Let’s talk about independence
Recently it was announced by the British Government that Bermuda's first woman and first black governor will take over the job this year. Rena Lalgie, the director of Britain's Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation at the Treasury, will succeed John Rankin in December.
Ms Lalgie said she was “immensely proud” to become the first woman governor. I hope Ms Lalgie enjoys her tenure here and that Bermuda gives her a warm welcome.
Reactions from the community to this “first” announcement have been varied, ranging from very positive to extremely critical. On June 19 during the House of Assembly's motion to adjourn, there were lively and passionate speeches on the subject of the role of our British-appointed governor and our colonial status in general, and I present a few excerpts below:
Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker:
“I'm not advocating for anybody black, white or other to be the Governor of Bermuda. I'm for independence and this is more like Britain trying to appease us by sending us a black governor ... a British Government that represents white supremacy.”
“December 2, 2016 where they pepper-sprayed seniors with the approval from Government House — two officers who used it were promoted ... promoted for pepper-spraying seniors!
“They would have never used pepper spray on white folks! This is some of the history that Government House has carried out. They have no respect for black people, none whatsoever!”
“There's been too much silence on the injustices in Bermuda — too much silence in Government House when [Major] Marc Telemaque was qualified to be in charge of the Bermuda Regiment and they told him ‘you're young, you've got more time' and gave it to the white gentleman.”
“We must pursue the fabrication of lies and evidence and we've got to stop making appointments based on race in this country!”
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works:
“I don't appreciate anyone of any colour descending into my country telling us what we should be doing when we certainly cannot do the same elsewhere. This [Governor] appointment is quite an insult to the Bermudian people, designed to keep the natives from getting restless! Put a black face there and they will feel appeased!”
“This window dressing won't fool many of us, and then there's the ‘muck-de-muff' people who line up to be the first to host new governance, to get on the preferred list to invitations from Langton Hill. What will be interesting to see is if the same plethora will be extended to her as her predecessors.”
It is abundantly clear that this Progressive Labour Party administration — and the PLP party — abhors our colonial system of governance and I continue to wonder why it has not taken more direct action on the issue of independence. A pursuit that we all know they are passionate about, which is written into their constitution and which they have “campaigned” for since the formation of the PLP.
When will they feel the time is right? Why not now? Is it because they sense the majority of Bermudians are not in favour of going independent? Is it because they feel Bermudians are still not well enough “informed” on the perceived restrictions of our colonial status and thus they fear the referendum will fail? Is it because we all need more “educating” so that we will then fall in line with their stated end goal?
It is almost as if this administration wants to maintain the status quo and can then continue to preach how racist and discriminatory it feels our system of government is, which then becomes an effective distraction from the struggling economy, debt levels, underperforming education system and our alarmingly increasing social issues.
We all know that this PLP administration — and others before it — have been extolling the virtues of independence for decades. Interestingly, when we look back at our “independence history”, the Bermuda Independence Referendum was held in 1995, under the United Bermuda Party premier, Sir John Swan. The vote result was decisively against the idea with 73.6 per cent voting “No” and a voter turnout of 58.8 per cent.
Although in favour of independence, the PLP, then led in Opposition by Frederick Wade, actually voted against that referendum Bill and called for a boycott of the referendum itself, with the reason being that independence should be determined in a General Election.
Here we are, some 25 years later, and still blaming many of our ills on our colonial status. The PLP has been in power for the majority of this period. So why not resume the independence conversation directly with the people? We have had 2½ decades of “continuing education” on the topic. Take the people's official “temperature” on the matter and then we might move a step forward and out of this present fog of nationhood inertia.
Our politicians can then spend more time — actually, maybe less time — in the HoA doing what they were elected to do: legislating sound and sustainable fiscal policy with a social sensitivity.
Ps. Do I smell an election?