Rallying cry for independence
Bermudians were called on to “dare to invent the future” at a packed forum last night on national independence.
The call came from panellist Ryan Perinchief, who brought the audience to its feet at the Bermuda Industrial Union’s EF Gordon Hall.
Mr Perinchief, founder of the Future Leaders Programme, added: “It is time for us as Bermudians to set forward a new vision, before we are thrust into someone else’s.”
The final of the five speakers prompted Alex Scott, who served as premier from 2003 to 2006 and appointed the Bermuda Independence Commission in 2005, to tell the room: “Ryan gives me hope, but despair in that I let him down.
“It was under my watch that we brought out the basis of going independent — but were unable to move it forward.”
Mr Perinchief spoke of Bermuda’s “colonial predicament” as an island viewing itself as far from the Caribbean nations that embraced independence decades earlier.
He said: “Due to this disconnect, we have consistently told ourselves we are out here on our own, another world, and not ready for independence.”
Organisers of the forum highlighted Mr Perinchief as the night’s youngest speaker.
Calling for Bermudians to connect with their identity and embrace “a psychological shift”, Mr Perinchief grounded the island’s decades of hesitation over national sovereignty in its colonial status.
He said: “I lament that it is impossible to have a unified conversation on independence as Bermudians.
“Bermuda is fundamentally, as the oldest British colony and the first to import African slaves, a tribalist state.”
Voicing regret at his inability to move independence forward, Mr Scott said: “When I listen to young Ryan, it’s like a race car being kept in a garage or being made to go at 20 miles an hour.”
Mr Perinchief told the audience a referendum on independence was unlikely to succeed unless opinion was tilted by interference on the part of Britain.
He said: “A unique opportunity that might have the potential to change is with the UK’s recent announcement that they want to legislate for Bermuda on beneficial ownership — as well as with Brexit.”
Mr Scott opened the talks with an overview of the UK’s brewing political chaos over leaving the European Union.
To applause, he said: “Bermuda will not become a democracy until the majority of Bermudians make it one.”
He added that the push for sovereignty was being made primarily by the Progressive Labour Party and black Bermudians.
Cordell Riley, a statistician and vice-president of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda, said reports and papers on independence went back to the civil unrest of the 1970s.
Mr Riley said: “When I hear people say we need more information, I don’t know how much more information we need.”
Issues surrounding independence were catalogued in the Bermuda Independence Commission’s report, he said.
Several speakers noted Bermuda’s racial divide, both socially and on the issue of independence.
Lloyd Williams, a Bermudian living in the independent Caribbean country of St Kitts and Nevis, said he had been disturbed at the racial divisions he had witnessed back in Bermuda.
Mr Williams said: “When I walked around on the 24th of May, it was a black Bermudian parade. This is supposed to be a Bermuda parade.”
He told the gathering of hundreds: “We have been preconditioned to think of black and white; colonialism not only brought us the government system, but it brought us a religion which perpetuates racism.
“Unless we see these truths, we won’t be able to address that properly and see ourselves as human beings.”
The room at the BIU had filled to capacity before the forum had begun last night, with attendees listening in the hall outside.
David Burt, the Premier, was present along with a host of government MPs, and Michael Dunkley, an Opposition backbencher.
The event, organised by activists LaVerne Furbert and Raynol Todd, also heard from Phil Perinchief, a former attorney-general and a vocal advocate for independence.
He is also the uncle of Ryan Perinchief.
Mr Perinchief questioned people who had opposed independence 20 years ago by saying “yes, independence — but not at this time”.
He added: “When asked the question again, they say the same thing. So when? And what time?”
•To read the Bermuda Independence Commission’s report, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.
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