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Premier regrets ex-minister’s decision to leave ruling party

Premier Michael Dunkley Premier Michael Dunkley
HAMILTON, Bermuda, Jul 2, CMC – Premier Michael Dunkley has described his former tourism minister Shawn Crockwell’s decision to resign from the ruling One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) as a “very disappointing development”.

Crockwell, a lawyer who is parliamentary representative for Southampton West Central, announced his decision to resign to become an independent during the motion to adjourn at Friday’s sitting of the House of Assembly.

Dunkley, who was not present in the chamber at the time, later issued a statement, saying “he is a very capable and talented individual and the people of Bermuda could have continued to benefit by his remaining an active, committed member of the government.

“But that is not the case today. We will continue our work to return economic security and opportunity that was lost to thousands of Bermudians in recent years.

“I know for a fact that Shawn wants to see that happen, and so we look forward to working with him to continue moving the island forward in ways that work for Bermudians who want a better life. “

He said prior to the announcement, Crockwell had “raised a number of issues with me, and I have assured him that I will look into them and deal with them in the most appropriate way.”

Crockwell’s departure leaves the OBA with a wafer-thin, one-seat majority over the opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP), which was ousted at the last general election in December 2012 after 14 years in power.

Addressing legislators on Friday, Crockwell said he had drafted multiple speeches to try and get the right balance.

“The first draft was too harsh, the second draft was way too emotional. I said a prayer, and the answer that came back was just to tell the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Crockwell had grown increasingly disenchanted with the OBA, but sources said he reached his limit after a raid on his house this week by immigration officers over an alleged illegal worker hired as a cleaner.

Crockwell made his feelings known in March, when he resigned as Tourism and Transport Minister against a background of demonstrations and industrial action over a proposed Pathways to Status initiative and sat in the House as a backbencher.

The government later withdrew the immigration bill which promised more security for long-term residents.

Citing “the inability of the government to listen and to appropriately gauge the temperature of the community”, Crockwell called the OBA out of touch with majority black Bermudians in particular, and attacked Dunkley’s leadership.

On that occasion Crockwell ruled out leaving the party, saying that “if the OBA starts to lose numbers then you have an unstable government”.

Crockwell has enjoyed a colourful political career since being elected an MP in 2007.

He defected from the now-defunct United Bermuda Party (UBP) — which ran the country from 1968 until 1998 — in 2009 to help form the short-lived Bermuda Democratic Alliance (BDA). The BDA merged with the remnants of the UBP to form the OBA in 2011, and was part of the OBA team that won the last election.

The next general election is due in 18 months’ time.

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