- The following statement was released by One Bermuda Alliance MP Michael Dunkley, former Premier & Shadow Minister of National Security
On Friday in Parliament Minister Caines delivered a statement concerning Westgate and the current Work to Rule situation. It was only after questioning by myself and OBA colleagues that important facts were revealed and the dire state of affairs made known to the people of Bermuda.
Before I highlight what was not said in the statement, but came to light due to the Opposition’s diligent probing, it is important to state that critical issues within the facility are dealt with and pay and GEHI issues are resolved. However, until the Minister and Government are fully transparent in regards to these challenges the lack of trust between the Government and the POA could grow.
Now to the statement by Minister Caines. It is not what’s in it, but what’s not in it and what came to light upon questioning that is concerning and important. The questioning centered around three areas: – the Minister stated “the most significant concerns center on the POA’s desire for an increase in pay and the POA membership payment into GEHI.”
When asked what has been budgeted to cover this item the Minister was unable to answer and, up until the time of drafting this comment, still has not provided the information in spite having committed to do so. I then asked how long before this matter is
sent to arbitration and the Minister said that was an administrative procedure.
Finally, I asked what the Minister meant by the word “restricted” when he stated…”POA members continue to work to rule, this
means the Correction Officers will not work overtime, programs and all classes are restricted, visits are restricted.” The Minister replied upon questioning “ they are not having classes at the moment.”
Clearly there is a difference between “restricted” and “ not having classes.” More importantly, classes and programs for inmates are critical to any sentence thus not conducting them highlights a lack of progress for any person incarcerated.
The Minister was then questioned if it was intended that the secondment of Commissioner Lamb would end and he would return to Corrections. The Minister replied that he would not return to Corrections.
This is a surprising and glaring omission from the statement to say the least. The Minister mentioned an impasse between Corrections and the POA and that officers had called in sick. When questioned the Minister replied that 36 officers had called in sick.
The final area of questioning pertained to the Ministers comment that “the Westgate Correctional Facility had limited hot water supply.” The Minister was asked at any time was the facility without hot water. The Minister replied he “would have to confirm that.” He later replied it was “completely without hot water for approximately nine months.”
As with the Minister’s use of “restricted” and “no programs” there is a big difference between the word “limited” and words “ completely without hot water…”
This acknowledgement is most concerning as nine months is a significant period of time and any other facility that requires hot water for the kitchen, sanitation, and laundry functioning and general hygiene would probably have been closed if it was not fixed in some fashion at the earliest opportunity.
It is important that Ministers update Parliament on matters within every Ministry. However while doing so it is critical that a Minister provides accurate and factual information. In this case the OBA has highlighted glaring shortcomings by the Minister and, if this is not corrected, it will contribute to a rising level of disconnect between the PLP Government and the Prison Officers Association and any progress on these critical issues becomes harder to achieve.
Hon Michael H Dunkley JP, MP.
May 12, 2019