From Belarus to Bermuda
When Belarus President Alexander Lushashenko came to power for the second time shortly before Christmas, a Bermudian played a small part in keeping the election fair and ethical.
Michael Markham, co-founder of the World Council on Spiritual Diplomacy, was invited to be an observer in the pre-Christmas election. Of the ten candidates, incumbent President Lushashenko was declared the winner by the Central Electoral Commission with 79.67 percent of the votes.
Mr Markham is himself no stranger to the Bermuda political scene. He has acted as political advisor to former Premier Dr Ewart Brown. He is also part of the Bermuda Studies Foundation, a separate group from the spiritual diplomacy group. He was recently recognised internationally when he was given an award by the parliament of Russia for his humanitarian work. Jessie Moniz met with Mr Markham to learn more about his work in Bermuda as co-founder of the World Council on Spiritual Diplomacy.
Question: What is Spiritual Diplomacy?
Answer: It is our aim to reduce hatred and eliminate wars between nations with the help of the vast unutilised resources of love found in the Bible and other traditional holy books. Resources of love are the world's greatest power for good. This statement which most people trust in theory does not promote a utopian but a practical trust, because people sense acts of God whenever forces of love are set in motion. With the help of this most powerful source of love we try to resolve conflicts in different countries of the world, including political, ethnic, national, racial, religious and social ones and others.
Q: What was it like being an independent observer at the Belarus election?
A: It is the second time I have done it. I also was invited to the previous election with President Alexander Lushashenko. Belarus stands between central Russia and Poland and it is strategically a large country. It used to be part of the Soviet Union. It has its own armies. As part of its integration into the West, it has agreed to give up its nuclear weapons. The Europeans like to call Lushashenko the last dictator, but he is not really a dictator, he is authoritarian.
Q: What is the difference between a dictator and authoritarian?
A: He was elected. I have observed the last two elections and been there with other observers from around the world. We had over 1,000 observers at the election. I have photographs. We had complete access to all candidates. We had access to the ballot box.
Q: Isn't that considered an invasion of privacy?
A: They consider it safer. That way they can verify that votes were properly cast. I was there under the election commission. In my team, we had four independent observers in the spiritual diplomacy group to verify it was free and fair election. The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) also verified it was fair and free. The United States State Department said it was not fair and free, and the European Commission said they didn't feel it was totally free and fair.
Q: What was their objection?
A: Their objection was more with the larger political process than the actual mechanical process. The CIS and Americans had a different opinion on what should precede the actual voting. They questioned how many political parties were there. Did the political parties have access to the media. I think this election was better than the previous one. Previous recommendations were that they open up the process. So they held debates on television, paid for by the government. The President ran as an independent.
Q: How did you bring spiritual diplomacy to the election process?
A: The Spiritual Diplomacy World Council has had a relationship with the president and members of the government. Spiritual diplomacy builds bridges between east and west. On the basis of looking at the other person's needs first rather than your own national interests. Traditional diplomacy involves looking at your own nation's needs first.
Q: So is the Belarus Government then trying to infuse itself with spirituality since it has moved away from communism?
A: Yes. It has moved away from atheism.
Q: What sort of changes have there been because of that?
A: The president has said publically he is trying to bring more spiritual values and is trying to bring about more spiritual freedom. He has said he is learning to turn the other cheek, as it has said in the Bible.
Q: Were there any protests after this election?
A: Yes on the night of the election. The voting was over at 10pm and I went back to my hotel to have dinner which was a five minute walk away. The hotel had big huge windows. Through the windows I saw all these black helmets in the street. I could see all these riot police going to the square. Some demonstrators were running and the police were running after them. It was like -20 F (-28C). I ran out without a jacket to see if I could see something. I couldn't last more than 30 seconds out there so I watched it all from the window. They had barricaded the door in front of the hotel so protestors couldn't get in. The hotel was on the edge of the crowd. There were estimates of between 20,000 to as high as 40,000 people were there. It depends on when and where the crowd was at a particular point.
Q: How many members of the spiritual diplomacy group are there in Bermuda?
A: There is myself, Reginald Dill and Ottiwell Simmons. It is popular movement worldwide. There is a retreat centre in North Port, Florida where diplomats can come and study. I am going to be giving lectures on political campaigns and spiritual ethical values within running a political campaign. I donated my political library to the library they are building now.
Q: Have any of these spiritual diplomacy principles been instilled in the Progressive Labour Party (PLP)?
A: I have made recommendations. Dale Butler has picked up on the idea that we should have a spiritual advisor to the cabinet. It is my personal view that government structures have to be more than just flesh and blood. There has to be a positive ethical motivation behind things that are done. There are a lot of unseen things happening in the world, not just things you can see and touch. Governments need to come to terms with emotional and spiritual issues within a society. I believe in Bermuda the government needs to have spiritual advice as it moves forward.
Q: If a spiritual advisor was installed, how would you choose the spiritual advisor? Would you just go by whatever the majority religion was?
A: That would be up to the people who were elected. The people we elect in parliament are suppose to reflect the views of the people.
Q: But at the moment we've never asked people to declare their religion when running for office.
A: It came up in Bermuda. It came up when the United Bermuda Party (UBP) passed the Stubbs Bill in 1994 legalising homosexuality. That was a major turning point in Bermuda's political history which has not been written about. That was when people left the UBP and went with the PLP, because they felt the moral values of the UBP were no longer theirs. The economic conservatives stayed with the UBP . The PLP took that and ran an election and won the election. Now the moral struggle is within the PLP. The UBP lost its mandate for moral government.
Q: In 2006 you were talking about political corruption. At that time, as part of the Foundation for Bermuda Studies, you said that corruption within the civil service was rampant. You said a powerful group of people was influencing the country, under the surface.
A: Yes, I got in trouble for that with Bermuda Public Services Union leader Ed Ball. We had a conversation. I had said I am not trying to paint your whole union as being corrupt, but we have a serious problem of corruption that is not being addressed in the country. People are in denial. Corruption is not just a Bermuda problem. It is one of the most important issues that spiritual diplomacy looks at when we look at the world system. I had a meeting around that same time with the head of the anti-corruption commission in the Ukraine. I met with him and his staff and four people from our spiritual diplomacy team. It became clear to me that corruption is like a parasite. It feeds off of people that are already doing something that is economically important for the country.
We are talking about money corruption. Bribes. Stuff that would distort the normal process of government. Those people who do that are parasitic. They can't do it if there is no money transpiring. When the money stops happening they hop off somewhere to feed off some other transaction. The terms of money transactions are really important to governance. They have to protect themselves from parasitic corruption. I gave a proposal to Dr Brown when he was Premier about the bidding process used for government contracts. It put a framework together to protect ourselves from corruption. Unfortunately, that proposal never got to the cabinet. But I will continue fighting to see if we can have open and ethical and transparent guidelines for awarding contracts in Bermuda. If it is open and above board and everyone knows the rule there is less chance for the distortion taking place.
Q: How did you get involved with the PLP?
A: My whole political experience in Bermuda has been with the PLP. My first experience with them came when Minister Neletha Butterfield brought me in to do prison reform. That must have been maybe 15 years ago. I was head of justice fellowship.
Q: What did you do as a career?
A: I am retired. I managed money.
Q: In your paper Spiritual Diplomacy and the New World Order, that is available online, you say: In Spiritual Diplomacy we believe the silver and gold belongs to the Lord and that we as people are custodians. What does that mean?
A: That was written for spiritual diplomacy delegates who we are dealing with the New World Order. They need to understand that it is real and has a written and philosophical basis. It is to help us understand our relationship with them and how we are going to deal with them. The gold and silver are a major issue. Precious metals are a major issue in the New World Order.
In order for it to bring what it understands world peace it has to control the financial system. All money laundering issues we have here in Bermuda all came from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) folks that want to regulate and control the world financial system. The problem with the world's metals like silver and diamonds they can't control. If I have a piece of gold and give it to you, there is no way they can interfere or regulate the process. If it is a bank transaction, cheque or credit card transaction they can trace or regulate it or tax it. Brussels, Belgium was the centre where that was done. All financial transactions are tracked except gold and silver. I know they are in the process of figuring out how they can regulate gold and silver.
Whether they will succeed or not is another issue. The idea of the ownership of gold and silver. In the New World Order ownership is a political issue. Previously in historical everything was controlled by priests. The priest determined if a basket of eggs was worth the same as a table and so forth. Whether an apple equalled an orange.
Q: Do you want us to go back to priests determining how much things are worth?
A: No. The American government use the dollar as the arbitrator. The market determines the value of something. Not some priest. But the free market doesn't determine how things work in much of the world. In the New World Order executives of what is and what is not. Presently, they are doing it by setting the exchange rates. I have proof. I have documents that show the cartels that run the prices out of Switzerland and different places. They allow the prices to fluctuate but underneath that there is control of the markets. They determine the value of X or Y.
Q: Who is the New World Order in Bermuda?
A: That would be the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
A democracy says the people get to choose. Spiritual diplomacy is only trying to build bridges between different groups. I am a democrat. People have a right to vote and determine their future. I believe a government that does things based on the consensus of its people is a better system. It is the best form of government because it is a more creative base for decision making. In spiritual diplomacy we believe that God has given destiny to people and nations. A nation has a destiny to fulfill as well as individual people.