05 Jun 2018

Premier Needs To State His Position On Chief Justice Matter

The Premier must publicly state whether he supports one of his Ministers who cast a slur on the new Chief Justice based on his ethnic origin, according to One Bermuda Alliance leader Jeanne Atherden.

During a debate In the House of Assembly last week Minister of Public Works, Lt. Col. David Burch, was scathing about the choice of Narinder Hargun to replace Dr Ian Kawaley as the new Chief Justice.

Mrs Atherden said: “First of all, the Minister sought, incorrectly, to blame the current Chief Justice for Mr. Hargun’s selection, rather than the committee that recommended him.

“That the Minister thinks it appropriate to take cheap shots at both the departing Chief Justice and his replacement is regrettable.  Of greater concern is that Minister Burch said that Chief Justice Kawaley ‘must produce somebody to take [his] place other than an Indian’.

“Mr. Hargun is widely regarded as an exceptional jurist.  I am sure he will prove to be a fine Chief Justice.  Mr. Hargun is Bermudian.  That Mr. Hargun is also ‘Indian’ is not relevant to his ability to serve Bermudians in this important judicial role.”

She added: “When the Premier announced there would be a new public holiday on November 4 next year to commemorate the arrival of Portuguese people from the island of Madeira, he said his Government was a Government for all.

“The Premier’s exact words were ‘Mr. Speaker, this Government is a government for everyone and we are determined to forge a society where our differences are celebrated. We must have meaningful inclusion if we are to chart a future of success for our children and future generations’. It appears Minister Burch missed that particular memo.”

The ethnic reference was made by Minister Burch during criticism of Chief Justice Kawaley in the House by National Security Minister Wayne Caines after Dr Kawaley criticized the Attorney General over staff shortages.

“It is difficult to understand Minister Burch’s remark as anything other than a slur against Mr. Hargun based on his ethnicity.  If this is what he means, then his statement is completely unacceptable and he must explain himself,” said Mrs Atherden.

“If he cannot, or if he refuses to explain himself, then the Minister needs to be called out, both by his PLP colleagues and by the wider Bermudian community. Mr Hargun’s appointment is within the appointment guidelines and the language and reference made by Minister Burch was offensive. 

“If the Minister’s comments were meant as they seem at face value – that Mr. Hargun, as a Bermudian, should not serve as Chief Justice because he is ethnically Indian – then the Premier too must explain whether he supports a Minister who holds such shocking views. If he does not, then he must censure his Minister.

“There is no place in Bermuda for racial hatred.  The OBA believes that we are one Bermuda and the Bermudian community, must come together to demonstrate this fact, loud and clear.”

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