Independence debate will unite us - Premier

A full-blooded discussion on Independence will leave Bermuda a healthier society even if the country does not choose sovereignty, Premier Alex Scott said this week.

And, he says, Bermuda has paid a price - in terms of national cohesion, pride and a sense of putting the country first - for its material success.

  • Premier Alex Scott

    Premier Alex Scott

A full-blooded discussion on Independence will leave Bermuda a healthier society even if the country does not choose sovereignty, Premier Alex Scott said this week.

And, he says, Bermuda has paid a price - in terms of national cohesion, pride and a sense of putting the country first - for its material success.

On the cusp of his anniversary as Premier, Mr. Scott is certain that his decision to call for a national discussion on Independence had cost him support from the white community, but he is determined to see that discussion through for the good of Bermuda. “The reason our poll numbers were so high initially was because we had very high support from the white community. I think the white community is now waiting and watching to see how we handle the discussion on Independence,” he said.

“So the robust support we've had from the white community has fallen probably in direct correlation to the support, or lack of same, for independence.”

But he also acknowledged that some in the black community had been apprehensive when he first raised the subject earlier this year. “I don't think there's any former Premier who has had poll results as high as 80 percent. And the reason I had that number was because the white support was very high.

“And we could have sustained that white support if we didn't put Independence down.

“The white community has concerns about that aspect - so does the black community but to a great extent we could have lost 30 percent share on that issue and there's been other issues in there.”

And Mr. Scott repeated earlier statements that, without a national discussion, it was too early to say whether the Progressive Labour Party would have independence on its next General Election platform.

“It depends on Bermuda. It depends on Mr. and Mrs. Bermuda,” the Premier said.

“But at the end of that discussion, I'm convinced, I'm totally of the belief that no matter what the outcome as it relates to Independence and self determination, we will have a better relationship with our country, we will feel better about Bermuda and we will have a healthier Bermuda.”

He added that he would be pleased if Bermuda opted for Independence and disappointed but “equally pleased”, if the country rejected sovereignty “because we will have given the subject matter the best possible shot in Bermuda, by Bermudians”.

And the debate should take into consideration the views of Bermuda's non-voting residents, including the international community.

“They may not vote, but they could vote with their feet (the international community) if they feel we have embarked on a reckless course towards the future.”

The Premier said he had been impressed with young people of Grenada who had “enthralled me with a passionate dissertation of their Grenada, how they saw Grenada, how they came to that position”.

“I turned to the Director of DCI and said ‘can't you hear the price that we have paid for our wealth, our success as we understand it', because at no time did those youngsters say we are poor or we are rich.

“At no time did they talk about the haves or the have-nots. Totally and exclusively they talked about what had to be considered their relationship with their country. You might say ‘Bermudians do that' - (but) not in the language and the terms that these young folks talked about Grenada.”

Mr. Scott added: “One young man had had his house totally surrounded by men with guns - his father had been part of the New Jewel Movement - and he concluded that he was closer to Grenada as a result of that.

“He didn't say whether he supported the New Jewel Movement or against - he still had a passion for Grenada. If Bermuda after our Independence discussion comes to that same place, then our young folks have a future in an Island that they love.

“Our soccer team will be better, our businessmen will be more effective, our teachers will teach longer and they will be doing it - yes - for self and country. And probably will come a point when they will be doing it for country first.”

He said all of Bermuda's diverse communities put their own homelands first. “It's not just materialism. If we have a British community here who has contributed much - they look to Britain when they think of home. If we have an Acorean community who are as much a part of this community as anybody, but they look to the Azores.

“If you have a black community who looks to Africa, who looks to the West Indies and say ‘I want to be a Rastafarian', who looks to their country called Bermuda?

“That's what we've got to accomplish. Be proud of your heritage - be it African, Anglo-Saxon, be it rooted in Portugal, Canada, Spain wherever.

“But do so with a commitment to Bermuda first and foremost, then the country is stronger. And if we see it through a balance of payment figures - not that that isn't important, if we see it through the Union Jack, if we see Bermuda through our ties to the Azores, then Bermuda loses out.”

The overall goal, he continued, was to celebrate cultural differences as Bermudians first.

“That's my hope for Bermuda. That will be a long term vision - it's not going to happen this weekend.”

As to his own personal ambitions, he said: “I don't think Bermuda has realised its fullest potential and I would like to play some small role in moving Bermuda along the road to its fullest potential.”

Mr. Scott went on to say that putting Bermuda first did not mean thinking or speaking disparagingly of Britain. “We rely on them as a trading partner, for defence purposes - to the extent that we currently do. But it will all be in the service of Bermuda.

“But right now when a Governor wishes it to be so, he can mandate who our Chief Justice is. So how can I then turn to a young, bright Bermudian and say ‘this is your country, be proud'.

“He'll say ‘I want to be Chief Justice, you can't guarantee it'. I say ‘this is your country be proud!'. He'll say ‘you can't even tell me who will be Commissioner of Police next week. Suppose that's the job I want'.

“So it's not Britain's fault, It's my responsibility, our responsibility to now take on the responsibility of Bermuda. So what is my wish? That we make significant steps towards committing all of us to this little gem in the Atlantic.

“That way I think we can be greater than we are now. Our GDP can be as impressive, if not more so.”

He turned to a recent BIBA networking session in which he said he met dozens of promising young Bermudians and left the function more convinced than ever that Bermuda's youth were more than capable of running the economy.

“Especially the segment that depends on the financial sector being competitive globally, not just locally.

“So I don't think we have to yield any ground if we go to Independence, if we rely on our partners - the captains of industry who are the architects of the insurance and the reinsurance industry that we have here. Bermuda will be able to be as competitive as anybody.”

He said Bermuda's soccer team had acquitted itself well against El Salvador because of the support of the locals who turned out for the game.

“They weren't better on that day, they had the skills that should have made them play way ahead of our youngsters. But the heart that our youngsters played with tells me that we haven't gotten the best out of Bermuda yet,” he said.

“And a Bermudian sportsman, a Bermudian professional in the financial sector, a Bermudian teacher who is in the service of this country, their country, will perform better.

“The employer will get a better employee. Ayo Johnson will perform better if he was writing for an Independent Bermuda.”

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