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Negative politics won’t work

The late Frederick L Wade, while leader of the Progressive Labour Party, once told me his greatest pre-election concern was that a member of his party would make some statement that would not only be a poor reflection on that individual, but would also hurt the party.

He made it clear at the time that he had no desire to prevent members from speaking out on various issues, as long as they did so with a sense of responsibility, respect and concern for values he felt were necessary to build a better Bermuda.

Mr Wade was all too aware of our troubled social history, but he also knew the road ahead could not be paved with bitterness and revenge if we as a people wanted to reach a destination of understanding and harmony.

The recent statement by Environment Minister Marc Bean that Craig Cannonier, was elected leader of the newly formed One Bermuda Alliance because of his race, was not only demeaning, it was totally out of step in our diverse society where issues override race or ethnic origins.

It must be made clear that democracy provides the opportunity for anyone to express themselves, even when these views upset sensibilities or are disturbing. While that right must be protected, no one should be allowed to demean or insult the intelligence of the populace without being challenged.

In other words, those in positions of leadership should be extremely careful in their choice of words while expressing themselves. Surely Premier Paula Cox would not support divisive racial remarks whether from her party or any other group. She should openly condemn such tactics as counter-productive in building a better Bermuda. The One Bermuda Alliance would be wise to stay focused on key issues, and avoid the temptation to be drawn into a verbal battle over the matter.

Mindful that young politicians can stumble badly, it would be unfair to launch some type of personal attack on this young man who will learn that words carry significant weight, and a single statement not thought out properly, can do more harm than good. That goes for any member of Parliament.

What most Bermudians, black and white, are concerned about are the number of unanswered questions over a wide range of issues, especially Government's handling of the public purse. There is a strong feeling in the populace, rightly or wrongly, that too much has been swept under the proverbial carpet, and this leaves much of the electorate with an uneasy feeling that Government has not been totally forthright in explaining why we are in the economic situation we find ourselves.

Firstly, it's certainly not a crime to question any Government on any matter that impacts the people. The state of the economy is foremost on the minds of just about every Bermudian and despite optimism from our leaders that things will get better, many are unconvinced that Government has the fortitude to bring about the change required for success.

Democracy remains the tool for the people to decide who they wish to tackle key problems of the day. The problems are too serious to engage in politically motivated negative personal attacks. I believe the people are fed up with such tactics, and simply want our leaders to serve with dignity and a sense of responsibility for what is best for the people of our island home.

In the weeks and months ahead, if we allow ourselves to slip into the mudslinging gutter of bitter personal exchanges, we will all be destroying the future of those toddlers playing at nurseries who should be growing into a Bermuda where character and values are the main ingredients for success.

In any general election, the party in power usually pulls out all stops to maintain its hold on power. The Opposition will also leave no stone unturned in its quest to gain the leadership of the country. The voters will need to observe carefully both sides and weigh up the positives and negatives before marking that ballot paper. Much will depend on their judgment regarding Bermuda's future.

Personal attack: Marc Bean speaks at a press conference announcing his candidacy for the Warwick South Central by-election in 2011 as Premier Paula Cox looks on.

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Published March 07, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 07, 2012 at 8:31 am)

Negative politics won’t work

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