BEST’s Stuart Hayward Responds To MP DeSilva

December 23, 2013

[Updated with remarks from MP DeSilva] The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce [BEST] has responded to PLP MP Zane DeSilva saying they take their role “as an environmental watchdog very seriously” and said “would be failing the public if we did not alert them to a development project that plans to cover a green area surrounding a major hotel with 130 housing units.”

Earlier this month BEST expressed concern about a development planned at the Fairmont Southampton Hotel, and PLP MP Zane DeSilva responded saying we “must create a balance between sustainable development and no development.”

In response, BEST Chairman Stuart Hayward said, “Normally BEST sloughs off this kind of criticism. However, this is not the first time that Mr. DeSilva has attempted to unjustly find fault with our organisation. Back in 2011 Mr. DeSilva, who was then Health Minister, criticised BEST on the floor of Parliament for not speaking up when there was major construction at the Reefs hotel.

“We don’t mind legitimate criticism, but BEST wasn’t even in existence when the application for the Reefs development was in process. We wrote to the Speaker of the House Stanley Lowe asking Minister DeSilva and other MPs be admonished not to speak falsely when referring to BEST —that’s on record.

“But what is difficult to understand is that this individual was in the past complaining, albeit falsely, because BEST didn’t speak up. Now he is complaining because we did speak up.

“When the same individual criticises us for both speaking and not speaking it raises the question of motives. We don’t presume to know why Mr. DeSilva would attempt to criticise BEST for speaking up and for not speaking up, but the public will no doubt remember that it was BEST that blew the whistle on Mr. DeSilva, who was then a Cabinet Minister, for his attempt to build three gigantic warehouses on Devonshire Marsh, an environmentally sensitive wetlands.

“It was the BEST’s exposure of that chicanery that led to Mr. DeSilva withdrawing the application, and to the resignation of another implicated Cabinet Minister.

“But to the issue, BEST takes its role as an environmental watchdog very seriously. We would be failing the public if we did not alert them to a development project that plans to cover a green area surrounding a major hotel with 130 housing units.”

Update 12.21pm: In response Mr DeSilva said, “It was rather disappointing to read comments made recently by BEST in regard to questions I had raised about information disclosed by the organizations in respect of a proposed development at the Fairmont Southampton Princess Hotel.

“BEST have accused me of ‘unjust criticism’ and have more than once publicly questioned my motives as both a politician and a local businessman.

“In this regard, I am the first to acknowledge that our democratic society allows everyone to exercise their right to freedom of speech and that freedom of speech is fundamental to our way of life.

“I also recognise that everyone is entitled to an opinion and many people and organizations such as BEST voice their opinions on a frequent basis but like many others in our society, 1 always exercise ‘basic’ judgement before jumping to any conclusions as inevitably some opinions carry more validity than others.

“This is true of the recent comments made by BEST and I would therefore strongly urge the public to exercise ‘basic judgement’ before jumping to any preconceived conclusions.

However, let me say from the outset that I admire organizations such as BEST and would be the first to acknowledge the importance or the role they play and their contribution to our society.

“The balance that these organizations provide and their common and legitimate interests in protecting our environment are commendable. Such organizations must have a clear and unambiguous mandate and be administered in a manner which exhibits fairness, independence and impartiality.

“Another important element of such organisations which is very closely allied to their independence and impartiality is consistency. If consistency is not shown and their focus is something other than compliance with their mandate then the validity and purpose of the organization must be a point of question.

“BEST have consistently accused me of flagrant breaches of planning procedures when my company made outline application to build warehouse units at our Devonshire site.

“BEST implied that the warehouse units would be built on ecologically sensitive marshland which would be detrimental to the local environment; sentiments that were reiterated in their recent comments.

“Let me state for the record that the application was submitted on our behalf by a respected firm of local architects and that the application was subject to the same reviews and procedures as any other. There was never and has never been any attempt on my part to influence the process or use my political position to coerce colleagues.

“This accusation is unfounded and quite simply slanderous,” continued Mr DeSilva.

“I am not the only politician who owns and operates a business and I am not the only politician who has ever made a planning application for their business whilst a member of the sitting Government.

“However, I am the only member of a sitting Government who has attracted this level of public criticism from ‘independent and impartial’ environmental bodies as a result of such application.

“Does this not raise serious questions about the organization from whom these unfounded and slanderous criticisms originate?

“Let me put it simply, not a stones throw away from my company’s site significant industrial development has taken place on Devonshire Marsh (on the aptly named Marsh Lane) which has included large warehouse units.

“Did anyone hear the outcry and public condemnation from BEST for these developments? Where is the consistency? Where is the impartiality? Is this truly an independent organization following an environmental mandate or is the leadership of this organization influenced by other factors?

“Also, whilst on this point let me clarify another issue resulting from misinformation, deliberate or otherwise, originating from BEST.

“The planning application made by my company for the erection of warehouse units was not ‘on the marsh’ as so deliberately and divisively portrayed by BEST, but was wholly within our existing site; a site which has been used as an industrial area for more than 50 years!

“The application did NOT require any intrusion or impact on Devonshire Marsh and I want this to be fully understood by the public so that they have all the facts before them before making any conclusions.

“Of course, this must beg the question as to why the Marsh Lane industrial developments, which were of the same nature and type as the application submitted by my company, were not perceived by BEST as having any impact whatsoever on the marsh?

“As a layman I have to assume that the marsh adjacent to my company’s facility is of far more ecological significance than the marsh just a stones throw away because if this is not the case, then what other conclusions can I draw as to the motives and impartiality of this organization?

“I am disappointed that an organization that was established to champion such a worthwhile cause has seemingly lost direction or has lost sight of its original role and mandate. Surely for such an organization to be taken seriously and to have the respect and support of the general public it must exhibit consistency and most of all, impartiality.

“I have been a businessman for a long time and a serving politician for considerably less time but cannot help thinking that within our society there are those who cannot separate one from the other and use whatever offices they hold to influence outcomes; for the impartiality of such an organisation to be brought in to doubt must be of more concern to the general public than the misinformed, misconceived and divisive comments they have made in regard to my company’s planning application.

“Whilst I hold office and I represent the people of our country I will continue to question the motives, independence and impartiality of BEST.

“Only when the public can see that the leadership of this organization conducts itself in an appropriate and consistent manner will any suspicions and concerns be erased.

“We are all passionate about our island home and none of us want to see our environment and ecology irreparably damaged. The difficulty we face as a nation is to ensure that the social and economic pressures facing Bermuda do not detrimentally affect our environment in any significant way and this requires input and dialogue from all parties and organizations.

“This must not change and such important work cannot be misdirected by personal agendas or misleading information. It is simply too important for that.

“It is my sincere hope that in future we see a consistency, impartiality and truly independent approach exhibited by BEST in their review and commentary on development in Bermuda.”

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Category: All, Environment

Comments (6)

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  1. aceboy says:

    Zane doesn’t let facts get in the way of a good whine.

  2. Sara says:

    So glad he is a shadow minister now! I used to be scared and uneasy that someone like him was making decisions in our government. I can rest easy now.

    • Wow Mr Desilva is correct as far [as BEST an environmental watchdog ] but were was he when under the PLP they allowed that eye sore to be built on the south shore?? all that money sitting there with how many sold???

      • Triangle Drifter says:

        Should put a big PLP flag, or how bout a statue of Paula Cox or Ewart Brown outside of that symbol of ineptness, just to serve as a reminder.

        • Suzie Quattro says:

          They could name it after them. “The Weeks Cox Brown Sixty Million Moneywasting Project”.

  3. 32n64w says:

    Perhap Mr. DeSilva can fully comment on the BEST video addressing his
    application’s significant deficiencies rather than making selective and isolated remarks?