*Photo by Nicola Muirhead
*Photo by Nicola Muirhead

An end to conscription, public consultation on decriminalization of marijuana and a relaxing of liquor sales on Sundays — these are some of the highlights of this morning’s Throne Speech.

The theme was of Bermuda as a ship, weathering stormy economic times, on which everyone pulls together and no one is left behind.

As such, this Parliamentary Session’s Throne Speech also focused on the more vulnerable members of society.

A Vulnerable Persons Act will offer more protection to those with learning or other disabilities, while the Senior Abuse Register Act 2008 will also be strengthened.

Government will develop a strategy for long-term care of the elderly and disabled.

A family mediation component will be introduced to the Children Act 1998, making it a condition for co-parenting orders.

Government will also find “more creative solutions” other than prison for non-payment of child maintenance.

Recognizing the struggles of many residents with the high cost of living in Bermuda in the recession, Government is introducing measures to alleviate food and electricity expenses.

The MarketPlace, Supermart and Lindo’s grocery stores will introduce a 10 per cent discount on Wednesdays for a year, as from December 1.

The Ministry of Economic Development will also move regulation of energy to the independent Regulatory Authority, to “help lower the cost of energy for consumers”.

Government will award a fifth of its spending on goods and services to small businesses.

A new Office of the Contractor General will also be set up to ensure transparency in public projects, from tendering to completion.

Government also announced a tripartite committee with unions and business to review labour laws and develop a system that is “fairer, more responsive and more inclusive”.

Government also reaffirmed its commitment today to ending conscription.

The Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956 will also be amended to grant Bermudian status to people born on the island and those adopted by Bermudian parents.

The right to vote will also be extended. The Parliamentary Election Act 1978 will be amended to allow absentee balloting for people travelling overseas and students.

In education, a technical curriculum will be introduced to middle schools and Bermuda College. S3 students will also sit the City and Guilds Employability Certification Programme.

In the environment, a National Agriculture Strategy will aim to “increase the protection of arable land and topsoil, encourage community and home gardening”.

A Lionfish Management Plan will also be formulated with “private companies, non-government organizations and volunteers”, aimed at controlling the invasive species.

In tourism, incentives will be offered to hotel developers.

A digital mapping project will establish GPS positions for all moorings for boat owners.

Government also plans to develop a transportation system, that “better serves visitors and residents”.

In the east end, Government is to re-open the St George’s golf course, through a temporary jobs maintenance programme.

There will also be hurricane shelters developed at Clearwater Middle School, and in the west end, at Sandys Secondary Middle School.

Government also aims to empower the community in tackling the gang problem, with “a Bermuda-styled ‘call-in’ procedure”.

“This will engage community and moral voices in direct interaction with individuals involved in gangs, challenging them on the effect of their lifestyle on others and presenting alternatives for their productive return to the mainstream of the community.”

There will also be funding for Team Street Safe, a mediation programme that provides opportunities for gang-bangers seeking a way out.

In the criminal justice system, the recent reductions in the minimum terms two convicted murderers must serve before being considered for parole, has led to a tightening-up of the law.

Jermaine Pearman and Ze Selassie had their sentences cut by the Privy Council — Pearman to 15 years and Selassie to 25 years.

Recognizing this “has caused disquiet in the community”, Government is to amend the Criminal Code 1907 so a judge will set the minimum time served before eligibility for parole.

The Liquor Licence Act 1974 is to be amended so bars and nightclubs will have to undertake mandatory ID checks for proof of age.

Recognizing that “locals and tourists alike wish to be able to purchase beer, wines and spirits on a Sunday”, the Act will be amended to allow this.

There will also be a public consultation paper on the decriminalization of marijuana.

When it comes to ‘weathering the storm’ the Throne Speech states: “It is time for us all to play our part. It is time to use these tough times as an opportunity to right the ship, everyone pulling together to fix the island so that it works better for families and students, for seniors and workers… for everyone.”