Craig Cannonier pledged to reveal all about the Jetgate scandal that wrecked his premiership four years ago as he was sworn in as Opposition leader yesterday.
Mr Cannonier made a “humble apology” for the affair as he became Leader of the Opposition for the second time after John Rankin, the Governor, sealed his status as head of the parliamentary One Bermuda Alliance.
The Devonshire South Central MP, who led his party to victory at the polls in 2012, said he would release more details on the controversy, which involved a trip to the US in a private jet owned by an American business tycoon, over the next few months.
Mr Cannonier, a former leader of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance, as well as OBA Opposition leader, premier, Cabinet minister and shadow minister, said there was a feeling of “déjà vu” for some who attended the swearing-in ceremony at Government House.
He caused laughter when he said: “Thus far, all of you know that my political career has been very colourful, hasn’t it?”
Mr Cannonier added: “I’ve experienced the good, the bad and even the ugly part of politics. The thrill of victory and, of course, the pain and agony of defeat — the realities of public service.”
But he said: “The greatest low was, after having been given advice, I took a flight on a private jet plane to sell Bermuda and in my naivety I made the error, an error of judgment, and for this, Bermuda, I humbly apologise — to you, my family, for the difficult time that it provided you, something you didn’t ask for. To my colleagues, my apologies.”
He later told The Royal Gazette: “Unfortunately, I took a plane ride in the interest of a hotel and it all became about gaming and unfortunately that is what it still is all about.
Mr Cannonier said: “But for now, I’ll keep my mouth shut. There will be information coming forthwith.”
He added that he had always been truthful about the controversy, which resulted in his resignation as premier in 2014 after only 17 months in office.
Mr Cannonier said: “I was always transparent, I always spoke to the issue.
“The one thing I have learnt about Bermudians, though, is they like details and I overlooked a very minor detail that I thought, quite frankly, didn’t matter and that was taking a friend on the plane as well and so that is a valuable lesson to have learnt.
“So I stand before you as an experienced politician, understanding that Bermudians like details and that will never, ever happen again.”
He declined to comment on an ongoing police investigation linked to the scandal.
OBA MPs Susan Jackson, Sylvan Richards, Leah Scott, Cole Simons, Ben Smith and Scott Pearman, as well as senator Robyn Swan, watched as Mr Cannonier was sworn in.
The MPs were among eight of the party’s 11 House of Assembly members who supported a motion of no confidence in Jeanne Atherden as Opposition leader, which also forced her resignation as party leader, a separate role, last week.
Mr Cannonier is expected to stand for election as leader of the party in the next few weeks.
Key OBA players Jeanne Atherden, Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Minister of National Security, and Trevor Moniz, the Shadow Attorney-General, were absent.
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, a former interim party leader, also did not attend the ceremony.
Mr Cannonier said Ms Atherden was replaced as Opposition leader because the parliamentary party appeared to be without a strong direction.
He said: “I think we had noticed and seen that we were still limping along in the House of Assembly.
“There seemed to be a bit of lethargy there and I think that members of the party were coming together to say, ‘listen, it’s time now to start a new course’ and I’ve answered to the call.”
Mr Cannonier declined to comment on OBA matters until the new party leader was established.
But he said: “Certainly, we have already seen with the announcement of myself being the Opposition leader, an enthusiasm around the table, people already coming to the OBA wanting to sign up and I hope that that will continue.
“This has always been about getting people into the room. In 2011, we had a whirlwind of people seeking out an opportunity to see some new politics in the island.
“That’s what I’m about and new politics will happen with new people coming into the room.”
Mr Cannonier said at the swearing in that the country’s success required a “real change of thinking towards one another, politically, socially and economically”.
He told the audience: “We have cultures yet still seeking acceptance. Some still uncomfortable because of our rhetoric. The backbone of Bermuda still seeking to thrive and not just survive. And those who benefited from our historical past still not understanding the racial tension on this island.”
Mr Cannonier added “we can move mountains” and that, with a change in thinking, “amazing things will happen”.
Mr Richards said the new leadership was “exciting”.
He added: “I just felt Craig would be more of a dynamic leader and that’s what we need at this point in time.”
Mr Smith revealed talks over the future direction of the OBA had taken place for “a few months”.
He said: “It lead to the point that we felt that we needed a new leader with a new direction and Craig is obviously charismatic and he’s got really good ideas about the direction that we should be taking.”
• For a video, visit The Royal Gazette’s Facebook page on: www.facebook.com/theroyalgazette/videos/649055355495987/?notif_id=1537796100532770&notif_t=live_video_explicit. Additionally, for a statement from One Bermuda Alliance MPs on leadership transition, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”