Collaboration not on PLP’s radar
Regardless of the Progressive Labour Party's threatening conduct, and the multiple reasons it has given the One Bermuda Alliance to press ahead, there is still a better way of negotiating immigration reform. One Facebook user recommended that we ought to take the politics out of the process as much as we can and suggested using a Sage-type approach. The more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it.
A Sage-type approach with independent persons charged with hearing and judging the merits of recommended policy changes. Theoretically, a model such as this would put all political parties on the same footing and give others an equal opportunity to have their solutions heard in a controlled environment where protesters aren't allowed to shut down discussion.
The final objective of a Sage-type committee would be to publish its opinion on immigration reform. Ideally, the Government would be guided but not necessarily bound by it. Most importantly, such a model would help to steer us away from the paralysis that is guaranteed with a joint select committee.
This week's hostilities must also be factored into how Bermuda moves forward. This has not been a peaceful protest but a show of physical force that has taken the House of Assembly, and therefore democracy, hostage. Some have proposed that the actions are entirely justified, but I believe that it accurately reflects the PLP's disdain for granting status.
Throughout the PLP's history, and right up until June 2014, it has made clear that it is absolutely against the reintroduction of status until Bermuda becomes independent. This isn't an opinion; it is documented in the PLP's 2013 Throne Speech Reply, the 2014 Budget Reply and, lastly, in a June 2014 press statement. The first example I've found of any flexibility in its position is in the November 2014 Reply to the Throne Speech. But since then, the PLP has only entertained the idea of granting status to “children who were born here and had no choices but fall into a quagmire of immigration statuses or those who were brought up in Bermuda, speak with a Bermudian accent, have gone to Bermudian schools and have integrated with our society”.
The PLP has also grown a very long nose with regard to being honest on immigration. In December 2014, MP Michael Weeks claimed that Mark Pettingill, then the Attorney-General, told Bermudians to “get up and leave” if they were upset with moves by the OBA. But what Weeks actually did was take Pettingill's comments on extreme homophobia out of context.
Weeks is not alone. If I'm not mistaken, Christopher Famous has recently misconstrued Bob Richards's comments about rich white people owning land in Bermuda for the seventh time. When taken out of context, remarks about what needs to be done to make the economy work better for Bermudians are twisted into a gentrification conspiracy theory.
And let's not forget Shadow Minister of Finance David Burt's dubious comments about a great Bermuda exodus. All the data I've seen estimates that more than 1,000 Bermudians left under the PLP's watch, and fewer are projected to have left since 2012. Surely, Burt knows this, but nevertheless chose to paint a very different picture anyway.
Some say that respect is something that is earned and not given. I don't necessarily disagree, but on a most basic level, you should not expect someone to engage in bipartisanship if you're being utterly disrespectful. Consider the following comment, alleged to have been spoken by the Leader of the Opposition on talk radio after the Constituency 33 by-election incident:
“Tell me something, tell me something, what is the value of young women in the OBA? How do the men in the OBA value you ladies because it seems as if every single one of you young women are doing the same type of behaviour. It appears as if you are trying to get political advancement using the lowest common denominator.”
This is but one example of the PLP being incredibly disrespectful to their opponents — commonly described as “enemies”.
Now ask yourself, what is actually going to be achieved by branding OBA women as whores, calling the party demonic, describing their members as slave masters and likening the organisation to a disease-carrying cockroach? Is this really the behaviour of a party that genuinely seeks collaboration? I don't think so.
Again, the OBA could have done a far better job of introducing Pathways to Status, but we must not forget what it is up against. Back in 2013, the PLP proclaimed that the OBA had only 14 months to govern. Since then it has pushed for the dissolution of Parliament twice and, in 2015, Ewart Brown, the former Premier, urged the PLP to do everything it can to force an early election.
Instead of putting forward its own solutions for immigration reform, the PLP has called for Parliament to be dissolved a third time. Instead of addressing the impact that our diminishing population has on the sustainability of our economy, it has opted to squeeze the OBA around the neck. Obviously, its primary objective is removing the OBA by any means necessary, and not collaborative, bipartisan immigration reform.
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