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Draw your own conclusion

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation for a moment.

You go to your closet one day, and you notice that you need a new pair of sneakers. You head to town to your preferred store, spot the model you want, and try them on. Next, you head to the cash register, present your card to the sales clerk, look right into the security camera, and pay for your sneakers. After the purchase is complete, you leave the store with your purchase.

Just after you leave the store, the manager comes running down the street accusing you of stealing the sneakers. In response, you pull the receipt out of your pocket and present it to him. The store manager inspects the receipt, doesn’t say a word and walks away.

A couple of days later, you leave your house to go for a run. Much to your surprise, there are a couple of police officers out in your front yard. Apparently, they’ve been told by the store manager that you stole a pair of sneakers. You show the officers your receipt, and you show them the transaction on your online banking statement. Having seen the proof of purchase, the officers go away and advise the sales manager what they found.

A few days after the police visit, you are at home listening to talk radio. Oddly enough, the store manager calls the radio host and once again claims that you stole sneakers from his store. The store manager doesn’t mention the receipt. He doesn’t mention the online banking transaction. He doesn’t even say anything about what was on the video footage captured at his store. He just keeps on claiming that you are a thief.

In such a bizarre situation, what would you conclude?

You can draw your own conclusion. But personally, I think that most people would conclude that the store manager is being, at the least, incredibly mischievous. I mean, why else would he not at least acknowledge the existence of the receipt, the online banking confirmation and the video footage? In my opinion, omitting that information three times in a row could not be described this conduct as being forthright.

Now let’s take this simple hypothetical situation and apply it to the warped world of Bermuda politics.

During the March 15 debate on the Government Loans Amendment Act 2024, the OBA reiterated their concerns expressed prior during their Reply to the Budget. They explained that they could not support the funding of housing and healthcare relief by using funds from the Sinking Fund. Their view was that there are other ways that such initiatives could be funded. They also claimed that the 2024 Budget isn’t really balanced, because the PLP was tapping into $40 million that was borrowed previously.

During the Senate seating a few days later, Shadow Minister of Finance Doug De Couto further explained that the OBA couldn’t support the legislation because the proposed changes would allow the Minister of Finance to use funds from the Sinking Fund for whatever purpose the minister deems necessary and without parliamentary scrutiny. It’s worth noting here that two of three Independent senators also voted against the proposed amendment.

Now at this point the OBA have clearly stated that they would have supported alternatives to using the Sinking Fund for financing housing and healthcare (eg Government grants). They’ve also clearly stated their concerns about the proposed language. Nevertheless, on Friday March 22, PLP MP Christopher Famous claimed that the OBA “voted against the Progressive Labour Party's efforts to keep health insurance costs down and create more affordable housing for the people of Bermuda.” In his words, “the One Bermuda Alliance opposed putting Bermudians first, opposed keeping healthcare costs down and opposed the construction of desperately needed affordable housing”.

Here’s the thing to take note of — Famous made no mention about the OBA’s position on the source of funding or the proposed wording of the legislation. He could have challenged the OBA on those two points, but instead he ignored them entirely.

The very next morning, the shadow finance minister created a Facebook post on All Things Bermuda (an allegedly unbiased Facebook group that is run by MP Famous and other staunch PLP supporters). Not only did Dr De Couto post the now-approved language for readers to consider for themselves, but he also claimed that had the PLP proposed language that restricted the use of those funds to housing and healthcare, the OBA would have supported it. And Famous’s response? He simply ignored him.

On the following Monday, Opposition leader Jarion Richardson claimed that Mr Famous had deliberately misrepresented the OBA’s position. He repeated the OBA’s position once again: “The legislation does not specify what the money would be spent on … So not only does the Government have no obligation to spend the money as they proposed, they also don’t have to tell Parliament if or how they did so.”

Now here’s what really caught my eye in that news article: “Mr Famous declined to comment when contacted yesterday.”

Why would he decline to comment instead of addressing the OBA’s rebuttals? Surely he’s going to shoot down their misrepresentation accusations? Perhaps he’s planning to respond in his column on Friday? Nope, nada. Mr Famous ignored the OBA’s rebuttals yet again.

The following week, the OBA candidate Sophia Tessitore wrote a column that once again put forward the OBA’s position. At this point we have Mr Richardson, Dr De Couto and Ms Tessitore, all pretty much offering the same rebuttal. Surely, if the PLP are going to issue a further response, they would offer a full and robust reply to the OBA? Surely they would soon claim that the OBA was being disingenuous, defend the PLP’s use of the funds, and justify the wording of the legislation? Wrong again.

On Friday, April 6, Mr Famous basically regurgitated his March 22 column. He tried to dress his points up a little differently, but just like before, he completely ignored the OBA’s counterpoints and claim of misrepresentation. On April 9, PLP MP Kim Swan followed Mr Famous’s lead and tripled down with the same anti-OBA rhetoric while making no mention of the OBA’s position.

If the OBA’s response is disingenuous, why didn’t Mr Famous and Mr Swan address the OBA’s receipt, online banking statement and the store’s video recording? They had multiple opportunities to defend the open wording of the legislation. They could have explained why it made sense to use the Sinking Fund instead of the usual financing methods. They could have shown why the Budget remains balanced despite the use of the $40 million from the Sinking Fund. Instead, they ignored these counterpoints entirely. Why is that?

In such a bizarre situation, what would you conclude?

You can draw your own conclusion. Personally, I think that …

• Bryant Trew can be contacted via e-mail at bryanttrew@mac.com

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Published April 15, 2024 at 8:00 am (Updated April 14, 2024 at 2:28 pm)

Draw your own conclusion

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