Where’s the corruption? Government Minister Zane DeSilva said his conscience is clear in a row over planning permission at his Island Construction site in Devonshire — and that the area earmarked for warehousing wasn’t protected marshland, but a gravel-covered area used for truck parking. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Where’s the corruption? Government Minister Zane DeSilva said his conscience is clear in a row over planning permission at his Island Construction site in Devonshire — and that the area earmarked for warehousing wasn’t protected marshland, but a gravel-covered area used for truck parking. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
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WEDNESDAY, NOV. 23: A government minister at the centre of a political row over a planning application yesterday said he had done nothing wrong.

Zane DeSilva said he was surprised at the resignation of his Cabinet colleague Walter Roban but described the timing of Mr Roban’s 11th-hour approval of the application as “unfortunate”. 

Mr DeSilva spoke to the Bermuda Sun after Mr Roban, former Environment Minister, quit Cabinet after granting in principle planning permission for three warehouses at Mr DeSilva’s Island Construction site in Devonshire — the day before he was due to move to his new Public Works role.

The application had been opposed by the Development Applications Board, while the independent Inspector also recommended refusal.

Mr DeSilva, the Minister of Health, said: “Let me state categorically I never had a conversation with Minister Roban about this property. “

Mr DeSilva added: “I don’t agree with Walter resigning. He carried out his role as Minister according to the law. He made a decision. Why he resigned, I don’t know. I haven’t had a conversation with him.

“It’s unfortunate because Walter is one of the most outstanding guys you would ever want to meet.”

Asked if he had considered resigning over the row, Mr DeSilva said: “Hell, no.”

He added: “I got a call from the media asking if I had planning permission to build warehouses — I didn’t know if it was true and that was my comment at the time.

“We put in an application. I knew it would be turned down because of zoning — it’s zoned as open space and agricultural space.

“Prior to 1998, we submitted applications which were turned down and those decisions were overturned by the Minister at that time.

“I’m a developer — I develop residential properties and commercial properties. I’ve also developed on this site over 30 years.”

Mr DeSilva added: “The timing was unfortunate, that it happened when it did. I don’t sit at Mr Roban’s desk, I don’t know what his workload was or how long the application had been sitting on his desk.”

He said: “The new Opposition leader and some of his people have said we can’t have government Ministers working the system for private gain.

“I don’t know how he can make a statement like that. People have to do a little bit more homework than that.”

He added that, although the application was made by a trust of which he is a beneficiary, Island Construction was a company with shareholders.

Island Construction vice-president Dave Woodward added: “At no point did we ever make any attempt to circumvent the planning process. The process is the process.”

Mr DeSilva said that the warehouses application referred to a part of the Island Construction site already in use by the firm and that there would be no building on Devonshire Marsh.

He said: “The important thing to remember about that application is that it was no different from any other application we’ve made for this site.

“In the early 1990s, this property received a stop notice from the government of the day saying we shouldn’t be operating as we were. We went to court and a magistrate ruled we had existing use rights.”

Mr DeSilva said he had not received any paperwork on why Mr Roban had backed the application — although it is now under review again by Mr Roban’s replacement Marc Bean.