The following Op-Ed was released on Thursday, March 24, 2022, by Opposition Senate Leader Ben Smith… 

The process in place for the budget debate in the senate does not lend itself for debate unless the government senators desire it or have permission from their Minister.

The first debate for Youth and Sport saw Minister Peets give close to an hour for questions to be asked and answers to be given. The second debate was finance and the junior Minister of Finance Ariana Hogdson read a very long brief including every figure in the budget book that all senators had in front of them and that had been studied in preparation of the debate. This brief had been read out in the HOA days prior so did not provide new information for the debate or the listening publics.

With 12 minutes left after the one hour and 48 minutes of listening Senators Decouto and White quickly asked questions in the hope of receiving answers. This cannot be the best version of democracy. After watching that frustrating process I hoped to change the process for the next Ministries. A request to remove heads from the National security debate in order to shorten the Senators brief to give time for debate. This decision was not because the heads were not important but to create better use of time and to get some information to the Bermuda public.

Although there seemed to be support for this change in the chamber it was denied minutes before the start of the session. There seems to be an effort to silence anyone not in the government and the lack of transparency leads to questions of what is being hidden. Legal affairs continued the same government plan to read for most of the session leaving little time for questions or answers. This was the same behavior in the HOA.

Please find a sample of questions that should have been asked for National security so that the government could provide answers. Maybe they will answer in this forum if they believe in answering to the people.

Police

There has been a significant reduction in the budget for police over the last few budgets and now only small changes in the 22/23 budget. With the increase in crime, gang activity and road issues what impact will the continued lack of support have on policing?

There was a reduction in officers by 40 and there only seems to be an addition of 9 officers. With retirements and officers suspended or sick this leaves us with more overtime and less support for the officers? With the change in crime and the potential need for more enforcement after cannabis legislation are we putting more pressure on the police service?

Corrections

Is the cellphone jamming technology operation at the Westgate facility?

Have the improvements to the facility been implemented to provided upgrades to the gates, removal of mold, hot water?

Do we have enough officers to cover the facilities with all the challenges of inmates including gang activity?

Do we have the level of mental health support for inmates?

Have officers been provided with all training necessary for the demands of the job?

Fire Service

Is the fire service still operating the ambulance in St George’s?

If not will this create any changes in response time?

What certification is necessary for the fire service at the airport and who is responsible for providing it?

How many officers are mandatory at the airport to satisfy the international regulations?

How many Fire service representatives do we have for the airport?

Is there special certification necessary for these fire service members?

How long does it take to receive this certification and can it be completed locally?

How many of the local officers at the airport have this certification?

If Bermuda does not meet these regulations can the airport be shut down?