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Government Accountability and Elections
Re-election of PLP
25 June 2003
With the election results now in, and the PLP reconfirmed as the party that will govern our Island for the next five years, we Bermudians must think carefully about the direction in which our Island may go. Although the PLP has a majority of eight seats, they in fact only surpassed the UBP by 3.6%, translating into only 1,080 more Bermudians voting for the PLP than the UBP. When you consider this, the mandate given to the PLP is not as significant as, no doubt, the PLP will have the electorate believe over the course of the next few days. When you consider the Premier’s eight vote majority in her own constituency and the eight vote majority of Renee Webb, arguably one of the Premier’s most ardent supporters and important Cabinet Ministers, I see a party that must not only repair the cracks that will inevitably form within, but it must also try and unite an equally split populous.
Rather than concentrate on the politics of race, that reared its ugly head during the election campaign (with references to suntans and plantations), the PLP must now concentrate on ensuring that big business is not frightened away to Dublin and other jurisdictions due to increasingly stifling work permit policies and make every effort to redevelop properties like Club Med in an attempt to bolster the ever-flagging tourism industry. Our Premier, in her various “sound bite” speeches impressed upon this writer that there is a lack of vision in the PLP, preferring to rely on lacklustre achievements over the past four and a half years and the heart tugging politicking of “liberation” and “emancipation”. It is now time for the various reports that have been commissioned over the past four and a half years, including the Civil Service Review and the BHC report to be published and scrutinised by the people. After all, as the Premier said, the Government is open to the “sunshine of public scrutiny” and is “for the people”. Thus the people are entitled to the truth.
This writer does wish the PLP luck. Vast improvements must be made with the way in which our Island is governed. The Premier, Ms Webb and Colonel Burch did appallingly badly in their constituencies. It is time for the PLP to sweep away the past and concentrate on the people it is supposed to govern, rather than spending on lavish trips abroad and personal perks. I hope for the sake of Bermuda that this election has been, at the very least, a wake up call to our leaders. The UBP must take credit for being an effective opposition. It is now hoped that the UBP will continue its sterling work in attempting to ensure the PLP is actually open to the sunshine of public scrutiny and forces the PLP to care about the other 48% of the Island that did not vote for them. As for a mandate for independence, well, that is another debate all together!
16 May 2001
The Oxford English dictionary defines “corruption” as the “perversion of a person’s integrity in the performance of (esp. official or public) duty or work….”. There are of course varying degrees of corruption, a word one associates with countries such as Serbia, Zimbabwe and Russia. This however is a misnomer.
If we examine a recent case in the United Kingdom, which forced the resignation of Peter Mandelson, the former Northern Ireland Secretary and cast doubt on the integrity of Keith Vaz, the current Minister for Europe (over influence supposedly exerted on a junior minister to obtain passports for Labour party supporters) parallels can be drawn with politics in Bermuda.
Most voters view ministerial influence on civil servants and fellow ministers as corruption. When this ugly word is associated with a politician, that politician is tarnished along with his or her party. To salvage the reputation of the party the minister resigns. The link between corruption and resignation is the realisation that the minister has done wrong. Unfortunately this link is missing in the Bermuda Government chain of accountability.
Are we Bermudians satisfied that the law can be changed regarding oversize car limits to suit government ministers? As this does not benefit the voters in any way whatsoever it is corruption. Do Bermudians care that when government backbenchers endanger the health of local residents with illegal removal of asbestos nothing is done? This is corruption. When the Government travel budget and personal security budget increase significantly without a valid reason is there an outcry? This is corruption. When government ministers bully police officers for a parking space is there outrage? This is corruption. When independent reports that scrutinize governmental actions are never debated, is a compelling explanation forthcoming? This is corruption. The list could continue. Where is the accountability? Is there a realisation within the Government that such practices are in fact varying degrees of corruption? Is it a case of do as we say don’t do as we do?
This type of behaviour appears to be inherent in the governance of Bermuda. Our previous administration was no better, though some may say it was less overt in its corruption. The facts should not be clouded with the usual nonsensical allegations of racism. It would be wrong and false to believe that corruption is not alive and kicking in paradise. It is high time that Bermudians united to expose sleaze in government for what it is and ensure that our politicians are held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof.
The Government represents the people of Bermuda, a nation known for its friendliness and cleanliness, though if matters are allowed to continue as they are, these adjectives will not apply to Bermudian politics, rather the word “corrupt” would become a fair description.
Date: 18 April 2001
It is a well-known fact that voter apathy is the scourge of every western democracy which, if left unchecked, festers like an untreated wound, eventually turning even the most loyal party activist into a blubbering idiot. This can be demonstrated by recent events in the United States federal elections and of course in the United Kingdom where there was the lowest voter turnout since World War I. Bermudian voters and politicians alike should ask whether or not this egregious phenomenon will find its way to our Island.
The Progressive Labour Party, voted into power on a euphoric wave of grand promises have failed to live up to the expectations of the ideals of many Bermudians who voted them into power. The United Bermuda Party, which essentially destroyed itself through nepotism and cronyism (a road that is being quickly followed by the PLP) is not seen by many as a legitimate option for Government. As for the National Liberal Party the fact that it is even acknowledged in the press as a party is fantastically absurd. Now is the time for Bermudians who actually care about the future of Bermuda to consider a Third Alternative rather than pander to the elite few who, despite their protestations, do control the economy and reins of power through favours and corrupt practices of preferential treatment to their friends and family.
It appears that our local politicians have begun to recognise that it may indeed be the case that Bermudians are obstreperous about politics but have no effective or constructive way to vent their anger and disenchantment. There is however a way forward. One or two of our more out-spoken members of Parliament have accepted this and have called for a third political force drawn from the ranks of disaffected UBP and PLP MP’s. It would be wrong and false to believe this is the way forward, as has already been demonstrated by the dismal failures of the NLP. It is time for Bermudians to discuss the real issues of the day such as education, housing and crime rather than becoming caught up in vitriolic debates on virtually non-existent racial disharmony, effectively a card which is played when one’s poker face has been exposed.
The electorate should not be fooled by the non-sensical attempts to cloud the important issues of the day. Only fresh faces and fresh politicians with fresh ideas who are truly interested in Bermuda’s future rather than their own selfish preferment can inject some new life into Bermudian politics and prevent the festering wound of apathy from turning into an inoperable gangrenous lesion. This is the Third Alternative.
Date: 1 November 2001
In the past three years we have seen a commendable attempt by the Progressive Labour Party to reverse thirty years in the political wilderness by forming an electable alternative to the some may say, self-indulgent and decadent United Bermuda Party. I say “attempt” as to remain in Government, the PLP must realize that the people are not fooled by rhetoric and cosmetic changes to their appearance. The cabinet reshuffle is a prime example of little style and no substance whatsoever.
Firstly it is pertinent to praise rather than critisise. The Ministry of Labour, Home Affairs and Public Safety has been handled with a fair degree of professionalism, chairing such overdue discussions as long-term residents, which all in all was a success (though the public forums on the issue left much to be desired). I have particular praise for Dennis Lister, the robust and exuberant former Minister for Sport who truly seemed to enjoy his portfolio and is deserved of his promotion to the Ministry of the Environment. Congratulations are also directed towards Alex Scott, who was a somewhat maverick opposition parliamentarian but has proven that he is a worthy and proficient minister.
However, one cannot perpetually praise.
It is this writer’s opinion that Premier Smith’s rash decision to allow the Minister of Tourism to remain in place is an insult to the people of Bermuda and is effectively a message saying that the major surgery needed to revitalize the industry will never take place. How long must we watch tourism flounder like a whale on a beach? Money is spent with little results. It would be irresponsible to blame the horrors of 11th September on the obvious failings of the Department of Tourism’s policies (if indeed there are any at all). Our illustrious Premier has basically proclaimed, “Let the patient die”.
We have also seen the self-styled Chief of Staff promoted to Minister Without Portfolio, no doubt due to his superlative ability to “toe the line”. This is an appointment reeking of cynical incredulity, exposing the true nepotistic attitudes and hypocrisy of the PLP’s claims to be a party of the people. Let us hope the previous Minister Without Portfolio plays with honour and integrity in leading his new Ministry.
It is with great trepidation that I approached the topic of cabinet reshuffles, given the need for unity and understanding given the state of international affairs, but local politics are important and comments must be made on the travesties that have occurred. It would be wrong and false to believe that all is well while tourism is flailing and leadership is lacking. This writer looks forward to the Premier being defeated at the next election.
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