Government will tackle racism, Premier
The first One Bermuda Alliance Cabinet has the will to tackle structural racism and all options, including affirmative action type policies, are being looked at, Premier Craig Cannonier said yesterday.
And Governments tiny majority in The House of Assembly will be good for the country.
The comments were made in a wide-ranging interview with The Royal Gazette yesterday afternoon.
Mr Cannonier was reminded of his 2011 Reply to the Throne Speech — his maiden speech in Parliament — in which he spoke of the need to address racism.
Asked what his Governments approach to race is, he said that the community had to acknowledge the past and deal with economic disparity.
Theres been talk about affirmative action type decisions that we may need to look at. Were exploring those options right now and what that means, he said.
I certainly am not an expert on all of race relations but I do know that the conversations that weve had in the past havent really led to any more dialogue or resolution.
So weve got to find a way to have this conversation because it will get conflicting, but at the same time we come out of it with a clear, defined way of dealing with it.
Otherwise its just going to continue and continue. The walls have been built up and we got to continue to break down those walls of divisiveness.
How we do that needs to be a collective argument and a collective decision making per se.
Im going to be looking for an avenue, a pathway. So that everyone gets a voice in being able to say how they feel about economic equity in this country. There is a disparity.
It would be foolish for me to say that there isnt a disparity, and I think that disparity has come about because we have not made enough information available to everyone in order to take advantage of opportunities.
Asked if his Government will play an active role in addressing structural racism.
We have to. We have no other choice. Theres too much going on, theres too much at stake to continue with the walls of divisiveness thats up there. The question is how do we do that.
He said he had been talking to people like Dr Eva Hodgson and her brother, former Progressive Labour Party MP Arthur Hodgson about the need to make strides on race.
He said he liked their focus on resolving the issue of racism and that something has to happen and that we havent really put anything in place that is addressing it. That means that its wide open for opportunity and so weve got to find a real way of doing that.
Opposition Leader Marc Bean has signalled that his party will evolve the narrative on race. Dr Hodgson responded by harshly criticising the PLP and its leaders saying that the party had failed to take a leadership position on race since its inception.
The Premiers Cabinet consists of a number of Ministers who were once members of the now defunct United Bermuda Party which many say did little or nothing to address the legacy of racism and present day structural racism while in power.
That doesnt preclude the fact that they are open to address it. That just means that, whoever was leading at the time, certainly did not set it as a mandate, he said.
We have set that as something that we want to address. I, myself, as the leader and our Ministers understand that in their decision-making theyre going to have to start looking at this.
Thats my mandate that Im putting across to them — that we need to address it.
He said he was grateful for their level of experience even if they had done nothing on race when in Government. We do have a group that is in the room that has set it as a mandate.
Just because youve got people who did not address it before does not preclude the fact that its not going to happen. This is a new day.
Mr Cannonier refuted a suggestion that the 19 — 17 split between the political parties in the House of Assembly made for a precarious parliament.
You may look at it and say from a party line thats not very favourable.
But just like competition in the entrepreneurial world, I think when you have that even level I think it brings about better legislation because you do have to be on your Ps and Qs, you have to be on point, otherwise you will get caught out, he said.
It is close, a 19 — 17 split is very, very close. But that means that, I believe, Bermuda should get better information and better legislation. Thats what it should lead to.
But he acknowledged that having an Opposition MP as Speaker of the House will give his party a political advantage.
And he said that he had spoken to PLP MP Randy Horton, and others, about being the Speaker of the House of Assembly.
The Premier drives his own car to and from work, and not the official car GP1 which is reserved for ceremonial occasions, he said.
The Premier also laid out some of the major challenges his Government will tackle, with crime and job creation the priorities.
*Editors note: As a result of an editing error, the wrong headline was placed on this story. It has now been corrected.
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