Saying “the decision to rise and report progress may have been a move to save face from a potential Government embarrassment,” Dr. Katherine Michelmore said she hopes it “represents a recognition on behalf of Government that there is much wrong with this SDO and how it has been presented to the public.”
Dr. Michelmore, spokesperson for the environment for the BDA, said she welcomes the news that the debate on the SDO in the senate was discontinued yesterday to allow for “reflection”.
Following weeks of controversy and an all day demonstration, the Senate debate about the Special Development Order [SDO] which would have allowed Tucker’s Point Resort in-principle approval to build additional units was brought to a halt last night [Mar.18]
Approximately 4.5 hours into the debate last night, Senator David Burt [PLP] interrupted Senator Jeanne Atherden [UBP], and asked to “rise and report progress,” effectively ending the debate and delaying the vote.
Of the eleven Senators, only Senator Kim Wilson [PLP], and Senator Carol Ann Bassett [Independent] were left to speak. The PLP Senators were in support of the SDO, while the UBP Senators were against, meaning the SDO needed one Independent Senator to support it for it to pass.
Independent Walwyn Hughes said he would not support it, as did Senator Joan Dillas Wright, leaving Senate President Carol Ann Bassett to be the deciding vote. The debate stopped prior to Senator Bassett speaking, and her position remains unknown.
When asked why he stopped the debate, Senator Burt said, “The considered position having liaised with the Premier, Min. Roban,Min. Minors and the Senate Government Leader was that the better view was to rise, and report progress. We listened. This way we give an option for all the parties to reflect and to review their position.”
The SDO can be brought back to the Senate for a vote, although it is unclear at this time when, and if, that might happen.
Dr. Michelmore’s full statement follows below:
As spokesperson for the environment for the BDA, I welcome the news that debate on the SDO in the senate was discontinued yesterday to allow for “reflection”.
The PLP senator David Burt claims that “we listened”, however the proof of this will be in what happens next. Will hasty amendments be made to try and appease the objectors, or will there actually be a more honest and open discussion about how we have arrived at this place?
This SDO has been controversial from its onset. Reports of plans to further expand and develop Tuckers Point were met with “no comment” back in 2010. Then suddenly Bermuda was presented with an SDO in February, detailing plans which would dramatically impact upon an environmentally sensitive area.
It must be noted that this was the first SDO to be debated in Parliament, which was a significant step forward, however there were concerns that it was “rushed” through in Parliament, being debated during the budget, and before opposing groups such as BEST and CURB could fully inform the public of their concerns.
Following the passage of the SDO in parliament, more detailed information regarding the financial status of Tuckers Point and the composition of its shareholders has been revealed. It is distressing that the House of Assembly would make its decision in the absence of such information.
The decision to “rise and report progress” may have been a move to “save face” from a potential Government embarrassment, but I hope that it represents a recognition on behalf of Government that there is much wrong with this SDO and how it has been presented to the public.
Will the Government continue to purport that it is “in the public interest” to sacrifice the environment, or will they look for viable alternative solutions? All of Bermuda needs to be engaged in this discussion over whether we seek short term gain over long term prosperity.
For full video, audio and text coverage of the 13 hour SDO demonstration, and debate see here.