Burch in spirited defence of daughter’ Weldon
The Minister of Public Works asked residents to show their support for his “adopted daughter” who MPs heard is on a “zero dollar” contract to help in the battle against Covid-19.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch told the House of Assembly on Friday that some attempts to bring down Carika Weldon, a biochemist and researcher at the Oxford Genomics Centre, came from women who worked in the Ministry of Health.
He urged people to back the scientist by signing a Change.org petition, which had received more than 3,300 signatures by yesterday afternoon.
Colonel Burch told MPs: “I feel compelled to speak to the disgraceful and malicious treatment Dr Weldon has received.
“It started even before she arrived on these shores. I will admit that the first person who questioned her credentials was a white man, less qualified than her, but simply exercising his white privilege to question the qualifications of any black.”
He added: “But the majority of those deliberately planning and plotting for her ultimate failure are black women and many of them work in the Ministry and Department of Health.
“I’ve witnessed treachery before, but never to the extent being repeatedly visited upon Dr Weldon.”
Colonel Burch said that although he could “name names”, he would not. He explained that it was his expectation that his “tempered comments ... will encourage those who have been acting in this manner or those supervisors who have provided either tacit or overt consent for others to do so to make a concerted effort to fix this”.
The minister warned: “Failure to do so, will leave me with no choice but to call those names and take other actions, to force them to correct their behaviour.”
He told MPs earlier that he supported the sentiments of a recent speech by Renée Ming, before she was appointed as Minister of National Security, who he recalled said that it was “time for women, especially black women to stand up and take their place ... in whatever arena you can make a difference”.
Colonel Burch added: “I would like to go a step further in exploring this concept and talk about the elephant in the room — the jealousy and envy of black women towards other black women who are successful.”
He explained that the behaviour was not exclusive to black women but “that’s who I wish to address today”.
Colonel Burch said that he first met Dr Weldon last November and described her as “an impressive young lady” who exuded competency and sincerity.
He added that he next met the geneticist in April when she was released from quarantine after flying back to the island from the UK. Colonel Burch said: “From that point, I adopted her and told her parents that I had done so. I told her that she is now my daughter.
“As a fellow Bermudian I am so proud of her accomplishments and impressed with her work that I committed to doing everything within my power to ensure her success.”
He explained that Dr Weldon left her job at Oxford abruptly to travel back to Bermuda, where she spent her two weeks in quarantine co-ordinating the set-up of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Southside.
The minister added: “She designed a Covid drive-through testing facility, she recruited an army of young Bermudian students to teach them about her work.
“She has worked tirelessly to test as many residents as possible and produced those results in record time.”
Colonel Burch said: “Why would any bright, young Bermudian, and there are countless numbers of them, want to return to this place when there are those who will happily spend every waking moment trying to tear them down?
“May I also state that there are work-permit holders who have been both nasty and disrespectful to Dr Weldon.
“There is no foreigner who should think they have licence to disrespect Bermudians. They are guest workers in this country and they should act like it.
“Of course there has been at least one member of this House who falls into that category as well, he should know that I will not hesitate to call his name if necessary.”
Colonel Burch called on “all of these people to cease and desist”.
He told the House that Dr Weldon signed a contract with the Bermuda Government “that pays her zero dollars” and said that he believed the agreement should be renegotiated “and she should be paid handsomely”.
Colonel Burch added: “I asked some of those black women, who have been terrorising Dr Weldon, for all the barriers you have broken down, I cannot understand why you would erect them anew, to block another talented black woman.”
He said: “As a villager in this country, Dr Weldon and all young people striving to reach their full potential are connected to me, and so, to attack them means you also attack me.”
Colonel Burch said: “I want to stress in the strongest possible terms that Dr Weldon is the real deal, she has already put Bermuda on the map.
“She willingly answered the call to help her country.
“She did not sign up for all this foolishness and all of us must show our support for this most outstanding young Bermudian.”
• To sign the petition in support of Carika Weldon, PhD, visit change.org/supportdrweldon
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