March 01, 2004

Full Speech Text

The following is the full text of the speech delivered by the Premier to the PLP Founders Day Luncheon on Sunday, 29 February 2004:

"The Way Forward"

It was an idea whose time had come.

The early 1960s had seen small determined groups talk about it, and try to establish a political party, and then they would inevitably fade away into many disappointing yesterdays.

However, one group came together, nurtured their dream, and created a political institution which we celebrate today.

They were the founding Fathers of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party (PLP).

Ministers of the Government;
Senators;
Parliamentary Colleagues;

Members of the Party Executive Committee and Central Committee (CC);
To our honoured guests, and distinguished former leaders and their families;
To the Master of Ceremonies;
Party faithful;
Friends;
Good afternoon to all of you.

Our Founding Fathers: motivated by and including Wilfred Mose Allen were Hugh (Rio) Richardson, Albert Peter Smith, Edward DeJean, Walter N. H. Robinson, Austin Wilson and Dilton C. Cann.

These men and their meetings led to the formation of the early structure of the PLP. Hugh (Rio) Richardson, a well-known motor mechanic, was the provisional chairman of the Party – in those early days; Walter N. H. Robinson, MCP, a lawyer, was provisional secretary to the PLP; Eugene Woods, an electronics technician, was the public relations officer for the fledgling PLP Party and Arnold Francis, MCP and lawyer, was the first PLP provisional leader.

These men of pluck and vision cast a political ripple into motion, which was to become a political movement that became a wave, that rolled on down through the years, and eventually washed away the political machine that had run Bermuda for so many, too many, years.

The PLP Platforms decade after decade, chronicled the hopes and aspirations the party leadership had for Bermuda, and Bermuda’s people - election after election.
In 1963 the Platform was titled "A New Era". The following General Election, 1968 it was to be "Progress; Labour; Prosperity". Successive PLP Election Platforms had equally evocative titles: 1972 "For A Better Deal"; 1976 – "Time For A Change"; 1980 - "Express Yourself""; 1983 – "A Summary of All Past Platform Initiatives"; 1985 – "Only You Can Make A Difference"; 1989 –"Take Charge"; 1993 – "X Change Them"; 1998 – "A New Bermuda"; and finally 2003 –"We’ve Only Just Begun".

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

It was the best of times because the air before an election was charged and pregnant with expectation and hope. The faithful always believed that each Election Day would be the one. The day of victory, the day of jubilation; the day when from Sandy’s to St. Georges and Dock Hill to Billy Goat Hill, the country would exhale and wake to ‘a new era’, ‘a better deal’, the ‘time for a change’, because they had ‘X pressed themselves’ and therefore had voted solidly PLP!

It was the worst of times because Party Leader after Party Leader became the ‘Bridesmaid’, never the one to make the drive to Government House, never the one to proudly await the entrance of Black Rod to Parliament; never the one to take the oath as the Leader of the country, never number one. Never to come first - election after election!

However, yes, there were first!

Arnold Adolphus (A.A.) Francis, QC, CBE was the first PLP Leader.

Walter Nathaniel Harvey Robinson was the first PLP Leader to contest an election under the new Constitution, the details of which had been hammered out (with him leading the PLP delegation) in London – two years earlier.

Dame Lois Marie Brown-Evans, DBE, JP, Lawyer, was the first woman Leader of the Opposition in the entire British Commonwealth. In addition her place in Bermuda history was assured when she was appointed to the office of Attorney General of Bermuda being the first female to hold that office.

Leonard Frederick Wade, teacher, barrister and politician has been attributed to have been the first PLP Leader to have open lines of Communications with both the International, and local business community, thus laying the foundation for the Party to make significant inroads into the prejudicial opinions held by this group – at that time.

The Hon. Jennifer M. Smith, JP, DHumL, MP, has the distinction of achieving several notable firsts in addition to that all elusive first, the first PLP Leader to win the Government! Now, once again she has distinguished herself by being the first female, Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly.

My friends, as Leader of the Progressive Labour Party Government, I am proud of the role played by all of our former Party leaders. Further, In addition to achieving many notable first they started back in the ‘60s, ’70, ‘80s and more recently in the ‘90s laying the building blocks that would eventually pave the road to the ‘New Bermuda’.

Briefly, over the next few minutes let me explain their impact on us today, and give you examples of their respective and collective contribution to our journey to the ‘New Bermuda’.

I wish to acknowledge the role played by Mr. Arnold A. A. Francis, who saw the need for all the original founding fathers to come together and form this glorious Party. His stewardship laid the foundation for those to follow right through the struggles and down to each of us today.

Almost ten years ago this courageous man of vision was saying, in a speech delivered on the 10th August 1995:

"…Mr. Chairman, I have outlined the progress from years of what is constitutionally called ‘Representative Government’ based on a limited franchise to ‘Responsible Government’. It is common knowledge that as a delegation we attended a Constitutional Conference in London in November 1966 and a New Constitution was introduced in 1968.

"That was 27 years ago! Since then Bermudians through the medium of the cabinet and our civil service have managed our affairs with a success that cannot be reviled by many larger countries. We have established a per capita income that is 2nd or 3rd highest in the world (on last count Britain itself was said to have the 14th highest per capita income)."

Mr. Arnold A. A. Francis, QC, CBE, stands tall amongst us as a pioneer. Mr. Francis we salute you!

This short, incisive abstract makes a powerful point. It places before us a real challenge as to how much further we can go if only we can agree to come together to embark on a common odyssey. I say to you this afternoon ‘let the word go forth’ that with a common goal we can achieve much as one people, united as a country we can stand against any foe and be able to compete with any nation…but first we must become a nation.

Out of the sequence in which he served the Party as Leader
I choose to give tribute to the Late Walter N. H. Robinson later in my comments.
Dame Lois Brown-Evans JP is a virtual ‘tour de force’. She is a national treasure, a political icon, a cherished friend.

Dame Lois Brown-Evans, has, throughout the years, both led and symbolized the struggle of our people and the plight of women in politics and the wider community.

So much has been said about Dame Lois; and of course, so much has been said by Dame Lois. Almost twenty (20) years ago, in 1985 as it is recorded in the book ("Lois: Bermuda’s Grand Dame of Politics) dedicated to telling the story about her life, and authored by Randolph Williams. A narrative in the book tells how Dame Lois:

‘…Celebrated Bermuda Day and encouraged her listeners to rededicate themselves to the aims of preserving the "Bermuda Birthright":

"We must all ensure that all Bermudians can enjoy equal opportunity and access to truly affordable housing, as well as training and retraining for upwardly mobile positions in our economy. If we can do this, then we can ensure that every day will be Bermuda Day". She made no direct mention of political parties."

Today we stand here at this podium a beneficiary of her sacrifice - we are a testament to her victory. No constituency, no national election victory could ever have been realized had it not been for the direct or indirect influence of this giant woman among men.

Also, her comment is instructive. While Dame Lois has been a political combatant on every front at all times, on this occasion she notably championed the promise that every day can be Bermuda Day if we as a people come together on a common theme.

Dame Lois Browne Evans stands tall amongst us as a pioneer. Dame Lois we salute you!

Leonard Frederick Wade, barrister and politician was the spark plug that ignited the potential of the PLP Opposition Party, and fired up the membership to a point that they were poised to take the next step to Government.

Freddy, as he was affectionately known ate, slept and lived his politics. He was fiercely driven when it came to his beloved PLP. Outside of his much beloved family the PLP was Fred’s life. However the Lord in his infinite wisdom had other plans for Fred and so before he was able to see the fruits of his political labour - he was gone too soon.

He worked hard and loyally as Dame Lois’s Deputy and when the moment arrived for her to move off the centre stage of the PLP leadership there was a smooth hand-off and transition to Fred. Under his leadership the Party went from strength to strength; election after election the PLP regained loss ground. 1989 saw the UBP lose eight seats and Jennifer Smith’s persistence in St. George’s pay off. She was one of the eight successful PLP candidates. In the 1993 General election the PLP’s position improved to eighteen seats - once again.

Freddy identified with the public he served. Their hurt was his hurt; their passion was his passion and the life and freedoms that they sought and deserved was his ‘raison d’ être’ for PLP and national politics. Therefore it is totally apropos to both his creed and character that in the book "Lois: Bermuda’s Grand Dame of Politics it states:

"…He was considered somewhat of a political martyr, as he had been thrown in jail during the tumultuous early 1970s simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He felt if that could happen to him it could happen to anyone; he wanted to change the unfair system…"

And change it he did! L. Frederick Wade Party stalwart, fallen soldier, pioneer, we salute you!

There are so many messages that we could derive from Fred’s life, politics and work. However to be case specific it is abundantly clear to me that if the Lord had permitted L. Frederick Wade the tactician extraordinaire to be standing beside me today he would be advising as his ‘creed’ dictated: Premier prepare the way "…to change the unfair system".

He would know that there can never be a full blooded, true democracy as long as our country remains as a Colony or an Overseas Dependent Territory. We have experienced first hand that we cannot even manage and staff our justice system, a key institution to a modern state, as long as we are constitutionally tied to a ‘Mother Country’.

I firs met the Hon. Jennifer M. Smith, JP, DHuml, MP, when she was a little school girl, dancer; I saw her through the lens of a camera at the Jackson School of Dance – where they were preparing for the annual recital. History would repeat itself many years later, in 1972, when once again I would observe her through the lens of our camera. However, she was a now greatly matured, young, determined woman who was to be a candidate in the PLP’s first TV commercial.

The rest is well known. Jennifer contested six (6) elections before being successful and going on to become the Premier of Bermuda. It is not surprising that the tenacity of this politically astute parliamentarian fortified her for the rigors of being the first PLP Party Leader who was to become the Premier of Bermuda.

Premier Jennifer Smith strove for excellence and she had a vision of a ‘New Bermuda’. In an address to the nation (21st February 2002) following the (11th September 2001) attack on Washington DC and New York City. Premier Smith expressed her vision for the country this way:

"We have seen the power that unity brings. Once we all pledge to work together for the good of Bermuda – Bermuda’s great potential and our aspirations for all who live and work here will be without boundaries. Bermuda needs all of us, now, more than ever. May God bless us all."

Hon. Jennifer M. Smith, JP, DHuml, MP, and Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, you stand tall amongst us as a pioneer. Hon Jennifer Smith we salute you!

There has been a common theme, thread and counsel running through the extracts of wisdom that we have gleaned from those we salute today. The Hon. Jennifer Smith said it as well as any: "…Once we all pledge to work together for the good of Bermuda – Bermuda’s great potential and our aspirations for all who live and work here will be without boundaries. Bermuda needs all of us, now, more than ever."

Earlier I mentioned that I have chosen to comment about the Late Walter Robinson out of the sequence in which he served the Party as Leader. Now, I will give tribute to Walter N. H. Robinson, Lawyer, and the Second Leader of the PLP.

Everyone has a Walter Robinson story – so do I.

However, I have a Walter N. H. Robinson ‘Pitt Commissioner’ story - that very few people ever would have heard.

The five Commissioners, two independent appointees, Reggie Cooper and Walter Robinson; plus two party appointees, Irving Pearman (UBP) and Alex Scott (PLP), and our clerical support staff were all being readied to leave for the UK in order that we might write the report which would chronicle our findings into the riots that followed the hanging of Buck Burrows. Burrows had been the Bermudian who was accused, found guilty and subsequently executed for the assassination of a Governor and his ADC – in the grounds of Government House.

It had been decided that we would spend a social evening together at Glencoe.

Walter was a big man with a persona to match. So as we sat at Glencoe Guest House, the hotel property of Reggie Cooper, I found Walter’s uncharacteristic silence to be deafening

Walter and I had a good and close relationship – especially during the Commission hearings. Therefore I was able to get him to confide in me and he revealed that because of a personal indebtedness, Government House was pressuring him, Walter N. H. Robinson, Puisne Judge, and Pitt Commission, Commissioner, to resign from the Commission. It was tearing him apart. He was at the point of resigning.

The threat to Walter was real. He had been made to believe that if he did not resign, he could be assured that the Royal Gazette would publish the entire matter, thereby, most probably, costing him his position on the bench.

On hearing this I persuaded him not to resign, and to place the matter in my hands - with the authority to speak and act on his behalf. He did so.

I then instructed that Government House be informed of Walter’s decision to remain as a Commissioner and we flew to London.

We arrived in London and settled into our respective quarters. A few days later the Commissioners, under the guidance of the Commission Chairman, Lord David Pitt, sat down in the conference room of the Bermuda Department of Tourism and prepared to begin the process of documenting our findings and recommendations…in a narrative that would become known as "Report of The Royal Commission into the 1977 Disturbances"

The Chairman had made his preliminary comments and was about to proceed when I asked for his and my fellow Commissioners indulgence.

I advised them of the position that our fellow Commissioner, Walter Robinson had been placed in by Government House, and the powers that be that were in Bermuda, and reminded the Chairman that it was a serious offense for anyone to interfere with a Commissioner in the conduct of his duty - especially if it could be argued that an attempt was being made to compromise him.

I continued. I prevailed upon my fellow Commissioners to make it known that we would not be conducting any business until the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) contacted Bermuda, Government House, and the Royal Gazette, and made it quite clear that there was to be no story, and that the matter should immediately be addressed so that we could return to our duties.

It was at this point that all of the Bermudian Pitt Commissioners withdrew from the conference room. We withdrew our services. We left the Tourism Offices and elected to go out and tour good old London town.

This meant that the PLP representative, and the UBP representative and the two independent (Bermudian) Commissioners had come together in the interest of a common goal…Justice for a fellow Bermudian Commissioner – and Bermuda.

The Bermudian Pitt Commissioners were on STRIKE!

We returned to our appointed responsibility when we were assured that our Commissioner Walter N. H. Robinson, Pitt Commissioner, now could continue with the understanding that he had nothing to fear from Bermuda.

To our satisfaction it was confirmed that the matter had gone away. Walter would be able to continue as both a Commissioner and Puisne Judge

This saga provides a clear example of, and insight into, the continual threat our leaders faced because they chose to dedicate their lives to our Party the Progressive Labour Party of Bermuda. If this could be done to Pitt Commissioner, Judge Walter Robinson you can imagine what had been done for decades to stop Bermudians, Coloured Bermudians, Negro Bermudians, Black Bermudians, White Bermudians, and any other Bermudian who would dare think of joining the PLP.
The legacy of that era still lingers, and haunts us today.`

Please. We must salute their sacrifice, their courage, their dedication their intestinal fortitude, their vision, their lives!

Distinguished attendees, join me now by standing and raising your glass as we salute our prominent and celebrated former leaders; those who have gone before us and those who remain to inspire and encourage us. Please rise to honor them as they have honored us.

(PAUSE)

Ladies and Gentlemen this Walter story has a happy ending. To my knowledge Walter was never troubled by this issue again. Further, the Pitt Commission in which the PLP invested a lot of political capital – concluded on a most significant note. The very last paragraph of the report states:

12.16. We have noted the statement by the Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs that it is for the people of Bermuda to decide whether or not they wish to become independent. But we consider it our duty to declare our conclusion that only with independence can national unity be forged and pride in being Bermudian fully develop, We call upon the people of Bermuda to act boldly in fashioning their future.

Today, we stand on the shoulders of PLP pioneers and political Giants. It would be remiss of me to come before you on an occasion such as this and not address their dream of seeing this country taste the freedom of Independence. To this end I feel duty bound to honour those Founding Fathers and Leaders who have withstood unspeakable threats, made life changing sacrifices – unselfishly, and in some cases, yes, in some cases they were in the service of both party and country when they drew their last breath.

Independence.

Our former and first Party Leader, A. A. Francis in his address to the
Bermuda Debate Society began his speech by observing that:

"It is said that the Commonwealth consists of Independent countries and their peoples that are linked by common values, practices and traditions, and by the shared belief that their interests are best served by combing Independence with partnership.

I stress with partnership."

The same must be said about Independence and Bermuda. We as a sophisticated people must be able to throw off our respective Independence cloaks and come out (of the closet) and begin to discuss this most important issue.

The topic of Independence in Bermuda in the past has been like the
Porridge that ‘Goldielocks’ found at the home of the Three Bears. It has been either too hot, or too cold, and rarely has the conversation been ‘just right’.
Therefore, there can be no better time than the present to raise the subject of Independence. We are not pressured by a pending General Election (I should know), Referendum, or scheduled Constitutional change. Without any pressure we can enter into a relaxed public discussion. The timing is propitious!

Today I am suggesting that we come of age as a people, and address the subject openly, objectively, and nationally. It should not become a PLP issue and a UBP response. The Unions should not say "yes" and the Chamber reply "no", or visa versa. The ‘Loyalist, Royalist’ should be permitted to cover themselves in the flag (Union Jack) and sing "Rule Britannia" forever; while, those with a passion for sovereignty should be encourage to pursue their passion – and start dreaming of a new standard (flag) and humming the strains of a possible new National anthem.

Today, I am saying let the discussions begin and immediately Bermuda will be a healthier country for it. In fact we will have taken a significant step closer to the day when we will be able to stand with pride beside other sovereign countries, and nations, as the newest and latest , fledgling democracy.

However, like an infant we must creep before we are able to stand and walk. We must take what amounts to baby steps – if we are to some day take the ‘big’ step together as a nation. Those who feed on the subject daily must be patient with those who have little appetite for the topic of sovereignty. The ‘Nay Sayers’ who see no benefit should at least listen to the ‘True Believers’ who are convinced that all problems vanish as the first strains of a new national anthem reverberate throughout the land. They will both find that they will have to modify their views and positions if they are to ever live in the real world.

It remains for me to act The country by no means is on a fast track to Independence; the train is simply preparing to leave the station. To this end I will tomorrow ask the Chairman of the PLP to set in motion the relevant committees that will see the Party begin discussion on the subject.

On Tuesday morning at our weekly Cabinet session I will invite the Cabinet to consider the topic with the intention of having the Secretary to the Cabinet begin to gather relevant data to assist cabinet in its’ deliberations.

The next PLP Parliamentary Caucus will have Independence on the Agenda – as a discussion point.

I invite the United Bermuda Party and all other organizations in the community to begin to consider and discuss the subject of Independence.

It should be a sober consideration for all of us that in 1995 when Arnold Francis delivered his paper on the subject there were then fifty-one countries in the Commonwealth alone who had at one time or the other discussed the subject many, many years ago. It is time for us, here in Bermuda to make haste slowly and begin to discuss the topic in earnest

I end in the way that I began.

I believe that the topic of Independence is an idea whose time has come. To those who asks why? I say why not, especially in light of the closing lines of the Pitt Commission Report which echoed the theme that all of the PLP Leaders honoured to day gave voice to:

"…It is for the people of Bermuda to decide whether or not they wish to become independent. But we consider it our duty to declare our conclusion that only with independence can national unity be forged and pride in being Bermudian fully develop, We call upon the people of Bermuda to act boldly in fashioning their future."

Thank You

Posted by Christian S. Dunleavy