Party members presented a unified front in their support of the country’s new leader outside Government House Tuesday morning. *Photo by Glenn Tucker
Party members presented a unified front in their support of the country’s new leader outside Government House Tuesday morning. *Photo by Glenn Tucker

In the immediate aftermath of Michael Dunkley officially assuming the premiership, OBA members acknowledged there were internal rifts within the party as to how the tumult that culminated with the resignation of Craig Cannonier was handled.

Party members presented a unified front in their support of the country’s new leader outside Government House Tuesday morning. The rhetoric vacillated between talk of moving forward and comments about the importance of “getting Bermuda back to work”. Some did acknowledge that party members strongly disagreed in recent days over the best way to handle the JetGate scandal. 

“Of course, every time you have something like this you need healing,” said Wayne Scott, the minister of community and cultural development. “As a group, we firmly recognize that we do need healing but our bigger goals aren’t wavering. We have to get Bermuda back on track. We recognize we need to do that as a unified group. We’re committed to that.”
Mr Scott said the JetGate controversy had been a distraction that took away from the party’s accomplishments.

He conceded, “We are where we are. At this point in time, this is something that needed to be done. As the premier said, former premier Craig Cannonier did a great job and we have to thank him for what he did for Bermuda. Michael Dunkley is a very hard worker. He will work his hardest to make sure we’re on track. We have the full support of the group behind him to do that.”

Trial by fire

 MP Sylvan Richards referred to the JetGate affair as “a very difficult first trial by fire” for the party, which came to power in the December 2012 election.

“We have been tested as a government,” he said. “I’m proud to see how everyone has come together for the betterment of the country. This process is making us stronger. We will work toward our goal of putting Bermuda in a better position than it was in when we became the government. I’m fully confident we’re going to do that.”

Sen. Alexis Swan said the party cannot forget “how we became government”.

“It was based on our commitment to Bermuda,” she said. “Premier Dunkley has my full support. We just have to continue to rebuild. We have a good team.”

She added, “There’s always something good that comes out of everything. And the work of government doesn’t change.”

Sen. Jeff Baron described the day as “very bittersweet for us”.

“But I’m extremely encouraged,” said Mr Baron, who serves as the junior minister for public safety and legal affairs. “Bermuda needs to know the ministry of national security is going to be taken care of and the government is going to be taken care of.”

He emphasized the party’s unity.

“That’s an obtuse political slogan right now but I’m telling you that we are all committed to showing that. We’re going to be working very hard to showing that we are strong. We are even stronger because of this.”

Rifts to heal

MP Glen Smith acknowledged the party would need to heal internal rifts.

“Anything you go through in life, particularly what we just went through, it requires time and healing and dialogue,” said Mr Smith. “We’re like a family. Same thing.”

Asked if he thought the new premier could strengthen the party and the government, MP Jeff Sousa said, “I have no doubt in my mind that Premier Dunkley will strengthen the party. He’s also surrounded with good people that are working hard to put Bermuda first and get Bermuda back to work. He has my unequivocal support to get it done.”

MP Suzanne Roberts-Holshouser said: “I feel that the one Bermuda alliance will continue to do the job that has been established for us and that is to put Bermuda first.”

Speaking over the phone later in the day, MP Leah Scott said the day marked a new beginning for the party.

“We are going to need some time to heal as a party after this. I am sorry for the way this happened for the premier but we believe we can move forward now and be a better community.”

She portrayed Mr Dunkley as a unifier.

“He has proven himself to both blacks and whites and is respected on both sides. He genuinely wants to see Bermuda move forward and bring back a sense of harmony and unity.  I know people will focus on race and the old UBP, but we cannot get caught up in that discussion. It is irrelevant.”

She added, “Bermuda needs to move forward and I believe we have the person who can make that happen.” 

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