OBA’s Fahy On Ombudsman’s Report

February 13, 2012 | 34 Comments

[Written by Senator Michael Fahy, Shadow Minister for the Environment, Infrastructure Strategy, Planning and Housing]

People who read this report must surely be struck by three things:

First, what an excellent report it is! It is thorough, comprehensive, easy to read and as logical as 2 and 2 make 4. Credit must go to the Ombudsman herself, Ms Arlene Brock, whose credentials as a courageous, independent champion of the people’s rights are enhanced by it greatly.

Second, what an indictment it is of a Government that says it is committed to transparency, but behaves as if the public cannot be trusted with information.

And third, with how little care and thought this Government actually carries out its obligation to protect Bermuda’s environment on behalf of the Bermuda public, whom it was elected to serve – despite self-congratulatory statements on their apparent credentials.

Ms Brock quotes an unnamed Bermuda official as having said “Bermuda may be the first place in the world to reach an absolute limit of development – we have the highest density and the lowest protected space…”

Yet, we must constantly balance the need to protect our extremely limited natural resources with the need to protect our tourism industry. There is no question we face that is of greater importance to Bermuda’s future.

And yet Ms Brock found that “With respect to the Tucker’s Point SDO application, this Report finds that, as there was no proper process to gather information, the data available to inform analysts and decision-making was inadequate. The failure of a proper public consultation process resulted in ad hoc, adversarial airing of public concerns. Pertinent data was sidelined because the messengers were dismissed as ‘tree huggers’, ‘the usual voices’ and ‘alarmists’.”

What an indictment of the PLP’s supposed commitment to the democratic process that is.

Dame Jennifer Smith JP MP, when she was Premier, signed a treaty with Baroness Amos, representing the British Government, binding the Bermuda Government to treating Bermuda’s environment in an enlightened fashion, in line with the thinking and philosophies of most world governments. Environmental Impact Assessments and public consultation for the development of protected land like Tucker’s Point were a part of that treaty.

By failing to treat the Tucker’s Point development properly in either of those respects, the Bermuda Government broke the treaty, not just technically, but fundamentally. In other words it was unlawful. Sadly given the behavior of this Government over the last number of years it is not surprising.

Ms Brock quotes Nelson Mandela as having said how much he valued the actions of his Government being questioned and judged by outside bodies, because they were a guarantee of his Government’s intention to treat the public business with proper respect.

It is interesting to contrast Nelson Mandela’s attitude with that of the current Minister, Hon Marc Bean, who seemingly reacted to the publication of the report angrily and essentially accused the ombudsman of bias, saying among other things:

“…SDOs are the purview of Ministers, the Cabinet and the Legislature which is the highest policy-making body of all of Bermuda’s democratic institutions.

“It is somewhat peculiar, therefore, that an Ombudsman would seek to enter into what is essentially a political process that has a proven track record of resolving issues of national concern within a democratic framework.”

Frankly I expected more from the Minister – who is now in an unenviable position of trying to explain away another failure by his predecessor, former Minsiter Roban, of being open and transparent (remember it is three months now since the Devonshire Marsh debacle and no final decision has been made). Why not say instead “We made a fundamental error – we are sorry.”

Ms Brock was quoted in the Royal Gazette as having said that as a result of breaking the treaty, the Bermuda Government had to face two existential questions: “Is our word our bond? Do we wish to be in the 21st Century of good governance?”

I don’t know that there could be any greater indictment of a democratic Government’s actions and intent. All of us in Bermuda must hang our heads in shame.

In any other country, one would expect heads to roll as a result of the findings of this report. Not here. Here we get accusations of bias of independent officials and grand conspiracies of opposition and media collusion. I expect that the Minister and the Cabinet will simply wait until this matter fades from the public’s memory, and then carry on as normal. Just like Devonshire Marsh. That is their modus operandi. How sad.

- Michael Fahy

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  1. OBA=UBP says:

    I think that Michael Fahy is trying to take the title of Most Arrogant away from Bob Richards.

    I wonder if this guy beleives what he writes. So Parliament passes an act, signed by the Governor, and somehow its unlawful. This is pure foolishness.

    I will agree on one thing however, it is an excellent report, so well done to the Ombdusman, a creation of the PLP Government.

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    • Tired of the Idiots says:

      Yeah, Michael fahy is an idiot......it takes zero talent to state the things he does... as usual he just rants on and on about nothing useful and offers no solutions. While am I FAR from a PLP supporter, people like this make the OBA unelectable too in my eyes... He is just more of the same old UBP.

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      • Bewildered says:

        I guess the failings of the PLP in both untheical and unlawful behavior are so common now you have come to believe that this is how a Government should operate. Ironic that the PLP applauds itself for creating the post of Ombudsman, then slates that person because they didn't write a positive Report. Rather like the Auditor General's position in fact.

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        • Maddog says:

          Ms Brock says Bermuda Hospitals Board is moving swiftly to address all but one of the 15 recommendations in her damning 'A Tale Of Two Hospitals' report which highlighted a hospital environment plagued by racism in 2007.

          Giving an update on progress in her 2008 annual report, the Ombudsman states: "Contrary to some fears, this report did not languish on a shelf.

          The campaign to tackle racism at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital has been so successful, Bermuda could be a model for the rest of the world, according to Ombudsman Arlene Brock.

          Ms Brock says Bermuda Hospitals Board is moving swiftly to address all but one of the 15 recommendations in her damning 'A Tale Of Two Hospitals' report which highlighted a hospital environment plagued by racism in 2007.

          Giving an update on progress in her 2008 annual report, the Ombudsman states: "Contrary to some fears, this report did not languish on a shelf.

          "Although one person complained that the changes are not sufficient and another complained that the changes have gone too far, neither presented persuasive evidence of bad faith on the part of BHB.

          "I remain heartened that the steps being taken will lead to enduring and substantial change in the culture of professional interdependence and collegiality at KEMH."

          A new study by the National Health Service in the UK recently revealed black and minority ethnic staff are grossly under-represented among senior management but disproportionately involved in disciplinary, grievances, bullying and harassment cases and capability reviews.

          Ms Brock states: "Bermuda has the potential to become a model."

          In her 2007 report, the Ombudsman described racism as a major divisive force at the hospital, which she said was plagued by a climate of rumour, innuendo and conjecture.

          Recommendations completed include a review of the Department of Anaesthesia and hiring of a BHB anaesthetist; review and rationalise its own structures and operations to strengthen its independence and leadership; clarify qualification equivalencies between different jurisdictions; designate a top level person to be trained in and carry out ongoing reports on race, gender and other issues.

          The recommendation on which BHB's efforts were not accepted was that the hospital should augment its major clinical incident policy to ensure a clear, accessible and confidential procedure in a separate complaints department.

          WERE WAS FAHY THEN. O ARLENE BROCK IS TALKING ABOUT RACE.
          I FORGOT,FAHY DON'T SEE COLOR.

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          • Especially as it was discrimination against a minority

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          • Pastor Syl says:

            @ Maddog: I have no idea what point you are trying to make!
            Ms. Brock wrote a report on the Hospital with recommendations that were followed, for which she then commended the hospital. She has written another report on the Tucker's Point SDO, which Mr. Fahy has commended her on. What is the problem?
            In another article, Ms. Brock's comments on the SDO (or lack thereof) have been ridiculed and denigrated, by no less than a Government Minister. Seems to me your ire should be directed at that Minister!

            Either Ms. Brock is an excellent ombodsman who is looking out for the interest of Bermudians, or she is biased and on a witch hunt. You can't have it both ways.

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      • knowPublic says:

        so..."tired of the idiots"....looks like you are ranting, you said nothing useful and offered no solutions yourself. People that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones

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        • Tired of the Idiots says:

          You must not be good at reading between the lines.... there was a suggestion there to the OBA. Get better people that Mr Fahy. Again I am NOT PLP... anything but. But the OBA is so far from impressive it isnt even funny. It's more a case of choosing the lesser of two evils and i think that the OBA is it. That doesnt make it a winner however.

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    • WillSee says:

      We dont want him in Pembroke SW either!

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  2. Jim Bean says:

    Hey UBP=OBA paid blogger - what do you say about this?

    "Govt acted unlawfully by failing to conduct an assessment of the enviornmental impact of developing the resort before MPs granted it" - Ombudsman Arlene Brocks report

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    • My two cents says:

      Again it's like a broken record with these clowns. Shoot the messenger ignore the message. The kool-aid must be really super strong up there!

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    • Voice of Reason says:

      The report is a good read as Fahy said. Very insightful and full of information. One thing however, the words you write above, “Govt acted unlawfully by failing to conduct an assessment of the enviornmental impact of developing the resort before MPs granted it” Didn't appear in the report.

      Take a read for yourself.

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      • Rick Rock says:

        If the report is insightful and full of good reasoning, will the PLP implement the recommendations put forward in the report by the Ombudsman?

        It's a simple question.

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  3. Cancer says:

    Govt acted unlawfully - nothing new! Bermudians getting so used to it.

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    • Maddog says:

      The choice between the PLP and the OBA is clear. PLP MPs and Ministers are ready to take a 17.5% reduction in their total compensation. OBA MPs are only willing to take a 5% cut.

      No matter how much Craig Cannonier, Grant Gibbons and the rest of the OBA try to wiggle out of it, they still believe that members of the PLP should take a bigger cut in salaries than they are willing to take.

      Finally the PLP has one question: How much of a reduction is the Opposition Leader ready to take? We find it very interesting that he would call on others to take more of a reduction than he is willing to take himself.

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  4. Trident says:

    Cancer wins again. Pensioner?

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  5. Hmmmmm says:

    Reality Check: The SDO was debated by the House and the Senate, passed by both. It was signed by the Governor. No Minister granted Tucker's Point an SDO. Tucker's Point got its SDO through the legislative process like every other law in this country. And yet, another supposedly independent arbiter finds "the Government" acted unlawfully? Looks to me like the findings were required to match the predetermined result.If Ms. Brock is correct then the SDO must be void, the Governor recalled, the Legislature impeached and Bermuda called to account before the International Court of Justice. Oh wait, that's nonsense.......just like this Report.

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    • Voice of Reason says:

      Finally, someone making sense!

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    • specialgirl4you says:

      Well put Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, and did all MPs and Senators include OBA/UBP? So what I will repeat............."NO Minister granted Tucker’s Point an SDO". "Tucker’s Point got its SDO through the legislative process like every other law in this country. And yet, another supposedly independent arbiter finds “the Government” acted unlawfully? Looks to me like the findings were required to match the predetermined result.If Ms. Brock is correct then the SDO must be void, the Governor recalled, the Legislature impeached and Bermuda called to account before the International Court of Justice." Well put, and on point Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...........

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      • Pastor Syl says:

        @ specialgirl4you: "the SDO must be void, the Governor recalled, the Legislature impeached and Bermuda called to account before the International Court of Justice"
        I only wish all of that would happen! In any other country, those things would have taken place long before. I am so sick of the rumors of chicanery, actual chicanery, etc., etc. (I am too tired to make a list, it's so long). I have no regrets that we will have a new Governor before long. This one has been totally ineffectual, and that's putting it nicely.

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    • Mad Dawg says:

      Can you really do no better than shoot the messenger again? Now the Ombudsman is a "supposedly independent" person? And you're saying there was a "predetermined result"?

      So your assertion now is that the Ombudsman is not independent, and that the enquiry and report is deliberately one-sided?

      Well, of course you can make any stupid allegations you like. But they really do sound idiotic.

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      • Hmmmmm says:

        Explain to me why it is that people against the Government get to say whatever they like, unchallenged? I am making those allegations and stand by them.

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  6. Argosy says:

    Hey, Hmmmmm.

    Stop with the unreal reality check. ALL laws passed by BDA's legislature are signed by the Governor - that's just due process. It's the duty of the legislature (not the Gov) to ensure that proper checks & balances are followed so that it doesn't introduce flawed legislation. In this instance, the "independent arbiter" has determined that they skipped a step and this was outside the law. ALL legislature introduced by this Government party (PLP) gets "passed" due to their unbalanced majority which does not reflect the popular vote of Bermuda's electorate. This piece of legislation (the SDO) is indeed flawed but, guess what, nothing will be done about it and nobody will be held accountable....yawn. Same old PLP...

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    • Hmmmmm says:

      Before your ignorance takes on the ring of truth, more reality for you.
      1. The Governor's signature is not a forgone conclusion on our laws. Remember, he is the British Government's man in Bermuda and he will not, on orders from them, sign anything they don't agree with.
      2. All legislation introduced by the Government does not get passed. Remember the gaming Bill in 2010?
      3. The Senate is comprised of 5 Government senators, 3 Opposition Senators and 3 Independents. If the Independents join with the Opposition, a Government Bill can be defeated and returned to the House. Remember GPS?

      Before you and others start your chant about accountability, ask yourselves how and who should be held accountable. The Legislature did it and there's no way around that. Even these intellectual contortions of the Ombudsman can't change that.

      Just out of interest, how do you have a "balanced majority"? It's so amusing that this Government's majority is the only majority ever criticized in our long history of parliamentary democracy.....and this majority, like the ones in 2003 and 2007 was achieved through one man one vote, each vote of equal value. What could be fairer? I guess some majorities can never be legitimate in your eyes.

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      • LOL (original TM*) says:

        The Senate is comprised of 5 Government senators, 3 Opposition Senators and 3 Independents. If the Independents join with the Opposition, a Government Bill can be defeated and returned to the House. Remember GPS?

        Hmmmmmmmmm does this also go for say changing the school system to what it is today??????????????????????????????

        LOL

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  7. LaVerne Furbert says:

    If in fact it is true that “Bermuda may be the first place in the world to reach an absolute limit of development – we have the highest density and the lowest protected space” that is an indictment on the previous government, not the current PLP Government. On the one hand the OBA/UBP continue to complain about the lack of hotel development in Bermuda, and now they’re complaining that there is not enough development. They can’t have it both ways.
    Further, the Ombudsman states in her release “In September 2001 Bermuda signed on to the UK Environment Charter. By so doing the Government committed to carrying out an EIA prior to approving any major development.” How the Ombudsman can say that the Government acted unlawfully is beyond me as the Government did not approve “any major development”. The Government approved the SDO which stated quite clearly that prior to Tuckers Point being given permission to develop, they must carry out several EIA’s.

    Maybe Senator Fahy can let us know which treaty has been broken.

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    • Mad Dawg says:

      So LaVerne, can you confirm that the Recommendations in the Ombudsman's Report will all be implemented then?

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    • Bewildered says:

      There are about 10 derelict hotels or vacant sites on the island. These are termed brownfield sites. In simple terms this means that the land has already been used and can be used again without resorting to developing green field sites, that is land never built on. Since development has already occurred these sites can be redeveloped without increasing density. Quite different to that when people try to develop marshes or protected land. I don't see where the OBA is "having it both ways".
      By the way, how is the UBP elected Tourism Minister getting on?

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    • PEPPER says:

      I am sure senator Fahy, will respond ...

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  8. Rummy says:

    I give up. The damn place is there.
    My Lord, this is becoming the Laverne and Special Girl 4 show.
    Now go and invite Paula and all out to lunch at KFC.
    Spin spin spin.
    Next they will be saying Les Colonel wears two earings to keep himself balanced.

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  9. Argosy says:

    If one party wins each constituency by one vote, we would have a single-party Government by a popular majority of 36!

    Very balanced! One vote of equal value - realistically laughable...

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  10. Cancer says:

    Lol @ rummy!!!! - you got it all right.

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  11. Tommy Chong says:

    I'm happy to read a statement from Michael Fahy even if he's riding off the Ombudsman tailwind a bit its still a good fight. For a moment I thought when Cannonier got in he used his psychological powers to mute the rest of OBA. Now I know at least one other has a voice.

    Even though I do miss the old marriott castle harbor & think tuckers point has done a bird turd of good for Bermuda's environment & tourist industry OBA will get nowhere pressing this. The only proper solution is to tear down parts of tuckers point & try to restore the natural environment as much as possible. Even though this is the solution I wouldn't hold my breath on it happening. I wouldn't hold my breath either on justice being brought to the culprits who let the illegal development go forward. Pressing the issue will only make it seem like an electioneering ploy.

    It would be quite interesting if Michael Fahy flanked the plp with a question they didn't see coming. A question like, “Why is it that since plp governance the size of both business & private vehicles imported has increased when there was a law in place that all vehicles over the size limit were not allowed importation?” Followed by the question, “Do Marc Bean & Zane DeSilva realize that the introduction of more larger vehicles in Bermuda has proven to be one of the main causes of off run pollution into protected Bermuda habitats?” After both questions get skirted around by the ministers
    than Michael Fahy could turn to his guest speaker & say. I now invite my professional environmental scientist speaker who will detail how toads in Bermuda are growing extra eyes & legs due to mutations from vehicle run off carcinogens & how we will be affected by this in years to come.

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