Burt: Don’t fear constitutional change
David Burt urged against a culture of fear as he claimed the time is right to consider constitutional change.
The Premier kicked off a conference on the Bermuda Constitution of 1968 today by calling for debate on the set of principles many have claimed are out of date.
He said: “We cannot meet every mention of constitutional change or independence with the same, tired arguments from 25 years ago.
“We cannot stifle debate on legitimate issues that are caused by our constitutional status with threats of economic ruin or rumoured angst from those who do business in Bermuda.
“The mature society considers arguments for and against, respects the views of all stakeholders and ultimately decides on whatever the next steps will be.
“Fear or an endless supply of ‘what if’s’ is not an argument for or against anything.”
Mr Burt said Bermuda’s leaders must determine how constitutional change will help create a better society.
He said: “Just as the world has forced us to change how we market Bermuda to tourists, just as the global economy has dictated that we diversify our local economy, we must be open also to constitutional change that will play its part in improving the lives of our people.
“I look forward to that debate and my hope is that as you discuss these issues throughout the day, a focus for our next chapter of constitutional development will emerge.”
The conference, organised by the Centre for Justice, took place at Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, and featured speeches from Chief Justice Ian Kawaley and Martha Dismont of the Family Centre.
Mr Burt said the 1968 Constitution is outdated and did not reflect the true Bermuda.
He said: “The factual matrix through which the passage of the 1968 document must be viewed makes the reality of it unassailable.
“Bermuda was imperfect, still racially segregated, ruled by an oligarchy whose principal objective was to lower the temperature of black empowerment and awareness by giving a little in the push for greater enfranchisement.
“That legacy of imperfection still persists today. Under the guise of universal adult suffrage, the 1968 Constitution was the legal mechanism to cement gerrymandering.
“Its crafty boundaries and imposition of dual seat constituencies assured victory after victory for one Party over another.
“Only in 2003’s General Election did we finally achieve one man or woman one vote, each vote of equal value.”
He added: “If we truly believe in democracy and the freedoms and rights of the individual, one of those fundamental freedoms is to challenge the authority of the State and its institutions.
“An active citizenry, who refuses to settle for the status quo should be encouraged. Life itself is founded in testing boundaries, growth and change.”
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