Community needs to rally together – Premier
David Burt, the Premier, has said the community should rally together for causes such as comforting the families of two men killed in separate incidents last week, in a statement defending Bermuda’s border control policy.
The Premier also warned of “baseless character attacks” circulating via WhatsApp and social media.
But his remarks drew a rebuke from the One Bermuda Alliance, with the Opposition accusing Mr Burt of engaging in a “disappointing” distraction from unrest over the Government’s mandatory quarantine for unvaccinated travellers.
The Premier’s statement was apparently referring to the deaths of Quan-Marley Lowe, 33, who was murdered in an attack that took place in the early hours of last Monday, and Ra-Che Williams, 23, who died last Friday following a hit and run incident.
“There are causes to which we should rally and come together,” Mr Burt said.
“Two families in Bermuda are mourning young men, taken from them so unexpectedly. This in addition to the families who have lost their lives to Covid-19. Have we become so lost in social media play in Bermuda that we fail to value those lives lost and to make our first priority to comfort the families they leave behind?
“Our sense of community and our priorities must be reordered so that we again capture the love and unity that saw us through the darkest days of 2020.
“No amount of unsigned WhatsApp forwards or baseless character attacks will save lives in this country.”
This morning in an open letter to the Premier, which was shared with The Royal Gazette, Eron Hill, who said he worked closely with Mr Burt during the 2017 general election, launched a scathing attack on Mr Burt.
In the letter, Mr Hill says: “The families of the two men who lost their lives over the past week are in the thoughts and prayers of all Bermudians; why do you think it’s okay to use the tragic loss of life in an attempt to bolster your position on a totally unrelated matter?
“You and I know both know that your back bench doesn’t support you. You have destabilised the core support of the Progressive Labour Party and you have disrespected the very union that has been the backbone of the PLP since inception.”
Cole Simons, the Opposition Leader, responded that the OBA agreed that the community needed to rally during “difficult times families are having as they cope with loss”.
But he called it “disappointing to see Premier Burt hide behind these losses to distract from what’s going on with the country”.
Mr Simons said: “The OBA had called on Premier Burt and the Progressive Labour Party government to reconsider the mandatory quarantine at the travellers’ expense, and despite outcries from the public, no one seems to be listening.
“Yes, it is imperative that the people of Bermuda remain safe so that life can return to some semblance of normal, but how many times can the voices in the community be ignored?”
But in his statement, Mr Burt said Bermuda’s fate hangs in the balance.
“We are on the verge of change; either positive change with strong borders aggressively defeating the potential harm that variants bring or the most negative change possible where a variant outbreak occurs and we have seriously ill people whose families could lose their loved ones,” he said.
“We see countries around the world forced to re-implement restrictions due to outbreaks of new and dangerous variants.
“In Bermuda we’ve lived that already this year, with an outbreak of a new variant costing us 21 lives, which robbed our students of in-person learning, and our citizens the opportunity to provide for their families.” The variant referred to was the B.1.1.7, or Alpha variant.
“The people of Bermuda know strong border protection is the only way we will reclaim this summer and move beyond the pandemic. They know that strong border protections combined with immunisation is the only way that we will be able to avoid the re-implementation of local restrictions.
“But this is not unique to us. In Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada, governments have adopted risk-based border policies similar to those in Bermuda, so that economies can be renewed and people can begin to live their lives again.”
Mr Burt said that his government was committed to making tough decisions in order to “move this island beyond the pandemic”.
He added: "Governing a country during a once in a century pandemic is not easy, but it is necessary that in the face of storms that the Government remains focused on its principle objective, and that is to keep the people of this island we call home safe.“
Mr Simons accused the Government of losing the trust of Bermudians, adding that “for a brighter future for all they need to listen to the people of this country and govern accordingly, while maintaining a balance for the safety of all”.
He said: “We appreciate it’s a difficult job, but the country requires fair leadership.
“It’s only right that it is provided, or discontent will continue to rise and our future will be bleak.“