Seriously? ‘Cereal’ offender could do with spell on bench
Wayne Caines is in charge of a most serious ministry. It is a ministry that is charged with promoting a new industry that could do wonders for an uncertain economy. And it is also charged with ridding the island of a pernicious drug and gang culture that has led to the disenfranchisement and deaths of countless young black men.
National security is serious business, indeed. But how are we to continue taking seriously this leader when he appears destined to stumble in self-destruct mode from one embarrassing calamity to the next?
Equally alarming has been the public reaction to this now international incident of asking a London storekeeper for “titty milk” and broadcasting the exchange to the world. Not from those who have been rightly appalled by the minister's conduct, made worse because he was on government business — no matter that he might have been on his downtime — but from those who quite hypocritically would wish this lapse away as though it never happened.
After all, the minister has apologised and, further in his defence, this was only a rare lapse of judgment from someone whose positives far outweigh his negatives.
A rare lapse? If only.
The wheels started to fall off, almost literally, for this particular minister as early as February, when he was spotted by a fellow motorist displaying the sort of driving behaviour that gave rise to our Drive for Change campaign launch only a week earlier.
Approached for his version of events, the minister was given the benefit of the doubt and the letter never ran. But since that incident has been followed by an extended drive through Hamilton with a motorcyclist connected to his government vehicle in March, a skirmish with a player during the second day of Cup Match last month and now this unbelievably crass request of a stranger while on government duty last week, we feel obliged now to give some benefit of the doubt belatedly to St George's businessman Martin Brown.
The crux of the hitherto unpublished letter reads:
“This morning (February 7) at about 7am, I witnessed a smart blue car come swinging around the roundabout from the Causeway into the airport. The driver had a phone clamped to their head in one hand, the other casually one-handing the steering wheel through the sweeping turn — we all know the style. With both hands so occupied, the driver was unable to signal on to or off the roundabout, so it was up to me to guess the intention — again, we all know the style. Small change in the grand scheme of things, right? The car? GP7. The driver? None other than our Minister of National Security, the Honourable Wayne Caines.”
On the morning in question, the minister was on his way to fly to Santa Monica, California, for the Montgomery Summit, which focused on technology and innovation.
Doing the people's work. And that is what Caines has significantly in his favour. The people.
He is, or was, comfortably the most popular minister in David Burt's Cabinet — perhaps more so than the Premier himself — giving him the greatest wiggle room should he fall shy of what is expected of our elected leaders.
There was an excuse given for the airport roundabout caper.
There was an excuse given for why he effectively allowed a sidecar passenger from Parliament Street to the end of Victoria Street — busy roads.
There was an excuse to explain away a Cup Match skirmish at Somerset Cricket Club as the figment of the media's imagination — despite two Royal Gazette journalists and several others bearing witness.
Like his pained attempt at an apology for the Cereal Killer Café video nasty, he did the same on Facebook, banking on blindly loyal followers siding with his version against the “bad old Gazette”. And when we responded on his page to bring absolute clarity to the events that led to a heated difference of opinion between himself and Treadwell Gibbons Jr on August 3 — the St George's player had the moral high ground because Caines and his marching brothers had intruded into a restricted area — that comment was deleted.
The generally adverse reaction to the “Cerealgate” apology meant he had to go one better, or worse, and delete his entire Facebook account, as well as that which put this incredible story in motion — Instagram.
The timing to come across as a misogynist could not have been any worse, coinciding as it did with his family's annual back-to-school extravaganza and the announcement of a teatime celebration of the Progressive Labour Party's leading ladies.
The optics elicit eye strain.
The Premier has given the minister a pass by all accounts, but those who feel this has been a storm in a milkless teacup should note that he did not interrupt his government business in Europe to have words with Caines for no reason.
This, indeed, is serious stuff, and it would have come as no surprise had Caines fallen on his sword — or been made to. He has burnt, if not seriously unhinged, some bridges in social areas where Bermuda already does not cover itself in glory.
Women's rights, sexual abuse, child abuse, gay rights — we cannot be said to be progressive as a society on any count.
“Glacial pace” would be a more accurate description.
That perhaps explains why Caines has as much support as he has on this matter, even ludicrously still from the “hearing-impaired” who insist that what he said to the storekeeper was “tin” or “tinned milk”, and refuse to back down even in the wake of the minister's mea culpa.
You could say the minister knew his audience among several thousand Instagram followers, and that their moral compass was horribly skew-whiff. That and an outrageous sense of narcissism are the only explanations for why he would do this to himself, not appreciating that fans — not to be confused with supporters — would be hit with something Bermudians would rather not catch a whiff of or be tainted with.
The stink around the Minister of National Security is palpable and is of his own doing. He will do well to recover a hard-earned reputation.
Remaining on the front line after the most astonishing of own goals — his words, not ours — is fraught with the danger of ridicule and no longer being taken seriously.
A spell on the back benches for an otherwise eminently likeable man makes most sense, with a view to growing and coming back stronger.
Caines does not have to look far for living proof of the same: Walter Roban left Paula Cox's Cabinet after the planning permission scandal of 2011. He took a back seat, then became Deputy Premier six years later.
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