Editorials

Bermuda update makes no sense

We have written repeatedly about the need for the Office of the Prime Minister’s (OPM) communications apparatus to actually communicate effectively.

Public statements by OPM Press Secretary Clint Watson and OPM Director of Communications Latrae Rahming on the matter of the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) trip to Bermuda paid for by the government only made a matter that should have been straightforward worse.

The prime minister and his delegation traveled aboard a Western Air chartered plane to Bermuda in October.

Rahming claimed that the trip by the prime minister, government officials and PLP members to Bermuda, where the prime minister spoke at the convention of Bermuda’s ruling Progressive Labour Party, was political in nature and funded by The Bahamas’ PLP.

Rahming said, “Insofar as the Bermuda trip, that cost was covered by the Progressive Liberal Party and all questions pertaining to that trip can be deferred to the organization.”

His statement was contradicted by Minister of Foreign Affairs and PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell who said the trip was an “official visit” at the invitation of the premier of Bermuda that “was a standard foreign affairs goodwill trip, not a political trip”.

“There was nothing unusual about the trip, whether in its financing or otherwise,” Mitchell said.

In the following days, the PLP released a picture of a check in the amount of $24,750, drawn from a FirstCaribbean International Bank account, and dated October 21 – a day after the delegation’s return.

October 21 was when Rahming made his initial statement.

He did not, however, explain that OPM paid for the flight and had been, or would be, reimbursed by the party.

On October 26, the prime minster said the costs would be “reckoned” and the PLP would reimburse the government within the next two weeks.

It has now been well over a month since the trip ended.

However, Thursday, November 24, when asked if the PLP has fully reimbursed the government for the Bermuda trip, Watson said that should happen in another two weeks.

“I do know the prime minister, this week, made a call to ensure that this happens, so I suspect that that should happen within the next week and a half, two weeks,” Watson said last week.

He added, “I’ve been made aware that the Progressive Liberal Party is fully aware and ready to make the reimbursement. They’re waiting for the paperwork from foreign affairs to be sent to them as to the cost and that transaction will take place.”

Whatever is Watson talking about?

Are we to now understand that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid for PLP officials to travel to a political convention in another country?

We were told first that the PLP paid for the trip – it did not.

Then, we were shown a check that detailed OPM being reimbursed for the flight.

So, OPM paid for the flight and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs apparently paid for everything else.

It will be interesting to see what the minister of foreign affairs has to say about that.

Also, there is no legitimate reason the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken more than a month to compile invoices for a trip it already paid for.

And why would it take another two weeks from the date Watson was asked for the ministry to compile anything and for the PLP to pay?

The PLP paid for the flight the day after the prime minister returned.

Hotel bills and sums paid for per diem expenses, transportation and meals ought to be readily available.

Are we to believe these travel accommodations, but not others, are so elusive as to take weeks to track down?

This update makes no sense.

One call to one of the PLP’s many millionaires should be able to settle the bill.

The prime minister entered office with a reputation for forthrightness.

This Bermuda trip is not the hill for that reputation to die on.

The government should not have paid for those not traveling as part of the official delegation.

It is not a complicated matter for the PLP to pay the public treasury back.

And it should not take weeks for this matter to be resolved.

That this still lingers is an embarrassment.

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