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Hard to save face when party is put before country

David Burt (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Since the America’s Cup was announced, the Progressive Labour Party has been talking out of both sides of its mouth. One moment it is saying it will have nothing to do with it; the next moment, it is claiming that it supports the event. But talk is cheap, and political parties should be judged on their actions and not merely on their words.

By now there should be no questions about the PLP’s intentions to malign the event. The party has repeatedly published false and misleading information about how much the event would cost taxpayers, and it has deliberately ignored Bermuda’s return on investment. Even more reprehensible, has been its repeated attempts to cast the America’s Cup as being exclusive to whites and something that blacks can neither relate to or profit from.

What is incredibly farcical is David Burt’s call for a motion of no confidence smack in the middle of the America’s Cup, while simultaneously articulating support for it. This is analogous to a man claiming to support his former girlfriend’s marriage to another, but then turning up to the wedding to pick a fight with the groom. It is impossible to reconcile the two, and the PLP has made clear it is willing to cut off Bermuda’s nose to spite the OBA’s face.

Several political commentators and ordinary voters have already explained why we should not be doing this now. But if I was to add my two cents to the discussion, I would highlight a few key reasons why the timing is incredibly bad for Bermuda.

High on my list is that we should not be encouraging Bermudians to resent our visitors, which is the inevitable consequence of the Two Bermuda’s inequality campaign. While inequality is indeed odious, the PLP has failed to present a viable alternative to upmarket tourism. Further, given its longstanding support for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, combined with its negative comments about cruise passenger arrival numbers, it is clear that it knows that our very small but expensive island requires tourists with the means to afford a vacation here.

The second consideration is that no-confidence motions and elections have a way of bringing out the very worst in us. During such times, racial hostility is deliberately dialled up and the last thing we need now are public displays of political hostility. At this time, we need to be promoting Bermuda — not brawling with each other.

Perhaps the most critical reason why the timing is self-destructive is that the Government should be focused on ensuring that the America’s Cup event is executed according to plan or better. Also, the Government should be focused on networking with visitors so that other potential development/investment opportunities are realised. Forcing the OBA to divert its attention to fighting a no-confidence vote is the kind of distraction that Bermuda really does not need.

So why the political urgency despite the obvious consequences to rebuilding tourism? Well, the most likely reason is that Bermuda is poised to have one of the strongest tourism years it has experienced in a very long time. The industry is starting to evolve and more opportunities are arising, as evidenced by confirmation of the international triathlons to be hosted here in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The construction industry is also about to reap rewards. The St Regis hotel development is about to start, the airport redevelopment has commenced and Caroline Bay is already well under way. Consequently, with rapidly increasing opportunities for Bermudians, the PLP’s claims that the OBA is anti-Bermudian will fall increasingly on deaf ears.

Finally, we cannot ignore the recent motion to have the Lahey case dismissed. Common sense should tell us that the PLP’s first priority upon reelection would be to drop the civil trials in the United States and Bermuda. This presents a significant conflict of political interest that voters should be very concerned about.

Regardless of the direct and indirect benefits to us all, the PLP’s objective has been to make voters feel alienated by the event, and thus be resentful towards it. We should also take note that for all the PLP’s talk about two Bermudas, it has presented no viable solutions to what really is a worldwide inequality problem.

Simply put, this incredibly deceitful and economically irresponsible political strategy is not about how the island is run during the final months of the OBA’s term. Instead, it is yet another display of the PLP putting the interest of its party above the wellbeing of Bermudians.

•To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail: bryanttrew@mac.com