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The price of freedom ...

In 2017 at the very beginning of the new Progressive Labour Party term in government, I recall the sentiments and spirit in which I wrote — coming off the back of the One Bermuda Alliance’s failure, but, more importantly, after the disastrous end to the PLP term in 2012.

Own man: David Burt, pandemic or not, has an opportunity to set himself apart from past leadership (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The new PLP leadership faced a people who had suffered loss of pride and held embarrassment from its previous term as leadership, which had sunk the country into an enormous debt with a runaway leader whose performance was under a cloud.

Prevailing disappointment would be an understatement, if we compare the enthusiasm and hope that pre-existed for a dynamic leadership to have emerge from the PLP. A hope conditioned particularly in the Black community, which held a messianic cry for redemption.

This cry permeated the psyche of the Black community; even Sir John Swan’s leadership was challenged by that predisposition. He would no doubt tell of the struggle he had with the conservative elements of the United Bermuda Party to satisfy the need for progressiveness in the Black community. He would perhaps say that the struggle to satisfy those two competing demands, with overbearing conservative pressure, created an imbalance he could not overcome. It cost him his leadership, then ultimately the party failed at the polls.

The PLP was awarded a victory in 1998 and was greeted with the hope of a new era in Bermuda politics. The party inherited an expectation and, just like cooped chickens, the first two leaders walked timidly about their roles, which from an economic perspective was benign in performance.

Ewart Brown came in with a different sweep. His leadership was not going to be inconsequential; he had great vision but was foiled by the perception of self-dealings.

I can posit that all would have been forgiven in the Dr Brown administration were it not the case that the national debt grew to an unsustainable level and his style of leadership created personal bruises among too many, including his own party and parliamentary colleagues. No easy task would be left for any succeeding PLP leadership.

It would not matter whether it was David Burt or the proverbial John the Baptist who would be the follow-on leader after Dr Brown; the task was to prove infallibility, to demonstrate a clarity and transparency that had been missing in previous administrations. The population has become increasingly educated: they have already experienced ugly, therefore the face of ugly is sealed in the social conscience.

Any hint of a return to the days and type of bad leadership would be sensed as neo-corruption, if not a surrogate, and would be met with resistance. That is why in 2017 in my writings, which are there for the record, I was encouraging the leader to go beyond himself and set a new legacy of his own.

Bermuda is considered as a First World nation and has been a global leader as a small jurisdiction in many ways. Leadership in Bermuda has always needed to be gregarious and not insular. The existing fracas within the PLP reeks of an atmosphere of insularity. The organisational structure of our parties and political machinery is by its nature closed-shop where leaders can't help but feel that the world works for them, and they are not reciprocally responsible to the world around them. Add a small circle — because no man is an island, no man stands alone — and you have a cabal.

How should all of Bermuda respond to issues that are germane to one sector of the population? If that question is asked of Haiti, it may be easier to visualise. History is clear that Haiti was the first slave colony to achieve freedom. While that is celebrated in many Black quarters, that which is least talked about is that most of the wealth within the country remained in a few hands.

Yes, they have had Black leaders, indeed a series of them, most of whom were dictators of one sort or another. It made no difference to the few elite owners of the economy who the dictator was because all the leaders suppressed their own, while the wealthy went about their business. The merchant class there enjoyed that one from among the majority populations controlled the population, keeping them in check, while the wolves of the economy ran free.

In summary, Bermuda does not want the path of Haiti, and Bermudians need not apologise for demanding clear and accountable leadership. The country cries for authentic leaders who can bring the best out of its people. Bermuda has an undeniably unique history and none but those who are acquainted or can empathise with that history can restore it and the country to any sense of pride.

Part of this political struggle is a cultural war where some who have arisen to leadership are very thin on even the knowledge of Bermudian heritage. This situation arose because of the nature of globalisation, which for Bermuda began at the close of the 19th century and has continued unabated.

It has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance and I suggest the same is absolutely true for Bermuda. If we do not keep our eye open and demand openness and accountability, we will be taken.

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Published September 10, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated September 10, 2021 at 8:13 am)

The price of freedom ...

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