Misinformation and political division
Christopher Famous wrote an opinion last week about the new airport terminal and the events surrounding the passage of legislation. This opinion provides another look at the matter and provides facts that the Progressive Labour Party overlooks.
December 2, 2016 was a day on which, sadly, people were pepper-sprayed, and those memories will be etched in our minds for many years. However, what the PLP to date has overlooked is that December 2, 2016 was also a day when political scheming, lawbreaking and police actions collided to create a day that no Bermudian can be happy with. I will come back to this later.
But first I wish to deal with misinformation from Mr Famous, one of the instigators of that sad day on December 2, 2016.
• He writes “the One Bermuda Alliance government of the day wanted to gain access to the House of Assembly to pass legislation to hand over our only airport to Aecon for 30 years”.
In case Mr Famous is not familiar with the law, the Parliament Act 1957 in section 12 states that interference with the legislature is an offence and in section 13 that disturbance of the legislature is also an offence. So the One Bermuda Alliance as the Government, just like the PLP government now, should always be allowed access to Parliament to conduct the people’s business.
Why people were not warned early that day and then arrested if they failed to allow access is a matter for the police to answer. I suggest if the “Opposition 6 + 3 (senators)” did that today, they would all see the inside of a paddy wagon .
• Mr Famous states that revenue from the airport could have been used for maintaining our schools or paying down debt.
Does he refer to the primary schools the PLP government is closing? And talk about paying down debt; if the PLP, which had plans to build a new airport as far back as 2007 at a cost of $500 million, had borrowed that money to build an airport our debt would be much higher than it is today and our servicing of debt would be greater than the $130 million per year we pay now!
• Mr Famous writes: “... while we are suffering from Covid-19, we are being forced to pay even more money”, referring to money held in escrow owing to the airport being closed by the Government as a result of the pandemic.
What he and others fail to recognise is that if Bermuda was not building a new airport terminal now, with the airport being closed as a result of the pandemic, all the airport revenue would be lost and many of the expenses, such as salaries, wages and employee benefits to name just a few, would still have to be paid.
Mr Famous was one of many PLP MPs who were prominent in illegally blocking the gates to the Sessions House grounds. Through robocalls, WhatsApp messages, a meeting at St Paul’s Centennial Hall on the evening of December 1 and other calls to arms, tensions rose, and people became aggravated and agitated. Since this was the case, why did the Joint Select Committee not interview PLP members involved that day such as Mr Famous, Derrick Burgess, Michael Scott, Jamahl Simmons, Wayne Furbert, Walter Roban, Jason Hayward and David Burt?
Then out of the blue, the PLP government, using taxpayer funding, makes confidential payments to 28 protesters totalling $161,400! The details emerged only via a Pati request and the payments were listed as “ex gratia payments”.
One payment to an undisclosed individual was for $48,000! When questioned on who received the payments, it was disclosed as confidential by government! Many people question this confidentiality and wonder if PLP members received payments? Did Mr Famous receive a payment? Why the need to cover up?
The new terminal opened on December 9 and because of Covid an official opening was reduced, with two PLP MPs cutting the ribbon. New MP Ianthia Simmons-Wade said Bermudians should be proud of the new airport and “first impressions are lasting impressions.” Then a day later, perhaps after being called on the carpet by the Premier, she does an about-turn and says the “new airport is a bad deal for Bermudians”.
Ms Simmons-Wade, you had it right at the ribbon cutting when you smiled, posed for pictures and said we should be proud of the new terminal. Yes, many Bermudians are proud and I am confident it will serve the island well for decades to come.
Thank you to my OBA colleagues, especially the former Deputy Premier and Minister of Finance, E.T. “Bob” Richards, for all their vision and hard work. The project created hundreds of jobs, almost 400 Bermudian businesses were contracted and now we have a badly needed new terminal that is a wonderful gateway to the world and to our island.
The OBA accomplished much for the island with projects such as the airport and bringing partners and investment to the island such as the Loren and St Regis. The America’s Cup was a huge success, bringing much needed spending to the island and exposure all over the world, which in itself paid for our investment in AC 2017. Government finances were put in a better position and a glide path was being worked for a sustainable future.
Yes, the OBA made mistakes, but what government does not?
I am proud of what was done in a short period of time and I have learnt invaluable lessons. One such lesson is to speak loud and clear when being challenged with misinformation. The article by Mr Famous was wide of the mark and I, Mr Editor, thank you for allowing me to offer some context.
• Michael Dunkley, the Shadow Minister of National Security and Health, and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10), was the Premier of Bermuda between May 2014 and July 2017