Are we witnessing a coup by stealth?
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Like many of you, I watched with interest the press conference of January 17, when Ewart Brown, the former premier, outlined his grievances regarding cuts to his CT scanning business at the Brown-Darrell Clinic. He expressed how he thinks the measures will not only result in fewer options for patients and loss of employment, but also the closure of his business.
However, the picture of him standing there was worth more than even the thousand words spoken. The optics depicted an orchestrated “show of power” befitting of a head of state. To his immediate right was a sitting Cabinet minister, who resigned a few days later. Also there, a Progressive Labour Party MP, a QC lawyer, the Bermuda Industrial Union president and leadership from the People’s Campaign grassroots protest movement.
The clear message was that he had the support of the Government and the people, and that the law was also marshalled to his side.
During the press conference, Brown boldly named five individuals. He then asked the audience to “remember those names”, as if marking them for some future event. The permanent secretary was particularly singled out. One member in the crowd is heard saying what sounded like “we’re gonna get her”. What was noteworthy was that Brown did not respond.
In a follow-up interview with Bernews, Brown also stated that his company was not consulted before the fee changes were made. However, the question needs to be put forward whether his company was ever asked to provide any information and whether his company was co-operative. The information provided may have permitted a more accurate fee change, thus providing less negative impact to his business. Clearly, there are as many ways to characterise consultation, just as there are many ways to undermine it.
So let’s review developments in this matter for a minute. Brown, with what appears to be government backing, takes to the podium and makes slanderous allegations against particular public servants. He accuses them of conspiring with the former government to put him out of business. His rhetoric evoked at least one veiled threat against the permanent secretary with others also marked. He demonstrated no regard for the implications for governance or what this may lead to. He claims to not have been consulted but did not say if his company co-operated in providing requested information leading to the policy decision. Six months later, he stomps in front of the camera in this sensational manner and gives us all cause for concern.
For the avoidance of all doubt, allow me to be absolutely clear. If Brown or any member of our society is being unlawfully and unfairly targeted by our government or public servants, all of us — black and white — have a duty to put an immediate end to it. Black people need to put an end to it because we are no strangers to bearing the brunt of systemic persecution. White people need to as well because such conduct threatens the stability and integrity of our nation and the wellbeing of everyone in it (see previous article).
However, this show of unbridled arrogance does not advance this cause. What makes Brown’s allegations even more outrageous is that he was awarded $778,000 for lost revenue. The present government provided this huge sum to Bermuda Healthcare Services, which is a private business.
Has a private company ever been given lost revenue by the Government? Is our government now in the business of bailing out private companies? What happened to the more important issue of escalating healthcare costs already out of reach of many working-class Bermudians?
Additionally, Brown said in the same Bernews interview that “I support the party financially” and now his company has received $778,000. This alone should have all Bermudians asking the difficult questions.
How much wi-fi could have been installed in our education system with this money? How many seniors and those who are barely making ends meet could this money have helped? How many buses could it have fixed? How many outstanding hospital bills could it have paid?
I invite all Bermudians who love this nation to wake up and “read the tea leaves”. We have seen this script before and it looks like it will be played out again. What is happening to this country?
Have we had a stealthy coup that ushered in a shadow government with an untouchable demagogue?
What are the ramifications now that this precedent has been set? Do any of us dare speak out against Brown or anyone in his camp? Do public servants now have to fear being slandered and intimidated with impunity? Is all of this with the endorsement and even participation of political and labour “leaders”? Does the Government govern at the behest of unelected elements? Was Marc Bean correct when he told us who was really in full control of the PLP behind the scenes?
The absence of warranted outrage and decisive action since this incredible display speaks unacceptable volumes.
• Vic Ball was a One Bermuda Alliance senator from November 2014 to July 2017
UPDATE: this opinion has been amended to insert the correct hyperlink
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