Premier calls for unity
A call for collaboration by Premier Craig Cannonier was met with fighting words from the Progressive Labour Party at Union Square yesterday.
Mr Cannonier was the first of ten speakers - four of them politicians - to take to the podium.
He told the 850-strong crowd that collaboration and unity, not conflict, is critical to tackling Bermuda’s economic woes.
But PLP politicians Derrick Burgess and Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban used the occasion to lament the state of the economy and decry what they saw as Government failures.
“After hearing Pastor Nicholas Tweed at the BIU Banquet and at St Paul’s yesterday, there is a theme residing and ideas are still percolating – it is the idea of collaboration, the thought that we must be seeking allies out of enemies, friends out of adversaries,” the Premier said.
“The time of conflict has passed and this must be the age of collaboration.
“Now that there is little money – we must start thinking. Now that the middle class has become the new poor, we must embrace a collective effort to collaborate. For we battle on the grounds of a global economy and must embrace the BIU motto – ‘United We Stand – Divided We Fall’.”
The PLP’s Walter Roban and Derrick Burgess, acting Opposition Leader, also made reference to Rev Tweed’s speeches over the weekend in their addresses.
Mr Burgess said that while he had not expected Government to create 2,000 jobs in its first year, the new administration had created jobs for non-Bermudians while presiding over job cuts in the Civil Service and had failed to prevent job losses at Butterfield Bank “in spite of the guarantee given the bank by the PLP Government to save the bank and Bermudian jobs”.
Mr Burgess’ litany of complaints against the Government included what he said was a failure to consult the unions over the Millennium ferry, the Tourism Department, and the decision over the shortening of the school year.
He also reminded the crowd that it was still lawful to discriminate on the basis of age in Bermuda.
“In 1981 all the unions converged on Union Square in solidarity to fight the injustices of the UBP Government,” Mr Burgess said.
“A lot of those same people who participated in the 1981 general strike are now at or approaching their 65th birthdays and this government, and the past government, have discriminated against them by dismissing them because they have reached the age of 65.
“I agree with what Rev Tweed said on Friday night at the BIU’s banquet, that the present day workers must reach back for the spirit and power of our elders to fight and eradicate any present day injustice.”
The controversy over the appointment of the new Commissioner of Education also featured in Mr Burgess’ speech.
“The Government insisted no qualified locals had been overlooked, and attributed the uproar over the appointment to a small group of disgruntled applicants twisting the facts to stir the public’s emotion around Bermudianisation.
“To add insult to injury a spokesperson for the Ministry sought to single out and condemn those Bermudians who dared question the decision. Are we going back to the days when freedom fighters like Rev Monk, Rev Tobitt and Rev Golring were persecuted because they were fearless in their condemnation of a system that was unfair and unjust?
“Remember the special test that the Bermuda medical board set for Dr Gordon and former Premier Dr Brown - a test they have never given to anyone else. The test was designed for them to fail in order for them not to have a licence to practise at the Island’s only hospital. Is history repeating itself?”
He continued: “Are we still operating in a paternalistic slave society that prohibits solidarity? And discrimination against the fearless. That’s why we need to know our history and every so often we must reread those history books so we don’t forget from whence we came. They must stop profiling our people, particularly those of colour and those of us who joined the PLP as being incompetent, lazy and corrupt.
“To whom this may concern, we will not get over this, workers in this country marched for a shorter work week. Workers marched in the streets for overtime pay, workers marched in the streets for paid vacation, maternity leave, workers’ compensation, public holiday pay, pensions, health insurance and if you try to persecute those that speak out, we will march on you also.”
Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban told the crowd that there were two Bermudas - “one that struggles and another that’s privileged”.
“As we go forth from this hallowed place let us never forget the struggle and the men and women who shed blood, sweat and tears for us. Let us send a message to those who would denigrate us, and exploit us,” he said.
“You have gorged yourselves on the wealth of our people, the spirit of our people and the labour of our people but your time is nearly over.
“We shall overcome greed, lust for power, cold heartedness and dedication to injustice.
“We shall build a Bermuda where people and profits are partners and where wealth and burdens are shared.”
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