The politics of what’s happening right now

The Royal Gazette
Opinion (16 July, 2007)

If there’s one thing that is becoming more and more apparent as every day passes, it’s that the 2007 election is shaping up to be a lot like 2003.

All indications are that the PLP are headed into yet another election with a leader who has little internal support (with good reason), and, if 2003 is anything to go, fully intend on replacing if they mange to cling on to the Government.

That’s not a mischievous assertion on my part, that’s about the only thing that can be read into the series of comments by aspiring and rejected PLP candidate Ianthia Wade, departing PLP MP Renee Webb and recently removed from his incumbent constituency PLP MP George Scott made.

Let’s start with the harshest comments first and then work our way back.

Ms. Webb released a barrage of criticism that makes me look like a shrinking violet; the MP described her party leader and Bermuda’s Premier as believing that ‘rules are made for others’, that he uses ‘people to get what he wants and then steps on them’, and that ‘integrity and honour at the top are not what we currently have’.

Hot on the heels of this white hot assessment came Ms. Wade, who quite astoundingly made an out of the blue call to The Royal Gazette begging voters to support her party despite its leadership; outright pleading for the public to ignore their instinct and gut feelings of lack of trust and disillusionment.

Finally, George (Don’t you know who I am?) Scott was rolled out in a stop the bleeding damage control candidate announcement after weeks of public turmoil and infighting. The best endorsement that he could muster was little more than the statement that he’s ‘a party man’ (translation: This sucks but I’m doing this out of loyalty).

In the wake of the BHC scandal, and with the isolating and self-indulgent Presidential style of the Dr. Brown, these public comments – and the suspiciously silent members of the PLP – strongly suggests that the not-quite-a-whisper campaign of “vote party we’ll remove the problem after the election” is in full swing; Dr. Brown looks like he’s about to get a taste of his own medicine.

What this really reveals however is just how weak the party is; they’re either unwilling to take a principled stand against alleged misdeeds by their colleagues, preferring to continue on with a leader and other colleagues mired in multiple ethical scandals, or they’re about to go into a second consecutive election fully intent on again misleading the public. Actually, it’s probably a combination of both; lack of principle and the need to mislead.

We deserve to know fully the facts around the extent that public officials mixed private and public business at the BHC, asbestos removal and other public projects. We also deserve to know how public funds have been spent around the mysterious faith based tourism initiative.

Unlike religion you see, politics isn’t about relying on faith. Lord knows that history is replete with faith being used as a front for all sorts of misdeeds, both financial and otherwise.

Hell, we shouldn’t even have to trust our politicians. Sure it would help, but trust is a bonus; we should have access to information about anything that involves public funds and the public interest, not suffer through politicians who continually dance around issues with vacuous evasive statements such as:

"The Opposition's wrongful assault is not just an assault on this Government and Mr. Curtis, but an unprovoked and unnecessary assault on a religious effort, an effort which has lifted the hearts of many tourists and touched the souls of many Bermudians."

The Devil’s in the details as they say (no more religious puns, I promise).

The UBP have laid out detailed and overdue plans and a fundamental reform and opening up of our political process. The PLP? They’re relying on the slogan they ridiculed so shamefully used against the UBP in 2003 with their racially divisive “Trust me” ads.

The only proper response to questions involving public funds is to lay out the details? What is going on in our country when information is withheld on public project after public project, with a trite sound-bite offered in its place?

What is going on in our country when we start parsing illegal versus unethical and charged versus not charged? What ever happened to right versus wrong?

Forget the Ministry of Social Rehabilitation. We need a Ministry of Ministerial Rehabilitation.

This compulsive secrecy and incessant evasion leads one to believe that the reason the Premier shut down Parliament one week earlier than anticipated is because he didn’t want to answer Wayne Furbert’s Parliamentary Questions on the Faith Based Tourism and to debate the damning Cedarbridge mold report – a report the Education Minister promised to much fanfare would be tabled and debate in full – before an election. Postpone the pain until November seems to be the plan, much like the BHC Police Report.

Delay, delay, delay. Evade, evade, evade. Confuse, confuse, confuse.

In fact, the PLP seem to be in such dire straits that they’re resorting to the same scare tactics that they to this day decry they were subjected to while in Opposition; with the Premier, in full attack mode, reaching way back, dusting off the cobwebs, and tossing out the “voting for the UBP will see a return of the 40 Thieves” bogeyman; that’s the 2007 version of “Don’t vote yourself back on the plantation”. And to think that the PLP have been criticized for not being environmentally friendly. They certainly believe in recycling.

This desperate 40 Thieves meme is no different than the claim that business would flee Bermuda if the PLP were to win in 1998.

Don’t believe the hype. The PLP are not the romanticized party of the past that they pretend to be and the UBP aren’t the demonized party of the past we’re told they are.

Times change. People change. Parties change. It’s time for change.

It’s clear that the PLP would love to keep us focused on what happened in the past, rather than what is happening right now.

But the public deserves better. We deserve to go into an election with all of the information in front of us, not tied up by legal maneuvering, Parliamentary tricks and a replay of the events of July 2003.

Don’t be misled again.

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