As noted in my post yesterday, there’s a developing story which I feel is going to become VERY big. Explosively big.
At the moment it’s impossible to say anything more than these affidavits contain a number of allegations concerning key persons in the OBA Government, allegations concerning bribes, possibly blackmail, and questions about governance in general.
The entire affidavits have been made available online via a blog ‘Bermuda Corruption’ that appears to have been set up explicitly for these revelations. I don’t know who is behind the blog or what their motivations are.
I have, however, read over the two affidavits (one from Mr MacLean and one from Mr Peniston, who appears to have acted as some sort of legal consultant – but not lawyer – for Mr MacLean), as well as listened to the audio of a phone call allegedly between Mr DaCosta and Minister Fahy.
A large number of allegations are contained in both of these, and I would advocate readers to read them for themselves at this moment in time.
The Phone Call
For those wondering about the relevance of the phone call, it should be listened to in conjunction with certain sections of Mr MacLean’s July 2nd affidavit. It appears to concern, according to the affidavit, Mr MacLean being presented with an early draft of the legislation which ultimately became the Municipalities Amendment Act 2013, and a discussion concerning some sections of the proposed Act.
This apparent phone call and alleged discussion about aspects of the draft Act does not strike me as a smoking gun.
It’s not necessarily unusual for Government to seek feedback on various proposed legislation from primary stakeholders affected by the legislation, and to do this before publicly publishing the Act in question. We see this with the controversial legal reforms currently being discussed (the proposed Disclosure & Criminal Reform Act and the Criminal Jurisdiction & Procedure Act) where the Bermuda Bar Association was involved in prior consultation concerning them.
What does strike me as quite unusual (to put it mildly) is if Mr DaCosta (who is not a civil servant, MP or Senator) was serving as a middle-man or facilitator for such a consulting role. That in itself is concerning.
While not a smoking gun in itself, I think the reasoning behind providing that one audio so far was to demonstrate that there are recordings and other evidence as noted in the affidavit, to give the other claims in it greater credibility – not only can the affidavit make claims, it can put forward evidence to back them up. I get the impression that the site is including it to achieve two goals:
- Fire a warning shot that those behind the site have more information and have no qualms releasing far more embarrassing or incriminating evidence going forward.
- Indicate that such evidence will be released over time (presumably to allow people to analyse and digest information, maintain interest – build suspense – and avoid information overload/reader fatigue).
Whether those tactics are good ones or not, well, I reckon we’ll only be able to tell that in hindsight.
The allegations in these affidavits could hardly be more serious.
The OBA was elected, in large part, as a result of electoral dismay concerning a perception that the former PLP Governments had presided over various scandals, alleged abuse of power and alleged corruption. They claimed to be the party of transparency and accountability, of doing business differently.
Instead they’ve been mired in successive alleged scandals, dating (as we found out later) right to their election campaign. And while Jet Gate continues to be dismissed as a small thing – after initially being dismissed right out of hand – by some OBA supporters, it has created (along with terrible PR by the OBA) a situation where more and more people are increasingly receptive to these allegations as being more fact than fiction.
The OBA has created for itself a major trust deficit and failed to be the party of transparency and accountability in the eyes of many voters.
And beyond our voters these issues, these successive allegations (which all seem to have more substance than much of the scandals attributed tot he PLP) have no doubt tarnished our image internationally – both politically and with potential investors.
This should concern us all.
If, as these documents allege, certain members of the OBA have abused their positions to use a carrot and stick approach towards Mr MacLean, including using State power (approvals and changing legislation to suit their needs) to induce an outcome to enrich themselves, and engaged in even some of the activities alleged in the documents, then the people of Bermuda are entitled to the facts.
These issues go to the heart of the people’s concerns about whether their political leaders have integrity, are trustworthy and are transparent.
I think we need a full and transparent investigation into these allegations, and the entire handling of the waterfront deal and municipal reform by the OBA. This is needed to establish the facts and clear up these suspicions once and for all.
[If you’ve noticed that my above comments echo those of then Opposition UBP Leader Michael Dunkley speaking in 2007 about the BHC allegations, you’re right – I’ve done that intentionally, because he was right then, and the same applies today under his Premiership.]
Time for a Commission of Inquiry
I’m wary of using ‘royal commissions’, but my opposition is primarily semantic. I do believe we need a major formal public inquiry, and under our existing colonial system, that does mean a royal commission.
Such a commission of inquiry should have wide-ranging powers, be charged with looking also at matters around Jet Gate (and be empowered to investigate additional issues as they arise as a result of their investigation), and be required to publish their findings and recommendations, in full, to the public.
If the OBA elects to not act pro-actively on this, and the PLP is unable to force it through a vote in parliament, then I do believe the ‘people’ have the right and duty to agitate and organise to ensure this occurs, be it through petitions, demonstrations and/or civil disobedience.
Our people are increasingly disillusioned with politics. We need to change that and restore faith in politics and democracy generally.
A full, empowered and wide-ranging commission of inquiry seems to be the best way to achieve this.
A further note
This post is already at about the maximum size I like to post, so I’ll bring it to a close here. I just wanted to note the following:
- A small part of MacLean’s July 2nd affidavit should also raise concerns about the role of the previous administration.
- The way both OBA and PLP supporters are reacting to these allegations are almost a mirror image of PLP and UBP supporters reacting to other allegations pre-2012 – such is the nature of partisanship. This doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the allegations, but it’s an observation I think worth making.
- Expect the House of Assembly to be full of fireworks tomorrow.
- The allegations contained in these affidavits have the potential to reignite other allegations, including those from Valentines Day last year.