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Opposition Leader to call for vote of no confidence


Opposition Leader to call for vote of no confidence

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HAMILTON, Bermuda – Leader of the main opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP), David Burt has announced plans to call a motion of no confidence in the ruling One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) at the next sitting of parliament as the outcome of the next general election, due in the next ten months, remains on a knife-edge.

Burt made his announcement during the closing stages of Friday’s sitting of the House of Assembly after claiming two victories and shortly after midnight told reporters: “It’s clear that the One Bermuda Alliance is not able to control the House and, in that vein, it is the responsibility of the opposition to test that in the House.”

The OBA narrowly won the December 2012 general election by 19 seats to the Progressive Labour Party’s 17, but the OBA has since lost two of its Members of Parliament, former Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell and ex-Attorney General Mark Pettingill, who both now sit as independents.

However, the PLP still has one less vote because one of its members, Randy Horton, is the Speaker of the House and can vote only if there is a tie.

“Tonight, the Progressive Labour Party won two major victories for the people,” Burt’s statement read, noting the passage of the PLP’s bill for the decriminalisation of small amounts of cannabis.

“Then, over the objections of the Minister of Finance (Bob Richards) the PLP successfully passed a bill to reduce Bermuda’s statutory interest rate from seven per cent to 3.5 per cent.

“Over the last year, two founding members of the OBA voted with their feet and reduced the OBA to a minority government without a mandate to govern,” the statement added.

“Today’s votes have revealed that the minority OBA government no longer has control of parliament. Having lost the support of even their founding members, it is clear that it is time to take it to the people and for Bermudians to decide the direction of Bermuda’s future.”

The next election is expected to be called later in the year, although under the constitution it can be delayed until next March.

Burt declined to tell reporters if he felt Friday’s votes in the House would be indicative of the success of the motion he plans to call.

“I think that what’s important is we recognise that it is important for there to be a strong and stable government in place, and the One Bermuda Alliance is clearly neither strong nor stable.”

In response, Premier Michael Dunkley said he was not totally surprised by the motion as it had been brought up before, but that he would face it head-on when the debate takes place.

“We feel that we have made great strides over the last couple of years, certainly in recent months there has been tremendous progress. If you listen to the opposition you might think the sky is falling and nothing good is happening.

“We will state our case and move forward from there.”

Asked about the balance of the House being left in the hands of the two independents, Crockwell and Pettingill, colleagues at a Hamilton law firm, the Premier said: “It’s up to them to speak on the day and decide what they are going to do.

“In the sessions we have had since they have both gone independent, they have argued what they thought on the merits of the bills. They have supported the government and they have supported the opposition.

“Today’s decriminalisation, the opposition bill was very similar to our bill. Mr Pettingill, to his credit, brought some amendments that made that workable for everyone in the House.

“The statutory interest blll, I think everyone is trying to help people as best they can, and so I don’t think those votes are any pretence for what you would expect on any other vote.”

Crockwell said he would have to consider his decision, recalling that he left the OBA because of his own lack of confidence in Dunkley’s leadership.

The OBA inherited a national debt of US$1.4 billion when it took office amid rising unemployment in this British Overseas Territory. The debt has since grown to US$2.4 billion. (CMC)