Premier Michael Dunkley has rearranged his Cabinet – relieving himself of responsibility for National Security, removing Michael Fahy from the Labour and Home Affairs portfolio, and appointing three new substantive Ministers.
The Opposition Progressive Labour Party was quick to dismiss the changes as a “last ditch” effort by the Premier to save his leadership of a divided party and criticised the increase in the size of Cabinet.
Senator Fahy remains a Minister – in charge of tourism, transport and municipalities – while Pat Gordon-Pamplin has taken over the Home Affairs portfolio.
The Premier defended his decision to keep Senator Fahy in the Cabinet saying he is hardworking and knowledgeable.
He said: “I can’t please everyone all the time but I’m very comfortable with Minister Fahy in Tourism, Transport and Municipalities. He has an incredible appetite for work. He’s a very knowledgeable person, a very industrious person and I think every member of our team knows that he is well suited to continuing on in Cabinet.”
In his prepared remarks, the Premier said that Minister Fahy had “streamlined planning procedures, made significant progress on the road to immigration reform and has overseen changes that have strengthened the Corporation of St Georges to meet the needs of the old town.”
Minister Fahy’s approach to immigration reform has angered many in the community, sparking protests in March and calls for his dismissal from the Cabinet.
New faces in the Cabinet are Sylvan Richards (Social Development and Sport), Jeff Baron (National Security) and Cole Simons (Environment, Planning and Parks).
Richards held the junior ministry for Home Affairs and represented that portfolio in the House of Assembly. In recent months he has also been a vocal proponent for a referendum on marriage equality and is said to have opposed a bid by his party to introduce a bill allowing for same sex Civil Unions. The bill, now under his remit, was introduced as a “consultative” bill and a referendum on marriage equality and civil unions has been announced for June 23.
Nandi Outerbridge, the country’s youngest parliamentarian is now Government House Leader and Party whip – a position previously held by Cole Simons – and will also serve as junior Minister for Social Development and Sport.
And backbencher Kenneth Bascome now has a role as junior tourism minister.
“Today’s cabinet shuffle is a last ditch effort by Premier Dunkley, who is hemorrhaging support within his party and the country, to try to regain control,” Acting PLP Leader David Burt said in a statement.
Burt pointed out that Sylvan Richards had championed the controversial Pathways to Status immigration reform proposals in parliament as junior Home Affairs Minister.
“His reward for dutifully pushing Premier Dunkley’s Pathways to Status agenda is elevation to the full Cabinet, while those persons opposed to his pathways agenda, such as MP Leah Scott, have been sent to the backbench. These are simply new faces put forward in Cabinet to execute the agenda pushed by Ministers Fahy, Moniz, and Richards that has been supported by Premier Dunkley.
“At a time when budgets are being reduced for education and when money is being taken from the vulnerable and being redirected to Aecon for the Airport and to the Americas Cup; it is shocking that the Premier has disregarded the SAGE committee’s recommendations, and increased the size of the Cabinet to 13 full ministers which will cost the taxpayer more money simply for his own job security.”
Mr Burt added: “Bermudians want leadership that is transparent and accountable, follows the rules, and puts the interest of Bermudians first. Until the agenda and priorities of the One Bermuda Alliance change, the Premier will continue to see his numbers fall, no matter how many faces he changes around him. Given that reality, today’s Cabinet additions are simply an exercise by Premier Dunkley to try and protect his failed and weak leadership. This is a rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic that will not benefit Bermudians, but may stay the Premier’s political execution for a little while longer.”
There are now 12 senior Cabinet Ministers (not 13) up from nine. It was pointed out to the Premier that reducing the size of Cabinet has been a perennial promise over the years.
“I’m not sure there are specific promises about reducing the size of cabinet. I think every Premier should use that flexibility to appoint the people that can best serve with them and for the people of Bermuda,” the Premier said at today’s Government House swearing in.
He added that Government’s commitment was “to get this economy moving again to help Bermudians and to make sure that we stop the bleeding in Government finances and I think we’ve made some progress”.
“I feel very comfortable with the size of Cabinet because if you look at the size of this cabinet there’s been other cabinets of the same size or larger, and the fact of the matter is we’ve always been very conscious about curbing our costs,” he said.
“Every decision that I make is about trying to move this island forward but cognisant that we are borrowing money.”
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