by STAFF WRITER
HAMILTON, Bermuda, Mar. 16, CMC -Lawyer and backbencher Mark Pettingill delivered a major jolt to the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) on Thursday by resigning from the governing party, saying he is likely to retire from politics altogether at the next general election due later this year.
The former Attorney General told reporters he will serve as an independent MP in his Warwick North East constituency until then.
It means the OBA and the opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP) each has 17 legislators in the House of Assembly, with two independents, although the PLP’s Randy Horton is the Speaker of the House and can vote only in the case of a tie.
Pettingill’s law firm colleague Shawn Crockwell, a former Tourism and Transport Minister, resigned from the OBA last year to become an independent.
There was no immediate response from Premier Michael Dunkley, whose party won the 2012 general election by 19 seats to 17.
Pettingill said he felt compelled to leave the governing party due to conflicts with his legal work, revealing his firm, Chancery Legal, has been in talks with patients of former PLP Premier Dr Ewart Brown, after police recently raided Brown’s clinics.
Pettingill added that he “diametrically and philosophically” opposes the government’s position on numerous issues.
In recent months, Pettingill has been a vocal critic of the party he helped to form in May 2011. This year, he delivered a speech on race in the House, which revealed his deep concern with his party’s handling of the issue and was praised by several PLP MPs.
“I have this morning advised the Premier that I will be resigning from the One Bermuda Alliance. I intend to sit as an independent MP until the next general election, at which time I will likely resign from politics,” Pettingill told the media.
“I find myself in a position of ongoing professional legal conflict with the government on various existing litigation and potential matters that my law firm has been approached about having conduct over.
“Furthermore, I have unfortunately found myself diametrically and philosophically opposed to the government’s position or approach on numerous issues in endeavouring to move Bermuda forward. I respect that the Premier, and the cabinet, takes a different view.
“In the interest of the country, I sincerely wish the government every success for the remainder of their tenure in office, recognising that they have in fact accomplished many positive things for the island.”
Pettingill was first elected as an MP for the now defunct United Bermuda Party (UBP), which ran the country for 30 years until it was ousted by the PLP in 1998, in Warwick West in 2007.
Two years later, he was a member of a breakaway group of UBP MPs which formed the Bermuda Democratic Alliance (BDA). In 2011, the BDA merged with the UBP to found the OBA.
In the 2012 election, Pettingill switched to Warwick North East, where he defeated long-serving PLP MP Dale Butler as the OBA won power for the first time.