Bryant Trew, inset *File photos
Bryant Trew, inset *File photos

Is JetGate a political tsunami? Maybe, but not yet…

As was the norm, I sat in the barber's chair on Saturday, December 9, 2006. At some point a phone call was received, and questions about a tsunami heading towards Somerset spread through the room. Initially I had my doubts, because I just drove from Watford Bridge, and there were no signs of a giant wave wiping us out. I did recall though, that on the drive in there were one or two police cars screaming west.  So yeah, panic set in a bit.

As the story goes, the police had set up roadblocks, and many residents fled to Scaur Hill and Gibb's Hill in hopes of reaching safety.  What we later found out was that the only tsunami hitting us was the rapid wave of well-intentioned misinformation that spread from one person to many people within a very short time.  This news seemed credible enough to even motivate the police to set up blockades. And, of course, once you see the police act, surely the news must be true, right? Wrong. From the mouth of one, many were moved to flee for their lives.

I think there is a similar parallel with the JetGate story. So many people are angry and distraught over what Premier Cannonier allegedly did with Nathan Landow. I find this so bizarre, because Ayo Johnson's Selling Bermuda [on Politica,] doesn’t adequately substantiate his anonymous source's claims with actual evidence. Quite frankly, up until the Bermuda Sun received confirmation from Landow, Selling Bermuda had turned JetGate into nothing more than an unsubstantiated irritation to me.

I still believe that there are multiple problems with the Selling Bermuda story. Let's take for example the claim that Cannonier denied that DeCosta attended the March 2013 meeting in DC. The recording provided within Selling Bermuda has Cannonier replying "no" to a question about whether or not DeCosta played a role in the meeting. Asking if someone played a role, is different from asking if someone attended. If Cannonier lied, it certainly wasn't at that point.

It’s these kinds of uncomfortable nuances (and there are several in the report) that are particularly vexing, because when enough voices repeat or deliberately distort unsubstantiated information, far too many flee for Scaur Hill.

The OBA hasn’t exactly helped its own cause, either. While I can respect their flat denial of wrongdoing, I don’t really respect their position on anonymous sources nor their attempt to attack the messenger last week. The only real issue on the table is whether or not the claims made by the anonymous source have been backed up or seem logical.

Unfortunately, this is where Selling Bermuda really falls short. The report is frequently unclear about which statements have actually been fully corroborated by another party or by supporting documentation of some kind (emails, wire instructions, photographs, recordings, notes, schedules, etc.). Rarely do the source’s claims appear to be unequivocally supported by another source.

In addition to this lack of disclosure, you have to consider that the source has great knowledge of many, highly sensitive topics. At some point the source, it seems to me, must have been very well-placed within Landow’s circle of trusted associates, and for some reason is now willing to break that trust (or misrepresent events).

If I’ve interpreted one particular statement correctly, the most absurd plot hole is the anonymous source’s claim that the Premier informed Landow of the referendum being cancelled in February of 2014 (when they seemingly met by chance during a prayer breakfast in DC). As we all know, the OBA scrapped plans for the referendum in December 2013. Common sense dictates that if (as alleged) Landow was pressuring Cannonier to abandon the referendum, he would have known that it was cancelled prior to, or soon after, the December decision was made. 

Another consideration is that the RFP deadline was March 31st; Landow would then only have seven weeks to reply. Surely, work would have already begun on the RFP, if collusion was going on? Yet, the source makes no mention of this. More importantly, the Tourism Ministry allegedly turned down Landow’s request for an extension of the March 31st deadline. That, too, doesn’t make sense.

Now imagine for one moment that an “anonymous, reliable source" told me that a certain Government Minister was holding up a development, because the developer refused to pay a $250k kickback? Now let's say that another “anonymous, reliable source" told me the same thing. Would I believe that the story is true? Absolutely. But I haven't got a single thing to back the claim up, and my “anonymous, reliable source" isn't about to step forward and admit this. This is the great difficulty I have with Selling Bermuda.

To be clear, I’m in full support of anonymous sources when necessary. But, until supporting data of some kind is revealed to make sense of nonsensical allegations, we have nothing more to rely upon than the word of a source whose identity and motivations remain unknown.

Questions remain about whether or not funds received were used for their intended purposes.  If there is evidence of wrongdoing, let's have it so that OBA heads can roll. If we don't, then it's time to move on. Without evidence of some kind, the Premier should not resign over the hypocritical rhetoric of an Opposition that has their own dubious business connections, has consistently dismissed/ignored critical questions and will not be offering up their own campaign finance books to show the public who has provided them with donations.

Tsunami? Maybe, but not just yet…