Progressive’ cannot be just part of our name – it must be part of our culture
Next week, on Sunday, February 18, I have been given the distinct honour and privilege of being the keynote speaker at the 54th Annual PLP Founders’ Day Banquet at the Willowbank Conference Centre.
To be completely honest, I did not initially think I could fulfil the task because public speaking is not yet my strong point.
So, I decided to put some thoughts down in writing as to the magnitude of the responsibility of being a part of the Progressive Labour Party.
Today, I will speak of the need for a better and fairer Bermuda. Where we have been, were we are now, and where we need to be heading.
Some 55 years ago, the founders of the Progressive Labour Party, Messrs Albert Peter Smith, Wilfred Mose Allen, Austin Wilson, Edward DeJean, Dilton Cann, Walter N.H. Robinson and Hugh Roy Richardson, met in Mr Richardson’s garage and planted the seeds that were to build a better and fairer Bermuda.
In the face of the evils of colonialism, classism, and outright racism, those founders had to be both fearless and progressive.
“Progressive” being the first word in our party’s name.
• Progressive enough to know that this party had to fight for universal adult suffrage to destroy the regressive property vote
• Progressive enough to know that we had to work hand-in-hand with our union partners to ensure workers’ rights
• Progressive enough to know that this party was not just for tradesmen, such as Wilfred Mose Allen, and not just for lawyers such as Arnold Francis. This party was for those who looked like Peter Smith and Dr Barbara Ball
• Progressive enough to know that, in due time, a strong woman, of West Indian parentage from “Back of Town”, by the name of Dame Lois Browne-Evans, had to break the glass ceiling and become the first female opposition leader in the Commonwealth
• And progressive enough as a party to be led into government 20 years ago by yet another strong woman — from St George’s, may I add — by the name of Dame Jennifer Smith.
Under a PLP government, we continued to be progressive and put the following things in place:
• One man, one vote
• Free public transport for seniors
• Abolishment of inheritance tax
Now that the baton has been passed on to my generation, we must be as fearless and progressive as our founders.
Without apologies, we must do the following:
• Decriminalise small amounts of marijuana to stop our people going to court and having criminal records
• Reform immigration in a way that not only protects Bermudians, but also entices overseas investors
• Change electoral rules to allow those who are bedridden to vote from home
• Reform our regressive tax structure
• Continue to groom the next generation of party officers and future parliamentarians
• Continue to engage with and attract a broad cross section of Bermudians from all walks of society, essentially meeting people wherever they are in life
• We must be progressive enough to neither fear nor avoid the media, utilising them to tell our story, while they hold us accountable. Indeed, by doing so, we will continue to entice more progressive-minded persons to support us in every election
• Most importantly, as cousin Derrick Burgess commands, we must continue to canvass Mr and Miss Smith.
“Progressive” cannot just be part of our name. Instead, it must be part of our day-to-day culture. We must continue to evolve to meet the needs and demands of our neighbours, constituents, fellow workers, business owners, and global standards.
In doing so, we truly honour those founders of our great and long-lasting institution, and Bermuda as a whole.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org