also expire on Friday if it’s not extended, as insurers and bondholders have previously agreed to do. The gulf between Rossello and Prepa’s creditors was on public display at a March 22 congressional hearing in Washington, where Adam Bergonzi, chief risk officer of MBIA’s National Public Finance Guarantee unit, said the governor has done little to reach out to creditors. An adviser to Franklin and Oppenheimer also questioned Rossello’s failure to close the deal. On Tuesday, US Representative Doug LaMalfa, who heads the House panel that held the hearing, urged Rossello to complete the Prepa agreement by Friday’s deadline. MBIA’s National insures $8.6 billion of principal and interest payments, including $1.8 billion of Prepa debt, and had $4.6 billion of claims-paying resources at the end of 2016, according to the company’s disclosures. Assured guarantees $8.1 billion of principal and interest payments, including $1.1 billion from the utility, and had $11.7 billion to meet claims as of December 31. Syncora Guarantee Inc., which is also a party to the Prepa deal, had only about $461 million of exposure to Puerto Rico as of September 30. Ambac insures $9.7 billion of principal and interest, $7.3 billion of which comes due from 2047 to 2054, according to a filing. The company reported $8.8 billion of claims-paying resources as of December 31. It doesn’t guarantee Prepa securities. MBIA spokesman Greg Diamond, Assured Guaranty spokeswoman Ashweeta Durani and Syncora spokeswoman R. Sharon Smith declined to comment. An e-mail and phone message seeking comment from Ambac weren’t returned. Puerto Rico’s move to extract concessions from the insurance companies may be short-sighted, said Mark Palmer, managing director at BTIG LLC. He said the island may need the companies to guarantee its bonds whenever it wants to resume borrowing for public works, given that investors may be worried that it would default again if the economy doesn’t turn around. “It makes sense to use insurance where the investors are really taking risks on the insurer and not the municipality,” he said. The conflict between Puerto Rico and the utility creditors is unlikely to be resolved outside a broad agreement to restructure all of the island’s debts, said Tyson, the analyst with Keefe, Bruyette. “There’s a pretty wide distance between the governor, the oversight board and the major creditors of Prepa,” he said.

March 31.  The Bermuda Stock Exchange last month launched its “Own Your Share of Bermuda” campaign to raise awareness of opportunities to invest in the island’s public companies. The Royal Gazette is supporting the effort by publishing weekly features on each of the 13 domestic companies listed on the BSX. In the fourth of the series, Raymond Hainey looks at BF&M. Insurance is by nature a risky business — but BF&M Ltd CEO John Wight said his company and its success were built on rock-solid foundations. Mr Wight said BF&M, the island’s biggest insurer, had consistently provided good returns in excess of 9 per cent every year for the last 13 years, even in the depths of recession, and dividends had increased. He added: “We have a very good track record and our share price over that period reflects that.” And he said the firm’s move into the Caribbean had helped spread risk, with other lines of business picking up any shortfalls. The company posted net income of $19.2 million for the first nine months of 2016, up nearly $2 million from the same period the year before. The results translated to a 9.6 per cent return on shareholder equity for the Bermuda Stock Exchange-listed company. The results for the third quarter included claims from the massive fire which gutted the Ann Cartwright DeCouto building on Front Street, which was insured by BF&M, in July last year. Claims for Hurricane Nicole, which hit Bermuda last October, and Hurricane Matthew, which caused major damage in some areas of the 15 islands in which the company does business in the Caribbean, will not show up until the fourth-quarter results. Mr Wight said the company share price, which stood at $20.50 yesterday, undervalued the company. He added: “We are still undervalued — $20 reflects less than three quarters of book value. I think we’re undervalued and I think that’s because many people don’t track the fortunes of BF&M and other companies on the BSX. Looking at our continued successful track record and dividends, it’s a very strong record. We certainly feel the company is not valued at what it should be. Insurance is the type of business everybody requires — in some cases, it’s mandatory. If you have a bike, a car, need health insurance or need a pension, these are all mandated insurances. This isn’t the type of business that comes and goes. It’s the foundation for how we operate — that’s not going to change.” Mr Wight said the company offered every kind of insurance required in Bermuda, as well as pensions administration and investment advisory services. “We operate in 15 islands in the Caribbean. In each of those we operate property and casualty business and in Barbados and the Bahamas we also offer non-property and casualty insurance. Our headquarters will always be in Bermuda, but we have extensive operations in the Caymans, Barbados, Bahamas and Halifax, Nova Scotia. Some companies venture outside their core skill sets — we’ve never done that. We know our skill is in underwriting risk and pensions and advisory services. We stick to what we’re good at and we have a great track record in doing that. Just in terms of dollars and cents, our dividend is currently more than four per cent. Compare that to what you might receive on a bank account, that’s a nice return.” Anyone who invested at the start of 2010, when BF&M’s share price was $15.05, would have seen capital growth of 36 per cent over the seven years since. In addition, they would have received $5.62 per share in dividends through the end of last year, worth a further 37 per cent return on the original investment. And Mr Wight said prospects for capital appreciation were good, backed with a business plan for the future. He added: “We have a strong business plan to continue that success, to continue it beyond 2017 into the future.” According to the latest available figures, BF&M generates 70 per cent of its earnings in Bermuda, with 54 per cent from property and casualty business, 40 per cent of health, life, annuities, pensions and investment advisory services and six per cent from Bermuda real estate. Equity attributable to shareholders at the end of the third quarter last year was $271 million, while general fund assets totaled $1.1 billion, of which nearly $119 million was held in cash and cash equivalents. Gross premiums written for the period totaled $274.4 million, an increase of 5 per cent on the same period in 2015. Investment income for the nine months showed an increase of more than $19 million in the value of investments on an overall year-to-date decline in US interest rates. Commission and other income was in line with the previous year at $30.4 million and operating expenses increased by three per cent to $48.8 million. Mr Wight said: “It all starts with the people we have in our company and we have independent verification of our success. BF&M is the only company in Bermuda to have been in the Top Ten Outstanding Employers in The Bottom Line magazine every year.” He added the company was also the first on the island to achieve Investors in People gold status, while ratings agencies gave the business higher ratings than any others doing business in Bermuda or the Caribbean. Mr Wight said: “Through our financial success, we’re also able to assist the community. In 2016, we contributed to 65 charities in Bermuda. It’s very meaningful for our staff to share our good fortune with those less fortunate in our community.”

March 31. Lisa Blackburn set a new world record in the 45 to 49 age group at the Ontario Masters Swimming Championships in Toronto last weekend. She broke the record in the 100 metres freestyle in a time of 58.24 seconds and came within a whisker of setting records in her other five events at the Markham Pan Am Centre. Blackburn, who also won the 100 and 200 breaststroke, 200 individual medley and 50 freestyle, also tied the 100 individual medley world record in 1:05.61 but was later disqualified. “I didn’t get all of the records I wanted so I will keep training to get those next time,” said Blackburn, who set a record in the 100IM in the 40 to 44 category at the Rowdy Gaines Classic in Orlando in 2015. In my five events I was a total of seven-tenths of a second off breaking all of them.” Blackburn has made the switch from competing full-time to teaching as a swim coach at Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami. Sharing her knowledge with the children has been a rewarding experience for Blackburn, with the school winning the state championship for both boys and girls in November. “I’m at the pool quite a bit with my job as the assistant aquatics director, but I’m not able to swim as often as I have in the past,” said Blackburn, who represented Bermuda at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto. “I’m finding other ways to keep my training up and I’m in the pool once a day and I’m grateful for that. It’s fun and interesting because everyone learns differently and I have to be creative in how I explain things to the children. It’s been a very rewarding experience.” Blackburn returns to the island next week and plans to host an “Ace Girls Bermuda” coaching clinic at the Aquatics Centre on Saturday, April 15.

March 31. Beacon House, the headquarters of the Bermuda Society for the Blind, has been gifted a major endowment towards its renovation. A windfall of nearly $50,000 raised by the Lions Clubs of Bermuda was matched by the club’s international foundation, and presented to members Marc Morabito and Dudley Cottingham. The two received a cheque for $48,300 at the convention of Lions District 20-K2, representing Nassau County, New York and Bermuda, held at Uniondale on Long Island, New York earlier this month. Half of the local matching funds were raised through the annual gas-o-rama held by Hamilton Lions Club, courtesy of Terceira’s North Shore Rubis gas station. Beacon House, on the corner of Dundonald Street and Cedar Avenue, is undergoing upgrades to create an accessible and modern therapy and service centre for the blind and visually impaired.

March 31. Prisoners with mental health illnesses could be sent to England for treatment under a new deal between local Government departments and a healthcare charity in the UK. Three inmates have been identified as candidates for the programme offered by St Andrew’s Healthcare in Northampton, England. However, Bermuda Hospitals Board said that “complex legal considerations” still needed to be addressed before the prisoners could be transferred. “Much collaborative work has been undertaken between BHB, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Department of Court Services and Department of Corrections in finding a viable solution for the population of inmates who need mental health services,” a spokeswoman for BHB said. “While work continues to determine the most appropriate long-term solution for Bermuda, an interim solution is needed. A competitive process was therefore initiated last year to find an overseas partner to ensure people in Bermuda’s correctional facilities today are not left at risk. St Andrew’s has just been selected as the preferred bidder and the contract negotiations are due to start this week. This means it is not possible to provide concrete dates such as when people will transfer and how much it will cost at this time, but we will share this information when the contract is agreed and signed. Currently, there are three inmates who would be candidates for this service, but in addition to executing the contract, there are complex legal considerations that still need to be addressed before they can be transferred. Having a solution in place for this vulnerable population will help improve care, and improve recovery and management of mental illness.” Meanwhile, Dean Howells, executive director of nursing and quality at St Andrews, has welcomed the agreement. “This is great news. Not only does this contract brings the charity income from new sources, but much more importantly, it gives our potential services users a much improved opportunity of recovery, thanks to our personalized and holistic approach to care,” he said in a statement posted on the charity’s website. The new contract means that we can extend our reach and transform more lives.” A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health confirmed that St Andrew’s Healthcare had been selected to help Bermuda find an “interim forensic mental health solution. In both the 2015 Throne Speech and the recent 2017-18 Budget debate, Government recognized that inmates with severe mental illnesses are not adequately treated at this time, and Bermuda does not have the level of security required for safe treatment elsewhere on the island A search was conducted to find an overseas partner to provide interim, appropriate service for inmates with psychiatric diagnoses. Following a complete RFP process, St Andrew’s Healthcare was recently identified as the preferred provider. This interim solution will allow the Ministry of Health and Seniors, the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Legal Affairs, Department of Court Services, Department of Corrections, and Bermuda Hospitals Board the time to focus on the options for a more permanent solution for care of such inmates. Government recognizes that an appropriate mental health service for inmates who have psychiatric illnesses can give them a pathway to recovery and better success in managing their illness.”

March 31. “A respected and caring mother not just to her own children, but to the whole Devonshire community.” This was the poignant tribute paid last night to Rita Peniston by her family. Mrs Peniston, who was the first cousin of Dame Lois Browne-Evans and a loyal supporter of the Progressive Labour Party, passed away on Tuesday in Bermuda at the age of 73. Her three children Shernette Wolffe, Vernalda Hudgen and Shannon Peniston led the tributes to a firm but kind-hearted woman who championed social justice and equality on the island. “We did not realize the immense impact our mother had on the whole community,” Ms Wolffe said. “So many people from all walks of life have come out to support us since her passing and told us numerous stories about her. She was a very principled person and instilled in us a very strong work ethic. Values of honesty and integrity were at the top of her list. She had a very caring heart; she loved cooking and baking, and would often turn up at my work with all sorts of goodies. She was a mother not only to her children but also to all the children in the neighborhoods where we lived. She had a wit about her and was firm and feisty. She left a real legacy.” Ms Hudgen, who flew into Bermuda yesterday from Connecticut, told The Royal Gazette: “We always talked, sometimes four or five times a week, and we always talked about politics. She was always very into politics both in America and Bermuda.” Mr Peniston added: “She always stood firm, and all my friends looked up to her as a mother. She was the mother they all wanted to have.” Mrs Peniston grew up in Devonshire and attended the Berkeley Institute. She followed in the footsteps of her Ming ancestors, becoming an accomplished baker. She also went on to work as a preschool teacher at Toddler’s Garden in Devonshire. Tina Evans, Mrs Peniston’s niece, added: “My mother and her cousin, Rita, enjoyed a very close relationship. Rita was a frequent visitor to our home up until the time of my parents’ death. She was well versed and proud of our family history and would share our family connections with the younger generation. Rita was a no-nonsense woman who spoke her mind and did not hesitate to stand up for what she believed. She has been a significant matriarch to our entire family and will be sadly missed.” In 1983, Mrs Peniston ran for the PLP in the Pembroke West constituency. The party hailed her as a “dedicated member and supporter” in a statement, adding: “She was a steadfast supporter through thick and thin. A woman of principle, she was not one to hold her tongue, but she was one to ensure we stayed committed and true to our goals. She fought alongside the heroes of yesteryear in their quest for equal rights and social justice for all. And as many of her generation retired or passed on to glory, she could still be found at party functions and celebrations, supporting the PLP. The PLP family will truly miss Rita Peniston and we send our heartfelt condolences to her children, extended family, and friends. May they be comforted by their memories.” Mrs Peniston had worked at the Arnold’s store on St John’s Road in Pembroke for the past 15 years and was well-known for her dazzling hats and smart outfits. Frank Arnold described her as a “one-of-a-kind” and “well-loved” part of the Arnold’s team. “She was an excellent employee and always well presented at work,” he said. “Just recently, she took to wearing hats while in the store; she would call me up and tell me that people loved her hats and her smart outfits. And they did; Rita was a real character. She was never shy in putting her opinions out there, and came across as a very down-to-earth person. She was well loved by all and will be greatly missed.”

March 30. Visitor numbers continued to rise last month, according to statistics from the Bermuda Tourism Authority. In a statement today, the Ministry of Tourism stated that the statistics showed a 28 per cent increase in February vacation and leisure air arrivals despite 4 per cent fewer air seats. Combined with positive results in January, the statistics show year-to-date air arrivals have increased by 30 per cent. A government spokesman said: “Strong air capacity in January kept total airlift for the two months 5 per cent ahead of the first two months of last year. During the traditional shoulder season for hotel occupancy, hoteliers saw a boost of 22 per cent in filled beds for February, up 27 per cent for the first two months when compared to the same period in 2016.” The BTA declared February was the 14th month of consecutive year-over-year growth in vacation air arrivals. Cole Simons, the acting Minister of Tourism, said that it was expected that arrivals would continue to rise throughout the year, congratulating the BTA for their hard work. “Bermudians are anticipating one of the best years in the key industry of tourism for a very long time,” he said. “The Tall Ships, the America’s Cup and related regattas, added to the expected arrival of a number of the world’s super yachts, should combine with other events to flood Bermuda with excited visitors. Those coming to these events will need goods and services, which provides numerous prospects for those seeking employment or entrepreneurial opportunities. The BTA should be commended because they are equally focused in a number of other areas to ensure Bermuda succeeds in tourism beyond the America’s Cup, and beyond this banner year. We expect this tourism renaissance is not only good for hoteliers and hotel workers, but also for owners of vacation rental properties and those who are thinking about entering the home-share arena.” The BTA also expects increased cruise ship visitor arrivals throughout the year, particularly in Hamilton and St George’s, with February the only month in 2017 without a scheduled cruise ship visit.

March 30. Bermuda notched up one-fifth of all offshore deal value last year. And the island was home to the biggest transaction of 2016, according to Offshore-i, published by law firm Appleby. But the total volume and value of offshore deals was down on the previous year, in line with other offshore jurisdictions. Timothy Faries, Appleby Bermuda managing partner and group head of corporate, said: “Bermuda was again a major hub for offshore dealmakers in 2016 and recorded the year’s biggest transactions in the insurance and mining sectors. “We expect this momentum to continue, with many key drivers of a healthy deal making environment remaining in 2017.” Bermuda recorded 420 deals worth a total of $46.8 billion in 2016, representing 20 per cent of total offshore deal value. This included the biggest offshore deal of 2016 — the $6.3 billion purchase of Bermuda-based Endurance Specialty Holdings, a global speciality provider of property and casualty insurance and reinsurance. Hong Kong-based CMOC Ltd acquired Bermuda-incorporated mining company Freeport-McMoRan DRC Holdings for $2.8 billion in another local transaction among the top ten biggest offshore deals in 2016. Bermuda’s new Limited Liability Company Act, the first new corporate structure available in 100 years, is expected to add another degree of flexibility for corporate transactions in 2017, according to the report. In total, there were 2,895 deals targeting offshore companies in 2016, representing a total value of $234 billion, the report found. Each deal in the offshore top ten was worth more than $2 billion, and the region saw a total of 46 transactions in 2016 each worth at least a billion dollars, double the typical total seen as recently as five years ago. Outside of insurance, the real estate sector also featured prominently in the top ten offshore deals of the year, with the biggest being the $4.5 billion sale of CITIC Real Estate Co & Tuxiana Corporation, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and China, to China Overseas Land & Investment. The British Virgin Islands and Hong Kong were the standouts of the year as the only two offshore jurisdictions to see an increase in activity over 2015, the report found. The report said four factors will determine whether offshore M&A levels improve in 2017 — progress between EU and UK officials on establishing a new relationship, changes to the international trade and immigration policy out of the US, China’s ability to manage its economic slowdown; and progress in the euro zone's continued economic recovery. Though the primary focus of Offshore-i is on transactions in which offshore targets are purchased by investors, the report also examines deals in which the acquirer is based offshore. For the last five years, the volume of acquirer deals involving offshore-incorporated buyers has increased steadily and is now at the point where more transactions are flowing out of offshore jurisdictions than are flowing in. The year 2016 recorded 3,127 such deals worth a cumulative $339 billion. Bermuda saw a 10 per cent rise in the value of deals involving a local acquirer and highlighted a trend towards Japanese companies setting up Bermuda subsidiaries to buy up Japanese assets. Cameron Adderley, partner and global head of corporate at Appleby said: “As with inbound deals, we see a healthy spread of sectors represented in the top ten deals of the year involving an offshore acquirer, including energy, transport, data processing and software publishing. “Dealmakers are establishing holding companies offshore to take advantage of the many technical, legal and regulatory advantages of these jurisdictions, and then using those companies to make acquisitions, sometimes back in their home country.”

March 30. Senior officials from Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) were welcomed by Premier Michael Dunkley on a special courtesy visit to the Cabinet Office today. NCL executive vice-president of vessel operations Robin Lindsay and senior vice-president Luigi Lazeto, along with other key NCL personnel, are here conducting operational and logistical meetings in anticipation of providing a specialized intra-port tender service for NCL’s cruise ship passengers, beginning in a few weeks. The Premier said he “appreciated the strong relationship Bermuda has enjoyed over many years with NCL”. He also noted the importance of having cruise ship visits to Bermuda’s three ports as cruise activity “enhances value throughout the island”. Mr Lindsay said that NCL passengers enjoyed Bermuda as a “beautiful and clean resort”, adding that becoming the host venue for the America’s Cup was an impressive feat for the island, and has drawn a great deal of attention to Bermuda.

March 30. An emergency exercise is due to take place in the Dockyard area on Saturday to test contingency plans for the upcoming 35th America's Cup. The Ministry of National Security announced the measures as part of its annual security simulation — Exercise Joint Venture — which will involve a series of drills concentrating on the North and South Basin. The scenarios being tested include oil spill containment procedures, on water incident management and security screening. Representatives from the Emergency Measures Organisation (EMO) as well as representatives from other agencies will be involved. A spokeswoman for the ministry said: “All simulations will be water based. However any inconvenience to the boating public will be minimal. It is anticipated that inconvenience to the public in the Dockyard vicinity will also be minimal. The public is reminded that emergency simulations are required periodically to test Bermuda’s readiness in the event of a crisis situation.” The exercise is due to take place between 8am and 6pm.

March 30. Law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman is to rebrand its international support arm Codan to Conyers Client Services. Narinder Hargun, director and co-chairman of the Bermuda branch of CD&P said: “We have built strong teams in our legal and client services businesses and it is timely to bring these offerings together, under the Conyers name, allowing us to remain competitive and continue to add value to our clients.” Codan provides corporate administration, secretarial, trust and management services to organisations established in Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Caymans and Mauritius. The company said bringing the client services division under the same banner as the legal side “reflects the seamlessness of our organisation in its commitment to delivering a full suite of services through our global network”. David Lamb, partner and co-chairman of CD&P’s Hong Kong office, added: “While there have been firms who have sold their fiduciary businesses in recent years, we are unifying our offering to provide first-class legal services and corporate secretarial, trust and management services to our clients.” CD&P employs 500 professionals across eight global markets in both legal and client services. Clients include FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies, international finance houses, asset managers and the super-rich.

March 30. The Royal Navy warship on which the first Bermudian to die in the First World War served has been awarded war grave status in Britain. HMS Aboukir, along with three other Royal Navy vessels, has been given the designation that provides legal protection to the wreck and prohibits casual visits from divers or scavengers. William Smith, a young black Royal Navy sailor from Somerset, was one of more than 500 men to perish when the Aboukir was torpedoed by a German U-boat in the North Sea on September 22, 1914. Mr Smith, who had worked at the Royal Naval Dockyard before leaving Bermuda to go to sea in 1912, was only 22 when he died. He was the first of more than 80 Bermudians serving in the Bermuda Militia Artillery and the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps who gave their lives during the following four years. Conflict archaeologist and researcher Andy Brockman investigated the unauthorised salvage of HMS Aboukir and the other wrecks of the what was called the “Live Bait Squadron”. He told The Royal Gazette: “Having spent so long telling concerned archaeologists, historians and even the families of the Live Bait Squadron crews that it was not possible to designate the ships under the UK Protection of Military Remains Act, the fact that the Ministry of Defence has now designated the ships is real progress. It is also a tribute to the dedicated work of campaigners, especially the Anglo Dutch Live Bait Squadron Society founded by Dutch teacher Henk van der Linden, in promoting the cause of protecting the wrecks as a memorial to the 1,459 members of their crews who were lost on September 22, 1914 and to the Dutch seafarers who saved so many survivors. Henk has just received a thoroughly deserved British Empire Medal for his work. Because the ships are in the Dutch zone of the North Sea, designation under the Act only applies to UK vessels and UK nationals, but the Netherlands is about to ratify the Unesco Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, which protects all underwater heritage more than 100 years old. It also gives agencies of law enforcement an additional, very powerful tool under International Law to help them prosecute those who see our shared underwater history as a commercial resource to be strip mined for private gain. The people of Bermuda should also be very proud of 1st Class Cook William Edmund Smith, the first Bermudian to die serving during the First World War, as his story has been quoted specifically during the campaign to protect the ships.” Mr Smith was the son of William Felix Smith and his wife Emma Jane, née Douglas. Their homestead on Herman’s Hill, Somerset overlooks the Great Sound on one side and Sound View Road on the other. Mr Smith’s name is on a War Memorial at a churchyard in Kent; St James Parish Church, Somerset and in the Somerset Methodist Church on Long Bay Lane. Thirteen wartime vessels have been added to the lists of protected military vessels this month, including HMS Anglia, HMS Aboukir, HMS Cressy and HMS Hogue. This brings the total number of ships and submarines protected as war graves to 79.

March 30. One month after being sworn in as one of the youngest Cabinet ministers in Bermuda’s history, Nandi Outerbridge is acting on her promise to tackle the issue of delinquent parents in Bermuda. Ms Outerbridge, who turns 30 next month, told The Royal Gazette that a Cabinet Committee had been formed to find solutions to the problem of parents who refuse to support their children financially while formulating a pathway to employment for those parents who are struggling to meet their financial obligations. It is an issue close to her heart as she raised her son Shiia while a single mother and, as she puts it, “wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth”. In her first full-length interview since being sworn in as Minister for Social Development and Sport on February 23, Ms Outerbridge told us: “We have endeavored to first start exploring the parents who are not working and how we as a government create a pathway to get them employed so that they can start making these payments and paying down the arrears. That ultimately benefits the child, so I am excited that we have started that. I have written to the AG’s chambers to get an idea of the number of delinquent parents in Bermuda. It is ultimately about holding them accountable for their children and if we as a government can create some sort of pathway to get them employed, then why not help them? It is about creating the opportunity or environment.” Her personal experiences will further influence her political direction. Ms Outerbridge, who remarried after separating from the father of her child, said while she never used Financial Assistance, she did benefit from the Child Day Care Allowance Programme. Now she is working on a joint government committee formed by Progressive Labour Party’s shadow health minister Kim Wilson to address some of the issues faced by women in Bermuda. She said: “I raised my child — I had family support with my mom and sister but I raised him on my own. I did use the Child Day Care Allowance Programme at one point when my son was in nursery school and that helped significantly, I can tell you, that $800 per month really made a big difference. Here I am — I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth — I have actually worked. I was part-time bar tending at one point to make ends meet. One of the biggest challenges that young mothers face is finding time to balance work and family. I don’t know how you begin to address that without consulting all stakeholders. I have been involved with the government committee formed by MP Wilson and we agreed to have a joint government committee to address some of the issues that women are facing. That committee has been meeting and some recommendations will be brought forward in short order from that.” Speaking on the $1 million cut to Financial Assistance in the last budget, Ms Outerbridge highlighted that some $850,000 was due to nursing home grants being shifted over to the Ministry of Health and Seniors coupled with some cuts to administration costs. She said that the funds available for applicants of Financial Assistance remains about the same as the previous year. Ms Outerbridge first became involved in politics as a member of the One Bermuda Alliance’s youth wing Future Bermuda Alliance in 2012 where she was deputy chairman. Becoming one of the youngest members of Parliament on the election of the OBA, she became MP for St George’s West, Constituency 2, shadow for the Ministry of National Security and Government Whip in the House of Assembly. Then in February she was sworn in as Minister for Social Development and Sport at the age of 29 though she has not been able to ascertain whether she is Bermuda’s youngest cabinet minister. Ms Outerbridge is quick to admit that she was surprised to be offered the position and said she understood there might be concerns in the community that she has a lack of experience for such a high-profile position. But she remains bullish in terms of her ability to overcome any challenges through hard work and the support of seasoned colleagues. Speaking of her short spell in Cabinet, she said: “It is has definitely been zero to 60 but I am grateful to have been helped by the ministry and political colleagues — everyone has thrown in their assistance. I was surprised. I think there were a few people who would, honestly speaking, say they were surprised that I had even made it. I am a pretty hard worker and the one advantage that I do have is that I have such a great relationship with all of my colleagues. I am a researcher as well. I don’t go into situations blind — I actually do some work — but what I don’t know I lean on them for the support. This has helped not only in my cabinet position but my political career thus far.” She was also surprised when asked by the OBA leadership to run for Constituency 2. She said: “At first I thought ‘wow really — me?’ But I got the experience of being on the doorstep, canvassing and meeting people. If anyone knows me they will know that I am 100 per cent behind whatever I do and I ended up winning the seat. That was an eye-opener. Once I started that journey I started to speak to newly appointed ministers about some initiatives that I had in mind and here we are today.” One issue that falls under her ministry that will need considerable political acumen is the issue of violence and gang-related activity that has plagued many of the island’s sporting clubs. Ms Outerbridge has been visiting the clubs to discuss some of the major issues they are facing. “It’s nice having the introductions but it is time to start building relationships to see how we can all chip in and address this. Most clubs are undergoing Scars and CPR training — they are getting their volunteers and executives to take the training. They are making the steps now and that is something that we can be proud of.” On the issue of many clubs being mostly supported by revenues made at their drinking establishments, Ms Outerbridge added: “I would hope that clubs can start looking at other initiatives, like what sponsors to get on board or fundraisers for clubs. But when you think of the operational cost of a club and the amount of money that alcohol brings in ... everyone has to put on their thinking caps. We do youth programmes so maybe there could be an educational portion at an additional fee, but times are hard so you don’t want to start increasing fees. Something does needs to be done to raise additional funds.” Speaking on historic cases of sex abuse in football clubs and whether police checks should be in place for those working with children, she added: “I think it is a conversation that can be held but I would want to get more information behind it first before making a clear statement.” Another area of interest for Ms Outerbridge is social programming. She prides herself on the work she does in the community including her work mentoring for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bermuda and coaching her son’s under-8 football team. The new Salvation Army facility is something she is keen to get off the ground. She aims to advocate against age discrimination and she is hosting an event in May for single parents that will include free legal advice and access to parliamentarians. And while she may be finding her feet as a minister, her aspirations are high. “I’m excited to be involved at such a young age because it gives me the stepping stone to go far — there are endless possibilities, my focus as a young black female within government is making sure that those are the voices that are heard.” Asked whether we could see this young female eventually run for the top political seat of the land, she added: “I’ll go for it, that is not off the table to be honest. Being able to give back to your community is huge.”

March 30. At the start of the year, the historical HMS Malabar property was a broken shell of a building, slowly crumbling away after lying empty for more than two decades. But today the former naval supply headquarters that was built in 1899 as the residence of the Office-in-Charge of Works is on the brink of a remarkable revival. For more than two months, between 20 and 30 workers from two local contractors have undertaken the major renovation project while trying to preserve original features including flooring, banisters, stairways and even the cast iron safes once used to hold money. The new windows for the naval structure, which is also known as Moresby House, have been painstakingly carved from Accoya wood in Bermuda by local firm Strike Force and installed. Andrew Dias, general manager of the West End Development Corporation, told The Royal Gazette that the construction project, which will also include landscaping and a new porch, will be complete before the end of April. “These guys have made pretty amazing progress,” Mr Dias said. “The front section of the property is being totally restored like-for-like so it will look just like it used to be. In the back section, we have replaced the majority of the woodwork as well as erecting a new roof and structural beams to create a larger, open space. Significant grading of the land around the property has also taken place and the entrance has been moved farther east for safety reasons. The porch phase of the project should be starting within the next two weeks and we will be 100 per cent finished within three to four weeks; April 20 is the date that has been set.” The end of the HMS Malabar project will coincide with the completion of a series of other historical renovation projects that have been under way at the entrance to Dockyard. The Bungalow Cottage and the Star of India, which neighbors HMS Malabar, are also expected to be finished within the next month, while work on Prince Alfred Terrace should finish this week. Wedco has overseen and funded most of the projects, although it received a $3 million government grant for the work on Moresby House that will be paid back under a promissory note. “We have been upgrading the properties in Dockyard for a number of years,” Mr Dias said. “And many of these projects that are coming to fruition now have been in the pipeline for some time. The impetus for doing more at once has partially been down to the America’s Cup and hurricane repair funds becoming available, but it’s important to stress that these projects would have taken place, albeit they might have taken longer to complete.”

March 30. Premier Michael Dunkley said the Bermuda Government was “closely following” developments after the United Kingdom began the process to leave the European Union. The announcement from the Premier comes after British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty yesterday. The move signals the beginning of a legal process needed for Britain to leave the EU. Last month, Mr Dunkley and Minister of Finance Bob Richards travelled to London for discussions ahead of the move. “Our obligation as leaders and representatives of the Overseas Territories was to ensure that we explore all relevant opportunities and uphold our economic stability throughout the negotiation process,” the Premier said last night. “We agreed with the UK that when it leaves the European Union, the strong relationship we have with the EU and the important mutual trade and business links we share should continue.” The Premier said he would meet leaders in June for the next phase of negotiations. Mr Dunkley said the UK and Overseas Territories governments would continue to work towards adopting a “joint framework” for dialogue on three agreed priority areas of interest in relation to the EU — market access and trade, borders and free movement, and EU funding.

March 30. Independent UK newspaper. British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit launch suffered a series of heavy blows after key planks of her opening strategy were point-blank rejected by Europe’s top politicians. German chancellor Angela Merkel publically dismissed her plan to begin talks on a lucrative trade deal, saying negotiations on Britain’s EU divorce – including a bill potentially hitting €60bn – must come first. European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt then brushed off what was described by others as Ms May’s “blatant threat” to withdraw British terror and crime-fighting co-operation, in order to extract a good trade deal. Asked if he thought Ms May was engaged in "blackmail", the European Parliament's co-ordinator for Brexit said: "I try to be a gentleman, so towards a lady I don't even use or think about the word 'blackmail'." Back in London the Prime Minister was accused of souring the fledgling Brexit talks with her attempt to tie pan-European security collaboration to any deal. The fallout followed the delivery of Ms May’s historic letter to President of the European Council Donald Tusk, officially notifying him of the UK’s intention to trigger Article 50 and quit the bloc. Ms May was speaking in Parliament as Britain’s Ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow personally passed the letter to Mr Tusk in Brussels at 12.20pm. While some Tory Brexiteers beamed in the Commons, the Chamber was uncharacteristically staid as the Prime Minister told the country to not “face to the past and believe it can’t be done”, but instead trust in “the enduring power of the British spirit”. After receiving the letter in front of a display of Union Jack and EU flags, Mr Tusk spoke of his sorrow at Europe’s rupture, telling Britain “we already miss you”. But the grief quickly gave way to the harsh realities of the European negotiating table, as Ms Merkel poured cold water on one of her British counterpart’s key demands. Speaking to reporters in Berlin, the German leader said negotiations on British divorce terms would take place first and that only then could the much-desired UK-EU trade talks take place. She said: “The negotiations must first clarify how we will disentangle our interlinked relationship... and only when this question is dealt with, can we, hopefully soon after, begin talking about our future relationship.” In her letter to Mr Tusk, the Prime Minister underlined several times how the UK believes “it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the European Union”. Concurrent negotiations would make it easier for Ms May to secure trade terms before the UK drops out of the EU at midnight on March 29 2019. But the force of the EU’s negotiating position, often denied by Brexiteers, was clear as the European Council stood with Ms Merkel in emphasizing that divorce terms must be settled first. That means Britain may be pushed into agreeing to settle its financial “obligations” to Brussels, which may reach €60bn by some estimates, before it can begin to talk about a trade deal that will help secure the country’s economic future. Ms May had softened some of the language in her Article 50 letter and statement to the Commons, following her January Lancaster House speech which saw her warn she would leave the EU with “no deal” if she did not get what she wanted. But her apparent attempts to be more amenable were overshadowed by her perceived threat to withdraw security co-operation from Europe. Her Article 50 letter to Brussels repeatedly tied security links to any future agreement and warned that the “fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened” if one cannot be struck. Downing Street officials later said the Prime Minister was merely making “a simple statement of fact” that if no deal is reached, it would mean existing arrangements on security co-operation would lapse. They said she was referring only to co-operation linked to EU membership like the European Arrest Warrant and shared databases, while Home Secretary Amber Rudd pointed out that the UK is the largest contributor to the pan-European crime-fighting agency Europol. Sources underlined that the PM’s words were not referring to intelligence sharing that takes place bilaterally between agencies or military aid provided to Eastern Europe through Nato, but raising security as an issue still provoked a response. Mr Verhofstadt said: “What we shall never accept is that there is a trade-off between the one and other. Saying, oh, we can do a good deal on security – internal and external – but there is also a deal that we want on trade and economics. I think the security of our citizens is far too important to start a trade off from one to the other.” Chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee Yvette Cooper said withdrawing security cooperation would be “an act of self-harm”, adding: “She should not be trying to use this as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn denounced Ms May's plans as “both reckless and damaging”, but Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron went further branding the move “shameful” and a “blatant threat” that would backfire. “With growing terrorist threats from around the world, it is imperative that we work together with European allies for our mutual security. She is prepared to put the safety of British and European citizens on the line just so she can deliver her hard Brexit,” he said. Ex-attorney general and Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said: “It is in Britain’s vital national interests that we retain, and even strengthen, our security cooperation with the EU after Brexit." Ms May’s letter also shed light on her approach to Brexit, as she said she expected there to be a significant increase in the powers of devolved assemblies as a result of any deal. She added that she could seek “implementation periods” for different parts of any deal, later expanding in an interview that it may mean the continuation of some elements of free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court after 2019. The Prime Minister explained that “financial services” and “network industries” that rely on supply chains and the movements of parts, such as the automotive sector, would be a priority. She called on EU leaders to prioritize how we “manage the evolution of our regulatory frameworks”, suggesting that future UK regulation may still have to mirror the EU’s in order to maintain an “open trading environment”.

March 30. Jason Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, has confirmed he is among protesters issued with a court summons for April 7 after demonstrating outside Parliament. A key member of the People’s Campaign activist group that turned out on December 2, 2016, against Bills to be tabled for the airport redevelopment, Mr Hayward denounced the court action as “another effort by the Government to use the courts as a political tool to oppress those that stand up against their agenda”. He said that the Government was setting out to “destroy any opposition to their rule”. Mr Hayward told this newspaper that the review of police actions released on Tuesday made it “absolutely clear that the police got it wrong on the day.” Protesters that morning had prevented MPs from accessing Parliament, and shortly after 1pm they clashed with a police group that went to clear the gate on the southern edge of the grounds. The report, which faulted both the tactics and preparation by police, acknowledged that some police had responded with pepper spray after officers were assaulted. But Mr Hayward said that despite the “rhetoric” from Michael DeSilva, the Commissioner of Police, “no police were threatened to the extent that pepper spray was warranted” — calling its use “aggressive and irresponsible”. “Especially the white cop who in a John Wayne style sprayed protesters as if they were nothing more than a bunch of black cockroaches,” he added, in reference to one officer at the gates whose image was widely circulated via social media. “Someone needs to be held accountable for those actions.” Mr Hayward said he had been summoned to Plea Court on two charges: firstly, that he “advisedly prevented entry into the House of Assembly grounds, an act calculated to interfere with the free exercise by a Minister of Finance of his duties or authority of his office as minister” — and secondly that he had “wilfully obstructed police officers while such officers were acting in execution of their duty”. Summonses were received by several Bermuda Industrial Union members in connection with the incident. Mr Hayward said the first charge was a misdemeanor, was liable on conviction to 12 months’ imprisonment, or up to two years if convicted on indictment, while the second charge, if found guilty, carried a summary conviction of imprisonment up to six months, a fine of $2,880, or both. It would be the second occasion that Mr Hayward’s opposition to the airport deal has ended in court. In 2015 he was sued for defamation by finance minister Bob Richards after decrying the proposal on the air during a news broadcast on behalf of the People’s Campaign. The case was dropped last year after Mr Hayward apologized for the remarks.

March 30. Six private landscaping firms, of all whom bid through an open tendering process, have begun grooming eight areas of the Railway Trail. The work is required after Bermuda was hit by several hurricanes and storms in recent years. “As a result, there is considerable horticultural debris along the Trail and the walking area has narrowed,” said Acting Parks Director Jonelle Christopher. “As always after a major storm like Hurricane Nicole, the Parks Department team immediately clears main roads, then smaller roads so that the public can get help if needed. After that, schools are the priority. The Trail was made safe, but we recognized the need for a thorough clean-up of debris.” Minister of the environment Sylvan Richards added: “The Railway Trail is a 73-acre linear park within the National Park System and is one of Bermuda’s most prized recreation areas. It’s a great place for people to be out with family and friends enjoying our natural surroundings. Given our growing season, maintenance is a year-round commitment. I am confident that this intense three-month solution will put us in good stead ahead of this year’s storm season.” Landscape services are presently under way in the following trail sections: 

“The overall scope of services includes scheduled grass cutting of selected Railway Trail areas, selective shrub pruning, selective removal of invasive small trees, shrubs, grasses and ground covers, and management of horticultural waste,” explained a Government spokesperson. “Once this three-month landscaping project is complete, the Department intends to develop a sustainable approach to maintaining this valuable asset within the Parks system. The Department appreciates the public’s patience as we improve and enhance this national resource for all to enjoy.”

March 30. Ronald Raynor, a 55-year-old Pembroke resident, has lost his life in an unspecified incident in Jamaica, The Royal Gazette understands. Mr Raynor divided his time between the island and Montego Bay, where the incident is believed to have occurred. Further details were unavailable from Jamaican authorities. Although the Bermuda Police Service has yet to release a name, a statement today said that the BPS was “aware of the death of a Bermudian man in Jamaica under suspicious circumstances”. A BPS family liaison officer has been assigned to the deceased’s family to assist during this difficult time. We are continuing to reach out to the Jamaican authorities for more information and to offer assistance as best we can.”

March 30. Firefighters responded to a hazardous materials call in St George’s early evening on Wednesday. Two vehicles and six firefighters responded to the call at a facility on the Southside property. According to Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Delton White, the call was made to address what was thought to be toxic smoke and fumes released by approximately one gallon of an unknown substance. “The five staff members on site when the incident occurred immediately evacuated the building,” Mr White said. On arrival, firefighters donned protective suits which allowed them to enter the building. “After the substance was contained, they then re-entered the building to carry out ventilation of the premises to ensure it would be safe for staff to enter,” Mr White said. Information on the substance was not provided.

March 30. A fuel leak for which two international environmental specialists have been brought to Bermuda has been stopped, a St George’s MP has confirmed. The spill at the Rubis facility on Ferry Road was reported to the Ministry of the Environment on Tuesday. “The leak has been stopped with work now focused on minimizing any impact of the spill,” Nandi Outerbridge, MP for St George’s West, said in a statement to The Royal Gazette yesterday afternoon. She said Rubis took “quick action once the leak was detected” and added that government agencies “moved quickly in support”. Ms Outerbridge said she would be in touch with area residents as more information was provided. In a statement released yesterday afternoon, Minister of the Environment Sylvan Richards said he had visited the site of the spill the day before. “There appears to be no immediate health and safety risk,” he said. Mr Richards said that Rubis had a team of environmental specialists arriving yesterday to deal with any damage caused by the spill. Government environment experts were also assisting with “pollution-control efforts”, he said. No details have yet been provided on the size or cause of the spill. Graham Redford, managing director at Rubis, said that the company had contracted Arcadis US, a global leader in environmental remediation. "They are sending their principal geologist and a field engineer,” he said. The geologist and engineer, Mr Redford said, would prepare a plan based on their findings. “Additionally, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, neighboring properties will be visited to identify any potential issues,” he said. One establishment in the area told The Royal Gazette that they had been advised not to use their well, and to report any detected odor of gasoline. Two residents — one on Echo Lane and one on Shore Hills Lane — reached by The Royal Gazette by telephone early on yesterday evening said that they had not been contacted about the fuel spill. Jonathan Starling, executive director at Greenrock, said the incident highlighted the “serious” threat that fossil fuels posed to public health and the local environment. “At the moment we are unaware of the exact nature and seriousness of the incident at the Rubis fuel storage facility at Ferry Reach,” Mr Starling said. "It has been variously described as a fuel tank breach and an oil spill. Without more information about the incident, we are limited in what we can say at the moment. Ultimately, we see this incident as underlining why we need to move away from fossil fuels and start phasing in renewable energy alternatives."

March 30. Senator Jeff Baron this morning officially proclaimed April as Alcohol Awareness Month, urging parents to talk to their children about alcohol. Joined by Progressive Labour Party MP Michael Weeks, Anthony Santucci, the executive director of CADA, and Joanne Dean, Director of the Department for National Drug Control, Mr Baron said it was critical that young people were educated about alcohol. “The objective for Alcohol Awareness Month, 2017 is to raise public awareness about underage drinking,” he said. “This year we are encouraging parents and adults to take personal responsibility for making alcohol less accessible to our young people. The younger a person is when they begin consuming alcohol, the more likely they are to develop an addiction to alcohol. Statistics tell us that youth who drink are more likely to be involved in alcohol-related traffic crashes, and to have serious school-related problems so it’s imperative to have a supportive family environment which helps with lowered rates of alcohol use for adolescents.” Mr Baron said that according to statistics, children who discuss alcohol with their parents are 50 per cent less likely to engage in underage drinking, adding: “That’s where the education begins, that’s where the empowerment begins. When we stop and talk to young people.” Mr Weeks said that the issue of underage drinking goes well beyond a policing matter, saying: “This is a health issue. This is a community issue, so we all have to do our part to make sure our children are safe.” He noted that successful strategies to address underage drinking have been introduced in Iceland, saying that country’s “enforced common sense” approach has reduced in underage drinking falling from 42 per cent to 5 per cent. Mr Santucci, meanwhile, stated that as part of Alcohol Awareness Month, CADA would be hosting several events aimed at curbing alcohol abuse including a forum on the subject of underage drinking and the screening of a documentary about road collisions in Bermuda. 

March 30. A Bermuda-based software development company has launched a new one-stop place for data aimed at the growing captive insurance industry. Bespoke Software said their new inTell Captive software streamlined data and made it easier for captive managers to access, use and analyze the information they hold. Now the company is to showcase inTell Captive to the on-island industry and plans to exhibit its capabilities at the annual Bermuda Captive Conference in September. Paul McLeod, president of Hamilton-based Bespoke, said: “It’s a business intelligence end-to-end solution developed with the captive insurance industry in mind. “It allows captive management companies to pull together all the data they have around their captive insurance companies. Traditionally, the captive industry has been very late to market as it were in addressing technology capabilities, specifically around their data. The captive market is growing very rapidly and putting competitive pressure on this space and being able to leverage your data is a good way to stay competitive. It’s a way for captive management companies to realize benefits from their data. That data is useless unless you can do something with it. It’s an asset of the organisation and money can be made leveraging that asset, investing in that asset and realizing a return on it.” The company said that inTell Captive can get companies up and running within four months compared to traditional data-warehousing methods that can take two to three years to set up. The system can report and track results, allowing for faster and more effective business decisions, ease regulatory reporting burdens and provide forecasting and planning. The product also manages foreign exchange, reducing the cost of captive management and give a competitive edge through mobile, online access to data, dashboards benchmarking and performance analysis. It also provides tools for reconciliation, audit and compliance to assist in operations and regulatory reporting. Mr McLeod said: “A lot of these companies will manage the data they collect in different ways — spreadsheets, accounting systems — and the ability for someone to pull all that together is almost non-existent. What we have is a way for competitive management companies to realize benefits from their data. We talk to these companies and they all talk about how the pressures are increasing on them to have this data.” And Mr McLeod pointed out that increasing regulation meant that authorities were demanding more and more information from companies. He added: “If you are a company managing hundreds of captive insurance companies, that’s an enormous effort — it should be almost an automated process.”

March 30. Three Somersfield Academy students are on a mission to tackle invasive plant species at Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve. Tyler DeCouto, Jaden Smith and Marco Stirling will also be preparing longtail bird houses for installation at the national park as part of their M3 community service project. “Bermuda is our home and we want to keep Bermuda pristine,” Tyler, 13, told The Royal Gazette. “The invasive plant species are totally wiping out our native species and not allowing Bermuda to be Bermuda.” Marco, 14, added that it “is important that we preserve our natural plant species. It is part of our heritage. It’s what makes Bermuda’s natural environment.” The trio choose a subject they were all passionate about and then started the planning process last June, brainstorming over the summer. They reached out to the Bermuda National Trust, who pointed them to Cooper’s Island Nature Reserve. With the assistance of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, they visited the area to pick a spot to work on, figure out what the work would involve and how to go about it. “For our specific topic, we’re going to be taking students out for physical action,” Marco said. The team will be joined by their whole grade for the clean-up day tomorrow. We’re going to be focusing on the area very close to the entrance on the coastal side. It’s going to be a whole day of work.” Jaden, 14, explained: “We’re going to be removing some invasive plant species such as the casuarina tree.” He added that they are also looking to remove Brazilian peppers, morning glory, Indian laurels and asparagus fern “just to name a few. They are category one invasive species, meaning that these are the biggest threat to Bermuda’s natural identity.” While their classmates will focus mainly on removing saplings, the team will be some getting help from the DENR to cut down some of the larger trees. There are already cedar trees and some olive wood shrubs on site to plant instead. Adding that “it’s a beautiful site”, Marco said there were also plans to put a bench in the area. But the trio have also planned to build two longtail igloos because the longtail population and the cahow population have been competing for territory. Tyler said: “We do want to keep both species so its best to just make spaces for longtails to live. They chose the location and the rocks will be smoothed so that a foam dome can be placed securely. This will be covered with concrete before an opening is cut. “Cahows need complete darkness to nest, so if you leave a hole in the side of the igloo, natural light still gets in,” Tyler explained. The group have created a Facebook page and they are also working on a website, which they hope to get up and running in the next few weeks, to raise awareness. And tomorrow, Tyler will be taking pictures and shoot footage to incorporate into a video they plan to showcase at the community project day fair in May. But the trio plan to continue their work even after the initial project is complete. “We wouldn’t just want to drop it because we’ve put so much work into getting the project up and running and communicating with those at the Bermuda National Trust,” Marco said. According to Tyler, this would hopefully involve more clean-up days and possibly expanding these so the general public can join the effort.

March 30. A 36-year-old Sandys man has been fined $200 for stealing $15.66 worth of codfish. Appearing in Magistrates’ Court this morning, Kinole Simons pleaded guilty to the offence that happened at Arnold’s Family Market in Sandys on February 2. The court heard that the butcher saw Simons place the packet of fish in his trousers. The butcher alerted the store manager, who informed the security officer. The security officer then observed Simons pick up various other goods, which he paid for before leaving the store. Simons was confronted by the store manager and the security officer. He pulled up his jacked and the packet of fish fell to the ground. He fled when the security officer tried to detain him and the police were called. They arrested Simons on March 13. In court today, Simons’ defence lawyer said he was apologetic and embarrassed. He added that Simons had been “hard up on cash” and hungry. Despite asking for either an absolute or a conditional discharge, magistrate Khamisi Tokunbo handed him a $200 fine.

March 29. The Bermuda Health Council has outlined its priorities in the year ahead which includes improving road safety and driving down healthcare costs. Improving health facilities through inspections, improving access to health insurance and developing policies to regulate the price of drugs while improving patient identity are among the aims outlined in BHC’s Corporate Plan for 2017 to 2018. Tawanna Wedderburn, CEO, said: “The Corporate Plan helps the Health Council continue to work towards building a sustainable and equitable health system. This plan enhances transparency about what the Health Council does and why we do it. It holds us accountable to Bermuda’s residents, ensuring that we all have access to safe, affordable, quality care. This is especially important at a time when healthcare costs are high and the focus is on chronic, non-communicable diseases.” Specific priorities outlined in the plan are to: promote Bermuda’s health system as a safe and trusted system; encourage constructive dialogue about healthcare that fuels better health outcomes; and mobilize collaboration among all who have a vested interest in the success of Bermuda’s health system. Objectives by priority include improving road safety by collaborating eyesight standards, assessing gaps in end-of-life care by reporting on services and costs while publishing professional registers so that the public knows who is trained to deliver care, according to the Plan. It also aims to encourage statutory boards to develop practice guidelines and standards and to publish an annual report on the performance of statutory boards. In terms of financing and economics, the council will develop and implement policy to regulate the price of drugs for chronic physical and mental conditions, advise the public on appropriate healthcare costs and expanding options for care by approving private facilities to receive reimbursement for Standard Health Benefits. It aims to generate revenue through new or increased duties and taxes on unhealthy food items and collaborate to produce a report comparing Bermuda with other health systems in small islands. There are also priorities in the area of accountability and regulation including improving access to health insurance by removing pre-existing conditions requirements and inspecting health facilities to encourage quality care.

March 29. ‘Experiencing Bermuda’ is the theme of this year’s Hospitality Month which will include a variety of events through April. Hosts Bermuda Hospitality Institute are hoping to attract as many residents and visitors as possible. The month, which includes Scavenger hunts, prizes and other events, will be launched at City Hall on April 4 at noon. BHI’s executive director Malika Cartwright said: “The theme for Hospitality Month over the past few years has been ‘Experiencing Bermuda’ and we are continuing with that, but in a more creative way. In the past getting people to actually go out and experience different sights and landmarks on the island was a challenge, that’s why this year we decided to make it as interactive as possible by introducing the scavenger hunt. We are encouraging people to download the BVO app or pick up the clues weekly from the Hamilton Visitors Information Centre; then in their free time they are encouraged to go out and explore all corners of Bermuda to compete for prizes from places like Cambridge Beaches, Fun Golf and Lindo’s, just to name a few. Those who visit the locations found in all 30 clues will be entered into a draw for a grand prize. In addition to getting people to have fun, the goal is to get residents ready for the influx of visitors Bermuda is going to have in the lead-up to the 35th America’s Cup in June. So when a visitor asks you a question you are able to say ‘I went to this place and I tried this’. Another aim is to get people reconnected with the island. A lot of times we get so busy with our routine we don’t take the time to visit these iconic and beautiful Bermuda locations. Some people have never been to these spots, others haven’t been in a long time. This is a chance to go out and explore the island and see what we have to offer and why we always tell people ‘we live where you vacation’.” For the entire month of April, Rosa’s will be concocting a speciality drink and all proceeds from that, and any blooming onions ordered, will go towards BHI’s various education and training programmes. On Wednesday, April 12, BHI will host a special graduation ceremony for those who completed their waiter server programme through the Division of Professional & Career Education (PACE) at Bermuda College. On this occasion, they will also recognise a few of their hospitality training students who took part in the START initiative. For more information, visit bhi.bm.

March 29. Police continue to investigate an unconfirmed incident involving a firearm in Sandys early on Monday morning. The incident occurred along Mangrove Bay Road at around 1.40am. According to police, a 30-year-old Sandys man was driving a car along the road when it was damaged. “Traffic collision investigation and forensic support unit personnel attended the area, however there was no evidence to substantiate that a firearm was discharged at that time,” police said last night. The driver of the vehicle was later arrested on suspicion of impaired driving. Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 295-0011.

March 29. Michael DeSilva said he would not step down after the release of a critical peer review of police procedures surrounding the protest on December 2. The Commissioner of Police made the statement at a press conference yesterday afternoon. The review, by Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead of the National Police Co-ordination Centre in Britain, which looked at the protest that took place outside the House of Assembly nearly four months ago, was released by Governor John Rankin. The review is separate from two other active investigations: one examining allegations of criminal conduct by protesters, the other into complaints brought against police officers. Asked whether he would resign after the release of the report, which questioned police action on the day of the protest, Mr DeSilva said he would not. “I don’t think that’s warranted, quite frankly,” he said. Among the three key findings of the report was that officers were “not adequately trained” to deal with the “unexperienced levels of determination” and that the tactics adopted were doomed to fail. According to Mr DeSilva, a focus on policing guns and gangs in recent years led to officers being unequipped to deal with the type of protest they encountered. “The BPS focused its limited training resources towards firearms command, forensic capability and the investigation of serious crime,” the commissioner said. “This has created a gap in our public order training that we clearly recognise and we are moving swiftly to close.” A lack of similar recent protests is also partially to blame for officers being unprepared, he said. “We haven’t had protests of that scale, where any confrontation has been an issue,” the commissioner said. “We’ve had large-scale protests, but that’s been a case of managing people, and traffic, and making sure that they don’t trip over each other.” The use of a “bubble tactic” — usually intended to protect the movement of a person through a crowd — employed by police to gain access to the House of Assembly, was “always likely to be unsuccessful” and “futile”, the report found. Mr DeSilva admitted the tactic was “not effective”. In its other two key findings, the report said that police operations “needed to have commenced earlier and been better informed”, and that “appropriate protester and stakeholder engagement strategies need to be adopted by the BPS for all issues that may potentially result in protest.” The use of pepper spray by officers — touched on only briefly within the executive summary of the report — was not indiscriminate, Mr DeSilva said. “Those officers that felt threatened by protesters used pepper spray to defend themselves,” he said. The escalation that led to the deployment of the spray, he said, was in part because of police expecting “compliance” from protesters. “That was our experience in the past, and we did not expect that protesters would continue to block the gates. We actually thought they would remove themselves from the gate, and while the protest would have taken place, we did expect that they would open the gates and allow the Members of Parliament access.” A “swift mechanism” was also not in place to allow actionable intelligence received late on the night before the protest to be put in place, the commissioner said. In a statement released yesterday, Senator Jeff Baron, the Minister of National Security, said the report formed an “important benchmark” for finding the balance between the right to peacefully protest and the need for police to maintain safety and order. “Where recommendations relate to amending or drafting legislation, I look forward to discussing those with the commissioner and in Cabinet,” Mr Baron said. “Clearly, there are lessons to be learnt and I endorse the overarching theme of the review: that its findings ‘should be viewed as an opportunity to develop enhanced capability and capacity within the Bermuda Police Service’.” Mr DeSilva said the report did not get anything wrong. “It’s a fair reflection of what we did and why we did it,” he said. “It’s perfectly acceptable recommendations of what we need to do differently next time.”

March 29. A Peer Review on the police response to the December 2 protest outside of the House of Assembly has called for the Bermuda Police Service to be better prepared for future incidents and improve public engagement. The review, written by Assistant Chief Constable Chris Shead of the National Police Coordination Centre, who was seconded from the Thames Valley Police in the UK, and released this afternoon by Governor John Rankin, said officers were not adequately trained to deal with the protest and that the tactics adopted were doomed to fail. “The protesters response was to become more aggressive and actively resist, leading to a further deterioration in police and protester relations at the scene,” the report stated. However, the report only lightly touches on the controversial use of pepper spray on the protesters, only mentioning in its executive summary that spray was used by police after officers were allegedly assaulted. “They met resistance from the crowd and some officers were assaulted,” the report stated. “Some officers deployed incapacitant spray and a call for urgent assistance was made.” The report states that while the BPS were aware of a possible protest as soon as November 28, there were “significant omissions” in the strategy established to address it. And it said that there were few records about how and why decisions were made, recommending that better records be kept. “During the structured debrief, both the Gold and Silver Commanders asserted that there had been numerous planning meetings on the approach to the event,” the report states. “However, neither have made any official record of the meetings or the decisions made. “To the Gold Commanders’ credit, on the day of the event he ensured he had a ‘scribe’ who recorded the meetings he attended and some of the options considered. The records, however, do not provide clarity on what direction was given regarding which tactics to use nor a clear rationale as to why a particular tactic was chosen or decision made.” Officers at the scene on the morning of December 2 reportedly warned protesters that while they had the right to protest, they could not lawfully block access to the House of Assembly. While the officers told the protesters that they had 15 minutes to move, the protesters linked arms and shouted that they would not move or allow MPs access. Police received word that the House session was to commence at 1pm, and a designated liaison officer approached protest leaders in an attempt to negotiate an end to the protest. “When informed that they would be liable to arrest unless they allowed access to the gates, the crowd surged and some of the police officers were assaulted,” the report stated. At around 1.10pm, officers adopted a “bubble” approach to gain access to the House, which the report said was unlikely to be successful — something at least one Commander on the ground warned was the case. “Having not planned in enough detail initially, the BPS found themselves facing what was in effect a large scale spontaneous protest with significant numbers of protesters blockading the entrances to the House of Assembly,” the review stated. “The Gold and Silver Commander requested tactical advice and were provided with the options of do nothing, utilise a bubble tactic or to utilise the Police Support Unit (PSU) with full protective equipment and shields. The tactical advisor also provided the relative advantages and disadvantages of each option. Understandably, the decision to utilise the ‘bubble tactic’ was deemed the only alternative by the Command Team if they were to achieve their strategic intention of enabling access for the legislature to the HOA.” The report stated that a “bubble tactic” is usually intended to protect the movement of a person through the crowd, stating that it was “not entirely clear” what it was hoped to achieve in this case. “The reality of the situation meant that even if they had been able to secure the gate, the protesters were in such numbers that they could easily have moved to block access further away from the gate,” the report stated. “In essence, there were no resources securing any ground the PSU may have managed to take and therefore the tactic was futile.” The report makes a series or recommendations, including that proper planning be conducted before any expected public order events, better training should be established for those who would act in a command position and that the BPS should invest in protest liaison training and ensure a ‘no surprises’ communication strategy is adopted. “This was a challenging day for the Bermuda Police Service where the officers and staff found themselves facing hitherto inexperienced levels of determination for which they are not adequately trained for,” the report said. “They were confronted by determined protesters, some of whom were intent on disruption. Within this context, the BPS officers showed resilience and a willingness to succeed despite the adversity they faced.”

March 29. In an effort to get as many people as possible counted for Census 2016 before Friday’s deadline, census teams are targeting certain neighborhoods around Bermuda. All residents of all nationalities are required to complete a Census questionnaire. Residents who have not completed a questionnaire, should e-mail statistics@gov.bm, or call 297-7761, or visit the Department of Statistics at 48 Cedar Avenue. The office is open late until 8.15pm all this week.

March 29. President of the Bermuda Public Service Union Jason Hayward has succeeded Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert as head of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress. Raymond Bean, president of the Electrical Supply Trade Union (ESTU), is the new first vice-president. A spokesperson for the BTUC said: “In keeping with the BTUC constitution, the offices of president and vice-president were rotated among the presidents of the affiliate unions. High on the BTUC’s agenda will be advocating for the implementation of a living wage, addressing systemic income inequality, strengthening workers’ wages and benefits and exploring the development of co-operatives.”

March 29. A geologist and a field engineer from the US are arriving today to assist RUBiS after yesterday’s oil spill at St George’s. However, Minister of the environment, Sylvan Richards, said this afternoon “there appears to be no immediate health and safety risk.” There has been no word over the extent of pollution. Mr Richards said that Rubis had a team of environmental specialists arriving today to plan for remediation. Government’s environment experts are also assisting with pollution control efforts. Rubis managing director, Graham Redford, said: “Rubis has contracted Arcadis US Inc., a global leader in environmental remediation. They are sending their principal geologist and a field engineer, who will arrive today. They will be responsible for the preparation of an initial memo of findings, and will create a plan based on those findings. Additionally, in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, neighboring properties will be visited to identify any potential issues. They will also check installed monitoring wells on site.” The Arcadis specialists are expected to stay for several days to supervise recovery actions, including any additional monitoring well installation necessary to test for any water table issues, added Mr Redford. Yesterday MP for St George’s West, Nandi Outerbridge, reassured constituents that the spill was being contained and monitored closely and she would keep affected residents informed. Ms Outerbridge, the Minister for Social Development and Sport, said: “I immediately sought information from the Minister of the Environment as to what steps were being taken to ensure public safety and that all measures were in place to contain the spill. “I can assure my constituents that the Department of Environmental Health is working with Rubis to contain the spill and work on cleaning the affected area. I will also be sure to keep residents informed as this situation develops.”

March 28. Rubis workers are dealing with a fuel tank breach at their storage facility at Ferry Reach in St George’s. Yesterday afternoon a spokeswoman for the Ministry of the Environment said that a pollution control team had also been dispatched to the scene. “Rubis employees have been trained in how to deal with such an emergency and are already working on containment, in conjunction with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources pollution control team,” the spokeswoman said. “The Environmental Health team is assisting with the situation.” MP for St. George’s West, Nandi Outerbridge reassured constituents this evening that the spill was being contained and monitored closely and she would keep affected residents informed. Ms Outerbridge, the Minister for Social Development and Sport, said: “As the representative in Parliament for St. George’s West where this fuel spill occurred, I immediately sought information from the Minister of the Environment as to what steps were being taken to ensure public safety and that all measures were in place to contain the spill. “I can assure my constituents that the Department of Environmental Health is working with RUBIS to contain the spill and work on cleaning the affected area. I will also be sure to keep residents informed as this situation develops.”

March 28. International charity Oxfam has singled out Bermuda’s HSBC in a major report on the use of tax havens by the top 20 European banks. The Oxfam report said that 26 per cent of profits generated by the top 20 banks in the EU were made offshore — although these countries accounted for only 12 per cent of total turnover and seven per cent of staff. And it claimed Bermuda as the home of nearly $591 million in profits for the Euro top 20 in 2015, compared to $205 million in the Caymans, $21.7 million in the British Virgin Islands and $206 million in the Bahamas. But, later in the same report, it said that Bermuda had profits of $104 million — a massive $487 million difference. Of the $104 million, the report attributed nearly $86 million in profit to HSBC Bermuda. UK-based HSBC is the only European bank among the four with a physical presence on the island, while Oxfam records French multinational Société Générale as generating profits in Bermuda but with no physical presence. Economist Peter Everson pointed out that HSBC did not set up in Bermuda on its own — it bought the “flourishing” Bermuda-based former Bank of Bermuda and “that everybody in Bermuda recognizes that. We’re not in international banking — it’s insurance, reinsurance and captive insurance banking. We don’t have room for international banking. That’s why we don’t have international banking here.” Bermuda appears again in the 52-page report — listed among “selected small tax havens and bank activity” for 2015. The report listed 2015 Bermuda figures for European-based banks as a turnover of nearly $309 million, profits of $104 million, a total of 618 staff and no taxes. It added that the average productivity of employees was nearly $174,000 each, with profitability of 34 per cent. But the report, while mentioning the island’s small population, apparently ignored the massive amount of insurance and reinsurance activity in Bermuda. And it highlighted Bermuda alongside other smaller countries in a table of “characteristics of selected small tax havens and bank activity” for 2015. The report listed Bermuda’s share of the profits of the European top 20 as $104.3 million of the total $1.67 million, alongside the Caymans, Monaco and Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, with the last three grouped together. The Oxfam report said: “One common feature of tax havens is that they provide a lower effective rate of taxation or even a zero corporate tax rate, making it possible for companies to avoid paying any taxes at all. Despite the limitations of the information provided ... for measuring the effective tax rate, it does reveal that these European banks have not paid a single euro of tax on $416 million of profits made in seven of these smaller countries.” The report said that the data highlighted “a number of tax havens that play a clear role in banks’ business. It underlines once more the role that these countries are playing in the hemorrhaging of global tax resources by competing against each other to offer ever more favorable tax regimes to global corporations. While banks are taking advantage of this global race to the bottom, the losers are often the poor, who experience the consequences of the inadequate public spending as a result of the lower tax revenues for the government. Only a fundamental paradigm shift on corporate tax and significant international and European tax reforms will help to put an end to this harmful global race to the bottom.”

March 28. The issuing of court summonses to a number of protesters from the December 2 demonstrations outside the House of Assembly are “provocative and unwise”, the Progressive Labour Party said this evening. Michael Scott, the Shadow Attorney-General, called the use of the criminal justice system “a political tool”. Mr Scott addressed the media in the wake of papers being served on several Bermuda Industrial Union members this morning. The Opposition statement said the actions, shortly before the issue of the peer review into the police response to the protests today, raised “considerable questions”. It also criticised the decision to allow an embargoed copy of the review to be seen by the media ahead of the document being provided to David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition. The report’s lack of mention of any communication on December 2 between police and members of the Government was also queried. Walter Roban, the Shadow Minister of National Security, said the PLP considered the decision to prosecute “an obviously provocative step”, going “beyond prosecution into persecution”.

March 28. Several Bermuda Industrial Union members have received summonses from Magistrates’ Court, according to a press statement released by the BIU this morning. The statement urged those who had received summonses to bring them to BIU headquarters. “It has come to the attention of the BIU that several members of the BIU have received summonses from Magistrate’s Court during the last 24 hours,” the statement said. “BIU president, Chris Furbert, is requesting that those BIU members who have been served summonses bring the summonses to BIU Headquarters so that they can be dealt with by the Union’s legal representatives.” It’s understood the summonses relate to the protest outside the House of Assembly on December 2.

March 28. The US-based National Hurricane Centre has unveiled new policies, which could help give Bermudians more advanced warning of impending storms. Under the new policies, unveiled earlier this month, the NHC will issue advisories for systems with the potential to become tropical cyclones and publish estimated timings for when winds in an area could reach tropical storm strength. Kim Zuill, director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said that the moves would assist those living on the island. “The ability for the NHC to now issue advisories on those potential tropical cyclones, which may form so close to land as to pose a threat, results in an improvement to BWS being able to issue watches and warnings for our community,” she said. “This is particularly important in our area where there are several triggers which contribute to formation near Bermuda, including — but not limited to — the warmer water of Gulf Stream and the position of the Bermuda-Azores High.” Asked about examples where the new policy might have helped the island, she noted Hurricane Karen in 2001, which built from a low-pressure disturbance to a tropical storm on our doorstep. While it did not reach hurricane status until it was moving away from the island, it destroyed vegetation and downed power lines, leaving more than two-thirds of the island without power. “We couldn’t issue tropical watches and warnings until the NHC named it. However, BWS did have gale and storm warnings out,” Ms Zuill said. “A more recent example from this past season, this system would have assisted Jamaica issuing watches and warnings in association with Hurricane Matthew.” She added that the BWS would discuss the changes in more detail during Hurricane Preparedness Week, which will take place before the start of the 2017 hurricane season on June 1. The NHC said that pending final approval, it would have the option of issuing advisories, watches and warnings for disturbances that are not yet a tropical cyclone, but which pose the threat of bringing tropical storm or hurricane conditions to land areas within 48 hours. “Under previous longstanding NWS policy, it has not been permitted to issue a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning until after a tropical cyclone had formed,” the statement said. “Advances in forecasting over the past decade or so, however, now allow the confident prediction of tropical cyclone impacts while these systems are still in the developmental stage. “For these land-threatening ‘potential tropical cyclones’, NHC will now issue the full suite of text, graphical, and watch/warning products that previously has only been issued for ongoing tropical cyclones.” The NHC also stated that it would begin to introduce “experimental” time of arrival graphics, highlighting when winds are expected to reach tropical storm strength.

March 28. Japanese giant Sompo has completed its takeover of island-based insurance and reinsurance firm Endurance Specialty in a $6.3 billion deal. Now Endurance will be integrated into Sompo Holdings through the creation of Sompo International, which will be based in Bermuda. Sompo International will have its own board, led by Endurance’s John Charman, as chairman and chief executive, reporting to the Sompo president and CEO Kengo Sakurada. Mr Sakurada said: “The closing of our acquisition of Endurance marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Sompo’s story. The integration of Endurance within Sompo International will significantly enhance Sompo’s presence in international markets and provides the group with greater opportunities to deepen and expand its geographic footprint by offering global diversification via its new and new and innovative structure leading to global integration. Clients will benefit from our increased scale, expanded product offering and a common underwriting platform. Our employees will also be presented with new opportunities to use and develop their skills within a much larger, stronger business. I would like to welcome John Charman and the Endurance team to the Sompo family. John will be heading Sompo International, creating our exciting new global commercial insurance and reinsurance platform. I look forward to working closely with him as we embark on the next phase of our exciting growth.” Mr Charman added: “I am fully committed to our shared vision of future growth for SOMPO’s international platform and I am looking forward to developing it further alongside Endurance’s executive leadership team and my new colleagues under the new Sompo International brand. I would like to thank our highly valued partners and colleagues for their loyalty, support and trust over the last few years and I look forward to working closely with them in the future.” The deal was announced late last year, but was subject to approval by regulators. Sompo International will also encompass Sompo’s existing international commercial insurance and reinsurance businesses. The creation of a common underwriting platform and systems is designed to “set a new global standard of conducting business, providing customers with a wide array of products across insurance markets to help manage their risks”. All Endurance business, with the exception of ARMtech, will be conducted under the Sompo International brand. Sompo America and SJNK Europe will also be rebranded Sompo International. Sompo Canopius will remain as a separate brand, working in close collaboration with Sompo International. AM Best yesterday removed Endurance’s “under review with positive implications” rating and upgraded Endurance Specialty Insurance’s financial strength rating from A (excellent) to A+ (superior) following the acquisition announcement. AM Best said: “The ratings actions reflect the operational benefits that Endurance will derive from being a significant operation within a larger organisation with deep financial resources.” The ratings agency also moved Endurance’s long-term issuer credit ratings to aa- from a. Parent Endurance Speciality Holdings saw its long term issuer credit ratings and the long term issue credit ratings to a- from bbb with a stable outlook.

March 28. Spending on overseas healthcare has more than doubled since 2004, topping $84.5 million for the 2015-16 fiscal year, the Bermuda Health Council reported. At nearly $40 million, almost half the spending went to Massachusetts, primarily in the Boston metropolitan region. Maryland came second. Most trips were for specialized care unavailable in Bermuda, such as the 32 patients seeking treatment for “complex, brain related injuries”, the report said — often as a result of traffic accidents. Local patients travelled to more than 5,000 services overseas, with claims averaging $345 more than to local providers, Overall, services spanned 41 states and 29 countries, with 28 of the locations seeing revenue of more than $100,000 from Bermuda residents. The report’s publication was occasion for local providers, and specialists in particular, to “take the lead” in referring residents to cost-effective facilities, according to Tawanna Wedderburn, CEO of the Bermuda Health Council. The synopsis concluded that it could serve the island to examine becoming a “centre of excellence” for the Caribbean region, which has some 40 million residents. With the East Coast of the United States close by, a potential 112 million people lie within reach of the island. “There may be opportunities for Bermuda to become an overseas preferred location for strategic quality health services,” the report continued. “This has the added benefit of enhancing care quality and access for local residents to be cared for on island.” Overseas spending peaked at $101 million in 2013, meaning the latest figures represented a significant decrease — but the island still spends a larger portion abroad than similar small jurisdictions. Outside of hospital care, the most common services used overseas were pediatric care, spinal care, dermatology, radiology, pharmacy, pathology, psychology, ophthalmology and orthopedic medicine. Ricky Brathwaite, the BHeC’s director of health economics, said residents should “ask more questions about costs and quality”, and “insist that health professionals, policymakers and insurers make the best decisions about treating and paying for our physical, mental and dental health”.

Bermuda healthcare spending

See above story

March 28. A Canadian author who has studied the use of cannabis, and written on the subject, believes the legalization of drugs is the next step for Bermuda. A regular visitor to the island, Bill Bogart — who wrote Off the Street: Legalizing Drugs — says education is a key component to making the drug legal. “You can push for legalization and regulation, and at the same time be a strong voice warning against harm,” said Mr Bogart. He sees attitudes shifting in what was once a highly controversial position to argue. “I don’t use them (drugs) myself,” Mr Bogart cautioned. “My drug of choice is alcohol. My belief is that we should not incarcerate people for taking a substance, but should have a public education component for the curtailment of harmful use. Mr Bogart has written other books on the same subject and has appeared widely in the North American media to argue his case. An advocate of a phased approach, he believes the process should begin with the legalization of cannabis. “It depends on the level of political willingness to stare the war on drugs in the face and see that it hasn’t worked,” he told The Royal Gazette. “The answer must come from each society, each country, but also the international community.” He pointed to the “opioid epidemic” sweeping the United States and Canada, which Bermuda has experienced with the incursion of the drug fentanyl, which can be used to adulterate heroin. “My position confronts the underworld,” he said. “It is prohibition that has given rise to this enormous illicit market.” Mr Bogart, who has visited Bermuda more than 30 times since the 1970s, cautioned that he could not speak to the local specifics in drug use, but said he believed that eventual legalization would be unlikely to result in an increase. “We might see an increase simply because people would then tend to be more honest about use,” he said. “Secondly, we must always distinguish between use and harmful use, such as use by kids or consumption that has a negative impact.” In his view, someone who smokes a joint once or twice a month would be unlikely to have a problem.

March 27. More than half of people believe the investigations into Ewart Brown and the Progressive Labour Party are politically motivated, according to a new poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette. The vast majority of those think the One Bermuda Alliance has reason to highlight the possible wrongdoings of its political opponent to tarnish its reputation during an election year or because of a vendetta against the former premier. However, Dr Brown’s suggestions that the inquiries are race-related won less support, with a bit more than one third in agreement with him. The Global Research survey was conducted from March 15 to 20, shortly after the Commission of Inquiry published its report offering support for active police investigations into seven government dealings that showed evidence of “possible criminal activity”. Five of those were directly connected to Dr Brown. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, had invited commissioners to look into matters highlighted in the Auditor-General’s report for the fiscal years 2009 to 2012, while the PLP was in power. Meanwhile, Dr Brown has been the subject of police investigations into allegations of corruption for nearly six years, and a civil lawsuit filed by the Government against the Lahey Clinic accuses him of profiting by ordering excessive and unnecessary diagnostic tests via his local medical practices. PLP members have claimed the actions are mired in politics, while Dr Brown and Derrick Burgess, the former minister tied to three of the contracts containing possible criminal activity, have alleged a racial agenda and pointed to the make-up of the commission, which had one black member and three white. Our telephone poll, which has a margin of error of +/- 5 per cent, asked 400 registered voters whether they believe the investigations into claims of corruption by Dr Brown and misuse of public money by the PLP government were racially motivated, and a second question asking whether the claims were politically motivated. Responding, 55 per cent of voters said they believed the inquiries were politically motivated, 30 per cent disagreed, with 15 per cent saying they do not know. A breakdown by race shows 68 per cent of blacks and 30 per cent of whites believe there is political motivation. The figure is 79 per cent among PLP supporters and 31 per cent among OBA supporters. Asked to explain why they think there is political motivation, 76 per cent of those respondents said there might have been political reasons to expose the “crimes” or “wrongdoings” of the PLP because of the upcoming General Election, or an agenda against Dr Brown, who led the party from 2006 to 2010. Of those who believe there is no political motivation, 58 per cent said people needed to be held accountable and that justice must be served, regardless of who was in power. The next highest response, 14 per cent, said the PLP needed to be held accountable for “mismanaging the country’s funds”. Meanwhile, 37 per cent of voters said they believed the investigations were racially motivated, with 49 per cent disagreeing and 14 per cent saying they do not know. A breakdown by race showed 51 per cent of blacks and 10 per cent of whites think there is racial motivation. The figure is 63 per cent among PLP supporters and 14 per cent among OBA supporters. Giving an explanation for their answer, 61 per cent of those believing there is racial motivation pointed to Bermuda’s culture of racial division, with another 24 per cent saying white-collar crimes committed by white Bermudians have been ignored. Among those that disagreed, 32 per cent pointed to the genuine need for an investigation and accountability, and 25 per cent simply said race was not a factor. Contracts flagged up for possible criminal activity by commissioners were the new court and police complex in Hamilton, the Transport Control Department emissions testing project, Port Royal Golf Course and Heritage Wharf cruise ship pier — subject collectively to overspending of more than $72 million — as well as GlobalHue advertising, Ambling consultants and purchase of a sand and rock for asphalt. As well as Dr Brown and Mr Burgess, Senator Vic Ball, of the OBA, was named for his involvement in one of the projects. Police investigations had already begun into the many of the matters arising from the Auditor’s report. The commission said it supports inquiries continuing. The Port Royal project is also the subject of a lawsuit, filed by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz against former trustees of the golf course, including PLP MP Zane DeSilva, and his company, Island Construction. Dr Brown has repeatedly criticised the investigations against himself and business colleague Mahesh Reddy. He told a press conference last September that people were out to ruin him because he was a successful black man and because of his political status. “There are some people in Bermuda who have decided our practice is too successful and therefore they are trying to undermine it, dismantle it, so it can go the way of many black-owned businesses,” he said. Taking the stand before the commission last October, Mr Burgess suggested the questioning was an attempt to “re-enact slavery” and said he felt like he was before a “lynch mob”. In its report, the commission reflected that Mr Burgess’s reaction and demeanor became evasive and offensive when he was asked questions about his relationship with the principal who would benefit financially from a contract he handled.

March 27. A special monument is planned as a landmark for the East End, based on the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. The Bermuda Tourism Authority has called on local artists and architects to create a “fun, interactive and iconic” piece for Clearwater Beach as an added draw for tourists. The Bermuda Triangle attraction would bring camera carrying visitors to the beach for “social media moments that help further promote Bermuda to the world,” according to Pat Phillip-Fairn, the BTA’s chief product and experiences development officer. The authority posted a Request for Proposal online today for the landmark, which should tally with Clearwater’s appeal to young families and visitors who enjoy eco-adventure. Submissions should develop those characteristics as well as being sensitive to the environment. "The Triangle is a distinctive feature of the island’s brand," Ms Phillip-Fairn said. The RFP requests designs for an “iconic” structure to become “one of the island’s most sought landmarks in the East End” — on a par with St David’s Lighthouse or the Unfinished Church. Submissions should be sent in by May 3, but those intending to submit are asked to notify the BTA by e-mail before April 7.

March 27. Oil Insurance declared a $62 million underwriting loss for last year at its annual meeting last week. The company said, after including net investment income and administrative expenses, net income for the year totalled $210.4 million. Oil’s board of directors also declared a dividend in an aggregate amount of $250 million to all shareholders of record in January, to be paid at the end of June, “in recognition of Oil’s continued financial success and solid financial condition”. The company is an energy mutual, which is owned by companies it insures. Bertil Olsson, president and CEO of Oil, said: “Oil insurance is committed to providing long-term value to its membership by offering significant policy limits with broad terms and conditions, returning excess capital by way of premium credits and dividends where appropriate as well as potentially considering additional coverages to enhance the overall value proposition of being a member.” Oil Insurance insures more than $3 trillion of global energy assets for more than 50 members, with property limits up to $400 million, totalling more than $19 billion in A-rated property capacity. Members are all medium to large-sized public and private energy companies with at least $1 billion in property assets and an investment-grade rating or equivalent. Areas covered include offshore and onshore exploration and production, refining and marketing, petrochemicals, mining, pipelines, electric utilities and other related energy sectors. The AGM was held at the Hamilton Princess last Wednesday. George Hutchings, senior vice-president and chief operating officer of Oil, said that last year saw the completion of the firm’s strategic planning process and that over the next few years it will be implemented, with a focus on the firm’s product offering, member services and marketing and distribution. The board of directors also elected Roberto Benzan as chairman and Theo Guidry as deputy chairman. Mr Benzan said: “The $250 million dividend demonstrates the board’s commitment to return value to Oil’s shareholders when it is prudent to do so. “Oil is firmly footed on a tremendously strong foundation established over its 45-year history. Over that time frame, the company has steadfastly focused on shareholder value. The board is excited about pursuing our strategic plan as it will further strengthen our overall shareholder value proposition.”

March 27. A trailblazing project to digitally map Bermuda’s sunken treasure of shipwrecks came about by “one of those moments of destiny”, in the words of Falko Kuester. A computer scientist and engineer specialising in cultural heritage, Mr Kuester excitedly recalls a telephone call about a year ago from Bermudian film-maker Jean-Pierre Rouja. “The word ‘shipwrecks’ woke up that 12-year-old in me,” said the professor from the University of California San Diego, who showcased the first scans from the stage of this weekend’s TEDx Bermuda. Dubbed the Bermuda 100 Challenge, its 3.5 billion data points scanned so far are now online for anyone to delve into. The depth of detail must be seen to be believed: “This is an interactive 3D model built off of tens of thousands of photographs, not just video,” Mr Kuester said. “We want to allow you to go there and discover it for yourself.” Bermuda’s healthy reefs and its storied catalogue of sunken ships offer an ideal project for the university’s cultural heritage engineering initiative, which will expand to other watery sites of significance. Mr Rouja is the founder of the LookBermuda production company, which runs Nonsuch Expeditions that has brought live cameras into the burrows of cahows for a world audience. “We’re looking for ways of using engineering technology to help with conservation, research and educational outreach,” Mr Rouja said. As soon as the Bermuda team heard about Mr Kuester’s work in scanning and preserving historical sites, “I knew we had to connect with these guys”, Mr Rouja recalled. The TEDx Bermuda audience was taken through “digital surrogates” that included the surface of Mars. From the stage on Saturday, Mr Kuester launched the site, shown live for the first time, zooming in on the Mary Celestia, the Blanche King and the Montana and plumbing the wreck interiors. As Mr Rouja explained, the start of the Bermuda 100 Challenge is “just the top of the iceberg in terms of what we’ll be doing with them. We’re testing technology here and showcasing Bermuda in the process,” he said, also thanking Department of Environment and Natural Resources for facilitating the project. Philippe Rouja, the department’s custodian of historic wrecks, likened the scans, rich in detail, to an intelligent book. “We’ve created images that we can ask any question of — that’s really the magic,” he said. “For someone who’s worked with the Sistine Chapel, with heritage around the world, to say that they’re blown away by what we have on our doorstep — that’s incredible. I didn’t realize the beauty, the gravity of it all, until it came up on that screen.” The repository of artefacts being scanned will grow through “the open access exchange with the images coming in”, he added. Mr Kuester described the site as “a teaser to show what we can do”. “Bermuda with its shipwrecks and coral reefs is the perfect birthplace for this initiative,” he said. “We hope that Bermuda becomes the catalyst for a global transformation.” As the first sites are scanned, the project hopes to attract underwriters for efforts aimed at “a global digital atlas of shipwrecks”. To look at the work so far, go to the site http://bermuda100.ucsd.edu/

digital map of wreck of Marie Celeste

Digital map of wreck of Marie Celeste in Bermuda

March 27. A new conservation project to cull lionfish using remotely operated underwater vehicles is being launched. Atlantic Lionshare Ltd, a Bermuda-based company, will start the initial testing of its Reef Sweeper prototype in the seas off Bermuda this week. The firm has been working with the Bermuda Government to get the project off the ground and help preserve the island’s marine environment. “It saddens me to see the devastation that these lionfish inflict,” Darius Martin the founder of Atlantic Lionshare said. “We have worked hard to develop a commercially viable model so that the harvesting of lionfish can be a perpetual process and allow our reefs to slowly recover. The reefs are an important habitat for so many species whose survival is threatened unless we begin to combat this plague”. Lionfish originate in the Pacific but have invaded the reefs in Bermuda and throughout the western Atlantic and Caribbean regions adversely affecting fish populations and their coral reef habitat. Atlantic Lionshare hopes to expand its operations south to help other countries whose reefs have been devastated by lionfish. A spokesperson from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said: “Invasive lionfish threaten both fisheries and tourism across the region. “We are proud to know that a Bermudian company is now leading the charge in combating the lionfish invasion, and we are excited to support the development of this important initiative.” To find out more about the project, visit atlanticlionshare.com  or contact Gavin Hunter on 747-4449.

Lionfish in Bermuda

Lionfish, see above story

March 27. The Senate passed a series of regulations in the House of Assembly on Friday evening. The Government Fees Amendment (No 2) Regulations 2017, the Electronic Communications (Regulatory Authority Fees) Regulations 2017, and the Electricity (Regulatory Authority Fees) Regulations 2017 were all approved without objection. The Government Fees Amendment (No 2) Regulations provides authorization for government fees to be collected from the energy sector as recommended by the Regulatory Authority. Under the Electronic Communications (Regulatory Authority Fees) Regulations, the general regulatory authority fee is increased from 1.5 per cent of turnover to 1.75 per cent. Under the Electricity (Regulatory Authority Fees) Regulations 2017, electricity users will pay a slight increase to fund regulation of the industry. The fiscal year which begins on April 1 will be the first that the electricity sector is regulated by the Regulatory Authority. Money for the new regulation responsibility will come through the new transmission, distribution, and retail fee. Bulk generation fees area also included under the new framework. The Senate will meet next on Monday, May 22.

electricity

Electricity in Bermuda. See above story

March 27. While voters in Warwick North East look fondly on the concept of independent representation, area MP Mark Pettingill’s decision to quit the ruling party appeared to be poorly received by many. The Royal Gazette visited constituency 25 to canvass on Mr Pettingill’s move this month to join Shawn Crockwell in quitting the One Bermuda Alliance ranks. At Bo’s Lawn Equipment, a hardware store and popular area hangout, several shoppers aired views on Mr Pettingill’s latest step, likely to conclude with his political retirement. “I’m upset that Mark’s given up on us like that,” said a female resident of Keith Hall Road. “He was an MP that you saw. And if you told him to sort something out, he’d listen. I’m not voting for anybody any more. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Top of her worries was the spread of the gang mentality among young people, with her son recently threatened by “boys from town” while riding his bike along Harbour Road. “Stuff like that never used to happen in this parish,” she said, as a shop worker interjected: “Then take that up with your MP. I don’t have one now,” she replied. “The day Mark went independent, the OBA should have said who they were running.” In stepping down, Mr Pettingill cited political conflicts with his legal practice, also declaring himself at odds with the OBA on issues such as same-sex marriage. The former United Bermuda Party MP for Warwick West, Mr Pettingill was prominent among breakaway founders of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance, which merged with the UBP to create the OBA. He won constituency 25 in the 2012 General Election against Dale Butler of the Progressive Labour Party — whom the Bo’s cashier described as “the man you always saw. I’m from Somerset but I’ve worked here eight years and it’s a great spot,” he added. “I love the people. It’s a lovely area — it’s the people who aren’t from your neighborhood that make the most noise,” one man agreed. “It’s like people that aren’t from Warwick come here to commit their crimes.” A senior who stopped at Bo’s looked back fondly on the days before political parties. “My personal philosophy is they should have independents like they did back in the day,” he said. “In parties it’s like a culture. They have to be silent on this or that. If one is an independent runner, you’re accountable for your actions.” Over at Warwick Workmen’s Club, a patron and lifelong Warwick resident called himself a PLP supporter — “within reason. I won’t vote for someone I don’t believe in. If the PLP runs a good candidate, that’s good for me.” He called the present scenario “concerning for OBA supporters — they lost a big MP with Shawn Crockwell, and now Pettingill, a big fish, is going independent too. We have a lot of hot-button issues like immigration and people getting pepper-sprayed, and the people talking more and more with an election coming up. My big issues are like everybody else’s. Education, because I have kids. Crime, and, obviously, the economy. I will make my decision based on how the people in the power of the day do their jobs.” He ascribed Mr Pettingill’s departure largely to business conflicts, saying: “He’s going to protect what makes his money.” The Royal Gazette spoke with a senior along Tribe Road No 2, in the heart of the constituency, who said he had persistently raised the issue of street lighting for the stairs leading to Middle Road. “I’ll raise it again. I’ve done it for years,” he said, noting that an MP “who shall remain nameless” had never acted on it: “They make promises that are not kept.” Describing his voting instincts as 50-50 between party and personality, he voiced support for the idea of independents. “The personalities are a lot to do with it,” he said. “But I don’t get too involved in politics, even when it’s election time.” Another senior said his spouse was a PLP backer, while he was “just a voter”. Unemployment stood as his top concern. “I’m not a supporter of same-sex marriage,” he said. “Not unless the day comes when they can reproduce.” But he said Mr Pettingill’s other strong positions, such as casino gaming and cannabis reform, “appear to me to be self-interested. Each issue that he has, it seems he’s got something to do with it from a business perspective.” Nor did he endorse MPs going independent: “It doesn’t make sense come the next election,” he said — even though party politics revolved around “ego, and not what’s in the best interests of the country”. On Witchery Lane, a quiet residential strip off Ord Road, a woman came to her door to declare that Mr Pettingill had “done the right thing. We need more independents,” she said, calling her top political issues “Works and Engineering” in an area that sees little crime: the road needed resurfacing, and she wanted trash trucks to service the lane. On a quiet, affluent lane near Harbour Road, an expatriate resident said that although he couldn’t vote, “it would be great if everybody was independent — at least the island would get some results. I’m very much in favour of people not being affiliated with the two main parties. I wish you made your system different. It reminds me of America. I find politicians here as worthless as at home.” Meanwhile, in the small, upscale neighborhood of Windy Ridge Road, a couple who described themselves as OBA supporters expressed frustration. “I’m pretty disappointed in him,” the man said. “I think he’s a self-serving blowhard. I agree with him on same-sex marriage. I just think it’s all about Mark and always has been, from the very beginning, like with Jetgate, when he was in the middle of it and didn’t come clean.” Since Mr Pettingill’s victory in 2012, “we’ve never seen him, not once”, he said. “The MP before him? Every six months, he was at our door.” His spouse called it “a shame we can’t have the talent from both parties — and I hate the fact that one party continues to have the connotation of the white rich party and the other of being black”.  She said Mr Pettingill had probably been too busy to canvass and would probably have assumed he would get their vote. “This is probably a bit unfair,” she added. “But for him to go independent is such bad timing in terms of what’s going on. For the America’s Cup, the last thing we need is more disruption. Why now? Why do that two months before the biggest event we’ve ever had, when we’ve already had enough political disruption? I don’t know what he was thinking.”

March 27. Massive car transporter ships have been banned from Hamilton Harbour during the American’s Cup on safety grounds. But car dealers on the island said the cancelled visits in May and June would have a minimal effect on supplies of vehicles on the island. Marine and Ports said car transporter ships were too big to maneuver in the harbour, which will be packed with smaller vessels during races. Harry Andrews, sales and operations manager at Auto Solutions in Pembroke, said: “The car transporter isn’t going to be coming in for two months. We’ve been trying to find alternative routes, like the Oleander, to bring cars in. We’ve been working with the Oleander to get cars here.” Mr Andrews added: “It will have a slight effect, but not massive. We will be able to manage through it. It’s a challenge, but we can manage.” Krishna King, general manager of Bermuda Motors in Hamilton, agreed that the effect will be minimal. Mr King said: “It’s happened because of the number of vessels in Bermuda waters for America’s Cup. The harbour master feels it’s unsafe for the car transporter to come because it won’t be able to turn around.” But he added: “We will have our cars shipped through New Jersey on the normal cargo ships. We all knew about this earlier in the year, so we had time to plan.” Mr King added that car ships normally called around the third weekend of every month in Bermuda. Huge car carriers transport vehicles direct from Japan to the Caribbean and Bermuda before heading home via the Panama Canal to restock with more vehicles.

March 27. An island-based IT firm has become an official supplier to the America’s Cup. CCS Group will be the official information and communications technology supplier to the event. Peter Aldrich, general manager of CCS, said: “We are very excited to be working with the America’s Cup to deliver a quality ICT experience to all of those involved with the historic event. Being asked to partner with America’s Cup is a testament to the world-class service that CCS can provide. This is an incredible opportunity for Bermuda to demonstrate our excellence on a world stage.” CCS will provide cabling, equipment and network engineers to create an IT network to be used by event staff, media covering the races, emergency services and visitors. Dan Barnett, chief commercial officer of the America’s Cup, said: “IT will play a key role in the successful delivery of the world-class events that will take place in Bermuda in May and June 2017 and CCS are the perfect company to help deliver that ICT infrastructure.” Warren Jones, head of IT at the America’s Cup Event Authority, added: “Following the excellent service CCS provided at the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Bermuda, we wanted to work with CCS again. Their engineers are some of the best ICT consultants that I’ve worked with.” Kory Logan, sales and marketing director at CCS said: “The America’s Cup Event Authority has worked with systems integrators like CCS around the world. “Their faith in CCS and its staff’s ability to support the event’s ICT infrastructure is a testament to the quality of services that local companies like CCS can provide.” CCS, which provides both local and international companies with communications and consulting services, is part of the BAS group of companies.

March 27. The Bermuda National Athletics Association today announced a squad of 19 athletes to represent the island at the Carifta Games in Curaçao from April 15 to 17. Included in the squad is four-times Carifta medal-winner Sakari Famous, who won the bronze in the under-18 girls high jump, the island’s only medal at last year’s games in Grenada. Famous is also among eight survivors from last year’s Carifta squad. “We, the BNAA, are pleased to announce the 2017 Carifta Team,” Donna Raynor, the BNAA president, said. "We have a total of 19 athletes who will be traveling with us to Curaçao with four officials and myself as president. We are very pleased with this selection which was proposed by our coaching staff and we look forward to some great performances at the Games.” The full squad is made up of  U18 Girls, Teliah Wears - 200m;  Lyndsey Palmer - 3000m;  Sakari Famous - HJ; Inshanne Smith - HJ;  Zekiah Lewis - LJ.  U20 Girls,  Tiara DeRosa - SP, Discus;  Brianna Mendes - 3000m. U18 Boys, Deneo Brangman - 400m, 4X100m, 4X400m;  Johndell Cumberbarch - 3000m 1500m;  Aaron Jacobs - 800m;  Quincy Kuzyk - 3000m;  Ryan Outerbridge - 1500m;  Suresh Black - 200m, 4X100, 4X400m;  Lejuan Matthews - 400m, 4X100m;  Clevonte Lodge - 200m, 4X100m 4X400m;  Mycal Dill - 4X100m, LJ. U20 Boys, Kevin Miller - HJ;  Elisha Darrell - HJ, LJ;  Stephan Dill - 100m;  Isaiah Bell-Phillips - 800m. 

March 25. Oracle Team USA survived a scare during another exciting day of America’s Cup practice racing on the Great Sound. The American defender snared a marker while racing against Swedish challenger Artemis Racing in chilly 13-15 knot northeast breezes. Oracle were leading when the mishap occurred on the last bottom mark and never recovered as Artemis held on for their first win in their new boat while bringing their rivals’ unbeaten streak to a grinding halt. That proved to be the only blemish on an otherwise successful day at the office for the holders of the coveted “Auld Mug” as they returned to shore boasting the best record among the three Cup syndicates that lined up against each other in their America’s Cup Class catamarans. Jimmy Spithill and his Oracle colleagues started the day on the front foot after crossing the finish line more than a minute ahead of Artemis who trailed the entire race. Land Rover BAR also proved to be easy pickings for Oracle, who beat the British challenger by more than a minute. However, the Americans were denied the clean sweep in a second match against Artemis as a marker rounding that went horribly wrong proved costly. The past week has been a difficult one for Sir Ben Ainslie and his Land Rover BAR colleagues, who crashed their boat into a floating dock and then suffered two defeats by Oracle on the opening day of practice races, which have been made possible by yet another controversial change to the America’s Cup protocol. But an impressive victory over Artemis by a handful of seconds in the day’s closest race might have gone a long way towards cushioning the blow and raising morale. The British challenger virtually left their rivals parked at the start to seize early control and covered them the rest of the way to chalk up a maiden win on Rita. Groupama Team France showed up at the party, but again opted not to dance, nudging a press boat with one of their chase boats. SoftBank Team Japan’s boat has been under repair for the past several days after suffering damage. A team spokesman would not comment on the nature of the damage. However, published reports suggest that Team Japan broke one of their rudders, which had to be retrieved by divers off the seabed. Practice racing continues today in the Great Sound, venue for the 35th America’s Cup. Action begins at 1pm with Groupama Team France meeting Land Rover BAR in the day’s opening race.

March 25. Shadow health minister Kim Wilson has reiterated the need for laws requiring family members to care for their elderly relatives at home. Ms Wilson was speaking in light of the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s announcement on Thursday that the emergency department and new acute care wing at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital are completely full. On March 13, Ms Wilson spoke in the House of Assembly on the need for filial laws due to an ageing population and lack of adequate nursing homes putting a strain on hospital beds. Speaking to The Royal Gazette, she said such laws “would require family members who are capable of caring for their elderly relatives to take responsibility in doing so.” Ms Wilson added: “We must examine all options to provide a long-term solution to this ongoing issue.” The Progressive Labour Party’s “People’s Budget” Ms Wilson said, would make it more of an attractive option to operate care facilities on the island. She said: “The PLP believes that Government has the responsibility to ensure that its senior population are cared for. The PLP’s People’s Budget would develop incentives for persons willing to operate safe and secure facilities for our ageing population and to spur the private sector to construct residential communities, providing seniors with greater options and alleviating stress on families and the hospital.” Educating the public is also a priority according to Ms Wilson, who added: “The community needs to be better educated about the purpose of the hospital and its intended scope. KEMH offers patient services that can only be provided locally by them. That is where their focus must be. One of the major reasons for the bed shortage we now see is because the hospital is being used to provide services which the community is better suited for; the provision of community resident homes for the elderly. Many of the current beds occupied at the hospital are being held by persons who are able to live mostly independently or with some minor assistance which does not require around the clock skilled nursing care as is available at KEMH. The vast majority of these such patients should be cared for at home by their families or in a facility designed for that purpose, depending on the level of supervision required.”

March 25. Former St George’s Cup Match captain Wendell Smith has told how he turned up to hospital prepared to have a serious knee operation on two occasions only to be sent home due to a lack of available beds. And he said there was even a possibility that his procedure would be postponed a third time, it later emerged. The Bermuda Hospitals Board announced on Thursday that every bed in the emergency department and new acute care wing at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital was full. In January, Mr Smith, 57, who was finding it difficult to walk because of complications with his knee, made all the pre-op preparations necessary — booking time off work at West Pembroke Primary School, where he is deputy principal and a PE teacher, packing his bags, ensuring his wife took medical leave to provide after-care, giving blood and urine samples, fasting the night before and, above all, mentally preparing for the procedure. When the former Western Stars cricket coach arrived to the hospital on January 20, he was told that his operation might have to be put on hold and was asked to wait an hour or so to see if any room became available. Eventually, he was told that owing to a shortage of beds, he would have to go home. Disappointed but not disheartened, he rescheduled his appointment for February 10 and made his way home while his wife cancelled her medical leave and returned to work. On February 10, he turned up again having made all the same preparations, only to be told a second time that there was no bed for him. Again, his wife returned to work. When he attempted to book his operation for the third time, he was told that the next available date would be April 19 — Mr Smith was unable to make it earlier for practical reasons relating to after-care and his surgeon had limited availability. He begged the administrative staff to squeeze him in earlier and with a little luck he was booked in for February 24. This time he turned up and it emerged that he might have had to postpone a third time as a result of bed shortages but because of his previous experiences, he was prioritized and the procedure went ahead. “Had they told me a third time, it would have been too much — I was going to consider going overseas,” Mr Smith said. “It’s the mental preparation. I didn’t sleep very well the night before — when it’s a serious surgery, you are concerned about going under anesthesia and if it is going to go well. I had arranged for my wife to be home — she works with the Bermuda Monetary Authority. She had medical leave to look after me because with a knee replacement you can’t get around very well. I was to the point where getting in and out of a car was a really grueling exercise because I had to lean over towards the driver’s side and struggle to get in — I could barely bend my leg. It was becoming a nuisance day-to-day living. Just getting around school was a chore because I was dragging my leg around.” Mr Smith said he managed to stay positive throughout the ordeal, in part thanks to a book he had read — Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which says you can choose your response when “life happens”. He also remembered the words of a mentor from Paget Primary School, where he was formerly the principal, who told him “the greater the crisis, the calmer you have got to be”. However, Mr Smith, who is now back at home recovering, remains concerned at the overcrowding at Bermuda’s only hospital. The Bermuda Hospitals Board put out a statement this week to say that the hospital would “take care of acutely ill patients first” but described the situation as a “crisis”. Mr Smith said: “My concern is that you have people who have serious illnesses who have to have a bed and the hospital is struggling and there are people who have been in traffic accidents and the like coming in. They may need to put some patients in the hallways. I was willing to do that after the second time — I said to my wife I would be happy to do that rather than have this continue to be a problem.”

March 25. Patients have been placed in the maternity and the children’s ward to help deal with the bed crisis at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. On Thursday afternoon, Bermuda Hospitals Board CEO Venetta Symonds stated that every single bed in the hospital’s emergency department and the new acute care wing was full. Meanwhile, as of 9am yesterday 11 patients deemed medically fit for discharge were still in acute care beds, a BHB spokesperson revealed. “The best solution, both clinically and financially, is for Bermuda to have more community nursing home placements and a more extensive home care service,” the spokesperson added. Caring for people in hospital is expensive and the longer they stay the higher the risk of hospital-acquired infections, so it means individuals are left in an institutional setting when they could have a better quality of life in a home setting. “Moving patients out of BHB when they are ready is better for them and for Bermuda. This would leave BHB with adequate capacity for surges.” In response to questions from The Royal Gazette yesterday, BHB stated it would never turn away a patient or deny them treatment. The spokesperson added: “The time in which patients are attended to in the emergency department depends on the acuity of their conditions. Those with the highest acuity are treated first. This has not changed.” BHB also confirmed it was working on a contingency plan of how to deal with the expected increase in patient numbers during the America’s Cup. The spokesperson added: “The issue is that a significant number of inpatients at BHB are non-acute at any one time and this was identified in extensive research on hospital inpatients as the new hospital was planned. There are not enough community nursing homes to accept some people when they no longer need acute care, or families are unable or unwilling to accept them home. These individuals do not need acute care but may have some medical requirements. The hospital cares for them when there are no other options as we cannot in good conscience release people who could be hurt or get sick again if they are discharged to an inappropriate setting. There are clinical advantages to separating these patient groups. Clinical teams are now able to provide more efficient, focused care.”

March 25. Beatrice Osborn, the widow of Bermudian war hero Geoffrey Osborn, has died at 100. She lived in Bermuda for many years and was a Pink Lady volunteer at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. She also worked in the china department at Smith’s department store. Beatrice “Bobbie” Eleanor Durham Osborn, was born in Takely, Essex, England, in 1916. She served as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing member in the British Red Cross Society during the Second World War where she met her future husband. Mr Osborn, who grew up in Bermuda, was a Royal Air Force bomber pilot and was awarded the George Medal for courage in rescuing crew members in two air crashes. Mrs Osborn nursed him as he was convalescing from injuries suffered during the war. The couple married in November 1944. Due to his injuries Mr Osborn returned to Bermuda, followed by his new bride. Here they built and lived in Mazarine, now greatly extended as a guest cottage. Their daughter Wendy was born shortly afterwards at KEMH. The family then moved to England for training. There followed various postings to Germany and Northern Rhodesia before returning to Bermuda in 1966. Mr Osborn joined the Department of Civil Aviation and later became Director of Civil Aviation, while Mrs Osborn volunteered at the hospital as a Pink Lady, where she was able to draw on her wartime nursing experience. She also worked in Smith’s china department for many years, a position she enjoyed immensely. As a hobby, she painted and sold watercolours of Bermuda scenes for many years. Mrs Osborn spent her final years in South Carolina with her daughter, son-in-law and their American relatives. She died on March 19, in Columbia, South Carolina. Mrs Osborn was preceded in death by her husband. She is survived by daughter Wendy (Mark) Hollger of Columbia; son Michael (Debbie); brother-in-law Jack Osborn of Lumberton, New Jersey; and many nieces and nephews. Mrs Osborn’s final resting place will be the family grave at St Mark’s Church, Smith’s.

March 24. Organisations (including Bermuda-based insurance entities) considering stand-alone cyber coverage should carefully evaluate their risk profile and determine whether more traditional policies provide adequate coverage. That is among the tips offered in a new RIMS Professional Report titled, Cyber Insurance: Considerations for Businesses. More businesses are buying stand-alone cyber insurance. According to the 2016 RIMS Cyber Survey, 80 per cent of respondents said they had bought such insurance, a rise of 29 per cent on 2015. The average cost of a cyber breach is $4 million, up 29 per cent since 2013, according to Ponemon’s 2016 Cost of Data Breach study. Some organisations are seeking stand-alone coverage due to contractual requirements imposed by business partners. In the RIMS survey, a quarter of respondents reported that their organisations purchased cyber insurance as a result of contractual obligations, that was up from 17 per cent in 2015. The new report is authored by Teri Cotton Santos, a member of RIMS external affairs committee and senior vice-president, chief compliance and risk officer at The Warranty Group. It explores the potential for traditional policies to cover cyber events, as well as first-party coverages, third-party coverages and additional needs. Additionally, the report provides a series of potential cyber insurance nuances that risk professionals must consider. “Insurance providers are challenged with trying to keep pace with the evolving cyber landscape and develop products that help clients protect their organisations,” said Ms Cotton Santos. “Working closely with your broker can help insureds purchase coverage that addresses key risks to the organisation that can result from a cyber event.” RIMS Professional Report Cyber Insurance: Considerations for Businesses is available in RIMS Risk Knowledge library at www.RIMS.org/RiskKnowledge.

March 24. Tourism minister Michael Fahy has drafted a Bill in the Senate to “eliminate the cumbersome and costly” administration process for hotels and tourist attractions to gain concessions. Mr Fahy’s Tourism Investment Act 2017 will also ensure that businesses are providing training programmes and employment for Bermudians to qualify for relief. It aims to stimulate more tourism development opportunities and to capitalize on the excellent work the Bermuda Tourism Authority is doing to attract more air arrivals and create new experiences. The Hotel Concessions Act 2000 was created to encourage investment in hotel development through tax breaks and the removal of some land restrictions. However, Mr Fahy said the concession orders under the act have been “underutilised” with only $19.3 million in relief being granted since 2000. He added that the “arduous process” had proven “administratively burdensome and costly for all hotels”. He said that with the help of the Bill, over the next ten to 15 years, the relief being budgeted would be about $63.3 million. “The proposed Bill would encompass the full spectrum of Bermuda’s tourism product and would demonstrate a shift from the status quo to a jurisdiction that wants to compete in the global tourism market,” Mr Fahy told senators. He hopes the changes will cut the red tape in approving relief and make it more attractive for developers to build new hotels, restaurants and attractions. The Bill will focus on ensuring that there are training programmes in hotels with orders that are granted for more than five years, and that each hotel provides proof that at least 60 per cent of its workforce is Bermudian. Mr Fahy said the aim was to create a “competitive investment environment” in Bermuda allowing hotels to become profitable and “no longer reliable on government tax relief/rebates” while encouraging Bermudians to take advantage of economic opportunities in the tourism sector. There would be a scaled relief structure with brand new hotel builds on vacant spots receiving the highest concessions including 100 per cent relief on customs duty, hotel occupancy tax, and land tax for up to 10 years on the condition that after five years 60 per cent of the staff make up is Bermudian. Refurbished hotels received similar entitlements but only for a five-year period while concessions are further reduced for restaurants and attractions.

March 24. Premier Michael Dunkley refused to say yesterday whether the $1 million Commission of Inquiry report he ordered would be tabled in Parliament for MPs to debate. The Premier’s spokeswoman sidestepped a question on the issue, telling The Royal Gazette: “The report is available online. So it is accessible to members.” Asked to confirm whether that response meant the 178-page document would not appear on the order paper of the House of Assembly, she replied “No” but did not elaborate further. She later added: “[Mr] Dunkley has advised that his response to the media queries is what stands at this stage, and has declined any further comment regarding the Commission of Inquiry, except to note that the CoI report is available online for review. And as the Premier has noted, Government is presently reviewing the recommendations and committed to implementing positive changes following a consultation process.” Earlier, Mr Dunkley responded to questions from this newspaper about how he planned to hold high-earning civil servants accountable for failing to follow financial rules, as outlined in the Commission’s report, and why he told ZBM news that those officials should “not be singled out” after a front-page story in the newspaper. Mr Dunkley said yesterday: “It would be wrong for The Royal Gazette to continue to single out members of the Civil Service. The Civil Service works to deliver the policy and operational objectives of Ministers.” His public backing of senior civil servants, some of whose actions contributed to the overspend of $72 million of public money during the Progressive Labour Party’s tenure as Government, was characterized by a former Cabinet Minister as a ploy to win votes. Renee Webb, who served as a PLP minister between 1998 and 2004, said: “It’s a PR exercise. It’s not how to get the Civil Service to be more efficient. If you are going to spend a million dollars of the public purse investigating something, people should be held accountable as a consequence.” Ms Webb, who came under fire herself while tourism minister after a hotel contract on a publicly owned property was not tendered, added: “Michael Dunkley rocked the boat by releasing the report, but then he backtracked because he’s facing an election. You are talking about almost 5,000 voters [in the Civil Service]. Upsetting the civil servants, which are the largest voting bloc as far as workers are concerned, is the last thing he wants to do. Timing is everything. He is more concerned about winning the election at this time. You have got to tread on eggshells. What Michael Dunkley is saying is that no matter what has been done wrong, single out the Minister, but don’t single out the Civil Service.” Kevin Comeau, a lawyer who called for a Commission of Inquiry in March 2012 when he was living in Bermuda, argued that career civil servants were put in an impossible position by Ministers and should not be “scapegoated. In a perfect world, they would have done the honourable thing: refused to co-operate with their Minister and reported the [allegedly] corrupt acts to either the Auditor-General or the police. But keep in mind that whistleblower legislation was only enacted in the summer of 2011, after most of the [alleged] corruption had already taken place. These civil servants, some of whom had spent their entire career honorably working for the Government, had to make a choice: report the violations by their bosses and lose their jobs, or keep quiet and thereby stay employed.” He said the fate of those civil servants who “passively turned a blind eye” and failed to report breaches of financial instructions “should be to simply suffer the public embarrassment of being named in the CoI report, which in a small community like Bermuda is no small punishment”. Backbench PLP MPs during the period in question should be the real target of taxpayers’ ire, he argued, as they “cowardly said nothing” yet could have used their parliamentary privilege to flag up any wrongdoing. Bermuda Public Services Union said in a statement on Wednesday that the Commission’s report, and the Auditor-General’s earlier report on the same time period, focused on only a few capital projects. “The majority of capital projects and Government’s current account expenditure are being managed competently and effectively by civil servants, including the four senior civil servants that were highlighted and disparaged in The Royal Gazette,” it said. The Commission of Inquiry identified seven Bermuda Government business dealings between 2009 and 2012 where there was evidence of “possible criminal activity”, though it did not link the “possible criminal activity” to any civil servants, other than One Bermuda Alliance Senator Vic Ball, who has left the Civil Service. The commissioners called for an “urgent review [of] personnel and processes in the Civil Service” and recommended “a frank, independent assessment of whether all current leaders of the Civil Service have appropriate skills sets, perspective and motivation to effect needed change. If not, ascertain whether this can be improved with training.” They stopped short of recommending disciplinary action for civil servants named in the report, but said civil servants should in future be disciplined or sanctioned “on a timely basis” for failing their regulatory responsibility. Two of the four still-serving civil servants criticised in the report — Derrick Binns and Cherie Whitter — have been promoted to the highest possible roles in the Civil Service since their actions were highlighted by the Auditor-General in the 2015 report which prompted the Premier to order the Commission. Dr Binns is now Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, earning $204,775 a year. Ms Whitter, on an annual salary of $187,606, is Deputy Head of the Civil Service (DHCS) and in charge of Public Service Reform (PSR), including increasing accountability and implementing training to ensure official Financial Instructions are followed. She was criticised by the Commission of Inquiry for “appearing to provide no oversight” to the accounting officer responsible for a multimillion-dollar Department of Tourism contract being awarded to American company GlobalHue in 2009 without going out to tender. The commissioners said Ms Whitter, who served as tourism PS while Ewart Brown was Premier and tourism minister, “failed to notify the Accountant-General of this breach of Financial Instructions”. In 2009, the Public Accounts Committee, under the chairmanship of Bob Richards, released a report which found Ms Whitter “fully responsible” for failing to follow Government’s financial rules in relation to GlobalHue. Ms Whitter told the PAC and the Auditor that she had not received any pressure from anyone with respect to the decisions taken within the Ministry regarding contracts. Last year, she told the Commission of Inquiry: “The Minister [Dr Brown] and Cabinet made the decision to contract with GlobalHue in 2009.” Mr Dunkley told this newspaper: “[The] PSR initiative falls under myself, so in that regard DHCS Whitter takes direction from me and then reports back to me. I have full confidence in Ms Whitter and look forward to continued work on this project and other Government initiatives with her.” He later added: “As it relates specifically to [Ms] Whitter, we have worked together for a number of years and I have confidence in her performance, based on the work that we have done together.” He said he “would not be drawn” on the PAC’s conclusions under Mr Richards, who is now Deputy Premier and finance minister. The Premier said all public servants, of whom there were 4,613 as of January 31, had annual performance appraisals and oversight of them resided with the Public Service Commission. The PLP has criticised Mr Dunkley for not providing the House with a copy of the Commission’s report, claiming it was disrespectful.

March 24. Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Works and Engineering, has come under fire from Progressive Labour Party MPs for a $3 million sum given to the West End Development Corporation. Mr Cannonier told the House of Assembly on Monday night that the Government had given the money to Wedco to renovate the old Moresby House building in Dockyard. However, the minister’s comments, which came during a debate on budget supplementary estimates for 2016-17, prompted concern from Opposition leader David Burt and Opposition MPs David Lister, Wayne Furbert and Zane DeSilva. In response to questions from the Opposition, Mr Cannonier confirmed that Wedco owned the property and that they were looking at the possibility of moving their offices into the old property when work was completed. But Mr Furbert and Mr DeSilva queried why the Government was giving $3 million to a quango in times of austerity and whether the sum constituted a capital grant. Mr Cannonier maintained that the project was a good investment, would provide jobs and that Wedco would pay back the money under the terms of a promissory note. He told MPs that Moresby House was a historical site and the completion of the project would coincide with the beginning of the America’s Cup.

March 24. The Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities has maintained that the St Regis hotel development in St George’s is going ahead, with amended plans submitted this month. Senator Michael Fahy also took aim at Progressive Labour Party Senator Renee Ming for issuing a statement calling for an update on the project instead of asking him during yesterday’s Senate sitting. “Frankly the release is ridiculous,” Mr Fahy stated, adding that the day’s Senate meeting adjourned around 10pm and “not once did Senator Ming raise this issue with me, despite the fact that there was a Tourism debate in the Senate. Why send out a press release under the cover of darkness when Senator Ming had every right and ability to ask me questions live in the Senate? The answer presumably is that she does not want an answer. Well here is the answer — I have been in regular contact with the developers of the project in St George’s.” He added that the developers made further amendments to their plans, which were submitted to planning. “Such changes were necessary to decrease the footprint of the hotel development, but not the square footage. The developers are funded. They are not fly-by-night developers. They have been thorough and diligent in their approach. Most recently the Premier and I both met directly with one of the principals who renewed the developer’s commitment to the project — and also assured us that the hotel is being built prior to the planned residences — which naturally contradicts assertions made by the PLP.” Adding that it is “completely disingenuous for Senator Ming to cast doubt on this important project”, he said: “I genuinely hope that she is not responsible for making the release and offers her apology for the outright politricks demonstrated in this release, especially when I spent almost ten hours in her company today and it was never raised.” Ms Ming, municipalities shadow minister, said the One Bermuda Alliance was obliged to provide an update on the project in a statement released yesterday afternoon. “The Premier’s pledge that the hotel will be the first aspect of the project, provides little comfort when there is still no firm date on when the shovels will go in the ground, when Bermudians will be hired to do the work and when the hope of a St George’s hotel will become more than just words. The OBA and Minister Fahy have an obligation to provide an update on this project and if they can no longer give a date as to when ground will be broken in St George’s, they should at least be honest to the people of Bermuda and St George’s. This delay also begs the question as to whether the OBA’s failure to consult on the gaming fees has affected the viability of this project. For the sake of St Georgians who will be directly impacted by this project, as well as by Bermudians in general who are looking for employment, I call on the OBA to give an update on this project as soon as possible.” UPDATE: this story has been amended to confirm that developers’ amendments were submitted to planning rather than having been approved.

March 24. Bermuda-based Randall & Quilter Investment Holdings has bought up a captive insurer from US engine manufacturer Cummins. Randall & Quilter acquired ICDC, which was incorporated in Bermuda, but moved to Vermont two years ago, under terms which have not been revealed. The captive reinsured workers’ compensation, commercial general liability, business auto liability, business auto physical damage and property risks for its Fortune 500 owner, Now in run-off, it had a total net asset value of $7.95 million and reserves estimated at about $2.76 million. Ken Randall, chairman of R&Q, said: “We are delighted to complete the acquisition of ICDC from an American Fortune 500 company. This transaction demonstrates our ongoing commitment to continue to acquire legacy insurance assets and also continues to expand our acquisition activity in the North America, Bermuda and the Caribbean region.” For London Stock Exchange-listed R&Q, this was the second acquisition announcement this week. On Tuesday R&Q announced it had purchased an island-based captive in run-off, Linco Ltd, the captive insurer of Ameripride Services Inc and Alsco Inc. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. R&Q’s head office is in the FB Perry Building on Church Street, Hamilton.

March 24. Stress levels for the absentee America’s Cup Challenger Emirates Team New Zealand clicked up another notch this week. On Wednesday their fellow challengers and defender Oracle Team USA took to the Great Sound for the first of five days of match racing practice. This is the first of seven new practice periods. That left the “lone wolf” Kiwi boat racing against her own shadow down under. Matching the defender against challengers could dispel the mystery of traditional America’s Cup competition … Who has the speed? Until now challengers and defenders have not raced until the actual Match for the Cup. Team New Zealand posted on Facebook: “America’s Cup boats lining up already? Until this week it was prohibited by the protocol, but now allowed after yet another rule change. Working together to protect their future AC framework agreement?” referring to the five-team agreement for future competition in the ACC catamarans, which New Zealand opposes. Until now the 2017 America’s Cup Protocol — the document of agreement between the Defender, Golden Gate Yacht Club, and representatives of the five Challengers — did not allow for boat-to-boat practice in the AC Class 50-footers in 2017. But the majority rules. According to the amendment posted on the event notice board, four Challengers, the ones training in Bermuda, voted to change the rules. The original rules had stipulated that practice period’s dates must be published one year in advance of the first scheduled race. With Defender Team USA supporting the amendment, it was brought forward. New Zealand continue to train alone in Auckland. They are air-freighting their contender to Bermuda on April 11. “Protocol changes require the Defender and the Challenger Commission to agree,” reports Jack Griffin of Cup Experience. “The Challenger Commission uses majority rule to reach decisions … a majority of them voted for this change. With Emirates Team New Zealand choosing to train in Auckland through March, they have no interest in the other teams getting quality training time. Until this week it was prohibited by the protocol. Since the other five teams have only launched their AC Class race boats within the past month, we suspect there is so much uncertainty that they all voted for the change. And as the Kiwis note, there is interest within this group to insure one of them wins … and the Kiwis lose.”

March 24. Land Rover BAR skipper and principal Sir Ben Ainslie put a positive spin on lopsided losses against Oracle Team USA on the Great Sound on Wednesday amid growing concerns regarding his team’s performances of late. “It was great to be out sailing on the America’s Cup course, the conditions were fantastic,” Ainslie said. “Each day on the water is a development day, and this will continue all the way through this America’s Cup cycle. Our shore, design and sailing teams are doing a fantastic job working to maximize the performance of our race boat.” Land Rover BAR won the America’s Cup World Series in the AC45F foiling catamaran, but have yet to replicate that form in their more technically advanced AC Class catamarans. “Unfortunately, the British seemed to be having issues and weren’t competitive which was a bit of surprise,” said Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill following last month’s practice races in the AC45S, in which BAR posted a dismal 1-8 record. One of the theories being touted about BAR’s struggles has been the team’s decision to test daggerboard foil designs near their home base in Portsmouth rather than in Bermuda, something which appears to have given their rivals who did most of their testing in the Great Sound the edge. The foil concepts that the team are using are believed to be based on the conditions in the Solent where the density and chop of the water differs to the conditions here, resulting in slower speeds. The same may be true for Emirates Team New Zealand, who have done all of their testing in Auckland. With the AC50 boasting mainly one design elements, much of the focus of the design race has been centred around the foils that lift the hulls out of the water to allow the boats to virtually fly three times the true wind speed. The key to achieving high speed is designing foils that reach the edge of stability without comprising control. According to rules governing the 35th America’s Cup, each competitor is allowed to build a maximum total of four daggerboard foils, which may be modified a maximum of four times, provided at least 70 per cent of the daggerboard foil determined by weight maintains its original shape and structure. Foiling catamarans were introduced to the America’s Cup scene at the previous event in San Francisco in 2013, where Defender Oracle produced a stunning comeback to retain their title.

March 24. The Ministry of Public Works has announced a series of road work projects to take place this weekend. According to a spokeswoman, the inside lane of Crow Lane heading towards town will be closed off tomorrow morning from the roundabout to just west of Spurling Hill, with traffic being diverted to the outside lane. Depending on traffic flow, access to Spurling Hill may be restricted by the work. Road work in the area is expected to continue in the early morning to allow for resurfacing of the Crow Lane roundabout. Trenching will also be conducted outside the old Harmony Club on South Road in Paget over the weekend. Meanwhile, St Paul’s Lane will also be closed for traffic exiting Middle Road. This traffic management will continue on Monday for the rest of the week during off-peak hours. Marsh Folly Road will also be reduced to a single lane over the weekend as rock face remedial work is carried out in the area between Blackwatch Pass to St Monica’s Road. And a team will be conducting road resurfacing on South Road/Middle Road from the Rural Hill roundabout to Lovers Lane late on Sunday morning. The spokeswoman noted that all of the projects were weather dependant.

March 24. Every single bed in the hospital’s emergency department and the new acute care wing is full, Bermuda Hospitals Board CEO Venetta Symonds announced yesterday afternoon. Ms Symonds said that the BHB was managing the situation “as best as we can”, but acknowledged that from an internal operational standpoint the hospital was dealing with a “crisis”. “There are no patient beds right now at the hospital,” she said. “That means, if you need acute care in the community of course you are going to come to BHB, but right now every single bed in our emergency department and our new acute care wing is completely full. First of all, if you are an outpatient and looking to have a surgical procedure in the next week or so, you might get a call saying that your surgical procedure has been postponed.” Meanwhile, Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Health, said that her ministry was “working on solutions to long-term care. If you have a non-emergency illness, please see a general practitioner or visit the urgent care centre rather than going to the emergency room,” she said. “If you are collecting a loved one who has been discharged, please be on time. If you are an administrator of a rest home, I ask that you work with the hospital to discharge patients back to the residence, even after hours, so the hospital beds can be available for patients who need acute care. The hospital is not a rest home.” Ms Atherden added: “My ministry is working on solutions to long-term care because in this crisis there are clearly not enough beds in the community for long-term-care patients. I ask that we show our true Bermudian spirit in this crisis, and come together with fortitude, patience and generosity, and make adjustments under the circumstances. Our team is looking at possibilities right now, and we ask for your continued understanding as we work through this situation. BHB’s team is doing all it can to take care of everyone safely. Please do your part to help.” Stating that “every single bed matters right now”, Ms Symonds added: “We all need to work together to make sure our hospital can accommodate you. We have been experiencing increases in capacity in the last couple of months. There are a lot of respiratory illnesses right now, but there are a multitude of factors making it difficult for BHB to empty beds. Be assured that we are working with Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to manage the medium and long-term needs for Bermuda, but right now in this immediate situation I would go so far as to say operationally, internally to BHB, it is a crisis. In order for us to deliver the very best of care to you and your loved ones when you are acutely ill, we definitely need your support. Go to your doctor first or use our urgent care centre and remember, when we are discharging, come and pick up your loved ones and if you do have delayed care, call your doctor and insurer to find out what your options are.”

March 24. Six years after it closed its doors, the Willowbank Hotel is to reopen in May. The 56-year-old hotel enjoys stunning ocean views in Sandys and is expected to be busy during the America’s Cup period and beyond. Glenn Jones, director of public and stakeholder relations at the Bermuda Tourism Association, said: “Our chief executive officer Kevin Dallas and our chief product and experiences development officer Pat Phillip-Fairn visited Willowbank this week and were delighted to see a property on the eve of a new beginning with a team of staff and managers motivated to welcome visitors very soon. “Our expectation is that Willowbank will reopen its doors formally on May 1. It’s especially good news to have additional hotel inventory online ahead of the America’s Cup.” The 64-room hotel closed in November 2011 during the economic downturn. It was a family-run Christian hotel, which also had a conference centre. The closure of the hotel has continued to be lamented online at websites such as TripAdvisor, by former guests asking if it will ever reopen. During the past few years the conference centre has been used occasionally, however, the hotel remained closed. The property has undergone refurbishment and the expectation is it will reopen for business in the early part of May. A website for the hotel at Willowbank.bm currently advises visitors to check back for updates. Mr Jones said: “The Bermuda Tourism Authority is encouraging Willowbank to reposition itself as a 64-room family hotel, leveraging its secluded beaches, green space and the surrounding neighborhood which has a family-friendly feel — all while remaining true to the hotel’s original mission. “The team here on-island and in New York will work with Willowbank to assist with its reintroduction to the Bermuda hospitality industry. “We’re excited about what they’ve done so far and look forward to the opening in about six weeks.” The Royal Gazette has approached Willowbank regarding the reopening and is awaiting a response.

March 24. World-renowned ballet dancer and choreographer Geoffrey Cauley — who was born and spent his childhood in Bermuda — has died in Italy at the age of 74. Mr Cauley was born in Somerset and lived in Bermuda until he was 10 when his family moved to live in Plymouth in the southwest of England. He went on to become one of the most respected dancers and choreographers in the business working with the BBC in productions of The Tempest and The Nutcracker. Born in Bermuda in 1942, Mr Cauley was just a youngster when he attended Patricia Sherwood’s ballet classes at Trinity Hall in Hamilton. Ms Sherwood, who married and is now Mrs Deane-Gray, told The Royal Gazette that “Geoffrey” was the only boy in her class; but an extremely “determined individual”. Mrs Deane-Gray, who went on to found the School of Russian Ballet in Bermuda in 1955 and still teaches ballet today, added: “He was one of my little students many years ago. His mother brought him to me when he was about five years old and I was just a teenager. We had no idea at the time that he would go on to be such a success. I remember him being extremely determined, a little hard to handle, if I’m honest. He was the only boy in my class and when he left Bermuda at the age of 10 I did not hear from him for many years.” In 1964, Mr Cauley as well as a host of other acclaimed ballet dancers returned to Bermuda with the Royal Ballet and performed between July 21 and 28. “Although I had not followed his career I knew he had done well because he was with the Royal Ballet and he was dancing with the best dancers of the time,” Mrs Deane-Gray said. “There was actually a picture of Geoffrey and his fellow dancers in The Royal Gazette sitting by the pool relaxing after one of their performances. That was the last time I saw or spoke with him. He obviously went on to do very well, but we both went our separate ways. It’s a bit frightening to think that your students are passing away and you have been out there teaching for so long, but I am still teaching here and seeing the next generation of children come through.” After leaving Bermuda, Mr Cauley lived with his family in Plymouth where he attended ballet classes with Geraldine Lambe. She sent him to audition for the Royal Ballet School, which he entered successfully in 1954. From there, he joined the Covent Garden Opera Ballet in 1960 and moved to the Royal Ballet itself two years later. Italian journalist and close friend Francesco Bertolucci told The Royal Gazette: “He was a great person and a very humble man. Great figures of dance such as Marga Nativo and Luciana Savignano have said that without Cauley dance will never be the same.” During a professional career that spanned several decades, Mr Cauley worked with the giants of international ballet including Nureyev, Anthony Dowell, Frederick Ashton, Margot Fontaine, Savignano and Fracci. He travelled the world living and working in Italy, Switzerland, Argentina, Germany, England and the United States. About 15 years ago, Mr Cauley moved to Torre del Lago in Viareggio, Italy and taught at the Danzarea school of Viareggio until quite recently. He died on March 17 in Forte dei Marmi.

March 24. The Bermuda International Film Festival has been inundated with Bermudian short films this year as organizers prepare for the 20th annual event. As part of this year’s event, the BIFF will be hosting BerMovie day on May 7, featuring films made by Bermudians and Bermuda residents, inviting the public to submit their own short films. With the deadline for entry today, Patrice Horner of the BIFF purpose trust said: “The response from Bermudian film-makers has been significant. We will start reviewing them for the programme on Monday. “We had to limit the length to 30 mins in order to show as many as feasible. It should be a blast.” Meanwhile, BIFF chairman Rod Ferguson commented on how far the festival has come over the past 20 years, noting that this year’s event will be all digital. “We no longer have to receive these heavy reels, as BIFF has gone digital,” he said. “We have escaped the dark ages.” BIFF’s weeklong celebration of cinema consists of a slate of both narrative and documentary feature films, programmes of short films and provocative late night shows. In addition, there is the BIFF Kids programmes in the mornings for both primary and secondary school students. This year’s festival runs from May 1 to 7, with screenings taking place at the Earl Cameron Theatre in City Hall. BerMovie entries can be submitted to programming@biff.bm by Vimeo or Blu-ray before 5pm today. Entries can also be submitted by hard drive or DVDs, which can be dropped off at BIFF headquarters on Front Street.

March 23. Norwegian Cruise Lines has committed to bringing 56 cruise ships to Bermuda each year in return for concessions and berthing rights, tourism minister Michael Fahy told the Senate. Mr Fahy made the announcement as he outlined spending in the Ministry of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities as senators debated the Budget. He also addressed the continuing problems with buses and said four new vehicles would arrive on island in the third quarter of 2017. The Government is also looking to buy eight more buses in the coming fiscal year. Mr Fahy urged the unions to accept the bus schedule that has been put forward, saying it would significantly reduce overtime and allow a massively improved maintenance schedule. “Currently to run a peak service we need 88 buses,” Mr Fahy later told The Royal Gazette. “Under the new schedule, we would need 46 buses. This failure to agree by the union has now become a serious issue and must be resolved. We must put the public first and the new schedule will complement our other efforts to improve service and safety for passengers.” Meanwhile, the NCL agreement, which expires in 2022, will see NCL-branded ships and their smaller luxury cruise lines including Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas and Prestige Cruise Holdings visiting Dockyard, Hamilton and St George’s. NCL also committed to acquiring tender lift at its own expense that would be leased or built to help transport NCL passengers in the West End, to and from St George’s. Mr Fahy said: “Pending the signing of the lease agreement, a vessel has been identified to be chartered by NCL from May through October 2017, while NCL continue to build two smaller purpose built tenders to service Bermuda between 2018 and 2022. The tender is intended to be licensed for 400 passengers and will operate on days when NCL ships are in port.” As part of the agreement, Bermuda has agreed to upgrade Penno’s Wharf to as well as the provision of fresh water for each cruise ship call. Speaking about the Department of Marine and Ports, Mr Fahy said that the ferry Millennium would continue to operate until the end of the 2017 season, but the contract would not be renewed.

March 23. A terrorist attack in London that left four people dead around the Houses of Parliament sparked concerns for safety among Bermudians with links to the city. Staff from the island’s London Office had met earlier yesterday at the nearby Foreign and Commonwealth Office, according to Michael Dunkley, but all were reported safe. Former reporters from The Royal Gazette provided comment in the tense aftermath of the attacks, which began at about 2.40pm London time with a Hyundai i40 ploughing into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge. Three bystanders lost their lives, and a policeman, named last night as Keith Palmer, died after being stabbed by a knife-wielding man who struggled to enter Parliament after breaching its security cordon. The assailant was then shot dead by police. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, urged visitors “not to be alarmed”, while the Premier, said that London Office staff had been sent home, with the office’s director, Kimberley Durrant, offering support and advice to Bermudians in the UK. “As far as we’re concerned, we are all right and they are taking steps to help Bermudians impacted in any way,” Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people in the UK while they deal with this dastardly and cowardly attack.” John Rankin, the Governor, was offered a message of sympathy, and the Premier vowed to write to Theresa May, Prime Minister of Britain, as well as Baroness Anelay, Minister for the Overseas Territories. Mr Dunkley urged locals within London and its environs to remain “vigilant of their surroundings”. Elizabeth Roberts, a former journalist with this newspaper who has lived in London since 2013, said that both the House of Commons and House of Lords had vowed to sit today at normal times. “We also heard from eyewitnesses that a brave police officer ran towards the attacker who was armed with the knife and had wrestled his colleague to the ground,” Miss Roberts said. “Both of these things made me incredibly proud of my country today.” Rajan Simons, another former Gazette reporter, described the atmosphere as “hectic” and said many facilities had been brought to a standstill as news of the attack spread. “There were people stuck up in the London Eye,” Ms Simons said. “A friend of mine actually works right down in Westminster, so I was getting worried trying to locate her but she is OK. She’s telling me she couldn’t get past the area where it happened.” Bermudian Kris Darrell, who works near Trafalgar Square, was about to leave home when a message from her roommate warned her to avoid Westminster after shots rang out. “It was bad enough hearing about a shooting, as you very seldom hear about them, but to then get the full story was really disturbing. You don’t really get things like that happening in the city The atmosphere is cautious, there is definitely a police presence here, and you can hear the helicopters overhead constantly, but for the rest of the city, everyone is just going about with their evening. The station at Westminster is closed and of course the bridge, but otherwise than that, it’s business as usual. People are pretty shocked by it all, and we are all worried about whether or not something else is going to happen, but most people seem reassured by the authorities walking around, and the surveillance on the helicopters. We were told to be cautious, but carry on with our evenings, so most people are doing that. Nothing too different from any other Wednesday night — apart from the noise overhead.” The atmosphere was typical of the UK capital, where residents each day are acutely conscious of “the huge terror threat looming over the city”, Miss Roberts said. Posted warnings are commonplace, with police videos advising on “what to do if there is ever a marauding gunman. There are always armed police on patrol in public areas such as railway stations and airports,” Miss Roberts added, noting that authorities had conducted exercises just three days earlier, simulating a terror attack on the River Thames. But Londoners had been spared any major terrorist incident since the 7/7 attacks of 2005. “I remember that day vividly, I was working as a journalist on that occasion too, and will never forget the feeling of shock and fear for your friends and family in the city. And just as then, I am incredibly worried and shocked despite all the warnings and precautions taken in recent years. This attacker has struck at the heart of the nation, the Parliament, where the people who represent this nation were meeting — including the Prime Minister. It is a truly shocking breach of security at a building that is one of the most heavily guarded in Britain, and it leaves you feeling that nobody is safe. Watching people at the scene screaming and running from gunfire is chilling. I walk through Westminster frequently and, of course, the first thought is ‘that could have been me’. “I certainly will feel more jumpy and anxious than before as a result.” London journalism is a small circle, and Miss Roberts expressed concern for colleagues who reported on Parliament — some of whom were briefly locked inside with MPs. “However, the people of London are a tough bunch. They will not, I am sure, let this stop them going about their daily lives. I will not let this stop me enjoying all this vibrant city has to offer. Life must carry on as usual — otherwise the people that commit these acts have won.”

March 23. A number of the world’s richest billionaires who have connections to Bermuda are included in Forbes World Billionaires 2017 list. Among them is former New York Michael Bloomberg, 75, who owns a property in Bermuda. He is ranked tenth on the list with a net worth of $47.5 billion. Mr Bloomberg made his fortune through Bloomberg News, a multinational mass media corporation specializing in financial data-services. Abigail Johnson, 55, is chairwoman of Bermudian-based Fidelity International, a financial services company. She is also chief executive officer of US-based Fidelity Investments, and is listed at 75 on the rich list with a net worth of $14.4 billion. Ms Johnson’s father, Edward Johnson III, was the former CEO of Fidelity. He helped to finance the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Mr Johnson is listed at 173, with a net income of $7.8 billion. Former Italian prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, 80, and American entrepreneur Ross Perot, 86, who are believed to still own Bermuda properties, are on the list. Mr Berlusconi is at 199 with a net worth of $7 billion, while Mr Perot is at 441 with $4 billion. John Fredriksen, 72, who controls Bermudian-based shipping company Frontline Ltd, is at 131 on the rich list, with a net worth of $9.9 billion. The Forbes list is headed by Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft. He has topped the list 18 times during the past 23 years, and has a net worth is $86 billion. Liliane Bettencourt, 94, is the world’s richest woman with a net worth of $39.5 billion. She owns 33 per cent of make-up giant L’Oréal with her children.

March 23. Repeated attacks from the floor of Parliament have prompted the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission to break its silence with a sharply worded statement querying the capabilities and motives of its critics. Commission member Alan Dunch also refuted claims by Independent MPs Shawn Crockwell and Mark Pettingill that the group neglected to consult casinos’ stakeholders over gaming fees — saying that both he and Richard Schuetz, the commission’s executive director, had met recently with a representative for the St George’s hotel development who voiced no unhappiness over the proposed charges. “Not one operator has come to the commission offices to complain about fees,” Mr Dunch added. “I recently met in London with a prospective operator that indicated they have absolutely no problem with the fees.” The commission, he said, had spoken with several “accredited and well-known international gaming operators as part of our research into fees and taxes — doing so with the view to obtain a better understanding of what may or may not be acceptable in different jurisdictions, taking into account the various factors that influence those jurisdictions”. Mr Dunch took aim at the gaming credentials of both MPs, who are law firm partners, noting that neither possesses working experience in the industry, and that the commission had been appointed by Mr Crockwell in his time as minister, “against the backdrop of praising their integrity, honesty, and hard work. Mr Crockwell also suggests that he has received phone calls from a litany of people who are sitting at the table right now, individuals with designated site orders, that said that they were not consulted on the level of fees,” Mr Dunch added. “I find this surprising given that there are only two entities with designated site orders, and we have spoken to both of them, and neither indicated any complaint about the fees.” Saying the two had defamed the commission and its work, Mr Dunch added that the attacks appeared not to be driven by “a desire to assist the public policy goals of the island in introducing integrated resort casinos, but to benefit their own self-interest”. It has been 18 months since the commission was put in place, and criticism since then has not only come from the Opposition — but Mr Dunch said most naysayers lacked information. “Truth be told, the commission has spent months working closely with the Bermuda College, many of the island’s accounting companies, the faith community, the recovery community, the legal community, the charities community, and numerous other segments of Bermudian society to ensure gaming is properly introduced and integrated. We have sought help from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the UK Gaming Commission, the Governor’s Office, the US Consulate, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and numerous other governmental groups. Bermuda’s Financial Intelligence Agency, National Anti-Money Laundering Committee, and the Bermuda Police Service have also collaborated with us.” Mr Pettingill’s failing grade for the commission during remarks in Parliament on March 17 showed “an incredible amount of arrogance and ignorance” — and Mr Dunch said that, as a member of the International Association of Gaming Advisers, he had been “astounded” by the MP’s assertions in November and February that he was the island’s only member. Mr Schuetz was also said to be a member, along with tourism minister Senator Michael Fahy, and commission staff Debra Blakeney and Julie Grant. “What strikes me as supremely ironic is that when checking the IAGA website, back in November, February and again on Monday, we cannot find Mr Pettingill’s name in the listing of members.” Mr Crockwell’s comments last Friday in Parliament also came under fire for the claim that the commission had heard concerns over gaming fees while meeting with an operator from Australia, which he branded “unequivocally wrong. Although we practise an open-door policy, few politicians have made the effort to drop by our offices and gain a better understanding of what we are doing. Certainly, Mr Pettingill has not done so and, since his departure from the Cabinet, nor has Mr Crockwell. “While some are determined to shield their activities from the public, we want Bermuda to know we will continue to do our part to ensure transparency and that the best interest of the people of Bermuda prevails. The only clients we are trying to enrich are the people of Bermuda.”

March 23. Opinion, by James Paul Sabo, CPA. "The White House has announced that a tax bill making major changes to current tax law will be passed by August 2017. Seemingly lost in the discussion of what changes will be made is the repeal of the Estate Tax that is celebrating its 101st birthday, though the discussion is primarily about repeal and few are talking about what will replace it. Further removed from discussion is what will happen to the Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax and the Gift Tax law. Impact of estate tax repeal.  As a result of the current high estate tax exemption amounts, $5.49 million per individual and $10.98 million per married couple in 2017, 98.8 per cent of Americans who die in 2017 will not be subject to Federal Estate Tax. Interestingly, the 0.02 per cent who do will collectively pay on average $27 billion in estate tax. This is not an insignificant amount. So if Congress will reduce revenue by $27 billion what does President Trump have in mind to replace this revenue? Implement a carry-over basis.  A popular suggestion is to revert to 2010, the year in which there was no estate tax and which there was no step-up in basis. For those not familiar with the current estate tax law if the decedent purchased a share of stock for $15 and on the death of the decedent the stock had a fair market value of $25, when the stock was passed on to a beneficiary and then sold, the basis for determining gain or loss was the “stepped up” basis of $25. Under current estate tax law 98.8 per cent of beneficiaries benefit from this “stepped up” basis and the appreciation in the decedent’s portfolio is never taxed. In 2010 the “stepped up” basis was replaced by a “carry-over basis”. In other words if the decedent paid $15 for the stock, when it passed to the beneficiary the basis for determining gain or loss on the sale of the stock was $15. Deemed disposition on death. A second choice to replace the revenue of estate tax repeal is to borrow a page from the expatriation tax regime where certain individuals who relinquish their US citizenship are deemed to have disposed of all their assets the day before the date of relinquishment. This same language could be implemented into the tax law whereby a decedent would have been deemed to have sold all their assets on the day before they died and to have these assets be subject to tax in the final income tax return that they file. This option could be more attractive than the first as it would generate revenue on the death of the decedent and not on a future date when the beneficiary will sell the stock. The expatriation regime. What we have not seen discussed is what will happen to the expatriation regime if we no longer have an “estate tax”. Unbeknown to many taxpayers, including tax practitioners, is that the current expatriation regime in which certain individuals who relinquish their US citizenship are deemed to have disposed of all their assets the day before the date of relinquishment is based on the estate tax law and not on the income tax law. Even though this law was introduced some eight years ago there is only one notice that gives practitioners guidance as to how this tax is to be implemented. We have spent hours pursuing the current estate tax law trying to decipher the mysteries of the expatriation regime. If the estate tax law is repealed, the law will be left without a current reference point. Generation-skipping transfer tax and the gift tax. To date, we have not seen any positions taken as to whether these taxes will stay “as is” or be replaced or repealed. Waiting is not an option. Strategies such as transferring assets to a grantor retained annuity trust sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts and making annual gifts up to the $14,000 per person maximum are still effective strategies. Beyond taxes. When protecting family assets from ex-spouses, creditors, illegitimate children and politicians, confidentiality should be a top priority. The trend is clearly to global transparency (Fatca) that is forcing private jurisdictions such as Switzerland to report the financial assets of residents and non-residents. Where do you go for privacy and security? Interestingly, many individuals are turning to jurisdictions such as South Dakota. Foreign nationals with US tax filing obligations. The Internal Revenue Service has reminded non-US citizens who may have taxable income, such as international students and scholars who may be working or receiving scholarship funds, that they may have special requirements to file a US tax return. The Internal Revenue Code generally requires non-US citizens, whom the code defines as either resident or non-resident aliens, who are engaged in a trade or business within the US to file tax returns. Non-resident aliens such as foreign students, teachers or trainees temporarily in the US on F, J, M or Q visas are considered engaged in a trade or business. Most individuals in F-1, J-1, M-1, Q-1 and Q-2 non-immigrant status are eligible to be employed in the US and are eligible to apply for a Social Security number if they are actually employed in the US. Those not eligible for an SSN but who have a tax filing requirement may request an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the IRS. Filing a Form 1040-NR or 1040NR-EZ is required by non-US citizens who have a taxable event such as:

Non-US citizens also must attach one copy (generally Copy B) for each Form 1042-S received to their tax returns. Non-US citizens should review the Form 1042-S to ensure it accurately reflects their name and income. If the form does not contain accurate information, they must contact the withholding agent for an amended Form 1042-S." Pursuant to the requirements relating to practice before the Internal Revenue Service, any tax advice in this communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (I) avoiding penalties imposed under the US Internal Revenue Code, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another person any tax related manner. The tax advice given by this column is, by necessity, general in nature. You should, of course, check with your own US tax consultant as to how specific transactions affect you since tax advice varies with individual circumstances. James Paul Sabo, CPA, is the president of ETS Ltd, PO Box HM 1574, Hamilton HM GX, Bermuda. Questions should be sent to: jsabo@expatriatetaxservices.com.

March 23. The Bermuda Stock Exchange last month launched its “Own Your Share of Bermuda” campaign to raise awareness of opportunities to invest in the island’s public companies. Bermuda Press (Holdings) Ltd. One of Bermuda’s largest and oldest publicly traded companies, Bermuda Press (Holdings) Limited can trace its origins back to 1828. It is the parent company of The Royal Gazette and 11 other subsidiaries that range from office supplies and printing services, to online classified advertising and real estate holdings. The company has a market capitalisation of $12.9 million. Its assets as at the end of September were valued at $35.5 million, while liabilities totaled $5.5 million and equity was $30 million. During the past decade the company has navigated through the seven-year economic downturn that began in 2008, while also dealing with challenges specific to the printing and publishing sector, which form a key part of its operations. Those challenges included embracing digital printing and expanding into new digital platforms and products. Along the way the company has adapted to changes in the environment of its core businesses. In the last 15 years, two of Bermuda’s three newspapers have closed, while the three largest printing companies have consolidated into one. BPHL owns the island’s sole surviving newspaper, The Royal Gazette and, as a result of consolidations, is Bermuda’s dominant printing operation. Three years ago the company amalgamated the Island Press and Bermuda.com operations. Those consolidations came as Island Press closed its twice-weekly Bermuda Sun newspaper, a reflection of the financial challenges that have faced the printing and publishing industries during the past decade. BPHL has a long history of paying dividends. However, there was an almost two-year hiatus between June 2014 and March 2016 when the company halted the programme. The reason for the suspension of dividends was to use the cash to fund the working capital requirements of Island Press and Bermuda.com and related restructuring costs. Since the reinstatement of the dividends the company has made quarterly payments of five cents per share, for an annualized yield of 2.2 per cent at yesterday’s stock price. Since 2012, BPHL’s share price has fluctuated within a $6 range, with a high of $11 in 2012, and a low of $5.30 last summer. This week, the stock was trading at $9 on the Bermuda Stock Exchange. In its 2016 annual report, released last month, the company reported a profit of $1.26 million, more than double the previous year’s figure. Cost-cutting measures played a key part in the improved performance, which was achieved even as revenue fell from $27.2 million to $26.6 million. Consolidation within the company’s print division was the primary driver of the cost savings, while declines in revenue were attributed to falling sales of print advertising in publishing operations. Stephen Thomson, BPHL chairman, remarked on savings achieved by consolidations and other measures in the annual report. “During the past 12 months, management focused on consolidation and maximizing efficiencies within operations. Many of the changes that occurred during the year were behind the scenes. For several years, the board and management have focused on cost reductions in the operations because of difficult economic conditions.” The company has 100 per cent ownership of 11 of its subsidiaries, which include online classified advertising site eMoo (Bermuda), Office Solutions, and Bermuda Directories Ltd. It has an 80 per cent ownership of Crown House Properties Ltd. During the past year, BPHL’s management has expanded its print operations into sign printing, redesigned and improved the eMoo website, and launched a responsive mobile website for The Royal Gazette. It has also implemented new advertising booking and customer relationship management system, and worked to increase home delivery of The Royal Gazette and enhance marketing of the Stationary Store and Office Solutions. Looking ahead, Mr Thomson stated in the annual report that the company’s performance is tied directly to the performance of the local economy. While cautioning that Bermuda’s economy remains fragile, he said: “More than $23 million of our annual revenue is tied to consumer spending. Leading indicators have shown an improvement in consumer confidence and should ultimately result in increased consumer spending.”

March 23. Allied World shareholders approved a special dividend as the insurer moved a step closer to its merger with Canadian firm Fairfax Financial Holdings. Allied Word, one of the Class of 2001 insurers to form in Bermuda after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, is now based in Zug, Switzerland, but has substantial operations on the island. Yesterday’s vote gave the go-ahead for a $5 special dividend to be paid to shareholders immediately following the completion of the Fairfax deal. Shareholders also approved the amending of the company’s Articles of Association to remove the limitation on the voting rights of a holder of 10 per cent or more of the company’s ordinary shares. Scott Carmilani, Allied World’s chief executive officer, said: “We are pleased with the overwhelming support we received today from our shareholders. “With today’s vote, we move one step closer to completing the transaction with Fairfax, to the benefit of our shareholders, customers, business partners and employees.” Fairfax has promised Allied World will be allowed to continue to run as it does now after the completion of the merger.

March 22. The stewardship of Bermuda’s airport has officially switched hands from the Department of Airport Operations to Bermuda Skyport Corporation Limited. Aaron Adderley, the former general manager of the DAO, who now presides over the new entity, hailed its launch as the start of “a new era”. Like many other former DAO staff, Mr Adderley has kept a similar role but switched over to the company that will oversee both the running of LF Wade International Airport, and the 40-month project to replace its present terminal. Construction is expected to start next month. With the new facility to be completed in 2020, the existing building must now be “spruced up” for its remaining 3½ years in service. “In the days and weeks ahead, we’ll be finalizing a plan, parts of which have already been enacted, to address some of the facility deficiencies,” Mr Adderley said. Speaking at an announcement yesterday in the departures area of the present terminal, he said Skyport would “manage and co-ordinate the overall delivery of the airport redevelopment project for a 30-year concession term”. At the close of that term, in 2047, “Skyport’s lease with the Government will end, and the day-to-day operation of the airport and its facilities will revert to the Government of Bermuda”. Mr Adderley praised the work of DAO staff, 80 per cent of whom have gone over to Skyport, through the rocky progress of the agreement between the Bermuda Government, anxious to avoid further public debt, and the Canadian Commercial Corporation. Former DAO staff comprise 28 out of the 32 positions in Skyport presently held by Bermudians. But Mr Adderley said he expected “30 new jobs at Skyport, for which we have already begun to recruit on-island”. Although it is a Bermuda company, Skyport is owned by CCC’s chosen contractor, Aecon Concessions, a specialist in public-private partnerships that is to develop and finance the project. Its president, Steve Nackan, called the company “a fusion — a partnership, if you will — of local talent and the international infrastructure expertise of Aecon”, and presented Aecon’s corporate social responsibility programme. “Through Skyport, we will support community outreach, education, health and sports, and important environmental sustainability initiatives,” Mr Nackan said, citing the “significant footprint that the airport has in the community”. That programme began with a donation of $5,000 to Family Centre. Skyport will also recruit for positions at the Bermuda Airport Authority, the quango with oversight over Wade International’s administration and the redevelopment project. Job inquiries may be sent to careers@skyport.bm, a spokeswoman said.

March 22. A boost in the Ministry of National Security’s budget will see police numbers bolstered and the anti-gang programme Operation Ceasefire implemented, Premier Michael Dunkley told the House of Assembly. The Premier outlined spending within the ministry for the 2017-18 fiscal year that paves the way for a $100,000 grant to the Junior Leaders’ programme as well as new vehicles for the Bermuda Fire Service. Walter Roban, the Shadow Minister for National Security, welcomed the increased funding to the Junior Leaders’ programme describing it as “wonderful”. But Mr Roban raised concerns that there had been a reduction in drug intelligence expenditure for 2017-18 and urged the Government to look at ways of modernizing the Post Office. “We need to push the Post Office to become a modern entity, there has been no revitalization,” he said. “I am making a plea to support the Post Office, modernize it, do not dilute it. It is a great institution to Bermuda.” In response to Mr Roban’s question about drug intelligence funding in the police, Mr Dunkley pointed out that this year’s budget expenditure was a $350,000 increase on two years ago. The Premier said he took Mr Roban’s comments on the Post Office on board. He added: “There are no plans to close any more sub-post offices.” Earlier in the debate, Mr Dunkley revealed that the ministry’s budget had been increased 15 per cent for 2017-18 to start up the anti-gang programme Operation Ceasefire. He also outlined plans to hire an additional 30 police officers including 15 local recruits and 15 firearms officers from overseas. The Department of Customs will receive a $119,000 boost to provide for uncertainty in oil prices, as well as increased energy use from the Hamilton X-ray machine.

March 22. Legislators have agreed to a fee exemption for certain permit companies that maintain a token presence on the island to reduce their tax liabilities. Companies without any physical presence in Bermuda will be charged $25,000, raised from the previous $1,995 for having a Bermuda “branch”. David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, harshly criticised finance minister Bob Richards for having to fine-tune another revenue measure from the latest Budget. But Mr Richards said he did not believe the proviso would affect more than “40 of the 400 to 500 companies that exist”. The minister forecast no change in government revenue, as it had been budgeted under the premise that “some of those companies may pack up and leave. Those that really want to be here are going to have to pay. Those that don’t — see you later,” Mr Richards said. Aside from the Government’s pressing need for revenue, the minister said such steps were necessary in light of the bad press generated by companies avoiding taxation through Bermuda. This story has been amended to clarify that the increase in permit fees applies to companies without a physical presence in Bermuda.

March 22. The Senate approved the 2017-18 budgets for the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday. One Bermuda Alliance senator Vic Ball outlined the Home Affairs revenue estimates for the next fiscal year, while senator Michael Fahy provided a breakdown of the finance ministry’s budget. Mr Ball went through the ministry’s four heads including its headquarters, immigration, the registry general and workforce development, which saw a small reduction in their overall expenditure budget from $15.5 million for 2016-17 to $15.2 million for the next fiscal year. He also highlighted the work of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal in the last year as well as the Immigration Reform Working Group. Mr Ball told senators Government expected an increase in revenue from work permits in the coming fiscal year due to the America’s Cup and the airport redevelopment project. During the debate, independent senator James Jardine noted an expected increase in the length of time for processing immigration documents such as grants of status. He also referred to the National Training Plan, saying: “This was an excellent plan and got off to a good start. There were plans to involve schools and businesses in the private sector. “It was a great document but I have not heard anything further about it for some time.” Meanwhile, Mr Fahy, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, spoke of the Government’s two-track approach in the Ministry of Finance to tackle the island’s deficit. He said that this fiscal year’s budget was the second of a three-year programme to tackle the deficit and was “beginning to bear fruit”. Progressive Labour Party senator Kim Wilkerson asked Mr Fahy about the level of consultation before Government embarked on its reform of the payroll tax system, while Mr Jardine raised concerns about what Government was doing to collect the “outstanding receivables”.

March 22. A raft of legislation relating to new tax revenue as well as duty relief for small cruise liners was passed by senators in the Upper House last night. The Miscellaneous Taxes Amendment Act 2017 and the Financial Services Tax Act 2017 were approved in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the Government Fees Amendment Regulations 2017 and the Bermuda Immigration and Protection (Land Holding Charges) Amendment Regulations 2017 were also backed by senators. The Miscellaneous Taxes Amendment Act 2017 extends passenger cabin tax relief for small cruise ships until 2023. Senator Michael Fahy said the relief was a key incentive to ensuring that more cruise ships would be calling in to Hamilton and St George’s in the coming years. The Minister for Tourism and Transport said that the new regulations would provide “clarity and corrections” to fees in the Limited Liability Company Act, while also implementing a lower rate for non-profit groups to obtain work permits in some situations. Under the legislation, the implementation of higher land holding charges for people buying property in Bermuda will be deferred for two years until March 31, 2019. Finally, senators passed the Financial Services Tax Act 2017, despite concerns raised by some PLP senators about the level of consultation involved in bringing about this new tax on banks, local insurance companies and money services businesses. Mr Fahy said the new tax would bring in around $10 million in revenue.

March 22. The Ministry of Education’s $126.9 million budget was approved in the Senate yesterday with no objections. The three budget sections approved under the ministry covered the Ministry of Education headquarters [$2,414,000], the Department of Education [$109,096,000] and Bermuda College [$15,481,000]. With some 2½ hours allocated to the reading of the budget brief by senator Vic Ball, there was little time for questions. Progressive Labour Party senator Renee Ming did express “concerns” over the reduction in the budget allocated for IT support which is down from $2,553,000 in the last fiscal year to $2,514,000 in the year ahead. Highlighting concerns published in the School Reorganization [Score] Report including maintenance issues and inconsistent internet access in some of the island’s primary schools, Ms Ming questioned how the efficiencies could have been made. While Mr Ball had no time during questions to answer, he did outline how some costs were cut during his brief. He highlighted that our schools “must have access to current technology in the classroom to obtain the skill set that will better prepare them to compete globally.” On the savings, he spoke of reductions in the number of rented network cabinets used, networking gear and firewalls and collaboration with the Government’s ITO Department to obtain better rates, reduction in the number of servers and using “newer more energy-efficient equipment” leading to reduced power consumption. In response to Ms Ming’s question about the possibility of a dedicated Stem [science, technology, engineering and math] centre for Bermuda’s public school system, Mr Ball said the ministry was “working in partnership with the Bermuda College” with regards to the matter. Answering the question by independent senator James Jardine in reference to a deficiency in math grades at the senior secondary level, Mr Ball said the ministry would be hiring an education officer who will be responsible for directly overseeing the delivery of the math Cambridge curriculum. Highlighting her “passion” for special needs advocacy, PLP senator Tinee Furbert questioned Mr Ball over the insufficient budget allocation for Gilbert Institute’s deaf and hard-of-hearing programmes last year as reported in the Score Report. Teachers were said to have paid for resources for their students out of their own pockets. According to the Budget book under the heading Student Services, budget for “Hearing” was down 7 per cent to $295,000. Student services on the whole increased by 1 per cent to $16,646,000 including the hiring of an extra paraprofessional to service increased demand. Ms Furbert also raised the issue of the 15-year-old bus used to transport students at Bermuda’s only dedicated special-needs school — the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy. She said that while the bus had undergone “significant repairs over the past year” there were still complaints of ongoing problems including faulty air conditioning. Mr Furbert questioned whether there was a regular maintenance schedule or whether a complete replacement of the bus was being considered.

March 22. Legislative regulations paving the way for casino gaming to be established in Bermuda was passed by MPs in the House of Assembly late on Monday night. The Casino Gaming (General Reserve and Casino Taxes) Regulations 2017 along with the Casino Gaming (Casino Fees) Regulations 2017 were originally approved by MPs in February. However, independent senator Jamie Jardine noticed errors in the terminology of the first set of regulations so they were sent back to the House of Assembly to be approved again. Despite strong criticism of the proposed casino fees by independent MPs Shawn Crockwell and Mark Pettingill, the slightly amended regulations governing the general reserve and casino taxes were passed again. In February, Mr Crockwell and Mr Pettingill launched a scathing attack on the regulations governing fees and on Monday night they reiterated their opposition to the fees which they claim are extortionately high and will deter casino operators.

March 22. The charitable status of a group campaigning to stop same-sex marriage and civil partnerships in Bermuda will be up for review in two weeks. Preserve Marriage has applied to renew the probationary status it was granted a year ago by the Charity Commissioners, after 31 people submitted letters of objection. The Commissioners took note of the application at a meeting yesterday afternoon and are expected to discuss it in full at their next meeting, probably on April 4. Preserve Marriage’s present charitable status expires on April 5. News of the application for renewal comes as the organisation’s activities attract overseas attention, with an article appearing on March 15 in the Nonprofit Quarterly, a Bostonian -based journal focused on the public sector. The piece — entitled “Beware Bermuda’s Pink Triangle: Anti-Marriage Equality Group Granted Charity Status” — describes Preserve Marriage’s ideology as “standard fare for what’s considered the religious right in the United States, with its tried- and-true testamentary tone”. Preserve Marriage’s stated aim is to ensure marriage remains “as a special union ordained by God between a man and a woman, because of its impact on society”. It has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining the right to marry in Bermuda, campaigning against such a move when a referendum was held on the issue last June and intervening in an ongoing civil case involving a gay couple who wish to wed here. The group, a registered company since December 29, 2015, first applied for charitable status early last year, not long after complying with a request from the Charity Commissioners to remove an online appeal for campaign funds from its website. It was successful in getting status, despite the 31 objections, which were released under public access to information legislation earlier this month. The NPQ article, written by Louis Altman, an attorney and a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, says Preserve Marriage was given charitable status “despite its open politicking seeking legislative change and intervention in a key court case, which inspired vocal opposition to its successful application”. The Registrar-General and the Charity Commissioners are not required under the law to give the public notice of applications for charitable status. But the Charities Act 2014 does list, as two of their objectives, increasing public trust and confidence in charities and promoting awareness and understanding of the legal requirement for charities to have a public benefit. Status was granted last year after Preserve Marriage successfully argued that its educational work qualified as a “public benefit”. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda, which says it is committed to creating a safe space for LGBTQ people and their allies on the island, called unsuccessfully for an immediate reversal of the decision, insisting: “There is no long-term public benefit from their campaigning, which is also political in nature.” Preserve Marriage chairman Melvyn Bassett would not comment on the renewal-of-status application when this newspaper spoke to him yesterday, other than to say he did not consider the matter to be worthy of a story. Our last article on the organisation, when the 31 objections were released under Pati, prompted an unsigned e-mail from the board of Preserve Marriage to this newspaper. It stated: “Can you please give it a rest? It will be greatly appreciated.” Richard Ambrosio, chairman of the Charity Commissioners, referred this newspaper to the Government’s Department of Communication and Information for comment yesterday. Since March 9, DCI has failed to respond to three requests for information on the matter. Last year, those wishing to comment on Preserve Marriage’s charity application were advised to e-mail charityinfo@gov.bm.

March 22. The customs tariff on beer will remain the same in the coming fiscal year after a rare moment of collaboration between the two political parties. However, duty on gas and diesel will increase by five cents in line with the Bermuda Government’s amended proposals to boost revenue and reduce the island’s deficit. Finance minister Bob Richards’s raft of reworked customs tariffs was put before MPs as they debated the Customs Tariff Amendment Act 2017 on Monday night. Under Mr Richards’s amended proposals the level of tax on a litre of beer would have increased from $1.26 to $1.88.  But Opposition Leader David Burt tabled a Progressive Labour Party amendment, keeping the tax level at $1.26, which Mr Richards said the Government would support. Independent MP Shawn Crockwell said Government should be applauded for supporting the PLP’s amendment, while PLP MP Zane DeSilva congratulated Mr Crockwell and fellow independent MP Mark Pettingill for supporting the Opposition’s amendment. Pointing out that the balance of power had changed now that there was a “minority government”, Mr Burt added: “I am pleased that the members from 25 [Mr Pettingill] and 31 [Mr Crockwell] supported us in this and that the Government has supported them.” However, the PLP was not as successful with a second amendment put before MPs that aimed to keep gas and diesel customs tariffs at 75 cents and 50 cents respectively. Mr Richards said that the Government would not support the amendment and the amendment went to a vote that the Government won 18-16 with Mr Crockwell and Mr Pettingill backing the finance minister’s proposed increase of five cents to both diesel and gas. The Government’s plans for customs duty relief for renewable energy and electric vehicles were also passed with Opposition support. However, Mr Richards and his technical advisers agreed to return to Parliament in May with adjustments broadening the category of batteries for electric cars that would be granted customs relief. Mr Richards’s reworked customs tariffs got a poor reception in Parliament, with Mr Burt deriding the One Bermuda Alliance’s stewardship of government revenue measures. “These safe hands can’t put together a Budget that can make it more than a few weeks without change,” Mr Burt said, as the PLP chastised the tariff alternations as punishing ordinary Bermudians. Opposition MPs suggested that the minister had consented to switch the budgetary measures at the behest of mercantile interests that had “called to complain” — claims that were dismissed by Mr Richards as “a figment”. Meanwhile, Mr Pettingill urged the Government to adopt a sugar tax to raise revenue; a call countered by Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Health, who told MPs that while the idea was still being explored, Government was focused on changing behavior rather than making sugar a revenue source. Mr Richards said the Customs Tariff Amendment Act 2017 was “not a health Bill, but a tax Bill”, and also described it as a “PLP deficit-reduction Bill”. He said that he had chosen to give the apparel sector or retail customs relief because it was a sector that just employed Bermudians and tax increases could prompt layoffs. “What they asked for is much greater than what we have done, but this sector is closed to foreigners and that resonated with me and that is why we made some adjustments here,” Mr Richards added.

March 21. The estimates of revenue and expenditure in the 2017/18 budget were approved by MPs in the House of Assembly last night. The passing of the Appropriation Act 2017 signalled the end of over three weeks of debate during which Parliamentarians have locked horns on how Government funding will be distributed under Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance’s, budget. The Senate will begin debating the 2017/18 budget today.

March 21. Applications made by three out of the four Uighurs living in Bermuda for naturalization are being reviewed by the British Government, MPs heard yesterday. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister for Home Affairs, provided the update in response to questions from Progressive Labour Party MPs during the budget debate of her ministry’s spending. “The UK Government is currently reviewing the naturalization applications of three of the four Uighurs,” she said. “If that is granted they can then obtain passports. This is a very positive development.” Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, asked Ms Gordon-Pamplin what had changed to allow the UK to state publicly that they were reviewing the applications. Ms Gordon-Pamplin responded: “The response I have been given is that they have been on island over five years with indefinite permission to stay so they are eligible to apply under the British Nationality Act.” She said she did not know why only three of the four Uighurs’ applications were being reviewed. The four Uighurs, Abdullah Abdulqadir, Khalil Mamut, Ablikim Turahun and Salahidin Abdulahad, who are originally from Chinese Turkestan, were secretly brought to Bermuda from Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in 2009. They have remained stranded and stateless in Bermuda ever since then and unable to leave the island. (Where they came from originally, see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinjiang_conflict). 

March 21. The Bermuda Government has paid out close to $5 million on new vehicles since the One Bermuda Alliance took office in 2012, Parliament heard. But finance minister Bob Richards told The Royal Gazette that none had been for new GP cars for ministers — a fleet that the OBA were committed to reducing, and which the minister said had been decreased. “Most were for nurses who have to make house calls, and a number of others were vans and trucks,” Mr Richards added. Asked by Opposition leader David Burt for a breakdown on funds paid to Auto Solutions Limited and Bermuda Motors Limited, Mr Richards told the House that $1,166,131 had gone to the former and $3,716,811 to the latter business. Glenn Smith, the government MP who runs Auto Solutions, recused himself from those matters, Mr Richards added.

March 21. Half of the staff at the island’s newest hotel, The Loren, are non-Bermudian, according to Patricia Gordon-Pamplin. Responding to questions in the House of Assembly, the Minister of Home Affairs said that a total of 25 Bermudians are employed at the Hamilton Parish hotel, along with 25 non-Bermudians. Of the non-Bermudians employed at the hotel, two are the spouses of Bermudians. The answers drew a series of questions from PLP MP Derrick Burgess, who asked Ms Gordon-Pamplin if any Bermudians were employed in management positions and what their average salary was. He also asked if this was the lowest percentage of Bermudians employed by a hotel in the island’s history. Ms Gordon-Pamplin said she could not answer those questions at the time, but would endeavour to get answers for Mr Burgess. The Loren at Pink Beach opened its doors last month in a “soft launch”, with further rooms and amenities at the hotel coming into operation since then.

March 21. Senator Renee Ming believes income inequality is “eroding” the country’s social fabric, leading to “antisocial behavior, gang affiliation, violence, and murder”. In an address last Thursday, the Progressive Labour Party senator made the comments during the Senate budget debate in the House of Assembly. “We must get a grip on this situation, and we must get a grip soon,” she said. “We cannot continue to lose our young males in the manner that we have. Not addressing the issue will create a “challenge and a threat to our way of life. Bermuda cannot be the place of choice for business if our society is not at peace.” Ms Ming also discussed the island’s latest homicide victim. “Just this week we lay to rest another young man through senseless violence,” she said. “We need to understand why, and we need to understand in some cases there are things that we can do to ensure more equality for these young men. It doesn’t matter how many cameras we put up — we have to tackle the root cause of this instability in our communities.” The PLP, she said, has committed to collaborating with the community to address the issues. She also used her time in response to Senator Michael Fahy’s statement on the budget to stress the PLP’s support for the island’s community clubs. “We have hundreds of our youth that play for the various sporting clubs, which means that they spend time at these clubs, and this is part of their upbringing,” she said. In return for “verified management controls”, the PLP would extend guarantees to the clubs for renovations in order to make them “self sufficient. We want to see them independent.” Mr Fahy, Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, criticised the PLP’s response to the budget as a “reply of committees”. Highlighting a drop in unemployment numbers — from 9 per cent to 7 — Mr Fahy also touted growth in Bermuda’s economy for the third consecutive year, the success of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, and the growth in hotel bookings and cruise ship arrivals in his statement. He also raised the contentious issue of immigration reform. “One of the statistics that people do not like to talk about — and I will continue to bang the drum whether people want to hear it or not — is that there is a correlation here. The higher the number of work permit holders in Bermuda, the more Bermudians have jobs. That’s a fact.” Independent Senator James Jardine said that commercial immigration needed to be “seriously looked at” as a way to create jobs on the island. OBA’s Andrew Simons, meanwhile, looked back at the Progressive Labour Party’s time in office, saying that while the island was in an economic boom and government was making more than it was forecasting, those additional funds were not invested in addressing serious social issues. “It was hard to see these huge opportunities to tackle long-standing social issues in Bermuda ignored,” he said. “A simple example of this would be the underfunding of pensions.” He also said that the Opposition’s budget reply included several new initiatives without detailing how they would be paid for.

March 21. Bermuda will join other Caribbean countries today for a tsunami response exercise, titled Caribe Wave 17. The purpose of the exercise is to evaluate local tsunami response plans, increase tsunami preparedness, and improve coordination throughout the region, said a Government statement. “The 2017 exercise will simulate an earthquake off the east of the Northeastern Antilles. The resulting exercise tsunami wave will affect Bermuda, as well as other jurisdictions in the Atlantic and Caribbean. This proposed exercise is a very realistic one — over 87 years ago a tsunami affected Bermuda in November 1929, with a point of origin off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, Canada. Bermuda has changed considerably since then, and waterfront properties, shipping industry, ocean activities (beach or mariners) and moored vessels have all come into existence or increased considerably. Many people are surprised to hear that Bermuda has in fact experienced a tsunami. Any coastline is at risk of tsunami impact and there is much confusion on this topic locally. “The low frequency of these events is disarming, but the potentially devastating effects warrant at least a basic action plan that involves knowing factual tsunami basics for our area, the signs that a tsunami may be approaching, where to go for current information (www.weather.bm and “like” BWS — Bermuda Weather Service on Facebook for quick social media notifications) and what to do in a Tsunami Watch or Warning situation (including knowing the defined differences between a watch and a warning). Residents should not be alarmed to note the Exercise Watches & Warnings posted via the Bermuda Weather Channel on CableVision and WOW, the weather telephone recordings (977, 9771, 9772, and 9773), www.weather.bm, BWS Facebook page or broadcast via VHF Radio (via Bermuda Radio). Residents and local agencies should, however, note the relevant information contained within the exercise warnings and take the opportunity to think about their state of readiness and actions, should such an actual event occur, as this exercise offers the opportunity to exercise their communications procedures. There will be various levels of participation in this exercise throughout the community. The Bermuda Weather Service (operated by CI² Aviation Bermuda Ltd. on behalf of the Government of Bermuda/Bermuda Airport Authority) will fully respond to the exercise to test the communication of information and dissemination of watches and warnings. RCC Bermuda/Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre will also participate in CARIBE WAVE 17 in a limited operational capacity and an EMO discussion will take place during the time of the exercise. The exercise is sponsored by the UNESCO/IOC Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (ICG/CARIBE-EWS), the Caribbean Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the Centro de Coordinación para la Prevención de los Desastres Naturales en América Central (CEPREDENAC), and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).” For more information, visit the following websites: ICG/CARIBE EWS http://www.ioc-tsunami.org; Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre (PTWC) http://ptwc.weather.gov NOAA Tsunami Program http://www.tsunami.gov;  Caribbean Tsunami Warning Program http://caribewave.info; Government of Bermuda: www.gov.bm;  EMO: https://www.gov.bm/department/emergency-measures-organisation;  Bermuda Weather Service: www.weather.bm; and Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre (RCC Bermuda): www.marops.bm.

March 21. The euthanasia and deportation of non-violent illegal dogs has been halted, with new laws planned on the contentious subject later this year. Campaigners Punish the Deed not the Breed Bermuda welcomed the move, but implored the Government to implement fairer dog legislation on a more permanent basis. Sylvan Richards, the Minister of Environment and Planning, announced the change in policy in the House of Assembly yesterday, telling MPs that amendments to the Dogs Act 2008 would be brought for debate and that this would “place this Government in a position to revisit the controversial breed-specific policies”. A spokeswoman for the animal advocacy group said: “Punish the Deed not the Breed is pleased to hear that there will be a halt to the seizure and killing of dogs being targeted solely on the basis of breed-specific legislation. We are of the understanding that the canine committee has received our legislation amendments over a year ago and has had meetings to address the issues that the public have raised and supported about dog-ownership laws in Bermuda. We are firm believers that responsible dog ownership is a must and that legislation should reflect that.” But she added: “While we are pleased with the halt of the killing of nonviolent dogs we also are pleading with the Government to implement dog legislation that will be a solution on a more permanent basis, addressing the fact that the dogs can be better regulated if they are a restricted breed as opposed to them being driven underground by prohibited-breed legislation.” The group, which has been petitioning the Government for more than two years to amend the legislation so that pitbull-type dogs are classed as restricted rather than prohibited, has helped re-home about 40 seized dogs overseas. It has also submitted information and legislative amendments to the canine advisory committee set up in 2015 to look into the matter. Speaking in the House of Assembly, Mr Richards said he had asked “the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately halt the euthanasia or deportation of illegal animals that have no history of aggression pending legislative amendments and a full review of policies going forward”. But he said this “does not mean that the Government will forgive the illegalities that have occurred, but simply we will not be separating these animals from their owners at this time”. Mr Richards added that he would not make any promises about a long-term solution, only a comprehensive exploration of all the options. He furthermore warned the owners of illegal dogs that, if the animals act in a threatening manner or cause injury, they will still be subject to seizure and euthanasia. According to Mr Richards, pitbull-type dogs remain the most popular dog in the prohibited category despite their breeding being illegal since 2003. Noting that pitbull-type dogs can have “the temperament of a loving family pet, but also that of a fierce fighter”, he added that pitbull-type dogs continue to be “the most problematic breed, causing injury at a rate far above its prevalence in the general canine population”. And while Mr Richards said the breed-specific legislation introduced in 2003 had proven successful in reducing dog attacks, he added that the rules had come under strict criticism by some members of the public because it targeted animals based on their breed rather than their behavior. “To deal with illegal dogs, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has developed numerous policy iterations, the most recent having been established in December 2015,” Mr Richards explained. “In this policy, illegal dogs of a prohibited breed faced euthanasia or deportation, even if the individual animal had no history of having been a threat to public safety. I find this fact to be disturbing, as do many other people in our community.”

March 21. A total of 29 island-based lawyers have won global rankings in a prestigious legal listing. Conyers Dill & Pearman topped the Bermuda rankings with 17 lawyers listed, some at Band 1, by the Chambers Global Guide. Law firm Appleby was in second spot with eight lawyers listed as well as being the only Bermudian practice to be ranked Band 1 in the offshore global category. Harneys notched up three lawyers on the Chambers list, while Walkers have one. In addition, Conyers Dill & Pearman co-chairman and global head of litigation Narinder Hargun continued to be listed as the island’s only “star individual” in the Chambers guide.

March 21. A gaming expert has come to the defence of the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission after the body was criticised in Parliament as ineffectual in advancing the new industry in Bermuda. The commission came under fire yesterday from Independent MP Mark Pettingill, who joined fellow Independent Shawn Crockwell in attacking the fees proposed for casinos. Kevin Mullally, of Gaming Laboratories International, issued a statement responding that a “world-class” gaming model could be up and running soon — and said he had “great respect” for the commission’s members and leadership. Its executive director, Richard Schuetz, brings “an unparalleled skill set to Bermuda”, Mr Mullally said. The vice-president of government relations and general counsel at GLI, Mr Mullally has served as a consultant for the Bermuda commission since he was hired in early 2015 when Mr Crockwell was Minister of Tourism and Transport. Mr Crockwell has repeatedly accused the Government of misinforming the House of Assembly over consulting prospective casino operators over the gaming fees, while Mr Pettingill suggested members of the commission ought to resign over the matter. Mr Mullally defended Bermuda as possessing “all the attractive tourism components that one would look for in a place to build a gaming resort”, and praised the island’s business community and reputation for safety as potentially attractive to “a lot of developers”. Conceding that progress on starting local casinos had been slower than first anticipated, Mr Mullally pointed to delays in passing the Casino Gaming Act 2014 — which had been modeled on Singapore’s regulations. “Singapore and Bermuda are two very different jurisdictions. There is no correlation in population size, inhabitants of the jurisdiction or the tourist model. The airports don’t share any similarities, the visitation rates aren’t the same, the size of the Government is different and the resources are unique as well, so it wasn’t really a great model to use.” Mr Mullally, who is expected to return to the island next month, attributed the delayed start in casino vetting and selection to the lengthy legislative revisions required, but said the commission had made “very substantial progress”, using the wait to reckon with “what types of projects would best fit Bermuda. If the commission’s recommendations for rules can be adopted quickly, the more visible work of the commission can begin.” GLI was said to have worked extensively with stakeholders in Bermuda gaming. “Bermuda is in a position to do some great and much needed work in the area of responsible gaming,” Mr Mullally said. “Just because Bermuda does not yet have a casino does not mean there is no gambling occurring on the island or people who have problems associated with it.”

March 21. A Bermudian man has been jailed in Nottingham, England, for 6½ years after being found guilty of looking after a gun and ammunition. Randolph Benjamin, 49, had stored a Colt 45 revolver and 11 rounds of 0.38 calibre bullets inside a shopping bag, according to the Nottingham Post. Benjamin, formerly of Warwick, is the son of veteran educator Randolph Benjamin Sr, the first black teacher at Saltus Grammar School and the first president of the Bermuda Track and Field Association. His lawyer told a court in Nottingham that his father’s death in 1998 was part of a tragic spiral that culminated in Benjamin leaving the island in 2006. He also lost the “love of his life” to murder, according to the lawyer, and ended up misusing drugs before heading to Britain for rehabilitation. In 1995, Benjamin was jailed for four years for stabbing Michael Robson in the head in a fight at the Ice Queen in Paget. In court last Friday, Benjamin, of Forest Fields, was given concurrent sentences on two charges of possessing a prohibited firearm and ammunition without a certificate. The items were found in the shopping bag and inside two separate plastic bags which contained Benjamin’s fingerprints. Benjamin had claimed he did not put the bag there and it had nothing to do with him. He said he had no knowledge of the items and someone else had put them there, telling the jury his DNA would not be found on the firearm. He also said he had lived at the house for about 12 months and spent a lot of time chilling out, having a drink on occasions and making a joint of cannabis. On September 29 last year, he said, he had been at home with his landlady when he saw police coming towards the property and greeted them at the back door, co-operating fully by giving his name. He said the majority of clothing at the house was in his room and his landlady helped him out with his laundry. Benjamin accepted a set of scales and lock knives in a jacket at the house belonged to him. But he was adamant the shopping bag was not his and nothing to do with him. He was convicted by the jury unanimously, with prosecutor Gareth Gimson telling the court: “We don’t seek to say he was a sophisticated, high-ranking villain. The Crown seek to say he was sitting on it for someone else.” Matthew Smith, the lawyer representing Benjamin, said the gun was not loaded and there was no evidence it had been used..

March 21. Opinion, by Bryan Dooley, CFA, a senior portfolio manager at LOM Asset Management Ltd in Bermuda. The bad news is that last week America’s Federal Reserve once again hiked its benchmark interest rate, making financing costs for many individuals and corporations more expensive. The good news is that the rate hike — which came earlier than many had expected just a few months ago — largely confirms a broad improvement in economic growth and supports a more optimistic view that markets around the world are at least stabilising. In the first quarter, so far, economic data has generally come in on the stronger side. Since bottoming last summer, consumer confidence soared to its highest level since 2001. Concurrently, the ISM non-manufacturing index, which measures employment progress and business activity, posted its strongest reading since late 2015. Other indicators, including the small business optimism indicator have also recently touched new high levels. Since the start of the “Great Recession” in 2008, the Federal Reserve has taken a predominantly “dovish” stance by keeping interest rates artificially low and printing money through a programme known as quantitative easing, or QE for short. The Fed’s consistent mandate since those darker days has been to keep the monetary pedal to the metal until inflation at least hits its two per cent target and employment shows meaningful signs of recovery. Although the Fed’s preferred inflation indicator, the personal consumption expenditure index, remains below the two per cent target at 1.7 per cent, the indicator’s year-over-year increase is up from a low of 1.4 per cent early last year and fast approaching the goal. Meanwhile, US unemployment which peaked at approximately ten per cent in late 2009, has fallen below five per cent where it has remained for the past year, or so. Confirming the better employment picture, the US Labour Department reported several days ago employers added jobs at an above-average pace in February due primarily to gains in construction and manufacturing. The 235,000 increase in jobs followed a 238,000 increase in January which was more than previously estimated, making it the best back-to-back rise since last July. Importantly, wages grew 2.8 per cent from the same time a year ago adding to the case for hitting the Fed’s inflation target. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.7 per cent, the lowest level in ten years. While business confidence and employment data appear to confirm an upswing in activity, overall US economic growth still remains relatively soft by other measures. Gross domestic product growth, the broadest measure of economic progress, is not suggesting an overheated economy. According to recent reports from the Commerce Department, fourth-quarter GDP growth fell to 1.9 per cent from 3.5 per cent in the third quarter and market expectations for the first quarter of 2017 are coming in around 2.1 per cent. Although an outlier, the Atlanta Fed recently reduced its real GDP growth estimate for the first quarter to just 0.9 per cent. This forecast had been as high as 3.4 per cent earlier this year. Nevertheless, Fed leaders have been chomping at the bit to raise interest rates. Last month’s relatively strong employment report on top of a 15 per cent surge in the stock market since last November gave them the opening they needed. Some economists worry that plans for government infrastructure spending and a much anticipated tax cut could become bogged down in political wrangling, but the Fed is not waiting around for results this time. Going forward, expect the Fed to finally meet its stated targets for the year by raising rates a total of three times in 2017. The policy-making team needs to restore lost credibility after balking on their projected rate increase targets in both 2015 and 2016. Janet Yellen has less than one year left on her term as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors while vice-chairman Stanley Fischer’s term will end in June of 2018. Both board members are widely expected to retire while two other vacant positions still need to be filled. Look for the outgoing crew to make their mark and not be seen as falling behind the curve. Barring unexpected geopolitical events spooking the markets, the direction for interest rates in the near term is gradually up. Longer term, however, global growth and therefore future interest rate increases will likely be capped by the powerful headwinds of a worldwide ageing demographic combined with burdensome government debt levels. At the same time, a plethora of disruptive technologies will keep inflation at bay. In fixed income, we favour a “barbelled” maturity structure for successfully navigating this environment. Please contact LOM at 441-292-5000 for further information.

March 20. Bank chiefs (beyond Bermuda) are bullish over prospects in the year ahead, according to a survey. A look at the state of the industry by PwC found that 40 per cent of banking and capital markets chief executive officers were optimistic about revenue prospects over the next 12 months — up nine per cent on last year. But more than 80 per cent of those surveyed warned over-regulation, uncertain economic growth and geopolitical uncertainty were threats. In addition, 84 per cent of leaders in the sector predicted that technology would “completely reshape” or have major impact on competition in the industry over the next five years. A total of 75 per cent said that the speed of technological change held dangers, while 69 per cent said that customer behavior would change as a result of innovation. But they added there were huge opportunities to sharpen innovation, get closer to customers and cut costs. Matthew Clarke, PwC banking and capital markets partner, said: “More than ever before, sustainable growth stems from differentiated products and services, along with the innovation and customer intimacy that underpins them — all of which requires ongoing investment, in other words, being fit for growth. Rather than cutting costs in isolation, the key priority is to differentiate the capabilities needed to fuel growth from low-performing business and inefficient operations, with good costs being targeted for investment and bad costs for overhaul or elimination.” PwC’s “setting the bar higher” report involved more than 200 banking and capital markets CEOs across 60 countries.

March 20. Independent MP Mark Pettingill called for “heads to roll” in the Casino Gaming Commission over the lack of progress in establishing gaming in Bermuda. Speaking for the first time since his resignation from the One Bermuda Alliance Mr Pettingill told MPs that he would give the Gaming Commission a “zero” for their “net worth in advancing the gaming product in Bermuda”. Meanwhile, fellow Independent MP Shawn Crockwell accused the Government of misleading the House of Assembly over the response to proposed casino fees. Both men spoke strongly against the Government’s planned fee structure for casinos, which was passed by MPs last month, during the tourism budget debate on Friday. “Where is the resignation for putting these fees out there?” Mr Pettingill asked. “I believe the Government and the Minister were misled by the independent commission and someone needs to resign over that.” Mr Crockwell said that the OBA had failed to consult with potential operators who were already at the table, and that the high fees would halt casino and hotel projects. “We were told by the Minister of the time who had conduct of the legislation that there was no pushback on the level of fees, but that’s not true,” Mr Crockwell said. “I know that an Australian operator came to Bermuda with the intention of doing business in Bermuda, met with the Gaming Commission and expressed concern about the level of fees. I have received phone calls from a litany of individuals who are sitting at the table right now, individuals with designated site orders and they were not consulted on the level of fees. They had disagreement with the level of fees and some people are saying they are not building.” Mr Crockwell had raised the issue of consultation earlier this year as the House debated casino fees, which would cost potential developers $3 million to receive a licence to operate a casino. While the former tourism minister said the high cost would frighten off potential developers, Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, said that there had been consultation with casino operators and there was “no pushback”. However, in the subsequent Senate debate on the legislation Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Tourism, clarified that the Government had consulted with several operators, discussions were about operating on the island and not fees. He added that the fees had been publicly available for three months before the debate in the House, and there had been no concerns about the fees raised in that period. Addressing the House of Assembly on the subject, Mr Crockwell described the Government’s handling of the legislation as a “dereliction of duty. If the operators are not happy with the fees, they will go some where else,” he said. “It is a dereliction of duty to not consult with the parties who are at the table, who were spending money in this jurisdiction. My prediction is, unfortunately, we are going to see a delay in the promised ground breakings in many areas because of this issue. I’m hoping I’m proved wrong, but I’m inviting the Premier to hold someone accountable for the misinformation that was brought to the House.”

March 20. Disempowered or oppressed individuals — many of whom may have never gambled before — could be most at risk to the pitfalls of legalized gambling, an international addiction expert has warned. With Bermuda’s first casino expected to open in 2018, Deborah Haskins said that, based on her experience in other jurisdictions, the numbers of gamblers could spike because people see it as a new attraction. The director of counseling programmes at Trinity Washington University noted that communities suffering trauma can present particular concerns, because gambling can give people “a sense of power and control”. According to Bermudian-based counselor Roger Trott, until now the most drastic examples of problem-gambling has been middle-class families, who have run up debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars and lost jobs, homes and family inheritances. Mr Trott said there were no gambling disorder treatment specialists on island but that a training programme was aiming to help treatment professionals become certified before a casino opens. Dr Haskins, along with Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council of Problem Gambling, will be on-island for “Awareness of Gambling Addiction in the Faith Community” next week. The public presentation on Monday, March 27, will serve as an information, training and accreditation event, which is supported by the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission. It is focused on the faith-based community, and aims to prepare leaders to recognise and help those who may present signs of problem gambling. Bermuda’s history factors into the discussion, Dr Haskins said. “In order to talk about wellness, we have to be able to talk openly and honestly about oppression,” she said. “When we look at the history of African-descent communities who have been colonized — whether it’s through the slave trade, through the British colonization, through whatever — there’s consistency in terms of oppression and the negative outcomes of oppression. If you don’t feel a sense of control in your life, and you don’t feel empowered, gambling provides this sense of power and control,” Dr Haskins said. Gambling losses, she said, may not be fully appreciated as unique or new to people who have felt oppressed. “For many people, when their life has already been about losses, they don’t often feel like this is the worst they’ve experienced. If they’ve already been in a struggle, then this is just another struggle.” Mr Whyte said of the pending arrival of legalized gaming: “I think there’s certainly reason to be concerned.” According to Mr Whyte, Bermuda’s “high level of religiosity, and a racial ethnic background” reminded him greatly of other regions in which he has worked previously. “There’s some trauma there — the legacy of slavery and colonialism,” he said. “Religiosity is obviously a protective factor. But the other two factors can be risk factors.” International studies on gambling addition indicate that between 1 and 3 per cent of players will become addicted. Dr Haskins said: “The reality is that not everybody participates in these research studies. And so a lot of times you have research that really is just portraying those people who are treatment seeking. Well, cultural communities don’t typically treatment seek.” The numbers also tend to spike when gaming comes to a community because it’s a new attraction, she said. “People who may have never gambled before — and this is what you may see in Bermuda — they’re going to be attracted and intrigued,” the doctor said. Dr Haskins said she decided to focus her career on helping communities of colour understand mental health issues through the integration of spirituality and religion. “Many of these cultural communities — that’s how we get well,” the doctor said. “We don’t typically see a mental health counselor.” After the approval of gaming legislation last month, the Bermuda Casino Gaming Commission said the island could have its first casino up and running by early 2018. In a Senate debate this month, Senator Michael Fahy, the tourism minister, said the timeframe from the day that legislation was passed to the day the doors will open at Bermuda’s first gaming facility would be “one of the fastest in the world”. Richard Schuetz, executive director of the Commission, said in a press release ahead of next week’s event: “We are committed to building a vibrant and robust programme for problem gambling and ensuring it’s properly in effect before the first casino doors open on the island.” Mr Trott, clinical director at Pathways Bermuda, said: “To my knowledge there are no specialized gambling disorder treatment specialists on island.” According to Mr Trott, this “challenge” is presently being addressed through implementation of a training programme to enable local treatment professionals to become certified “in sufficient time” for the opening of the first casino. *Pathways has been facilitating treatment for those presenting addict behavior together with partners Carson Pennsylvania. We’ve had cases at Pathways where family inheritances have been used and jeopardized, jobs and homes have been lost. We’ve had cases where problem gamers’ debt has ballooned into hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Those examples, he said, had all occurred in middle-class families. Mr Whyte said that, unlike the regulation of potentially addictive substances, the role of gambling as a revenue generator for government is unique. “Most governments don’t legalize alcohol, or regulate alcohol, in a manner that is about profit. I think it’s to the credit of Bermuda that they’re trying to get out ahead of expansion and talk about responsible gaming. That’s important. There is already a level of risk on the island.” Dr Haskins said: “We can’t just open up a gaming facility and think it’s not going to affect people. It’s going to be a game-changer.”

March 20. Premier Michael Dunkley has told MPs that he had been assured by a principal of the St Regis development in St George’s that the hotel will be built before the residences. The Premier was responding to repeated claims by Progressive Labour Party MP Zane DeSilva in recent weeks, reiterated again on Friday night, that he had heard the residences would be built first. Mr Dunkley rose during the motion to adjourn to “set the record straight” and to enable Mr DeSilva to “get that bird off his shoulder”. “I reached out to the principals of the development and he told me that St Regis would never allow the selling of any residence if the hotel is not finished and running. The principal added: ‘if we built and sold the residences before the hotel, those residences cannot be branded St Regis and this is the last thing we would want’.” Mr Dunkley’s comments came after the tourism budget debate in which Mr DeSilva again questioned progress of the project and whether the hotel would be built first. Delivering his budget brief Kenneth Bascome, the Junior Minister of Tourism, said improving the health of the tourism industry is a “national imperative”. He praised the hard work of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, noting increasing visitor arrivals and visitor spending, adding that the authority has proven that it can maximise return on investment. Mr Bascome added that the BTA was “bullish” on continued success for the coming year. Jamahl Simmons also praised the hard work of the BTA, but said the body had struggled owing to a lack of advertising funds and a reliance of the “old paradigm” of Bermuda as a country club. And while he said the America’s Cup could be beneficial, it fits in with the old paradigm, questioning if it will bring the island much needed attention from the wider audience. “If we slip back into the old ways, it will fail,” he said. “We have to move beyond tourism that is self-referential and our goals must be more than self-satisfaction.” Mr Simmons also questioned the repeated delays in the groundbreaking at the proposed St George’s hotel, saying: “The Government needs to be honest and straight up with the people about why there are delays. It’s important.” He questioned the metrics used to select “experience investments”, saying that some of the events that have benefited from the grant appear to be legacy events focused more on entertaining locals than visitors. And he called on the Government to show a light hand in the area of regulating vacation rentals, saying that should taxes be introduced they should be balanced with concessions to allow that aspect of the industry to grow. Independent MP Shawn Crockwell also celebrated the success of the BTA, saying the body had worked extremely hard to turn around the industry from “rock bottom”. He said he was pleased to see the BTA’s grant increased, commenting that he had repeatedly asked for budget increases during his time as tourism minister. However, he questioned the wisdom of moving control of golf courses to another ministry, saying the heading has been bounced around too often, and took fierce aim at the Casino Gaming Commission (see separate story). Opposition MP Wayne Furbert meanwhile said that the Progressive Labour Party deserved some of the credit for the revitalisation of tourism on the grounds that the Bermuda Tourism Plan, developed under the PLP’s watch, is at the core of the BTA’s work. He also noted the boost in sports tourism, saying that the initiative would not be as much of a success without the investment made in the National Stadium by the PLP. Mr Furbert also reiterated questions about the lack of movement in the St George’s hotel project and described the construction of The Loren at Pink Beach as “nothing to get excited about”. He said the core issue behind the lack of new hotels is the expense of doing business in Bermuda, questioning the logic of ending payroll tax exceptions and questioning what the government is doing to bring down costs.

March 20. A vote of no confidence in Michael Dunkley might be good for the Progressive Labour Party — but Charles Jeffers argues it would not be in Bermuda’s best interests.  Mr Jeffers, the political commentator and former leader of the National Liberal Party, called for “cool heads to prevail” as the island enters the new territory of a minority government. Stability is required, he said, with Bermuda preparing to host the America’s Cup and grappling with ongoing difficult economic conditions. Mark Pettingill’s resignation last week leaves the One Bermuda Alliance with only 17 of the 36 seats in the House of Assembly, meaning it faces a potential struggle to win any contentious vote. The PLP could fatally wound the Premier by winning a no-confidence vote against him if it could gather backing from Mr Pettingill and fellow Independent Shawn Crockwell — although both have indicated their likely support for the ruling party on legislative matters. “What would that do for Bermuda, when we are trying to prepare for an America’s Cup and deal with our economic concerns?” Mr Jeffers told The Royal Gazette. “Do those who are so concerned with party really care about Bermuda? Is the need for greed the priority that has people aligning themselves with party above everything? These are people who are not looking at Bermuda. They are looking at the party, they are looking at the power. They are thinking, ‘Let’s get it back to the PLP.’ There’s always a potential for political and social unrest but my hope for Bermuda is that cool heads prevail, that people will think about what’s best for the country.” Both parties have been guilty of playing politics as a General Election creeps closer, according to Mr Jeffers. He said finance minister Bob Richards produced a “sweetheart Budget” last month, and he suspects the OBA was trying to show voters it is “listening to the PLP” last week by agreeing to revisit immigration policies affecting musicians. Mr Jeffers said that while he agrees with the changing of the policy, it should have been done much earlier, instead of waiting until the months leading up to the election. Meanwhile, the PLP has opposed the airport redevelopment deal so vigorously that some supporters have thrown their emotions behind the party stance without checking the available facts. Such political game-playing is a natural consequence of the Westminster system, in which two parties naturally oppose each other, Mr Jeffers said. As high-profile Independents, he said Mr Pettingill and Mr Crockwell had a rare chance to break the trend. “The two most powerful men in politics now are Shawn Crockwell and Mark Pettingill,” he said. “They can decide what gets passed and what doesn’t. They can uphold Government. The way to break this system is to get at least three or four Independents in who will say, ‘I will listen to my constituents and do what they need me to do.’ This is what those two guys have the ability to do. They can make or break politics in Bermuda. We have never had this kind of situation where the Independents can control.”

March 20. Land Rover BAR suffered a setback after a routine docking proved anything but. Following a practice sail in the Great Sound, the British challenger’s America’s Cup Class foiling catamaran collided with a mobile dock at their Royal Naval Dockyard base. BAR’s AC50 caught a gust of wind and accelerated before ramming the mobile dock, which is designed to rotate to enable the boat to be turned into the wind. They are the first team to crash their boat, just weeks after becoming the first to launch an AC50 in local waters. The extent of damage to BAR’s boat remains undetermined. In any case, the AC50 is equipped with replaceable bow sections for incidents such as this. Land Rover BAR are one of five challengers that will compete in a series of qualifiers for the right to meet defender Oracle Team USA in the 35th America’s Cup Match. The team will face Swedish challenger Artemis Racing, led by British Olympic gold medal-winner, tactician, and team manager Iain Percy, in their opening qualifying match on May 26. Comprised of some of best British and international sailors, designers, builders and racing support, Land Rover BAR were launched in June 2014. The team were conceived by Sir Ben Ainslie, the four-times Olympic gold medal and two-times King Edward VII Gold Cup winner, who won the 34th America’s Cup as a tactician with Oracle in San Francisco in 2013. Land Rover BAR are bidding to become the first British team to win the “Auld Mug”, which left British shores in 1851 after the New York Yacht Club schooner, America, beat the best the British had to offer in a race around the Isle of Wight. BAR are the first British team to enter America’s Cup since 2003 when White Lightning were eliminated in the semi-final round of the Louis Vuitton Cup.

March 20. Chris Estwanik of Bermuda ran a half-marathon in a business suit yesterday, almost seven minutes quicker than the current Guinness World Record. He wore the suit for fun after a casual suggestion by two running friends, and crossed the finish line of the United Airlines New York City Half-Marathon in 1hr 11min 36sec. The Guinness World Record for the fastest half-marathon in a suit is 1:18:13, set last year by Britain’s Scott Forbes. That record will transfer to Estwanik if it is ratified by the Guinness organisation. Fellow Bermuda athletes Ryan Wilson and Corey Brunton, who also ran in yesterday’s race, came up with the suit idea. “They were joking around and suggested I should do this,” said Estwanik. “It was fun to do something different. I bought the suit here.” On a relatively cold day in Manhattan, Estwanik caught the eye of spectators as he raced around the course in his suit and tie. Many called out in support, some even asked if he was late for a meeting. “Everyone was loving it.” However, wearing a business suit cramped his running style a little. “There was wind, the suit added more weight and I could not move my body as freely,” he said. He crossed the finish line near Wall Street about seven minutes outside his best for the 13.1-mile distance and was immediately interviewed on TV by Meb Keflezigbi, the former Boston and New York City Marathon champion. Estwanik told The Royal Gazette he had enjoyed the race and the course, which wound around Central Park before heading downtown. He said there was plenty of mutual support among the large contingent of competitors and spectators from Bermuda, thought to have numbered at least fifty. The overall race winner was Feyisa Lilesa, of Ethiopia, in 1:00:04. First woman was American Molly Huddle in 1:08:19. It was estimated that about 20,000 people took part in the event.

March 20. The former US Ambassador to Ireland is lined up to be the guest speaker at this year’s annual island celebration of St Patrick’s Day. Kevin O’Malley, a lawyer who served in the US Embassy for three years until he retired at the start of this year, will speak on Irish-American relations, as well as the close relationship Bermuda has with the US at the gala dinner, to be held at the Hamilton Princess on Saturday night, (some days after the exact March 17 day) celebration. Mary Ellen Koenig, the US Consul General in Bermuda and husband Rob, will join Governor John Rankin and Deputy Governor Ginny Ferson at the event. Brian Quinn, of the Bermuda Irish Association, said: “It should be a great night — and, of course, you don’t have to be Irish to enjoy it.” He added that individual tickets, priced at $165 each, as well as a limited number of corporate tables were still available. Mr Quinn, managing director of Granite Management, said: “We are very appreciative that Mr O’Malley has been good enough to take time out of a busy calendar to join us and speak at what is going to be a great night of Irish culture and entertainment. We would like to thank Ms Koenig for her efforts in helping us to secure such a notable speaker for our event we look forward to welcoming her and her husband as guests of honour.” He added: “Mr Rankin and the Ms Ferson will also be guests of honour, following on from the tradition set by the previous Governor George Fergusson last year. The new Governor was very interested in attending.” The gala dinner will also feature Irish dancers who have performed in the world-famous Lord of the Dance group, led by Michael Flatley, who created Riverdance, as well as Irish band Spraoi. Mr O’Malley is a second-generation American held dual US and Irish citizenship until he gave up his Irish passport to become the top American diplomat in Ireland. The dinner starts at 7pm on Saturday with a cocktail reception, with dinner at 8pm. Anyone interested in attending should contact Mr Quinn at bquinn@granite.bm, Michael Veale at veale.michael@gmail.com or aine_11218@yahoo.com to confirm the number of tickets. Money should be transferred to Bank of Butterfield A/C 0601602480012.

March 18. French challengers for the America’s Cup, Groupama Team France, have just released images of the team’s very first practice session in Bermuda on their America’s Cup Class (ACC) boat, also named Groupama Team France, the high-tech catamaran with which they will compete in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda.  “For a first time, it’s been rather successful, particularly given that there was a fair amount of breeze, 18 knots, gusting to 20 at the start!” said Franck Cammas, Skipper of the French team who were the fifth America’s Cup team to set up their base in Bermuda in preparation for the competition which starts on 26th May.  The whole crew is happy. We had some great sensations. We gradually pushed Groupama Team France harder and harder until we were posting a series of fast legs, both downwind and upwind. However, on this first attempt, we didn’t use the boat’s full potential, though we did reach 37 knots at one point.”  The smiles on the team’s faces when they returned to the dock spoke volumes about the success of their first sail. Continuing his debrief, Cammas added “we actually got in 1hr 15minutes of proper sailing on every point of sail. We didn’t work on the manœuvres, instead opting to get back to grips with our catamaran down a straight line. The fact that she’s bigger [than the team’s AC45 test boat] improves the stability. The hulls measure 1.5 metres longer than those on our test boat. We make pretty fast headway and immediately, from the opening tacks, we were able to achieve a good balance. The boat is really very nice to sail.” It was a similar sensation for the most exposed of the bowmen, Devan Le Bihan who said “it’s really enjoyable to have finally arrived at this stage of the project and to share the experience with the whole team. Today, of course, it was a technical sea trial, but we had a sense that all the developments made to ensure the AC Class is more energy efficient, without having a negative effect on the boat’s performance, have borne fruit!” As soon as conditions allow, the team will start to concentrate on fine tuning the use of their systems in the correct manner and performing more manœuvres on board.  Cammas continues “there are a fair number of developments to be implemented before we reach the full potential of the AC Class Groupama Team France. We need another fortnight for that. In mid-April, our latest generation foils will arrive. In the meantime, the objective is to make the best possible use of every minute we have on the water!” Groupama Team France have also outlined the full complement of nine sailors who will make up the team’s race crew. With the total crew on board an ACC at one time limited to six, the French team have appointed nine sailors to their race contingent so positions can be rotated between races, especially for what the team describes as the “very full-on” bowman positions:

The ACC boat in brief:

French challenger Groupama

America's Cup 2017. French challenger Groupama, see above story

March 18. New equipment is being bought to improve waste collection and increase the amount of road repairs being carried out on the island. According to public works minister Craig Cannonier, work was hindered in the past fiscal year because of “reliability issues” with the garbage truck fleet, as well as paving related equipment, some of which is nearly 20 years old. “The focus for the next year will be significant investment into the waste management fleet, with the purchase of some ten new garbage trucks, three skip trucks and multiple compactor bins. In addition, the budget will replace essential heavy equipment such as pay loaders, pavers and crane trucks that are essential to the Ministry’s road maintenance and cleaning services.” The $4 million allocated to this end, represents a “significant investment from previous years,” he said. “The ministry plans in 2017-18 to include the purchase of new paving machines and related equipment to increase reliability and production and to get more than ten kilometers per year done,” he told the House of Assembly during his budget brief. And with the America’s Cup taking place during the “peak season for road improvements”, Mr Cannonier said work would focus on surfacing several tribe roads while the event takes place. Work will be done on Tribe Road No 1, No 2 and No 3 in Devonshire, Tribe Road No 2 in Paget, Tribe Road No 2 in Southampton and Morgan Road in Warwick. “Following the completion of the America’s Cup activities we will revert once more to primarily maintaining the main roads.” He also pledged to look at what improvements can be made to the island’s private roads despite no money being allocated because of budget constraints. Mr Cannonier said 37 private roads were on the waiting list for improvement and his ministry had received “many” calls about this. “Although we don’t have anything in the budget, what my PS and I are looking at is how we can assist with some of these road works because we’re finding now that even boundary walls are falling and the likes that are putting at risk roads and safety of the neighborhood.” Mr Cannonier said there had also been reliability issues with the “ageing mechanical road sweepers”, which has impacted the amount of road cleaned. “A new mechanical road sweeper is slated for purchase in the new fiscal year to improve these figures,” he said. And while only one new bus shelter was built last year instead of the budgeted three, Mr Cannonier told the House that two new traditional bus shelters and a “couple of” Plexiglas shelters are planned for this year. Mr Cannonier also revealed that the decrease of spending on solid waste collection, which has dropped by $371,000, is anticipated “through improved efficiencies”. On average, 400 tonnes of domestic waste are collected during the week and Mr Cannonier said “the section has had many challenges during fiscal year 2016/17, primarily due to the age of the refuse collection fleet, some of which are over 20 years old. The Ministry has made a commitment to replace ten refuse trucks for 17/18 to ensure proper service delivery to all residents.” He added that the GPS system is now in place and “is really beginning to work for us now and make good suggestions”. Shadow public works minister Dennis Lister welcomed the announcement of the new garbage trucks but questioned when they would arrive. Mr Cannonier, however, did not have time to respond to the questions. Mr Lister also urged the Government to address sight lines for motorists coming out of gates and smaller access roads. “Some of them are known to be accident sites because of the challenging sight line and a lot of them can be easily revolved, in my opinion, by a slight adjustment to the hedge level or the rock cut as you come out of that gate.” He said others have sight lines that blocked by signs or poles. It calls for an overall commitment or programme that says we’re going to make sure that going forward when things are done at these junction, they’re done in a way that don’t hinder sight lines. And then have a programme that looks at correcting some of the problems some of these sight lines create.” He also stressed the need for trenches to be surfaced evenly, adding that it may be time to insist that utility companies pave the “whole side” of the road after trenching. “They just fill in that little cut and it’s never done properly,” he said. “The safety of our road users is what we should be most concerned about.”

March 18. The implementation of the employees’ portion of proposed payroll tax reform will be delayed until July 1, Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, told the House of Assembly last night. The announcement came before the Payroll Tax Amendment Act 2017 was debated by MPs and prompted a sharp rebuke from Opposition leader David Burt. While the legislation, complete with the delayed implementation, was approved in the House, Mr Burt, the Shadow Minister of Finance, branded Mr Richards’s tax reform package as “badly thought out. It will cost Bermudian jobs and make our financial situation more difficult. That will be the legacy of the Minister of Finance’s last budget,” he said. Promising the Progressive Labour Party would implement “comprehensive tax reform” he added: “The Government is now being forced to delay something else because of the difficulty of implementing it by employers. “It’s a challenge on employers and difficult to implement and that is why the Minister of Finance has delayed that portion.” Responding to questions, Mr Richards said the delay would cost the government around $820,000 in lost revenue, but said he would not return to the House to have the implementation of the fee structure set back again. “This is a one-time concession in terms of time,” he said. “The Government is not in a position to push this down the track any further.” Last night’s announcement comes just days after the Government was forced to back-pedal on revenue-raising customs amendments that had been expected to bring in almost $20 million. An e-mail sent to importers on Tuesday advised that the Ministry of Finance was “reconsidering” the proposals and needed to revise them. Under proposals outlined by Richards in the budget lower-paid workers will get payroll tax cuts over two years, while big earners will be forced to dig deeper into their pockets. The payroll tax cap will rise from $750,000 to $900,000, while Bermuda’s biggest earners will see a payroll tax rate jump from 6 per cent to 11 per cent.

March 18. 70  years ago, in 1947, Bermuda Aviation Services Ltd was incorporated under an Act of Parliament bearing the firm’s name. It originally provided aviation-related services to what was the Bermuda's Civil Air Terminal (now LF Wade International Airport), including passenger handling, weather updates and flight plans, and was authorised to act as an agent for the airlines serving Bermuda. (But over the seven decades since, BAS has evolved into something completely different, a group of companies offering broad-ranging expertise from air conditioning and energy efficiency to elevator servicing and auto repairs. On its website (www.bas.bm), BAS makes this bold claim: “The wide range of skills and depth of knowledge within the group of companies enables BAS to solve any challenge that a business might face.” BAS could stake a claim to having the broadest corporate skill-set of any domestic company listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange. The group includes CCS Group — infrastructure cabling, cloud services and enterprise networking; Besco — energy management systems, fire detection and security systems, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering; Integrated Technology Solutions — audiovisual solutions, window treatment, digital signage; EffTech — heating, ventilation and air-conditioning solutions and maintenance; fire and safety systems; Otis Bermuda — elevator supply, maintenance and retrofits; escalators and moving walkways; BAS-Serco — facilities management and commercial cleaning; Weir Enterprises — automotive servicing and diagnostics; industrial and commercial radiator repair. BAS-Serco lost the airport contract in March 2016 and BAS has also sold International Bonded Couriers but the company has expressed confidence that growth across its operating subsidiaries will replace the revenue lost. CCS has broadened its horizons by setting up a European operation in Portugal, opening the door to a much larger market. The office in Lisbon opened in 2015. Much of BAS’s transformation into a multifaceted services provider has happened within recent years, during which time BAS acquired Besco and ITS and founded Eff-Tech).

March 18. CedarBridge Academy students were unable to get to their practice SAT exams on time this week because of continuing disruptions to their school bus service. “Major concerns” have been raised by staff, parents and students that they will miss, or be late for, further exams due to start on Monday. The Public Transportation Board told stakeholders at a meeting that school bus cancellations were due to issues with work rosters which must be resolved with the Bermuda Industrial Union, an official CedarBridge spokeswoman said. This newspaper reached out to the BIU for comment yesterday but were told that president Chris Furbert no longer speaks to The Royal Gazette despite him giving quotes to one of our reporters on Thursday regarding industrial action at the City of Hamilton. Meanwhile, a Government spokesman acknowledged the problem had existed for some time. “The work roster of bus drivers has been a contributor to the disruption of buses. For more than 12 years, we have failed to reach an agreement with unionized workers for changes to the bus schedule, which would use less buses than the current schedule, and which we believe would go a long way to resolving outstanding issues. The DPT has spoken with the union to assist in finding a solution for CedarBridge, and this dialogue is ongoing.” The spokesman said that nine school bus runs had been listed for cancellation yesterday, but added: “In fact, all the runs to CedarBridge Academy were eventually covered with the rerouting of other buses on the road, although they would have been running behind time”. During the 111 days that CedarBridge students have been in school since the start of term, a total of 57 days had been impacted according to the spokesperson at CedarBridge — 25 days (44 per cent) out of the East were impacted and 51 (89 per cent) out of the West, with one or more buses being cancelled. On eight of those days no buses at all turned up to the school. The issue was raised by shadow transport minister Lawrence Scott during Wednesday’s House of Assembly sitting, calling on “solutions sooner rather than later”. Impact on student learning is the main concern for teachers at CedarBridge. The official school spokeswoman said: “If students are not in class for any amount of time, that impacts on their learning. When students come in late and walk into a classroom they are interrupting the instruction that is going on at that time. We have several teachers who use the bus, so if teachers are using the bus and the buses don’t come again, that is further disruption on the school. Buses were late this week which meant the PSAT 9 exam had to be moved to a later time — we changed our schedule so that the students that were scheduled to take the exam could take it which impacted on the entire day. We were told that the issue is with work rosters and that has to be resolved with the BIU. That’s what we were told — that’s why we don’t have any buses available.” According to the spokeswoman, students have complained that, on bus cancellation days, they tried to catch regular buses but drivers will not pick them up even when there are very few passengers on board. There have also been two cases of CedarBridge students being assaulted while walking to alternative bus stops trying to get home. At Tuesday’s meeting with stakeholders, the Public Transportation Board did not give any assurances that the buses would be able to get the students to school for their exams which start next week, the spokeswoman said. Since the meeting there were two consecutive days with disruptions to the school’s service. The spokeswoman believes that the issue is predominantly with CedarBridge. “We are in communication with other schools and they are not having the level of problems we have here at CedarBridge — we track everything and keep a record of it.” A survey questioning more than 600 parents, teachers and students showed there was “grave concern” over the situation. PTA president at CedarBridge Llewka Richards said the problem was not new. She told us: “It is a very unfortunate situation we have been having with this bus issue at least four years but I know it is much older than that. Two years ago we reached out to PTB and invited stakeholders to come in and try to find a solution. Some things were put into place but they have not really come into fruition. We had the meeting on Tuesday because we have noticed it is too frequent with morning and evening buses. It is affecting our students because they are getting in late or are not being picked up in the afternoon and are having to walk as far as Middle Road, Devonshire, East Broadway or Palmetto Road to catch a bus.” Asked whether she felt more confident about the situation following Tuesday’s meeting, Ms Richards responded: “I am not feeling any better about it. Although we mentioned that midterm exams are next week — today is the second consecutive morning since then that our students have not had buses. PTB gave us an overview and how many are out of commission and there are quite a few. This morning I was quite upset because they noted there were 11 noted cancellations and six were CedarBridge and I feel there should have been cancellations across the board. The PTB director and his team tried to stress that it is not just us but we don’t seem to hear any other schools complaining but every day, without fail, we are affected. Students’ education is very important and we need to find a solution.” During the House of Assembly sitting, Minister for Education Cole Simons said the issue of buses at CedarBridge was a “priority” for the Ministry. He said a meeting had been called between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Transport to seek a solution.

March 17. Ground will break next month on the LF Wade International Airport redevelopment project, as the Aecon Group has announced a “commercial and financial close”. Finance minister Bob Richards and tourism minister Senator Michael Fahy appeared yesterday afternoon with officials from Aecon and Canadian Commercial Corporation to commemorate close on the 2½ year negotiations. With the deal now officially agreed, the announcement marked a significant milestone, Mr Richards said. “I’m happy to say that construction of our much needed, state of the art airport can commence.” Yesterday’s announcement will also not result in any further details being released to the public, the minister added, in reference to the calls from the project’s opponents for all materials to be made public. “What we have revealed so far is virtually everything, except for the financial model, which is not going to be revealed in any circumstance.” The financial model was demanded by the Progressive Labour Party, but the minister said repeatedly that such details were not the government’s to divulge. That rationale was backed last month by the independent Blue Ribbon Panel tasked with reviewing the deal. Mr Richards hailed it as “one of the most important capital projects ever undertaken in our island” — calling yesterday’s announcement “an exciting and historic occasion”. With the financial close, the Bermuda Airport Authority quango is now in place, under Mr Fahy’s administration. As well as the terminal bringing benefits to passengers, Mr Fahy said: “There are hundreds of workers at our current facility, and we can finally promise them a terminal building that will provide them the space and accommodation that they deserve.” Construction of the new terminal at Stone Crusher Corner is to take 40 months, as previously stated. Aecon’s statement continues: “The new works are being constructed on the airport property well removed from the existing terminal, allowing for uninterrupted operations of the existing terminal.” It promises a “larger, state-of-the-art, accessible terminal that can resist hurricane-force winds”. The release said: “It will improve passenger flow, introduce new and renovated facilities, and provide additional retail offerings to better meet the needs of airport users, today and in the future. Key features of the project in addition to the new terminal include providing six new covered boarding bridges, new apron space for parking and refueling or loading/unloading aircraft; modifications to taxiways to improve aircraft traffic flow; as well as energy and water efficiency features.” The release stated that, on financial close, Bermuda Skyport Corporation Limited, a special purpose company formed and initially wholly-owned by Aecon Concessions, will take over the airport’s operations, maintenance and commercial functions, and manage and coordinate the overall delivery of the redevelopment project over a 30-year concession term. Financing for the project has been arranged by Aecon, and includes a $285 million fixed coupon US private placement, amortized over a 25-year term, and approximately $70 million of shareholder equity to be contributed in the latter part of construction. The construction activities of the Bermuda Airport Project will be recorded in Aecon’s Infrastructure segment, while the financing, operations, maintenance and concession activities will be recorded in Aecon’s Concessions segment. Mr Richards is quoted on the Aecon statement as saying: “Bermuda is benefiting from a series of strategic initiatives to spur growth and prosperity. “This transaction is one of them, but a very significant one that brings jobs for Bermudians and the knowledge that they are participating in one of the largest, and most important, infrastructure projects of our generation. This development helps our community to continue along a path of economic growth and prosperity. The benefits of this significant infrastructure project will be appreciated by Bermudians and visitors for many years to come. We look forward to a long, and mutually beneficial, relationship with our first-class partners.” John Beck, president and CEO of Aecon Group Inc, stated: “Through Aecon’s select participation in international projects such as the Bermuda Airport redevelopment project, we continue our long history of developing and building airports globally and add to our successful roster of experience as concessionaire. The combination of the Government-to-Government and P3 procurement models is a unique offering brought to the table by CCC and Aecon to facilitate the delivery of a tailor made solution for Bermuda.” Steve Nackan, president of Aecon Concessions, stated: “We are very pleased to see the project move forward and are confident it will bring substantial value to both Bermuda and Aecon. Working with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the Government of Bermuda, Aecon will meet the set objectives — delivering a world-class airport, as well as providing significant economic benefits to Bermuda. As Bermuda’s largest infrastructure project, swift financial close on this innovative arrangement demonstrates the quality of the project, as well as Aecon’s depth of experience and track record in delivering projects around the globe. Aecon’s role as developer, investor, design-builder and operator highlights Aecon’s turnkey service offering and integrated business model — developed to meet the needs of our valued clients.” Martin Zablocki, president and CEO of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, stated: “This government-to-government project embodies the value, trust and collaboration of the longstanding bilateral relationship between Canada and Bermuda. Knowing the positive economic impact a modernized airport can have on Bermuda, CCC is excited to play a key role in the delivery of a world-class, customized solution to meet the needs of Bermudians, for both today, and generations to come.”

March 17. The Bermuda Government’s Massachusetts lawsuit against Lahey Clinic has included a cost of $426,000 thus far to the legal firm Cooley LLC. Cabinet approved the awarding of the contract around April 26, 2016, according to Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General. The wide-ranging civil suit includes claims by the Government that Lahey colluded with former premier Ewart Brown to unlawfully obtain medical business in Bermuda. Bringing details to Parliament in response to Opposition questions, Mr Moniz told MPs that the Cooley contract had not been put out to tender. Cooley’s rates range from $200 an hour for paralegals up to $750, for what the Attorney-General described as “very reasonable” for a firm of Cooley’s standing. Details were unavailable for Cooley’s media relations firm — but Mr Moniz said he believed its charge to be $300 per hour.

March 17. A Bill to introduce a new tax for financial services won narrow support in a House of Assembly vote after Opposition MPs argued it would result in higher fees for “Mr and Mrs Bermuda”. Finance minister Bob Richards admitted that there was no initial consultation with any of the affected parties with regards to the Financial Services Tax Act 2017. The Bill came to a vote, with Government Whip Susan Jackson counting 15 votes against, and 15 votes in favour, herself casting the deciding vote in favour making 16 in favour. The Bill was branded “The Airport and America’s Cup Tax Bill” by Progressive Labour Party MPs Diallo Rabain and Kim Wilson. However, Mr Richards countered that the Bill “is the PLP deficit tax increase” rather than an “airport or America’s Cup tax”. The Act will see money service businesses hit with a 1 per cent tax on their aggregated incoming and outgoing transmission volume. That figure was reduced from the 5 per cent announced in the Budget Statement, after consultation with the business services industry, according to Mr Richards. Banks will pay 0.005 per cent of their consolidated gross assets, while local insurance companies will have a 2.5 per cent tax on gross premiums earned, excluding premiums from health insurance. Mr Rabain and Ms Wilson claimed that the new tax on banks, insurance companies and money service businesses, expected to generate more than $11 million per year, would eventually impact “Mr and Mrs Bermuda”. Ms Wilson, shadow health minister, said: “If I am an insurance company, I will not eat that — I’ll pass it on to the consumer.” Speaking on “astronomical” bank fees, she described the Bill as “reverse Robin Hood, that takes money from the poor, or in this case the middle class, and gives it to the rich”. Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott echoed concerns about the equity of the Bill and PLP backbencher Wayne Furbert asked: “Is this the best they can do?”, while deputy Opposition leader Walter Roban said the move could bring concern to the business community. Opposition leader David Burt, who pointed out that Bermuda is “the most expensive place in the world to live”, also insisted this “Act here will make it more expensive to fill the revenue hole to pay for the Minister’s projects”. He also noted that the tax on money services businesses had been dropped, “just like the mysterious customs duty hikes, which have magically disappeared”. Mr Richards stressed that the “overriding objective and the overriding risk to the Bermuda economy, to Bermuda as a country and to the Bermudian people is the excessive debt that this Government has”. Noting that “nobody likes to pay more taxes”, he added “we made a decision because nobody was going to agree to it”. Mr Richards said the Government had made a decision to reduce the deficit “that we inherited from the other side”. Responding to questions from the Opposition about why the tax on money service businesses had been reduced to 1 per cent, Mr Richards said 5 per cent was deemed “way too high” after consulting with stakeholders of the business service industry. But he added that it is “really not that big a deal in so far as the dollar amount of the taxes raised” because money service businesses “are very small compared to the business operations of the banks and insurance companies”. But, pressed by Mr Burt about what consultation was made with the money service business before the 5 per cent was set, Mr Richards admitted that there was none. And when Mr Burt questioned what consultation was done with the banks and insurance companies, Mr Richards conceded that “this tax was not arrived at with prior consultation with the members involved”. He added: “We used comparative numbers with some other similar jurisdictions to Bermuda.” And when pressed what these were, he said: “Mainly the Bahamas — these rates are very similar to what they use.” MPs voted along party lines, with Independent MP Shawn Crockwell voting in favour.

March 17. The One Bermuda Alliance agreed to “strengthen opportunities” for local entertainers by revisiting new immigration policies. Shadow home affairs minister Walton Brown had led a motion in the House of Assembly, calling for the rejection of the updated work permit policy, which he felt put Bermudian performers at a disadvantage. Among the contentious issues were the removal of the requirement for travelers’ dues to be paid to the Bermuda Entertainers Union as a condition of the permit application process, and the discontinuing of the provision for Bermudians to get equal time to perform as a work permit-holder. Following a heated debate, and then strong assurances by the OBA to work in collaboration with the Opposition on solutions, Mr Brown agreed to reword his motion. Instead of rejecting the policy outright, the new motion called for Government to revisit its policies “with a clear view to strengthen opportunities for local entertainers”. That motion was passed. Mr Brown told the House: “There was a work permit policy that worked for musicians right up until 2014. The policy was really very straightforward. The challenge today is that the Government has amended the policy to say that all a business has to do is place an ad in a newspaper and anyone who applies for it will be treated like anybody else who applies. There is no preference given to the Bermudian artist community, which is how it used to be.” He said this creates an environment where the employer will want to hire foreign workers. One reason, he said, is the inequality in the pay packages because the cost of foreign entertainment can be cheaper, adding: “You have a structural inequality in the employment environment.” Home affairs minister Patricia Gordon Pamplin pleaded with the Opposition for a compromise, saying: “We can’t obtain what we want to do by throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” She went on: “We have to do this in such a way that you don’t create impediments when there is a lack of response. If local entertainers failed to apply a schedule couldn’t be kept. If policy needs tweaking I am more than willing to come up with a proper way to collect fees and ensure union has the money it needs. I implore the members of the Opposition to join us in ensuring that we can work together on this.” However, Progressive Labour Party MP Lawrence Scott said he supported the motion “as it stands” — an outright rejection — stating the current policy “stifles” entertainers. “This motion in the way it is worded does the right thing.” Opposition MP Diallo Rabain criticised the “lack of consultation” saying that when his party asked for tweaks it “received very little. This House rejects this policy and sends a message to the government that it cannot run roughshod over the people of this country. It’s too late — they had a chance.” Jamahl Simmons, Shadow Tourism Minister, said Mr Brown’s motion “calls for action” saying: “Let’s not stop here — let’s take up the mantle of comprehensive immigration reform”. Health minister Jeanne Atherden said to reject the policy was to say that “everything that was changed was wrong”. PLP MP Wayne Furbert who has a background in entertainment himself made his message short and clear: “Just reject the policy”. Mr Brown had spoken earlier to a “moral imperative” as there was “no incumbency on the government to do anything”. He said there would be no tax consequence or decline in revenue by going back to the previous policy. Instead, it would create greater opportunities for the “plethora” of local talent. He also urged Government to “make it a requirement that when you send in your application for a work permit for entertainers you include that section, the box which says ‘yes, we have submitted our dues to the entertainers union. And if it’s not ticked, the application is not processed.” But following the debate he added: “We are calling for a new policy. If the minister is sincere that she will revisit the policy I am prepared to present a revision to the motion.”

March 17. Independent MP Shawn Crockwell launched a scathing attack on the Bermuda Government for casting “dark clouds” over the heads of “good people” after the Commission of Inquiry. In an impassioned speech in the House of Assembly on Wednesday evening, the former One Bermuda Alliance minister criticised his former party for spending $1 million on an inquiry through which he “learnt nothing new”. Derrick Binns, Cherie Whitter, Marc Telemaque and Anthony Manders — all of whom earn substantial six-figure salaries — were named in the Commission’s report as having failed to follow the rules on government contracts. Mr Crockwell referred directly to Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews’s previous report which found “serious internal control deficiencies identified in the management of various capital development projects” under the watch of the Progressive Labour Party in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Speaking during the Motion to Adjourn, Mr Crockwell said: “I didn’t have a say in the decision. It was my view that the Auditor-General’s report and special reports were sufficient as they relate to dealing with this matter. I was concerned because there’s still a police investigation into many of the issues raised in the Commission.” Mr Crockwell also drew attention to what he believed would be perceived as racial bias. “I was concerned because the Commission of Inquiry would have heightened the level of tension in our community and created more polarization in our community along racial lines. And I believe that my concerns were realized. Start with the optics — we should have known that those called before the Commission were going to be black. The composition of the Commission of Inquiry was white with an English chairman [Sir Anthony Evans]. I’m not questioning his qualifications — I question the optics at a time when things are shaky. Having former Opposition leader John Barritt to the Commission. He was a very vocal Opposition leader and I believe that John Barritt has the ability and talent to separate. But does the average man on the street think he is going to be impartial? The optics created a very stressful situation.” The Commission of Inquiry has been hugely critical of former premier Ewart Brown, highlighting “possible criminal activity” in five contracts linked to him. It emerged yesterday that Mr Crockwell is now representing a patient of Dr Brown, whose medical records were seized during raids, and that he had held a “significant meeting” with about 150 of his patients suggesting further legal action against police could follow. Mr Crockwell concluded: “I was interested in its findings — I was expecting greater clarity.” However, he continued: “When I got to the findings, I did not learn anything new. The outcome was that there was ‘possible criminal activity’ and that it [the Commission] supports the ongoing investigation. I say that’s not good enough after spending $1 million on this process. People are feeling offended by this process and we are still waiting.” Holding up a copy of The Royal Gazette, he pointed to those suffering “unnecessary distress. That’s not good enough. They say justice delayed is justice denied. Enough is enough. If someone has evidence bring it and lay it. One has to question whether this was a political exercise. Good people have dark clouds hanging over their heads — it is outrageous.”

March 17. One Bermuda Alliance MP Mark Pettingill resigned from the governing party yesterday and said he would probably retire from politics at the next General Election. Mr Pettingill, the member for Warwick North East, told reporters he had a long meeting with Michael Dunkley on Wednesday and tendered his resignation to the Premier yesterday morning after “a lot of reflection and a lot of soul-searching”. He will serve as an Independent MP in constituency 25 until the election, leaving the OBA with just 17 MPs in the House of Assembly and making it a minority government. At a press conference at his law office on Reid Street, Mr Pettingill said he felt compelled to resign due to conflicts with his legal work — and revealed his firm Chancery Legal has been in talks with patients of Ewart Brown, the former premier, after a recent police raid on Dr Brown’s clinics. The former Attorney-General added that he was “diametrically and philosophically opposed” to the Government on a number of issues, including same-sex marriage, casino gaming and cannabis reform. In recent months, Mr Pettingill has been a vocal critic of the party he helped to form. This year, during debate in the House on the airport redevelopment project, he delivered a speech on race, which revealed his deep concern with his party’s handling of the issue and which was praised by several PLP MPs. Yesterday, he told the media: “I find myself in a position of ongoing professional legal conflict with the Government on various existing litigation and potential matters that my law firm has been approached about having conduct over. Furthermore, I have unfortunately found myself diametrically and philosophically opposed to the Government’s position or approach on numerous issues in endeavoring to move Bermuda forward. I respect that the Premier, and the Cabinet, take a different view. In the interest of the country, I sincerely wish the Government every success for the remainder of their tenure in office, recognizing that they have, in fact, accomplished many positive things for the island. I have no doubt the Government will have my support on any number of pending legislative matters.” Asked which legal matters could bring him into conflict with the Government, Mr Pettingill said his “best friend” and colleague at Chancery Legal, Shawn Crockwell, also a former OBA MP who resigned from the party a year ago and became an Independent, was now representing a patient of Dr Brown, whose medical records were seized during the raids. He noted that this was a matter being brought against the Bermuda Police Service, rather than the Government. He said he and Mr Crockwell had held a “significant meeting” with more than 150 of Dr Brown’s patients and suggested that further legal action against police could follow. Mr Pettingill, a defence lawyer, was first elected as a United Bermuda Party MP in Warwick West in 2007. Two years later, he was a member of a breakaway group of UBP MPs which formed the Bermuda Democratic Alliance. In 2011, the BDA merged with the UBP to found the OBA. In the 2012 General Election, Mr Pettingill switched to Warwick North East, where he defeated long-serving PLP MP Dale Butler as the OBA won power for the first time. After serving as Attorney-General for about 18 months, during which time he courted controversy by his involvement in the Jetgate affair, Mr Pettingill stepped down to briefly take a position as chief legal officer for Clarien Bank, before returning to private practice. As a backbencher, he has frequently been outspoken, criticizing the way his party has handled same-sex marriage, public protests and racial issues. He said yesterday the decision to resign was an emotional one, as he had such high hopes for what could be achieved by the OBA. But he claimed the power base of the party had become more conservative and “UBP-centric” and, as a self-described “bleeding heart liberal”, he felt it had shifted away from his political ideology. Mr Pettingill said: “Obviously, there is a huge element of disappointment which comes into play.”

March 17. The resignation of MP Mark Pettingill has left the One Bermuda Alliance with a “tenuous” grip on power, sources claimed last night, and could prompt a vote of no confidence in the Government. Mr Pettingill announced yesterday morning that “after a lot of reflection ... and soul-searching” he had left the OBA and would serve as an Independent MP in his Warwick North East constituency until the next General Election, when he will probably resign from politics. Despite his departure from the OBA, he said: “I have no doubt the Government will have my support on any number of pending legislative matters.” His decision leaves the ruling party with just 17 MPs in the House of Assembly, rendering it a minority government, as the number of elected members not in the governing party now outnumber those who are. Last night, the Progressive Labour Party said Michael Dunkley should resign or call a snap election but Opposition leader David Burt refused to reveal whether he would table a motion of no confidence in the Government, as can be done under section 59 of the Constitution. The Premier responded by accusing the PLP of using the resignation “as a political opportunity to exploit”. Attorney-General Trevor Moniz, meanwhile, told The Royal Gazette that though his party’s position was now undoubtedly weakened, it should still be able to continue as the Government because Mr Pettingill and Shawn Crockwell, the other Independent MP, had indicated their likely support on legislative matters. “I don’t know whether it would serve [the PLP’s] purpose to call a motion of no confidence,” said Mr Moniz. “You can only pull that trigger once; if you pull it and lose, it doesn’t look so good.” The OBA and PLP now have equal numbers of MPs in the House (17), though the Opposition, when it comes to voting on legislation, still has one less vote because its member Randy Horton is the Speaker and can vote only in the case of a tie. The two Independent MPs take the total number of non-OBA MPs to 19. A minority government is one which has less than half the total number of seats. This newspaper canvassed opinion yesterday on whether Mr Pettingill’s resignation left the Government in a position where it could no longer lead the country. We spoke to six lawyers with in-depth knowledge of the Constitution, including Mr Moniz, and only one considered it to be a situation where the Governor would need to act. That source, who asked not to be named, said: “The fact that we now have 17 OBA, 17 PLP and two Independents, puts us near constitutional crisis. The matter now moves to the Governor for him to make a decision.” But others disagreed with that assessment. Tim Marshall, consultant at Marshall, Diel & Myers, who has handled many constitutional cases, said the Governor would only get involved if it was determined that the Government did not have the support of a majority of members in the House. “The only way you can test that is for there to be brought a motion to determine whether or not there is confidence in the Government,” said Mr Marshall, whose wife Georgia was, until recently, an OBA senator. “When you look at the provisions of the Constitution, it’s not driven by the fact that a member of Parliament has left a particular party. It’s really driven by how many members of the Parliament support the Government.” He said it was likely that discussions were taking place in both camps as to the likely outcome of such a vote, adding: “[The Opposition leader] might do it just for the sake of emphasizing the weak position that the OBA Government finds itself in.” Mr Marshall added: “It’s not the most wonderful position; in fact, it’s a pretty awful position for any government to find themselves in.” Another source, who wished to remain anonymous, said the Governor would not act of his own accord. “That’s why the vote of no confidence is pivotal as to whether the Government survives or not.” The source added that the Government’s position was “very tenuous ... right now” but, because of Mr Horton’s role as Speaker, it still had a majority in Parliament of one and the likelihood of support from the Independents. Yet another source said the Governor would be “watching closely to see how votes unfold in the House” because the Premier’s appointment was based, according to the Constitution, on him being “best able to command the confidence of a majority of the members”. “[There is] no question that if, after a period of time, the Government is unable to govern i.e. pass its legislation in the House, the position may become untenable, most especially if it is [a] money Bill. The loss of a non-confidence vote could also trigger a resignation of the Premier and his Government.” Mr Moniz scotched the idea that Bermuda was on the cusp of a constitutional crisis. “Both the Independent MPs have indicated that they are going to vote with the Government and have no desire to bring the Government down,” he said. The Minister of Legal Affairs added: “In other countries, they certainly have minority governments that survive long periods of time. We know we are coming up to an election anyway. Clearly [this resignation] indicates that the Government has less latitude, so we have got to be really careful what legislation we go forward with, otherwise we are going to lose votes.” Our final source insisted the resignation itself didn’t “trigger anything constitutional”. An Opposition spokeswoman said yesterday: “The news that yet another OBA MP, Mark Pettingill, has found it necessary to resign from the party he helped found, to sit as an Independent, calls into question the direction of the country and is yet another signal that the leadership of Michael Dunkley is directionless, ineffective and weak. It should be jarring to all Bermudians that we now, for the first time ever, have a minority government at the helm, and that the OBA cannot secure the passage of any legislation without the assistance of the Independent or Opposition members. On the anniversary of the day MP Shawn Crockwell resigned from Cabinet over the Government’s mishandling of immigration, this is yet another sign that it is time for the Premier to either resign or go to the country and seek a mandate from the people through a General Election.” However, Mr Dunkley said last night that Mr Pettingill took care in his statement to say that Government would have his support on pending legislative matters. “So, while the PLP see this as a political opportunity to exploit, Mr Pettingill recognized the need for Bermuda to continue moving forward on the big issues the OBA Government has progressed,” Mr Dunkley said. “His decision to sit as an Independent MP allows him to address what he described as ‘ongoing conflicts with the Government’ on matters involving his law firm while enabling him to support Government initiatives going forward. We will continue to work with Mr Pettingill and his colleague Mr Crockwell, as we have always done, for the benefit of the Bermudian people — a goal we all share. That’s the agenda: governing to benefit the people. The country’s priorities are what matter most right now, not the PLP’s political priorities, which is what their statement is all about.” Earlier in the day, he described Mr Pettingill’s resignation as a “disappointing development for a government that has been making steady progress on big problems facing the people of Bermuda”. A Government House spokesman, in response to questions, said: “In considering any developments in the House of Assembly, the Governor will continue to act in accordance with the terms of the Bermuda Constitution.”

March 17. A seven strong team of local professionals have been appointed to serve as members of the newly created Bermuda Airport Authority. The new Bermuda Government airport quango will be chaired by Mark Fields, retired General Manager of Sol Bermuda, while Lester Nelson will take on the position of chief executive officer. Mr Nelson has more than 25 years of experience in aviation and business management and was the first Bermudian manager of Air Operations. The BAA’s memberships will also include Judith Hall-Bean, former assistant secretary to the Cabinet, Andrew Parsons, retired president of Belco, Robert Steynor, retired senior vice president of fuels, logistics, environment and safety at Belco, Ian MacIntyre, the director of the Bermuda Department of Civil Aviation until his retirement in 2008, and Marshall Minors, vice president for Facilities Management, Engineering Services, Property Management and Hotel Services for the Bermuda Hospitals Board. Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, said “This is indeed a fantastic board, made up of industry experts and seasoned professionals, who are all Bermudian. I am confident that they will serve Bermuda well.” The BAA will be tasked with ensuring the interests of the Bermuda Government and Bermuda are protected and that the airport operator and vendors are held accountable to the standards set out in their contractual obligations. The quango will take on the responsibility of selected, retained Government services such as air traffic control operations, meteorological services, airport fire and rescue services and ground electronics, which are currently the responsibility of the Department of Airport Operations. It will also regulate passenger fees and has discretion in approving increases in such fees and be responsible for identifying additional revenue generating opportunities.

March 17. A vacation rental property agency in Bermuda has seen a remarkable growth in the sector since it started six years ago. And it is confident it can handle the heightened competition expected from global vacation rental service Airbnb, which last week signed an agreement with the Bermuda Tourism Authority. The team at White Roof B&B steadfastly believe their Bermudian-based service for homeowners and vacationers offers a valuable service that would be difficult for a remote global brand to match. White Roof is an offshoot of JBM Realty. The B&B business started in 2011 as a way of adapting to the challenging economic conditions at the time, which included a reduction in the number of guest workers on the island renting accommodation. “The economy was really slow. People in the west end had real problems renting out. We came up with a solution,” said Chrystal Talbot, one of the rental advisers. She explained that many visitors liked to stay in the western parishes. That spurred the idea of renting out suitable properties on a short-term basis to holidaymakers. But it also meant a learning curve for the White Roof team. “We knew about [real estate] rentals, but not much about vacation rentals. We had to figure it out,” said Ms Talbot. The enterprise started small, but quickly caught on. “It grew as one neighbor told another. We started to get busy. It helped a lot of people stay afloat.” Having started in the west, the agency now lists properties across the island. Originally called First Bermuda Vacation Properties, the business created a booking website listing available rental properties. Two years ago the website was completely revamped and upgraded. At the same time, the business changed its name to the more Bermudian reflective White Roof B&B. The rental accommodations range from studio apartments to four-bedroom properties, including some with swimming pools. The website features properties, including a location map and details about each parish, and which rentals are available. Holidaymakers enter their preferred dates and instantly get a price, including any fees and taxes. Credit card bookings can be made on the website through a secured service. For homeowners who want to rent out their accommodation, three options are available. One is a per booking option, where the rental is self-managed by the homeowner, with the agency advertising the property and handling the booking fee. For homeowners seeking to rent their accommodation for a number of months each year, the agency recommends its annual subscription option. The third option is a comprehensive service where a White Roof adviser handles the listing, enquiries, booking and other requirements that a client might need. Homeowners can explore the options and pricing through the White Roof B&B website. As of yesterday, there were 32 properties listed on the site. The majority of guests are from the US, UK and Canada, and the agency sees a lot of repeat customers. While the trend for holidaymakers to rent rooms and apartments has taken off in recent years, Ms Talbot pointed out that it is something Bermuda residents have been doing for a long time. White Roof takes pride in providing a personal and reassuring on-the-ground service to homeowners and vacationers. This includes for guests pre-arranged transportation from the airport, having groceries ordered, supplying cribs for families with young children, and providing detailed information on places to see and things to do. The team believe in maintaining quality standards, and they inspect properties before they are listed. Johnette McNeil, another of the advisers, said: “We go around and make sure the properties are up to scratch.” She added that many of the homeowners who joined when the service started have continued to have their accommodation listed during the past six years. Announcing the agreement with Airbnb last week, Kevin Dallas, the chief executive officer of the BTA, said he hoped more Bermuda homeowners will consider renting out vacation accommodation. Ms McNeil feels the service available with Devonshire-based White Roof B&B offers advantages to homeowners and holidaymakers. “We want people to know it is another option. We are here for assistance; we have a presence here and we can recommend homes,” she said. Colleague Tracey Johnson, who also takes care of marketing and social media for White Roof, said: “People can sign up and get their property on the website. We go out and ensure the standards. We have a slogan ‘local homes, local hosts, local experience." We explain to the homeowners what to expect and how to welcome guests.” While recognizing that Airbnb is a competitor, Ms McNeil is confident White Roof B&B will thrive “as long as we do what we have to do. Airbnb is a platform for putting properties on. But being here, we are assisting people who do not know how it works. And working in real estate we can help price the rooms.” In a 2015 report into the vacation rental property market, the BTA highlighted the need for quality control standards. Last week, the BTA said its agreement with Airbnb would create a framework for dialogue between the Bermuda Government and the company to discuss industry matters, including regulation. Ms Talbot said: “We have been to all the summits and we know we need the standards. We have nothing against that. We have done everything in compliance with the BTA.” The White Roof B&B team is encouraging homeowners and vacationers to check out their website. Ms Johnson hopes more homeowners will decide to list with the Bermudian company. She said: “We are looking for homeowners who want to list. We need more properties. People can call and we can answer their questions.”

March 17. Retail sales fell by 1.1 per cent year-on-year in January 2017 to $84.3 million. Five of the seven sectors in the Retail Sales Index saw drops in sales revenue. The biggest loser was the motor trade, with an 11.8 per cent fall in sales revenue, attributed to a 12.2 per cent fall in sales volume. However, building materials and hardware stores recorded a gain of 17.4 per cent. Island residents spent a total of $88.7 million for the month, with the overseas portion unchanged from January last year at $4.4 million. After adjustment for inflation, which was at 1.2 per cent in January, the volume of retail sales decreased by 2.1 per cent. The value of fuel sales at service stations also saw an increase, up 8.2 per cent for the first month of the year, with the increase put down to a 2.3 per cent increase in the price of fuel. After adjusting for inflation, the sales volume of fuel increased by 5.8 per cent. Receipts from food sales dropped 2.2 per cent for the month, while liquor sales went down 0.9 per cent. The sales volumes for food and liquor stores dropped 3.7 per cent and 5.9 per cent respectively. Sales of clothing also fell, down 1.3 per cent — but 2.9 per cent when inflation was factored in. Sales receipts in the all other store types sector went down 1.4 per cent compared to the previous January. Miscellaneous sales decreased by 13.1 per cent, while pharmacies saw a 1.9 per cent drop in sales revenue. Marine and boat suppliers, however, saw their gross receipts go up 22.7 per cent, while receipts for furniture, appliances and electronics grew by 0.2 per cent. With inflation considered, the drop in the all other stores sector went down 2.4 per cent.

March 17. Community volunteers are being sought to help plan the future of Bermuda’s education system. People will be given training so they can act as hosts for “community conversations” designed to gather input from all walks of life, education minister Cole Simons said today. American-based education expert Jeremiah Newell has been hired to help develop a strategic plan for education, Mr Simons told the House of Assembly as he updated MPs on progress in his ministry. “I call upon the entire community in Bermuda to join with the Board of Education and be a part of this strategic planning process, Mr Simons said. “The goal of the Board is to have a transformative public education strategy that is developed by Bermudians for Bermudians, as the success of public school education affects everyone.” The minister said the core elements of the strategic planning approach include:

“I solicit the support and input of the entire community — parents, students, teachers, principals, guardians, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, small and large business owners, business professionals, retirees, churches, sporting clubs, everyone who cares about the future of Bermuda — to participate in the upcoming community conversations that you will be hearing more about,” he said. “Additionally, for those who may not be able to attend a community conversation, an online survey is currently available on the Ministry of Education website at www.moed.bm to provide your input. We have over 200 responses to this survey already. This will be a strategic plan based on the input from the community.” Dr Newell, the CEO of Jeremiah Newell and Associates, has “significant experience in designing and leading strategic planning processes for public school systems”, Mr Simons said. “He specializes in transforming public education agencies into high performing, learning-focused organisations. For more than a decade, Dr Newell has worked in diverse, large and complex education systems to drive strategic change and improvement. Dr Newell and the Commissioner of Education, Freddie Evans, will work closely together to lead out on this strategic planning project during the upcoming months.” Two final stakeholder information sessions are scheduled for the first week in April that will include representatives from private schools and the business sector, and then the public community at large.

March 17. More than 20 CedarBridge students have been given a helping hand from the OBA as they prepare for a trip to the UK where they will get chance to visit colleges and universities. Nandi Outerbridge, Minister of Social Development and Sports, offered her support to the students today and has been joined by other MPs to donate funds for the trip. Ms Outerbridge said: “On behalf of my Parliamentary colleagues, the CBA Board and staff, I offer my encouragement and support to the students . . . this trip is designed to give students exposure to institutions they may not otherwise consider and I know these students will take full advantage of this opportunity.” The pupils will visit Sheffield Hallam University, Salford University, Xaverian College, University of Manchester, Roehampton University, London Metropolitan University, London South Bank University and University of Buckingham. Additional visits are being arranged as well as attendance at a major university fair. The group will arrive in the UK tomorrow and will stay until March 28.

March 17. Workers from the Corporation of Hamilton have downed tools for a second day. As of 2.30pm this afternoon, roughly 20 workers had blocked the vehicle entrance to the corporation building on Canal Road. Some carried placards, with the message “Don’t be a scab by crossing these lines”. Two Bermuda Police Service vehicles sat parked in a lot across from the protesters. The work stoppage began following a lunchtime vote by union members yesterday. Chief shop steward Daniel Hayward told The Royal Gazette that nothing had been resolved from yesterday and there has been no further communication with the Corporation. Mr Hayward added that the action would continue “until we get a fair result — a fair third party trial so to speak”. He added that the workers just want “fairness and respect”. Workers, including members of the garden, sanitation and engineering departments, are calling for a third-party tribunal into the dismissal of Garreth Bean, Robert Lee, Delmair Trott and Gregory Wainwright.

March 16. Premier Michael Dunkley has accused Opposition leader David Burt of “selective amnesia” for stating that the One Bermuda Alliance has taken too long to enact the Good Governance Act. The Premier highlighted that the Progressive Labour Party, which introduced the Bill in 2011 under former premier Paula Cox, made no further progress with the Bill during its time in power and that while Mr Burt was not a member of Cabinet, he was Junior Minister for Finance. Mr Burt said on Monday: “51 months later [since the Bill was introduced] there is no code of practice for procurement management that the government has to follow.” Mr Dunkley argued that progress was indeed being made, telling The Royal Gazette: “The Opposition leader has selective amnesia. The former premier [Ms Cox] started that process because of the critical challenges within her administration specifically relating to some of her ministers. At that time the Opposition leader, who was at the time Junior Minister of Finance, didn’t progress it and now we are picking up the pieces. I will stand on our record of transparency. I explained in detail in the brief what we are doing — we have made sure that all along the way we have consulted on it throughout various government ministries to make sure we get it right. We also posted it on the website to make sure we got feedback on it. We actually have to change the Good Governance legislation to allow these improvements to take place.” In his brief to the House of Assembly, Mr Dunkley committed to place a Code of Practice for Project Management and Procurement within a “new unified legislative framework for procurement” that will replace the relevant sections of the Public Treasury (Administration and Payments) Act 1969 and the Good Governance Acts of 2011 and 2012, and will meet the requirements of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. He said the office is working with the Attorney-General’s Chambers to develop the procurement legislation that will form part of the new legislative framework. Mr Dunkley made assurances that there was currently proper oversight despite the legislation not being enacted. “I can allay any fears that people may have because every Cabinet paper that involves some sort of transaction, the office sees that paper and it comes to me before I sign the paper to go to Cabinet. Good governance is still taking place even while we try to move the legislation and changes forward. The Opposition leader can play his political games but the people of Bermuda can be assured that we are holding it to the highest level. I can’t recall anyone complaining at all about tendering of projects or awarding of contracts under my administration. I will accept no shortage of following the proper procedures.” Speaking to this newspaper earlier this week, Mr Burt also made the suggestion that had the Good Governance Act been enacted, the airport deal, which did not go out to tender, would have been “against the law”. Mr Dunkley again made reference to Mr Burt’s memory saying: “No, not at all. He [Mr Burt] seems to forget the letter of entrustment to the UK and the Accountant-General’s final position. The Opposition leader is very good with his alternative facts as well.”

March 16. Heavy materials and equipment for the airport redevelopment are due to start arriving next month at the East End. The move is expected to bring fresh activity to Marginal Wharf in St David’s, where finance minister Bob Richards said “the docks will have to be cleared. The main loading port will be St George’s, so that we don’t have the challenge of bringing these materials across the Causeway." A Public Works spokeswoman described the move as logistically sound, considering the proximity of LF Wade International Airport, where the new terminal is to be built. A smaller matter is the presence of the Niobe Corinthian, the defunct casino ship earmarked for sinking as an artificial reef, which must be shifted to a mooring to make way. But another issue spells disaster for Jepheth Newton, whose trawler Esperanza went under near the dock after last October’s hit from Hurricane Nicole. Informed this month that the boat must be moved before April, Mr Newton’s chances of salvaging it have grown slimmer still. “It’s sad,” said the Esperanza’s owner, who will be formally issued tomorrow with a wreck removal notice. Mr Newton had been pursuing his own avenues for raising the boat, when he was told on March 10 that the Harbourmaster had been instructed “to have the Esperanza moved and to bill you”, according to e-mails seen by this newspaper. “The new airport is supposed to work for all Bermudians, but this is going to take a hard-working Bermudian and knock him back to square zero with no boat and a $30,000 bill.” Buying and refurbishing the 92ft vessel in June 2013 marked the culmination of a dream for Mr Newton, who describes himself as an IT programmer from a humble background who hoped to live and run a business of his own off the boat. In 2015 he brought the vessel home, but subsequently lost his job and could not cover insurance for the $60,000 craft. It weathered other storms — but Nicole, which blew from a more easterly angle than expected, drove the Esperanza against Marginal Wharf where its stern was driven against the Niobe Corinthian. The boat took on water, and sank, intact. Mr Newton pointed to correspondence with the Harbourmaster in which he proposed raising the boat himself after securing part-time jobs. He subsequently ordered air bags to the tune of $8,000 to lift it off the bottom, only to be told that local authorities had been ordered to remove his boat and charge him. A meeting has been scheduled for next week, and Mr Newton said he feared that his vessel, which he believes can be towed off site for a quick restoration, could end up at the dump. “I just hope we can come to some kind of compromise,” he said. “I can’t let this happen. I’ll sit on the boat and protest if I have to.”

March 16. Despite initial opposition from the Bermuda Government, the Commission of Inquiry pressed ahead to look into parts of the airport development project. The panel focused on whether Government had secured the appropriate waiver from Financial Instructions to allow them not to tender the project. In finding no evidence of “possible criminal activity” the Commission said the airport project showed how effective the office of Accountant-General “can be, and should be”. Its report commended Accountant-General Curtis Stovell for his response to Government’s request for a waiver in September 2014 in which he provided Financial Secretary Anthony Manders with a detailed memorandum outlining the relevant sections of Financial Instructions and the precise terms of the waiver. But the Commission found that Mr Manders had failed to make clear that the waiver he sought for Canadian Crown Corporation would extend to approval of the whole project including the selection of Aecon as contractor. Mr Stovell appeared before the Commission and told the panel that the waiver in the memorandum was restricted to “the agreement with CCC, not for any further contracts entered into by Government, say for example with a contractor.” However, Mr Manders considered the Accountant-General’s waiver was sufficient for the project to move ahead and that no further waiver was needed for the selection of a contractor. The Commission in its report confirmed that it was for the Accountant-General to determine on what basis a waiver should be issued. In looking at the airport project, the Commission also noted that there appeared to be “no express provision or provisions in Financial Instructions that address proposed public-private partnerships”. The report states: “The Commission also learnt that there are still instances where the current Accountant-General considers that his office is still without sufficient resources to undertake some of the work his department should be doing. If oversight is going to be effective, it needs to be contemporaneous, and resources should be made available as needed. Reviews, and special audits and commissions of inquiry have far less value when the horse has long since left the stable.”

March 16. The Bermuda Government has been forced to back-pedal on revenue-raising customs amendments that had been expected to bring in almost $20 million. The reversal spells a last-minute scramble for businesses, some of which had already priced goods for import according to the new duty rate changes in the latest Budget. However, an e-mail sent to importers on Tuesday, seen by this newspaper, advised that the Ministry of Finance was “reconsidering” the proposals and needed to revise them. The message from the Customs Department called on businesses to cease updating their accounting systems with the new tariffs and to wait for updated rates. Principal customs officer Dean Lema wrote: “The Customs Department has been informed that the Ministry of Finance is reconsidering the previously issued duty rate changes for the 2017 Budget. Please cease any updates to your systems based on the previously issued Excel workbook or pipe delimited file which were e-mailed to you on March 4.” The issue was raised in the House of Assembly during the Budget debate with Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance. Noting that a change in the rates would have a direct impact on the Budget, Opposition leader David Burt pointed out that the government’s debt ceiling was just $30 million away and the changes could have ramifications. “The revenue figures in the Budget may not actually be correct,” Mr Burt said — subsequently telling The Royal Gazette that calculating customs clearance represented “a very large enterprise” in order to have products ready for April 1, when the new rates would go into effect. Parliament’s last day to debate the Budget is scheduled for Monday, and the Customs Tariff Act, which must wait for two parliamentary sessions before being debated, has not been tabled, Mr Burt said. “I can’t understand how the Government issued this advice, and yet the minister has made no statement to Parliament on this change,” the shadow finance minister added. While the changes announced in the 2017/18 Budget left essential goods untouched, rates were increased on higher-end goods. There was no response yesterday in the House of Assembly, where Mr Richards focused on the imperative for eliminating Bermuda’s deficit as “the most important step we can take to grow the economy and create jobs”, and The Royal Gazette messaged the minister for comment. Tax reform and boosting government revenue are the most prominent features of the Budget — although Mr Richards conceded that “not all stakeholders” were in agreement over the general sales tax, for which consultation will commence “shortly”. In the response period, the Opposition also raised concerns over the ministry retaining administrative oversight over betting shops. Mr Burt pointed out that the Bahamas had been faulted last year over money-laundering issues with its betting shops, and questioned what measures were under way to protect Bermuda’s reputation. Mr Richards agreed, calling it “a significant risk factor”. At present, oversight of local betting shops is split between the ministry and Magistrates’ Court, but Mr Richards said it would be shifted to the Gaming Commission to be “supervised properly”. An update also came on the Office of the Tax Commissioner, which the Opposition has faulted for falling behind on stamp duty and land tax. Mr Richards said the office’s resources were being badly stretched by applications for exemptions on primary family homes. Four more staff have been approved for the office, Parliament heard, and amendments to the Stamp Duty Act 1976 are to be brought before legislators in this session to reshuffle the administration of the primary family home programme — a move that Mr Richards said would not result in any less exemptions being granted.

March 16. Container company Triton International Ltd has reported an adjusted net income of $15.3 million for the fourth quarter, and a full-year profit of $48.9 million. The company said it is on target to achieve its target of annual savings of $40 million as a result of last July’s merger between TAL International Group and Triton Container International, which created the world’s largest lessor of intermodal freight containers. The Bermuda-based company’s earnings were impacted by the bankruptcy of South Korea’s Hanjin Shipping, which was the world’s seventh-largest shipping line. Triton had 3 per cent of its container fleet leased to Hanjin at the time it filed for bankruptcy at the end of August. Those containers represented a net book value of $243 million. Triton has made a “large effort” to recover 78 per cent of the containers and expects to secure a further 11 per cent of the total in the near future. The company estimates the Hanjin bankruptcy caused a $29.7 million impact to its year-end results. Triton had more than $100 million of credit insurance in place at the time of the bankruptcy to cover the cost of recovering its containers and up to six months of post-bankruptcy lost revenues, subject to policy limits. More than a quarter of the containers it had leased with Hanjin have since been re-leased to other customers, while 4 per cent have been sold or put on sale. Looking at the wider economic situation, Brian Sondey, Triton’s chief executive officer, in a conference call said: “The global economy is still fragile, and the possibility of protectionism is a concern.” However, he said that after two difficult years the company saw market conditions improve during the past six months and Triton ended 2016 with strong momentum. Mr Sondey said the company expects favorable market conditions to continue, while its merger integration remains on track to bring increased savings, and give the company scale and cost advantages. Regarding scale, he said that as shipping lines consolidate into larger entities “they need larger suppliers and don’t want to have to go to four or five container companies. We can deliver bigger solutions since the merger.” Triton expects favorable market conditions this year, particularly for dry containers, citing the likelihood that new container production volumes will be constricted in the first half of the year. The company expects container sale prices to increase “if current new container prices are sustained”. In its consolidated statement of income, Triton’s total leasing revenue for the fourth quarter was $259.5 million, up from $248 million in the third quarter. Its consolidated assets at the end of 2016 totaled $8.7 billion. Triton’s adjusted pre-tax income for the fourth quarter was $19 million. It has announced a dividend of 45 cents to be paid on March 30. Mr Sondey recognized that the dividend was outsize compared to Triton’s fourth quarter profitability, but he expects the company to grow into the dividend if the market recovery is sustained. Triton has a market capitalisation of $1.76 billion. Yesterday in New York its shares rose 8.6 per cent to $25.81.

March 16. The public is invited to an economic forum at which a panel will discuss the theme: “Reaching Back to Go Forward”. Cultural expert Kristin White, economist Craig Simmons, educator Llewellyn Simmons and Catherine Duffy of the international business community will speak at the event next Thursday. According to a release from the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, they will be looking at entrepreneurship, the opportunities and limitations of Bermuda’s economics, how to learn from our economic mistakes and move forward, and cultural industries and entrepreneurship in the context of black-owned businesses and their legacies. The forum takes place from 6pm to 8.30pm at the Bermuda College, North Hall.

March 15. Bermuda’s Washington, DC office is being phased out in a switch from a “bricks and mortar presence” to greater use of lobbying, Michael Dunkley told legislators. While delivering the Budget brief for Cabinet, the Premier noted that an allocation of $206,000 had been estimated for the facility in the 2017/18 year, to cover rent, insurance and utilities until the Ministry of Public Works could find a sublet, since several years remain on its lease. “Given the recent change in US Government under the Trump Administration and the proximity to Capitol Hill, the prospects of renting the prime location are quite high,” Mr Dunkley added. The island would also be able to leverage its position via the efforts of Bermuda’s external affairs strategic planning committee. David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, responded that the Progressive Labour Party did not believe the closure was in the best long-term interests of the country. “We are going to have to agree to disagree on that,” Mr Dunkley answered, telling the House that while there had been good promotional and tourism work achieved from the DC office, such moves were better undertaken by the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Parliament was also told of the Government’s longstanding ties with the Ken Levine, the Washington lobbyist, going back “at least two decades”. There was $100,000 allocated to Levine & Company for 2016/17, but with the potential for an impact on Bermuda through US tax reforms, an incremental $150,000 has been allocated for 2017/18. The consultant’s hourly rate is $550, Mr Dunkley said, in response to questions from the Opposition. The Premier said $281,000 would be spent in the present fiscal year, with $290,000 spent the year before, and $218,000 spent before that. “The high was in 2008, when $409,000 was spent on that consultant,” Mr Dunkley said, adding that unless consultants were kept on “a short leash” it was easy to rack up charges.

2017. March 15. Guidelines are set to be put in place for the government’s watchdog of fairness over public contracts, nearly six years after it was formally established. Premier Michael Dunkley told Parliament that $773,000 has been set aside in the 2017/18 fiscal year for the Office of Public Management and Procurement (OPMP) — most of it earmarked for salaries, which have dropped by $87,000 with the discontinuation of the temporary post of project manager. However, David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, scolded the Government for neglecting the office, saying just four of the eight budgeted positions were filled. Mr Burt pointed to “ongoing instances of non-compliance” with Financial Instructions pointed out by the Accountant-General’s financial statements for the Consolidated Fund as of March 21, 2016, which was tabled last week in the House. “The office that was created in 2011 to ensure that these violations were reduced is understaffed,” Mr Burt said. “Meanwhile, the Government has refused to publish the code of conduct for procurement that will make violations of the rules an offence. The One Bermuda Alliance has been in office for 51 months and despite pleas from the public and the Commission of Inquiry, they still refuse to follow the Good Governance Act.” MPs heard on Monday that the OPPM is to adopt a system for managing capital projects in the coming fiscal year, along with a procurement procedure manual and a code of practice. A draft code was published in November 2016, with consultation closing on January 31. OPPM was an early initiative under the former premier Paula Cox, unveiled in November 2010, as part of a host of measures under the Good Governance Act that Parliament passed in July 2011. But the understaffed office languished in subsequent years, with its code of practice a continual work in progress — something Ms Cox lamented in October 2016 during her appearance before the Commission of Inquiry. Under the 2016 Throne Speech, the Government has pledged to integrate the code of practice for project management and procurement within “a new unified legislative framework” to replace sections of the Good Governance Act and the Public Treasury (Administration and Payments) Act 1969. The OPPM has also been allocated a grant of $150,000 for 2017/18, which the Premier said would go towards an electronic purchasing and tendering system.

March 15. The Progressive Labour Party fiercely attacked the Government’s handling of the Commission of Inquiry report, accusing the Premier of disrespecting the House of Assembly. Opening the debate on Motion to Adjourn on Monday, Walter Roban, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, questioned why Michael Dunkley, the Premier, announced the report was publicly available in the middle of a Budget presentation rather than in a Ministerial Statement. Calling the inquiry a matter of serious political significance, he said: “The House was not given the courtesy of receiving the report. We were told it was online. That was how it was received; the public publication of this very important report. I cannot help but wonder, was the Premier afraid to bring this as a Ministerial Statement with questions from the House?” The Commission, which was tasked with investigating a series of government projects, found that seven dealings had evidence of “possible criminal activity”, adding that it supports ongoing police investigations. Potential wrongdoing was found in five projects related to former premier Ewart Brown, three connected to former Works and Engineering minister Derrick Burgess and one to One Bermuda Alliance senator Vic Ball. Opposition leader David Burt later echoed Mr Roban’s statements, saying the announcement had shown disrespect to Parliament, and that the Parliamentary Code of Conduct stated that significant policy announcements should be made in the House if it is sitting. “This Premier and Government doesn’t like scrutiny,” he said. “That is the reason why when we ask personal questions it’s sometimes difficult to get an answer. That’s why when the Premier gives a statement, he won’t share his brief with the Opposition leader but he will send it to the media.” And he attacked the Government for pursuing civil cases while criminal investigations are ongoing, saying: “A government that believes in the rule of law should let the rule of law rule the land and not try to engage in situations where they take the law into their own hands.” Wayne Furbert, meanwhile, called it an “insult on Parliament” and the Speaker of the House, noting that the Commission was approved and funded by the Legislature. “It’s absolutely wrong and the Premier needs to give an answer why he decided to float it over the air,” he said. Mr Furbert also noted the civil action launched by Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, over the Port Royal Golf Course project, questioning if Mr Ball would receive similar treatment. “It’s clear that based on the report that there were some clear conflicts by Mr Ball,” he said. “In fact, they asked that the police look at this.” Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott also raised the issue of the civil suits, saying: “Why did Mr Moniz issue proceedings against two ministers of the PLP and not issue proceedings against Mr Ball when he must have known at the same time of the findings.” He said the Commission, which was tasked with investigating serious matters, had become mired in politics, leaving him with little confidence in the findings. “I’m not troubled by the findings of an inquiry that has the reputation of being political,” he said. “I completely disregard its findings and recommendations for police investigations.” Responding to the comments, Mr Dunkley said: “If he’s not troubled then certainly there’s a question on that side and the Opposition leader might need to think about a replacement because this report outlines serious concerns that this Government intends to deal with in a serious way.” Mr Dunkley said that he had made the announcement in the House, as required by the Code of Conduct, and that the Opposition had an opportunity to ask questions on the topic as part of the Budget debate. “I announced that the PDF was published online in Parliament, in the Budget debate,” he said. “Members had opportunities in that debate to ask questions and I will never duck questions from the other side because there’s no reason to duck questions from the other side. They don’t like the answers because the truth can hurt.” He also challenged the record of the Opposition, saying that Mr Burt was junior finance minister when some of the overspending had occurred but “said nothing”.

March 15. More than $1 million is expected to have been spent on establishing and running the Commission of Inquiry, according to financial data included in its report this week. The Commission’s budget is expected to total $1,068,121 when everything has been paid for and will include $292,270 on direct expenses for the four-strong panel. As of February 27 this year, just over $920,000 had been spent on the Commission, while a further $147,950 in estimated “costs and payables” was still outstanding. Chairman Sir Anthony Evans’s personal air fares, accommodation and other fees are expected to reach over $112,000 when the expenditure budget is finalized. Meanwhile, the total fees for the three other commissioners; John Barritt, Fiona Luck and Kumi Bradshaw, are expected to reach $180,000. The Commission was appointed in February 2016 to investigate concerns raised by the Auditor-General over the handling of taxpayers’ money for the financial years ending March 31 in 2010, 2011 and 2012. It began work on April 1 and held three public hearings in June, September and November over 14 days of evidence and submissions. The total costs of legal fees for the Commission reached just over $600,000 according to its budget breakdown. The itemized financial expenditure for the Commission included $2,700 on food and water, $3,300 on office supplies and nearly $3,400 on printing. Audio and transcription services cost nearly $38,000 and marketing and communication services totaled $16,000. The rental of the St Theresa’s Church Hall on Laffan Street cost $16,800, while the price of providing security for the hearings totaled $17,000.

March 15. Four highly paid civil servants who came under fire from the Commission of Inquiry were silent yesterday on the panel’s recommendation for an “urgent review” into their abilities. Derrick Binns, Cherie Whitter, Marc Telemaque and Anthony Manders — all of whom are on substantial six-figure salaries — were named in the Commission’s report as having failed to follow the rules on government contracts, along with four others who have since retired or left the Civil Service. The actions of Dr Binns, Ms Whitter and Mr Telemaque contributed to the overspend of $72 million of public money during the Progressive Labour Party’s tenure as Government, according to the independent inquiry. The Royal Gazette reached out to all four yesterday, but none would comment on the findings. Commissioners did not find evidence of “possible criminal activity” in relation to any of the eight civil servants, apart from One Bermuda Alliance senator Vic Ball, who no longer works as a civil servant but now picks up a $30,000 parliamentary salary. But it recommended an “urgent review” of “personnel and processes” within the Civil Service, including “a frank, independent assessment” of the skill sets of senior staff members. And it recommended that failure by public servants to comply with official financial rules and failure to declare conflicts of interest be made criminal offences. The report said there was a need to “improve accountability throughout [the Civil Service], but particularly at senior levels”. Last night, Premier Michael Dunkley said that while oversight of the Civil Service was the responsibility of the Public Service Commission, a Cabinet committee would be formed to assess the findings of the Commission of Inquiry. “My Cabinet colleagues and I have discussed the report and its recommendations." He added that the new committee would review the recommendations in the report, which was released on Monday, and “produce an action plan that brings about the necessary levels of transparency and accountability which the [Commission] identified and is appropriate”. It is understood that the Public Service Commission, which is responsible for ensuring that “all disciplinary matters within Bermuda’s public service are conducted efficiently, fairly, and without political interference”, has not been involved in reviewing any proceedings involving the civil servants named in the report. Commission chairman Gregory Swan would not comment when contacted yesterday. Dr Binns, the Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, is the highest-ranking civil servant in Bermuda, with a salary likely to exceed $200,000, according to the most recent figures published in the Budget book. He was found by the Commission to have failed to notify the Accountant-General of breaches of Financial Instructions in relation to a 2007 contract for $1.6 million and on the original contract to build the $70 million Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building. Asked by this newspaper to comment yesterday, he said: “All that needs to be said by me was said at the Commission’s public hearings.” Dr Binns, in response to a question about whether he and the three other civil servants would face any repercussions for their actions, pointed out that the commissioners stated that they did “not consider that disciplinary proceedings would be appropriate”. Ms Whitter is Deputy Head of the Civil Service. She was criticised by the Commission on a number of fronts relating to contracts with GlobalHue, Ambling, the Port Royal Golf Course redevelopment and Heritage Wharf. Ms Whitter said yesterday: “I have no comment. Not at this time.” Mr Manders, Financial Secretary, was found by the tribunal to have failed to make clear that a requested waiver of the rules for the public-private partnership deal to build a new airport would extend to the whole project. He said yesterday he had no comment on the Commission’s finding but, like Dr Binns, noted the commissioners’ statement about it not being appropriate to refer any matters for disciplinary action. Mr Telemaque is permanent secretary at the Ministry of National Security and, like Mr Manders, an accounting officer, with responsibility for ensuring compliance with Financial Instructions. He was criticised in the report for failing to provide oversight to Ms Whitter, failing to report a breach of Financial Instructions and other omissions in relation to large contracts. Another failing which the commission highlighted was that while Cabinet Secretary, Mr Telemaque authorised an advance payment of $8.9 million to Correia Construction/NB Entrech for the construction of Heritage Wharf, which ran more than $20 million over budget. He said yesterday: “I don’t have any comment.” We asked the Cabinet Office for the specific pay grades of all four civil servants but did not receive a response by the time we went to press. The Commission of Inquiry was appointed by Mr Dunkley to investigate the findings of Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews, in her report on the misuse of public funds between 2009 and 2012. After the release of her report, Mrs Matthews said there was a reluctance on the part of Government to penalise civil servants for breaching the rules. The Ministry of Finance refused to reveal to this newspaper at the time whether any public officials had been penalized in relation to the examples in the Auditor’s 315-page report. The four former civil servants criticised in the Commission’s report were Mr Ball, Kenneth Dill, Robert Horton and Joyce Hayward. The matter involving Mr Ball has been referred to the police.

March 15. The Progressive Labour Party has pledged further town hall meetings after a successful jobs summit last night. The party’s ‘Job Summit 2017: Diversity Inclusion and Opportunity’, was hailed as a success by Walter Roban, the deputy Opposition leader, who said: “With Bermudian jobs continuing to be lost while jobs for non-Bermudians are the only category experiencing growth, it is clear that Bermudians are looking for ideas and solutions that will get our people back to work, build more businesses and create a more inclusive Bermuda. “These series of town halls hosted by the PLP serve to highlight our Vision 2025 for Jobs and Growth while tapping into the expertise and intellect of the wider community to highlight the ways we can improve the lives of average Bermudians. We appreciate the presentations made by each our panellists and the public can be assured that the PLP will be hosting more events of this nature in the future.” Last night’s summit featured a panel including Myra Virgil, Barclay Simmons, Cordell Riley and Diallo Rabain, the Shadow Minister for Environment and Workforce Development.

March 15. The Ascendant Group has announced that ten jobs are to go across the company. The bulk of the job cuts will come from management and supervisory at Belco, air conditioning firm Air Care and at Ascendant. Sean Durfy, president and CEO of Ascendant Group, said: “Over the past six months we have made some significant strides in mapping out our future and identifying how to effectively deliver on our strategic plan. As part of this exercise we have been reviewing all facets of our business and that includes our organizational structure.” He added: “After careful consideration and analysis, today we have made several changes to the organizational structures of Belco, Air Care and Ascendant Group Limited. These adjustments have been made in response to changes in our business environment and our goal of increased synergies and improved efficiencies across our group of companies. These changes are difficult. The majority of the ten redundancies are within the management and supervisory levels. With our electricity customers facing increased bills due to higher tax on fuel, the introduction of new regulatory fees and the cost to maintain ageing infrastructure, we need to operate more efficiently and be nimble to deliver the excellent service Bermudians expect and deserve.”

March 15. The first February tornado in Massachusetts since records began was among notable severe weather that impacted the US last month, causing a total expected insurance industry loss of a $1 billion. The tornado was one of at least four reported in that state and nearby Pennsylvania and Maryland, in the second half of February. The twisters represented rare wintertime severe weather for the region and caused injuries and damage in a number of communities. On the other side of the country a series of storms brought flooding and associated damage to many parts of California. The heavy rains prompted the evacuation of 200,000 residents near Lake Oroville, in northern California, as the reservoir reached full capacity and threatened to breach its dam. The dam’s auxiliary spillway was used for the first time in its history. Repairs to the spillway could cost as much as $200 million. Severe winter storms hitting the US northeast, including New York, New Jersey and Maine, causing insured losses in the millions of dollars, as did tornadoes, wind storms and other severed weather striking Texas and other parts of the southeast. Losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars are expected as a result of severe weather which began in late February and stretched into the early part of this month. It has included almost 60 confirmed tornado touchdowns in the Midwest, southeast and mid-Atlantic regions, including the year’s first EF4-rated tornado — packing winds of 180mph. The insured and economic losses have been detailed in Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap report. The report also noted Windstorm Thomas, which was named as Doris in Britain and Ireland, is the costliest to have hit Europe this year. The storm brought disruption and damage across western and central parts of Europe. Early indications are that insured losses will separately top $105 million in Germany and in Britain. Elsewhere, wildfires in New South Wales, Australia caused at least $15 million of insured losses, while Cyclone Dineo in Mozambique caused economic losses of $17 million. And a magnitude-6.5 earthquake in the Philippines last month casqued economic losses of $14 million.

March 15. The operators of one of Bermuda’s lifelines has signed up for a replacement ship. Shipping firm BCL has ordered a new Oleander to replace the current vessel, which has been in service for more than a quarter of a century. The 120-metre, 6,500-ton deadweight custom-built ship will be built in China’s Yangzijiang shipyard, one of the largest in the world, and come into service at the start of 2019. John Wight, chairman of the Board of BCL, said: “In order to continue to meet the demands of today’s market and to maintain the fast, efficient service for which BCL is known, we needed to execute a plan to bring online an updated, upgraded vessel. “The new ship will be the most technologically-advanced vessel serving Bermuda. It will be outfitted to carry dry and refrigerated containers, trucks, cars and other wheeled equipment, along with oversized project cargo. The vessel will be equipped with fuel-efficient main and auxiliary engines as well as leading-edge loading and cargo carrying capability. Further, as we think about long-term sustainability and environmental responsibility, we have ensured that the new ship will incorporate the capability to convert to liquid natural gas operation, which many see as a game-changer for shipping in the future.” Barry Brewer, CEO of BCL, added: “The current Oleander has been in service for 27 years and 1901 voyages. She’s done heavy duty and it’s a good time to be building a ship. The price of ships has come down — the global economy has slowed down and the yards are hungry for the work, so it’s a good time for us.” The current ship will have steamed around three million miles by the time it is replaced. He added: “We are making this investment and designing this vessel with all our Bermudian customers in mind. Investing in a world-class, high-performing shipping service is investing in the future of Bermuda. Residents and businesses alike will benefit from the cost efficiencies and features designed into this ship.” The new Oleander, the fourth to carry the name, will be designed for Bermuda’s unique requirements. Mr Brewer said: “It’s a really big part of Bermuda life and a very important part for the island. It’s roughly the same size as the current ship, but what is different is it’s fuel efficient and eco-friendly.” He added that the new ship will also have more garage space to reflect an increase in trailer and vehicle traffic. The current Oleander can carry around 40 cars, while the new one will be able to transport around 120. Mr Brewer said: “That business has grown and we had to plan for that. It’s a completely custom vessel for Bermuda to fit the Bermuda trade.” Mr Brewer declined to say how much the new ship will cost on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. He said: “That’s something between the yard and ourselves.” But he added: “Ships typically have a life of about 25 years and it’s time for a new one. We’ve been putting money aside to replace the Oleander one day and today is that day.” BCL provides a weekly ocean freight service from the port of New York to Bermuda and is owned by Neptune Group Ltd, headquartered in Hamilton. Bermuda Container Line has been in operation, providing weekly container and roll on/roll off service from Port Elizabeth New Jersey, since 1979.

ship Oleander

Ship Oleander, see above story

March 15. The Society for the Protection of Animals has launched a public appeal for information after a spate of dog carcass discoveries. In the last 50 days four dead animals — one of which had been decapitated — have been found at different locations across the island. SPCA Inspector Chris Coleman told The Royal Gazette it was impossible to know at this stage whether the discoveries were linked. “The most important thing at the moment is to get as much information as we can about each of these discoveries,” she said. “We wanted to put out the appeal to try and figure out what was going on.” On January 23 a small decomposing dog carcass was fished out of the harbour near The Foot of the Lane, in Hamilton. A month later in the third week of February a decomposing, pug-sized dog carcass was washed up on the south shore at the Pompano Beach Club, Southampton. “Looking down from above staff had seen what looked like an odd-shaped object washed up on the beach,” hotel manager Tim O’Neill said. “Our maintenance guy was the one that went down and discovered that it was in fact a dog. There were no distinguishing marks at all, no collar or tags to identify it, and it was obvious that the animal had been dead for some time. We assumed that it had jumped off a ship or something like that, but we really had no idea where the dog had originally come from. It is always a sad sight to see a dead pet.” On Sunday the SPCA retrieved the decomposing carcass of a young dog from Devonshire Dock on North Shore Road after receiving a call from a member of the public. The young dog was fished out of the sea and found to have been decapitated. Yesterday the SPCA was called out again to retrieve a decomposing dog carcass from the woods at Spittal Pond. The dog, which appeared to be an adult, was dressed in a striped woolen dog sweater and was laid on a white blanket. Ms Coleman said: “The earlier two cases in January and February only came to light after the most recent discovery through information we received and then followed up on. The first three cases may appear to be more similar, while the fourth is an older dog found in different circumstances. If anyone has any information they can contact me via e-mail inspector@spca.bm or call 236-7333. All calls will be dealt with in strict confidence.”

March 15. Chrissie Kempe is set to become the next executive director at WindReach, according to a spokeswoman for the charity. In a statement this afternoon, it was announced that Erica Davidson, who has served in the post for more than five years, is set to depart at the end of the week. Ms Kempe, her replacement, has been serving as the administrator at Westmeath Residential and Nursing Care Home. Stewart Ritchie, chairman of the WindReach board, said: “While we’re obviously disappointed Erica is leaving us after a successful 5½ years as executive director, we are enormously grateful for everything she has done for the organisation. “During her tenure, she has improved the quality of our programme delivery and increased the reach of our programmes. The number of people who use WindReach, and benefited from the programmes offered, has increased significantly under her leadership. We wish Erica all the best as she enters a new and exciting stage in her personal life.” He added that the board was delighted to welcome Ms Kempe, saying: “Ms Kempe brings strong management skills to the organisation and her background with seniors will be invaluable as we seek to further our programme delivery to seniors in the community. I look forward to continuing Ms Davidson’s hard work by expanding WindReach’s programmes, especially in the area of day activities for individuals living with dementia.”

March 14. Commissioners highlighted the lack of a performance bond as they heavily criticised the Bermuda Government’s Heritage Wharf development. The project, which ended up costing taxpayers $60 million — $21 million more than the original contract signed in 2007 — has been the subject of media scrutiny over structural difficulties since its completion in 2009. When damage to the thruster wall was reported in 2011, the Progressive Labour Party government refused to say whether a performance bond had been in place to guarantee its successful completion. The Commission of Inquiry, which found evidence of possible criminal activity within the project, noted that the contract awarded to Correia Construction had no such bond. It stated works and engineering permanent secretary Derrick Burgess had flagged up the situation to Cabinet Secretary Marc Telemaque in a letter, stating: “The cost of a performance bond to 50 per cent of the contract value is estimated to be in the region of $3 million. This has not been required in the contract and will not be purchased by Correia Construction.” Commissioners also noted the “unclear, unsatisfactory and inappropriate” documentation of how oversight of the project passed from the Ministry of Works and Engineering to Ewart Brown’s Ministry of Tourism and Transport. They also said payments were made by the Accountant-General’s department without evidence of Cabinet approval of the contract. Dennis Correia, the head of Correia Construction and a close friend of Dr Brown, the former premier, has defended the project by saying it was a moving target with many changes to plans and specifications.

March 14. The Port Royal Golf Course renovation project was undermined by substandard financial oversight as well as the “unclear, unsatisfactory and inappropriately documented” delegation of responsibility. The Commission of Inquiry’s report found that no documented financial procedures were adopted and followed by Port Royal Golf Course Trustees and evidence of “possible criminal activity”. The project, which was initially valued at $7.7 million, eventually came in at $25.5 million — $17.8 million over budget. The four-strong panel of commissioners found no evidence of possible criminal activity by any civil servants but expressed support for the ongoing police investigation relating to the involvement of Ewart Brown, the premier and Minister of Tourism and Transport at the time. The Commission in its findings pointed to what it described as an “inappropriate level of financial oversight of a quango by the Department of Tourism and Transport”. It also highlighted concerns over the delegation of responsibility of a capital project from the Ministry of Works and Engineering to the Department of Tourism and Transport. “The issue of delegation is one that exercised the Commission,” the report states. “Neither the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Tourism and Transport, nor the board of trustees had demonstrated that they had the capacity, the systems or the qualified personnel required for the oversight or management of a project of this magnitude.” Earlier this month Opposition MP Zane DeSilva and other former trustees of the Port Royal Golf Course were sued by the Government over the project.

March 14. The Commission of Inquiry has rejected Derrick Burgess’s claim that he was not aware his cousin, Winters Burgess, and Ewart Brown’s half-brother, Vincent Hollinsid, were principals of the firm tasked with constructing the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building. The panel also said the level of compensation for providing collateral by Winters Burgess and Mr Hollinsid appeared “on its face to be excessive”. The report states: “Commission estimates suggest that if the project lasted for approximately 30 months with a $6 million profit they would have received $300,000 and $180,000 respectively in salaries and $1.32 million and $1.2 million in profit margin respectively in return for provision of collateral (home equity) valued at approximately $1.6 million but no actual cash outlay.” The project, which involved an initial contract with Landmark Lisgar under Dennis Lister’s tenure as Minister of Works and Engineering and a second agreement with LLC under Mr Burgess’s tenure as minister, cost $89 million — $17 million over budget. The commission said Mr Lister had failed to disclose to Cabinet the technical officer’s recommendation to award the contract to Apex rather than Landmark Lisgar. Meanwhile, the second LLC contract was not submitted by Mr Burgess or his permanent secretary, Robert Horton, for approval by the Cabinet, “nor were principals disclosed as required”. The tribunal found evidence of “possible criminal activity” relating to the second contract, but not the first, and said it could not agree on “whether Dr Brown should also be investigated”. Mr Burgess told the Commission that he was not aware that either Winters Burgess of Mr Hollinsid were principals at LLC.

March 14. One Bermuda Alliance Senator Vic Ball offered to resign from the Upper House after his hidden conflict of interest emerged during the Commission of Inquiry. While Mr Ball admitted making no mention of his father having a 50 per cent stake in a company he recommended for a $1.4 million Progressive Labour Party government project, Michael Dunkley said he rejected his offer of resignation. However, the Premier said he had to make his position of transparency and accountability clear after Mr Ball told the inquiry that he would not have done anything differently. Speaking to The Royal Gazette shortly after the Commission of Inquiry’s report was tabled yesterday, Mr Dunkley said: “As soon as I learnt of his testimony I called him into the office to have a conversation. “I was very concerned about his testimony because when he was asked whether he would do it all over again he said ‘yes’. “I made it very clear to him that I like to operate at all times under accountability and transparency and, as a civil servant, I think it is important to declare all information that is relevant. I don’t expect anyone at any time to look on it in any other way.” Mr Dunkley added: “At that time Senator Ball did offer me his resignation but I did not accept it because I wanted to allow the Commission’s work to be done. Now that the Commission’s work has been done, the work of the Department of Public Prosecutions or the Bermuda Police Service has to take place and I will monitor things accordingly. I think Senator Ball understands what I expect — I consider him to be a man of principles and I believe that if there was anything that the police need to look into they will do what they need to do and then we will make decisions accordingly.”

March 14. A “clear conflict of interest” and the possibility of criminal activity. That was the damning verdict on a $1.4 million Bermuda Government contract which Vic Ball recommended be given to Harmony Holdings in April 2009 to provide aggregate for roads. Mr Ball, now a One Bermuda Alliance senator, was the purchasing officer in the Department of Works and Engineering and responsible for recommending Harmony Holdings for the contract. He did not tell permanent secretary Robert Horton that his father Eugene Ball was a principal of the firm, which prompted the panel to recommend the matter be investigated by the police. The Commission, whose report noted how Cabinet approval for the contract was not sought, found that Mr Ball’s actions were a breach of the Financial Instructions and the Civil Service Conditions of Employment and Code of Conduct. When he gave evidence, Mr Ball acknowledged that the regulations that normally govern purchasing were bypassed because “it was an emergency” and maintained the department had “never gotten Cabinet approval for any of our aggregate purchases”. Asked why he had not told Mr Horton his father was a principal at Harmony Holdings, he said: “There was no appearance of conflict in my mind because I was not affiliated with HH in any way, shape or form.”

March 14. A multimillion-dollar advertising contract handed to a friend of then-Premier Ewart Brown could have yielded greater value for money if it had been put out to tender, the Commission of Inquiry declared. The $14 million deal was awarded to GlobalHue in 2009, a few weeks after the company was the subject of a scathing Auditor-General report into the way it had operated on previous contracts with the Ministry of Tourism and Transport. The decision, spearheaded by the former premier, came as America was reeling in an economic crisis, and the Commission pointed out a competitive tender would likely have produced a better deal. Dr Brown has repeatedly denied he gave the contract to the American company because of his friendship with its president, Don Coleman. Larry Dennis, the Auditor-General, had reported taxpayers spent $1.8 million in overpayments to GlobalHue in 2008, while the firm had used a media buyer, Cornerstone Media, whose commissions had run as high as 181 per cent. Pointing to possible criminal activity, the Commission stated: “The premier as Minister for Tourism recommended the contract to Cabinet as a straightforward renewal with no evident concern shown over the serious criticisms raised in the Auditor-General’s report. This new contract was agreed after the 2008 financial crash and the Commission believes that environment would have been conducive for a competitive tender among advertising agencies, likely enhancing value for money.”

March 14. Bermuda Emissions Control Limited was awarded the multimillion-dollar contract to build and operate TCD testing centres on the “personal choice” of Ewart Brown, according to the Commission of Inquiry. The panel found that assurances in 2001 and 2003 as well as contracts from 2005 to 2009 were provided to BECL without the appropriate tender process, while the delegation of the project from Works and Engineering to Dr Brown’s Tourism and Transport Ministry was “unclear and inappropriately documented”. Under the project, which cost more than $15 million and came in $9 million over budget, Correia Construction was hired to build the TCD centres. The Commission noted in its report that BECL’s marketing director, Donal Smith, was Dr Brown’s cousin, that BECL was associated with Correia Construction and that from February 2003 Dennis Correia was a director and shareholder in both companies. Commissioners also found that Marc Telemaque, the Permanent Secretary for tourism and transport had “failed in his oversight of the Department of Transport, and failed to notify the Accountant-General of breaches of Financial Instructions”. The panel backed the ongoing police investigation into Dr Brown, but found no evidence of “possible criminal activity” against any civil servants. Dr Brown did not appear before the Commission, while efforts to obtain evidence of BECL’s finances were unsuccessful. Mr Telemaque told the Commission he was not the Permanent Secretary when the original August 2001 decision to waive the tendering process was made. He said that the requirement for tendering in 2006 was incongruent with the 2003 Cabinet decision to award the contract to BECL.

March 14. The Commission of Inquiry has come out in support of the ongoing police investigation into former premier Ewart Brown’s involvement in two contracts with consultancy firm Ambling that were not tendered. The contracts agreed with Ambling, which provided services relating to projects including the Club Med implosion and Morgan’s Point decontamination, were entered into in 2008 and 2010 and amounted to $3.2 million. In concluding there was evidence of “possible criminal activity” in the arrangement the Commission also found that there were “no coherent records of any services provided” by Ambling despite substantial sums being paid. Paula Cox, the finance minister at the time, did not approve the initial transaction because the contract had not been tendered, and when giving evidence before the tribunal acknowledged Cabinet approved the arrangement in its “collective responsibility”. The panel concluded that Dr Brown had negotiated the contract directly with Ambling with no input from the Cabinet Secretary or Permanent Secretary. Commissioners also formed the view that the contract should have remained with the Ministry of Works and Engineering instead of being moved by Dr Brown to his Tourism and Transport Ministry. Dr Brown, who was also the Minister of Tourism and Transport at the time of the contracts with Ambling, exercised his right of privilege and did not appear before the Commission.

March 14. Derrick Burgess came out all guns blazing when he appeared before the Commission of Inquiry, branding the panel a “lynch mob” and accusing the tribunal of trying to “re-enact slavery” in the manner he was questioned. But in yesterday’s report it was the former Minister of Works and Engineering who came under fire for not seeking Cabinet approval on capital projects and failing to disclose familial ties with principals of firms selected for those projects. The Commission raised concerns over Mr Burgess’s handling of the contract to renovate the commercial courts and the ministry of finance when he awarded the contract without consulting technical officers and Cabinet approval. The four-strong panel highlighted what it described as “ministerial interference” by the Progressive Labour Party MP in the drafting of the contract award recommendation to Cabinet for the Central Labs Southside. Mr Burgess’s handling of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans project when he was Minister of Works and Engineering also came under the spotlight in the report. His failure to submit the second $70 million contract with LLC for Cabinet approval was highlighted as was his failure to disclose his familial relationship to Winters Burgess, one of LLC’s principals. The Commission’s report states: “When he gave evidence before the Commission, Mr Burgess was repeatedly asked questions about his personal knowledge of the contract details and principals in response to which he was either evasive or refused to respond. He was finally asked by the chairman to answer the question, if two gentlemen have a 42 per cent interest in a bidding party do you as a former minister agree that this information ought to be brought before Cabinet? He again declined to respond.” The Commission noted there was written evidence that a consultant representing Mr Burgess was present at relevant meetings with the bank with Winters Burgess as well as Vincent Hollinsid, the half-brother of former premier Ewart Brown. It continued: “The minister therefore authorised the new contract when, as we find, he knew that a friend or acquaintance of his and a half-brother of the premier had been introduced as principals and that they would receive substantial financial benefits from successful completion of the project, without obtaining Cabinet approval or otherwise reporting their involvement. We also take account of the manner in which he reacted when he was questioned about this matter. He evaded questions and refused to answer them. He was offensive to counsel and to members of the Commission. He made it clear that he was unwilling to give frank and truthful answers on this topic. His reaction and demeanor was significantly different from when he was asked about other matters.” The Commission has referred its findings about the Dame Lois Browne-Evans project to the police after finding what it called “evidence of possible criminality”. Mr Burgess was also criticised over the Port Royal Golf Course renovation project and the Heritage Wharf project, both of which were delegated from his ministry to Ewart Brown’s tourism and transport ministry. The Commission pointed to “unclear, unsatisfactory and inappropriately documented” delegation of responsibility in both cases, where they also found evidence of possible criminal activity.

March 14. A total of eight civil servants were slammed by the Commission of Inquiry over failure to follow the rules on contracts. And one former public servant, Vic Ball, who became a One Bermuda Alliance senator after he retired, was reported to police due to “possible criminal activity” after he failed to report “a clear conflict of interest” in the awarding of a $1.4 million contract for sand and rock for road building to a company in which his father had a major interest. Now the Commission has called for major changes — including an urgent review of personnel and processes in the public sphere. The report published yesterday said Government should “conduct a frank, independent assessment of whether all current leaders of the Civil Service have appropriate skill sets, perspective and motivation to effect needed changes”. It added: “If not, ascertain whether this could be improved by training.” The Commission also called for improved accountability in the Civil Service, particularly among senior staff, tougher enforcement of Financial Instructions, which should be given legal force, and penalties for failure to disclose or attempts to conceal interests. And it added that existing disciplinary measures and sanctions should be enforced “on a timely basis” on civil servants who fail to live up to their regulatory responsibilities. Robert Horton, a former permanent secretary who has now retired, was criticised by the Commission for five separate failures to follow rules on procurement. Mr Horton was said to have failed to notify the Account-General of breaches of Financial Instructions, not sought Cabinet approval and accepted ministerial interference in relation to a variety of contracts over a number of years. He was also singled out for criticism when only the successful bidder for the contract to create a central laboratory building was told about reduced bid requirements, which gave the contender an unfair advantage. Derrick Binns, the current Cabinet Secretary and at the time a permanent secretary, was found to have failed to notify the Accountant-General of breaches of Financial Instructions in relation to a 2007 contract for a works and engineering maintenance and stores building with a contract cost of $1.6 million and on the original 2007 contract with Landmark Lisgar to build the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building to house courtrooms and Hamilton Police Station, Commissioners said they were “concerned” that neither works and engineering minister Dennis Lister nor Dr Binns, then permanent secretary, “were able to recall the circumstances surrounding the award of the contract” for the maintenance and stores building. Dr Binns was also found to have failed to flag up concerns with the minister’s proposed course of action on the courts and police building. Marc Telemaque, now Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of National Security and later PS at tourism and transport, as well as serving a stint as Cabinet Secretary, was also picked out by commissioners. He was criticised for failing to provide oversight to then-Director of Tourism Cherie Whitter who failed to ensure there was requisite tender information or a waiver of the tender requirement in relation to a $14 million consultancy contract with US firm Global Hue in 2009. The commission in addition highlighted his failure to tell the Accountant-General of the breach of Financial Instructions. Mr Telemaque was criticised for the same omissions in a consultancy contract with Ambling and in connection with the TCD vehicle testing and emissions project, awarded in 2001, where the construction costs almost tripled from $5.3 million to $15.2 million and is anticipated to overrun its original estimated running costs by $7 million over the ten years of the deal. He was also found to have authorised, as Cabinet Secretary, an advance payment of $8.9 million to Correia Construction/NB Entrech for the construction of Heritage Wharf, which came in at $60 million — $21 million more than the original $39 million estimate. The shift of the project to tourism and transport, from works and engineering, was said by the Commission to be “unclear, unsatisfactory, and inappropriately documented”. The Commission also found that the final terms of the contract were not submitted to Cabinet by then premier Ewart Brown, “although Cabinet did apparently approve selection of the vendor”. But commissioners pointed out that the contract did not allow the right to audit and did not require a performance bond, while selecting a contractor without a bid price blocked competition. Mr Telemaque was further blamed for failing to notify the Accountant-General of a breach of Financial Instructions. Ms Whitter was criticised on a number of fronts relating to contracts with GlobalHue, Ambling, the Port Royal Golf Course redevelopment and Heritage Wharf. Kenneth Dill was criticised for failing to follow Financial Instructions on a contract for work on the Department of Human Resources building and for not gaining Cabinet approval. Civil servant Anthony Manders was also criticised for failing to make clear that a requested waiver of the rules for the public-private partnership deal to build a new airport would extend to the whole project, including the selection of developer Aecon as contractor. The Commission’s report said: “Many of the cases the Commission has examined appear rooted in difficulties with navigating the relationship between ministers and senior civil servants, particularly permanent secretaries. “These senior civil servants bear direct responsibility for making sure that rules are followed, while at the same time ensuring that ministerial mandates are carried out. We recognise that this role can at times be difficult; senior civil servants should be neither needlessly obstructionist nor compliant to the point of complicity.”

March 14. Progressive Labour Party MP Dennis Lister was criticised by the Commission of Inquiry for the part he played in two capital projects. The former Minister of Works and Engineering’s failure to disclose to Cabinet the technical officers’ recommendation of which firm should be awarded the Dame Lois Browne-Evans project was highlighted in the report. However, the commission made no finding of “possible criminal activity”. Meanwhile, the panel found that under Mr Lister’s watch the contract for the maintenance and stores building was awarded without Cabinet approval and contrary to the recommendation of technical officers in the department. The report said: “There was no documentation, such as Cabinet conclusion, for the decision not to accept the lowest bid.” The Commission also expressed concern that neither Mr Lister nor his permanent secretary Derrick Binns were able to recall the circumstances surrounding the award of the contract.

March 14. Seven Bermuda Government business dealings had evidence of “possible criminal activity” — with the Commission of Inquiry saying it supports ongoing police investigations. Potential wrongdoing was found in five projects related to former premier Ewart Brown, three connected to former Works and Engineering minister Derrick Burgess and one to One Bermuda Alliance Senator Vic Ball, the Commission said in its report released yesterday. Contracts for the new court and police complex in Hamilton, the TCD emissions testing project, Port Royal Golf Course, Heritage Wharf cruise ship pier, GlobalHue advertising, Ambling consultants and a sand and rock for asphalt purchase were all flagged up as showing evidence of possible criminal activity. In a 178-page document, commissioners revealed that police investigations had already commenced into many of the matters arising from the Auditor-General’s report into the fiscal years 2009 to 2012 which they were asked to look into last year. They said they support police continuing their inquiries. A total of more than $72 million was overspent on four of the seven projects, the largest of which was the 2007 contract for Heritage Wharf at Dockyard, which leapt from $39 million to $60 million. Commissioners said they support an ongoing police investigation into the involvement of both Dr Brown and Mr Burgess over that development. They said a police investigation should also continue into the involvement of Dr Brown and Mr Burgess in the 2007 contract for Port Royal Golf Course, which increased from $7.7 million to $25.5 million. That project is already the subject of a lawsuit, filed by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz against former trustees of the golf course including Progressive Labour Party MP Zane DeSilva, and his company Island Construction. The 2008 contract for the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building, which cost $17 million more than its budget of $72 million, has also been referred to police. Commissioners supported the ongoing investigation into Mr Burgess, but could not agree on whether Dr Brown should be investigated. Contracts for the construction and operation of the TCD vehicle safety and emissions testing programme, dating back to 2001, have been referred to police, along with the Commission’s support for the continued investigation into Dr Brown. The cost of construction increased from $5.3 million to $15.2 million, and the cost of operations was $7 million over budget over a period of ten years. The $14 million contract for American advertising company GlobalHue, in 2009, and the $3.2 million contract for consultancy firm Ambling, from 2008 to 2011, were both cited as evidence of possible criminal activity, with the Commission supporting the continued investigation in Dr Brown. A “clear conflict of interest” was also found for Mr Ball, while he was a civil servant, in the awarding of a $1.4 million contract in 2009 for sand and asphalt to Harmony Holdings. Mr Ball had failed to declare that his father Eugene had a holding in the company. The panel recommended that matter be investigated by police. The Commission also looked at the controversial public-private partnership with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and Canadian-based Aecon to build a new airport, but found that there was no evidence of possible criminal activity. The four commissioners, under chairman Sir Anthony Evans, former Chief Justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, stressed that a finding of possible criminal activity, or the naming of individuals, did not imply any finding of guilt. But the Commission wrote in its report: “We have found that there were indeed widespread breaches of Financial Instructions. We found numerous violations, some of which were serious and persistent.” Dennis Lister, who was succeeded by Mr Burgess in the works and engineering portfolio, was listed in two contracts, but the Commission found no evidence of possible criminal activity. Meanwhile, eight civil servants were heavily criticised over failure to follow the rules on contracts, with the Commission calling for Government to conduct a “frank, independent assessment of whether all current leaders of the Civil Service have appropriate skill sets, perspective and motivation to effect needed changes”. Asked about the PLP’s record during the time of the allegations, Opposition leader David Burt said: “Although everyone would like to put the decisions of the past on myself, I became the leader of the PLP in 2016 and I have never sat around a Cabinet table for the PLP. I am not trying to absolve myself, but I can say that the PLP did pass the Good Governance Act and the PLP was praised inside of this report for recognizing the shortcomings of our procurement system and putting in place the GGA. But 51 months later there is no code of practice for procurement management that the government has to follow. If the draft code of practice which was published was in place, the airport project would have been against the law.” The Commission had also looked at failures to comply with Government’s internal accounting and procedures and made a total of 50 recommendations for improvements. These included establishing better working relationships between Government and senior civil servants, improving transparency and safeguards against conflicts of interest and boosting the effectiveness of Government Financial Instructions. The Commission added that bodies responsible for safeguarding the public purse should be boosted and parliamentary oversight on spending enhanced. Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said: “These recommendations are welcomed by the Government because they set the stage of the very thing the Commission was set up to achieve, which was, as I said in December 2015, to break the back of bad habits, to heighten public understanding of the issues and to return the principle of accountability to the centre of Government business at any level.” During the motion to adjourn, Opposition MPs challenged how Mr Dunkley made the announcement, saying he had disrespected Parliament by not making a ministerial statement on which he could be questioned. He responded that he had made the announcement in Parliament as part of the Budget Debate, and the Opposition had the opportunity to question him.

March 14. The Bermuda Hotel Association is taking a pragmatic approach to the news that the Bermuda Tourism Authority has signed an agreement with Airbnb. Stephen Todd, president of the BHA, said the organisation had long recognized the presence of small-scale vacation rentals available on the island. And while it is an advantage for the island to have available a full spectrum of vacation accommodation options, he said it was equally important to ensure that standards are maintained to preserve and enhance Bermuda’s reputation as a desirable holiday destination. Last week, the BTA and Airbnb announced they had signed an agreement to promote the island and create a framework for dialogue between the Bermuda Government and the company to discuss industry matters, including marketing and regulation. US-based Airbnb lists more than three million vacation rental lodgings worldwide through its website. There are about 270 listed in Bermuda, amounting to about 440 bedrooms, with the highest concentration to be found in the western and eastern ends of the island. Mr Todd said the BHA had been aware of the presence of Airbnb and similar small scale rentals. “It’s something that has always been there, from when moms and pops offered a room to visitors. We recognise that it is a facility that visitors are looking for — an alternative. It is good from the standpoint of offering different options for visitors. But it is important to have a regulatory structure around it, so that we don’t let the team down. We are going to be judged by the best and worst that guests experience.” Mr Todd said setting standards for what a guest can expect is good. The need for quality control standards was highlighted in a 2015 report by the BTA on the vacation rental property market. The authority concluded the report by recommending that vacation rental properties be recognized through legislation, that they collect and remit a 2.5 per cent visitor guest fee to the BTA, and they comply with safety standards. In January, Michael Fahy, the tourism minister, noted that vacation rentals are at present not defined under Bermuda law. He said the lack of standards and direct marketing posed “both a barrier and an opportunity”. Kevin Dallas, chief executive officer of the BTA, announcing the agreement last week, said it was about “levelling the playing field” and promoting the island as a destination. He said the link-up also “gives us Airbnb as an adviser to the government as it works through regulations” in that sector of the tourism marketplace. The Airbnb service is particularly popular with younger, experienced and adventure travelers, which the BTA is keen to attract. Mr Dallas wants to encourage more Bermuda residents to consider listing a short-terms or vacation rental. Airbnb is to send organizers to the island to run workshops. Mr Dallas does not believe small vacation rental properties will have a substantial impact on hotels and guesthouses. However, Mr Todd struck a cautionary note. He said: “We recognise that vacation rentals will have an impact on the smaller guest properties. We want them to continue to be viable.” Smaller guest properties are regulated under the Hotel Act, but not vacation rental properties with sleeping accommodation for less than six people. Mr Todd said: “It is important to have a level playing field.” He added that the BHA has been discussing the increasing popularity of small rental vacation properties not only at a local level, but with counterparts in overseas jurisdictions. “It is something that we have to recognise and compete with,” he said.

March 14. Telecoms firm One Communications yesterday promised internet speeds of up to 200 Mbps after hundreds of miles of new fibre optic cabling and support equipment are installed. Frank Amaral, One’s chief executive officer, said: “Our plans to provide better value for internet services are with the Regulatory Authority. As a regulated access provider our new FibreWire plans must be approved in advance by the regulator. Once approved and the new network is activated in a neighborhood, One’s FibreWire internet will be available to consumers with plans of up to 200 Mbps to the home or small business.” The massive project to replace existing cables is expected to be finished by the third quarter of this year. Mr Amaral said: “We are working hard to get our new network on line, and as a result our timeline for completion has been moved up. With additional specialists added to our current workforce, we look forward to completing this extensive project in a much shorter timeframe. Wired networks like ours have been proven to provide faster, more price effective and reliable internet services than wireless systems. Our FibreWire network has been engineered with the future in mind to provide even faster gigabit plus speeds when the market demands these services. Customers with One Communications’ internet service will be pleased to know that once FibreWire is ready to offer, upgrading will be simple. Once approvals are in place, and depending upon the service plan currently being subscribed to, many of our customers will be automatically upgraded to the new higher speeds at the same price that they are currently paying. So there won’t be a need to call in to sign up for the improved service.” He added that — in most cases — technician assistance will not be required as existing modem equipment can be used. This means that extra cabling into a home or small business will not be necessary. The overall process will be quick and easy.” The upgraded cable network comes as One expands its 4G LTE coverage across the island, which is expected to be completed by the fall. The company is also planning a full overhaul of its TV services this year, subject to regulatory approvals.

March 14. NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — Richard Fain, the chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, is willing to bet $5 billion that he can take everything you know about cruising and flip it upside down. Or at least outside in. On Monday, he and Lisa Lutoff-Perlo, chief executive officer of Celebrity Cruises — one of three brands in the Royal Caribbean family — announced a new category of ship that, among other transformational design moves, brings stateroom balconies indoors. With a push of a button, the floor-to-ceiling windows of Celebrity Edge-class staterooms retract like a super-sleek garage door, leaving nothing but a simple glass railing between your living room furniture and the crystal-blue sea. “When I started [working in the cruise industry] in the 1970s, nearly zero ships had balconies. It was all portholes,” reflected Fain on a phone call with Bloomberg. Since then, balconies have been the golden rule for hardcore cruisers. But fast forward to 2019, when the first of five Celebrity Edge-class vessels is scheduled to leave the shipyard, and both portholes and balconies will become a thing of the past. At least, that’s what Fain and Lutoff-Perlo are betting on. These balconies on-demand are just one of the first-to-market design features raising the price tag of Edge-class ships to $1 billion a piece. Here’s what else to expect on these tricked-out ocean liners, which are packed with enough bells and whistles to make even the most fervent anti-cruiser consider a trip on the high seas. By redefining the balcony, Celebrity is able to expand cabins right up to the edge of the ship — almost like an infinity pool. As a result, stateroom floor plans are (on average) 23 per cent larger than before, with bathrooms gaining an extra 20 per cent of square footage. This is a feat of engineering much larger than meets the eye: Currently, balconies help distribute the weight of a boat, and bringing them indoors requires boat builders to redesign the vessel’s support system. Making ships bigger isn’t the answer if you’re looking for increased square footage, either, as many ships are already too large to dock in popular ports. (They solve that issue by dropping anchor off shore and ferrying guests to land in smaller boats.) “We have been re-imagining shore experiences for a long time,” explained Lutoff-Perlo, who says the glassed-in staterooms “let us transform how guests experience destinations when they’re in port or out on sea.” Imagine a mini-deck — it’s the length of a tennis court — that hovers off the edge of the ship, moving up and down along a vertical track almost like an elevator. That’s the Magic Carpet, a new public space that will serve different purposes at different times of the day. When it’s positioned on Deck 2, it’s a stylish disembarkation point. On Deck 5, it becomes a lunch spot with wraparound views. Up on Deck 14, it’s an extension to the pool area, sometimes with a DJ. (Think of it as a pool party that comes and goes, explained Lutoff-Perlo.) And in the evenings, the Magic Carpet will anchor at Deck 16, where it’ll become a fine dining restaurant that’s cantilevered over the sea. Said Lutoff-Perlo: “Where else in the world can you get this experience, sitting 16 stories above the sea, dining by moonlight with a view of Barcelona?” Suites have traditionally made up five per cent of Celebrity’s room stock; on Edge ships, they’ll represent 12 per cent of the accommodations. Included are six duplex villas that shed the traditional decor you’ll find on, say, luxury cruise line Cunard’s two-floor suites — instead, they have private plunge pools and direct access to the Solarium sundeck. Eucalyptus-treated cashmere mattresses from Italy, Bulgari bath amenities, butler service, packing and unpacking support, and a bar that’s set up based on your own preferences: they’re just a few of the signature amenities for suite guests. “They look like a beautiful hotel that just happens to float,” said Lutoff-Perlo, who added that if you opt for the penthouse suite, you’ll get a better view than the captain. “It’s set right over the bridge,” she said. The last big innovation in cruising dealt with RFID-enabled wristbands that let you scan in and out of the ship at port or charge drinks to your room. But wearables are a thing of the past, said Lutoff-Perlo. On the Edge ships, you’ll be able to do everything on your phone, from checking in to unlocking your stateroom door or controlling your room’s temperature and lighting. It all happens via a proprietary Celebrity app, which also puts the concierge, ship map, and daily event schedule in each guest’s pocket. “We’ll send you notifications for the things you’ve told us you’re interested in and use it to reduce pain points across the entire experience,” said Lutoff-Perlo. “It will help us personalize your cruise as we’ve never been able to do before.” The so-called resort deck on the Celebrity Edge ships takes the adult pool concept to a whole other level. The pool itself is enclosed by a tessellated, glasslike dome for all-weather access — it’s called the Solarium — that leads to a rooftop garden that one-ups the lawn clubs and rooftop terraces Celebrity has typically installed on its previous ships. The garden will be landscaped with sculptural trees and maintained by a dedicated horticulturist so that it can be used for jazz parties (think live music, wine, and blankets) or dinner-and-a-movie nights. It’s all designed by Tom Wright, whose stamp is also on the iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai. Lutoff-Perlo and Fain both talk about the Edge class as an evolution in modern luxury, capable of drawing more affluent younger travelers and converting them into cruisers. “When you have to sign a contract for $5 billion, your hand shakes. But now that I’ve seen the design, my hand no longer shakes,” said Fain. And Lutoff-Perlo indicated there’s more to come. “Every new feature needs to be a must-see, must-have experience — that’s true of all these additions, along with several more amazing things we’ll be revealing later on,” she teased. Want to get a spot on the inaugural sailing? Bookings are officially open for the first ship’s maiden voyage, departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on December 16, 2018, for a weeklong Caribbean circuit.

March 14. The successful $450 million debt sale that closed this week was a step on the road to putting Qatar Re in the top tier of the reinsurance industry. That is the view of Gunther Saacke, the Bermuda-based company’s chief executive officer, who described the sale of the notes as a “significant milestone. With the introduction of tradable notes, Qatar Re is seizing the opportunity to finance future growth on the back of a modern efficient capital structure. The notes have reduced our cost of capital and are a significant milestone on our path to establishing Qatar Re in the top tier of our industry.” He added: “The issuance has taken our company beyond the $1 billion capital mark; an important threshold to potential clients who make this a prerequisite. The increased capital strength will enable us to respond to increasing demand from existing and new clients for substantial capacity as part of our comprehensive service proposition.” The offering of the Reg S Perpetual non-call 5.5 subordinated Tier 2 notes, which have an initial coupon of 4.95 per cent, was 14 times oversubscribed. The issue attracted over 290 orders of more than $6.5 billion and achieved a balanced global distribution of investors comprising 30 per cent Asia, 29 per cent UK, 20 per cent Middle East, 19 per cent Continental Europe and 2 per cent from other regions. The 4.95 per cent coupon will be fixed until the first call date in September 2022. The rapidly growing company, whose parent organisation is the Qatar Insurance Company, is based in new offices at the Belvedere development on Pitts Bay Road, where there will be a special opening ceremony this evening, involving directors and top executives, as well as Bermudian and Bermuda-based dignitaries.

March 13. Ewart Brown, the former premier, was today named in five Government contracts where a Commission of Inquiry (COI) found evidence of “possible criminal activity”. Commissioners cited the former Progressive Labour Party politician, the premier from 2006 to 2010, in contracts involving Global Hue, Ambling, TCD emissions testing, revamp of Port Royal Golf Course and Dockyard Heritage Wharf cruise ship pier. Dr Brown, who was also Minister of Tourism and Transport, was singled out in a further contract, for the building of the Magistrates’ Court and Hamilton Police Station, where the Commission “cannot agree re possible criminal activity”. The Commissioners stressed that a finding of possible criminal activity should not indicate evidence of guilt and that “the naming of an individual does not imply any finding of guilt”. But the Commission has referred all five contracts to the Bermuda Police Service “to continue ongoing criminal investigation”. Former works and engineering minister Derrick Burgess was named in three contracts where there was evidence of possible criminal activity. And One Bermuda Alliance Senator Vic Ball, a former civil servant who was appointed to the Upper House after he retired, was criticised for failure to disclose “a clear conflict of interest” in the award of a contract for sand and rock where his father was a principal in the firm awarded the contract. The Commissioners found “evidence of possible criminal activity” and referred the case to police for investigation. But a number of other senior Civil Servants were slammed for failing to follow rules on awarding contracts, although no disciplinary action was recommended. Dennis Lister, who was succeeded by Mr Burgess in the works and engineering portfolio, was listed in two contracts, but the Commission, headed by Sir Anthony Evans, found no evidence of possible criminal activity. Ministers listed as “noted but not criticised directly” included Paula Cox, Dr Brown’s successor as premier. Finance minister Bob Richards, OBA Senator Michael Fahy, as Acting Attorney-General, and Attorney-General Trevor Moniz, were listed alongside Ms Cox for actions during the controversial public-private partnership deal with the Canadian Crown Corporation and Canadian developer Aecon, although the Commission found that there no evidence of possible criminal activity. The Commission of Inquiry was set up by Michael Dunkley, the Premier, to investigate issues raised in the Auditor-General’s report into the fiscal years 2009 to 2012. Commissioners said the Global Hue advertising contract should have tendered and that it had been recommended to Cabinet as a “straightforward renewal with no evident concern over the serious criticism” raised in an Auditor-General’s report. The CoI said a new contract had been agreed after the 2008 financial crash and that the Commission believed “that environment would have been conducive for a competitive tender among advertising agencies, likely enhancing value for money”. Commissioners added that contracts with consultancy Ambling in 2008 and 2010 had not been tendered. They said: “It appears that the Premier negotiated the contract directly with Ambling with no input from the Cabinet Secretary or Permanent Secretary.” And the CoI pointed out that “substantial sums were paid to Ambling but there are no coherent records of any services they performed”. They added: “This is another contact that should sensibly reside in the Ministry of Works and Engineering but was moved by the premier to Tourism and Transport.” The 200-page report from the CoI said that Bermuda Emissions Control Ltd was selected to build and run vehicle emission testing stations as “the personal choice” of Dr Brown and that assurances and contracts were given to the firm without a tender process. And the report said the delegation of the project from Works and Engineering to Transport and Tourism was “unclear and inappropriately documented”. The same was said of the Port Royal Golf Course redevelopment and that “no documented financial procedures were adopted and followed by Port Royal Golf Course trustees” while there had been an “inappropriate level of financial oversight”. The Heritage Wharf cruise ship pier, also shifted from Works and Engineering to Dr Brown’s Tourism and Transport Ministry, was also said to be “unclear, unsatisfactory and inappropriately documented”. The Commissioners added: “Final terms of the construction contract were not submitted for approval to Cabinet by the premier, although Cabinet did apparently approve the selection of the vendor. The contract did not allow the right to audit nor did it require a performance bond.” And they said: “Selecting a contract without a bid price did not allow the right to audit nor did it require a performance bond.” Mr Burgess was also named in the Heritage Wharf project. The Commissioners said: “Delegation of this project from Works and Engineering to Transport and Tourism was unclear, unsatisfactory and inappropriately documented.” In the Magistrates’ Court and police station development, Commissioners noted that Winters Burgess, said to be called “uncle” by Derrick Burgess, was a principal. The CoI report said any relationship to the principals, who also included Dr Brown’s half-brother Vincent Hollinsid, had not been disclosed and that the “Commission does not accept that Burgess did not know of their involvement”. The report added: “The level of compensation for providing collateral by Messrs (Winters) Burgess and Hollinsid appears on its face to be excessive.” Mr Burgess was also named in the Port Royal Golf Course redevelopment project, where “delegation of responsibility for this major capital expenditure was unclear, unsatisfactory and inappropriately documented” while golf course trustees had not adopted documented financial procedures and there had been “an inappropriate level of financial oversight”.

March 13. Evidence of “possible criminal activity” was found in a total of seven business dealings by Government between 2007 and 2014, a major report by a Commission of Inquiry said today. The Commissioners said potential wrongdoing had been found in “third party issues”, including the $89 million new court and police complex in Hamilton, a contract issued in 2008 which cost $17 million more than its original $72 million budget and had been referred to the Bermuda Police Service. The 2007 contract for Heritage Wharf at Dockyard, which cost $60 million — $21 million more than the estimated $39 million — has also been referred to police. The upgrading at Port Royal Golf Course, which cost $25.5 million, some $17.8 million over its 2007 $7.2 million budget, was also picked out by commissioners. And the 2001 contract to build and run the three TCD emissions testing stations, which came in more than $9.9 million over budget at $15.2 million, as well as $2.4 million-a-year contract over ten years for running costs, was also referred for investigation. The Commission also found “a clear conflict of interest” for former civil servant, Vic Ball, now a One Bermuda Alliance senator, in the awarding of a $1.4 million contract in 2009 for sand and asphalt to Harmony Holdings — a company in which his father Eugene had a holding, which Vic Ball failed to declare. But the four commissioners, under chairman Sir Anthony Evans, former Chief Justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts, stressed that a finding of possible criminal activity, or the naming of individuals, did not imply any finding of guilt. The news came as Michael Dunkley, the Premier, announced the Commission’s findings in the House of Assembly this morning. Mr Dunkley told MPs: “Indeed, the Commission noted that it ‘was not required or entitled to make any finding of innocence or guilt. It was required only to refer to the police and the Department of Public Prosecutions any evidence of possible criminal activity’. Other contracts named by the Commissioners were the 2009 $14 million contract with United States advertising and marketing firm Global Hue and $3.2 million paid out over 2008, 2010 and 2011 to Ambling for consultancy work on planning, works, engineering and hotels, originally budgeted at $400,000 a year — none of which were put out to tender, except for the 2011 deal with Ambling. Mr Dunkley said that the Commissioners had focused on 12 transactions in total. The Commission also looked at the controversial public-private partnership with the Canadian Crown Corporation and Canada-based Aecon to build a new airport, but found that there was no evidence of possible criminal activity. The same was said of a 2008 contract given to Bermuda Drywall & Ceilings for renovations to the Commercial Courts and the Ministry of Finance buildings in Hamilton, which cost $1.86 million. Mr Dunkley told MPs that the Commission had also looked at failures to comply with Government’s internal accounting and procedures and made a total of 50 recommendations for improvements. These included establishing better working relationships between Government and senior civil servants, improving transparency and safeguards against conflicts of interest and boosting the effectiveness of Government Financial Instructions. The Commission added that bodies responsible for safeguarding the public purse should be boosted, while Parliamentary oversight on spending should be enhanced. “These recommendations are welcomed by the Government because they set the stage of the very thing the Commission was set up to achieve, which was, as I said in December 2015, to break the back of bad habits, to heighten public understanding of the issues and to return the principle of accountability to the centre of Government business at any level,” Mr Dunkley told the House. He added: “We will also advance the principle of transparency in the management of the public purse. In that regard we will take a close look at making oversight of financial operations more current and contemporaneous. The Commission of Inquiry report is the next step in this drive to strengthen the overall governance of Bermuda and, more specifically, to institute the checks and balances necessary to make the Government more accountable and transparent to the people we are elected to serve.”

March 13. Perceived weaknesses in the island’s internet network meant America’s Cup challengers Land Rover BAR will rely on UK technology to monitor its racing yacht. The team turned to British telecoms firm BT as the risk of the Bermuda network crashing when it needed to send data and video back to shore and on to its headquarters in Portsmouth during the competition. A spokesman for the team said that its virtual chase boat system — where a real shadow boat with monitoring equipment is replaced by technology on the racing yacht — was designed for use in England. He added: “In Portsmouth, the fact that the sailing water was lined on both sides by relatively densely populated areas meant that the public network could be relied upon. The situation in Bermuda was very different. The more isolated piece of water and the island’s relatively small population meant that during the racing period, the spectators and media attending could be expected to strain all the public data networks. The team couldn’t afford to discover that suddenly, right when they needed it most, the link to Bermuda had been overwhelmed, crashing data and video delivery to Portsmouth.” Land Rover BAR instead opted for a proprietary system — a dedicated “uncontended link” rather than a shared system. BT has provided a 45 Mbps leased line between Bermuda and Britain, which is unshared and guaranteed to run at the set rate at all times. The team’s Technical Innovation Group, led by management and technology consultancy PA Consulting group, worked with BT to supply data to team coaches, designers and performance analysts. They found they would also need a private cellular network to link the competition yacht to its Dockyard base for onward information transmission to England. The spokesman said that the team “had already discovered during the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series event in 2015 that the public network didn’t have the required bandwidth out in the Great Sound”. Land Rover BAR and BT instead brought in a private cellular network, complete with mast, antenna, receivers and software similar to military grade ship-to-shore 4G LTE. The virtual chase boat was developed to remove the need for a powered chase boat every sailing day, reducing the team’s carbon footprint, in line with America’s Cup organizers’ desire to make sailing more sustainable. Richard Hopkirk, engineering manager at Land Rover BAR, said: “The VCB has been a tremendous success story for our technical team. It’s brought my engineers closer to the sailing boat than ever before, while at the same time reducing our carbon footprint as a team. I’m enormously grateful to PA Consulting Group and BT for their technical and personal support without which this would not have been possible for us.” Howard Watson, CEO of BT technology and service operations, added: “Our networking and big data expertise will help the teams on both sides of the Atlantic to deliver better performance from the boat. It’s all about our ability to help the support teams and crew to make better tactical decisions through access to better-quality data in real time.”

March 13. The Government will be looking to invest in greener buses, said Grant Gibbons, Minister of Economic Development. Responding to questions by the opposition during Friday’s budget debate, Dr Gibbons told the House of Assembly that an RFP is set to go out in the near future for electric, hybrid or LNG-powered buses as the government seeks to improve the ageing fleet. The comments came after shadow transport minister Lawrence Scott questioned government if it would look at electric buses rather than the typical combustion vehicles, which could be better for Bermuda’s roads and more cost-effective. “Maybe as a country we would try to set the goal of taking advantage of hybrid and electric public safety vehicles,” Mr Scott said. “We could reduce the overhead, as fuel is one of the biggest expenses of the PTB.” He added that electric/hybrid vehicles have a longer useful life, and that cost savings can be used to retrain and retool employees. Mr Scott made several other suggestions to improve the island’s bus system, including revising the bus schedule, but Dr Gibbons responded: “It’s much easier to make these suggestions than it is to get them to take effect.” Dr Gibbons said hopes of introducing a new bus schedule last year were dashed after the proposed revisions were rejected by the Bermuda Industrial Union. “There has been an effort to revise the bus schedule since 2001, 2002. We thought that we had on the table a new schedule that would be accepted. Unfortunately that new schedule was rejected by the union so we are back to square one.” Dr Gibbons said that four new buses are expected to arrive on the island later this year and Government had budgeted the purchase of another ten vehicles in 2018. He noted that in addition to the $2.5 million allocated for buses in the 2017/18 budget, money was allocated and saved last year for the same purpose. Dr Gibbons also revealed that recruitment efforts “have commenced in earnest” to hire 20 additional bus operators. “Further, internal training is under way to fill three traffic supervisor positions,” he said, adding that these positions are expected “to drastically reduce overtime costs for the operations section”. He also commented on a recent incident in which a bus carrying schoolchildren burst into flames in Warwick, saying the vehicle was 15 years old. “We have said that there is a sister bus, which was taken off the road after the incident.  Clearly the PTB is very concerned about public safety. I’m sure there will be a very careful look at the safety issues involved.” Dr Gibbons was also questioned about the island’s ferries, particularly the Government’s use of the Millennium, which is set to conclude this year. While Zane DeSilva and Dennis Lister questioned if it would not have been more efficient for the Government to have bought a new ferry four years ago instead of hiring the Millennium for $1.2 million a year, Dr Gibbons responded that the money simply was not available at the time. “A new ferry would have cost $8 million,” he said. “The issue is should the government have four years ago bought a new ferry for $8 million? When the current government took over the capital funds to buy a new ferry simple were not available. We understood that we needed this transport between St George’s and Dockyard.” And on the subject of new ferries, he said he believed the Department of Marine and Ports may prioritize the purchase of a new tug, giving the existing vessel’s age and the increasing size of visiting cruise ships. Another topic broached by the opposition was the cost of revenue guarantees with the airlines that visit the island, with PLP MPs, including Wayne Furbert, suggesting that the guarantees — which can cost the government millions annually — were under-budgeted, giving a falsely rosy appearance. While Mr Furbert said he knew of one such guarantee that had cost the government more than $3 million, Dr Gibbons said that the guarantee mentioned was made by the former administration. “It’s important to point out that WestJet had been paid something in the order of $3 million. That goes back to 2012 and what we learnt since then was that it was an open-ended agreement with the former government. Now they are capped. With that airline, it is capped at $1 million.” However, Dr Gibbons accepted that there would likely be supplementals in the area of revenue guarantees as one agreement was signed too recently to be included in the budget. “The most recent revenue guarantee was only signed a month ago, so it is not in this budget,” he said.

March 13. The Government has launched an initiative aimed at getting parents more involved with their children’s education. However, Mike Charles of the Bermuda Union of Teachers said that in order for such an initiative to be a success, it needs the buy-in of the wider community. “It’s great to involve the community, but it has to be the whole Bermuda community, not just the black community,” he said. “Until that happens, we will continue to be in the state we are in.” In the House of Assembly on Friday, Cole Simons, Minister of Education, announced the formation of a Parental Involvement Committee, which will foster better communication between the Department of the Education and parents. Mr Simons said Government wants “a progressive effort to involve and engage public school parents for the betterment of our public school education system”. The minister told MPs: “We know that we cannot underestimate the value of family in a child’s education, and this Government has acknowledged and affirmed our responsibility to grow relationships and partnerships with parents, families and the community. Schools do this every day through PTAs and parent councils and through the important work of supporting and improving individual schools. During the 2015 consultation process on what were then proposed amendments to the Education Act 1996, a parent asked the question — ‘but what about parent engagement for the entire public education system? After continued consultation and engagement, this Government determined that we should put in place a Parental Involvement Committee. This was a direct response to the desire expressed by parents for proactive and strategic access to the Department of Education.” Mr Simons said the ministry wanted better communication with parents and welcomed input on important issues that affect them, their children and the system. “We don’t just want parents to come to us — we want to go to them and seek their advice and representation not only when problems occur, but before they happen,” he said. “We see great things ahead for our public education system, for all schools and for all children. We therefore want and have invited parents, as well as other stakeholders in our public education system to be part of that vision and future.” He said the committee would provide advice and feedback from the perspective of parents, represent broad parental interests, support PTAs and help parents support their children learning at home. Chairwoman of the team selecting the committee is Tamicia Darrell, deputy principal at West End Primary School, with other members including Keithlyn Fleming, Noel Pearman, Jo-Ann Pully and Kimberley McKeown. Mr Simons said: “This selection team has already encouraged parents to consider participating for the betterment of our public education system. Parent councils, PTAs, and all parents of public schoolchildren are being asked to put their name forward for membership on the Parental Involvement Committee.” He said parents selected should represent a cross-section of parents across all public schools and have a child enrolled in public school. The deadline for applications is April 9. Applications and any questions should be e-mailed to parents@moed.bm. Speaking about the move yesterday, Mr Charles said that the wider Bermudian community must take part for progress to be made. “I think when we talk about public education, we think about black children. There is another part of the community as well, but they don’t take part. Those who send their children to private schools don’t care about what happens.” He said that while a great deal of work needs to be done to bring public schools to the standard they need to be, the government seems more intent on investing in the America’s Cup. “We need the buildings to be at a level where children can go and feel safe,” he said. “We also need supplies. We talk about a 21st-century education, but we don’t have 21st-century supplies.”

March 13. The Charity Commissioners have finally released information revealing why more than 30 people objected to Preserve Marriage becoming a charity. With less than a month to go before the group’s probationary one-year charitable status runs out, the contents of all 31 complaints have been shared with The Royal Gazette. One gay Bermudian explains in her objection how she feels “bullied” by the organisation, which opposes same-sex marriage and civil unions. She writes: “There is nothing charitable about them! Their sole purpose is to force our Government to deny equal marriage rights to gay and lesbian persons in Bermuda.” Another, describing himself as “a Bermudian man who identifies as gay”, writes: “It’s a group whose message divides the community based on an aspect of an individual’s identity, which the individual has no control over.” One complainant, themselves a former Charity Commissioner, argues that Preserve Marriage is a political organisation with the aim of influencing government policy on same-sex relationships. The letter writer states: “Irrespective of their stance on marriage equality, Preserve Marriage is doing great harm to the ability of LGBTQ Bermudians and residents to be respected and protected in Bermuda, something which they are to be afforded by the Human Rights Act 1981.” They add: “To allow what is effectively a political action group to obtain charitable status and solicit funds from the public could set an alarming precedent and, in this instance specifically, could allow a group to act as a ‘charity’, seeking to marginalize a protected class under the Human Rights Act.” The majority of the objections voice similar concerns, with some referring to the organisation as being a “hate group” which promotes “hate speech”. Preserve Marriage applied for charitable status early last year, not long after it complied with a request from the Charity Commissioners to remove an online appeal for campaign funds from its website. The group, a registered company since December 29, 2015, had been seeking donations to “succeed” in its “mandate to preserve marriage in our country”. Despite the 31 objections filed with the Charity Commissioners, Preserve Marriage’s application was successful and the organisation was given charitable status until April 5 this year. A source told this newspaper at the time that the decision to grant charitable status was not unanimous and had prompted lengthy debate among the commissioners. But the final decision was taken after the group successfully argued that its educational work qualified as a “public benefit”, as defined by the Charities Act 2014. A few days after the decision was made public, in April last year, this newspaper made a public access to information request to the Charity Commissioners for the content of any objections and the minutes of any meetings during which the application was discussed and decided upon. The initial response from the commissioners was to provide heavily redacted minutes from their meetings on March 8 and 22 and April 5 and 19, which did not reveal the number or substance of the complaints and gave little information on how the commissioners came to their decision. We sought an internal review from Richard Ambrosio, the committee’s chairman, who responded in July to say that providing the content of the objections would have “imposed a substantial and unreasonable interference” with the work of Registry-General staff. He decreed un-redacted minutes could be released, along with the number of objections, and this information was shared in November. Last week, Mr Ambrosio shared copies of the 31 objections, having removed any information that could identify the authors. He did not explain the change of heart and it wasn’t possible to confirm with him whether Preserve Marriage had applied for a renewal of its charitable status. A spokeswoman for the Registry-General did not provide the information by press time. The decision to disclose the material follows an appeal lodged by this newspaper with the independent information commissioner, which is still under review. Preserve Marriage has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent same-sex couples from obtaining the right to marry in Bermuda, campaigning against such a move when a referendum was held on the issue last June and intervening in an ongoing civil case involving a gay couple who wish to wed here. There was no response to an e-mailed request for comment to the charity by press time Our Pati request last April asked for the same information about OUTBermuda, a group which promotes equality for the island’s LGBT community, and which had also applied for charitable status. No objections were received in relation to OUTBermuda’s application. Its charitable status expires on March 21 and it is expected to apply for renewal.

March 13. A new business conference in Bermuda that sold out months in advance has led to an additional unexpected boost for the island. The inaugural Bermuda Healthcare Forum, which starts on Wednesday, attracted an overwhelming response from delegates wishing to attend and had filled its quota of 160 places by December. And the event has caught the attention of the American Society of Healthcare Risk Management, which has now invited Bermuda to be involved at its prestigious annual conference in Seattle later this year. The two-day Bermuda Healthcare Forum is at the Rosewood Tucker’s Point Resort, and will feature world-class speakers and industry experts. More than 100 of the delegates are coming from overseas, and a total of 278 hotel room nights have been booked, mostly at Tucker’s Point and Grotto Bay, in connection with the forum. Annie Sousa, senior vice-president at Aon, who helped spearhead the forum, said it is the first of its kind for the healthcare insurance industry in Bermuda. “The concept of the forum originated from a meeting last year, when Aon Bermuda invited all the leaders of our main healthcare markets to discuss the future of our industry,” she explained. Vivienne Moniz, senior vice-president and underwriting manager for excess casualty insurance at XL Catlin, said the island’s insurance and reinsurance market has served the insurance needs of some of the largest health systems in the US for more than 30 years. She added: “The Bermuda market is known for innovative solutions to complex risk. We boast some of the best talent in the industry and the forum provides a platform for carriers and brokers to engage with our clients to ensure we continue providing solutions to our clients’ needs.” The event has attracted executive management, captive, insurance and finance specialists in the healthcare industry. About 30 local companies will participate, representing major insurance, broking, accounting and legal firms, while the overseas guests include a cross section of brokers and representatives in roles such as finance, risk management, patient safety and quality and legal from some of the largest health systems in the US. Kim Morgan, healthcare practice leader at Endurance Bermuda, said: “With US healthcare providers facing many of the same challenges post the passing of the Affordable Care Act, and now the uncertainty brought with a new governmental administration, this is an invaluable opportunity to bring our customers together in an intimate setting in Bermuda to hear from speakers on topical subjects that range from programme design to data analytics to successful claims defence strategies, all of which we hope will serve to better prepare them for this changing healthcare environment.” The organizers of the forum said they are delighted to be able to showcase “the resources of the collective Bermuda healthcare market which play a significant role in the risk financing of many of the larger healthcare systems in the US”. The forum is also seen as a useful venue for renewal meetings and networking. It has also drawn on the services and expertise of local businesses. Kareen Richardson, senior vice-president at Integro, said: “The forum committee has teamed up with various Bermudian firms to bring this event to fruition.” Among those involved are Terry Madeiros, of TM Designs, who created the event logo and brand, Amy Peniston who did the webpage, and event photographer Susan Thomas. Electronic Services Ltd is fulfilling the audio and visual needs of the event, and Selange Gitschner, of Dasfete, is handling logistics. Ms Richardson added: “We are very fortunate to have access to such talented Bermudians who have assisted us immensely with our technical needs. We are pleased with the market and industry collaboration and thrilled with the overwhelming response of overseas attendees.” The unexpected invite to participate in the Ashrm conference in Seattle in October is a feather in the cap for Bermuda. An executive from Ashrm has been invited to attend this week’s forum. At the Ashrm event in October, Ross Webber, chief executive officer of the Bermuda Business Development Agency will be a keynote speaker, while Ricky Braithwaite, of the Bermuda Health Council, will sit on a panel to discuss delivery system transformation. The Bermuda Healthcare Forum is sponsored by Aon (Bermuda), Ascot Underwriters, BDA, Integro (Bermuda), XL Catlin, Allied World Assurance, Bowring Marsh Bermuda, Endurance Insurance, Iron-Starr Excess Agency, Chubb Bermuda, Atlantic Security Brokers, JLT Re, Healthcare Risk Partners, Willis Towers Watson, Arch Insurance, Argo Re, Lockton Bermuda, Markel Global Insurance Bermuda, RKH Specialty and R&Q Quest Management Services.

March 13. The men of Hasty Pudding Theatricals are preparing to bare their legs in Bermuda this week, as they bring their unique brand of musical comedy back to the island. The Harvard-based group — the third-oldest theatre organisation in the world — has been visiting Bermuda for more than 50 years, with the island serving as the final stop of their annual show’s run. This year’s production, Casino Evil, is set to continue the tradition with HPT’s usual combination of broad comedy, catchy musical numbers and an all-male kick line finale. Producers Adam Chiavacci and Natalie Kim said the show has so far received a positive response, and they are thrilled to bring the production to the island. Asked about the trip, they said: “We are so excited. We love Bermuda, and it’s awesome to be able to call Bermuda a second home for us. We have been coming to Bermuda for over 50 years now, and we could not imagine our production without it. While we do think it is important to keep our Bermuda tradition alive, especially since our organisation is so old. The main reason it is important for us to keep coming back to Bermuda is because we love the island. We love meeting everyone and being able to spend the capstone of each year’s show in such a beautiful and fun spot.” They noted that the show represented the culmination of almost a full year of work, with production beginning every April — just weeks after the previous year’s show concludes. “It is an incredible amount of work, and all 50 members of our company put so much time, effort, and love into this organisation to make the show what it is. From our poster designer, to the show’s writers, to our costumiers, ticket sales managers, and cast, everyone really believes in this show. We are propelled by our love for the Pudding as well as for each other. Watching our audiences react to the show, and seeing the amount of fun that they have as well as we have during each performance is really what makes it all worth it."  HPT 169: Casino Evil runs March 15-17 at Earl Cameron Theatre at City Hall, with shows starting at 8pm. Tickets are available now at bdatix.bm. 

March 13. The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce is back from the brink after the public answered a call for support, but fundraising efforts continue. In January, the environmental organisation said that a shortfall of donations had left it unable to fully perform its duties and asked its supporters to help. BEST president Stuart Hayward, however, said he was uplifted by the rapid response from the community, including a number of new donors who stepped forward. Colin James of Atlantic Securities Ltd came to the office on the day the appeal was published in The Royal Gazette with a cheque in hand, while Vallis and Hayward offered BEST office space in the International Centre on Bermudiana Road. Gail Miller, BEST chairwoman, said: “We are still a long way from meeting our annual budget and will continue to focus on developing donor relationships. “On that front, Kim Smith will take on the additional duty of managing this for us as we simultaneously cultivate a group of board members and volunteers to assist us with fund development and fundraising.” A spokeswoman said that Mr Hayward remains committed to BEST despite his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s Disease, while the board continues to support him and the organisation’s commitment to serve the Bermuda community. “BEST is currently focused on strategies for succession planning,” the spokeswoman said. “The organisation remains committed to collaboration and is participating in the Centre on Philanthropy’s Collaboration Initiative that began in January 2017, estimated to take four to six months. BEST is also advancing internally from a founder-directed to a board-directed organisation to strengthen its structure and boost its longevity. Susan Armstrong has stepped up to chair the BEST Management Committee. Susan will be putting together a team that will assist BEST with ‘Building Capacity’. It hopes to do this through expanding its Membership Programme and by expanding its human and material resources. BEST is committed to honoring Stuart’s legacy as an advisor, mentor, and wise counsel to any new team that will be created. As we move through this process of transition, BEST is fortunate to have the support, commitment and dedicated service of Stuart, David Wingate, long-term BEST director and Bermuda’s most notable environmentalist, as well as a strong board of directors and management team.”

March 12. Michael Dunkley will become the first Premier of Bermuda to speak at a session of the insurance industry’s largest annual conference next month. Mr Dunkley will speak about Bermuda’s historic US ties and the island’s global economic impact as part of a new Executive Leadership Track to debut at the Rims 2017 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Philadelphia. The Bermuda Business Development Agency announced today that the Premier will join four other Bermuda-related speakers at Rims 2017 from April 23 to 26. The event is expected to attract 10,000 risk-management professionals, service providers, senior executives and other decision-makers from a range of industries, plus 400 exhibitors. “I feel very privileged to represent Bermuda so prominently at an industry event that has been very significant to our island over many decades,” said Mr Dunkley, one of ten executive speakers on the new track — including Brad Kading, president of the Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers, and Stephen Catlin, executive deputy chairman of XL Catlin and chairman of the Insurance Development Forum. “The government is grateful to Rims for the opportunity to highlight Bermuda’s unique and substantial role as a world-respected international financial centre,” the Premier added. “The evolution of Bermuda’s highly respected market, our top-tier regulatory environment, our role in facilitating globalization and covering losses from the world’s worst disasters — these are topics that should be interesting and relevant to the Rims audience.” Rims organizers invited Mr Dunkley to be a guest speaker after the BDA successfully submitted two other session proposals on behalf of Bermudian industry stakeholders. “We’re delighted to see Bermuda represented so strongly at Rims 2017, especially via the new executive leadership sessions,” said Ross Webber, chief executive officer of the BDA, which has co-ordinated Bermuda’s presence at the prestigious event for the past four years. “There have been very few, if any, Bermuda speakers at Rims in recent years.” Webber noted. “Given the prominence of our island in the global insurance industry, this seemed like an anomaly we needed to address, so the BDA drove an effort to encourage Bermuda’s inclusion. It’s a fitting way to highlight the world-class talent in our jurisdiction, along with the innovation and global impact that have been hallmarks of Bermuda’s risk industry for the past half-century.” The Premier is scheduled to deliver his hour-long presentation, “Small wonder: Bermuda’s super sized impact on the world of risk”, on the afternoon of Monday, April 24. It will coincide with a session on captive insurance at the same time, featuring Bermuda’s Brian Quinn, founding director of Granite Management, and Al Gier, president of Bermuda Captive Owners Association and global director of corporate risk management and insurance at General Motors. Mr Quinn and Mr Gier will talk on the topic, “Cutting-edge captives: how to combat hail, hackers and non-human drivers.” The following day, April 25, another executive leadership presentation will feature a moderated panel on the Insurance Development Forum, moderated by Abir’s Mr Kading. The panel will include the IDF’s Mr Catlin, along with Joaquim Levy, managing director and CFO of the World Bank Group, and a representative from the United Nations Development Programme. The panel will discuss the industry-led initiative created last year to close the ‘protection gap’ and increase insurance penetration in emerging markets. “RIMS continues to find ways to energize its annual conference and deliver impactful educational programming that empowers attendees to better serve their organisations and advance professionally,” said Stuart Ruff-Lyon, Rims vice-president, events and education. “The Executive Leadership Track gives our attendees access to world business leaders and the strategies they use to achieve greatness. We are proud to add this feature to the RIMS 2017 experience. Bermuda plays an important part in the insurance industry and has been a long-time supporter of Rims initiatives,” Mr Ruff-Lyon added. “Bermuda’s Premier is a great addition to the Rims Executive Leadership Track. He brings a wealth of knowledge and is a well-respected leader who will provide attendees with a unique perspective on the country’s very large impact on the world’s economy.”

March 12. The Progressive Labour Party will be hosting a jobs summit on diversity, inclusion and opportunity on Tuesday. “This event is an opportunity to hear our plans for change: facilitating job creation, growing our economy and ensuring that Bermudians come first when it comes to opportunities in our own country,” Diallo Rabain, the Shadow Minister of Environment, Planning and Workforce Development, said. “It is also an opportunity for Bermudians to ask questions and share their ideas to help build a country they believe in.” He added: “With Bermudian jobs being lost and only non-Bermudian jobs growing every year under the OBA, many Bermudians are beginning to lose hope in a Bermuda that works for Bermudians.” Mr Rabain will be joined by panellists Myra Virgil, Barclay Simmons and Cordell Riley, who will speak on topics relating to the PLP’s Vision 2025: Jobs Creation and Growth, Reforming Workforce Development, Social Enterprises and more. The PLP Jobs Summit: Diversity, Inclusion and Opportunity will be held at Warwick Workmen’s Club at 7pm.

March 11. Trevor Moniz, the Attorney-General, has refused to disclose the price tag for the Bermuda Government’s legal claim against Lahey Clinic. In addition, Mr Moniz rebuffed calls to identify the Government’s sources for its case, in which former premier Ewart Brown is cited — telling Parliament that “political theatre and the politics of distraction” were being used. However, cost details could be coming to MPs, after Randolph Horton, the Speaker of the House, told the Attorney-General that Parliament was entitled to hear about monies spent. It came as Progressive Labour Party MPs accused Mr Moniz of dodging parliamentary questions connected with the Massachusetts lawsuit. Similar questions were among unanswered queries made last month by The Royal Gazette on the government’s arrangement with the law firm Cooley LLC, Yesterday Shadow Attorney-General Michael Scott asked for the projected legal expenses for the case, which Mr Moniz refused to divulge. MPs heard that no retainer had been paid to the firm, which would be paid based on the hours spent. But Mr Moniz argued that releasing the figures would “give an indication of the scale and scope of the work being done, "which is privileged. It would be impossible to give a projection in advance of knowing what defence Lahey would file,” he added. Opposition MP Derrick Burgess objected, telling Mr Horton that Mr Moniz should be directed to answer questions and not hide behind privilege, while Kim Wilson, a former Attorney-General under the PLP, branded it a stalling tactic. Mr Horton ruled that while there was no need for any indication of the scope, Mr Moniz needed to inform the House of the expenses incurred. The Attorney-General responded: “Perhaps we can have an offline discussion about it, so that I will be able to address the matter more fully next week.” Mr Horton allowed a delay until Monday, when he said he hoped Mr Moniz would come back equipped with details. He was next asked why a public relations firm had been hired for the suit — telling MPs that a company had been hired by Cooley to handle media queries. “Lahey has an entire media relations department, which has been engaged to deal with this matter, so it seemed to make good sense.” Opposition leader David Burt asked for the estimated expense approved by the minister, but Mr Moniz said Cooley had simply told him it would be “a reasonable cost”. PLP MP Jamahl Simmons said the PR firm had a history of being “politically based”, but Mr Moniz was adamant that he had played no part in its selection. The lawsuit was filed on February 14 in a Boston federal court, two days after police raided Dr Brown’s local medical clinics and seized records. The Bermuda Government contends that Lahey, with whom Dr Brown has a long working relationship on high-tech medical diagnostic interpretation, conspired with him to secure business on the island and charge for medically unnecessary tests. This week Dr Brown responded to both Mr Moniz and Michael DeSilva, the Commissioner of Police, with his lawyer alleging among other complaints that the Attorney-General had violated the constitutional separation of separation of his office from the pursuit of criminal matters. Letters sent Thursday by lawyer Jerome Lynch QC, and copied to the media, said it was “difficult to believe” that the Lahey complaint had not been prepared without dipping into a longstanding investigation of Dr Brown by local police. “I have nothing to do with the criminal side — I am undertaking a civil case in Boston against Lahey Hospital,” Mr Moniz told the House yesterday. “In that case there is a complaint which is a public document. I don’t control that. In the US it’s public, and everybody has a right to read it.” Protesting that there had been “mud slinging to attack my credibility”, he maintained that the legal letters had been “leaked to the media for some sort of public relations benefit” — and said that the information used in the Lahey complaint came from “locally sourced information that we have available to us”. Pressed for details, the Attorney-General called it sub judice, and thus exempt from public discussion. Telling MPs that disclosing sources would be prejudicial, Mr Moniz went on: “I will not reveal where I get evidence from. It will come out in the court case.” But Mr Horton corrected him, saying that under the Erskine May handbook of parliamentary practice, “in regards to matters which are in courts overseas, sub judice falls away”. The Attorney-General subsequently told Parliament that most of the information derived from “government departments or bodies”. But he refused to give examples when asked by Opposition MP Zane DeSilva, telling him: “I’m not going to provide evidence to the other side, to Lahey — you’re trying to prejudice an ongoing case”. And, when challenged by Ms Wilson as to whether Government Employee Health Insurance had been included, the Attorney-General said he was “not prepared to be specific — I’m prepared to be broad”. Mr Horton accepted the reply, telling the House: “He answered. You may not like the answer.” Meanwhile, in response to a third parliamentary question on which Bermudian attorney was instructing Cooley LLP, Mr Moniz replied: “It’s myself, Mr Speaker.”

March 11. Blame for “untenable” travel obstacles that have held up an undisclosed number of Bermudian travelers bound for the United States has been laid on the UK passport office. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, told Parliament that Her Majesty’s Passport Office had ignored concerns that were raised from Bermuda when the printing of local passports switched over to Britain. “We are demanding that there be an appropriate resolution to this problem,” the minister said, after updating MPs on the delays experienced by travelers holding UK-printed British Overseas Territories Citizen Bermuda passports who were headed to the US. Bermudians do not require visas to enter the US, and that agreement still stands: travelers passing through US Customs in LF Wade International Airport will not experience problems. But local passport holders in jurisdictions unfamiliar with the arrangement, such as in Europe, have been subject to questions or delays for passports printed after May 2016, which contain a biometric chip — and the code on the passport data page has been switched from BMU to GBD. “I must stress that the decision to transfer the printing was not a decision made by Bermuda,” Ms Gordon-Pamplin said. “As our passports are British passports, the edict came from HMPO and the transfer process has been ongoing since 2010.” Asked by deputy Opposition leader Walter Roban if the situation ought to have been anticipated, the minister said she agreed “100 per cent”. Michael Dunkley, the Premier, has written to Baroness Anelay, the minister responsible for the Overseas Territories, asking for the matter to be resolved “as a matter of urgency”. Ms Gordon-Pamplin said her ministry was working assiduously to remedy the situation, but advised travelers with passports that cause delays to obtain a US visa in the meantime.

March 11. Senator Jeff Baron says a series of recent incidents which have transpired within the last week has left the community “terrorised by violence.”  Mr Baron, Minister of National Security, sounded off on the occurrences in a release issued on Friday afternoon. The release comes on the heels of the shooting of a 19-year-old man in the Rambling Lane, Pembroke area on Thursday night. In an update provided yesterday morning, police said the victim remained in critical condition in hospital. “Police are actively investigating the matter — and I echo their calls for anyone who may be able to assist the police to please come forward and share what you know,” Mr Baron said. “Tragically, this past weekend our community lost another young man”, Mr Baron said of the fatal stabbing of Raymond Butterfield outside the Blue Waters Anglers Club late Sunday night. The 28-year-old footballer with First Division side Wolves was father to an eight-week-old daughter. “Our sincerest condolences are extended to Mr Butterfield’s family and friends at this difficult time,” said Mr Baron. Mikiel Thomas, 19, a Bermuda Under-20 footballer, has been charged with unlawful killing in connection with the incident. Mr Thomas plays for Premier Division side Devonshire Cougars. He was released on $50,000 bail and is expected to appear before the Supreme Court next month. The recent incidents have prompted meetings with the police commissioner, the minister said. Despite “multiple strategies” announced earlier this month aimed at stemming the violence, more must be done “to safeguard and protect our citizens”, Mr Baron said. “Government cannot do it alone.” Work continues, he said, on the implementation of Operation Ceasefire — a “community-collaborative initiative that has proven to be effective in curbing violence. It is my hope that members of our community will partner with us in the spirit of collaboration as we work to seek solutions to address the challenges we face.” Pastor, counselor, and gang mediator Leroy Bean said that the solution to the problem must be “indigenous of Bermuda. So many times we want to bring in everybody. Change will take relationships forged inside the communities. The solution, the healing, needs to come from within. It will also require a collective approach. It’s not going to take one organisation, one group of people, it’s not going to take Government or anybody else — it’s going to take all of us together. We can’t just find ourselves doing a little here and there and think it’s going to work. This is going to take some time. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”

March 11. The annual accounts of the Consolidated Fund of the Bermuda Government for 2015-16 have been given an unqualified audit opinion. Finance minister Bob Richards welcomed the news, which he pointed out was the Consolidated Fund’s fourth consecutive clean audit after six years of qualified opinions. Current account expenditure was less than originally estimated, Mr Richards noted, while revenue was higher than projected. The Consolidated Fund deficit for 2015-16 was $160.6 million — narrower than the $220 million budget projection by $59.4 million, or 27 per cent. Mr Richards put the decreased deficit down to “prudent management” of expenditures. However, in her report tabled with the House of Assembly yesterday, Auditor-General Heather Thomas urged Government to take action to address rising debt levels. The Consolidated Fund is the general operating fund of the Government, through which it conducts most of its transactions. “I am pleased to note that the annual accounts of the Consolidated Fund of the Government of Bermuda were given an unqualified audit opinion for the fourth consecutive year following six years of qualified opinions,” Mr Richards told MPs. “Despite the clean audit opinion, the Auditor-General has, for the sixth consecutive year, included explanatory paragraphs as ‘other matters’ which she deems appropriate.” Ms Thomas’s first concern was the level of the net debt, which increased by $186 million to $3.5 billion. She said: “Government needs to take concerted action to address this fiscal challenge.” The auditor also pointed to ongoing incidents of non-compliance with the Government of Bermuda’s Financial Instructions, which she said “revealed weaknesses and deficiencies in the control environment”, and limitations with the preparation of summary financial statements. Mr Richards said: “The Government shares the auditor’s concerns in these areas and has already started to tackle these matters.” An enhanced Financial Instructions training programme is being developed, he said, while the Ministry of Finance has already put in place a three-year plan to eliminate the deficit and ultimately reduce the debt. Financial highlights presented by the minister included:

Mr Richards said: “The decreased deficit is a result of prudent management of discretionary current and capital expenditures. The level of debt is not only unsustainable but economically and fiscally imprudent and the Government has already committed to intensify our efforts and determination to eliminate the government deficit, and eventually pay down on our debt.”

March 11. Scientists from around the world have visited Bermuda for a conference in celebration of a landmark agreement made here 21 years ago. The “Bermuda Principles”, which were agreed on at a summit at the Fairmont Southampton in 1996, led to the results of the Human Genome Project being made publicly available, accelerating genetic research internationally. Bermudian scientist Carika Weldon said that while the agreement was hugely significant in the world of genetics, it was relatively unknown locally, saying she only learnt about it while watching a documentary. “Essentially there was a meeting in Bermuda in February 1996 where 50 scientists met in Bermuda,” she said. “They came here because it was mainly US and UK labs that were involved in the Human Genome Project and this was a neutral place. The core of the meeting was to decide what they were going to do with the gene sequences once each lab churned them out. When each gene gets sequenced, does the lab patent that gene and own the sequence or would they agree together that they would put that information in the public domain? I don’t know if it was the sunshine on the beaches, but they decided to do the right thing and put it in the public domain within 24 hours of sequencing being completed.” By making the sequences freely available online, the resource became easily accessible, helping researchers around the world conduct their work. It helped to promote and accelerate scientific research to where it is today,” Dr Weldon said. “If everyone had owned those gene sequences, patented them, researchers would have to fork out more money and it would take longer for research to happen. Interestingly the Bermuda Principles are no longer just used in genetics or even science. It has been a model for other disciplines.” As a Bermudian, Dr Weldon said that it had repeatedly been suggested that she should organise a conference in Bermuda, but in the documentary she discovered a reason beyond being able to show off the island. The conference, held at the Fairmont Southampton last weekend, drew 31 researchers in the field of genetic splicing from the US, Canada, the UK, Spain, France, Japan, Singapore and Switzerland, who discussed their research in the spirit of openness at the heart of the Bermuda Principles. And in an effort to give back to the community, Dr Weldon said there were efforts made to get young people involved. Several Bermudian students were partnered with the international professors, who acted as mentors during their time on the island. “The students were able to ask them about science and kind of pick their brains,” she said. “I did my best to match them with people who were linked to what they were interested in.” The conference also hosted a debate by the Bermuda Youth Parliament who debated if, given the option, Bermuda should have patented and profited from the gene sequences. “That was a highlight,” she said. “We had five students on each side who did a stellar job debating both sides of the story. The arguments they had even surpassed what I was thinking of. The international scientists who came to Bermuda for the conference actually came to the debate, and afterwards they were saying they did a really good job. Both teams were very strong and their points were animated and got the audience going. It really shows the intelligence and passion of our youth, who can debate such touchy issues in an intellectual way. They blew us away.” Dr Weldon said plans were already afoot to turn the conference into an annual event, adding that Bermuda has much to offer the scientific community and there was great potential for further collaboration. “We had two talks from Bermudians,” she said. “One was from a senior scientist at Bios, who works on using sea urchins as a model for cancer, ageing and cell development. She presented her research and everyone who was there are now buzzing about sea urchins because we didn’t realize how good a model they are. It opened up everyone’s minds that they can use this and partner with Bios in splicing. We also had a talk from an intellectual property lawyer. People were saying that was a really good talk because we don’t really get taught about that at any point in our career. We kind of have to figure it out. What we want for next year is to develop it into a more holistic conference where we start from grass roots to deep science into therapy and technology before showcasing the legal and financial side of biotechnology and how it works.”

March 11. A 28-year-old MOB gang member has been found guilty of the cold-blooded killing of Lorenzo Stovell. Travonne Saltus was remanded in custody pending a Social Inquiry Report and sentencing after being convicted yesterday in the Supreme Court of murder and of using a firearm to commit the murder. Mr Stovell was shot dead as he sat in a minibus parked across the road from Woody’s bar in Sandys in September 2012. Saltus’s co-accused, Zakai Cann, was found not guilty of the same charges by a majority verdict after jury deliberations of more than six hours. Earlier, Cordova Simons-Marshall, 26, was cleared of being an accessory after the murder and concealing an automatic pistol. A jury found Saltus, said in court to be a member of gang Money Over Bitches, guilty by a verdict of 9-3 after a two-week trial. The court heard during the trial that Mr Stovell, 24, was shot four times as he desperately tried to lunge for cover and died within a minute or two of the shooting. Jurors were told that Mr Stovell had been with several female friends and family members on a party bus travelling across the island. At about 10pm the bus parked across from Woody’s and Mr Stovell remained on board the bus. Witness Troy Harris told investigating detectives that Saltus confessed to him that he had shot Mr Stovell just a few months after the murder. Harris, who is now serving a prison sentence in England for assaulting a female, told police that Saltus had done it for “street cred” so that people wouldn’t talk down to him. Saltus never took the stand to give his version of events. He is expected to reappear before the courts at the next Supreme Court arraignment session in April.

March 10. Bermuda continues to be the world leader in the insurance-linked securities market — but new issuance of ILS fell for a second successive year in 2016. The Bermuda ILS Market Report, published quarterly by the Bermuda Monetary Authority, showed that the total outstanding global ILS at the end of 2016 was $26.9 billion — a rise of 2.4 per cent from the end of 2015. Of that total, $19.2 billion was issued from Bermuda, giving the island a dominant world market share of more than 71 per cent. ILS include catastrophe bonds, which cover specified risks such as a Florida hurricane and which involve investors putting their capital at risk as they pursue attractive returns. The lack of correlation with financial markets has been one of the biggest selling points for ILS investors. Up until 2012, most ILS were issued from the Cayman Islands. Bermuda created a regulatory framework for special purpose insurers to issue ILS in 2010, and since then 174 SPIs have been registered on the island and have issued 149 ILS. Nearly three-quarters of global ILS market capitalisation, or some $20.1 billion, is listed on the Bermuda Stock Exchange. This includes around $1.5 billion of issuance by foreign entities, specifically from Ireland and the US. According to the BMA report, global issuance of ILS fell 10.9 per cent last year to $7 billion, of which $5.1 billion was issued from Bermuda. The island’s closest competitor was Cayman, which issued $1.2 billion. In the fourth quarter, the report said six new ILS bonds totaling $2.1 billion were issued, up more than one third on the same period last year. A report published last July by the Bermuda Business Development Agency found that the ILS sector created 400 jobs in Bermuda in 2015 and was responsible for $100 million in payroll. Bermuda’s success has not gone unnoticed in Britain, which has announced its intention to attract a slice of the business to London and intends to create a framework to compete with the island. The rush of capital into the ILS sector over the past seven years has added to the competitive pressures on traditional reinsurers, particularly in property and catastrophe lines. The report shows that nearly two-thirds of all ILS cover North American perils. Despite the rapid growth of the ILS market in recent years, it represents only 4.5 per cent of global reinsurer capital, estimated by reinsurance broker Aon Benfield to be $595 billion.

March 10. American International Group yesterday said its chief executive officer is to step down — and one Wall Street analyst suggested that Bermudian insurance veteran Brian Duperreault could be on the shortlist of candidates to take over. Peter Hancock will remain the US insurance giant’s CEO until a successor is found, AIG said yesterday. The New York-based global insurer with offices in Bermuda, has posted losses in four of the past six quarters, with pressure for change building from billionaire activist investors Carl Icahn and John Paulson. “Without wholehearted shareholder support for my continued leadership, a protracted period of uncertainty could undermine the progress we have made and damage the interests of our policyholders, employees, regulators, debt holders and shareholders,” Mr Hancock said in a company statement. Doug Steenland, AIG’s chairman, thanked Mr Hancock for his work in helping repay a $182 billion bailout from the US Government. The chairman said Mr Hancock had “tackled the company’s most complex issues, including the repayment of AIG’s obligations to the US Treasury in full and with a profit, and is leaving AIG as a strong, focused and profitable insurance company”. Shares of AIG fell 23 cents to $63.21 in New York trading yesterday, having initially risen on the news. In a note to clients, Meyer Shields, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said the move was a “significant positive. Of course, there aren’t too many candidates with the skills needed to turn around this troubled global company, but several successful turnarounds have occurred in the industry." Mr Hancock’s successor will be the seventh CEO since 2005 of a company which almost collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis. Paul Newsome, an analyst at Sandler O’Neill & Partners, told Bloomberg News: “This was the board reacting to the poor news from the fourth-quarter results. “The broader question is how is the management team totally going to change?” he said. “I suspect that the strategy will change, we just don’t know how yet. Elyse Greenspan, an analyst at Wells Fargo & Co, said in a note to clients yesterday that Mr Duperreault, the chairman and CEO of Bermuda-based Hamilton Insurance Group could be on the shortlist of candidates for the role. A Bloomberg News story, speculating on who could replace Mr Hancock, also mentioned Mr Duperreault. Bloomberg reported that Mr Duperreault is “one of the industry’s most respected executives, and his current company already has a partnership with AIG in insuring small businesses. He worked at AIG for years, rising to become an executive, then leaving to become CEO of rival Ace Ltd. He then went to lead brokerage Marsh & McLennan during the 2008 financial crisis before leaving in 2012, then starting Hamilton.” Bloomberg added reasons why he may not wish to leave his current job: “Hamilton is linked to hedge-fund firm Two Sigma Investments, one of the best-known quantitative money managers, and his investors have been happy with the partnership. Mr Duperreault, at age 69, may want to end his career at a steadily expanding company instead of AIG, which has been going through years of restructuring.” A spokeswoman for Hamilton declined to comment on the speculation.

March 10. High demand for the first international debt issuance by Bermuda-based Qatar Re saw its perpetual Tier 2 notes oversubscribed 14 times. The reinsurer successfully placed $450 million of the notes. The issue had attracted more than 290 orders for more than $6.5 billion. Khalifa Abdulla Turki al-Subaey, president of the reinsurer’s parent Qatar Insurance Company, said: “Interest from investors was outstanding following an extensive roadshow. “This new $450 million issue reinforces our efficient capital structure that offers excellent security to policyholders and positions us well for the next phase of growth.” The company reported that the issuance achieved a “very balanced global distribution”, coming out at 30 per cent in Asia, 29 per cent in Britain, 20 per cent in the Middle East, 19 per cent in continental Europe, and the remainder in other regions. The Reg S Perpetual non-call 5.5 subordinated Tier 2 notes are guaranteed on a subordinated basis by QIC to institutional investors. The notes represent Qatar Re’s debut issuance in the international debt capital markets. The initial coupon has been set at 4.95 per cent per annum. It will be fixed until the first call date in September 2022 and reset to five-year MS plus the initial margin, and every five years thereafter. QIC is a global diversified insurance and reinsurance company based out of Doha, Qatar. In a statement, it said the issue will enable it to respond to “increased demands and support its comprehensive service proposition with substantial capacity”. The notes will be treated as Tier 2 capital from a regulatory perspective in Bermuda for Qatar Re and Qatar for QIC. The notes, rated BBB+ by S&P, have been structured to meet S&P’s requirements for intermediate equity content within its total adjusted capital, and equity credit from AM Best, for the QIC Group. Settlement of the notes is expected to take place on Monday.

March 10. Global insurance rates moderated throughout last year, with four consecutive quarters where the rate of decline decreased. The Marsh Global Insurance Market Index is a benchmark of commercial insurance premium rate change at renewal representing the world’s major insurance markets and comprising 90 per cent of Marsh’s premium. The insurance broker and risk management company started the index in 2012, and the latest figures show that insurance rates in the fourth quarter of 2016 declined, making it the fifteenth consecutive quarter when rates have fallen. Marsh noted that this is largely due to “a global market with substantial capacity and an absence of significant catastrophe losses”. However, the composite rate change shows that the rate of decline moderated in each quarter of 2016, starting at a decline rate of 3.8 per cent in the first quarter and a final quarter decline of 3.1 per cent.

March 10. A proposed sale of The St George’s Club has not progressed, according to the club president. However, the property will continue to focus on its hotel business. While discussions were under way late last year about the potential sale of the East End property — a proposal that upset some club members — Sally Kyle confirmed this week that the sale has not yet gone ahead. “Nothing progressed from the initial discussions,” she said. “We are totally focused on our change to a cottage hotel resort with some existing timeshare until expiration of leases. 2017 has started slowly but things are picking up starting in March, so we are looking forward to a new season, with a new vision for The St George’s Club as a hotel.” The Royal Gazette reported last November that a local hotelier — believed to be the group behind the Grotto Bay Beach Resort — had proposed “investing a significant sum” into refurbishing the club and taking over management of the resort. While the club assured its members that their rights would be protected in the proposed deal, some members expressed concerns that they would be left footing the bill.

March 10. A luxury private jet operator is banking on soaring interest in flights to Bermuda. New Hampshire-based PlaneSense said it had received a lot of enquiries from wealthy customers keen to use its fractional ownership jet fleet to get to the island. David Verani, vice-president of sales and marketing, said: “Our owners have shown a tremendous interest. We are seeing an uptick more and more — that’s one of the reasons we’ve announced we’re flying to Bermuda. There is huge interest, especially as you guys are having the America’s Cup there.” The company has expanded its fleet to include three Nextant 400XTi jets and has ordered six high-tech Pilatus PC-24 jets, worth around $9 million each and due to be delivered by the last quarter of this year. Mr Verani declined to discuss the cost of fractional ownership and said it depended on the size of the share, the amount of hours flown and the aircraft type used. He added: “We typically don’t give a number. It’s a fraction of a whole ownership cost. That’s why the market embraces us because it’s a much more economical way of flying privately.” But reports in aviation magazines last year said a one-eighth share in a long-range Pilatus PC-12 turboprop plane cost $639,000, plus a monthly management fee of $9,924 and an occupied hourly rate of $754. Mr Verani agreed that the type of client who used PlaneSense was the kind of wealthy tourist and businessperson Bermuda aimed to attract to its shores. He said: “No question about it. They are wealthy businesspeople, retired businesspeople. It’s pretty much some who fly for leisure and some flying for business purposes as well. It depends on what their needs are.” Mr Verani said that PlaneSense had already flown clients to the island, starting from last fall. And he added: “We anticipate that number will be much higher as things start to warm up on your beautiful island.” And he said that the firm would fly clients from Bermuda to the US if asked. Mr Verani added: “If there was someone who bought a fractional share, we could provide that sort of service for sure.” PlaneSense will fly fractional owners from any airport in the US, although fuel stops may be needed for flights starting further away from the east coast of the US. Mr Verani said: “Any airport the Nextant can fly from, we can fly from. In some cases a fuel stop will be necessary in other cases it won’t be.” The company has also added Cuba to its roster of destinations as relations between the Caribbean island and the US have thawed in recent years. PlaneSense has been in operation for more than 20 years and manages the largest civilian fleet of Pilatus PC-12 planes in the world, as well as being the biggest first order for the Swiss firm’s new PC-24 jets.

March 10. Functioning addicts, many with careers and children, make up a large portion of the island’s heroin-using population, according to health experts and police. “It’s not the guy shooting up in the alley that you saw 20 or 30 years ago,” Edward Schultz, director of Emergency Services for Bermuda Hospitals Board, said of the island’s modern-day heroin user. “It’s not the kids. It’s the 30 to 50 age group. They’re working — they’re not skid-row types.” Detective Superintendent Sean Field-Lament of the Bermuda Police Service added that the island had a “very high amount” of functioning addicts, many of whom have affluent backgrounds and large sums of disposable cash. The arrival in Bermuda of fentanyl — a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine — has prompted warnings from health, law enforcement and government representatives over its possible impact. The drug, which can be fatal even in very small doses, is often used to cut heroin, increasing users’ risk for overdose and death. Dr Schultz, psychiatrist Grant Farquhar and Mr Field-Lament spoke to The Royal Gazette about Bermuda’s heroin problems, with Dr Farquhar saying that dozens of addicts are currently undergoing treatment, many after using up to $200 a day of the drug. By all indications, according to Dr Schultz, fentanyl has yet to find its way into the country’s heroin supply. “If there was that much on the street, we would be seeing more serious overdose and deaths.  Relative to the number of users on the island, there are few heroin overdoses that end up in the emergency room. What that says to me, is that the consistency of what’s coming in is very stable,” Dr Schultz said. “We’ve never had episodes where all of a sudden we get flooded in the ER with five or six people who suddenly got a really strong batch of heroin.” Unlike other locations, such as Vancouver, where deaths associated with fentanyl have largely been associated with intravenous injection, the majority of Bermuda users today ingest the drug through the nasal cavity, Dr Schultz said. “They don’t get endocarditis, they don’t get hepatitis, they don’t get abscesses,” he said. “They work. They’re the thin guy you see at work, who’s pretty fit — he uses heroin.” Similarly, while the recent popularity of heroin in the United States can be linked with the prescription of powerful opioids for pain — such as OxyContin and Oxycodone, there seems to be little correlation here. “It’s pretty well controlled here,” Dr Schultz said of prescription opioid sales. Mr Field-Lament said: “We don’t have what I would say is an over-prescription problem.” He said the resurgence of heroin on island instead came out of “a really bad spate” of crack cocaine use. Back in the 1980s, Mr Field-Lament said he was put on a task force to deal with the emerging threat of HIV/Aids. “In Bermuda, it was literally isolated to intravenous drug use,” he said. Following the death of many heroin users, crack cocaine began to gain popularity, with heroin mixed in to take the “roller-coaster edge” off the high, the Detective Superintendent said. Astute dealers realized that heroin was the smart drug to supply. “Your clientele, you can set a clock to them,” Mr Field-Lament said. “Bermuda, I would say, has a very high amount of, I call them, functioning addicts. We’re an affluent society with quite a lot of disposable income.” Dr Farquhar, one of two psychiatrists with the Turning Point Substance Abuse Programme, said addicts could often operate for decades before “hitting bottom. The functioning addicts don’t tend to seek treatment until there’s a problem. And that problem might be they’ve been fired from their job, or divorced by their wife, or have lost their house.” Dr Farquhar said that the majority of 100 people currently in the Methadone Maintenance Treatment Programme are men between the ages of 30 and 50, who have been using heroin for up to 20 years. Many, he said, report using between $100 and $200 a day worth of the drug. “You can only, usually, keep that lifestyle up for so long before your body cannot physically handle it any more, or something else happens,” the doctor said. Those seeking treatment to kick the habit often come with a serious misconception. “There’s a perception that once you come into detox and you get clean, that’s it, you’re cured,” Dr Farquhar said. “But you’re not. That’s just the beginning of the battle, really. Bermuda is very small. It’s hard to avoid people. It’s not like you can move to the next city where you don’t have a network of drug dealers and associates.” And while detox helps rid the user of the physical drive to find their next fix, the impact of — in some cases — decades of drug use has dramatically altered the mind of the addict. “Over a period of time, over ten or 20 years of heroin use, your brain has changed,” Dr Farquhar said. “So your brain is going to be telling you that you need to have opiates. Those ready to clean up should not fear the impact. Withdrawing from heroin is not a serious problem. Opioids kill you in overdosing — that’s the big danger.” There is also no waiting list for admission into the Methadone Maintenance Treatment Programme, he said. “Treatment’s available, and it’s free. Residential rehab is available and it’s free, detox is available and it’s free.” While popularity may be highest among the 30 to 50-year-old men, use of the drug would seem not to be confined to lower-income earners. Mr Field-Lament said of those who have fatally overdosed on the drug: “Some have been retired construction workers; we have sons of really affluent rich white people. I can remember overdose deaths in the bathroom at very rich white people’s Christmas parties,” Dr Schultz echoed. “It’s across the board.” “Construction, office jobs — could be a doctor,” Dr Farquhar said of the careers of those who have sought treatment. “It basically goes across all social strata.”

March 10. The fatal stabbing of Raymond Butterfield highlights an ongoing community issue — not a sport issue — which must be stopped to stem a “national crisis”, according to shadow sports minister Michael Weeks. Mr Weeks said he was “devastated” by the death of Devonshire resident Mr Butterfield on Sunday night outside Blue Waters Anglers Club. The 28-year-old footballer with First Division side Wolves was father to an eight-week-old daughter. Mikiel Thomas, 19, a Bermuda Under-20 footballer, was charged with unlawful killing yesterday. Mr Weeks said he knew Raymond Butterfield “practically all his life. I am disturbed that another family has to bury one of their own,” he said. A panel discussion organised by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. last night brought together representatives from a number of the island’s sporting clubs to examine the violence surrounding them. The event, moderator Dwayne Caines said, was to act as a pathway for the community to have an open discussion on the issues. While not strictly a club problem, the organisations can play a vital role in helping shape the path taken by the country’s young men, Mr Weeks said. “When South Africa was experiencing one of their most dangerous periods in the history of the country, sport was used as an effective means of combating many of the social ills that the country faced,” he said. “So, as I have said time and time again, investing in our sports and workmen’s clubs will go a long way in assisting with the correction of this crisis.” A number of factors are contributing to the “senseless violence” being felt by Bermuda, Mr Weeks said, the first being the disenfranchisement of black male youths. “I say, young male, because this is the cohort that is being affected by this senseless behavior.” Often lacking a sense of belonging — as well as the necessary education and skills to pursue a career path — they are forced to “provide for themselves. This lifestyle gives temporary relief to their wanting to belong and self-sufficiency,” the Progressive Labour Party MP said. A multifaceted community approach is needed to eradicate the problem, involving various communities — including education, religion and legal — as well as the families themselves. Self-reflection, he said, is also vital. “We all need to stop and think about what has gone wrong in this country to cause the creation of the situation as we know it,” Mr Weeks said. “We must ask ourselves individually and as a culture, have we done all that we can do to prevent — where we can — these heinous acts from occurring? If the answer to that question is ‘no’ — and I think that it is — then we have much work to do. But it must start in the now.” Local organisation Cartel — Challenging and Reclaiming the True Essence of Life — led by pastor, certified counselor, and gang mediator Leroy Bean is one example of the multifaceted approach to dealing with the issue that is needed, Mr Weeks said. “We cannot continue to show only the penal side of our reaction to this problem,” the MP said. “We need effective mediation, which will lead to eradication.”

March 10.  A new restaurant at the luxury Loren hotel is to open tonight. The Marée at the Tucker’s Town resort is the fine dining option at the resort, backed by the more casual Pink Beach Club. A spokeswoman for the hotel said that the restaurant would offer a seasonal and locally sourced menu under the direction of executive chef Tim Sullivan of New York’s Great Performances. The restaurant will bring in ingredients not available locally from Great Performance’s 60-acre organic farm in New York state. Mr Sullivan said: “Among its many other attributes, the Loren Hotel is a destination for ambrosial dishes that tell a story — our story, one that is fuelled by passion and imbued with a desire to promote local agriculture and a sustainable food system. To the greatest extent possible, we source our ingredients from local farms and on-island partners that we know and trust. Our love for the changing seasons inspires us to craft menus that transform along with the weather. As a portion of these ingredients is sourced from the New England area of the United States, our menus reflect both the seasonality of their local produce as well as our own here on Island. By practising this local, sustainable mindset, we support our communities and create meaningful, lasting relationships, manifested in the food that we serve.” The five-star boutique hotel opened last month and features 45 suites, as well as a spa, pool deck and corporate meeting rooms. The Loren, built on the site of the former Pink Beach Club, was created by developer Stephen King, who said he noticed a gap in the market for an upscale boutique hotel after visiting Bermuda.

March 9. LONDON (Bloomberg) — American International Group, the Bermuda-incorporated global provider of commercial property-casualty coverage, said it plans to open an insurer in Luxembourg to write business in the European Economic Area and Switzerland once the UK exits the European Union. “This is a decisive move that ensures AIG is positioned for whatever form the UK’s exit from the EU ultimately takes,” Anthony Baldwin, chief executive officer of AIG Europe, said yesterday in a statement. “We are ensuring that our clients and partners experience no disruption from the UK’s EU exit.” Financial firms are shaping their Brexit plans after Prime Minister Theresa May announced in January that the UK would leave the EU’s single market in 2019, likely spelling the end of passporting, where companies seamlessly service the rest of the bloc from their London operations. AIG currently writes business in Europe from a single insurer based in the UK. The New York-based company has more than 2,000 employees based in London and has already been cutting staff there and in other cities as part of a separate cost-cutting initiative. The re-organisation is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2019, and AIG will retain an insurer in the UK for sales in that market, according to the statement. Nicola Ratchford, a spokeswoman for the insurer, said the company has a few employees already in Luxembourg. She said there might be shifts in the leadership ranks in Europe, but that it is too soon to know how many workers will move, or to comment on real estate decisions. AIG CEO Peter Hancock said before the Brexit referendum last year that he’d consider an operations hub in continental Europe if UK voters opted to leave the EU. Luxembourg is among European cities seeking to attract banks and insurers that are looking to open EU hubs. “Luxembourg, a founding member of the European Union, offers us a secure location in a stable economy with an experienced and well-respected regulator in continental Europe close to many of our major markets,” Baldwin said in the statement. AIG’s Europe segment had about $5.4 billion in operating revenue last year, about 11 per cent of the insurer’s total, according to the company’s most recent annual report.

March 9. More than $10 million has been invested in renovating historic buildings at Dockyard ahead of the America’s Cup. The money has been used to make new office space and upgrade homes. Andrew Dias, General Manager at the West End Development Corporation (WEDCO), said: “The work was always in the pipeline but was given fresh impetus as a result an insurance payout from recent hurricanes and the America’s Cup. Many of the buildings being renovated will be used by people from the America’s Cup as well as the ACBDA team, but after that, they will be available to locals. We always wanted Dockyard to be a vibrant, 24/7 place and hopefully these developments will go some way towards that ambition. We are investing an enormous sum of money and we will see the transformation or protection of many buildings. When finished, we anticipate that it will be home to a range of commercial activities adding even more life and more attractions to Dockyard. People will be able to work, rest and play in the Royal Naval Dockyard.” Some of the major restorations include work on Prince Alfred Terrace which is being renovated and restored to apartments at a cost of approximately $4.5 million. Once the renovations, which include a complete interior restoration including additional bathrooms and layout improvements, have been completed, first use will go to the ACBDA until the end of the America’s Cup. The Spar Lane Apartments are being given a new lease of life and once work is finished they will again be used as homes. Moresby House, or HMS Malabar, is being restored and will be office space, the Sail Loft has been restored and will also be available for use after the America’s Cup. The old Police Barracks is enjoying a new life as home to Artemis Racing, one of the teams taking part in the America’s Cup. As well as major work, Wedco has tended to less obvious projects including roof upgrades, asbestos removal and electrical, plumbing and painting work. North Basin Building #10 — the Canvas Shop — on Smithery Lane, has been restored over a four-month period and North Basin Building #14 — West End Yachts — on Camber Road, has been restored. The North Basin Building #3 — the Anchor Restaurant — has also undergone renovation work including a roof replacement. Mr Dias added: “Dockyard is a very important part of Bermuda’s tourism product and it is imperative that we at Wedco do not stand still. We have to continually invest and reinvent ourselves to keep us ahead of the competition.”

March 9. Progressive Labour Party Whip Lovitta Foggo took aim at the Bermuda Government’s education budget yesterday, branding parts of it “woefully inadequate”. It came as Cole Simons, the freshly appointed minister, told MPs that $126.991 million had been allocated for the 2017-18 fiscal year — an increase of $2 million from the previous year. Mr Simons told MPs that a new “multiyear strategic plan for our public school system” had been under development since August 2016 and, starting in November, pledged to find “a facilitator experienced in the development of community-based strategic plans for public school systems”. Conversations across the island would result in the “community agreement” that would serve as the backbone of the plan, he said, with meetings scheduled as of this week. Ms Foggo, the Shadow Minister for Education, questioned “are we really serious about education” as she outlined a series of concerns over the lack of funding in the ministry. She maintained that the $2 million increase was “not really an increase at all”. “This budget is a reflection of the continuing reduction from one year to the next of the education budget,” she said. “In 2007-08, the education budget was $150 million; we are now operating a budget of 25 million fewer dollars.” Ms Foggo told MPs: “Millions of dollars are going towards the building of a new airport but we look at education and see an increase of $2 million. In real terms that is not an increase at all because everything is going up.” The PLP parliamentarian told the House of Assembly that she wanted to see more funding “in terms of scholarships in place for those that deserved it” and she raised concerns about the amount of allocated funds for school improvements and repairs. “More needs to be done, more monies need to be put in place to seriously address the conditions in our schools. Where is the real commitment to get it right?” Meanwhile, Opposition MP Diallo Rabain also raised concerns that budget cuts had been made to the learning support allocation as well as the repair and maintenance allotment. Referring specifically to the learning support budget, he said: “We are facing a different type of child in school now. We are not doing our children a very good service, we should be putting resources in and looking out for them.” Wayne Scott, the former minister of education, pointed out that maintenance budget for schools was contained in the Works and Engineering budget. He added: “If we had not had the lapse in maintenance in the last decade we would not be here now.”

March 9. The Attorney-General and the Commissioner of Police have been accused of attempting to tarnish the reputation of former premier Dr Ewart Brown before a global audience. Correspondence from Dr Brown’s lawyer, Jerome Lynch QC, was sent today to both Trevor Moniz and Michael DeSilva, and copied to the media. The civil suit filed by the Bermuda Government against the Lahey Clinic, and the statements issued by Mr Moniz, “clearly relate to a pending criminal investigation in Bermuda and were made with the intention to encourage a global public to believe that our client is guilty of serious criminal conduct”, the letter to the Attorney-General states, adding that the actions “appear designed to prejudge the assessment of the facts by the competent judicial authority”. “You therefore appear to have violated our client’s constitutional right to be presumed innocent, and undermined the fairness of any future trial.” The letters stress Dr Brown’s “willingness to assist the police investigation” and fault the issuing of the suit without providing notice. They also reference the constitution’s separation of the Attorney-General from involvement in criminal investigations. The letter tells Mr Moniz: “By making public statements on behalf of the Government of Bermuda that describe serious criminal conduct, and by pronouncing our client’s guilt to the world without even purporting to frame your statements as mere allegations, you have violated several fundamental tenets of the Bermudian constitutional settlement. We are also concerned that you may have violated international treaty provisions as well as US federal law.” Mr Moniz is given 14 days to provide answers to queries, such as whether the Attorney-General had discussed the investigation of Dr Brown with representatives from the Bermuda Police Service or the Director of Public Prosecutions — and why the former premier was not given a chance to respond before the allegations were made. Similar questions posed to the police commissioner query the means by which “foreign-sourced evidence” was obtained. Dr Brown, who returned to the island yesterday from overseas, has repeatedly contested the ongoing investigation against him, and vehemently denied any wrongdoing in his business relationships with the Lahey Clinic in Massachusetts.

March 9. Dr. Ewart Brown arrived back on the island without incident yesterday, amid rumours that he might have been detained by authorities upon his arrival. The former Premier and his wife were met outside LF Wade International Airport by a group of supporters and Progressive Labour Party colleagues after their flight from Boston touched down shortly before 1.30pm. Dr Brown expressed light-hearted relief at not being arrested, and thanked friends for greeting him. “Not much happens these days that makes us feel good — this is one of them,” he added. “We are far from the finish, but we will not run to the tape — we will run through the tape.” Dr Brown has been the subject of a long-running police investigation into claims of corruption, which has cost several million dollars to date, and which he has strongly disputed. He was accused of ordering excessive and unnecessary diagnostic tests via his local medical practices in a civil lawsuit filed by the Bermuda Government against the Lahey Clinic in the United States. Again, Dr Brown has strongly denied any wrongdoing. During his absence from the island, both the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s and Bermuda HealthCare Services in Paget were targeted by police, including officers from the Organised and Economic Crime Department, on February 11 and 12. “Thankfully, our patients have continued to demonstrate confidence in BHCS and Brown-Darrell by visiting both clinics as usual,” Dr Brown told The Royal Gazette. However, he added: “Our problem at Brown-Darrell is that since the police raided that facility, our CT scanner had to be repaired. Other than that, it has been business as usual.” Dr Brown has been the subject of nearly six years of police investigations into claims of corruption, which he has dismissed as politically motivated — vowing to fight the latest action, which included the seizure of data from his practices, “with our last cent and to our final breath”.

March 9. It is hoped that a wide cross section of Bermuda residents will consider listing a short-term or vacation rental through the Airbnb online site. This follows the signing of an agreement between the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Airbnb, designed to promote the island to a wider audience of leisure and group travelers. “This levels the playing field. It appeals to the next generation of visitor, it is complementary to the hotels and it gets homeowners involved,” said Kevin Dallas, chief executive officer of the BTA. Airbnb will send community organizers to the island, possibly as soon as this month, to run workshops that will explain the Airbnb platform, how users can market themselves on the platform, and how they can become a “good”, or even a “super” host. The US-based company is an online service that acts as a marketplace where homeowners can advertise vacation accommodation, such as rooms, apartments and homes. Airbnb receives a percentage service fee from the bookings, while users can leave reviews of the accommodation. The company was formed nine years ago, and has grown rapidly. It has more than three million lodgings listed globally, and an estimated 150 million users. In Bermuda, the number of listings is still relatively small, estimated to be about 250. The BTA and Airbnb started discussions in November, and one outcome they hope to achieve is an increase in the number of Bermuda properties listed. “There should be far more,” said Mr Dallas. He wants to see more homeowners involved and “building on our legacy of hospitality”. He said Airbnb will work with the BTA to encourage residents across the entire cross section of society to consider listing some accommodation. A typical host is said to earn $14,900 per year through Airbnb bookings. The service is particularly popular with younger, experienced and adventure travelers, a demographic the BTA is keen to attract. Mr Dallas does not believe the initiative will have a substantial impact on hotels and guesthouses. He sees growth in Airbnb in Bermuda as likely to be complementary to the island’s existing vacation sector, with potential for visitors using one type of accommodation to make a repeat visit and try another type. When asked if the BTA is planning to raise funds by imposing a fee on Airbnb accommodations, Mr Dallas said: “The BTA position has long been that all visitors should pay the visitor’s fee. That is paid by the visitor, not by the hotels or the homeowners.” He pointed out that if the BTA was simply looking for a new revenue source, the amount raised from visitor fees from Airbnb accommodation users would only be to a tiny fraction of the authority’s budget. Mr Dallas said the agreement with Airbnb was about “levelling the playing field” and promoting the island as a destination. Airbnb is soon to launch a magazine, and Mr Dallas said the BTA would look at advertising opportunities. He said the link-up also “gives us Airbnb as an adviser to the government as it works through regulations” in that sector of the tourism marketplace. In a statement, the BTA said: “The partnership will create a framework that opens a dialogue between the Bermuda Government and Airbnb to discuss topical industry matters, including marketing and regulation.” It also said the strategy is likely to grow visitor spending and experience, the volume of leisure and group visitors to Bermuda, and nurture an environment for job creation. Mr Dallas said: “Out here, Bermudians have been welcoming travelers into our homes for many decades. Partnering with an innovative brand like Airbnb enables us to build on our legacy of legendary hospitality, reach a new generation of travelers and expand opportunities for Bermudian homeowners to participate in the tourism economy.” Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb’s representative for the Caribbean and Central America, said: “Today’s agreement with Bermuda is a great example of how local authorities and the private sector can work together to achieve mutually desired goals. Bermuda is an important and growing market for Airbnb and we are very excited to be working with the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Bermuda Government to help grow sustainable tourism to the island.” Airbnb has reached a series of innovative partnerships with countries in the Caribbean, including the signing of an agreement with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.

March 9. The Ascendant Group has grown from its 1908 origins as simply suppliers of electricity to Bermuda. Although Belco remains the most visible, biggest part of Ascendant’s empire, it also includes AG Holdings Ltd, which is made up of Air Care, iFM, iEPC and Ascendant Properties. Belco is facing headwinds familiar to many regulated power utilities around the world as it deals with a worldwide trend towards greener energy, an ageing oil-burning plant, as well as the high cost of introducing alternative fuels like liquid natural gas on the island, which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to implement. But 109-year-old Belco appears to be aware that the world of power generation is changing — and has put forward its own vision of what the future of the island’s electricity supply could look like in its Integrated Resource Plan, submitted to the Energy Commission last June. In its first-half report for last year, the latest figures available, Ascendant posted operating earnings, excluding the impact of discontinued operations, of $6 million — a $3.5 million jump compared to comparable earnings in of $2.6 million. Ascendant attributed the increase to a $3.1 million or 59.1 per cent increase in Belco’s net earnings because of higher electricity sales revenues and lower operating costs. The operating earnings excluded the financial results of Bermuda Gas, which was sold in April last year to fuel firm Rubis for $17.7 million. A year before, Bermuda Gas exited retail appliance sales and its parts and repair business to focus on propane gas distribution — but, after the Rubis opportunity came up, it “provided an opportunity for the company to reserve capital for anticipated new energy infrastructure investments in Bermuda and other needs”. The company at present has a market capitalisation of more than $77 million and total assets and regulatory deferral account debit balances of more than $379 million. Quarterly dividends have been 7.5 cents per share since March 2014 when they were reduced from 21.25 cents per share. Over the same period, the share price has dropped from $31.20 at the start of March, 2012 to $7.20 at the start of this month. The six-year recession accompanied by a sharp population decrease hit Belco’s electricity sales hard and Ascendant’s profitability, share price and dividend payout suffered as a result. But since bottoming at $4.11 in May last year, the stock has rallied strongly, rising 75 per cent through yesterday. Senior management declined to be interviewed, but then-president and chief executive officer Walter Higgins said in the 2016 half-yearly report that the firm would use some of the cash from the sale of Bermuda Gas to embark on a plan to repurchase up to 1.5 million shares, around 41.1 per cent of outstanding shares. He added: “The primary objective of the share buyback programme is to provide liquidity and to stimulate interest in the company’s shares, which appear to be appreciably undervalued. “The remaining funds will enable Ascendant to invest in new and existing initiatives throughout the group as we evolve to meet Bermuda’s future energy needs.” Mr Higgins’s claim that the shares were undervalued were backed up by the company’s book value, which at the end of 2015 was $23.24 per share — more than three times yesterday’s share price. Mr Higgins said that its integrated resource plan, submitted last June, suggested a move to LNG instead of oil, the implementation of “utility scale” solar energy, battery energy storage for reserves and to support the intermittent nature of renewable generation, as well as “aggressive energy efficiency initiatives and widespread promotion of conservation”. He added: that the future of energy supply “requires a new approach to energy demand, supply, usage and management”. Mr Higgins said: “This is a critical time for developing Bermuda’s energy future and the Ascendant group of companies stand ready, willing and able to play their parts.”

Ascendant Belco stats

See above story

March 9. Opinion. By Kevin Comeau, a social commentator, retired corporate securities lawyer and former long-time Bermuda resident, who is now based in Oakville, Ontario. " I read with interest Bryant Trew’s February 24 column, “Good governance: actions speak louder than words”, in which he criticizes the Progressive Labour Party for proclaiming that it is the party of transparency yet it repeatedly fails to support transparency when its own members are the subject of legal action. Such selective support is hardly surprising; it is the nature of politics to want transparency only when it applies to your opponent. Politicians know this. They also know that, unlike all other laws, which apply to everyone, transparency laws apply only to elected officials — and sometimes senior civil servants. So, it is not surprising that politicians have an inherent bias towards enacting transparency and anti-corruption laws that look like they are onerous but, in reality, go no further than the politicians’ personal comfort level. In other words, more than any other area of governance, transparency and anti-corruption laws, and MPs’ claims about their effectiveness should be viewed with suspicion. That is not to say there have been no recent improvements to transparency laws. Both the PLP government under Paula Cox and the One Bermuda Alliance government under Michael Dunkley have instituted increased oversight of government contracts and increased penalties for corruption. But the biggest problem of all still exists: there is no independent watchdog with the authority to follow the money trail in real time, and therefore there remains a significant likelihood that the massive government corruption that is believed to have occurred under the last government could be repeated. Let’s examine the problem more closely. Bermuda, as a liberal, democratic society, guarantees certain constitutional rights — such as the right to privacy — and provides certain constitutional safeguards of those rights, such as protections against unlawful search and seizure, which collectively allow law-abiding Bermudians freely to go about their business without interference from the state. Such a system of protected rights means that the police can investigate crimes only after the fact — they do not have the right to arbitrarily search a person’s private records in the hopes of finding a crime, but rather they must first obtain a search warrant from a judge, which is granted only after providing probable cause that a crime was committed and that items connected to the crime are likely to be found in the records they wish to search. That is a pretty high hurdle, and so it should be. Unfortunately, that hurdle becomes significantly higher when the person being investigated is a sitting premier or Cabinet minister. The cause of this higher hurdle is twofold. First, the police are only theoretically independent of Parliament — much of the responsibility concerning the police, including its funding, was delegated by the Governor to Cabinet back in 1977. And he who holds the purse strings holds the power. Second, the political reality is such that no police chief in his right mind is going to make application for such a search warrant unless he first has overwhelming evidence not just that a crime was committed, but that those records will provide conclusive evidence for conviction. Consequently, any thorough investigation will have to wait until after the premier’s party no longer holds power, and by then the collateral damage — such as spiraling government debt — will have already been done. Fortunately, the problem of how to better investigate government corruption in real time is not insoluble. Bermuda already has an independent watchdog to unearth government corruption: the Auditor-General, whose independence is guaranteed by the Constitution — she is appointed for life, until she reaches 65, and is controlled by neither the Governor nor the Cabinet. But unlike her counterparts in other jurisdictions, the Bermuda Auditor-General has not been granted the power to subpoena the books and records of government contractors to see whether there have been any kickbacks to elected officials. Under the present law, the Auditor-General has the right to review records and payments from the Government to contractors, but even if she finds improper tendering of contracts or unnecessary change orders inflating contractor’s profits, she has no power to follow the money trail any farther. She can scream and shout and issue report after report spotlighting highly suspicious government contracts — as two successive Auditors-General did during the last nine years of the PLP government — but she cannot subpoena the books and records of connected government contractors because the Bermuda legislature has not granted her subpoena power. Nor has the legislature mandated that every government contract contain a clause in which the contractor agrees to give the Auditor-General the right to review its books and records on a confidential basis. This gigantic hole in the transparency and anti-corruption laws of Bermuda is unlikely to be filled anytime soon, unless the general public unify in a bipartisan manner to demand that change. In other words, this is not a PLP versus OBA issue; it is a general public versus elected politicians issue. But elected politicians, particularly those with connections to businesses that provide goods and services to the Government, will not want the Auditor-General to have the power to follow the money into their business records, even though she is bound by confidentiality laws. Instead, such politicians are likely only to talk around this issue, leaving the Auditor-General without real-time investigative powers to follow the money and thereby greatly reduce the chance of runaway corruption and massive government debt. Let’s hope the general public keep in mind Trew’s advice: when it comes to good governance, actions speak louder than words."

March 9. Victoria Hay Pacaud, a longstanding resident of the West End who divided her time between Bermuda and her home in New York City, has died at the age of 103. Together with her first husband, Henry Lafayette Collins Jr, Mrs Pacaud owned Ely’s Lodge, a historic listed building in Somerset. A socialite and former model for the New York designer Hattie Carnegie, she was a member of the Bermuda chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Mrs Pacaud’s deep and abiding link to Bermuda came about fortuitously, according to her son, Henry Lafayette Collins III. “She persuaded my father to come for a brief vacation even though he didn’t want to come — he said his parents hadn’t liked it, so he agreed to go on the condition that they left the next day and stayed at what was considered one of the best places on the island,” Mr Collins recalled. It was mid-August, 1949, but the family, from Radnor, Pennsylvania, managed to secure a booking at Cambridge Beaches — and ended up sharing their flight on Colonial Airlines with legendary Bermudian performers the Talbot Brothers, who serenaded the young Mr Collins’ nanny, Josephine, nervous at taking her first flight. “We became lifelong pals — they played at my sister’s wedding many years later,” Mr Collins said. A ten-day stay turned into three weeks, and “the rest is history”, according to Mr Collins, who spent much of his childhood in Bermuda. His parents adored Ely’s Lodge, which the family eventually purchased from its owner, Fitch Ingersoll, in 1962. Unfortunately, his father died ten days before the sale went through. The house’s storied reputation included a background as a 17th-century pirate refuge. Mrs Pacaud met and married her second husband, Charles Edward Pacaud, who died in 2006 at the age of 97. She lived subsequently in New York City, where her funeral will be held at 10am on Saturday in the St Jean Baptiste Church on the corner of Lexington Avenue and 76th Street.

March 9. Female Progressive Labour Party senators helped announce a new initiative aimed at engaging women and increasing female parliamentary representation to coincide with International Women’s Day. The Women’s Caucus will be grounded in the grass roots, PLP Public Relations Officer Liana Hall said at a press conference alongside Senator Tinee Furbert and Senator Kim Wilkerson yesterday afternoon, with the goal of including all women no matter their education level, race, or political status. This is an initiative to engage all women and increase female parliamentary representation, while pushing the issues that concern us,” she said. Matters to be discussed will be fundamental to the health of our society Ms Hall said, and will include the proposed expansion of maternity and paternity allowances — proposed in the party’s response to last year’s Throne Speech. Issues pertaining to “abandoned” seniors, mental health and addiction, and more will also be discussed. “While there is much talk about young black men being neglected in this society, women — especially black women — are often the forgotten,” Ms Hall said. “No, we are not shooting one another, but our struggles are just as important. If we do not face the issues that affect women, we will continue to raise our girls and boys to be violent and disenfranchised.” “Women in Bermuda face many unique issues,” Ms Furbert said. “I believe if we examine the root causes of these issues, we can find solutions for all of Bermuda.” Highlighting sexual assault, and domestic violence and abuse, the senator said that more resources and support must be available to create safe spaces for victims. Ms Wilkerson said that caucus would be “complementary” to the work being done by the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Women’s Issues and Unemployment. The initiative, Ms Hall said, has been in the works for the past couple of months. Support has come from party members “who range in age from 22 to 70,” she said. Ms Wilkerson said it was “exciting” to see younger women involved in the party “taking the lead”. Ms Hall also used the conference to pay homage to the “long legacy of PLP women leaders and premiers,” including Dame Lois Browne-Evans — the first female Attorney-General and Commonwealth’s first female Opposition leader, and Dame Jennifer Smith — Bermuda’s first-elected female Premier. “As our most recent female Premier, Paula Cox carried the flame on,” she said. “All women, not just party members, are welcome to attend,” Ms Hall said of the launch event. Meetings held following the launch will be exclusive to party members, with open sessions “periodically” held to “hear from those who wish to express themselves, their needs in the community and contribute to being bold for change.” The launch takes place on March 18.

March 9. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released its report on Hurricane Nicole, which passed over the island last October. While the hurricane weakened before reaching Bermuda, saving the island from the worst the storm had to offer, it still reportedly caused around $15 million in insured losses. The report stated: “Nicole caused widespread damage on Bermuda. However, media accounts suggest that the damage was not severe, likely because of the short duration of strong winds and the well-constructed infrastructure on the island. The cyclone snapped trees, toppled power lines, peeled off roofs and flooded homes and businesses. In addition, large waves damaged and broke boats from their moorings and also contributed to road damage around the island. The Bermuda Business Development Agency estimates total insured losses of $15 million, which matches preliminary qualitative accounts from the Bermuda Meteorological Service suggesting that the damage was less severe than that from Hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo of 2014.” Hurricane Nicole had reached Category 4 strength at around midnight on October 12, hours before reaching the island, but the report stated then began to weaken rapidly due to a sharp increase in wind shear and abundant dry air. Nicole’s northwestern eye-wall passed over Bermuda on the morning of October 13, generally producing Category 1 hurricane conditions across the island; isolated areas observed sustained winds of Category 2 strength,” the NOAA report stated. The timing of the storm’s landfall also reduced its impact, with the system’s storm surge coinciding with low tide.

March 9. For decades, Bermuda has been the site of a fierce — if tiny — war between rival species of ant. According to a recent scientific paper by James Wetterer of the Florida Atlantic University, published in the Journal of Hymenoptera Research, scientists have recorded conflict between two invasive ant species — the African big-headed ant and the Argentine ant — for more than 60 years as they battle for dominance in Bermuda. While the African big-headed ant (Pheidole megacephala), from tropical Africa, became the dominant ant species on the island in the early 20th century after being first recorded in 1889, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) from subtropical South America quickly began to claim territory after arriving on the island in the 1940s. Both species are considered “widespread and destructive”, well-known for killing off native invertebrates, particularly other ants. Dr Wetterer, who previously surveyed the island’s ants in 2004 and was profiled by this newspaper last year, said most of Bermuda’s ants were “tramp” species fighting each other for territory on the island. According to Dr Wetterer’s findings, L humile was found to be dominant across much of the island. However, a handful of battlegrounds remain. “At two long-term survey sites, I found both L humile and P megacephala: on Ireland Island and the Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort and Spa,” he wrote. “On Ireland Island, I found P megacephala along the North Breakwater and by the National Museum as before. In addition, I collected P megacephala in front of the Clocktower Mall and to the south end of the Glassworks Mall, two places occupied by L humile 14 years earlier, indicating a modest expansion of the P megacephala population on North Ireland Island. At the Newstead, I found the boundary between L humile and P megacephala territory, near the western edge of the property, essentially identical as 14 years earlier. At the Newstead, I collected in the same vial L humile and P megacephala workers from only a few metres apart; the ants immediately locked in battle, confirming their mutual intolerance.” Dr Wetterer’s study also identified four species of ant that had not previously been reported on the island including Pheidole navigans, who were spotted at multiple sights around the island. Given that the same areas were searched in previous studies, it indicates that the species was a new arrival. “Curiously, at four of the five sites, P navigans was coexisting with L humile,” Mr Wetterer wrote. “On Ordnance Island, I even found them nesting together under the same piece of concrete. It would be interesting to determine whether or not P megacephala can tolerate P navigans.”

March 9. The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service will be bolstered by the purchase of a new ladder truck and the recruitment of 12 additional firefighters in the coming fiscal year, according to Senator Jeff Baron. The Minister of National Security said that once the 2017-18 budget had been approved by Parliamentarians, the hydraulic ladder platform vehicle could shipped to the island from Europe. The older vehicle, known as Bronto, is nearly 20 years old and has been plagued by electronic circuitry difficulties in recent years that prevented it from playing any role in the service’s effort to tackle last year’s Front Street blaze. “Negotiations have been ongoing for some time between the fire service and the supplier in Europe and they are now complete,” Mr Baron. “Everyone is primed to start the process of getting a new ladder truck to Bermuda as soon as the budget has been debated and passed. We would like to see it here in Bermuda as soon as possible. The ability for the fire service to get to much higher levels is completely appropriate and absolutely critical given the height of some of the new builds we have. It is vital that they have all the tools to deal with every emergency they face.” The Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service’s budget for the next fiscal year rose by $755,000 to $13,261,000. During the fiscal period 2015-16 the fire service spent $47,696 to service and repair the old Bronto. Mr Baron told The Royal Gazette that the increase in the service’s budget would pave the way for an additional 12 jobs. “Having spoken with those in the fire service, it is clear that they need two things; the first is a new ladder truck, while the second is new staff. We hope that the budget for 2017-18 will allow for the recruitment of an additional 12 firefighters. The health and safety of fire service, whether it is administrative or on the ladder, is absolutely critical to Bermuda. They need to be able to do their job and as minister I will keep this a priority.”

March 9. Incoming education commissioner Freddie Evans has vowed to remain dedicated to the position, saying he looks forward to serving for at least the next ten years. Speaking to The Royal Gazette following his appointment on Monday, Dr Evans said that while he could not talk on specific plans at this stage, he pledged to support any students in the system who had experienced trauma and to champion sports and the arts. The position of education commissioner has remained vacant since the resignation of Edmond Heatley in 2014 just eight months into the job. Dr Evans, who is Bermudian, has been acting commissioner. With 33 years experience in the Bermuda education system under his belt, he says he is ready to take on the challenge. He said: “I am absolutely dedicated. I would answer this way — I have got 33 years here and I look forward to the next ten or 13 years. I am honored and humbled by the opportunity. My heart, soul and desire has always been to work for the betterment of the children of Bermuda’s public schools. We have wonderful students and teachers, and we need to make sure that we maximize opportunities for success. We also have students who have experienced trauma in their lives and for them I pledge to work every day to support them, to encourage them and to get the kind of counseling support that they need. My other head is in the sports world and I think that our students benefit so much from sporting opportunities, musical opportunities and those kind of things — you will see we need to promote and grow this.” The position of education commissioner had been offered to Dubai-based Paul Wagstaff but he turned the position down for personal reasons. Many, including former Minister of Education Wayne Scott, had wanted a Bermudian in the position and Dr Evans said his experience on the island will give him an advantage. “I have worked in every rank of the Bermuda public schools from teacher, team leader, deputy principal, principal, assistant director and now I have the awesome responsibility of sitting in the chair and having the opportunity to help direct and guide this. I do believe it is an opportunity to understand the dynamics of Bermuda public schools to have been in the school system, to know the hardship and successes and strengths of Bermuda public schools. I am humbled by that audacious responsibility but I do believe that I am ready for the challenge.” Asked to comment on the Score [School Reorganization] Report that highlighted the crumbling infrastructure across the public school system, Dr Evans reiterated that he would not speak on specific plans at such an early stage into his appointment but did emphasise the need for improvement. He said: “We do have some environmental issues in schools that we are going to work through. I promise we will do this extensively. The former minister [Wayne] Scott gave me the opportunity to try to work through the issues with schools so I am dedicated to fixing that. I want our schools to have first-class environments for learning and I want our students to have what they deserve and for teachers to have environments where they will be more successful.” A graduate of Jackson State University, Dr Evans received his doctorate in Education Administration and Development from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. Roles he has filled include assistant principal at Clark High School for the Plano Independent School District in Plano, Texas; principal of the Whitney Institute Middle School; assistant director of educational standards and accountability in the Department of Education; acting director of educational standards and accountability, as well as acting commissioner.

March 8. Tickets to the Goslings Dark ‘n Stormy Island Bar stand are going to be some of the hottest properties in the 35th America’s Cup, and the event organizers have announced today that they have already sold out all tickets to the facility in the America’s Cup Village for the weekend of June 24 and 25, the final weekend of the America’s Cup Match presented by Louis Vuitton. With a viewing terrace and striking views over the Great Sound, where the America’s Cup teams will battle it out for the oldest trophy in international sport, tickets to the Goslings Dark ‘n Stormy Island Bar will give access to the lively atmosphere in the America’s Cup Village, and will include a delicious lunch and official America’s Cup merchandise. Located within the America’s Cup Village and provisionally open from 11am until the America’s Cup Village closes, tickets to the stand start from $150 and are still available for all days on which the America’s Cup Village is scheduled to be open, except for the final weekend. Anyone interested in booking their place in the heart of the America’s Cup party is urged to go now to www.americascup.com/tickets to ensure they do not miss out on their preferred dates. This news is hot on the heels of similar recent news about the Grandstand in the America’s Cup Village and official spectator boats. Spectators can still purchase general admission tickets to the America’s Cup Village for those days of the America’s Cup Match for $50. A range of fantastic spectator experiences are also still available throughout the events from May 26 to June 18, with options to suit every need, including:

March 8. The Bermuda Tourism Authority and Airbnb have signed an agreement that will help to promote the island as a world-class destination for leisure, group travel and tourism investment. The partnership will create a framework that opens a dialogue between the Bermuda Government and Airbnb to discuss topical industry matters, including marketing and regulation. Airbnb is a community marketplace network where people can list, discover and book unique accommodations around the world, ranging from rooms and apartments, to villas and castles. As part of the agreement Airbnb will share its aggregated data to be included in analyzing and evaluating the tourism industry’s performance holistically. Kevin Dallas, chief executive officer of the BTA, said: “Out here, Bermudians have been welcoming travelers into our homes for many decades. Partnering with an innovative brand like Airbnb enables us to build on our legacy of legendary hospitality, reach a new generation of travelers and expand opportunities for Bermudian homeowners to participate in the tourism economy.” The BTA said that with this partnership, Airbnb will continue promoting tourism and will work to highlight Bermuda’s “distinct brand and genuine island life”. The strategy is seen as likely to grow visitor spending and experience, the volume of leisure and group visitors to Bermuda, and nurture an environment for job creation. Shawn Sullivan, Airbnb’s representative for the Caribbean and Central America, said: “Today’s agreement with Bermuda is a great example of how local authorities and the private sector can work together to achieve mutually desired goals. Bermuda is an important and growing market for Airbnb and we are very excited to be working with the Bermuda Tourism Authority and Bermuda Government to help grow sustainable tourism to the island.” Airbnb has 257 listings already across the island and a typical host earns $14,900 per year. In a statement, the BTA said that the partnership “brings new opportunities to grow and strengthen the Bermuda economy overall”. Airbnb has reached a series of innovative partnerships with countries in the Caribbean, including the signing of an agreement with the Caribbean Tourism Organisation.

March 8. Governor John Rankin is to host a Commonwealth reception on March 13 at Government House. The reception intends to commemorate Commonwealth Day and also to promote the Commonwealth Scholarship Programme in Bermuda. The Governor would like to receive as many Commonwealth Scholarship alumni as possible. Commonwealth alumni living and working in Bermuda should call 292-3600 and speak to the executive officer Barry Bobin-Martin who will provide more details. The reception will take place at Government House on Langton Hill, Pembroke, from 6pm to 9pm. For more information about Commonwealth Day 2017, visit: http://thecommonwealth.org/commonwealthday. This year’s theme will be the promotion of a Peacebuilding Commonwealth.

March 8. The bus explosion was so loud it triggered an alarm inside a nearby building yesterday. “We heard a loud bang — I would say it sounded like an explosion,” Warwick Post Office employee Pandora Woolridge said. "The post office stands just steps from where the school bus ultimately stopped. We all stopped for a split second, and then the alarm went off, so we ran to the front here to see what was going on.” According to Ms Woolridge, children had started to get off the bus, and the driver was “calling in” the incident. Flames were visible under the back of the bus, she said. “We didn’t know if it was going to explode or what it was going to do, but we wanted the children away from the bus,” Ms Woolridge said. “So we all went over and brought the children over here and got them inside to call their parents and let them know what was going on.” None of the children were crying, she said. “But, inside, you don’t know what they were feeling,” Ms Woolridge said. “They were probably scared once they started seeing the flames.” The area quickly filled up with heavy smoke and the smell of burnt rubber. “It was nasty,” she said. “There were a few people over the hill that said they could smell it.” With the flames rising high around the bus, the decision was made to move the children out of the post office and to a nearby bus shelter. Another woman who works in the area, who requested that The Royal Gazette not use her name, said she went over to check on the children at the bus shelter. “I asked them how they were feeling, and one little boy said he was afraid,” the woman said. “He was younger — he was probably about 10.” She said bystanders stepped in to help with this situation as they waited for emergency personnel to arrive. “There were people, civilians, directing traffic until the police came,” she said. “I noticed that the traffic was starting to pile up, so I decided to go out there and direct the traffic away from it,” Warwick post office employee Karl Roberts said. Mr Roberts said he continued to direct traffic as firefighters arrived from both the east and west. People making the morning commute asked him what was happening as he rerouted them, he said. “They were very surprised and worried,” Mr Roberts said. “Some of them were asking ‘did anyone get hurt?’” According to Ms Woolridge, firefighters were on scene approximately 20 minutes after a call reporting the fire was made. Troy Brimmer, lieutenant with the Bermuda Fire Services, said crews arrived to find the bus “fully involved from the rear axle towards the rear” of the vehicle. According to Mr Brimmer, it took firefighters approximately 30 to 45 minutes to get the blaze under control. “It flared up several times,” the lieutenant said. A mixture of water and a foam concentrate was used to help extinguish the fire on board the fibreglass bus. Mr Brimmer said it was still too early to determine the cause of the fire. The woman who works in the area said incidents involving buses were not uncommon. “They need to check the buses regularly,” she said. “The buses are in bad condition.” Ms Woolridge said firefighters deserved credit for their quick response and work subduing the fire. “They did a fabulous job. We want them here right away, but they can’t do it,” she said of the morning traffic congestion in the area. "The important thing is that no one was injured as a result. The children — although they may be shook up — there were no injuries to any of them.”

March 8. Schoolchildren were counting their blessings yesterday after escaping injury when their bus exploded. The bus operator was praised for his quick action in helping about 13 students, aged between 5 and 16, to safety moments before their vehicle went up in giant flames and thick black smoke. The incident happened shortly after 7.30am near Khyber Pass, Warwick, as the bus travelled from the West End to Warwick Academy and Somersfield Academy. According to Somersfield head of school Carlos Symonds, students said they smelt fuel on the bus, and opened the windows to let in fresh air. A loud bang was then heard, with flames and smoke coming out of the back of the bus. The young passengers were evacuated and taken to Warwick Post Office, where they awaited collection from their parents and from another bus to take them to school. The blaze spread throughout the underside of the back half of the bus and in the engine compartment, causing severe damage to the vehicle. Its cause is under investigation, although there was reportedly a problem with the engine. Some of the students were said to be shaken by the incident and their schools said they would be assessed by counselors. Warwick Academy student Daysha Loppie, 16, who was on the bus, near to a wheel that she believes caught fire, told The Royal Gazette: “Some girls were complaining about the smell, then a whole bunch of smoke came out. “The wheel was on fire, and we got off and went into the post office. Then the whole back of the bus caught fire. Everyone was really shocked and upset. Some girls were crying because they were sitting right there when it happened.” Daysha’s father, Lamone Woods, said: “It was a bit of a fright for Daysha, but she was good in the end. I hope they really get to the bottom of what happened though, because next time it could be someone else’s daughter and they might not be so lucky. The bus literally blew up and my daughter was sitting right by where the wheel exploded. This bus could have exploded and killed her. I’m very concerned about whether Bermuda public transport vehicles are being serviced regularly and correctly. I want to make sure we get a full explanation about this.” Warwick Academy student Saladin Beatti-Thompson, 13, said he had been daydreaming when he “heard a loud bang under me” and thought the bus had struck a wall. “I was confused at first,” he said, adding that he then saw the smoke. He said the fire got “really big with dark, thick clouds coming from it”. A witness account received by Mr Symonds and shared with The Royal Gazette stated: “There were flames coming out of the back and then the bus pulled over. Within a few minutes, a man ran on to the bus to get the kids off. Shortly after, it was up in flames. The kids were brought into the Warwick Post Office. The kids were later wandering around looking for a bus to get on and an older boy from Warwick Academy was helping, along with the other students, look after the younger children. They all saw it on fire and heard the explosion.” Kevin Lambert was on his scooter on his way to Hamilton, a couple of vehicles behind the bus. He said he was about to overtake the car in front of him when he heard a bang, like “somebody let off a bomb”. “The next minute the bus went up in black smoke, with sparks underneath of it,” he said. The entire event, he said, “happened in an instant”. Senator Michael Fahy, the transport minister, is off the island, but issued a “profound apology” to parents of both schools. Mr Fahy said an engineer was arriving on the island last night to inspect the fleet, and that one other bus has already been withdrawn from service as a result of the fire. The bus which exploded was 15 years old, Mr Fahy said. Acting transport minister Grant Gibbons thanked the bus operator, who was not named. “I am happy that no one was hurt,” Dr Gibbons stated. “We are told that the bus operator should be commended for quick action to evacuate the children to safety, as should members of the public who rendered assistance. I can assure the public that we will get to the bottom of the cause of this unfortunate incident.” The Department of Public Transportation stated: “We would like to add our assurances to that of the minister that we will determine the cause of this incident as a high priority, in an effort to avoid its reoccurrence.” Delton White, staff officer at Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service, said two vehicles staffed with nine personnel tackled the blaze. They extinguished the fire with water and foam, and had to cut into the vehicle with Holmatro extrication equipment.

March 8. Senator Michael Fahy issued a “profound apology” after fire yesterday engulfed a bus that had been carrying Warwick Academy and Somersfield Academy students to school. The transport minister, whose children attend Somersfield, said one other vehicle has been withdrawn from service as precaution because of the incident, and that an engineer from the manufacturer was due on the island last night to inspect the fleet. Both vehicles were dated to 2002, and Mr Fahy stressed that the other buses in use remained safe, telling The Royal Gazette that an investigation had been launched and he hoped to receive a preliminary accident report on Friday. “The students are to be commended for acting quickly, safely and calmly, and following the driver’s instructions,” he added. “The first thing the driver did was get everybody off the bus. I understand that he saw the fire and used a fire extinguisher to try and put it out.” The blaze took several minutes to gain strength. Buses are often taken off the road for maintenance, but Mr Fahy said it was typically for minor works such as tyre rotations, or damage on the level of a broken window. “We’ve had some issues with the air conditioning on the 2014 series — we have a technician in Bermuda now giving extra training to our mechanics, to make sure they’re able to take care of it. We have a major budget allocation for parts for refurbishment, and we anticipate with the training and spare parts that we will be in a really good operational state for the America’s Cup, but that does not take away from what happened this morning.” Mr Fahy spoke to principals and e-mailed parents at both schools, offering a “profound apology” on the ministry’s behalf. “I understand how frightening it must have been for the students who experienced this and I understand they were very brave and handled the matter incredibly well,” he told Somersfield parents. The minister, who was away on government business, vowed to keep parents updated, adding: “I am obviously distressed about this morning’s events.”

March 7. Bermuda’s re/insurers recorded weaker underwriting results in 2016 as catastrophe losses took their toll. Fitch Ratings reported that the 12 large, publicly traded Bermuda companies it follows posted a combined ratio — reflecting the proportion of premium dollars spent on claims and expenses — of 91.9 per cent, up from 88.5 per cent in 2015. The shrinking of underwriting profits was largely down to catastrophe losses, which added 5.4 points to the combined ration last year compared to 2.5 points in 2015. Reserve releases also fell slightly, with favorable prior-year reserve development of 6.6 points in 2016, compared to 7.2 points in 2015. “Bermuda companies posted weaker underwriting results and steady profits in 2016; however, returns are starting to near the cost of capital and narrowing profit margins are a key risk,” said Brian Schneider, senior director in Fitch’s insurance team. Bermuda re/insurers’ return on equity held steady at 8.2 per cent in 2016 as reduced underwriting income was offset by slightly improved investment results. The estimated cost of capital was around between 6 per cent and 7 per cent for 2016. “Most Bermuda entities remain focused on returning equity to shareholders and capital growth was modest for the year,” Mr Schneider added. The Bermuda-based group’s shareholder equity rose 4 per cent last year. However, Arch Capital Group Ltd’s had an outsize influence on this metric, with a 34 per cent increase driven by preferred share issuances for its acquisition of United Guaranty Corporation. When that is stripped out, growth drops to only 1 per cent for the group. Fitch added: “The Bermuda re/insurance landscape remains fiercely competitive and prone to mergers and acquisitions as re/insurers seek scale and diversification.” Fitch has a stable outlook for the global reinsurance sector, which includes Bermuda. The ratings agency added: “The majority of ratings should be stable over the next 12 to 18 months, although select Bermuda re/insurers could see negative rating actions if pricing adequacy declines materially. Fitch’s fundamental outlooks on both global reinsurance and US property and casualty insurance are negative, as premium prices and investment yields are expected to remain under pressure in 2017.”

March 7. Nordic American Offshore Ltd reported a fourth-quarter loss of $9.8 million this morning. The Bermuda-based company, which operates a fleet of ten supply vessels working in the North Sea oil industry, also declared a dividend of 2 cents per share. The loss which breaks down to 48 cents per share, compared to a loss of $4.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2015 and followed a loss of $8.6 million in the third quarter of last year. NAO’s full-year loss totaled $32.1 million, compared to a loss of $10.8 million in 2015. “Several service companies in our sector are in a difficult financial position,” NAO stated. “Going forward, NAO sees opportunities for expansion. We concentrate on keeping our vessel operating costs low, while always maintaining our strong commitment to safe operations.” The firm raised $47.5 million through a share offering which closed last week and said proceeds could top $50 million, depending on the uptake of the $7 million over-allotment option. NAO said: “The offering clearly reflects the investor confidence in NAO. Access to financing, both equity and debt, remains a competitive advantage for us.” NAO was founded in 2013 and its biggest shareholder is oil tanker operator Nordic American Tanker, another Bermudian company, which invested $10 million in the offering. Charter revenues plunged to $16.25 million last year from $34.8 million in 2015. The company said seven of its ten vessels were in service. North Sea production was hit by the dramatic fall in world oil prices early last year. But crude prices have recovered to above $50 a barrel in recent months and the deal by Opec countries to reduce output to support prices has added confidence in the sector. NAO said there had been encouraging signs in the market for chartering its platform supply vessels (PSVs) since the end of last year. “We have seen an improvement in PSV rates the last weeks,” NAO said. “At the time of this report, rates for the first quarter of 2017 are above the level of the fourth quarter of 2016." NAO shares closed at $1.15 on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday evening — down from $5.25 a year ago.

March 7. Bermuda’s willingness to name and shame financial institutions that fail to adequately comply with money-laundering regulations and controls has been positively highlighted overseas. And it has been contrasted with a Canadian authority’s unwillingness to do the same. The Toronto Star ran a story headlined “Bermuda names fined banks while Canada keeps them secret,” where it observed that the Bermuda Monetary Authority had named Sun Life Financial Investments (Bermuda) for failing to adequately comply with anti-money laundering and antiterrorist financing laws, and fined it $1.5 million. It mentioned that in January 2016, Jeremy Cox, the BMA chief executive officer, announcing the island’s new transparency policy, had said: “(Increased transparency) is intended to demonstrate to those who rely on our supervisory adjudications that their trust is not misplaced and that Bermuda-based entities found to be deficient in meeting their obligations run the risk of being required to account publicly for their actions.” The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper by readership, noted that Canada’s anti-money laundering agency Fintrac, last year fined a bank C$1.5 million for compliance breaches. However, the agency refused to name the bank, claiming that the penalty fee “alone would be deterrence enough for the banking industry”. Last week, on the same day the BMA announced the fine against Sun Life, Canadian bank Manulife voluntarily admitted that it was the unnamed institution fined by Fintrac ten months earlier. It said the penalty “essentially related to administrative lapses in reporting to Fintrac”. In the Toronto Star article, Christine Duhaime, an anti-money laundering expert said financial regulators around the world are moving towards default transparency, but Canada was falling behind. In a statement last week, Niall O’Hare, president, Sun Life Financial Investments, said the company was co-operating with the BMA and had agreed to “implement appropriate controls to ensure that we are in compliance with both the licence restrictions and applicable regulations moving forward”.

March 7. “This summer is going to be the busiest in Bermuda’s history” according to America’s Cup Bermuda CEO Mike Winfield who today announced the schedule for a raft of events that will run in tandem with the world class sailing event. Representatives from the Bermuda Tourism Authority, Bermuda Heroes Weekend, Tall Ships Bermuda and the City of Hamilton are working in partnership with the America’s Cup on events “related to the America’s Cup but not all about the America’s Cup”. Mr Winfield said the combination of the Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta from June 1 to 5 and the 35th America’s Cup “would present one of the most dramatic comparisons of sailing with the wonderful majestic tall ships to these racing machines on foils — it is going to be a photographic dream for many.” The BTA announced a series of social events taking place in Hamilton and St George’s in June — Bonfires and BBQs and Pirates of Plunder. The Bermuda Heroes Weekend will take place from June 16 to 19 and, as usual, Harbour Nights will held every Wednesday. Also mixed into the excitement is the Red Bull Youth America’s Cup qualifiers and finals mid-June. Among the City of Hamilton’s schedule is an “amped up” music and busking schedule, according to COO Ed Benevides while Wedco also has a listing of events. Pat Phillip-Fairn, chief product and experiences development officer at the BTA, said: “Overall, the BTA will use this robust and diverse events calendar to influence visitor booking trends. These events, many of them in the middle of the week, will allow us to recommend to visitors that they arrive early and stay late. This is critically important to hoteliers who are seeing strong demand for weekends in June, but demand is less strong during the week. The calendar release will help that.” Cindy Campbell, chairman for Tall Ships Bermuda 2017, emphasized that there were still spaces for trainees to sign up to the Tall Ships Regatta. “There are still training berths for anyone over 16 . . . so if you are young or young at heart you can have a tall ships experience,” she said. As for on-island entertainment during the tall ships regatta, there will be extreme games and live entertainment. On the Friday of their visit the public can visit the ships and their crew for free and purchase tickets for the Tall Ships Concert in City Hall car park with a big name Bermudian entertainer. On the Saturday, families can visit the ships for free and enjoy the crew parade which will wind through the streets of Hamilton and end with a party in Victoria Park. On Sunday, Front Street will be pedestrianised for the Bon Voyage Party that will finish with fireworks and then the Parade of Sail with the ships sailing out of Hamilton Harbour begins at 9am on Monday. Anyone interested in volunteering, sail training or sponsoring can email www.hello@tallships.bm Mr Winfield added: “To see our stakeholders in Bermuda come together — to mobilize and seize the opportunity that is presented by the America’s Cup speaks well to the entrepreneurship, the energy and dynamic of Bermuda as a whole. The fact that we are all coming together speaks well to the community of Bermuda. I am delighted that we are now announcing the schedule. “We are going to be on view to a billion people around the world. Bermuda will have an opportunity to stand on that stage and shine.” The America’s Cup events begin on May 26 with racing starting at 5pm followed by the opening ceremony. This will include a combination of music, live performers, fireworks and Red Bull skydivers. Other key dates include:

Additional Bermuda experiences will begin with the Tall Ships events in St George’s on May 26 through to May 31 including a Pub Crawl, Art Walk, Blessing of the Boats, Cricket Festival and more before the boats sail into Hamilton.

For more information visit the websites on:

March 7. The Government has been called upon by Opposition MP Zane DeSilva to “prove me wrong” that the hotel development for St George’s would not be first in line for construction. Mr DeSilva said he understood that “some residences will be built before the hotel goes up, just to raise a few pennies” — and challenged Kenneth Bascome, the One Bermuda Alliance MP for St George’s North, to set the record straight. Mr Bascome did not respond while the House was in session, but told Mr DeSilva at the close of business that he had “never been proven wrong”. Mr DeSilva rose in the Motion to Adjourn also to criticize the OBA’s gaming fees legislation, which he said had not passed intact through the Senate and which unspecified developers had signalled that “there will be certain developments that won’t take place unless it is changed”. In addition, Mr DeSilva maintained that “tens of millions of dollars” had been held back from the public purse due to delays in adjudication and stamp duties for properties — telling the House that he knew of one land owner who had waited three years. Calling on Michael Dunkley and finance minister Bob Richards to explain, Mr DeSilva vowed to bring the matter up repeatedly through the Budget debate until the matter was addressed.

March 7. Consumers paid 1.9 per cent more in January than they did a year before for goods and services. And the level of inflation rose by 0.3 of a percentage point to 1.9 per cent between December last year and the first month of 2017. The cost of the education, recreation, entertainment and reading sector was the biggest contributor to the year-on-year increase, going up 4 per cent, fuelled by increases in the cost of tuition in Bermuda and overseas. The cost of health and personal care went up 3.3 per cent, while rent rose 1.4 per cent. The cost of fuel and power fell for the fourth consecutive month in January, down 2.3 per cent, while the fuel adjustment rate decreased 7 per cent month over month. The food sector, after two months of decline, went up two per cent in the first month of the year. Government statisticians said that special offers in December returned to their normal prices, while non-alcoholic drinks went up 10.2 per cent, as did cookies. Transport and foreign travel dropped by 1.2 per cent in January after a 1.3 increase in December. The average cost of an airfare fell by 7.8 cent. But the price of auxiliary and motorcycles, as well as the cost of repair and maintenance, increased 1.6 per cent and 1.1 per cent respectively. The clothing and footwear sector went up 1.2 per cent, with the average cost of women’s clothing going up 0.5 per cent. The cost of tobacco and liquor went up 0.8 per cent in January after a 0.4 fall in December last year. The average cost of spirits and wine went up 2.8 per cent and 0.5 per cent respectively. Month on month, the education, recreation, entertainment and reading sector was unchanged in January as was the rent sector. The cost of household goods, services and supplies over the same period was also static, for the third month on a row.

March 7. The father of an eight-week-old daughter was fatally stabbed near Blue Waters Anglers Club on Sunday night. Raymond Butterfield, 28, a footballer with First Division side Wolves, was rushed to hospital after the altercation on Crow Lane, Pembroke, at about 11pm, but died as a result of his injuries. “On behalf of the Bermuda Police Service, we extend our condolences to his family and friends,” Detective Inspector Mark Clarke said at a press conference yesterday. “Bermuda has lost another young father at the hands of senseless violence. Another mother, father, girlfriend will now have to arrange the burial of their loved one.” Specific details of the stabbing, including the weapon used, were not immediately provided. About 20 to 30 people were in the vicinity at the time of the incident, Mr Clarke said, but police were tight-lipped on the circumstances that preceded the fatal stabbing. “Information is incoming and forthcoming — at this stage it’s a little bit early to speak to that,” Mr Clarke said. The purpose of the press conference, the Detective Inspector said, was to gather information from any witnesses. “In particular, we are interested in speaking with all persons that would have been outside when this vile stabbing occurred,” he said. The incident is currently not believed to be gang-related. One person was subsequently arrested in connection with the incident. The suspect was not identified by police during the press conference. Police would not comment on reports that Devonshire resident Mr Butterfield and the suspect played for different football clubs. Mr Clarke said it was “not certain” whether the victim and suspect were known to one another. In an e-mail to The Royal Gazette, Progressive Labour Party MP Rolfe Commissiong confirmed that Mr Butterfield played for Wolves. Mr Commissiong said he and the victim’s father grew up together in Spanish Point. “I extend my apologies to the Butterfield family and all of the families that have been tragically affected by the needless loss of his son, including the mother of his grandchild and her family,” he said. “A child will now grow up without really knowing her father. The loss is incalculable. We have to come to grips with this ongoing rash of what appears to be irrational violence.” Roberta Tucker, secretary with Wolves, said the organisation was “shocked” by news of Mr Butterfield’s death. She said the club offered their condolences to his family. Investigators are currently collecting surveillance camera footage, BPS Chief Inspector Na’imah Astwood said. “If we had anyone in the vicinity that had a mobile phone out and was taking any recordings, we would definitely welcome that as well,” she told the media. Opposition leader David Burt rose last night in the House of Assembly with “a heavy heart” to extend condolences, telling MPs that many of Mr Butterfield’s friends had only recently mourned gun victim Jahni Outerbridge, who lost his life on January 29. Police also continue to investigate another stabbing incident in the early hours of Sunday, but it is said to be unrelated. It happened near the Bermuda Bistro at the Beach on Front Street at around 3am. “Initial information suggests that two men, believed to be a 37-year-old Warwick man and a 31-year-old Devonshire man, were stabbed and attended hospital for treatment,” police said in a release issued earlier yesterday. “After initial investigations, it is believed that this incident is gang-related,” Ms Astwood said. The Warwick man was treated and later discharged; the Devonshire man was said to be in stable condition yesterday. “It does not appear that the Crow Lane disturbance and the Front Street disturbance are linked,” police said. Anyone with information about either incident is asked to contact investigators on 247-1739 or Crime Stoppers at 800-8477.

March 7. A murder suspect has told a jury that he played no part in the fatal shooting of Lorenzo Stovell. Mr Stovell was shot dead as he sat in a minibus parked across from Woody’s in Sandys on September 23, 2012. Yesterday, Zikai Cann took the stand and denied any involvement in Mr Stovell’s murder. He also explained why police officers had discovered his palm print on the outside of the minibus when the vehicle was forensically examined after the killing. Mr Cann told the court that on Friday, September 21, 2012 — two days before Mr Stovell’s murder — the same minibus had stopped across from Woody’s. He told the Supreme Court that on the Friday evening he had driven up to the parked bus on his bike and leant against it as he spoke to a woman inside the vehicle. “I rode up to the bus and I leant on the bus sitting on my bike,” he said. “I was talking to the girl through the window. She said her name was Malina. I asked her for her number and she said she didn’t give out her number, so I just rode home.” Mr Cann, along with co-defendant Travonne Saltus, are accused of murdering Mr Stovell in September 2012. A third defendant, Cordova Simons-Marshall, is accused of helping to conceal the gun after the shooting. Yesterday afternoon under cross-examination from prosecutor Carrington Mahoney, Mr Cann admitted he was part of the MOB gang and showed jurors an MOB tattoo on his hand. He also confirmed that he had been at Woody’s on the evening of Mr Stovell’s murder. But Mr Cann insisted that he had not known Mr Stovell was in the minibus during the evening and had never approached the vehicle with a group of other men. Mr Mahoney accused Mr Cann of “concocting” the story of touching the bus two days before the murder and described his testimony relating to the palm print as “lies”. But Mr Cann replied: “That is the truth.” He went on to say: “I am not lying, you have got this one wrong. I did not have anything to do with Lorenzo Stovell’s murder.” Mr Cann, 27, and Mr Saltus, 28, both deny murder and using a firearm to commit murder. Mr Simons-Marshall, 26, denies handling a 9mm Smith and Wesson auto loading pistol and being an accessory after the murder by concealing the gun. The case continues.

March 7. The Bermuda Government has earmarked funds for local artists to participate in the 13th Caribbean Festival of Arts to be held in Barbados this year. Funding will be provided for more than 30 persons to perform in areas including music, dance, storytelling and theatre, Nandi Outerbridge, the Minister of Social Development and Sport, said while delivering budget details for the coming fiscal year. “The Department of Cultural Affairs also plans to send artwork produced by Bermuda’s premier visual artists and some of the island’s outstanding literal works,” Ms Outerbridge told the House of Assembly yesterday. According to Ms Outerbridge, Carifesta, “the premier, roving, multidisciplinary mega arts festival that showcases the cultural expressions of artists from various countries in the Caribbean region”, will be held from August 17-27. Noting Bermuda’s cultural and historical connections with the Caribbean, she said this year’s theme — “Asserting Our Culture, Celebrating Ourselves” — is an opportunity for Bermuda to be showcased on the world stage. The festival was first held in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1972, and Bermuda participated in the seventh edition in St Kitts and Nevis in 2000. Ms Outerbridge said more than 3,000 artists and artisans are expected this year. “Although the advantages to be gained by such participation by our artists, craftspeople and folk artists can not be directly measured in dollars and cents, participation would provide great exposure to Bermudian artists and afford persons the opportunity to network with their artistic peers as well as others in similar cultural industries.” A total of $112,000 have been reallocated from other Department units to the Special Project business unit and Ms Outerbridge said funds would be used for airfare, accommodation, subsistence and promotional items. Ms Outerbridge also revealed that this year’s Gombey Festival, “held annually to provide exposure to the folk art and traditions of the Gombey”, would be extended. “This year, the Gombey Festival will be expanded to a full weekend of events and learning opportunities, celebrating not only our Bermudian Gombey traditions but also international influences from across the diaspora. It is the Department’s vision that the Gombey Festival will evolve into an internationally known event, attracting overseas troupes and visitors alike to our shores.” Ms Outerbridge added that as part of this expansion, the Department would also “be working with at least one historian on academic research on Bermuda’s Gombey tradition, including links with similar traditions in the Caribbean and West Africa”. The event falls under the cultural festivities and celebrations section, which also include the emancipation commemorative ceremony and Harbour Nights, and which was allocated $184,000 in the 2017/18 budget.

March 7. The bone-chilling blast of winter weather felt by island residents over the weekend was accompanied by the lowest the mercury has dropped in more than a decade. According to the Bermuda Weather Service, the temperature fell as low as 47.7F at 9.30pm on Sunday, the coldest temperature recorded locally on March 5. The last time the island recorded such a low temperature was on February 27, 2006, when it dropped to 47.1F. That figure is still some way short of the official annual low record of 43.3F recorded on February 26, 1993. James Dodgson, deputy director of the Weather Service, said cold north-to-northwesterly outbreaks are often accompanied by blustery showers, some of which can produce small hail, as was the case on Sunday. The previous low of 52F on March 5, was recorded in 1978, Mr Dodgson said. A comparison with other temperatures around the world on Sunday shows Bermuda was more in line with some traditionally chilly European cities than its friends in the Caribbean. The coldest point reached in London, England was 41F, while Edinburgh, Scotland dropped to 32F, and Reykjavik in Iceland to 30F. Trinidad and Tobago, on the other hand, boasted temperatures of 88F, dipping no lower than 73F throughout the course of the day. North American cities such as Toronto and New York did not fare so well, experiencing low points of 19F and 14F respectively.

2017. March 6. Bermuda has again topped an international list of most expensive places to live. In an article by the UK newspaper The Independent , Bermuda came first in a list of the 21 most expensive places in the world, beating New York, Switzerland and Hong Kong. “The Atlantic Ocean tax haven of Bermuda is officially the most expensive nation on earth, with the country’s capital Hamilton also the most expensive individual city on the planet,” the article stated. The list is based on assessments by MoveHub, which analyses price of groceries, transport, bills, restaurants and how much renting somewhere to live is. Using an index in which New York — a notoriously expensive city — is scored at 100, Bermuda was scored at 126.34. Comparatively, Switzerland topped European destinations with 90.68, while Hong Kong was the most expensive destination in Asia scoring 81.93. Also see https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_current.jsp.

March 6.  A weeklong aviation safety meeting began in Bermuda today to review ‘reportable occurrences’ in the North Atlantic region. Organising the meeting is the North Atlantic Central Monitoring Agency (NAT CMA), a group that examines “Operational Safety Occurrences” and then reports them to the regulation body International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The group consists of experts in flight operations, engineering, dispatch, human factors and air traffic control, according to a NAT CMA statement. The bi-annual meeting started today and will continue until Friday at the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) offices in St George’s. “The purpose of the meeting is to review ‘reportable occurrences’ in the North Atlantic region in order to formulate risk assessments. Examples of such reportable occurrences are: time/speed errors, communication failures, diversions and turn backs,” added the statement. David Nicholas, NAT CMA manager, said: “I selected Bermuda as the destination to hold my last scrutiny meeting before retirement and introduce my successor as rapporteur. This is the first time a NAT CMA meeting has been held on the island and we thank BCAA for hosting us while we discuss and review aviation safety. “We have over 20 participants for the 2017 meeting, including two very well decorated pilots, former operations officers, oceanic air traffic control representatives from across the North Atlantic region and two mathematical analysts.” NAT CMA was established in 1985 and was the first of 13 Regional Monitoring Agencies (RMA). It is based in Prestwick, Scotland and is responsible for maintaining aircraft registration and operational approval of five states: Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal and Bermuda. Director General of BCAA, Thomas Dunstan, said: “We are honored that David selected Bermuda to hold this important meeting and we are extremely pleased to host them at our offices. The island is a fitting host to a safety event of this magnitude because for over 85 years Bermuda has earned a solid reputation internationally for outstanding safety. Since our transition from Bermuda Department of Civil Aviation (BDCA) to BCAA, we have been ramping up our exposure at a number of international events to put Bermuda on the map. With the help of regulation bodies such as the ICAO we are able to ensure that Bermuda maintains the highest safety standards to remain competitive in the industry.” Last March the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) praised the aviation sector for its significant contribution to Bermuda’s economy and strong potential for growth. BCAA generates income through registering both commercially operated and privately owned aircraft. Bermuda was the first Offshore Aircraft Registry and currently has over 750 registered aircraft.

March 6. The media’s job in strengthening the role of the Public Accounts Committee was among the agenda items for an overseas forum attended by Opposition MP Wayne Furbert, chairman of Bermuda’s PAC. The two-day conference’s discussion points were put forward by the UK’s Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which provided attendees with a best practice policy for Overseas Territories. “By having us here, it allows them to get an idea of what we are doing, so that they can refine the policy,” Mr Furbert said from the forum in Miami. Mr Furbert’s own presentation focused on using the media to strengthen the role of public financial oversight, which included his experiences with Bermuda’s media and outlining how it has assisted Bermuda’s PAC in its work. “Some of the ways the media help us out is by helping us to bring to the attention issues that PAC has to deal with,” he said. “It helps to keep public office accountable and transparent and helps shine the light on Financial Instructions which have gone wrong. I expressed that the media does an excellent job in helping the PAC out.” Mr Furbert also chaired a session on maintaining committee consensus and political impartiality, exploring the practical aspects of working with colleagues across party lines.

March 6. With the Bermuda Government spending under extra scrutiny during the Reply to the Budget debate, it was perhaps inevitable that the price tag for Sylvan Richards’ trip to the Olympics would come up on Friday night in the House of Assembly. The former sports minister, now with the portfolio of Environment and Planning, told MPs that he had not been surprised to find reference in the Reply to “the $30,000 trips to Rio de Janeiro”. The budget for the minister’s trip to the Olympics in August 2016 sparked outcry when it was revealed, and when Progressive Labour Party MP Zane DeSilva rose on Friday night to criticize the 2017-18 Budget’s line on the need to “pare back spending on social programmes”. Mr Richards said he had “no problem” with the reproofs over the trip, adding: “I had to go as sports minister. If I would not have gone, I would be subjected to a whole different round of criticism.” The Hamilton South MP said he had networked with ministers from around the world and “supported our athletes at all the events I could humanly attend. Some people had a problem with the cost. I get that. But I was appointed close to the time of the Olympics, so we didn’t have the advantage of shopping around for prices. I’ve had in my bag, for the last month or so, the figures for the 2012 contingent that went to London for the Olympics. That cost was $36,491.” Mr DeSilva had defended the debt accumulated under the PLP’s time in government, listing projects from FutureCare to low income housing and the National Aquatic Centre, telling the House: “That’s where our money went.” Mr Richards said it was clear that “we all want what’s best for Bermuda — however, there are two very different and distinct philosophies on how to manage an economy”. Accusing Mr DeSilva of being “proud of debt”, he turned to the Opposition’s Vision 2025 plan and told the House: “Nothing in here will happen until we service that debt.”

March 6. The 2016 Bermuda Census is all but completed with nearly 95 per cent of the population having answered the questionnaire. Bermudians and non-Bermudians are required by law to partake in the Census. Premier Michael Dunkley said: “I am pleased to say we have almost 95 per cent of assessment numbers accounted for. In mid-December that number stood at 82 per cent. Less than a month ago, on February 8, that number had risen to 90 per cent, so I am very pleased and impressed with the progress made.” The Department of Statistics is still seeking responses from the final households not yet counted. The Census deadline is March 31 and those who haven’t been counted, have the following options:

The information collected from the Census questionnaires will help Government, the private sector and the non-profit sector make decisions about Bermuda’s future. Melinda Williams, Director of the Department of Statistics said: “Census interviewers will continue to visit homes across the island. I want to thank those who have fulfilled their legal requirement to complete the questionnaire and encourage those who have not to do so now.” Historically, Census data has been used to develop forward planning strategies relating to infrastructure, education, health, employment and other economic and social requirements. The 2016 Census questionnaire collects population and housing data.

March 6. The Bermuda Hospitals Board had its budget cut in part because it had amassed $100 million in cash reserves, according to Bob Richards. Speaking during the debate on the 2017-18 Budget in the House of Assembly, the Minister of Finance noted the $25 million in budget cuts to the BHB, saying that the move would have no effect on service. Explaining the decision, he told the House: “The BHB was sitting on $100 million in cash. “At least $50 million of that they didn’t need for their operations. So we said in the budget we are going to make an adjustment and we have done so and it will have zero effect on service in this country.” Jeanne Atherden, the Minister of Health and Seniors, had previously cited “continued modernization, cost cutting and other efficiencies as well as reserves” as reasons that the 13 per cent budget cut to the ministry would not affect service. The Ministry of Health and Seniors had previously been the top budgeted item, however debt service claimed that title in the 2017-18 Budget.

March 6. Freddie Evans, formerly the acting Commissioner of Education, has been appointed to the post of commissioner to lead the island’s public school system. The announcement came this afternoon from the Board of Education. It ends a long stint without a permanent commissioner, after the resignation of Edmond Heatley in 2014 after a short tenure. Dr Evans is a 25-year veteran of Bermuda’s public education, and his appointment was welcomed by Curtis Dickinson, chairman of the board of education. “Dr Evans has been associated with a number of projects and key initiatives in the Department of Education during the past year. One of his immediate work tasks will be to lead the development of a multiyear transformative Strategic Plan for the Public School System with implementation during the next academic school year.” A graduate of Jackson State University, Dr Evans received his doctorate in Education Administration and Development from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. His experience includes assistant principal at Clark High School for the Plano Independent School District in Plano, Texas; principal of the Whitney Institute Middle School; assistant director of educational standards and accountability in the Department of Education; acting director of educational standards and accountability, as well as acting commissioner. The appointment of a Bermudian to the closely-watched post is likely to be welcome news, although the Bermuda Union of Teachers was not available for comment this afternoon. The move comes shortly after The Royal Gazette reported last month that British education expert Paul Wagstaff, said to be the front-runner for the position, had declined the post.

March 6. A woman who broke her neck in a fatal car crash has secured a legal victory against a truck driver after he failed to attend court. According to a ruling in chambers by Puisne Judge Stephen Hellman, Evelyn Rewan was awarded a default judgment in a civil suit against Luke Armstrong in relation to injuries suffered in a crash that killed Winston “Yogi” Burrows, 44, in a fireball eight years ago. Mr Armstrong, 32, an English expatriate, has left the island and efforts to locate him have failed. Notices were published in the Cayman Islands — where it was believed he had lived — intended to inform him of the summons. Last September, after The Royal Gazette ran an article about the search for Mr Armstrong, his Facebook page was amended to say that he was living in Timbuctoo, Mali, although his profile picture highlighted a 2014 photograph from Little Cayman. His LinkedIn profile stated that he had been working in Singapore after spending time in Cyprus. Yesterday, Mr Armstrong’s Facebook page did not state his whereabouts. Meanwhile, Ms Rewan’s case against Air Care Ltd, the former employer of Mr Armstrong and owner of the vehicle he was driving, has been allowed to move forward despite strikeout applications to the contrary. In April 2009, Ms Rewan was one of two passengers in a car driven by Mr Burrows which crashed with a heavy truck driven by Mr Armstrong. While Ms Rewan survived with a broken neck and multiple fractures, Mr Burrows was killed when the damaged car burst into flames. Mr Armstrong left the scene, as did another non-Bermudian man who was travelling in the truck, and later admitted he had drunk four or five beers, but no evidence about any breath test result was shared with the Supreme Court jury. Mr Burrows had a paralyzed hand, had cocaine in his system and was more than twice the drink-drive limit. Mr Armstrong was jailed in November 2009 after being convicted by a jury of one count of causing death by dangerous driving and two counts of causing injury by dangerous driving and driving without the appropriate licence — the vehicle which he had been driving was a Ford Ranger truck which requires a heavy truck licence but he did not have one. However, he was acquitted of the more serious offences on appeal four months later, after prosecutors conceded judge Norma Wade-Miller did not properly direct the jury on how to weigh up the evidence. Last year, Ms Rewan launched a civil case against both Mr Armstrong and Air Care Ltd seeking to recover damages for personal injuries and consequential loss on the grounds that both parties acted negligently. According to the ruling, dated February 24, Mr Armstrong failed to attend the January 18 hearing and was not represented in court. Air Care, meanwhile, sought for the case to be struck out on the grounds that the claims were “scandalous, frivolous, and/or vexatious”. While counsel for Ms Rewan noted affidavits alleging that Mr Armstrong was drinking with “the boss” prior to the collision, lawyers for Air Care said the claims were refuted by records that showed the senior employee named in the affidavits flew to the UK on the evening of the crash. Mr Justice Hellman found that the claim was “wholly implausible” given the evidence before the court, describing the affidavit as “simply not credible”. However, the judge found that there was an arguable case that Mr Armstrong was driving the vehicle with Air Care’s permission and that Mr Armstrong’s negligence may have contributed to the fatal crash. “If the plaintiff wishes to amend her pleadings to make the allegation more clearly, she has liberty to do so,” he wrote. “To that extent, the defendant’s application to strike out the appellant’s allegations that the defendant was negligent is disallowed. The defendant’s application to strike out the remainder of the plaintiff’s allegations that the defendant was negligent is allowed and those allegations are ordered to be struck out.”

March 5. Today, His Royal Highness, Prince Edward, The Earl of Wessex, visited Ben Ainslie’s British America’s Cup team, Land Rover BAR’s, base in Bermuda. Bermuda is the host venue for the 35th America’s Cup and half the team relocated from the Portsmouth HQ at the end of 2016, in preparation for the racing which starts on 26th May. The America’s Cup is the oldest trophy in international sport and started in 1851 with a race around the Isle of Wight. Despite previous attempts, a British team has never won the Cup. During his visit to the team base, HRH met Sailor and Designer, Bleddyn Mon, Shore Team Manager, James Stagg and Base Manager, Dave Powys and was shown the team’s foiling America’s Cup Class (ACC) race boat, ‘R1’. Designed using the very best of British technology and innovation, R1 took over 35,000 hours to construct and can reach speeds of 60 mph. HRH was also given a tour of the 11th Hour Racing Exploration Zone, a dedicated and free educational space within the base, which brings to life critical topics around ocean health, sustainability, innovation and technology. HRH was on the Island to support the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award in Bermuda, meeting young people taking part in the local Award programme and engaging with programme volunteers. The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award programme is the world’s leading youth achievement award, giving millions of 14 to 24-year-olds the opportunity to be the very best they can be. The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award has a strong link to sailing, Award participants were amongst the first to introduce the Optimist dinghy to Bermuda, by building the dinghies for their programme skills requirements and sailing them for their physical recreation. Land Rover BAR sailors including four times Olympic medallist, Ben Ainslie and Rio 2016 gold medallist, Giles Scott, started their sailing careers racing in the boat.

Prince tours Land Rover AC facility

See above story

March 5. A new wireless internet system will provide high speeds of up to 100 Mbps, it was revealed today. Bluewave — part of East End Telecom and the East End Group — has carried out successful secret trials of its wi-fi based service and is set to provide its services to its first customers within weeks. And Bluewave is expected to provide a jobs boost on the island, with extra staff being hired within the next few weeks. Nick Faries, CEO of East End Group, said: “Bluewave internet will offer high-speed, island-wide wi-fi, a community focused sales approach and deliver top-tier customer service and support. “By entering the internet sector, Bluewave will usher in much needed competition, system reliability and value for money that will tremendously benefit the Bermudian community.” The test phase carried out by East End Telecom, best known for two-way radio communications in the security services and commercial sectors, has already seen speeds of 100 Mbps to homes in pilot areas. Mr Faries said: “We expect to be operational and hiring frontline staff in the next few weeks.” He added: “When we cannot find a trained Bermudian, our strategy will be to hire a local graduate with the potential to learn the ropes from our international partners and on-island technical experts. I want to develop these new Bermudian college and university graduates into the management and technical core of the company. Bluewave is going to provide some wonderful opportunities for graduates seeking their first employment opportunity.” Mr Faries said the new service would be introduced on a neighborhood by Neighbourhood basis, with the company website allowing potential customers to see when their area can join the service. When connected via the wi-fi network, customers can sign up on online or add their name to a waiting list for their area. Mr Faries said: “It is anticipated that 95 per cent of the island will have access to Bluewave internet by May this year or before.”

March 4. Tax reform aimed at the privileged will be a key priority for the Progressive Labour Party if it wins the next General Election, leader David Burt said yesterday. Mr Burt vowed to tackle inequality by targeting “vast swaths of domestic wealth and income”, which until now have not been subjected to tax. Delivering his Reply to the Budget, the Opposition leader pledged that the PLP would launch a Tax Reform Commission, as well as boosting the economy with a job-creating Bermuda Fund and Economic Diversification Unit. In a major shake-up of the education system, Mr Burt said a PLP government would phase out middle schools and introduce a new curriculum with more focus on science, technology, engineering and maths. Other ideas in the PLP’s “People’s Budget” included a local lottery dedicated to sports funding, performance-based pay for civil servants, and creation of a technology incubator to make Bermuda an intellectual property hub. In his Budget Statement last week, finance minister Bob Richards promised to reduce payroll tax for those on low income, and increase it for high earners. Claiming the One Bermuda Alliance was not going far enough to address inequality, Mr Burt said: “Fortunately, the PLP does have a plan to create more jobs and make Bermuda more attractive for both local and international business. We need to reduce the incentive for companies in Bermuda to outsourcing existing jobs while creating a favorable environment for growth in our domestic and international sectors, which will lead to new jobs. The PLP’s agenda for growth will reduce the cost of doing business in Bermuda, tackle income inequality, reform our tax system, diversify our economy, create jobs in Bermuda, harness technology, promote entrepreneurship, increase our global competitiveness, make government more efficient and design an immigration system that works for Bermuda.” Mr Burt described the island’s increasing reliance on payroll tax as “dangerous. We must move quickly to reform our system of taxation before we tax ourselves out of being an attractive jurisdiction. There are vast swaths of domestic wealth and income that have never been subjected to tax, which by its very construct fosters continued economic inequality. This is why our taxation system promotes and fuels economic inequality. Tax reform and broadening the tax base cannot be effective if they are unwilling to look at taxing the passive income of the privileged persons in society. When the PLP is returned to Government, one of our first actions will be to create a Tax Reform Commission. Its mission will be to conduct a wholesale review of our system of revenue collection and taxation to make recommendations to parliament on revenue and tax reform and measure to increase tax compliance. It will be our aim to complete the process of review and consultation in the first 18 months of the new Parliament so that reforms can be implemented quickly.” A new Economic Diversification Unit will create “not only a third pillar of our economy, but a fourth and fifth”, Mr Burt said. The Bermuda Fund would be seeded with a small portion of the pension funds that are under the control of the government, he said, so that the island can “tap into the investment expertise on the island, while providing an additional outlet for our large pension funds to invest more of their monies in Bermuda-based equity investments”. The PLP will also develop a technology incubator at Southside, he added, that will allow “start-ups in the technology field”, as well as a Digital Intellectual Property Register. New tax relief will be provided for first-time entrepreneurs, he said, greater freedom given to peddlers and vendors, and access to foreign capital expanded for first-time business owners through a relaxation of the 60/40 rule. Employers will be given less incentive to use foreign labour because they will have to provide occupational pensions for employees on work permits, he said. Phasing out middle schools would be part of a plan to “reshape our school system with one better suited to the needs of our youth and the wider community”, Mr Burt said. Education plans included providing discounted Bermuda College tuition for students in need, while a national skills registry will help people into work. Other ideas included: 

March 4. MPs across parties agreed on one point during their debate over the Opposition’s Reply to the Budget: the island’s national debt must be brought back to heel. But the One Bermuda Alliance and Progressive Labour Party sparred over which side bore responsibility for it, while still delivering on social assistance. Opposition MPs chastised the government for doubling debt, while OBA representatives pinned blame on the former administration, maintaining the PLP would return to spend-heavy policies if returned to power. Throughout, MPs invoked an impending General Election. Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Economic Development, led the response by criticizing the Budget Reply from David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, as an “election platform from a wannabe government, a wannabe finance minister and a wannabe premier”. Saying that “governing requires more than political rhetoric”, the minister attacked the Opposition’s economic stewardship. Acknowledging degrees of conflict of interest within the government, Dr Gibbons told the House that the OBA ranks held greater business expertise than their counterparts. Dr Gibbons hit back at Opposition claim that diversification had been neglected, saying that the Bermuda Business Development Agency delivered better than the PLP. The minister said innovation fell to the private sector, not government — a contention hotly disputed by Opposition MP Michael Scott, who maintained that the OBA protected a white elite, while PLP MP Derrick Burgess called Dr Gibbons’s claim of greater business expertise an insult to “a large segment of the population”. Meanwhile, home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin questioned how the PLP would pay for its suggestions — with Opposition MP Zane DeSilva insisting the answers lay in the document itself. Shadow home affairs minister Walton Brown stressed that the PLP’s vision focused on people — a mandate he said the Government neglected. Mr Brown called the island’s tax system “income tax for poor people”, and said proposed tax reforms could not be progressive with a cap at $900,000. Meanwhile, shadow health minister Kim Wilson stressed that an emphasis on tourism growth and capital projects was “not good enough”, while the Budget Reply contained plans for economic growth and job diversification and creation. The Government had failed to address inequality falling “largely along racial lines”, she said, while the PLP would examine a living wage as well as tax reform. OBA MP Glen Smith hit back at claims that his side “doesn’t care about people”, and rejected the notion that the America’s Cup would not create jobs as “absolute nonsense” — a view supported by Nandi Outerbridge, the Government Whip, who said the OBA “has delivered on everything the Opposition could not, and would not if back in power”. Opposition MP Wayne Furbert called on the OBA to call an election now if confident, adding “Or are they not finished with the smear campaign or innuendo that they think will rescue them?” Sylvan Richards, the Minister of Environment and Planning, said the PLP had left an economy in “free fall” — and, if returned, would “continue that strategy of spend, spend, spend.”

March 4. The organisation tasked with investigating concerns about doctors in Bermuda is not looking into allegations made against Ewart Brown and other local physicians in a civil lawsuit filed by the Government. No complaints relating to the allegations have been made to Bermuda Medical Council, according to chief medical officer Cheryl Peek-Ball. Dr Peek-Ball told The Royal Gazette: “The council will need more information before it takes any formal action. Furthermore, if a complaint which ultimately arrives relates to the matter under investigation by Bermuda Police Service, the BMC would likely defer any review of the matter pending conclusion of the police investigation.” Council president Fiona Ross said the complaint may come before the council “in due course” but had not to date. The Government’s legal complaint against the Lahey Clinic was filed in a federal court in Massachusetts on February 14. It alleges that the former Premier was engaged in “corrupt enterprises” with the teaching hospital, involving “bribes” it paid to him while he was an elected MP to gain preferential treatment on the island in relation to hospital contracts and privileged access to Bermudian patients. The 54-page lawsuit also alleges that Dr Brown paid “kickbacks” to local physicians — none of whom it names — for ordering patients to have diagnostic tests at his clinics, Bermuda HealthCare Services in Paget and the Brown-Darrell Clinic in Smith’s. The court proceedings, for unspecified damages, were brought by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz. He said they were the result of an internal investigation conducted by his chambers. Bermuda Police Service has also been investigating allegations of corruption against Dr Brown since 2011, though no criminal charges have been brought against him. The island’s medical council is tasked by law with securing “high standards of professional competence and conduct in the practice of medicine and surgery in Bermuda” and has the power to strike doctors off the medical register or temporarily suspend their registration. It has a professional conduct committee whose role is to investigate complaints against registered practitioners. A separate organisation, Bermuda Medical Doctors Association, acts as the representative body for physicians in Bermuda. Its president Annabel Fountain said last month that the association would not be able to comment on the claims in the lawsuit about local doctors. Dr Brown is not a party to the lawsuit and has said it contains “countless lies and ridiculous allegations”. Lahey has said it will defend the action.

March 4. Eleven redundancies have been confirmed at two of the island’s insurance and reinsurance sector companies. Six employees have lost their jobs at PartnerRe, and five positions have been cut at Enstar Group. All those affected are either Bermudians or spouses of Bermudians. Globally, PartnerRe has announced 16 redundancies as it reorganizes its financial operations. Those affected in Bermuda have been invited to apply for jobs with the company in Ireland. “We can confirm that six jobs have been made redundant in Bermuda, of a total of 16 positions that have been made redundant worldwide,” said a PartnerRe spokesperson “This is as a result of a reorganization of PartnerRe’s finance function — moving away from a geographical structure to a more global structure with the creation of a Global Financial Operations team, based predominantly in Dublin. This was a very tough decision to make; all six employees have been invited to apply for jobs in Dublin. If they choose not to, we will do everything we can to support them in finding new positions here on the Island.” The reinsurer, which has offices in Pitts Bay Road, said its on-island workforce comprises 82 per cent Bermudians, spouses of Bermudians or permanent resident certificate holders. Enstar, which has its corporate headquarters in Queen Street, Hamilton, is also restructuring and moving its investment unit to the US. In a statement, it said: “Enstar has experienced significant growth through acquisition activity. Following a strategic review of our operations and careful consideration, we made the decision to restructure our investment function. The revised function will be based in the US, to position ourselves closer to the US capital markets and optimize our relationships with our US-based investment managers and partners. The restructure is considered necessary to facilitate the continued growth of our company and its investment portfolio which will, in turn, result in greater opportunities for the company and its valued employees. Bermuda employees impacted by this decision were given an opportunity to apply for investment positions in the US.” The company has a core focus on acquiring and managing insurance and reinsurance companies in run-off. It employs more than 60 staff, said it continues to be committed to the island. In its statement, Enstar said: “Enstar’s focus on growing its business continues, as evident by the over 75 acquisitions and transactions it has completed since inception.”

March 4. Saracens, the present UK Aviva Premiership and European Cup champions, will return to Bermuda for a third time this summer — and this time it is serious. Saracens, as well as Premiership club Harlequins and Greene King IPA Championship side London Irish, have visited Bermuda over the past four years to take part in an exhibition game — the Atlantic Cup — against the Bermuda Barbarians. Relaxed, low-key, and with little in the way of hard rugby, the trip has traditionally been used to let those players not on international duty unwind away from the glare of fans and media, while raising funds for Beyond Rugby Bermuda. However, this summer it will be all business, with the Saracens squad expected to include several internationals and British Lions players. The London club are scheduled to spend a week of their pre-season in early August on the island, with a game against a United States side thrown into the mix. Saracens are scheduled to arrive on Sunday, August 6, and depart the following Sunday. Their squad of 65 will take part in a training camp at the National Sports Centre, and on Thursday, August 10, will play against a United States XV. “Saracens are arguably the best rugby club in the world at present and we are delighted to welcome them back, Gareth Nokes, the Bermuda Rugby Football Union chairman, said. “The Atlantic Rugby Cup event itself was forced to move due to the America’s Cup, however, this has proven to be a blessing in disguise. With the match being a pre-season as opposed a postseason game it will be the most competitive in the event’s history, and there is great excitement in the US with the creation of the islanders team.” The US side is expected to be a newly created USA Islanders team, including players Tongan, Samoan, Hawaiian and Fijian descent, and is reportedly based on the concept of the New Zealand Maori team. Officials are hoping the Islanders will play six or seven games a year and expect the side to be able to compete on an international stage. “Our charity, Beyond Rugby Bermuda, is so grateful to Saracens and previously Harlequins for coming here and assisting our fundraising needs upon which we rely so heavily,” Nokes said. “It promises to be a fantastic week with a gala dinner and corporate golf day planned — it will give our sponsors chance to rub shoulders with some of the world’s best players.”

March 3. The Earl of Wessex brought a light-hearted spirit to a formal visit this morning as the guest of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Bermuda. The award is celebrating 50 years of service in Bermuda and Prince Edward paid a visit to CedarBridge Academy and Mount Saint Agnes where participants and representatives of the award from both schools, as well as from Berkeley Institute, were there to greet him. The Earl, the youngest of the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh’s four children, was jovial in his manner, laughing with students but taking a keen interest in their achievements and involvement in the Duke of Edinburgh programme. Unveiling plaques at both schools, he warned the students that unveilings were “not particularly exciting” and urged them to “pretend this is a very exciting moment ... by making a lot of noise” — a task the students at both schools reveled in. The musical entertainment at CedarBridge matched the sentiment as the school band performed a rendition of Pharrell Williams’s Happy to welcome the Earl, as well as other dignitaries, including Governor John Rankin, Cole Simons, the new Minister of Education, Leah Scott, his junior minister. At a presentation in the auditorium, long service awards were given to the school’s deputy principal, Chris Swan, and teacher Melanie Burrows, who have dedicated 20-plus years to the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme. Head boy Isaiah Todd and head girl Viaire Robinson made speeches about the value the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Bermuda and revealed that the island had one of the highest per capita rates of participation in the world. Berkeley Institute alone has some 60 young people taking part, making up 10 per cent of the island’s participants. It also produced high numbers of participants who go on to achieve gold awards. Taking to the podium, Prince Edward thanked Bermuda for inviting him to come and visit and said of the anniversary: “It is quite a milestone — one that is certainly worth celebrating”. He thanked the “volunteers who make it all happen and you”, pointing to the participants. “I hope you are all enjoying the experience”. After photographs, Prince Edward and his small entourage made the short journey to Mount Saint Agnes, which is celebrating its 127th birthday, to make a second presentation there. Principal Sue Moench welcomed the royal visitor on stage in the auditorium as students waved their Bermuda flags above their heads. Award leader and Duke of Edinburgh national assessor Charlene White was given a ten-year long service award for her “countless hours” of volunteering for the young participants. Prince Edward was invited to sign a picture that will be mounted in the school to remind the students of the visit before lining up for formal photographs. He is scheduled to attend a church service on Sunday morning at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity. Other Duke of Edinburgh-related activities during the Earl’s visit include the presentation of Gold Awards, attending a gala event and a 50th Anniversary Commemorative Church Service. The Earl will also have an opportunity to see the America’s Cup facilities in Royal Naval Dockyard.

March 3. Live performers, fireworks and Red Bull skydivers will help generate excitement in the America’s Cup Village when the sailing showpiece’s opening races take place in May. Organizers of the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda announced details of the opening programme which will take place on Friday, May 26. Racing will start at 5pm, with America’s Cup defender Oracle Team USA taking on Groupama Team France in the first match race. That battle will set the stage for races two, three and four of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers, when all six teams will take each other on the water on the first day of racing. Artemis Racing will race against SoftBank Team Japan in race two; Groupama Team France against Emirates Team New Zealand in race three; and Land Rover BAR against Artemis Racing in race four. With each match race scheduled to last approximately 20 minutes, day one of the race schedule is provisionally due to conclude at 7pm. Then, all eyes will turn to the main stage in the America’s Cup Village where the official Opening Ceremony of the 35th America’s Cup will begin. Russell Coutts, CEO of the America’s Cup, said in a press release: “This is the perfect way to start what I believe is going to be the best America’s Cup yet. “With race one of the 35th America’s Cup starting at 5pm we are looking forward to welcoming fans to watch the opening races then soon afterwards enjoy the evening activities.” Existing ticket holders for the America’s Cup race village or any other purchased spectator experiences on May 26 will be able to access the Opening Ceremony at no additional cost. The America’s Cup Village will open to all ticket holders from 3pm. To book your place, visit www.americascup.com/tickets.

March 3. Four new buses that will service Bermuda residents after the America’s Cup are on order, with a provision for an additional ten vehicles in 2018, according to the Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities. Senator Michael Fahy announced the news at a media briefing yesterday, after last week’s Budget. He said provisions had also been made to address some of the “different issues over the years” that have impacted the island’s fleet, including upgrades to the current bus stock and job-based training. “Our mechanics are being trained to a standard: Bermudians are on the ground working,” he said. In the short term, the minister said money to put out-of-service vehicles on the road meant the existing buses would be able to support the expected influx of traffic this summer — including surrounding the America’s Cup. “Obviously there’s going to be a lot more cars than you might normally expect,” Mr Fahy said. “But we think that we’re in a pretty good place with the fleet.” The Department of Marine and Ports Services, which the minister said had " done a sterling job keeping the ferry fleet up and running, had received a substantial sum to provide full ferry service to ensure that our visitors get the experience they’re looking for. A lot of work has gone into it behind the scenes — we don’t talk about it a lot — but we’re pretty confident that we’re in a very good position for both buses and ferries,” said Mr Fahy. He also used the briefing to tout new high-calibre resorts, adding substantial, new hotel development for the first time in decades. He added that the rising maintenance costs of the ageing tug fleet had the ministry studying future needs. These tugs have served us well, but the work they do will increasingly require more modern and robust vessels,” he said. The lease of the Millennium ferry will continue this year for transport between Dockyard and St George’s. “But this is likely the last year it will be needed,” Mr Fahy said.

March 3. Expect a lengthy debate today in the House of Assembly as the Opposition delivers its response to the 2017-18 Budget delivered last week by Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance. Mr Richards will first move the Budget book with its accompanying statement, after which David Burt, leader of the Progressive Labour Party, issues the Reply to the Budget. “Very simply, we are giving the people of Bermuda our Budget agenda for jobs growth and diversification — things that the One Bermuda Alliance did not have,” Mr Burt said last night. “When you have the Chamber of Commerce saying that you need to have a plan for jobs, you’re in trouble.” While Mr Richards’ statement noted the job growth shown in 2016, which was the job survey’s first since 2008, the PLP have consistently accused the governing party of neglecting economic diversification.

March 3. A fire alarm at LF Wade International Airport this morning forced passengers and personnel to evacuate the terminal and delayed two flights, according to the Ministry of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities. The cause of the alarm, which was triggered at around 11.45am, was not immediately clear. “Following an assessment by Bermuda Fire & Rescue Services, the all-clear to re-enter the building was given at approximately 12.15pm,” a statement provided by the Ministry this afternoon said. “Passenger processing recommenced quickly thereafter.” Two flights bound for John F Kennedy International Airport were delayed as a result. Both affected flights departed early this afternoon. ‘All other flights operated as normal,” the Ministry said. There were no reports of any injuries or damages.

March 3. Premier Michael Dunkley has reached out to Government House regarding the stateless son of one of Bermuda’s four Uighurs who is in need of medical attention overseas. On Tuesday, this newspaper highlighted the dilemma of five-year-old Muhammad Abdulqadir who is suffering pains in his groin that multiple doctors in Bermuda have been unable to diagnose. Muhammad and his father Abdullah, as well as the other three Uighurs who have been living here since 2009 and some of their children, remain stateless and are not permitted to leave the island — even in the event of a medical emergency. This newspaper contacted Government House earlier this week to ask whether it had any power to move things forward and was told the matter is now in the hands of the UK government while the UK Home Office has refused to comment. However, in light of the boy’s situation, The Premier has made contact with Government House to request it look into the matter. Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette: “The comment from Government House earlier this week that the matter is with the UK is correct. However, we are very concerned for the health and welfare of all people in Bermuda. When a young person is ill and in need of treatment, it is human compassion to want to step in — it is natural we do our best to help someone in need and make sure they get the treatment required. I have reached out to Government House and they are looking into it. Unfortunately, we can not make the decision but Government House is considering the matter.” Former premier Ewart Brown and former Minister for National Security David Burch brought the Uighurs to Bermuda in 2009 without the knowledge or required consent of the UK government. The deal made with the Obama administration gave the men sanctuary after seven years detained in Guantánamo Bay for crimes they were cleared of but they have been here ever since as stateless persons. It has been suggested by the men's’ lawyer in Bermuda, Richard Horseman of Wakefield Quin, that the way they were brought to Bermuda may have had some impact on the time taken to process their documents. Dr Brown gave a brief statement saying it would be a “travesty” if the boy was unable to receive the overseas medical attention he needs and implied that both the UK and Bermuda governments had a part to play. He told us: “I have to believe the UK and Bermuda governments will do the right thing and ensure that this innocent child receives the necessary medical care — it would be a travesty to do otherwise.” We asked Dr Brown whether he felt any responsibility for the delay, whether he could make amends with the UK government and whether he would have done anything differently in hindsight but answers were not forthcoming. Mr Dunkley responded to the comment to say: “For the former premier to say he hopes we do the right thing is interesting when he brought them here under the cloak of darkness without informing his Cabinet or the UK authorities. We are now suffering the consequences of those actions. It makes it very difficult when you make a decision that you do not have the authority to make and expect everyone else to try to correct the decision over the passage of time. We will follow up on the issue in this regard and, more generally, regarding the Uighurs’ citizenship. If we don’t deal with it, it is not going to go anywhere.”

March 3. Former Cabinet Minister Zane DeSilva is accused of telling six lies to the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee when it quizzed him last year about the $24.5 million refurbishment of Port Royal Golf Course. A lawsuit filed by Attorney-General Trevor Moniz against him, other former trustees of the golf course, and his company Island Construction, alleges that his willingness to “lie to a committee of Parliament” on April 27, 2016, along with earlier conduct, showed he “engaged in a deliberate and repeated course of conduct to deceive the Government and the wider public.” The civil complaint claims the Progressive Labour Party MP took part in “self-dealing” — awarding contracts as a member of the board of trustees to his own company and not declaring any conflicts of interest — to personally profit from a taxpayer-funded project to revamp the Southampton facility in time for the 2009 PGA Grand Slam of Golf. The project ran more than $20 million over budget and Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews wrote in a damning 2014 report that it was not possible to conclude whether the board of trustees used all of the funds it received for the intended purpose or whether it had fully accounted for the money. Mr DeSilva said on Wednesday he would fight the lawsuit “to the end”, adding that the board of trustees “did everything by the book”. The first allegations of self-dealing in relation to Port Royal emerged in 2008, when the Mid-Ocean News ran a front-page story quoting construction and landscape bosses who were angry that the contract to refurbish the golf course had not gone out to tender. Jeff Sousa, owner of Sousa’s Land Management and now a One Bermuda Alliance MP, claimed it was awarded in secret and that the “whole bidding process stinks”. The story prompted a response a week later from Wendall Brown, then chairman of the board of trustees for the island’s public golf courses. Prominent businessman Mr Brown, who is also a defendant to this claim, told the newspaper there was no main contractor for the refurbishment project. Mr Brown, chairman of BDC 2000 Ltd, a director of Argus and a former director of Butterfield Bank, said Island Construction had been given a subcontract to excavate ponds and grade and sift material throughout the course but “at no point was Mr Zane DeSilva involved with the bidding process, either as a trustee or as a representative of Island Construction”. Mr Moniz’s complaint claims that statement was “false and misleading” as Mr DeSilva was “at all material times” a director and owner of Island Construction and was “one of its controlling minds and wills”. It says Mr Brown “conspired to conceal” Mr DeSilva’s “breach of fiduciary duty” to the public purse. The writ of summons says: “The trustees did not adopt any procedure for avoiding conflicts of interest or of withdrawing from discussions in which their personal interests might conflict with those of the [Government].” The Auditor’s report led the bipartisan Public Accounts Committee to investigate the project. Mr Brown gave evidence on April 30, 2015, when he told MPs: “I make no apologies that we blew the budget. I think we delivered this so Bermuda could benefit from the PGA.” On April 27 last year, Mr DeSilva opted to give evidence to the PAC, insisting there was no doubt that taxpayers got value for money since Port Royal was now “one of the top public golf courses in the world”. The lawsuit claims the following six statements he made to the committee were false:

The lawsuit claims Mr DeSilva “knew all of these statements to be false but deliberately proceeded falsely to perpetuate the idea that he had not participated in, indeed had absented himself from the award of contracts to [Island], which had been awarded after proper and full competitive tendering processes.” It also accuses Mr Brown of lying in his evidence to the PAC, by saying that the board of trustees had only dealt with Allan DeSilva and not Zane DeSilva regarding the refurbishment project. Another defendant in the lawsuit is SAL Limited, which Mr Brown was a director and owner of “at all material times”, according to the complaint. It says the board gave a contract for constructing golf cart paths to Richold Construction Co Ltd with concrete supplied by SAL and that Mr Brown did not disclose his interest in SAL to the Government. It wasn’t possible to reach Mr Brown or a fifth defendant, Delano Bulford, yesterday.

March 3. Education should be de-politicized to make it “about the children, not the adults”, according to outgoing minister Wayne Scott. An independent entity similar to the Bermuda Tourism Authority should be considered to stop politics getting in the way of progress, the former Minister of Education told The Royal Gazette. In a wide-ranging interview, the One Bermuda Alliance politician also hinted a Bermudian was in line for the education commissioner role which was turned down by non-Bermudian Paul Wagstaff last month. Mr Scott resigned from Cabinet last week, with Cole Simons taking over as the island’s 12th education minister in 19 years. Critics say the “hot potato” nature of the role has been a signal of chronic failure to take responsibility and get the job done. Sharing his thoughts on how education can move forward, Mr Scott said: “We have never had that discussion but we need to de-politicize education. We have to get to a point where we recognise that education is about the children, not about the adults. “Politics gets in the way and it is a disservice to our children. A board similar to what was done with the BTA should be considered — it is not something that has been looked at but what an interesting idea.” Mr Scott has been a strong advocate of having a Bermudian education commissioner, and said he had hoped to announce a local in that role before his own resignation. “The one disappointment about stepping down when I did was that I won’t get to name the new commissioner, which should be happening soon,” he said. For the type of advocacy I have put forward for a Bermudian it would have been nice to be the one to have ultimately made the announcement, but I look forward to hearing that information in the coming weeks from the new minister.” Asked whether his advocacy may have influenced the decision to hire a Bermudian — after Dubai-based Mr Wagstaff turned down the job for personal reasons — Mr Scott said: “I wouldn’t disagree.” He continued: “The reality of it is, as the minister we are not directly involved in personnel decisions but I have let my thoughts be known and there is no question of what my views are. At the same time I have never wanted to go and make a decision that was not mine to make. We have to be frank — we want the best person around for our children but we have to be honest with ourselves — there are certain types of requirements that we might put forward that are not even possible to attain in Bermuda before you do something like this. We are a small place so we have to recognise our limits because not everybody in Bermuda has the opportunity to study and work abroad. The Premier and I had discussed this many times — if it were the case that someone was coming in [from overseas] we would have tried to make it a requirement that something be put in place to have a Bermudian trained to eventually take over.” Mr Scott also spoke on the need for consistency in the curriculum. “There are a lot of things we could be doing better — in terms of our curriculum, we need to stick to the wicket because constantly changing the curriculum around will guarantee that you are kicking the can down the road,” he said. “We have Cambridge and have been sticking with it. Look at Bermuda College: the last couple of intakes the children have needed less remedial work which shows you are kind of getting there. We have done standard-based grading and provided a lot of professional development. We have been providing the tools and we need to have consistency. We need to do two or three things really well and stop trying to do 15 things.” When appointed education minister two years ago, Mr Scott pledged to remain in place until the next General Election. Asked why he stood down from his position prematurely, he responded: “My intention was to continue to stay but you have to evaluate things on an ongoing basis. I am not disappearing. I still plan on continuing to work in the background for the betterment of Bermuda. I’m at a period in my life where I have to look to maintaining my career in IT. I have been out for five years and that is an eternity. The main thing is that I still plan on working in the background to move things forward. Cole Simons is someone as a person who deeply cares about his country and I believe that he will work hard to ensure that our children continue to get the services they need.”

March 2. “The Bermuda Government and Desarrollos Hotel Group have finalized the hotel ground lease that paves the way for the ground breaking of the $150 million St. Regis Luxury Development,” Premier Michael Dunkley announced today. Speaking at a press conference, the Premier said, “On October 20th last year, we announced that the Bermuda Government and the Desarrollos Hotelco Group had finalized the Master Development Agreement for the St. George’s tourism development site. Today is another significant milestone for the St. George’s resort development, as the Government of Bermuda and Desarrollos Hotel Group have finalized the hotel ground lease that paves the way for ground breaking of a $150 million St. Regis luxury development. It is very clear that this project will generate jobs in both construction, and when the resort is operational in a few years time. The development plans for the 124 acre site include a 122 room St. Regis Hotel, a spa, a renovated St. George’s golf course, residential condominium buildings and a casino.”

March 2. Financial services firm Estera has bought up an administration company based in Jersey. Estera — formerly part of law firm Appleby — finalized the deal to take over Morgan Sharpe Administration earlier this week. The new acquisition, which is subject to approval by regulators, will take the Estera name. Farah Ballands, chief executive officer of Estera, said: “This is a great start to the new year following the success of our rebrand in 2016. “The team at Morgan Sharpe is a perfect fit with the Estera group — they are committed to the high standards of service that our clients are accustomed to and we are pleased to welcome them. Under our ownership, Morgan Sharpe’s clients will benefit from additional resources and access to Estera’s expertise on a global basis. Estera is committed to enhancing its position as a leading player in existing and new jurisdictions. With this announcement, we are able to offer clients greater breadth of capabilities in private equity fund administration whilst strengthening Estera’s position in an important market — we are thrilled to boost our presence in Guernsey.” Ethan Levner, Estera group head of corporate development, added: “This acquisition represents our intention to be an active acquirer globally. Morgan Sharpe is an outstanding firm, and we are delighted that the transaction will bring greater depth to Estera’s service offering.” Serena Tremlett and Mel Torode, founders of Morgan Sharpe, said: “Partnering with a leading global player in fund administration and fiduciary services in an increasingly complex and international market was the next logical step for Morgan Sharpe. We have received many approaches from potential buyers in recent years, a great validation of our business model. Estera is the ideal partner for us given its global reach, excellent reputation, professionalism and commitment to both employees and clients. We are excited about the new opportunities for our clients and our team that will arise from this partnership.” Estera, formed last year after a management buyout of Appleby Fiduciary Services, now has more than 370 staff across ten jurisdictions.

March 2. The Commission of Inquiry has given Michael Dunkley a copy of its final report into the misuse of public funds. The Premier said in a statement today that the document was being “formatted for public dissemination” and would then be posted online. He said: “Early last year, I announced Government’s intention to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the findings of the Auditor-General’s report on the Consolidated Fund for the financial years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Today, I can confirm that late yesterday afternoon, the Commission of Inquiry provided me a copy of its final report.” He said commission chairman Sir Anthony Evans noted in a letter accompanying the report that it had been an “honour” for him to serve and “a privilege for all commissioners to serve the people of Bermuda”. Ewart Brown, who was Premier of Bermuda from 2006 to 2010, did not answer questions from the commission’s witness box as he claimed privilege against self-incrimination. Dr Brown released a statement today, pointing to the racial make-up of the inquiry, and claiming the whole process was a political attack on the Progressive Labour Party. “When the commission was first introduced to us, it was clear that it was being established as a tool of the OBA government. Its very composition reflected the historical racism of colonial Bermuda. In 2016, the steadily decreasing black population of Bermuda remained a majority of the population. Yet, the commission included only one black member and was not represented by a single black learnt member of the Bermuda Bar. That, in my humble opinion, was an insult to the black community. Visually, it was quite a disgusting spectacle — black people being called before white masters to answer for some presumed skullduggery. It was truly reminiscent of the worst days of our history in Bermuda. The major purpose of the commission, contrary to its stated raison d’être, was to create a cloud of uncertainty over the PLP by subjecting former PLP leaders to a court-style inquiry into matters that were eight or nine years old.” Dr Brown complained that there had been no examination into the history of activities under the United Bermuda Party or One Bermuda Alliance. “We should all agree that violations of Financial Instructions should not be dismissed as unimportant, but they did not start with the PLP, and they did not end with the PLP. Violations are regrettable, and should be corrected. But, I do not believe that they needed to be explored via a Commission of Inquiry at a cost of over $1 million to the Bermuda taxpayer. Some might recall that when this issue was raised during my tenure as Premier of Bermuda, I suggested that if there was to be a review of past conduct, it should cover the immediate past 14 years of the UBP/OBA administrations and the most recent 14 years of PLP administrations. It seemed only fair, but was not to be. After all, that would not aid the OBA in the General Election! Instead we have been treated to a circus with consequences, where former black ministers and civil servants were questioned in a style more reminiscent of a court prosecution. It was a shameful display! Before any relevant evidence was even discussed, chairman Evans made the summary judgment and headline that the events at Port Royal Golf Course were ‘straightforward fraud’! So, unfortunately, what we will receive from the COI will not be balanced, because it was not conceived in a spirit of fair play, and it was not conducted in an atmosphere of impartiality. Simply put: the COI was contrived to cast aspersions on the character of past PLP administrations in order to influence the upcoming election. The themes associated with black people — suspected criminality and corruption — will be memorialized in print by the report. There will be no surprises. I can reasonably predict that I will be castigated as will others. Bermuda will join Caribbean Neighbours to our South in having black governments accused of possible criminal activity, while white-controlled governments sip tea and plan for casinos and sailing spectacles that include black people, for the most part, in serving and entertainment capacities. It is a sad day in Bermuda. But, it is also another day when this OBA Government will show its wicked hand for everyday people to see — another day when we can resolve that we will not be deterred by those who accuse us and people we know of the very venality they themselves possess. We must resist, Bermuda, confident that history will tell our true story and that God will be our supreme witness.” In his statement, Mr Dunkley also thanked Sir Anthony Evans and the other commissioners — former MP John Barritt, businessman Kumi Bradshaw and businesswoman Fiona Luck — for their hard work during the public meetings, their deliberations and the final writing of the report. “The Commission of Inquiry was a very significant undertaking which sought to review, assess, uphold and protect standards of governance that serve the public interest. The Commission of Inquiry report should greatly assist in moving forward with improvements to the public administration of Bermuda. It also demonstrates this Government’s commitment to ensuring accountability at all levels to ensure that we maintain global confidence in Bermuda as being a first class, top tier jurisdiction.” Mr Dunkley said the public would be notified once the report was available.

March 2. Certain holders of Bermuda passports have been told by authorities in a variety of countries that a visa is required for them to enter the United States, according to the Department of Immigration. Officials are now in talks with the Passport Office in Britain, the Deputy Governor, the US Consul General, and United States Custom and Border Protection, with the aim of rectifying the problem, which has not been caused by any change in US policy. A spokeswoman emphasized that the issue had affected travelers at ports of entry other than the US pre-clearance at the LF Wade International Airport. The passports affected have been those issued after May 2016, and printed in Britain by the UK office. Mary Ellen Noonan Koenig, the US Consul-General pointed out that there had been no alteration to the longstanding US immigration policy relating to Bermuda, and said that Bermudians do not require a visa to enter the US. Her office had recently learnt that some Bermudians were experiencing additional questions or delays at certain international borders, and after examining the issue, discovered that newly issued UK Overseas Territory passports no longer designated Bermuda as separate from other UK Overseas Territories — most of which do require visas to enter the US. “Without its own unique designation, Bermudians with newly issued British Overseas Territories passports might be asked about visas when entering the United States from other countries,” she said. “We referred the issue to Government House and the Ministry of Home Affairs. US Customs and Border Protection officials at LF Wade International Airport are fully aware of the new designation for Bermudians in the new Overseas Territories passports and are able to routinely process visa-free entry to the United States from Bermuda per standard practice.” She advised that obtaining a US visa may nonetheless prove useful in reducing questioning at international borders caused by the elimination of the island’s unique designation code. “The decision to apply for a visa is up to each individual traveller,” she added, directing prospective applicants to the consulate’s website, at https://bm.usconsulate.gov/visas/. The Department of Immigration spokeswoman said that the new passports were readable, containing a biometric chip, but were now coded GBD, the nationality code for British Dependent Territories. BMU, the country code for Bermuda, is no longer included on the passport data page. “This is the real issue,” she said, adding that, until a resolution is achieved, travelers with a BOTC Bermuda passport issued after May 2016 may be asked to obtain a US visa. In such cases, they are advised to co-operate with the authorities of various countries to avoid extreme delays in their travel plans. The Bermuda Government will continue to work expeditiously to resolve the issue and will update the general public accordingly.”

March 2. Arts and culture can be leveraged to move the island forward, according to Lauren Merkel, a senior consultant with Lord Cultural Resources (LCR) which has offices in New York and Toronto, said that Bermudian arts and culture could be a vital resource for the community, bringing about a positive impact. “We just came from the World Heritage Centre and what the director said is the greatest asset to Bermuda is its people,” she said. “I’ve been here only a short while, but it really does seem to be the case. Based on what I have seen and read, there is a lot of potential here and a lot of opportunities.” In partnership with the Bermuda National Gallery, Ms Merkel is this evening set to lead a presentation at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, entitled “The Value of Art & Culture”, focusing on how culture and the arts can help a community. Over the last 35 years, the LCR has completed more than 2,000 projects in more than 57 countries. Speaking yesterday, she said that museums, cities and governments could utilise the “soft power” of the arts to address pressing issues. She noted Chicago, where LCR was tasked with creating a cultural plan in 2012 to help develop the city as a destination for creativity and cultural tourism. “Around 98 per cent of the initiatives we recommended were implemented,” she said. “Last year their architectural biennial doubled the attendance of Venice Architecture Biennale.” As part of the presentation she said participants would be asked to collaborate, speaking discussing how Bermuda’s unique culture can be used to foster inclusion and advance the island as a whole. “We are going to speak about defining culture and gaining some experience from places around the world that are inspirational and relevant in Bermuda. People should come because it’s an opportunity to see examples from around the world that could be applied to Bermuda, and it’s an opportunity to meet with people from different sectors. It’s a chance to meet new people and be inspired by success stories.” The free presentation will be held at the Tradewinds Auditorium with registration and light refreshments beginning at 6pm. RSVP by calling 295-9428 or e-mailing director@bng.bm.

March 2. A group of ten local businesses and organisations are asking for the public to rate their quality of service as they seek National Service Standards Certification. According to the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the certification scheme is intended to help ensure a consistently high standard of service, with certified businesses gaining benefits including staff training and leverage for marketing and promotion. Karla Lacey, BTA’s chief operations officer, said: “After extensive engagement with industry business owners, managers and frontline employees, five service standards relating to customer facing employees at all levels, as well as business activities and facilities, were defined. “The BTA is now assisting with the implementation of these standards via the programme.” Among the ten hospitality industry organisations already going through the process are Alexandra Mosher Studios, Bermuda Transit Services, the Bermuda Restaurant Group, Boulevard Cafe, Dolphin Quest, Flanagan's Irish Pub and Outback Sports Bar, La Trattoria Sports Bar, Lindo's, the Department of Airport Operations and Snorkel Park. This evaluation process for companies already in the programme will take place this month, including a mystery shopper component. Christine Mihelcic, general manager at Dolphin Quest, said: “Having already made a commitment to focus on customer service this year, this programme allows us to maximize resources in a targeted manner The process of certification seemed like a daunting task to begin with but has been quite manageable. At the end of the day, it creates consistency in service delivery which is good for all of Bermuda. Meanwhile other organisations who are interested in earning certification are invited to apply online until March 10 or attend an information session on March 8 or March 10. For more information, contact nfo@service.bm or call the BTA on 296-9200.

March 2. Opposition MP Zane DeSilva and other former trustees of the Port Royal Golf Course are being sued by the Government over a taxpayer-funded refurbishment project which went $20 million over budget. Attorney-General Trevor Moniz alleged in a statement yesterday that the trustees had breached their fiduciary duties and taken part in “self-dealing” during the construction project at the publicly owned Southampton facility, which hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf between 2009 and 2014. A writ of summons obtained by this newspaper and signed on Monday by Ian Kawaley, the Chief Justice, launches civil proceedings against Mr DeSilva, Wendall Brown, Delano Bulford, Island Construction Services Limited and SAL Ltd in the Supreme Court of Bermuda in connection with the refurbishment of Port Royal Golf Course between 2007 and 2009. Mr DeSilva, who was informed of the civil proceedings over the telephone by The Royal Gazette, said he would fight the lawsuit “to the end”. The proceedings follow a raft of damning findings by former Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews in her October 2014 Special Report on the Port Royal Golf Course Improvements Capital Development Project. Mr Moniz said that the independent report led him to launch an internal investigation, particularly into her “finding of self-dealing by trustees. Trustees owe fiduciary duties to Government,” said the Minister of Legal Affairs. “As part of the refurbishment, goods and/or services were supplied to the Port Royal project by companies linked to the first three defendants — all former trustees. At no point did they properly declare their interests or recuse themselves from the board’s decision-making in respect of the refurbishment of Port Royal. The defendants profited at the expense of Government in breach of their fiduciary duties. At no point was Government’s permission sought or given for such a breach. Accordingly, Government is entitled to any profits made from these arrangements and to obtain any secret commissions earned. I will not provide an ongoing commentary on these proceedings. I will robustly litigate this matter before the court, which is the appropriate forum. This is part of Government’s efforts to protect taxpayers and to uphold and vindicate the rule of law.” The writ alleges that the trustees failed to adopt any system for avoiding conflicts of interest in the project. It added: “Indeed, some trustees actively sought to promote the interests of trustees over other contractors.” As an example, the document cites an e-mail on June 30, 2007, from Mr DeSilva to Bob Wilson, a trustee and chairman of the board’s finance sub-committee, asking: “Was wendall and bulford on the list of bidders for the r o plant?” — referring to the reverse osmosis system. It then quotes a reply from Mr Wilson, copying in Bill Pitt, the general manager of Port Royal, on July 2: “I don’t know Zane and Daniel is now handling the process but Bill please ensure Consolidated Water are on the list and ask Mr Bulford if he wants to nominate anyone (please e-mail him directly).” Elsewhere, the writ accuses Mr DeSilva of failing to declare his interest in Island Construction on the importation of thousands of tonnes of sand and gravel. It further alleges that Mr DeSilva was privy to confidential details on the rates of competitor firms, which he shared with Island Construction — which “used that knowledge to adjust its prices to appear more competitive”. Similar allegations are made against various trustees for purchases ranging from concrete to steel and the hiring of construction equipment. The writ accuses Mr DeSilva of making false statements in July 2008, by responding to the Mid-Ocean News that Island Construction had offered the most competitive price for supplying sand and gravel, adding that he had “no day-to-day involvement with the project”. Mr DeSilva is further accused of lying to the Public Accounts Committee in April 2016 in six different statements. The writ alleges that he engaged in “a deliberate and repeated course of conduct to deceive the Government and the wider public about the true position for a substantial number of years”. Among the claims sought from Mr DeSilva are an account of his profits from contracts for sand and gravel, the hiring of equipment and the provision of excavation services. The refurbishment of the golf course was originally budgeted at $4.5 million, but Mrs Matthews detailed in her report how it ended up costing taxpayers $24.5 million. The Auditor-General found “at least three instances where the interests of board of trustee members were, or appeared to be, in conflict with the interests of the board. On two occasions, major contracts were awarded to companies in which board of trustee members appear to have had personal interests. In another instance, it appears that a board of trustee member received a commission from a company which was awarded a contract by the board of trustees.” Among Mrs Matthews’s findings were that the Government failed to properly monitor the project, financial transactions were not recorded and processes to control the expenditure of public money were not followed. After the report was released, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee investigated the project, hearing evidence from businessman Mr Brown, who was chairman during the refurbishment. He told MPs: “I make no apologies that we blew the budget. I think we delivered this so Bermuda could benefit from the PGA [Grand Slam of Golf].” Last September, the Commission of Inquiry, as part of its investigation into the misuse of public funds, heard that actions carried out by the board of trustees of Port Royal were “straightforward fraud”. That was the assessment of commission chairman Sir Anthony Evans, after the tribunal heard how the board of trustees paid $10,000 of public money to a company awarded a contract for goods, so the company could in turn pay that money to board of trustees member Mr Bulford as a “finder’s fee”. At the time of the payment, Mr DeSilva was a member of the Port Royal board. Progressive Labour Party politician Mr DeSilva became Minister without Portfolio at the end of 2009, before becoming health minister in November 2010. Contacted yesterday, Mr DeSilva, who is overseas in the United States, said he was not surprised by the move, but staunchly defended the work done at Port Royal. “I’m not surprised at all, but if that’s the case, I will fight it to the end,” Mr DeSilva said. He suggested its timing was election-related, saying the island was “jumping into silly season”. “I’m very proud of the work that we did up at Port Royal,” Mr DeSilva added. Asked if he had any cause to suspect fraudulent actions, he said: “I know who was sitting on the board; I know we did everything by the book. I have no fears at all.” It is the second civil lawsuit issued by Mr Moniz in three weeks, after he filed an action with a Boston federal court last month, alleging the Lahey Clinic ran a bribery-based scheme with Ewart Brown, the former premier, to profit at the expense of Bermudians. Responding last night, the PLP called for a transparent process to investigate the OBA’s “serious” allegations, but continued: “The actions taken by Trevor Moniz and the One Bermuda Alliance are reminiscent of dictators who used political power and influence to victimize their enemies and are alien to a modern, sophisticated jurisdiction like Bermuda. When it came to scandals like Jetgate and the serious allegations that forced the resignation of the OBA’s first premier, where was Trevor Moniz? Where were the investigations and lawsuits? With an election looming, the timing of this and other actions will raise questions about fairness, impartiality and whether the OBA’s approach is less about justice and more about political vendettas or distracting from their failure to create jobs and opportunities for Bermudians.”

March 1. Government House has refused a public access to information request to release correspondence about the four Uighurs who came to Bermuda from Guantánamo Bay. The Royal Gazette asked for the correspondence on January 17, but Deputy Governor Ginny Ferson rejected the application. Ms Ferson, information officer for Government House, wrote: “Your request for information has been carefully considered but the records you are seeking are exempt from disclosure under sections 32 (national security, defence and international relations) and 33 (Governor’s responsibilities and communications with the United Kingdom) of the Public Access to Information Act 2010.” This newspaper requested: “All correspondence on the four Uighurs who came to Bermuda on June 11, 2009 from Guantánamo. This would be correspondence between Government House and the US authorities, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the Bermuda Government, between January 1, 2009 and today’s date.” The Pati Act does provide an exemption in cases where the disclosure of information could prejudice the security or defence of the island or relations with another state or where it contains information communicated in confidence by another state. It also includes an exemption for information relating to the responsibilities of the Governor under the Constitution “the disclosure of which could prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs” and communications between the Office of the Governor and departments of the Government of the United Kingdom. But the Act also states, under both sections 32 and 33, that “a record shall be disclosed if disclosure of it is in the public interest”. Ms Ferson’s letter does not detail whether the public interest test was applied to our Pati request but we have requested an internal appeal of her decision by Governor John Rankin. The Uighurs — Khalil Mamut, Abdulla Abdulqadir, Ablikim Turahun and Salahidin Abdulahad, who are originally from Chinese Turkestan — were brought to Bermuda from Cuba after Ewart Brown, who was then Premier, and former national security minister David Burch struck a deal with the United States, without the United Kingdom’s knowledge. Dr Brown told a press conference on the day they arrived that the men were “landed in Bermuda in the short term, provided with the opportunity to become naturalized citizens and thereafter afforded the right to travel and leave Bermuda, potentially settling elsewhere”. But almost eight years later, they remain in limbo, without passports and unable to leave the island. Their young children are in the same position. As revealed by this newspaper yesterday, Mr Abdulqadir is pleading with British authorities to let his five-year-old son receive specialist medical treatment overseas for pains in his groin, which doctors here have been unable to diagnose. According to their lawyer, Richard Horseman, all four men have applied for themselves and their children to be naturalized as British overseas territory citizens but have not heard back on their applications. In addition to the Pati request to Government House, The Royal Gazette has also made requests to the Department of Immigration and the Cabinet Office for records concerning the Uighurs. The request to Immigration sought records held by the Department on the former prisoners, including any permission they or their dependents have to live and work in Bermuda and any rejections issued for Bermudian status, permanent residency or other immigration status. A response, including eight pages of records, was received by this newspaper at 5pm yesterday and is being reviewed. The Cabinet Office has asked that we narrow our Pati request, which asked for: “All correspondence between the Cabinet Office, including the Premier, and the US authorities regarding the four Uighurs . . . from January 1, 2009 to [January 17, 2017].” The Cabinet Office’s information officer said: “The request received as presented appears to be too broad, and could result in a refusal on administrative grounds.” The officer said the number of records requested would likely cause a “substantial and unreasonable interference” with the work of the department. This newspaper is considering the request to revise.

March 1. Health minister Jeanne Atherden said the Ministry had made some difficult decisions to improve efficiency, but they would be able to make do with a smaller budget. Speaking at a press conference this morning, Ms Atherden noted that the budget for the Ministry of Health was cut by 13 per cent — around $23.6 million. However, she said: “Thanks to continued modernisation, cost cutting and other efficiencies as well as reserves that can tide BHB over, we will be able to manage this reduction. “Make no mistake, the cost of healthcare in Bermuda is high. In fact, Bermuda’s per capita healthcare costs rank second highest in the developed world, second only to the United States. We have been working to curb those costs everywhere we can. The National Health Accounts Report 2016 shows that Bermuda started to bend the cost-curve in 2011 and we are now seeing sustained reductions in total health expenditure. The latest report shows a one per cent decrease in total health spending since 2015. We are working to ensure this reduction translates to lower premiums for the population. We count on the support of private health insurers to reflect similar trends when premiums are adjusted over the next couple of months.” Ms Atherden said the ministry was working with stakeholders to “right-size” King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, noting that the hospital will be bringing its diagnostic imaging fees “in line with other testing facilities on the island”. And she said long-term care remains a priority for the ministry, explaining that they are working on an action plan to address concerns with education and capacity building. Meanwhile, she said the ministry continued to work on healthcare reforms to help address chronic non-communicable diseases, but the public must also do their part. “We all have a part to play because each one of us with a preventable chronic condition like diabetes or hypertension contributes to increased costs,” she said. "Making healthy choices and seeing your doctor to manage these conditions better means a better quality of life and lower healthcare costs.” Ms Atherden noted several initiatives intended to help with chronic non-communicable diseases and reduce costs, including an Enhanced Care pilot programme for persons with such illnesses, a chronic disease register, introduced insurance benefits to assist families caring for loved ones at home and considering options to allow more kidney transplants. “I believe that we are making progress, and I believe the National Health Accounts Report demonstrates that the combined efforts are starting to bear fruit,” she said. “We will continue to use the funds available to our Ministry to inform, educate and empower people about health issues, especially among the most vulnerable populations.”

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March 1. Both land and water transport operators are being encouraged to attend an information session taking place tonight on how to “maximise their direct benefit” from the upcoming America’s Cup. “We are calling taxi drivers, minibus operators and limousines and all who have interests in transport, be it marine or on land, to attend tonight’s information session,” Mike Winfield, CEO of America’s Cup Bermuda (ACBDA), said in a statement. “There will be important information shared in this meeting that will help drivers/operators to understand exactly what will happen during the America’s Cup in May and June.” Specifically, transit operators will be provided with updates on the America’s Cup Village, ticketing, the racecourse, and more. The meeting will also be of interest to boat owners who are interested in earning money during the period." Jerome Robinson, Transport Director with ACBDA, will also “provide an overview of the transportation plan detailing what taxis and minibuses should expect.” A question and answer period will follow. Marine pilot licence holders — particularly Class A licence holders — are also being encouraged to register their interest for entrepreneurial opportunities by e-mailing localbizopps@acbda.bm. The event takes place at St. Paul AME Church, located at 59 Court Street, beginning at 6.30pm.

March 1. The Ministry of Education is exploring the possibility of rebuilding Bermuda’s entire school infrastructure “from the ground up”, this newspaper has learnt. Outgoing education minister Wayne Scott thinks new purpose-built facilities could be built from scratch for approximately the same price as the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building, housing the courts and police, which cost just over $90 million. Mr Scott said he had received the “first, high-level draft of figures back” which could cover the building of three elementary schools and a middle school in each of the three geographical zones — central, eastern and western — identified in the Score [School Reorganization] report. The Score report, commissioned under Mr Scott’s watch, exposed the crumbling infrastructure across Bermuda’s 18 primary schools including mould issues, infestations and broken facilities. Mr Scott said smaller investigations into the island’s remaining 20 schools turned out similar results. Options were being explored to renovate the existing facilities but this latest development could lead to fewer schools on the island but with buildings designed for 21st-century learning. The old structures could be adapted for other use, Mr Scott said. Mr Scott, who stepped down as education minister last week but said he would remain involved in the ministry as a backbencher, told The Royal Gazette: “We have got old facilities and it is difficult sometimes with modern teaching environments in such awkward facilities. I want to really start to have the conversations within the community with regards to a plan that we have started to look at that could see the whole school infrastructure be rebuilt. “There are two things — we have got to continue maintaining the schools but that is just a temporary measure. At some point, we are going to need to look at rebuilding our entire infrastructure. We probably couldn’t do that with the number of schools we have. If we cut down on the number of schools, the net result is you have all new facilities and I think that is something that the public could buy into.” The entire education budget for 2017 is $127m Minister of Finance Bob Richards revealed in last Friday’s budget. Asked whether the money could be found for such an ambitious project, Mr Scott replied: “If you are being fiscally responsible, these are things that have to realistically be done. I have initial figures back that is approximately the same cost of the new police and court building and you can have an entire new school infrastructure. It would be a very good investment for the future of Bermuda. I am talking about building from the ground up. If you look at the number of schools we have and the cost of going through and renovating those facilities, in some cases it is cheaper to actually build from scratch and purpose build. Using buildings that are designed for 21st-century learning in line with what current education techniques are. Our infrastructure was built 50 or 60 years ago. At a minimum — in each zone if we had three brand-new elementary schools and a brand- new middle school, that is something that could probably work in Bermuda. I have been working on it in the background and it is my intention to continue to talk more in the community about it.

March 1. Environmental group Greenrock has blasted last week’s Budget, calling it “unsustainable and unimaginative”. Jonathan Starling, the charity’s executive director, praised an increase in funding for recycling and composting programmes, but the organisation said the Budget raised questions about the Government’s commitment to sustainable development. “Perhaps the most striking element of this year’s Budget is the complete failure to address anything remotely environmentally friendly in the Budget statement,” the organisation said. “There is no mention of sustainable development, energy efficiency, renewable energy, waste management, marine sustainability, green jobs or even climate change.” After reviewing the full Budget Book, Mr Starling said that there were some welcome elements, although their impact would have to be seen. “We welcome the increases to the Recycling Budget — this is a $453,000 increase on last year’s budget,” he said. “What, exactly, that would mean for increasing the throughput of recycling of course isn’t clear, but we certainly welcome the increased support for it. We also note the 12 per cent increase to the Composting Programme and, in particular, the increases for Water & Sewage Administration and Sewage Collection budget. I’m not sure how much that will affect issues related to greaseballs. However, it’s certainly welcome. The increases to Public Transport look promising. There appears to be $2.5 million allocated in capital acquisition for new buses and a 19 per cent increase for Repair & Servicing, presumably for buses. Combined, we would hope that this ensures our bus fleet is running well. Shifting towards a greater use of public transport would go a long way to reducing Bermuda’s overall carbon footprint, so we welcome anything that could support that.” However, the organisation raised serious concerns about sustainable development in the wake of the Department of Sustainable Development being merged with the Central Policy Unit. “I believe we raised some concerns at the time about this, especially the dropping of the name ‘sustainable development’,” Mr Starling said. “While this didn’t necessarily mean that the Government was abandoning its commitment to sustainable development, the concern was there — that this wasn’t simply a symbolic name change. Looking at the performance metrics for this, it’s not clear to me what the situation is with sustainability impact assessments, sustainable development indicators, embedding sustainable development principles within Government policies and programmes or public outreach on sustainable development including the Sustainable Development Round Table.” And while the organisation said it welcomed increases in funding to the Ministry of Education, it was unclear if such investment would include efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of schools. “Investing in this would reduce the overall long-term costs to the public purse over time, through investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Greenrock said in a statement. “Similarly, this could be expanded throughout all government-owned buildings — smart investments to increase energy efficiency and even add renewable energy infrastructure to these buildings, could considerably reduce the overall long-term costs to the taxpayer, while at the same time reducing Bermuda’s carbon footprint. The Budget is, ultimately, unsustainable and unimaginative. There are lost opportunities for positive returns in renewable energy and encouraging a shift to electric or hybrid private vehicles. While the proposals regarding tax reform are of interest, we are disappointed at the lack of ‘green taxes’ such as a carbon tax. We would hope that the Government would investigate the potential for innovative fiscal instruments to encourage a more sustainable Bermuda. We believe that fiscal instruments are potentially among the most effective, and cost-effective, options for making Bermuda more sustainable — and note the success that Mauritius has had in reforming its tax system to promote environmental objectives.”

March 1. The failure to support cash-strapped charities in the future will create a “survival of the fittest” situation, a prominent figurehead warns. Elaine Butterfield, the executive director at The Centre on Philanthropy, said that under the proposed Budget tabled last Friday, charities would remain in their current state of “having to strive harder to thrive”, after contributions were cut “tremendously” in previous years. “Our community cannot afford for some charities to wind up, especially those services which support families, housing, abuse, food, addiction, etc,” Ms Butterfield said. She was happy to see a boost for the Salvation Army, whose work “will have a tremendous impact on the community in the long run”, but concerned that the long-term consequences of funding for charities not being increased will lead to a “survival of the fittest” situation. “The 20 per cent downsizing in the number of charities is not solely because of the implementation of the Charities Act 2014,” Ms Butterfield said. “Some have chosen to close shop because of lack of funding. It would have been good to see a strategy around supporting social services providers, who greatly lessen the burden of the Government to provide a striving society for our Bermuda.” A re-evaluation of priorities may be required to enact significant change, she said. “We are a very materialistic country and perhaps it is time to look at who we have become and is this sustainable — from the top down. Whoever the next Government is, it would be so good to see some leadership in this thought process. The current direction seems to be creating a greater divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.” Extending the age of retirement, and teaching financial skills in the classroom beginning from primary school would be beneficial, Ms Butterfield said. Going beyond the “status quo” is also needed to ensure the island’s future success. “The real objective of our service is to diminish and ultimately eliminate the causes that we serve,” Ms Butterfield said. “This will take strategy and collaborative support from all sectors and not just finances.”

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