It is prudent to note that no government walks on water
“Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs”
— Transparency International
These days the mere mention of the word is enough to send Cabinet ministers and civil servants scurrying for cover, and to remind the defiant souls to remove the light film of dust from their “How to Bash and Discredit the RG” manuals for yet another go-round.
But that need not be the case were we to operate in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, were the answers to basic questions readily forthcoming, and were we not left with the impression that only a state-run media would do for modern-day Bermuda, and that those in positions of power are immune from being questioned — or, heaven forbid, challenged — because of the magnitude of an election victory.
It needs to be clearly established here that the media are not cheerleaders for this or any government — we butted heads with the One Bermuda Alliance government on more than a few occasions.
Our primary objective is to report the news — not only that which is released to us through the Department of Communications — and where there are signs that something may not be right, we have a responsibility to shine a light of probity.
Everything to do with casino gaming, since Ewart Brown as premier tabled the Green Paper titled Gaming for Bermuda in March 2010, has warranted close attention from the only self-appointed watchdogs this island can ever have — the media.
Upon change of government, the baton was picked up by the OBA, whose greatest fault in this saga has been the stumbling, bumbling lack of direction over a referendum on casino gaming before it was withdrawn altogether — controversially and embarrassingly.
So, like the expensive failure that was the referendum on same-sex marriage and civil unions, we still do not know officially the will of the people.
But we soldiered on anyway and, unsurprisingly, it has become a right mess to the extent that the man we scoured the globe for to provide direction on this initiative is now saying that Bermuda is not fit for purpose as a casino destination — representing an about-turn of opinion on an industry that was earmarked by the Brown Administration to provide up to $145 million annually in government revenue.
The man who effectively hired him has been hounded out of his job — a low-paying one at that, it must be added — and the minister responsible for said hounding has been ducking and weaving when questioned/challenged on the reasons why.
There are not many places in democratic civilisation where a government minister can say that he doesn’t speak to the pre-eminent national media of his jurisdiction and still retain any semblance of credibility.
Nevertheless, we have bent over backwards to give Jamahl Simmons the benefit of the doubt in his role as Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. And, to be fair, there have been moments during recent public announcements — on Orders of the Day with Kim Swan on Sunday and during the press conference on Tuesday to confirm the appointment of Cheryl-Ann Mapp as chairwoman of the casino gaming commission — when he came across as knowledgeable about a very important yet polarising subject.
But, almost in the same breath, he used these platforms contemptuously to refer to the Gazette as “that thing” and to sidestep questioning while sticking to a script built on the foundation of a date and a scoreline — July 18 and 24-12.
The mandate given to the Progressive Labour Party has to be put into some sensible context.
Remember, we are talking about the same electorate that very nearly voted the PLP back into government despite a five-year period from 2007 to 2012 that sunk the island into a deep financial hole from which we have yet to emerge.
Had the December 2012 result been 24-12 to a fledgeling OBA, it would have been far less surprising than what transpired in July 2017.
The former government’s faults were many, well documented and well advertised — over and over and over by the PLP — but among the good it did was to apply the tourniquet to stop the economic bleeding and give our tourism prospects a massive leg-up through the formation of the Bermuda Tourism Authority and through landing the 35th America’s Cup.
And, rather belatedly, we did discover through PricewaterhouseCoopers that AC35 could be the gift that keeps on giving — for all that it was derided senselessly as just “a sailing race”.
When David Burt took office as Premier of Bermuda, he highlighted collaboration as one of the essential features of the new government that we could look forward to. But at the first sign of contention, there has been a collective retreat into siege-mentality mode that serves only to widen the divide.
However impressive Burt has been in manning his own ship at the Ministry of Finance, and in advancing the cause of Bermuda internationally, we are not to be preached to from a bully pulpit — no government walks on water.
The honeymoon period is over.
We have no ambition to see this government fail — for if it succeeds, Bermuda succeeds. But we all have jobs to do, and ours of properly and steadfastly informing the public will carry on regardless.
With the greater balance the Government insists it deserves — if only it can get out of its own way and remove legacy impediments to independent journalism.
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