Just what could be so damaging?

The Royal Gazette
Opinion (02 July, 2007)

Four weeks and counting with no denials; law suits, plenty of lawsuits and threatened law suits, but still not one denial about the allegations in the BHC Police Report.

Instead we’ve heard plenty of noise but very little clarification about the extent to which high level public officials participated in the exposed alleged improprieties at the BHC.

The longer this goes on, and the more attempts are made to suppress and obscure the information about apparent misappropriation of public funds, the more the public will reach the inescapable conclusion that the information yet to be revealed would cause us all to reel in horror at the extent of the corruption and breach of public trust.

It is notable that the response to this scandal by those implicated in alleged wrongdoings and their proxies has been to try and confuse the issue and make the unethical but not illegal actions secondary to other considerations.

It is also notable, and undeniable, that with every court ruling in favour of the public’s right to know about public officials and public funds, there is an accompanying intensification of blame the media and opposition syndrome and racial red herrings, when the truth is very much the opposite.

Mr. Julian Hall for example, like the Premier, managed to tie himself in knots in an effort to confuse, redirect and obscure the facts. Mr. Hall’s arguments were so contorted that only his chiropractor would have benefited.

Essentially Mr. Hall’s argument boiled down to “well, unethical they may be, but their critics are racist”. In fact, Mr. Hall lumped every Bermudian who wants to get to the bottom of the BHC scandal as either a white supremacist or a white apologist.

That’s quite a wide net; you either agree with everything that Dr. Brown and the PLP have ever done or will do, or you’re a white supremacist or a white apologist. I’m sure that won’t sit well with most people.

This all or nothing, black or white, the-best-defence-is-a-strong-offense (offense in all meanings for the word) feels remarkably similar to the media strategy of George W. Bush as his Presidency began to crumble along with his war in Iraq.

Mr. Bush’s approach to building support (and subsequently losing it) was quite simple: He portrayed things as good or evil: You’re either with me or you’re with the terrorists. The Bermuda version is black and white, as usual: “You’re either with Dr. Brown or you’re a racist.”

The other interesting aspect was Mr. Hall’s ability to hold two absolutely contradictory positions with such certainty and ease.

Mr. Hall happily trotted out decades-old leaked police information which suggested that there may be racism within the Bermuda Police service and heaped praise on then Opposition member Alex Scott for presenting this to the public. In the next breath he proceeded to criticise the leaking of police information about apparently unethical Government politicians. So it’s okay to leak information about racist cops but not unethical politicians?

It’s okay in both circumstances. Anyone who provides credible information in either event is doing the public a great service. We don’t need racist cops or unethical politicians. And we certainly don’t need racist unethical politicians.

Mr. Hall isn’t alone in his selective use of principal in defending the allegedly unethical behaviour of our public officials. The Premier and his publicly funded army of spin doctors have produced some rather extraordinary examples as well.

The Premier was widely quoted during a radio interview as refusing to answer the now public allegations of misappropriation of funds at the BHC, abuse of power and undeclared conflicts of interest by himself and some of his colleagues as ‘demeaning, embarrassing and insulting’.

Strangely, late last week, he released a statement denying allegations that hadn’t even been reported, but had been looked into by reporters but never reported…because the claim wasn’t deemed credible – responsible journalism indeed, a far cry from a “media frenzy”. Dr. Brown is now in the peculiar position of having denied things he wasn’t accused of but not those he is.

And then there are the misdirected talking points by the Premier’s Press Secretary and former Royal Gazette reporter Glenn Jones, which revealed that answering the allegations would be a ‘zero sum game for the Premier and the Government’.

Now, that’s a very interesting statement. Zero sum games are ones where once you add up a participant’s gains and losses they equal zero, ergo in this situation, some allegations might be deniable but others aren’t. Whoops. And even if there is no benefit for the Premier in answering the allegations, what about the public's right to know?

And then there’s the idea that this is some UBP and media conspiracy to destabilise the PLP’s election prospects. I think by now almost everyone knows who the un-named ‘Son of the Soil’ is (as well as the other individual who was questioned by the Police), and they are by no means UBP or “the media”.

This is clearly an inside job, this isn’t a UBP effort to oust the PLP; it’s a PLP effort to oust Dr. Brown. That is patently obvious to all but the most deluded.

What really is intriguing however is why the investigation by the Bermuda Police and Scotland Yard included the FBI and Homeland Security? Surely that is what the massive legal effort to prevent further publication of the investigations findings is intended to cover-up.

Why on earth the FBI and Homeland Security – two US agencies – would be interested in a localized corruption scandal in Bermuda is beyond me? The Premier suggests that the involvement of these agencies and subsequent lack of charges ‘exonerates’ him. To the contrary, the investigation appeared to reach a premature conclusion, and leaves hanging some particularly concerning and serious questions about what we still don’t know, and won’t know for some time pending the Privy Council appeal – unless the file appears on the internet somewhere that is.

Every Bermudian must be wondering just what potential revelations could warrant such an extraordinary effort to conceal information from the public. What is so damaging that has caused this cover-up to go to such lengths over the past four weeks?

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