With two resignations within 48 hours, the big question today is whether there’s an exodus by Members of Parliament within the ranks of Bermuda’s Opposition – the One Bermuda Alliance.
But when contacted by Bermuda Real this morning, former Premier and OBA party leader, Michael Dunkley said: “Most definitely not!”
He was commenting on the latest resignation, announced after the Motion to Adjourn in the House last night by Dr Grant Gibbons, whose resignation came the day after former OBA MP Jeff Baron resigned.
This latest resignation takes effect on Monday, marking an end to a political career that started with the United Bermuda Party spanning 25 years.
Since November, the party has seen four resignations, starting with former Senator Nick Kempe, and then by ET Bob Richards after he lost his seat in the last General Election to Thomas Christopher Famous.
Mr Dunkley noted that Mr Kempe “stepped away because of a decision made by the leader Jeanne Atherden”.
“Bob Richards lost the election. He had two choices – either stay in the game or move on. He moved on and still supports the party, but he’s not going to contest a seat at his age and I understand that,” he added.
The former OBA leader was the last to speak in the House last night. When he rose to his feet after Dr Gibbons made his announcement, Premier David Burt said Mr Dunkley was going to resign as well.
Mr Dunkley replied: “That’s not going to happen!”
“I praised Dr Gibbons for the work that he’s done. His resignation paves the way for new people to get involved and step up and follow his example of leadership and service,” he said.
Asked if in hindsight he would care to respond to comments made by Education Minister Diallo Rabain in his maiden address, after he was elected, that Mr Dunkley will go down in history as the man who led the country’s first-ever one-term Government, he said: “I have no comment on Mr Rabain.
“We know they have nothing for us and would like to see us go away so the Government can have absolute control.
“I can assure them that that’s not going to happen!”
He conceded however that the voters of Bermuda sent the OBA “a strong message” in the last General Election.
As for the political pundits who contend that perhaps it’s time for Mr Dunkley to step off the political stage, he said: “When you’re going well everyone wants to pat you on the back and stand with you in the spotlight.
“When you struggle everyone wants to be armchair quarter backs who want to criticize you and think they have the best advice in the world.”
But he admitted that the OBA has “a lot of rebuilding to do”.
“There’s no doubt about that and unfortunately we had two MPs step down within two days.
“But after the election it was clear that there were a number of people, who while disappointed to see Dr Gibbons go after tremendous service I knew that his resignation was a reality in a short period of time after the election.”
And he stated that Mr Baron’s reasons for resigning were clear.
Dr Gibbons, the MP for Paget East was the Shadow Minister of Economic Development and Regulatory Affairs.
He told MPs last night that “it’s time to go”.
The 65-year-old veteran statesman said. “For me, 25 years is enough. It’s time to focus on other things like family and business. It’s time to make way for new blood, someone who is prepared to make the commitment, who can bring substance and passion, and who will have Paget East and Bermuda’s best interests at heart.”
He also stated that he would remain a member of the OBA.
“I remain a supporter of the One Bermuda Alliance and what it stands for. I will remain a member of the One Bermuda Alliance.
“Although recent unanticipated events may now influence the impact of my decision on public opinion, I can assure this honourable House and the public that my decisions to retire from politics and when to retire from politics were made long ago.
“Now I look forward to continuing my family’s legacy of public service; just not as an elected Member.”
Highlighting accomplishments over the years, he noted his role in bringing the 35th America’s Cup to Bermuda.
“Hosting AC35 put Bermuda on the world stage, created hundreds of jobs, helped to rejuvenate tourism and jump-started Bermuda’s struggling economy by adding over $330 million to Bermuda’s GDP.
“It also demonstrated Bermuda’s remarkable ability to rise to the occasion and work together to achieve extraordinary results.”
But he said he was disappointed to see the deterioration in the level of debate in the House of Assembly.
“Given the serious issues Bermuda will continue to face as a small community with a fragile economy, we need more co-operation and far less partisan rancour,” he said.
His announcement was met by foot-stomping and table-thumping from both sides of the House.