July 2006 Archives

Apologies for the late notice but I've been traveling on business and am now on vacation until the second week of August.

Complaining will continue around August 10th.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (19 July, 2006)

Sadly, but predictably, it's taken a single shocking incident to refocus our attention on a major issue; whether it's a road traffic fatality, a shooting at a bar or most recently the vicious beating of a Portugal-supporting Bermudian football fan, one event spurs people to act.

While it's important to highlight these individual examples – which have a lasting impact on the families and friends of the victims of violence and hate – we tend to miss the forest for the trees.

Also sadly but predictably, the fallout from these incidents tends to be relatively short-lived; we drift back into our collective slumber, to be re-awakened after the next inevitable event.

There are times though when an event becomes a catalyst for change with a lasting effect. Judging by the flurry of activity on the heels of the alleged World Cup attack on Mr. Medeiros, this may be one of those times. Only time will tell.

The incident has been rather simplistically characterised as racial. The motive behind the attack seems to be driven by something more complicated: race as a proxy for a politically stoked anti-foreigner sentiment, one which has been simmering for years and may now be boiling over.

The irony of the attack of course is that Mr. Medeiros was allegedly advised to "go home" while getting kicked in the face. He is home.
Mr. Medeiros is first and foremost Bermudian, not Portuguese-Bermudian, Bermudian. Full stop. To some that distinction may seem strange, but sometimes it's important to state the obvious.

There's been an increasing tendency of late to add a qualifier before the word 'Bermudian', be it white-Bermudian, Portuguese-Bermudian, black-Bermudian or others. Isn't it time we returned to plain old 'Bermudian'? That doesn't mean you disown your heritage, but we must come together as Bermudians.

The use of a prefix is one component of a long-running political effort to redefine what is and is not Bermudian. Listen closely and you'll hear it, the conscious and subconscious effort to make 'Bermudian' synonymous with black and 'Expat' with white (and more recently everything else).

A few examples to make my case.

Like any good Bermudian at Cup Match I head east or west to sweat with the oldies, watch a little cricket and lose a few bucks in the crown and anchor tent. Simple pleasures right? Not so much lately.

In recent years, after entering the grounds I've been very politely and courteously directed – by a no-doubt well-meaning worker – to the tourist tent, where I can have the game explained to me in baseball terminology.

For the record, I don't wear flowered shirts, ride a rental bike, sport a lobster-red sunburn and have a massive camera hanging from my neck. None of the above to be precise.

There is only one reason why I would be immediately directed to the tourist tent, which comes complete with free beer if you're interested in working that angle this year; it's because of my complexion.

There's no other explanation: white equals expat or white equals tourist. Harmless enough in that context I know, but highly annoying nonetheless.

Here's another. Several months ago, in responding to the Bermuda International Business Association's critique of the Government's workforce empowerment programme (which is different from the Parliamentary salary empowerment programme), Minister Dale Butler said the following:

"The Government is saying if you have a hundred employees, 50 of them are black, you have ten senior positions and not one of them is black. Tell us why you have no Bermudians in your top ten positions."

Notice how casually Minister Butler uses 'black' and 'Bermudian' interchangeably. Is this an accident, a slip of the tongue, an isolated incident?

Nope.

This dynamic was also on display in the Bermuda Sun last week, where Mid Ocean News columnist Alvin Williams, in commenting on the attack of Mr. Medeiros, said:

"It had to do with the soccer thing and the display of Portuguese nationalism and in the background of that was the feeling among the young, black working class that they're being displaced….Bermudians do not have a sense of this country belonging to them and they feel insecure about it."

There it is again. The 'young, black working class' becomes 'Bermudians' in the next sentence; hence my visits to the Cup Match tourist tent. We're teaching people that skin colour is the sole criteria for being Bermudian.

You hear it all the time in Parliament and in particular during elections. Why? Simple.

The PLP has made a strategic decision that their political success is best served by continuing racial divisions in our community, pitting a black majority against a (mostly) white minority and vice versa.

The list is long and legendary:

The PLP's 1998 election campaign was dubbed 'emancipation', while the 2003 campaign was 'affirmation'; campaign ads/rally skits were used labelling UBP MPs as Uncle Toms, Shysters and sun-burned; Dr. Brown advised people to not 'vote yourself back on the plantation'.

More recently we've been treated to Minister Butler's kindler and gentler rephrasing of his colleague's 'House Nigger' comment into black UBP MPs 'wanting to be white' (his implausible denial notwithstanding) and Dr. Brown's quaint 'plantation question' get out of jail free card.

These incidents are not, as Minister Butler attempted to explain away last week, 'aberrations'. Even if they were, surely he should heed his own advice from the anti-racism rally and condemn all acts, not reinforce them. These statements are not anomalies; they're the cold calculated components of an ongoing political/electoral strategy to incite racial hatred.

To be fair, the roots of racism in Bermuda are old and run deep, preceding the PLP. The party is throwing plenty of manure on them though. One could argue that in the last eight years they've decided to reseed the lawn.

This fixation on race has even extended to tourism, with Dr. Brown wanting not just more tourists, but specifically more black tourists (ignoring the more lucrative gay travel demographic….I wonder why?), even delivering a bizarre quote that 'money is brown', whatever that means.

Reality of course paints a different picture. The PLP have done nothing to address the racial problem which they claim is their reason for being. Quite the opposite in fact. They've rejected proposals for an Economic Empowerment Bill, a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians, and just last week a Truth and Reconciliation Commission while offering up nothing as an alternative, just slurs.

The PLP Government isn't interested in fixing the problem; they want us to keep talking about it while they do nothing but fan the flames when politically expedient. The rising chorus of enough is enough – from all segments of the community – suggests that they may have finally overplayed their hand.

So much is wrapped up into that little word, 'Bermudian'. The term has become a political weapon, so loaded, so judgmental that the real meaning must be reclaimed before we tear ourselves to shreds.

We can't allow PLP politicians and their proxies to speak in code, delivering speeches professing racial unity with a wink that only black Bermudians are legitimate Bermudians.

It's terribly divisive. But that is of course the intent. It's easier to breed resentment and hatred than understanding and unity.

It's up to us to emancipate the PLP from their racial campaigning by not affirming it at the polls.

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I don't think it will come as a shock to anyone that our Government Ministers are globetrotting on the taxpayers dime, but the real kicker in the article is the opening concern raised by Ms. Gordon-Pamplin:

What stands out is the apparent misuse of per diems, which total $73,355, which one would expect would be used for incidentals – but food, transport and miscellaneous costs of $36,000 have been charged to the travel account in addition to per diems.

Just in case you didn't get that, Ministers get a set allowance for extras that is supposed to include transport, food etc., but it would appear that a substantial amount if not all of that goes straight into their pockets...pocket money.

Because, if I can amend a line from Dionne Warwick: "that's what credit cards are for...."

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Mid Ocean News (14 July 2006)
UBP MP John Barritt's 'View From the Hill'

MAYBE, Mr. Editor, this is as good as it is going to get up here in the House on the Hill before we break for the summer recess. The agenda looked – and was – pretty light last Friday:

Amendments to the 1972 Fisheries Act, one of the purposes of which was to establish licences for recreational fishermen, the actual implementation of which Government decided to delay by amending the amendments.

l The substitution of a whole new Endangered Animals and Plants Act to replace the 1976 Act which was really an update on which both parties could agree – and did; and

A resolution to approve the sale of the leasehold interest in 11 Southside cottages for a term of 120 years in the form of a blank cheque: it did not state at what prices and to whom and on what terms
– to which we could not agree.

It turned out to be a full day though – thanks in part, Mr. Editor, to Ministerial statements which got us off to a slow start. There were five of them in total, the longest and largest and arguably most important of which, was that of the Minister charged with Government responsibility for Public Safety, Randy Horton.

A statement, any statement, on criminal activity, in view of recent events, was bound to be topical and timely – and welcome.

This one was 13 pages long and took the Minister almost half an hour to read. He started by talking about the tragic deaths of 17-year-old Derick Paynter and 26-year-old Travis Smith, the promising cricketer from St. George's who was Cup Match MVP the first year he played in the Classic; the drive-by shooting; handbag snatchings; break-ins and cycle thefts which statistics show are on the increase; not to mention the general lawlessness – which he did mention – which now manifests itself in town and country gangs.

Minister Horton wanted us to know that any suggestion that his Government "is doing nothing" to address the problems is "irresponsible and untrue". He listed the following:

A Police Task Force charged specifically with tackling handbag snatching and robberies, which becomes yet another special unit in a list that includes the Police Support Unit (PSU) which targets violent offenders, in addition to the Violent Crime and Traffic Enforcement Team and the Tourist Crime Unit, as well as the Serious Crimes Unit at Prospect and the Narcotics Enforcement Team and Community Beat Officers (and that presumably, Mr. Editor, is where all the policemen are, if you're wondering why we don't actually see more officers out and about, on the streets).

The employment of the services of a New Jersey police officer experienced in policing gang activity as well as a new Assistant Commissioner from the UK.

The introduction and use (finally) of CCTV cameras in the Court Street area and talk of plans to extend coverage into other areas of Bermuda like handbag snatch haunts in the Pitts Bay Road-Rosemont Avenue area (that's must-see TV, Mr. Editor, and if cost is a factor, why not scrap those plans for a Government station, please ), and

An admission that the Police Service is some 40 officers below full strength with plans to step up recruiting here and abroad.

Whew! Comprehensive you might think, Mr. Editor, except that the Statement contained no mention of the ugly, vicious and cowardly attack outside Docksiders earlier in the week. That was left to others – on both sides of the House – to condemn on the motion to adjourn. The commitment to crack down on crime was also called into question when, a few days later, we learned that the police, for all their special alphabet task forces, had still not been around to even interview the victim and get on with identifying the cowardly attackers.

Connect the dots, Mr. Editor, the public do. These are the origins for the growing lack of confidence in public safety – regardless of what the Minister says or what he says that the statistics say. Public perception can be difficult to shake.

But if you're a Government Minister you can always attack the Opposition and blame the messenger; and so it was that Education Minister Terry Lister went after his Shadow Neville Darrell with a misplaced vengeance in his Ministerial Statement – number two on the day.

The Opposition Shadow spokesman for Education had publicly questioned the graduation rates at CedarBridge Academy and given voice to the concerns of some of the teachers there. It could have made for an interesting and illuminating debate, Mr. Editor, but it didn't – and here's why:

The Minister got to launch his attack on Mr. Darrell (and answer the concerns) through a prepared statement.

Members are not permitted under the Rules to question or even respond to the statement or its content at the time of delivery, and
Mr. Darrell had to wait until the Motion to Adjourn to engage in debate – which he did – but that was some four or five hours later as it turned out.

The clash – if you can call it that, Mr. Editor – highlighted once again the continuing need for overdue reform of the House Rules. It's been almost 30 years since they were last reviewed and revised. There was the Minister complaining that his Shadow had asked parliamentary questions with the press before they were answered (which is contrary to practice, not the Rules), and the Shadow complaining that the Minister has in the past simply refused to answer some of the questions he has asked (which is contrary to practice, but not required under the Rules). The same Rules also require that the questions be submitted in writing ten days in advance and there is no provision that allows questions to be asked of Ministers on issues of the day, such as the issues that they raise in Ministerial Statements. Meanwhile, we might like to think we're a modern Parliament and they call themselves progressive. Go figure.

This brings me nicely to two of the other Ministerial Statements, Mr. Editor, delivered by the Premier. One of them was on sustainable development and the development of a plan that started in March 2005 and is now about to be shared with the public for their further input, and by the way, he said, if you want to help cut down on traffic congestion take the bus to work once a month like he said that he is going to do to "lead by example".

Hmmn.

If we are talking of leadership by example how about cutting back voluntarily on the numbers of cars on our roads, starting with some of those GP cars? But it was the second statement that particularly caught my attention. The Man was giving us an update on the Public Access to Information legislation; PATI, for short – pati-cake pati-cake, bake me some legislation as fast you can. Well, actually, it won't be that quick, Mr. Editor. The Premier is hoping he might be able to table something next year.

OK we'll see – but don't hold your breath. We've had promises like this before. Remember, for instance, the amendments to the Parliamentary Election Act and provision for absentee balloting? A draft was tabled before we broke for summer last year.

We haven't seen or heard a whisper since. The need to provide for absentee balloting was first raised by the UBP by motion in the House back in November 2002 when the then PLP Government under Dame Jennifer promised they would get on with it: one election later, and another fast approaching, and still nothing.

What's an Opposition to do? Our leader Wayne Furbert tabled a motion last week deploring Government's failure to get on with it. We can but try.

They're not into it

TRYING is what it can be, Mr. Editor, when you do try. Take, for instance, the debate on the Southside cottages. The written resolution simply called on the House to approve the sale of the leasehold interest for 120 years.

There was a plan attached which showed the 11 cottages and prices for each one, ranging from a low of $775,000 to a high of $1.1 million. The Bermuda Land Development Act – which we only recently amended – requires the prior approval of both Houses of the Legislature (Down the Hill and Up the Hill) "for any lease or letting".

There were no leases attached. There were no commitments to prices – the attachment was only that, an attachment – and no information on to whom the cottages would be sold, and on what terms.

This, Mr. Editor, is precisely the sort of information we expect to see when it comes to the sale of Government property. It has also been the practice with previous sales – under different but similar legislation.

There was no explanation or justification for this deviation from transparency – and ultimately lack of accountability. Face it, Mr. Editor. They're just not that into it.

There was also some question as to how they arrived at the prices. They seemed awfully high for Government housing given the current crisis.

"This is not a sale of affordable housing," explained the Minister In Charge in the House, Minister Without Portfolio, Walter Lister. Apparently, the sale proceeds are going to be used to fund the construction of the failed Bermuda Homes for People project, the lottery that was but wasn't.

Defending the proposed sale prices, Minister Lister said they were going to be set ten per cent below market price. "Ten per cent is a bit of relief," he claimed.

"But for whom?" shot back UBP MP Trevor Moniz, "that's what we want to know." Quite.

We don't know and you won't know unless they tell us – and they won't.

Good time

SUMMER recess may be on us quicker than we think, Mr. Editor. No new legislation was tabled on Friday gone. We're down to two Bills – Ministry of Finance matters which ought not to detain us for any length of time – and three motions.

It's hard to see how this will keep us busy beyond this week. To mangle a line from Mr. Berra, Yogi of baseball and now AFLAC commercial fame, we may not know when we will rise for the summer but we're making good time.

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So it seems that the Italian football rumour was just that...a rumour.

Far less exciting is the real story, which is that the group is apparently a bunch of Italian travel journalists.

Got to love the Bermuda rumour mill. Glad I can do my bit.

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Rumour has it that about half of the World Cup winning Italian football team checked into Grotto Bay last night.

Free food on Bermudiana Rd anyone?

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The lunatics really are running the asylum.

What a debacle unfolded in Parliament this evening. After a long day in Parliament, and after the final item on the order paper was discussed, Deputy Premier Dr. Brown rose and blindsided everyone.

Deputy Dawg advised the House that the resolution on Parliamentary salaries, passed on a partisan vote in the House and debated but not voted on after much controversy in the Senate, had to be thrown out.

Why? Because all along the PLP had intended to implement the raises in two tranches, and the resolution didn't reflect the intent of the House as it only allowed for immediate implementation. He also went on to rather disingenously muse that if the house rejected this new resolution the old one would stand and MPs would be paid in one installment, against the PLP's wishes.

The ineptitude and rewriting of weeks old history is simply astounding.

Tragically we were told, the resolution which was passed weeks ago, and which they went to great lengths to ensure didn't get voted on in the Senate, had to be discarded and replaced with a new resolution outlining the 50% this year, 50% next year phase in.

First problem: the PLP had sat mum all day never advising the UBP that they were going to do this, only giving them the new resolution seconds before Dr. Brown rose. (Bear in mind that the least amount of respect the House and the Opposition are traditionally afforded is two weeks before taking up a motion. In this case they didn't even get two minutes.)

Second problem: Dr. Brown didn't ask for any rules to be suspended in order to revisit a motion previously discussed in the session, although the Speaker pretended he had.

Third problem: the resolution had been thrown together in such a ham-fisted manner that the Senators, who already were only getting a 3% raise versus Cabinet's massive ones, are now getting their 3% cut in half over two years...1.5% this year! Talk about insulting.

Tellingly, this was another issue which the PLP didn't want to say a thing on, Cabinet Minister Michael Scott stood up to speak, was recognized by the Speaker and abruptly sat down, presumably after being told to zip it.

So Dr. Brown said his piece, the Speaker helped him out, and the PLP sat silently, while the UBP's speakers (Gordon-Pamplin, Barritt, Furbert, Dodwell, Dunkley) lambasted the latest example of what UBP Senator described Wednesday as a 'pre-dawn caper' minus the getaway car.

The resolution ended up passing, after the Speaker creatively ruled that it was a substantative motion and could be revisited, and ignored Trevor Moniz's very valid point that the Government has taken the position that the legislation they were using to pass the resolution was unconstitutional. It would seem that the UBP walked out after calling for names in the vote and then calling for a quorum.

The vote passed 13-0 after the Speaker rejected Michael Dunkley's call for a quorum.

What a debacle. It's a good thing this bunch of money-grabbing misfits aren't running the country.

Oh yeah. They are!

I'll defer to one of my readers who wrote in response to Government invoking the Constitution to ensure it got paid:


"So it's confirmed....this government will work its ass off to get paid but does SFA when it comes to actually doing what they're getting paid for."

Yep.

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Another example of 'black' and 'Bermudian' being used interchangably. This time by Mid Ocean News columnist Alvin Williams in this Bermuda Sun story. In describing the attack he switches from using the phrase 'young, black working class' to 'Bermudians':

Newspaper columnist Alvin Williams is a black Bermudian whose mother's second husband was Portuguese. She went on to have three children, two surviving, half black, half Portuguese. He sees the issue from both sides.

Last week's incident, he says was an aberration. "It had to do with the soccer thing and the display of Portuguese nationalism and in the background of that was the feeling among the young, black working class that they're being displaced."

Mr. Williams, who supports independence, said: "Bermudians do not have a sense of this country belonging to them and they feel insecure about it."

We seem to be forgetting in all of this that the victim was Bermudian.

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I attended the meeting last night at Vasco, which lasted until about 10:30 I'd say, and was pretty well attended by a good cross-section. [Note: The Royal Gazette's online story is only a small portion of the full write-up]

As I get 700 words a week in the Gazette and unlimited amounts here, I decided to spend the evening listening as I have plenty of opportunity to talk myself.

Overall I'd characterise the event as mostly a chance for some venting, some finger-wagging at the politicians in attendance and just a general outpouring of disillusionment and dismay at the path our community seems to be going down.

There were some great speeches, and some not-so great ones. The politicians were relatively subdued, mostly in listening mode as well, although the PLP contingent were extremely prickly towards Robert Pires.

Mr. Pires handled the moderation ok, although it started to wander a little towards the end of the evening, but moderating an open forum on such an emotional issue like that is not an easy task.

I would agree with Walton Brown's comments, reported in today's paper, that Mr. Pires went too far in paralleling the attack on Mr. Medeiros with Nazi Germany. I understand the point he was making but it was far too extreme an example.

For me there were some interesting takeaways:

- the most memorable comment for me was towards the end when a gentleman very sternly and directly at the politicians drew a very effective analogy. There's no way I'll do it justice, but with respects to PLP Minister Wayne Perinchief's attempt to discount the attack as indicative of any broader anti-Portuguese sentiment he said that it's like the weather; intermittent showers are when it is raining everywhere else, but an isolated shower is when it's raining over you.

He told the politicians that it's raining whether they like it or not and that what they've offered is an umbrella when what he really needs is clear skies.

It was the most concise and effective summation of the problem I could have imagined.

- one of the things which really stuck with me, both from comments during the meeting and afterwards, was that the Portuguese community seems to be deciding that now is the time to step forward. Historically they have kept a low profile and just got on with their lives, which has been misrepresented as being insular. Several friends from my school days who I haven't seen in years made this point to me afterwards, that the elders have discouraged individuals from being outspoken and it has become a part of the culture of Bermudians of Portuguese heritage.

- the PLP politicians tried to downplay the incident as an example of racism (maybe more appropriately described as an attack on someone presumed to be non-Bermudian because of his race/ethnicity - Bermudian=black, expat=white), but most of the audience wouldn't have it.

- There was a clear consensus that the current government has fostered an environment that permits racial/ethnic hostility both in Parliament, during their campaign and the president of Vasco ended the evening telling the PLP to give the Portuguese community some respect and the UBP to stop taking their votes for granted.

- a myriad of examples were provided on black on white racism in the public schools, which people said is pervasive, as well as other anecdotal incidents, highlighting that racism is not just white on black.

- one former public school teacher, who left the system over a decade ago and now runs her own school, gave an incredible and passionate speech about the problems in the schools, politics and families that are contributing to the division on the island.

- another young woman pointed out that she feels less proud to say she is Bermudian today than a few years ago, because she feels she has to justify it due to her race. She pointed out that she is not considered a 'real Bermudian' by many and that the current government must accept a share of the responsibilty for the rising racial tensions in the community due to their actions and rhetoric. She also accused Hott 107.5FM (whose operator PLP MP Glenn Blakeney was present) of running racially divisive programming.

Overall I'd say the evening was a success. Not so much in that solutions were offered, few were in fact, but because I got the feeling that people's patience has worn out. How that plays out is unclear but the Government is going to have to tread very carefully when they engage in their perpetual campaigns of inciting racial and anti-foreigner hatred.

A large section of the community, historically quiet, is starting to rumble.

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Interesting.

All the animosity and bad PR that the PLP generated by attempting to circumvent the Senate in their desperate bid to ensure they got their raises was unnecessary.

Independent Senator Bassett just indicated that she would have happily voted in favour of the raises.

I'm sure there's a few people kicking themselves right about now.

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Ok. So the PLP wins, with a minor concession.

After missing the ruling this morning by the Senate President, but catching it on VSB radio news (terrible Senate audio) it appears that the ruling is that the Senate can debate the raises but not rule on them.

In one minor concession by the Government they have apparently indicated that the increases will be phased in in two stages.

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The Senate President is to deliver his opinion on the Senate's jurisdiction over the parliamentary pay raise resolution this morning.

Tune in on AM 1230 if you're interested.

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Vasco will be hosting a community meeting tomorrow night, Wednesday 12 July at 7:30PM in the wake of the vicious ethnically inspired attack on Mr. Rui Medeiros after the Portugal-France World Cup game.

All are welcome. This is not a Portuguese only meeting and not focused soley on the attack on Mr. Medeiros. The organisers are looking for a broad cross-section of the community to join the discussion.

I'll be there and I hope you will too.

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The Royal Gazette
Opinion (11 July, 2006)

My high school math teacher used to display a poster in his classroom with what seemed a rather harsh sentiment: “It’s better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than speak and confirm it.” Now I understand.

The world of politics, both local and international, is littered with the output of those who’ve failed to heed this advice. I suppose that when you talk as much as politicians do, you’re bound to say something stupid everyone once in awhile (me included), for that the public tends to be quite forgiving. Every one of us can compile a list of our favourite examples of stupidity from Bermuda’s politicians; some are humourous and benign, others offensive and harmful.

Bermuda politics however seems to have moved firmly into the offensive and harmful territory lately with the Government practicing both sides of the saying; the Premier says nothing while some of his Ministers seem stricken with a political strand of Tourette’s Syndrome.

It may come as news to the Premier but the onus is on him to disavow and disassociate himself and his Government from the impulsive brain dumps and lashing out of his proxies. Mr. Scott’s self-assigned designation as a strong leader notwithstanding, his management style – if there indeed is one – stinks; a classic example of silent but deadly.

The stench of two recent events lingers, both courtesy of the Premier’s most prolific Tourette’s patient, Minister Burch.

The first instance is the now notorious insult that won’t go away, where the soon-to-be Senator – on his officially non-political but rabidly political talk show – labeled anyone of his race who doesn’t share his political ideology a “House Nigger”.

What has the Premier had to say publicly about this matter? Nothing.

And when the boss is away his Ministers will play. While the Premier was off the island his loose-cannon Regimental recruit engaged in a ready-fire-aim attack on the Defense Board/Governor and the Auditor General; the pungent odour of his earlier racial attack still lingering.

Only hours after the Human Rights Commission delivered their ruling on the slur, this very same Minister attacked the selectors of the Regiments new Commanding Officer and steamrolled the Office of the Auditor General; the latter a blatant act of intimidation and revenge for a factual – and hence unfavourable – audit.

When our strong leader returned to our shores for a brief stop-over visit he pledged to meet with the Senator, but pledged before the meeting that he would remain a Minister. And the point of the meeting was what then if the outcome was predetermined?

But what was the outcome? Did the Premier denounce the actions and words of his hand-selected Minister? Nope. The Premier opted to say nothing; an act of silence which is at best described as indifference, at worst an endorsement.

The simple fact of the matter is that Senator Burch is a Cabinet Minister, one of two non-elected Ministers. He’s not just some harmless backbencher with a big mouth in a safe seat whose antics we can just chuckle at; a harmless class clown.

When a Cabinet Minister defames all Bermudians who don’t share his dogmatic views – white or black – it’s up to the Premier to sanction that type of behaviour. Yet he doesn’t. He promotes the culprits into his Cabinet. The Premier sees no evil and hears no evil while allowing others to speak it on his behalf.

And where oh where has our Premier’s voice gone on the matter of the Auditor’s Report? We already know Senator Burch’s response; pack him up and shut him down to shut him up.

The only logical conclusion to be drawn from the deafening silence is that our Premier is wholly un-concerned with the contents of the Auditor’s report and its un-audited estimate of $800 million dollars. That’s a fact. An amount totaling approximately one full fiscal year’s revenue and spending is not certified.

The CEO of any publicly traded corporation, who the Premier is fond of likening himself to and wants to be compensated like, would have been fired or resigned in disgrace long ago. Mr. Scott gives us nothing. The buck stops nowhere in his administration. Not so much as a whiff of concern. Silent but deadly.

Need someone remind Mr. Scott, fresh off of his sightseeing tour of Washington DC, that Bermuda’s unparalleled economic success invites unjust attacks on our reputation and credibility as a financial services centre?

The attack which presents the most difficulties for our companies is the one on our regulatory framework. It’s also the easiest to address, because the allegation that Bermuda is unregulated is not true. However when those who regulate the private sector flout the very regulations in their own affairs these attacks gain traction.

Permitting hundreds of millions of dollars to go un-audited only emboldens and increases the ammunition of those who want to shoot us down. Nor does it suggest that our tax dollars are under good stewardship.

Bermuda as a financial centre must comply with international standards, regulations and good financial practices. This is necessary if we are to prevent punitive regulatory attacks from competing jurisdictions and ensure that our firms are treated fairly and can compete on even terms.

Notably our financial services sector is seeking more regulation by the BMA – at its own expense and initiative. While the private sector increases their compliance, Government Ministers attempt to tear theirs down.

Mr. Scott’s lack of comment on the Auditor’s Report undermines our credibility and endorses poor financial controls. His silence on the Burch outburst reinforces the bigotry and divisiveness of some of his members.

The Premier can’t sit mute while his Ministers act in such a cavalier and dangerous manner, both socially and economically. Too much is at stake.

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Bravo to Portuguese activist Mr. Robert Pires for absolutely nailing it on VSB news this evening, laying the anti-Portuguese, and broader anti-foreigner sentiment, squarely at the feet of the Premier and some of his Cabinet Ministers.

Mr. Pires hit all the right notes, dismissing the Premier's comments in Parliament as 'talk is cheap' and pointing out that the Premier saw a vicious xenophobic beating as an opportunity to promote his independence obsession.

Well done Mr. Pires. It's about time people called the PLP out.

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Fresh evidence of the PLP expat scapegoating/blame the non-Bermudian.

As reported in today's Royal Gazette, former teacher and now PLP MP Dean Foggo, in responding to Shadow Education Minister Neville Darrell's concern about Cedarbridge's graduation rate (more on that in a subsequent post) made this tired case:

Government backbencher Dean Foggo, a former teacher at CedarBridge, said he had heard that it was “a lot of non-Bermudian teachers” who had made the allegations about CedarBridge.

“For some people it’s difficult when they go to Rome and they realise they have to do what Romans do,” he said. “There are teachers that we do not need here.”

It's the foreigners' fault. It's always the foreigners fault. Expat go home.

Where have we heard that sentiment before?

How's about here:

'You shouldn't be here. You should go back to where you came from. That's why us black people are suffering because of you lot.'

I rest my case.

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Disgraceful. That's the only way to describe the Premier's linking of an attack on a Portuguese football fan on Wednesday with Independence.

Are there no depths to which the Premier (and Derrick Burgess in this case) will stoop?

The Royal Gazette doesn't appear to have the story online, but on the motion to adjourn in Parliament last night the Premier called the attack on Mr. Madeiros 'despicable', 'unacceptable' and 'cowardly' before shifting gears and saying that unless we go independent we can't consider capital or corporal punishment as a deterrent.

"You can't talk about capital punishment or corporal punishment unless you're an independent country.

"If you think corporal punishement is in the best interests of this country, it's not available to you until we make this a country.

"If you think capital punishment might deter those who would take the lives of others it's not available to you. Until we are an independent country we can't take those sovereign decisions."

Linking the attack with independence is despicable.

If the motives for this attack were based on Mr. Madeiros's Portuguese heritage, as it appears they were, that has nothing to do with capital punishment - which is by no means accepted as having a deterrent effect.

There seems to be a rising tide of xenophobia in Bermuda, but the seeds of this were sown long ago with the PLP constantly attacking foreigners in Bermuda as the root of all of our problems.

The PLP made 'Bermudianization' a rallying cry, stirring up hatred at every opportunity. Take the Police for example.

The Police are drastically under-staffed, and the PLP acknowledged this yesterday saying that they are looking to import 60 foreign officers.

For those of us with longer memories, we know that the PLP as an Opposition used Bermudianisation to crucify the UBP at every turn; the UBP became so sensitive that they were petrified to make some of the decisions they should have in looking abroad.

It still goes on with the PLP as the Government. Despite the fact that there has been a dramatic increase in jobs for non-Bermudians and a decline in those for Bermudians, they persist in claims to being the party of Bermudianisation.

On the eve of the 2003 election we had the work permit terms limits rolled out to much-fanfare about moving those pesky foreigners along. Then Opposition Leader Grant Gibbons correctly but unwisely during an election campaign pointed out that this was a bad thing, for which then Labour Minister Terry Lister claimed with glee that the wolf had taken off the sheep's clothing and the UBP was revealed as the anti-Bermudian party.

And then, right on the heels of the 2003 election win, new PLP Labour Minister Randy Horton gutted the policy by adding a key worker exemption that is so broad that any permit can be extended indefinitely.

Renee Webb at a PLP election rally was talking about the PLP ensuring that Bermudians held the highest positions in Government (which they long have) and Dr. Brown prattled on in Parliament a few years ago about what a great job they were doing in Bermudianising key Government positions.

The anti-foreigner sentiment has been alive and well for many many years in Bermuda, and we all know who has been feeding it. Some may be afraid to say it. But I will

The PLP are responsible.

And that's before we even get into the code words of 'Bermudian' as 'black' and 'expat' as 'white'.

A little leadership from the Premier and his party would be helpful in the wake of the attack on Mr. Madeiros, not more manipulation.

I'm disgusted by both the attack and the Premier's response.

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Here are today's House Orders. I'm not sure what is being taken up, but let's hope Glenn Blakeney - who appears to be the Government's designated Cheerleader - doesn't spend another 3 hours reading from a prepared binder in this brown-noser of a take note motion:

“That this Honourable House takes note of the efforts being taken by this Government to encourage competition in a number of sectors of our economy and consider recommending further measures to expand the economic pie for the benefit of the people of Bermuda.”

Presumably the Government's time in Parliament is best spent fawning over themselves with syrupy take note motions.

Election anyone?

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I had an unexpected short trip off the island early this week and am playing a bit of catch up.

I just posted John Barritt's View from the Hill and would suggest that while the whole thing makes for good (or depressing) reading, the final section contains an excellent summation of the problems Larry Mussenden faces in his attempt to circumvent the Senate for the Parliamentary pay raises.

John expands on the hasty opinion that I'd been given and fleshes out the procedural and legal reasons why the Government faces an uphill battle.

I'd encourage you to read the whole thing, but here's a tidbit:

The records show that the PLP have followed the practice each year since they have been in power and sought and obtained the approval of the Senate – after the increases were first approved by the House. The Senate did not initiate this process. It was brought to the Senate by the Government pursuant to validly enacted legislation – and it came as a resolution and not as a motion and not as a bill.

Incidentally, the Bermuda Constitution Order sets out quite clearly what constitutes a “money bill” as well as the restrictions that apply when the Senate considers a money bill which is “sent from the House of Assembly”.

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Mid Ocean News (07 July 2006)
UBP MP John Barritt's 'View From the Hill'

UNFORTUNATELY, Mr. Editor, there is nothing like getting the day off to a bad start. It does little for the disposition and there’s every chance it will influence (badly) the rest of the day’s events - and that, sir, is exactly what happened last week in the House on the Hill.

Telecommunications Minister Michael Scott was leading the debate for Government on amendments to the Criminal Code – stiffer penalties for sexual assaults and other related offences. He wasn’t just standing in for the Attorney General and Minister of Justice (who sits in the other place, down the Hill). We were told that he was, in fact, the Acting Minister because Senator Mussenden was abroad.

But that’s not why the trouble began.

It started shortly after Minister Scott began reading from his prepared Brief when he told us Government intended to make further amendments to the amendments. He said that the changes were as a result of representations from the Judiciary with whom, we presume, they consulted after drafting and after tabling the legislation in the House.

The purpose of the original amendments were to increase the maximum sentences judges and magistrates can hand out. However, it was apparently the considered view of the Bermuda bench – after they were asked - that magistrates should not have the power to sentence offenders to any longer than five years imprisonment. So initial attempts to give them sentencing power of up to ten years were to be scrapped. Government also intended to add a couple of new offences which had apparently been overlooked the first time around; two offences were to be dropped from the initial list as well, as we later found out.

I have said it before, Mr Editor: It’s not brain surgery that we are being asked to perform each week on the floor of the House on the Hill, but it would be nice to have better notice of what we are being asked to approve, especially when we were being asked at the last minute to cut and paste legislation.

The first we learned of the amendments to the amendments was halfway through the Minister’s presentation when he directed the Government Whip, Ottiwell Simmons, to share copies of the changes with us. The trouble with that was that were insufficient copies for all of us on the Opposition benches - and no, Mr. Editor, I don’t know what they knew on the PLP side of the aisle or when they knew it if they knew it.

It did not get any better either, Mr. Editor, when the Minister finished reading from his Brief and sat down, he said, to hear the views of other members.

He heard them alright, but it was not what he wanted to hear.
The Opposition had not yet even received their photocopies and when we did – as we were subsequently to learn –we were missing a page.

A comedy of errors?

Farce is more like it.

There we were, Mr. Editor, going back and forth, complaining that this was no way to do the country’s business. I remembered the caution of former colleague and senior politician Jim Woolridge: no bull in a hurry ever made a calf. This is how mistakes get made – and missed. In this case, if there was going to be calf, there was a risk it would be two-headed with two different sets of amendments flying around, one of them icomplete.

Bull-headed is how Government appeared to those of us on the Opposition benches as speaker after speaker on our side exhorted the Minister to do the right thing and rise and report progress to give us time to study the changes and consult; in short, to give us time to do our homework.

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