Brown remembered fondly by both sides

  • No turning back: Walton Brown’s unending quest for justice, which included leading a group of protesters on a storming of the Senate in 2016, is central to his legacy (File photograph)

    No turning back: Walton Brown’s unending quest for justice, which included leading a group of protesters on a storming of the Senate in 2016, is central to his legacy (File photograph)

He was an activist with a firebrand streak, but even Walton Brown’s political opponents regarded him as more friend than foe.

Members on both sides of the aisle shed a light on the personality behind the politician as they took part in a 3½-hour special sitting of the legislature at the House of Assembly yesterday.

Mr Brown famously called for a “campaign of civil disobedience” as an Opposition MP in 2015, when protesters interrupted the Senate debate on immigration legislation.

Jamahl Simmons, the Minister without Portfolio, called his colleague “a freedom fighter in Opposition” and said that occasion might have been the first time in history that demonstrators shut down the Upper House.

Kim Swan, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, drew laughter when he spoke of Mr Brown’s calm during debates.

He added: “I’m trying to take a page out of his book and be a little more quiet spoken.”

Opposition MPs Sylvan Richards and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin commended Mr Brown’s ability to “disagree without being disagreeable”.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin told the House: “Walton showed that civility is possible even if we are divided.”

She said she would make “a concerted effort to change even my approach”.

Michael Dunkley, a One Bermuda Alliance backbencher, said: “Walton and I sat on different sides of the aisle. But I always had respect for the former minister.”

Mr Dunkley said he had seen the House become “more acrimonious, more divisive and less respectful at times”.

He continued: “But the former member was not like that. One of the things that always struck me about Walton — he was never personal.”

As the shadow immigration minister during the OBA’s time in government, Mr Brown was frequently at odds with the administration.

Crystal Caesar, a PLP senator, said Mr Brown’s passionate discussions about the Pathways to Status legislation inspired her to get involved.

She said: “Through that meeting, I developed a connection with Walton that has actually brought me here to stand as a senator today.

“He, myself and two others came up with the ideas for some of the protests at more of the public meetings that had been held.

“I’m not a morning person, but he convinced me to get up early one weekday morning and stand down on East Broadway and interrupt traffic to make the island understand and note what this legislation could possible mean to the country.”

Tinée Furbert, the Junior Minister of Disability Affairs, remembered “how he felt about us giving allegiance to the Queen”.

She added: “Every time, I would look up to see what he would do. Deep down I knew where our allegiances should lie.”

Renée Ming, a PLP MP for St George’s, said Mr Brown was “cool, calm and collected” and had encouraged her in her pathway to politics.

But his refusal to stand for God Save the Queen at the Peppercorn Ceremony had caused her “heart attacks”.

“I almost died,” she said. “I said, ‘What are you doing? You are in St George’s. You have to act proper.’

“I was fit to be tied. I was having about five heart attacks, telling people to hit him.”

She said two days later they spoke about his decision and explained his reasoning.

Ms Ming said: “I came to respect that position and understand the ‘why’ behind it, and that led to further conversations about independence and immigration.”

Despite his strong opinions, Ms Ming said Mr Brown would always listen to others, which helped him build relationships with those on all sides of the political spectrum.

Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, said the description of Mr Brown as a “gentle giant” was far from the whole story.

She said: “The ‘gentle giant’ that you have all portrayed is unknown to me because in debating that legislation in a private conversation with Walton he shouted at me and insulted me and called me a ‘back seat protester’.

“I didn’t sleep that night, and I was actually a consultant down at the Cabinet Office. I went to work the next morning and corralled the staff and we marched up at the House, and from that moment I was branded a troublemaker.

“But I’m happy to stand in this chamber and be a troublemaker because that’s what we are chosen to do, what we are called to do.”

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Published Oct 12, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 12, 2019 at 7:34 am)

Brown remembered fondly by both sides

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