Good governance: actions speak louder than words
“Former Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess launched a stinging attack on the Commission of Inquiry and its lawyer yesterday, repeatedly comparing the way he was being questioned to an attempt to ‘re-enact slavery' and declaring he felt like he was before a ‘lynch mob'.
Mr Burgess took issue with Narinder Hargun, counsel to the commission, within minutes of taking the witness stand at the tribunal and went on to accuse him of trying to ‘beat me down like a slave' and of ‘racist practices'.”
— The Royal Gazette, October 7, 2016
In the 2015 Reply To The Throne Speech, Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean promised that the next PLP government “will have zero tolerance for any form of corruption and graft by any member of Parliament, the Civil Service or the public”.
The trouble with “good governance” is that, like “love”, it is far easier said than done. Both are “doing” words. As such, a failure to do as you say will quickly demonstrate that your actions speak much louder than your words.
Well then, what about the PLP's record of good governance actions? If you look back at its 2012 response to the Auditor-General's Special Report on The Misuse of Public Funds, you will find that it accused the Auditor-General of colluding with the media and the Opposition. What should be noted here is that this strategy of maligning the character of those who question the PLP is not uncommon. Nor did it cease after Bean made his good governance remarks.
Consider the PLP's reaction to the Commission of Inquiry, for example. If you didn't see or hear PLP MP Derrick Burgess testify, I strongly encourage you to grab a bag of popcorn and watch it online. Never have I seen a member of Parliament do so much to say so little about his questionable conduct. And by “so much”, I mean maligning members of the commission as racists or racial pawns.
Straightforward questions were met with convoluted answers. When attempts were made to clarify questions, accusations of racism were returned. Slavery, lynching and even cockroaches were raised as topics for the obvious purpose of derailing the tribunal. To point out the obvious, this is not good governance.
It might be tempting to believe that this kind of conduct is isolated to one person, but this is not the case. Maligning the character of persons or organisations that question or challenge the PLP is the norm. In addition to the commission members, you can add:
• The Governor and the Foreign Office for allegedly tapping the phones of PLP members
• The media and columnists for allegedly conspiring with the OBA to write biased stories
• The Speaker of the House for allegedly accepting a $45,000 bribe from the One Bermuda Alliance
• The Blue Ribbon Panel for allegedly having financial conflicts of interest
• The Police for allegedly taking instructions from the Premier to pepper-spray protesters
Even under new leadership, with grand promises of good governance, the PLP has resorted to the same old tactics. Last week, the Government filed a formal complaint against Lahey Clinic that contains allegations that make Jetgate look like child's play. Here was an excellent opportunity for David Burt's PLP to set an example of good governance, but it did the complete opposite.
Instead of cautiously supporting the legal action with a call for transparency and justice for both plaintiff and defendant, it has done everything it can to obscure the allegations.
It has claimed that the investigation is a witch-hunt.
It has rhetorically questioned the need to hire an American public relations firm, although it should be obvious why one is needed when litigating in the United States.
It has maligned the Police's collection of medical records, while dismissing the likelihood that medical records could contain valuable evidence.
And it has repeatedly heaped scorn on the expenditure and time taken to investigate the matters.
Whereas the PLP should be stating that the gravity of the allegations demands that they are thoroughly addressed, it has pivoted to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, with insinuations that Bermuda's relationship with the US has been jeopardised. Surely, this cannot be the party's biggest concern?
I get it: politics is a dirty sport. I also get that we cannot outright dismiss racism or the claim of a vendetta against Brown. But the PLP has shown a recurring pattern of maligning organisations and individuals, or deflecting to other issues of negligible concern as a means of avoiding fundamental good governance issues. This is simply unacceptable.
Bermuda does not need a government that once again refuses to be called into question. Likewise, Bermuda can ill-afford a government that refuses to be held accountable.
What we need is a government that embraces transparency and good governance both in word and deed. That is, one that will maturely, honestly and transparently address claims of egregious behaviour instead of attempting to change the subject.
To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org