Youth charity accuses Premier of lifting content
Premier Paula Cox has been criticised by a youth charity for lifting a line from its business plan for a political speech without giving credit.
Ms Cox used the sentence from Youth on the Move (YOM) at a Progressive Labour Party rally last week.
But her chief of staff, Senator David Burt, denied she had when approached by The Royal Gazette.
He claimed this newspaper inaccurately reported her remarks on Thursday and presented as proof what he claimed was unedited DVD footage of the speech. But the video he provided “jumped” near to the point where Ms Cox actually delivered the line, skipping to the next part of her remarks.
An audio recording made by The Royal Gazette at the rally revealed Ms Cox did use the sentence and did not attribute it to YOM. After the sound clip was sent to Sen Burt last night, the Premier issued a statement saying: “I regret any concern caused by my inadvertent exclusion of a reference to YOM in my oral comments.”
Ms Cox said she did credit the charity in the written version of her speech, adding: “I deem it important for you to note that I do not read any speech word for word and ad lib and I also abbreviated considerably.
“I was especially mindful of the need to do this, given we started the rally a little later than planned and it was getting late.
“There wasn't any intention on my part to plagiarize, as the written text did give credit by speaking generally that our young people are key to charting the way forward, even if my oral speech did not give specific reference to YOM.
“YOM are a non-partisan entity that, along with many others, are making a contribution to work for empowerment of young people and their work is valued.”
The sentence spoken by Ms Cox at Wednesday's rally was: “Economic empowerment for our young people is not only vital but the lack of it is the root cause of most of the hopelessness and disrespect and violence and social deterioration that we see in the community today.”
The comment was reported in the next day's edition of The Royal Gazette, where it was spotted by a member of YOM, a charity which aims to encourage positive change among Bermuda's young people.
The member recognised the line because it originally appeared almost word-for-word in YOM's 2006 business plan, which was submitted to Government that year.
The same document was given to Ms Cox several months ago by YOM president Carlton Simmons, during a meeting on tackling gang violence.
The line in the business plan reads: “Economic empowerment of young Bermudians is not only vital and necessary but the lack of it is the root cause of most of the violence, hopelessness, disrespect and therefore social deterioration seen so often in the community today.”
Mr Simmons called Sen Burt on Thursday to ask why the line was used without credit.
The charity boss heard nothing back and contacted this newspaper on Friday to voice his disappointment.
“The person who saw the comment in the newspaper, they were quite upset,” he said. “If we are good enough to quote, we should be good enough to credit.
“We identified, even in 2006, that the economic disparity between young people was going to fuel all the problems that we are seeing now. We predicted the majority of what we see now. The Premier quoted it wisely.”
This newspaper e-mailed the Premier on Friday evening to ask why the line wasn't attributed to YOM.
Finance Minister Ms Cox replied that night: “No plagiarism I included due credit in my written speech. My speech had section which referenced YOM.”
Her e-mail included an extract from page 13 of the written speech, where the sentence was immediately followed by the line: “Youth on the Move has identified this problem as Bermuda's number one foreseeable threat to the economy.”
That line also appears in the 2006 YOM business plan but it was omitted by the Premier when she read her speech at the rally at Elliot Primary School.
Sen Burt contacted this newspaper on Sunday claiming The Royal Gazette's report of the rally was inaccurate.
He wrote in an e-mail: “I've just watched the speech as delivered and the Premier did not say the remarks as reported by the RG on Thursday.
“This has led to the ‘controversy'. It is important that the record is accurate. 1) Premier did not deliver the phrase at the rally as the RG reported. 2) Speech prepared for delivery did in fact reference Youth on the Move.
“Given the fact that the plagiarism claim came from an incorrect report in your paper, I think that this is now a non-story as the words were not delivered without reference as intimated in your paper.”
Later that day, Sen Burt provided this newspaper with what he said was unedited footage of the speech.
When the footage was viewed, the screen briefly went black close to the point where the Premier delivered the line and the video jumped to a later stage.
Sen Burt said last night the videotape was changed “at the exact time” the Premier was about to deliver the sentence. He provided what he described as the “master tapes” to show this was the case.
The Junior Finance Minister, who was chosen as PLP election candidate for Pembroke West Central yesterday, said: “I stated what I believed true as the recording I had did not have the passage in there.
“Therefore, as many other passages were skipped in the interest of time, I assumed the Premier did not deliver the remarks.”
Mr Simmons said the “controversy” could have been avoided entirely if the Premier's staff had simply admitted the mistake last week and said sorry.
“The question has to be: why not give credit where credit is due? Basically, it comes down to [the fact that] young people don't have a voice in this community.
“Bermuda is in a crisis and young people are going to be absolutely necessary if we are going to make any strides as a country.
“My message to Government is: don't just talk about empowering young people. Actually do it. Take the steps.”
Ms Cox said in her statement last night: “The topic of youth empowerment is an issue that everyone is conscious of tackling across the board. Bermuda recognises the importance of inclusion of the young people in policy-making.”
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