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A simmering story of repression

One day when we open up the books and be honest with ourselves, we will be able to look at the travesty that took place in the early 1990s. A travesty not quite of the proportion of the Tucker's Town land reappropriation, but every bit as devastating to the country and black entrepreneurship, in particular.

The year 1993 was a quarter-century ago and many of the players on the scene have since died or are very senior. Some of the victims have also died or are in their senior years. Some fled the island and have totally relocated, while many others who remained have seen their lives ruined by systemic repression.

In and around 1993, the banks uncovered what they determined as a syndicate of black bankers, lawyers, accountants and developers who were working together through the collaboration of their various institutions.

I don't know that what this alleged syndicate did was illegal because communication between banks and clients is normal to the industry. However, I am not going to say the banks and their legal firms were entirely wrong because there may have been circumstances of impropriety that did occur.

It is possible that the banks' suspicions may have been well founded and that there may have been a real syndicate operating unethically.

The problem is that with whatever circumstances that might have been illegal, they weren't publicly prosecuted, but rather in a clandestine, mafia-style method, numerous persons were targeted and held as guilty without any form of due process.

Whatever process used was held behind closed doors and acted upon without any counter-representation. Persons who were never a party to any syndicated extortion, but who had innocently acquired loans from certain individuals, were lumped into the suspected bunch and victimised by having all their loans called and credit squeezed. No one at any bank was charged for any crime, but many were retired, some with golden handshakes while others' jobs simply were made redundant. You can guess the complexion of either case, but, needless to say, all the standby victims — many of whom contractors and developers — were black, as far as I can ascertain.

When you take 70-plus leading entrepreneurs out of the Bermudian business equation, it has a devastating effect on the balance and the issue of inclusion.

One may ask, how was this possible? At the time, 1993, we are talking about all the financial institutions working in collusion. Essentially, this means all the legal firms being tied to the process also.

What about the Government? It would be impossible for the Government not to have known because it was effectively controlled in those days by the banks and a few legal firms.

Aside from that, I knew a few individuals who had warned me of what was to happen before it actually took place. But I was too naive to know the full complexity and could not believe that people sitting right next to me would be so treacherous. Additionally, I did not belong to any syndicate or group, so never suspected I would be targeted.

Thirty years will have passed soon and all of the witnesses will either have died or become incapacitated. I don't publish lies or fiction, and this story, which has been very neatly kept under the wraps, needs to be told.

The Walton Brown Act may be one avenue. However, this is also the role of effective journalism. Our media were the instrument that opened the door to transparency and it would only be consistent if they were to take on this subject, which devastated the lives of many Bermudians.

They were made hapless under a system where they became blocked by all the institutions, including the Government, becoming prisoners forced into mediocrity in their own land.

It would be deep hypocrisy for this generation to get emotionally worked up by the events of Tucker's Town but allow a more present-day event to escape right under their nose.

Khalid Wasi

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Published December 13, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated December 13, 2018 at 7:40 am)

A simmering story of repression

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