I got it wrong and for that I apologise

  • Khalid Wasi

    Khalid Wasi

  • Robert Pires

    Robert Pires


Dear Sir,

At times when writing, I have gotten entangled into the debate surrounding an argument or article and a few facts originating the debate get blurred and not spoken of absolutely exact or “spot-on”, either becoming a misquote or simply not identified properly, and in any such case may wrongfully characterise an individual.

I do not mean to demean anyone in my writings, but if and when it occurs, the truth or the facts should be embraced by me immediately and any apologies due should be made.

On November 14, 2019, I wrote an op-ed titled “A new vision of prosperity is needed”.

I wrote: “Robert Pires’s purported comment that Portuguese were brought to Bermuda because blacks, after slavery, did not want to work.”

He in fact, in an article an interview with Sarah Lagan, was quoted as saying: “They came here in the first instance to do the work that Bermudians were not interested in — gardening, construction and, more recently, cleaning.”

I admit I strongly reacted to the insinuation that Bermudians were not interested in construction, or that Portuguese were brought in originally to do construction in particular. Never have I read anywhere in history that the Portuguese were brought in to do construction, nor did I believe in 1857 the Bermudians were not interested in gardening.

I overreacted and I thoroughly apologise for conveying my own interpretation of what his comments meant. I misquoted and apologise.

In addition, further on in my article I referred to the West Indians being brought in 40 years later and added the comment, “they were not brought in because the blacks were lazy”.

Again, that comment was not meant to suggest or infer that Mr Pires called the blacks in Bermuda lazy. It was meant, as was the intent of the article, to support the argument that it was the nature of the economy and not the attitude of the workers that created a demand for foreign labour. Notwithstanding that, I do apologise for any misunderstanding that comment may have conveyed, in particular, to Mr Pires or to anyone who got that impression.

I do note the subsequent responses to Mr Pires’s original quote; for example, one presented in a Letter to the Editor by Wentworth Christopher, which also attacked the historical context of Mr Pires’s statement. I was attempting the same as a continuing dialogue in support of those who also reacted, referencing those positions by saying “purported to have said”.

I don’t offer Mr Christopher’s letter as an excuse for my mistake, or the statements in the comments thread of The Royal Gazette online. I should not have followed their debate, but should have instead spoken directly to his actual comment. This I submit merely as a means to demonstrate how easily it is to misquote. The lesson learnt is to accurately quote what persons write or say. So in that regards I apologise to the readers for the inaccuracy.

In fairness to the article I wrote, I wish to state the overall intent was to highlight that the premise for the original need to import Portuguese labour was because of the nature of the economy and not the attitude or predisposition towards work that led to the need for foreign labour. If there was a predisposition, it was based on choice given the diversity of options available in the economy. If I had used his exact words and repeated them throughout, the body of the article would have remained the same.

In closing all of my children have a heavy dose of Portuguese in their bloodline and I also have a DNA record, which says 70 per cent Nigerian, 20 per cent European — and a piece of that is Portuguese and Ashkenazim Jew.

I accept every part of my being, to the chagrin of some of my detractors who believe I should celebrate and acknowledge only my African roots. In that regard, Mr Pires is also my kin. In the old vernacular, “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”.

Robert Pires is a passionate advocate and defender of the integrity of the Portuguese contribution to Bermuda. For that, he needs and deserves to be credited because in no format should Portuguese integrity or their contribution to Bermuda be demeaned.

I am a “ham operator” historian and love to debate narratives and nuances of history. We are each entitled to our opinion, but we are not entitled to our own facts. My narrative of history and the need for foreign labour, particularly in the 19th century and early 20th century, is that as the Bermuda economy grew, the demand for labour outstripped the natural population labour pool and created the need for foreign workers.

This had nothing to do with local labour’s interest or disinterest in doing the work.

KHALID WASI

On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any libellous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

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