HAMILTON, Bermuda, Mar 14, CMC – Members of Parliament on Thursday passed controversial legislation to turn Bermuda’s two municipalities into unelected quangos.
The decision – blasted by the current Mayor of Hamilton as a power grab,will end a combined total of almost 450 years of local government in the capital Hamilton and St George’s, the island’s original capital.
The legislators voted 22-7 in favour of the legislation, with all present in the House of Assembly voting along party lines.
Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban, who tabled the bill, said he would consider implementing a act specific to St George’s in the near future.
The legislation will result in the end of locally elected councillors, who will be replaced with government-appointed representatives.
Current elected members of the municipalities will hold office until May 13, unless they will resign in writing to the minister.
The minister will then appoint a mayor and eight councillors for each of the corporations to serve from May 14. The mayor and four councillors will be those who meet the requirements and have the skills and experience to fulfil the role.
The other four councillors will be appointed by the minister on the recommendation of a selection committee.
Hamilton Mayor Charles Gosling said on Wednesday said the decision to axe the corporations was a foregone conclusion “and has been one for almost a year”.
Gosling added the move was a power grab by Roban.
“This minister is wanting to finish what he started in 2009 — to take control of the city and St George’s, control of the waterfront. His own waterfront plans released at the two public meetings confirm the grab. It’s as simple and transparent as that,” he said.
Gosling also branded consultation on the government takeover a “farce”.
Quinell Francis, the Mayor of St George’s, said the decision by MPs was “disappointing” – “It doesn’t seem like the constituents of St George’s concerns were taken into consideration.”
Francis said that East End residents were concerned that the ability to elect their own officials had been stripped away, adding that “They’ll be appointed — and that’s not sitting well with many of the persons in the town.”
Francis said a poll had found that the majority of residents wanted the corporation left alone.
She added that she felt the views of local people had been ignored and that the vote had been “predictable”.
Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Sylvan Richards said earlier the legislation was an “affront to democracy”.
Hamilton elected a corporation in 1795 and St George’s set up its own local authority two years later.