A very disturbing trend continues to rear its ugly head with the PLP government reversing its own decisions or massaging laws all together for the benefit of the chosen few. This pattern should concern all Bermudians.
The latest incident involves the Minister of the Environment purporting that planning approvals for Special Development Orders(“SDO”), should no longer require Parliamentary review, and approval before it is finalized. In other words, the Minister is proposing a reversal of an amendment to the Bermuda planning laws, which he himself put into place in 2011. Let us be clear, Special Orders are typically reserved for major capital development projects which must be of national interest.
This action is bizarre, as the recent Riddles Bay (Warwick Parish) Special Development Order went through Parliament on July 28, 2020 without a hitch. There was thorough examination and scrutiny, robust debate, and cross-party approval.
What exactly is the problem with the current system?
Why does the Minister feel the need to make this sudden and unnecessary about face, given that good governance, and full transparency dictates a full examination and approval in our Parliament before SDO’s come into effect?
What make the current action more questionable is the fact during that the Riddles bay Warwick Parish SDO’s parliamentary debate, Minister Roban underscored the fact that this special development order provides a framework that ensures absolute transparency through debate in the House, especially on matters of national interest.
In addition, in 2011, Minister Roban recommended and changed all SDO instruments from a negative resolution to the affirmative resolution. He made it very clear that processing all SDOs under the affirmative resolution would ensure increased transparency and allow the public to comment and openly debate such SDO’s. Now, the government is no longer interested in this level of transparency in when it comes to major capital developments which are of national interest. If the Minister has his way, these projects would be rubber stamped without consultation or debate in Parliament. Who are the benefactors of these projects?
What is driving this unexpected change?
What commitments has the Government already made to the latest property developer?
What have they promised and to whom, that requires less parliamentary scrutiny?
While SDO’s have historically been granted for tourism uses or for projects of national interest, recent trends have seen a significant increase of SDO’s being granted for small developments that fully comply with the zoning requirements of the planning department, so why the need for the SDO?
The OBA agrees with the BEST group who have legitimate concerns that the future of the Fairmont Southampton property could morph from a tourist facility into a real estate agency, which is selling off its property. Who are the benefactors?
What is going on within the PLP government?
It appears that this latest about-face decision is just another example of where this administration has retracted and amended decisions, because of political whims, half-baked regulations, and legislation, which are inadequately enforced.
Look at the investigation into inconsistencies of Covid-19 regulations which took place last month after the Bermuda Tourism Authority confirmed that renowned reggae artist Shaggy and an accompanying group of 70 models and influencers were granted a weekend exemption for Covid regulations, when strict protocols were in place.
At that time, we predicted that if these inconsistencies in governance continued, especially surrounding the current Covid rules, more and more people would lose confidence and respect for the Premier, and no longer respect the Covid-19 protocols. The evidence of that taking place has been made apparent over the ensuing weeks and more recently with the act of civil disobedience by the Cannonier-Watson family.
As Opposition Leader, I continue to sound the alarm because Bermuda demands less division and more respect and equity for all Bermudians. This country wants transparency, equity, and definitely more accountability.