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Crockwell case more than a touch of sour grapes

It has come to this: the breakdown in the relationship between Shawn Crockwell and Michael Dunkley, the Premier, has had myriad implications — mostly not good news for the One Bermuda Alliance

During the May 19 motion to adjourn in the House of Assembly, independent MP Shawn Crockwell spoke for 20 minutes about the next General Election. The crux of his speech was that the election will not be won by hotel developments or the economic turnaround. Instead, it will be lost because black Bermudians do not believe that the One Bermuda Alliance has their interests at heart.

I must confess that several things in the speech just didn’t feel right to me. On the one hand, Crockwell’s point about connecting with voters is a valid one. But on the other hand, I struggled with his inability to defend the OBA’s record in three circumstances mentioned.

The first circumstance was when he implied that it was extremely difficult to defend the America’s Cup expenditure after civil servants had to deal with furlough days. Really? I would have thought that the tourism minister at the time would have no problem explaining the critical need to rebuild Bermuda’s tourism industry. More to the point, he should have had no difficulty explaining that the foreign capital earned from initiatives such as the America’s Cup is the very means by which we should be paying for the Civil Service. The second circumstance arose when he rhetorically questioned how can we afford a commission of inquiry to investigate the Progressive Labour Party if we cannot afford a commission of inquiry for land grabs. Crockwell should have been able to explain right off the bat that:

• The commission did not exclude the OBA, so it is a fallacy to claim that the commission was to investigate the PLP

• The basis for the Commission of Inquiry are several reports by the Auditor-General, which raised multiple unanswered questions about the misuse of government funds

• The cost to investigate known allegations of financial impropriety against the Crown would likely be a fraction of the cost to investigate an unknown number of alleged crimes against private citizens that are more than 50 years old

• The PLP had 14 years to address land grabs, and it lost interest in the issue once its attempt to have the United Kingdom dissolve Parliament failed.

The third circumstance mentioned was his claim that during a caucus meeting held soon after a double homicide, no one expressed an interest in discussing violence in the black community. I had to ask myself, if this was an issue of such great importance to him, why didn’t he raise it? Directly contradicting the impression that Crockwell gave, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, subsequently claimed that he spoke in detail about the double murder at the beginning of the caucus meeting.

Although Crockwell’s inability to defend the OBA left me perplexed, the thing that really gave me discomfort, and increased my cynicism, was his posturing about what black people think. Far too much like the PLP, he seemed content to dismiss or ignore the OBA’s positives in favour of select, highly contentious negatives.

At least based on the conversations I have had and observed, I would say that many blacks don’t necessarily agree with every PLP/People’s Campaign/union public protest. I am also terribly sceptical of politicians who present themselves as “men of the people”. Given this, I’m compelled to ask whether or not blacks at large care that:

• The OBA has not had a single audit that raises questions about political interference or the misuse of government funds

• Good governance legislation and policies have been implemented proactively instead of reactively

• The economy is turning around, thus creating economic opportunities for black employees, homeowners and entrepreneurs

• Bermuda’s finances are better managed, thus we are in an increasingly better position to fund social services

• The Civil Service has been reduced, but there have been no redundancies

• We now have the highest level of transparency and accountability because of Pati being implemented, and a Commission of Inquiry was used to investigate good governance issues

Given the breadth and complexity of the issues, I felt it necessary to listen to Crockwell’s speech a second time. Having done so, I believe that it’s valuable to remind ourselves that he isn’t an independent by choice.

When Crockwell resigned from Cabinet, he publicly attacked his leader in a manner that seemed intent on triggering a leadership challenge.

Before his resignation from the OBA, he failed to set up a coalition government made up of disillusioned OBA and PLP members.

When he finally resigned from the OBA, he made incendiary claims about racial retribution. But, to my knowledge, he didn’t take legal action, and the claims have since been forgotten.

Consequently, this black voter wonders if the speech reflects Crockwell’s objective opinion of what blacks think about the OBA. Or, is it more reflective of resentments he still holds against the leader and party he tried to sink when he departed?

To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail bryanttrew@mac.om