Brown sets the record straight

  • Former Premier: Ewart Brown and his wife, Wanda Henton Brown are shown at the book signing at the St Paul Centennial Hall (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Former Premier: Ewart Brown and his wife, Wanda Henton Brown are shown at the book signing at the St Paul Centennial Hall (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Brown: in quotes

Ewart Brown’s autobiography calls the former premier “outspoken, accomplished and frequently controversial”.

Topics from Whom Shall I Fear? include:

•• On independence: “Some in Bermuda claim that racial equality and independence are not inherently linked. I believe they are, because political independence is a natural consequence of mature political growth and development.”

•• On a Christmas letter to Santa, printed by The Royal Gazette in 1951: “The Royal Gazette faithfully reproduced my spelling, a standard of accuracy I came to miss in its frequently outlandish, innuendo-filled coverage of my political career and government leadership. During my adult life, Bermuda’s primary news source has also rarely given me credit for trying to be good.”

•• On dissent within the PLP in 2003 over Dame Jennifer Smith as Premier: “It may be difficult for some people to believe that I did not see myself as the next Premier. I didn’t think this was my time.”

•• On meeting with LGBT activists as Premier: “I finally told them I would not help them until they helped themselves, as black civil rights activists had done, by declaring themselves publicly. I said: “If you want help, you’ve got to come out of the closet and put your blood, sweat and tears on the line.”

•• On accusations that asylum was granted in 2009 to four Uighurs from the American detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to curry political favour: “Now, years later, I can still attest that there was no quid pro quo. However, I can also definitively note that the shrill buzz on Capitol Hill about the reduction or elimination of tax advantages for US companies domiciling themselves or their subsidiaries ceased. I am grateful for that as long as it lasts.”

•• On racism: “Racism remains the fundamental fact of Bermuda’s political life, and Bermudians must find common ground to address it. I hope and pray we will.”

Former premier Ewart Brown has said his memoirs, which went on sale this week, have given him the chance to set the record straight.

Dr Brown said yesterday: “I feel that the Bermuda public in particular has been told a plethora of falsehoods about me.

“They have witnessed character assassination. I was determined to give them my side.”

Dr Brown, who served as Premier under the Progressive Labour Party from 2006 to 2010, said the response to Whom Shall I Fear? Pushing the Politics of Change had been “fantastic”.

More than five years in the making, the book chronicles Dr Brown’s personal and political life.

The book jacket describes him as “a lightning rod for controversy”, with one of its final chapters titled “Out of Office, Under Eternal Investigation”.

Although Dr Brown has never been charged with any offence, the physician has found himself the target of a police investigation since 2011.

The book was subject to “a few delays”, he said, adding: “But one of the major ones was the publisher saying, why don’t we wait until the investigation in Bermuda is completed?”

Dr Brown said he told the company, Rivertowns Books, that “they might never”.

Accusations of political corruption have dogged Dr Brown since the 2011 Supreme Court trial of David and Antoinette Bolden.

The couple were eventually cleared of accusations of theft and money laundering, but found guilty of one count of misleading the Bermuda Monetary Authority.

Under oath, Mr Bolden claimed an unidentified government minister had told him Dr Brown was seeking a kickback from his businesses.

In his book, Dr Brown called the allegations “completely preposterous” and wrote that they “furnished a pretext for an open-ended investigation, driven by innuendo and wishful thinking”.

Asked why he would end up targeted for an eight-year smear campaign, Dr Brown said yesterday: “I think it’s probably for a combination of reasons. One is my clearly stated intention to fight racism, and the fact that I did it in an environment where that was considered inappropriate.”

He added: “In Bermuda, black men who declare their opposition to racism are frequent targets of business and personal assassination.”

Addressing race relations was one hallmark of his term as Premier: Dr Brown launched the Bermuda Race Relations Initiative in 2007, with the Big Conversation aimed at fostering dialogue.

He said: “That was my attempt as Premier to bring people together in conversation.”

But he expressed pessimism yesterday at the island’s progress on race, saying there had been “very little”.

“I think that on a personal basis, there’s more communication,” Dr Brown said.

“There’s a big conversation going on in spite of things. Race is being discussed in Bermuda today more than ever, on an individual basis.”

He said “hardly any major decision or programme can be discussed in Bermuda without race being brought into it”.

The memoir recounts Dr Brown’s experiences as a “campus radical” at Howard University in Washington, DC, where he encountered black activists Stokely Carmichael and Cleveland Sellers recruiting students to sign up black voters for a prominent civil rights organisation, the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee.

Dr Brown went on to become a physician, with a thriving practice in California, and a growing involvement in the PLP culminating in an invitation in 1990 from Freddie Wade, the late party leader, to come back to Bermuda and get involved.

He won his seat in Parliament in the General Election of October 1993, ousting former premier Sir John Sharpe, and went on to play a pivotal role in the party.

Dr Brown’s book lays much of the blame for his targeting on “the white establishment’s control of most of the country’s news media”, with frequent broadsides at The Royal Gazette.

The memoir alludes frequently to the Gazette and the United Bermuda Party, which held the Government until the PLP electoral victory of 1998, functioning as a “Combined Opposition”.

But the book documents intrigues within the PLP and Dr Brown’s occasional frustrations with party leaders.

Dr Brown, who has been accused of wielding control over the PLP, said yesterday that he had “a healthy distance from the internal workings of the party”.

He said he was asked for counsel “on occasion”, adding: “All former leaders carry an influence, or should.”

“I’m still a lifetime PLP member and former party leader, and interested in the future of the party,” he said.

Dr Brown has about 1,000 copies of the hardcover book available, priced at $50.

Rivertowns Books plans an official publication in February, but Dr Brown said he had made an exception for Bermuda.

Asked if he planned to write more, Dr Brown said: “I’m going to take a deep breath. This one wasn’t easy. I don’t think future publications are going to require the same amount of research and work.”

While Dr Brown declined to elaborate on future topics, he offered a hint by referring to himself as “a sports fanatic”.

Meanwhile, he said: “I would like to thank the people of Bermuda for a wonderful reception.”

The book will be on sale today from noon to 5pm at the Bermuda Industrial Union.

•UPDATE: This article has been amended to give Ewart Brown the correct title of “Dr” throughout. The correct title was omitted due to a sub-editing error. We apologise for the mistake.

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Published Nov 7, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 7, 2019 at 9:03 am)

Brown sets the record straight

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