Protest: Opposition Leader Marc bean hands over a document to Deputy Governor Ginny Ferson. *Photo by Glenn Tucker
Protest: Opposition Leader Marc bean hands over a document to Deputy Governor Ginny Ferson. *Photo by Glenn Tucker

Governor George Fergusson’s handling of the land grab row appears top have divided the country.

His decision to reject a motion to establish a Commission of Inquiry to look at how Bermudians lost ancestral land sparked yesterday’s march on Government House.

And the move prompted Marc Bean to call for Mr Fergusson to be removed from office for what the Opposition Leader described as “an affront to democracy”.

Former PLP Premier Alex Scott told the Sun that Mr Fergusson should have shown more “deference and respect” for Parliament.

However former UBP Deputy Premier, Quinton Edness, described the protest as “childish” and “politically motivated”.

Other commentators believe the tone used by the Governor last Friday in announcing his decision also played a part in initiating yesterday’s demonstration.

Mr Scott told the Bermuda Sun the dispute touched on an interesting constitutional point: “This motion was the product of the duly elected members of Parliament. It was not for the Governor to go into the merits or revisit the debate in Parliament and it could be argued he does not really have the authority to do this.

“He was asked to set up a Commission of Inquiry which would then investigation the merits of the subject. Parliament is supreme in the UK as it is here. And the Governor should have shown more deference and respect to the fact that Parliament had spoken.

“In my view he came back awfully quickly on his decision to reject the inquiry given how complicated this issue is.

“A case could be made that the Governor misread or misunderstood his authority or at least should have been more judicious and sympathetic to the fact that our Parliament had spoken.”

Mr Edness said: “Perhaps it could be said that the Governor should not have returned a letter asking for more details.

“But he has a right to determine whether such a Commission should be heard. In my opinion the political reaction has been very childish and politically motivated.”

He added: “More intelligent discussions with the Governor could have resolved this situation.

“I believe the Governor genuinely felt he needed more information on this issue and that he could have been persuaded of the merits of a Commission of Inquiry.”

Stuart Hayward, speaking as a former Parliamentarian and not on behalf of BEST, told the Bermuda Sun: “It’s unfortunate that this has been approached in an adversarial tone rather than conciliatory. The concept of a Commission of Inquiry is a good one.

“But I do not believe this was a deliberate attempt to thwart the process by the Governor, but a rational need to deal with the information he has got.”

Mr Fergusson’s initial announcement, that the motion was not clear nor urgent enough to require a Commission of the type proposed, sparked dismay among the PLP and claims that his decision had thwarted democracy in Bermuda.

This in turn prompted the Governor to send out a follow-up statement he had not ruled out a Commission but was willing to consider it if the House gave a clear indication of the terms of reference and means of funding.

Insurance executive Gary Weller, a regular talk show contributor, told the Bermuda Sun he believed the outcome of yesterday’s march could have been different if the tone of the Governor’s response to the motion had been different.

He said: “Some people might say it is just semantics. But I believe if the Governor had come out and said ‘I am willing to consider the request and sign off on it, but I need more information’ then the outcome would have been different.

“But because the rejection of the request came first, it prompted this feeling that democracy had been snatched and that resulted in the march.

“If he had used a more positive stance it could have been different.

“Typically people in a Governor’s position are career diplomats, but I don’t think this situation was handled very diplomatically.”

Last night a spokesperson for Government told us: “As Governor Fergusson made clear, he considered the Motion of the House very carefully and had discussions with both supporters and opponents of the Motion.

“He recognized the debate had raised serious concerns but did not think they were clear or urgent enough to justify a Commission.

“But he did signal his willingness to consider the issue again if the House gave him clearer references to the kinds of abuses concerned.”