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“I’m before a lynch mob” says former Bermuda government minister

Featured Former Works and Engineering Minister Derrick Burgess has hit out at the commission of inquiry investigating misuse of public funds, saying he felt like he was before a “lynch mob”. Former Works and Engineering Minister Derrick Burgess has hit out at the commission of inquiry investigating misuse of public funds, saying he felt like he was before a “lynch mob”.
HAMILTON, Bermuda, Oct 6, CMC  – Former Works and Engineering Minister Derrick Burgess has hit out at the commission of inquiry investigating misuse of public funds, saying he felt like he was before a “lynch mob”.

Burgess, who once headed the powerful Bermuda Industrial Union, on Thursday, launched a stinging attack on the four-member commission and its lawyer, Narinder Hargun, as he was questioned about a string of capital projects.

Burgess accused Hargun of trying to “beat me down like a slave when you don’t get what you want” as the lawyer asked him questions about the establishment of a new Human Resources Department.

“I know you are from South Africa,” he added.

In a series of heated exchanges Burgess told commission chairman Sir Anthony Evans “You have never walked in my shoes, every day of my life I am reminded I am black, you will never experience that.”

Burgess asked why the commission was 75 per cent white in a country with a 60 per cent black population.

“You know what it feels like to me here? That I’m before a lynch mob”.

Calling Burgess a person of “great experience”, Sir Anthony added – “The least the commission will expect of you is to answer the questions in a respectful way.”

The commission, which began hearings last week, is looking into the misuse of public funds from 2009 to 2012, when the former Progressive Labour Party (PLP) administration was in power.

On Wednesday, the inquiry heard that a construction company awarded a US$70 million contract to build the new Magistrates’ Court and police station in Hamilton went on to donate $27,000 to the PLP.

The inquiry was told that Landmark Lisgar, which later changed its name to LLC, made three donations to the PLP between 2008 and 2013, after signing the contract for the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building in December 2007.

Edmund Lee Matvey, from the company, detailed the donations when he took the stand at the tribunal: $1,000 in 2008, $13,000 in 2011 and $13,000 in 2013. He said the latter two payments both comprised a $10,000 ticket for a table at the PLP’s annual banquet and $3,000 for Christmas turkeys.

He said he was not a member of the PLP and his company did not make any donations before 2008.

Matvey confirmed that former fire chief Vincent Hollinsid, a half-brother of ex-Premier Dr Ewart Brown, owned a 20 per cent equity share in Landmark Lisgar and picked up a $6,000-a-month salary.

Winters George Burgess, whom Derrick Burgess has described as a close friend and relative, owned a 22 per cent equity stake and was paid $11,000 a month.

Brown, who was Premier between 2006 and 2010, is due to give evidence to the inquiry at the end of next month but his lawyer has said he might not answer questions.

The One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) government announced earlier this week that the budget for the commission of inquiry has been more than doubled.

Originally given $480,000 to look into issues that came out of then-Auditor-General Heather Jacobs Matthews’ reports for the financial years ending March 2010 through March 2012, the commission will now have a budget of almost $1.2 million.

The commission has until December 31 to report its findings.

The OBA ended 14 years of PLP rule amid rising unemployment when it won the December 2012 general election. The next election is due at the end of 2017.

CMC/ic/kb/2016

  • Countries: Bermuda

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