Burt can redefine what it is to be Premier of Bermuda

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  • Testing ground: David Burt, the Premier, is forced into a position, says columnist Khalid Wasi, to work hand in hand with those who would bury him when given half a chance (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Testing ground: David Burt, the Premier, is forced into a position, says columnist Khalid Wasi, to work hand in hand with those who would bury him when given half a chance (Photograph by Akil Simmons)


I don’t think there is much glamour in having the job of Premier of Bermuda any more; even if we were to take into account the transitional years of Sir Henry Tucker, who was climbing through the wall of segregation. At least for him, there was the old guard, internationally respected, albeit during a dark era.

There was, like always, a shortage of money, but the country was far from being broke. The big issue for leaders such as him and many subsequent leaders was largely social and how to weave inclusion into the fabric of the economy. History will show that only partial success was made; we did have an economic boom, but that came with an increasing disparity of wealth.

As for the society, well, it fell apart.

David Burt has inherited a broken economy, a society in turmoil and a political apparatus whose root design was meant to perpetuate a structural division. If you are trying to calm down the chickens, you don’t use a fox, but that is precisely what our political construct does. It never started from the premise of what is best for governance or how we effectively engage everyone in a process that invites all to respect each other’s right to participate and further a design that fosters openness, equality and a motivation towards reason.

The principle modus operandi is denigrating the opponent by any means possible to gain power. Try that when you need unity and all hands on deck to save the ship.

Instead, the Premier has to work with not only a divided country polarised by race, but also divided factions within the political processes from where he would hope to gain support. Some will argue this is the very nature of politics and we need only to look a few hundred miles to our west to see today’s greatest example of factionalism and a process divided against itself.

One big difference between us and the United States is they can print dollars up against all their mistakes and hide them for a generation as they kick the ball down the road.

Our premier cannot mint money. Instead, he has to manufacture any likelihood of prosperity. In so doing, he must at times rely on the very instruments and personalities that will bury him when given half a chance.

Yet the art is not merely about survival; it’s more about causing a diverse array of people to see their own self-interest and goals wrapped in a tapestry, rather than a “dog eat dog” or “survival of the fittest” scheme.

The old rifts need to continue to melt away and, having Wayne Furbert — the author of the 2018-19 Budget as the Junior Minister of Finance — handling perhaps the most important ministry after that of the Premier is a great indicator.

The Progressive Labour Party and its leader should see nothing else except that he is a chartered accountant holding a master’s degree in physics, was from Bermuda’s prestigious Bermuda Technical Institute and is known to the business world. That form of assimilation, which unites Bermuda’s black middle class, is healthy. It is not healthy simply on the basis of black unity, but is partly the road to total unity of the whole of Bermuda, which has been for too long predicated on black disunity.

We will become as one Bermudian people only when our divisions are based solely on ideas and not the colour of one’s skin or socioeconomic background.

It is to be hoped one day soon that our elections will be based on the different roads towards an ideal. The unenviable task of this premier is to see beyond the limitations and constructs before him. He must reach for a new horizon or be pulled by the quicksand that surrounds him.

Being young has its advantages and, in this case, it may be fortuitous where the circumstances lead the Premier to cut a new path — in fact, his own path — and redefine the role based on the imperatives of our times.

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Published Feb 7, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 7, 2018 at 8:11 am)

Burt can redefine what it is to be Premier of Bermuda

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