Democracy requires freedom of speech
It was a busy week all around and I was looking forward to some downtime on Saturday. However, after reading the recent opinion piece by Jason Wade titled “Let's turn down the volume, Bermuda”, I felt compelled to respond for the good of the country.
While any strong democracy allows freedom of speech and respectful expression of one’s views, I find it astounding that a government MP would have the audacity to ask Bermudians who are frustrated, tired, upset and do not agree with some of the restrictions imposed by his government over the past 16 months to “turn down the volume”.
This comes from a government MP whose party, while in Opposition, supported civil disobedience and the People's Campaign and yet now in government, has lost its way over the past few months with restrictions and policies that many question on a daily basis.
Mr Wade, the mismanaged mandatory hotel quarantine for unvaccinated people is just one of them. There is a fairer way to protect our island home! I have been flooded with calls and messages from residents expressing their concerns.
Just Saturday afternoon, one individual told me about the experience of a family member who was mistakenly granted an exemption on arrival in Bermuda and on Day 13 of home quarantine was told that they would be collected and taken to a hotel for their last day of quarantine. At the time of writing, they were still at home waiting.
How do you expect residents to buy in to the mandatory quarantining for the unvaccinated, pay more than $2,000 and believe that it is in the island’s best interest — only for it to be revealed this weekend that 17 travellers were mistakenly allowed to quarantine at home when they should not have.
Mr Wade, for Bermuda Day, raft-ups were not allowed by the Government but a week later Revolve was granted an exemption, Shaggy came to perform and the Premier said “it wasn't me”!
We all support promoting Bermuda, but this double standard and not owning it shows a crushing lack of leadership.
Mr Wade, it is also about the costly and bureaucratic Travel Authorisation Form for which other countries have found less onerous solutions while still protecting their borders.
Just one of many calls I have received on this matter is from a couple who live on the West Coast of the US and are frequent visitors to the island. With restrictions being lifted they booked a flight and filed the TAF. After one day with no reply, they frantically tried calling and e-mailing the hotline to no avail. Their trip was cancelled, as the TAF did not arrive in time for them to make the plane.
Mr Wade, it is also about a depressed economy and many businesses, especially small businesses, which may never recover from the past 16 months. Through no fault of their own, they have been thrown into a precarious position and now have to try to rebuild with many restrictions, low demand in many areas and the high cost of doing business.
Throughout the pandemic, the vast majority of Bermudians have shown patience and co-operation. Now many are frustrated because of a government that is tone-deaf and prone to making bad decisions.
Mr Wade, yes, I believe we can and will recover from the pandemic. To do so, Bermuda requires a government that builds trust, listens to the people and is sincere about collaboration.
Bermuda will not turn down the volume until the Government actually hears what is being said.
• Michael Dunkley is the Shadow Minister for National Security and Health, and the MP for Smith’s North (Constituency 10)