Key players: From left, Governor George Fergusson, current DPP Rory Field, Premier Craig Cannonier and Cindy Clarke. *File photos
Key players: From left, Governor George Fergusson, current DPP Rory Field, Premier Craig Cannonier and Cindy Clarke. *File photos

The Premier and the Governor are at odds in a dispute over a senior legal posting that looks set to escalate. 

Premier Craig Cannonier is “not happy” that Governor George Fergusson has decided against appointing Bermudian Cindy Clarke to the post of Director of Public Prosecutions. 

The Premier has written to the Governor to express his displeasure and is now exploring further options with Attorney General Mark Pettingill.

As we reported last week, Bermudian Ms Clarke was expected to be chosen as the next DPP. 

But the Governor confirmed on Monday that incumbent Rory Field, a British expatriate, would stay in the role for another year. 

The specific reason why Ms Clarke was not chosen remains the subject of intense speculation. 

Ms Clarke was the only Bermudian applicant for the job and a statement from Government House read: “The Governor convened a panel, chaired by the Deputy Governor, to advise him on the appointment. This panel recommended, after some consideration, that the candidate would be qualified for the appointment, subject to a suggested transitional period.

“The Governor accepted this recommendation and had begun to set its implementation in train. However, in the light of certain subsequent developments, it became untenable for the appointment to proceed.”

As we reported last week, it appears that a letter has played a key role in the matter. It was sent by prosecutors to the AG in support of Ms Clarke’s promotion (she is currently deputy director), and was seen by the Governor. 

Yesterday, Premier Cannonier said his priority “is not only jobs but to maintain jobs for Bermudians. This appointment is discouraging and disappointing in that we have a Bermudian who we believe to be qualified. We have a Bermudian who we believe can take on a senior position.”

Premier unhappy

In moving up, he added, she would create an opening for another Bermudian.

“My job is to protect Bermudians,” Mr Cannonier said, “to ensure that Bermudians move through the system.”

He added that Ms Clarke has “put in her time… It was believed by all that when this appointment came up, she would be the successor. I am only consulted in these matters and I made my opinion very clear.”

Asked about his options, the Premier said: “I can essentially give recommendations. I am now looking with the AG into the next steps moving forward along with my colleagues because we are all in support of Bermudians advancing in their careers when they are qualified.”

It’s not the first time a DPP’s role has made headlines. There was controversy surrounding Vinette Graham-Allen, who was named DPP in 2004.

Staff raised concerns about her management style and it was recommended in 2006, by then-Attorney General Larry Mussenden, that she be bought out of her contract and replaced by a Bermudian. The Royal Gazette reported that then-Governor Sir John Vereker declined to act on the recommendation. Jamaican Ms Graham-Allen took up a DPP post in The Bahamas in 2007 after leaving Bermuda.

Meanwhile, lawyers have expressed their dismay at the current turn of events.

Rick Woolridge of Phoenix Law Chambers didn’t hold back: “We spend millions annually educating our people and ourselves with our foreign counterparts and in many areas, we surpass them,” he told us.

“While they’re being prepared to go back home and run their various countries and government departments, we are expected to come back and be little colonialists.

“This is repugnant to me. We cannot have glass ceilings in our own country… particularly in circumstances where it’s obvious not only to those who work in the department but to those who have dealings in the department that the position can be filled by a Bermudian.”

He continued: “If we as lawyers cannot fight fearlessly for our own cases, how then is the public to entrust their problems to us to fight for their cases?

“This is something that Bermudian lawyers in general need to acknowledge; here is a qualified Bermudian, fit and proper for the job and… is being denied what is her birthright — to punch through these glass ceilings for the job that she was trained and recommended for.”

‘A bad message’

His view was echoed by Charles Richardson of Compass Chamber: “We’re all disheartened by the fact that she [Ms Clarke] hasn’t been given the promotion. I myself am having some difficulty in understanding the explanation that has been given for not appointing her and it sends a really bad message.

“If you as a Bermudian lawyer can do what Cindy has done — be loyal and good at what she’s doing and rise to the height of her department but not be promoted after being recommended, what’s the point?”

Marc Daniels, a lawyer with Charter Chambers and a PLP Senator, touched upon broader issues at stake: “While I have the utmost respect for the current DPP, I firmly believe that Bermudians should be able to aspire to the highest positions within our country and that Ms Clarke is deserving of the post. 

“That is not to slight the work of Mr Field but I am concerned with the decision by His Excellency to shun Ms Clarke for reasons yet unknown.

“As the most suitably qualified Bermudian applicant, Ms Clarke should be at the front of the queue, especially when it was contemplated at the beginning of Mr Field’s appointment, that the position would only last for one term with a view to a local successor.

“Fundamentally, this type of discussion challenges our views regarding our current political standing and should make us all pause and query whether it is time to truly seek self-determination.”