A light touch: Governor Sir Richard Gozney. *File photo
A light touch: Governor Sir Richard Gozney. *File photo

Last week former Premier Dr Ewart Brown took aim at the British in his first political speech since leaving office.

Yesterday in an exclusive interview with the Bermuda Sun, Governor Sir Richard Gozney addressed the thorny topics of anti-British sentiment, the police inquiry into the forged cheques, the chances of the Uyghurs getting a passport and efforts to control gang violence. He also touched on a few other topics when he spoke to Simon Jones.

 

Have you come across anti-British sentiment as Governor?

I have come across very little anti-British feelings, but a lot of pro-Bermuda sentiment. I think the level of UK involvement in day-to-day life in Bermuda is limited.

There are areas like the aircraft register and shipping register that the UK oversees and they provide great benefits to Bermuda. I know the aircraft register has doubled in my time and brings in $10 million per year to the country. I think the balance is right.

We have certain minimum requirements and I stress the word ‘minimum’. The level of UK involvement now is much the same as it was when I first came to Bermuda.

 

Should Government House remain the residence of the Governor?

It is up to Bermuda where they house the governor. Government House has been around for more than 120 years. Its total budget is $1.6 million. It is not for me to judge, it is for the politicians and the people.

 

Can there ever be progress made on getting the Uyghurs passports or status?

No. They cannot get any travel documentation under British or Bermudian law. I wish these four men good luck in their lives. They must have had a pretty harrowing experience.

But in terms of their movement the law does not offer any openings. One phone call in 2009 would have told anyone that that was the situation.

 

Where does Bermuda stand now in the fight against gangs?

The police can only tackle the symptoms and a lot of progress has been made in that regard. In the last two years there have been 26 trials for gun crime in the Supreme Court and 20 convictions. That is a very high success rate.

A number of people deserve credit including the police, the prosecutors and the juries for listening to the evidence. The system has worked well. But tackling the underlying causes of the gang situation is a different matter.

There are some US models of civil authorities and community groups that have been used in Boston and New York that could work in Bermuda.

The lessons learned in the US of how civil societies have sorted themselves out could be brought back here. I hope community leaders can be found to take the lead in this area.

 

How important has extra British police support been?

The extra pairs of hands have been very useful. These officers have also been able to look back at older, unsolved cases too.

The recent conviction in the Shaki Crockwell case is a good example. It is much more difficult to look back at older cases without the extra help. It is not the case that the police in Bermuda cannot do it, but because they are so hard pressed with other incidents the extra support from the UK has certainly helped.

It is a credit to the government that they have been prepared to pay for this extra police help.

 

Did the Bermuda police do enough to investigate the ‘forged cheques’ matter, which targeted former Premier Dr Ewart Brown and Minister Derrick Burgess?

That was a shocking incident and whoever is responsible deserves to be brought to justice. Police in Bermuda conducted a thorough investigation but decided no charges could be brought here.

I know they did not skimp in that investigation and did everything they could. They sent the papers off to Canada and the case then has to be left in their hands. I was strongly in support of asking the Canadian authorities to look into this as I felt Dr Brown and Mr Burgess had been quite unjustly maligned.

 

Has the recession caused permanent damage to Bermuda’s economy?

The recession was felt much later in Bermuda and it has certainly affected the country’s overall health. But it has not been felt as seriously as many other countries.

The current unemployment rate is shocking by Bermuda standards but not by other international standards. We are still looking for those famous ‘green shoots’ and maybe we are starting to see them in some areas. The great thing that Bermuda has is the reinsurance business and allied professions which have protected Bermuda to a degree.

 

Is Bermuda still a high-ranking tourist destination?

Where Bermuda scores high is the niche events, whether it’s the PGA Grand Slam, the Rugby Classic or the angling and sailing competitions the people come to the island for.

The PGA Grand Slam is a fantastic event and I hope that it can continue to bring people into Bermuda for years to come. These niche events can be very successful as they allow people to combine their passion with a holiday, and that justifies the expenditure.