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Doth protest too much

Zane DeSilva used his “20 minutes of fame” in the House of Assembly to pillory the media without appreciating the time-honoured adage that the pen is mightier than the sword (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

“Mr Speaker, MP DeSilva is misleading the House”Leader of the Combined Opposition

The motion to adjourn in the House of Assembly over the years has produced some of the greatest entertainment in the legislative session. Some of it is informative, some combative and some downright hilarious — an opportunity for parliamentarians to show off their childlike sides, no matter that they are still on the people’s dime.

This just-completed session, however, plumbed new depths for outrageous foot-in-mouth moments, as first Deputy Speaker Derrick Burgess dropped “two premiers” in it by announcing that they had had their bank accounts terminated and then criticised the Civil Service for bullying a young businesswoman without providing full disclosure that said businesswoman was his very own granddaughter.

These events had the knock-on effect of, or triggered — in lexicon that “Bullets” Burgess would appreciate — a responsible media doing the right thing by making inquiries, which led to David Burt completing a transaction with this newspaper after much prompting with a view to quashing conjecture that he was one of those “two premiers”.

But without Mr Burgess in the first place speaking from his pulpit protected by parliamentary privilege, these stories and the suspicions do not exist — or sprout legs.

Next we have Jason Hayward telling the Bermuda public he doesn’t want their vote and then getting the hump because his speech was reported verbatim.

“You know what I mean” are five of the most infuriating words to be heard in an educated society — which we proudly, and at times arrogantly, insist that we are. In this industry, they are words to be thrown back in the face of a reporter with a firm “Do better!” flanked most likely by choice expletives.

Mr Hayward had to do better than making independent references to constituents putting their dogs on him and him subsequently not wanting their votes — a full 30 seconds apart. It is then not good enough to say “You know what I meant” or for his colleagues on the green side of the aisle to say “We know what he meant”. All of the country must know what you meant immediately; not wait for you to return to the House days later to better elucidate your sentiments after the horse had already bolted.

And even then, should he not, as a self-proclaimed man of the Church, be forgiving and welcoming of all men — foes and friends?

“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” (Ezekiel 36:25)

Finally, it was the turn of Zane DeSilva, more impish than godly, to have his Speaker’s Corner moment in another tired attempt to demonise the media for doing their job. We will be the first to admit that we don’t always get it right, but for a politician of more than 20 years’ experience to protest they have families portrays a naivety that is so not Zane DeSilva.

More up his street were falsehoods that this newspaper, in particular, does not care about the community, and did nothing in the face of mounting gang violence and the continuing spate of senseless road deaths over the past decade or more.

You would have had to have had your head stuck up your own backside not to appreciate the extensive reporting of Sam Strangeways in the wake of tit-for-tat, gang-attributed murders first terrorising the community in and around 2008-09 or the 18-month-long campaign driven more recently by Sarah Lagan, aimed at combating drink-driving and other longstanding abuses of our roads. There have been other campaigns and special reports, too, which, among others, spoke to poor treatment of our seniors in care homes, at-risk youth in overseas facilities, and those otherwise vulnerable.

So, yeah, you bet your boots we care about this community.

Now is the turn of Belco. After years of air pollution and soot dumped on neighbouring residences, and an upheaval of its delivery system which was meant to alleviate the problem but which has instead had the effect of exacerbating it, we began to ask questions. Especially given that the utility has fallen under new seemingly progressive ownership. The answers to some of these questions could only be gleaned through the use of exhaustive Pati requests. This ultimately led to “The Belco Reports: Clearing the Air” — a quite extensive exposé by Ms Lagan and Fiona McWhirter into what has gone horribly wrong at the North Power Station.

We are not making this up: an entire new entity, the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition, has been formed by area residents with a view to seeking justice for those worst affected. Its statement of purpose reads: “Local residents and business leaders have formed the Bermuda Clean Air Coalition, an activist group, aimed at bringing awareness of the grave implications caused by Belco’s stacks and machinery to the public and Belco’s staff, management, owners and shareholders. With the recent sale of Belco, it is even more imperative that the company address these issues before the new owners are straddled with an outraged community and legal implications.”

It matters not that Wayne Caines is a Black man, a proud and hard-working Black man at that — or that he bleeds green. But he, as president of Belco and parent company Liberty, is caught up in the middle of this and rightly must bear the brunt of the public fallout. Even Mr DeSilva accepted as such by the end of his meandering and contradictory rant.

Speaking truth to power is not a popular pastime; nor is it for the faint-hearted. But that’s what we sign up for in this largely thankless profession. The lot of a politician is often similarly thankless, and if Zane DeSilva wishes to be hand-on-heart honest with the Bermudian people — those who have “attack” dogs and those who don’t — he would put a sock in it, appreciate in a bizarre way that we are cut from the same cloth and roll with the punches.

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Published March 31, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated March 31, 2023 at 11:33 am)

Doth protest too much

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