Recently, TNN’s Trevor Lindsay spoke with a sitting PLP Minister who indicated to him that they were issued a non-disclosure document for all ministers, preventing them from speaking with the media about anything that’s going on within the Party. If they do, they are at risk of losing their ministerial portfolio.
TNN understands a Minister takes the oath of office as they are sworn in at Government House and standards to uphold.
Other backbenchers expressed concern to TNN that the Government has 30 seats in the House of Assembly, but only one voice is heard and dominant.
TNN spoke with Former PLP MP Terry Lister in an exclusive interview, who had the following to say:
“ It’s never in the best interest of any country to have people muzzled, but people in the Cabinet should work together and should not break away. If they do break away, they are doing so because they feel very strongly about an issue and are prepared to pay the price.”
Mr. Lister believes that if there are some Cabinet members who strongly feel that the country is not headed in the right direction at this time, then they should act upon those feelings and put the country’s interests ahead of their own political futures.
“ What should be happening is that [caucus] meetings on Wednesday nights are almost riotous, with people standing up and carrying on, because they are not happy,” he said. “ If they are meeting on Wednesday nights for the full caucus and having a nice, quiet meeting and no one is saying anything, then they are not serving their constituents and not being honest to themselves.”
Mr. Lister believes that every time a new person is elected into parliament anywhere in the world, they walk in prepared to become the leader of their country and/or party. However, as time goes on, they adjust their expectations.
“ Half the time, people are just happy sitting in Cabinet and doing their job there, and some are happy with just being a constituency politician and working really hard for their constituents,” he said. “ We should never be in a position where we believe that there is no one else to lead [the country]. That is a foolish position to be in, because we don’t know how people will perform [as a leader] until they [actually] are there.”
With the one-year anniversary of the PLP’s landslide 2020 victory, Mr. Lister believes that the party and the country are in a very different state than they were when they won last year. This, according to him, is largely because all the information has not been passed out into the community and when it is passed out, it isn’t passed out in a way that makes a lot of sense.
“ The people of Bermuda need a clear picture as to how we got where we are today and what we need to do to turn it around, but until they receive that, there will be fussing,” he said.
Mr. Lister views the Coronavirus as a moving target and that the policies introduced by the Government to protect people from the virus, from the mask mandates to vaccinated people following different rules than unvaccinated ones, should also be viewed as moving targets.
“ People cannot hold the Government accountable for yesterday, due to [the virus’] change, and we must accept that,” he said. “ When they introduced different guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers arriving on the island, they did not fully realize that vaccinated people could catch the virus.
When that did become known, the Government had a decision to make which it has not yet made, and that is where I am strongly opposed to where we stand.”
According to Mr. Lister, all travellers arriving on the island, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, should quarantine for two weeks at a hotel. That legislation would take away the perceived privileges that vaccinated people have over unvaccinated in Bermuda.
“ [That legislation] would certainly have a big impact on our air service because a lot of people would stop travelling, but COVID would slowly start to go away,” he said. “ It’s the Delta variant coming into the island that has caused 50 Bermudians to lose their lives during this month alone and if 75 percent of the people who are bringing it in are vaccinated people, then we have to do something.”
According to Mr. Lister, this mandatory quarantine period for all travellers (at their own expense), combined with more restrictions and possibly another two-week lockdown, will cause the COVID numbers in Bermuda to severely decrease.
“ If a two-week lockdown is done in conjunction with the airport piece, I will buy into it, but if they are going to lock down the island and still allow vaccinated people to enter and go home, then I won’t support anything,” he said. “ This pandemic is too serious and we are losing too many people.
[Vaccinated people] don’t realize that it is their own group coming back to the island who are carrying the virus. No one is playing that fact up . . . [This entire situation] really is sad and we need to do something to cut these numbers down.”
TNN sort a response on Friday from the Premier office and from the Progressive Labour Party Office headquarters, a response was issued late last night posted below.
“The Progressive Labour Party Government, through strong leadership, has continued to deliver on its election promises while shepherding Bermuda through a once in a century Pandemic.
The PLP is governed by its Constitution. This document, supported by its membership, outlines the parameters for which the Party, its Executive, Caucus and Members function. Likewise the Government of Bermuda is Governed by its own constitution.
1) On being appointed a Minister of the Government in Bermuda, the Bermuda Constitution requires that that person swear an oath. That oath requires strict confidentiality. It reads:
Oath for the due execution of the office of Premier or other Minister.
“I,……………………………, being appointed Minister, do swear that I will to the best of my judgment, at all times when so required, freely give my counsel and advice to the Governor (or any other person for the time being lawfully performing the functions of that office) for the good management of the public affairs of Bermuda, and I do further swear that I will not on any account, at any time whatsoever, disclose the counsel, advice, opinion or vote of any particular Minister, and that I will not, except with the authority of the Cabinet and to such extent as may be required for the good management of the affairs of Bermuda, directly or indirectly reveal the business or proceedings of the Cabinet or the nature or contents of any documents communicated to me as a Minister or any matter coming to my knowledge in my capacity as such, and that in all things I will be a true and faithful Minister. So help me God.”
The confidentiality required by a Minister’s oath is necessary to support the principle of collective responsibility. Collective responsibility is an international feature of Cabinet-style Government under the Westminster System and means that all Ministers (including the Premier) are bound by the decisions of the Cabinet, and if they cannot support a decision, they must resign. This is not unique to Bermuda, and is standard for governments around the world.
Further, as one of the Good Governance reforms of the first PLP Government, all Ministers (including the Premier) are governed by the Ministerial Code of Conduct which can be found on the Government website. Following their appointment by the Governor, all Ministers sign a document to confirm they have read & understood the Ministerial Code of Conduct and agree to be bound by it. This Code outlines collective responsibility, and the standards of conduct applications to Cabinet Ministers.
The Ministerial Code of Conduct can be found here and contains an entire section on collective responsibility: https://www.gov.bm/sites/default/files/8379_Ministerial-Code-of-Conduct-July2018.pdf
2) Ministers of the Government, MPs, Senators are all the voice of the PLP in Government. As a team we speak to people every day all across the Island and the chorus of concern for the welfare of Bermuda’s people is the voice that is heard. That is the “one voice” of the PLP.
3) Fundamentally, leadership is about making decisions, building consensus, listening to various views, connecting with the people and ultimately delivering on the promises made for the benefit of the people. The entire leadership of the PLP is committed to those ideals and it is through healthy internal and external debate that we will deliver on our pledge to rebuild Bermuda with Bermudians at heart.”
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