When the problem solver becomes the problem
Back somewhere in the early 1980s, The Royal Gazette covered the story when Sir John Swan added Chitranjan “Raj” Nadarajah, the son of magistrate K.C. Nadarajah, who majored in political science and became an assistant adviser in the Office of the Premier.
The Premier took a lot of stick for that, in particular from Dame Lois Browne-Evans, the Opposition leader. Raj would be what we called from the “yuppy” age — the young adult socialiser type, gregarious, intelligent, informed and could carry a conversation with just about anyone.
It was during that period of Raj that many young aspirant politicians with entrepreneurial instincts associated with the Progressive Labour Party began to join the United Bermuda Party in droves. I cannot give all the credit to Raj; he came from a prominent family of lawyers, and his sister had a practice on Victoria Street before leaving for Cayman Islands and elsewhere in the West Indies. They are both now deceased.
He did what was subtle diplomacy, the kind of coffee chat aimed to spread the idea that by supporting Sir John everyone would progress because “John has a plan”. You may remember persons such as Maxwell Burgess grew up leading the PLP’s youth wing. I can recall him in high school at the age of 15 or 16 talking about when he will be in Parliament. But he joined the UBP and was a great loss at the time for the PLP.
The power of the government purse when used to encourage its own agenda is difficult to block. Premiers have the capacity to develop many projects or portfolios, which may seem relevant or benign, but are part of a political campaign.
It gave me pause enough to wonder if there is another young gentleman today whom we could fit in the category of a “yuppy” — and there may be. But unlike Raj, who was Sri Lankan-Indian, Jonathan Starling is White, similarly well educated, and seems to play the role unofficially and tactfully much the same as was the case with Raj — as an agent to forward the Premier's agenda. Now, in the case of Sir John Swan, it was a transparent and designated paid position as consultant. But in the case of Starling, we have a paid government worker drawing a salary from the public purse who is a popular blogger that generally patronises or qualifies the Government’s or Premier’s positions.
I have some friends that are civil servants and I have never heard a squeak from them regarding the Government or a political opinion, and if I ever mentioned anything about a minister or ministry, they would quickly tell me they don’t want to hear it, even in confidence, or they would ask me to talk to the minister involved.
So now we have a young man who works for the Government and has been appointed to a commission, and who seems to be defending a system, which his own mind, with his scholarship, should conclude to be archaic. He demonstrates a constitution, as if to defend it for the PLP, which clearly posits four categories in rank, with the lowest being the voter. No, the voter does not have the rights that a member has, and a member doesn’t have the right of a delegate, and a delegate doesn’t have the right of the leader — it is just not a body of equals.
This is 60 years after the march for equality, and 22 years on from one man, one vote of equal value for us to submit to a surgical bypass that circumvents all platitudes so we can end up with “you can vote but you have no say”.
Did anyone in there hear about the movement in the United States a couple hundred years ago — “we the people” — which ended in a different constitutionality wherein people are to be equal?
The big question is why would a White Saltus Grammar School graduate from an affluent background be fighting to defend a non-progressive ideology in a principally Black organisation? I’m not touting racism here, as I do remember when Alex Outerbridge joined the PLP. But then he was on the right side of history, seeking change. Now 60 years later, there needs to be change and this gentleman is holding on and promoting status quo.
While Bermuda must come to terms with needing a better functioning democracy, the Black population, which constitutes the majority, must come to terms with its own failures — even political ones. We can no longer hide them because they are killing us. Our job today is to find the leadership that can bring the people together, stop the civil war and forge a new destiny mutually as equals.
Is there anyone out there who, with the people’s help, can do this?
This battle must be fought intellectually among ourselves to develop consensus on where we go from here. I do not know where this young man Jonathan Starling gets his starting point for a forward vision or to become part of the discussion — not that he innately cannot. But from where did his empathy develop? I accept that our educational system has churned out different subgroups and that many of the former Saltus students have a niche and can be persuasive. Beyond that, I don’t get the sense of his familiarity of our sociopolitical history and struggle, which runs too deep for him to connect because he now puts himself on the wrong side of history.
It is time for the PLP to be reinvented and not fortified. The PLP was formed 60 years ago to solve the problem; now it is the problem.
This adage tells the story about the party: “If you bring a prince to solve your problems, he may well solve them, but your next problem is how to get rid of the prince.”