More to Bean than meets the eye
The reporting on August 13 of the rift between Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean and three former members of his shadow cabinet raised more questions than answers. I investigated online sources that weekend and got answers and more for a modest fee to access the allegedly offensive interview that Bean gave to Think Media's Politica.
I read a year's worth of content, watching interviews and committee meetings, and then summarised what I had gleaned because this information is not easily available to voters. The Royal Gazette later reported that Bean's leadership would not be challenged despite the articles on the Saturday that related to the irreconcilable differences between him and the aforementioned three.
The quotes and information provided on Saturday raised important questions such as:
1, Has Marc Bean recovered sufficiently to handle this continued conflict and opposition?
2, Will he face another leadership challenge
3, Given that Bean mentioned no one by name in an interview that has so enraged Zane DeSilva, Derrick Burgess and Wayne Furbert, what exactly did he say?
I have never met Marc Bean and, like many, have little more than the media to rely on when evaluating him as a leader. I do know now that Bean's media presence does him no favours.
One thing that Bean does not do well — because he simply does not do it — is manage his image, use the press to his advantage or “spin”. What you see is what you get: he's authentic, transparent and maybe too real. And he's being bitterly opposed by three seasoned politicians who have never been the poster boys for transparency, straight talking and exposing their own vulnerabilities. That Bean does epitomise these qualities has left him exposed and has allowed his adversaries to control the message.
I clearly remember when and how I first became aware of Marc Bean, the politician. It was about mid-2007 when he surprised everyone, not least of all his own party, by winning the seat held by Randy Horton, who was a government minister at the time. Then, because of the usual and expected confidentiality of inner party machinations, the public saw him seemingly cede his seat back to Horton and take another in an area that was not a PLP stronghold.
I remember questioning what had happened, to no avail. As far as I was concerned, the people of this Southampton voting district wanted Bean and party politics took him from them; their vote was meaningless. But what spoke to me was how this young candidate had been clearly voted in by the people, people who knew him and that's what I made note of.
I surmised then that he stepped back for a later promise and indeed it appeared that the promise was to be given Ewart Brown's seat when the latter retired. Many misinterpreted Bean's succession to Brown's seat as him being “Ewart's boy” and now their sentiment could not be farther from the truth.
Since the people who knew Bean elected him in 2007, rather than an incumbent from the same party, I was encouraged in 2012 after many of the old guard were voted out that the PLP voted for Bean as leader because it demonstrated that the party was back in touch with the people, who demanded change.
Some of the information given on Bean's interview that gave rise to the blistering e-mails was his pledge to once and for all end the “politics of plunder” and to change the “special diet that politicians have been feeding off for decades” of “over-government, bureaucracy and special interests”.
Reading this signalled that Bean could truly be a leader actually committed to change and to helping those people who most need it. To see him being fought tooth and nail by party insiders only cements this belief.
The United Bermuda Party was ousted in 1998 because the people demanded change. The PLP didn't deliver and in fewer than ten years had taken the UBP's focus on special and personal interests, and raised it to a new level.
That is why the newly formed One Bermuda Alliance edged the last election — bottom line. It doesn't matter whether voters stayed home in disgust or changed their vote; the PLP had only itself to blame.
But the OBA has also failed to deliver and the early resignation of its face of change, Craig Cannonier, owing to conflicts and allegations that he personally profited from a large government contract, has failed to convince the public that the OBA is not just the UBP renamed and is back to business as usual. And with Cannonier's replacement, Michael Dunkley, still holding the leadership position much less effectively than he held his ministerial posts, it is no wonder that we have grown more cynical — as the average Bermudian continues to struggle financially while the Dunkley administration pushes through with its agenda in the face of growing criticism and unrest over a series of questionable decisions that seem to have been made in a vacuum.
The OBA's seemingly genuine surprise at the taxi operators' anger and opposition at the introduction of a minicar rental Bill says the party is so out of touch with the people that it is disconnected to the point of autism. I, along with a vast number of fellow voters, lost any enthusiasm for Bermuda's political future; that is, until I paid my $10 to see what else Bean said in his interview that caused such a strong reaction.
First I noted that the interview and recording were available on think.bm on August 5 and Ayo Johnson confirmed that Furbert had accessed the recording that same day and circulated it to the other parliamentarians. Yet the flurry of e-mails from the trio were not sent to Bean until August 14.
What initially appeared to be a strong emotional reaction from the three was more of a delayed and co-ordinated response nine days later.
So taking a look at, and a listen to, the interview, what was so objectionable to these three?
1, Less regulation and taxation
Bean envisions smaller government, empowerment of Bermudians and allowing the industries that have generated such success for Bermuda to be allowed to continue free from additional regulation and the present level of protectionism in hiring practices. This makes economic sense and it should also appeal to every supporter of international business and free market economics. One of Bermuda's competitive advantages has been its ability to implement its innovation in a timely manner in response to economic events owing to the absence of excessive regulation. This would continue under a Bean government. This vision transcends party politics and should prompt many a sigh of relief that a PLP leader's vision to empower the people left out of the international business world is to generate opportunities elsewhere and not force international business to make further sacrifices and to pay penalties for its success. It's a “live and let live” philosophy that should have wide bipartisan support.
Bean notes that handouts do not empower the recipient and that government has ballooned and is serving as a de facto welfare system. Certainly, when the Government became Bermuda's largest employer, eclipsing international business, it was not a good economic event. If Bean can begin to reverse this trend without contributing further to the poverty statistics by providing economic opportunities for self-employment, I can't see anyone in their right mind objecting. The only people that would want to keep Bermudians reliant on government are those who seek to control the people, not free them.
3, Empowerment and opportunity
It has been long agreed that Bermuda cannot hope to flourish under one economic pillar, and Bean is the first to identify other viable industries — besides trying to prop up the floundering tourism industry, which faces worldwide competition. It is the age of the internet of things and Bermuda should use its position, unique to offshore financial centres, to enter these online industries. Bermuda is unique in its reputation that is untainted by money laundering, cartels and terrorist country usage. We have been unfairly lumped with other offshore domiciles, but not linked to any of the offshore scandals once investigations report their findings. We would not be the offshore risk transfer capital of the world if we were less than reputable in this area.
4, Healthcare and education
The social conscience of any country is measured by how well it protects its sick and suffering. We are failing at present to look after the weakest of our citizens and to provide all with the kind of education needed to compete in today's world. Education has also taken a back seat in every administration and is one of the sole sources of individual empowerment: once acquired, no one can take from you. I fail to see any issue here.
5, An end to politics of plunder and towards a politics of productivity
Bean noted that both parties were guilty and that the last PLP administration, that of Paula Cox, did not engage in the plunder. The preceding administrations were those led by Dame Jennifer Smith, Alex Scott and Ewart Brown. The only administration that the three all served in was the Brown administration.
This PLP divide was first aired when six shadow cabinet members resigned their positions — a seventh stepped down to retire — pursuant to differences with Bean's leadership. Shortly after, The Royal Gazette reported that Brown threatened legal action against Bean for the latter's unreported remarks at party headquarters. This divide is clearly delineated as Marc Bean versus Ewart Brown and their respective supporters.
Special investigations occur when financial rules are not adhered to such that vast amounts are spent with inadequate or no documentation, that “value for money” is in doubt and that a qualified third party cannot provide the people of Bermuda with the assurance that their tax dollars were well spent.
These investigations, conducted by two different auditors-general, are not guaranteed to uncover all areas of misuse of government funds, but they do point out projects where serious concerns arose.
They are listed in the attendant chart, where readers can draw their own conclusions.
I watched the video of the Public Accounts Committee's investigation when questioning the DeSilvas on the Port Royal construction and about issues raised in the related special investigation. This was a disappointment for the Bermudian public of no small proportion. Neither the trustees nor the head of the PAC believe conflicts of interest to be an issue; rather a joke.
Conflicts of interest are the single largest plague on good financial management and control, and can be managed easily with adequate disclosures and recusals. There is no circumstance under which the individual in control of a project can remain in that position when his own company is awarded the contract — in this case, absent proper tendering. The entire two hours of video were a farce. So much could be written, but space is limited. Bean's vision is encouraging and signals a real change from “business as usual”. He reminds us that politicians should serve the people and the nation, and having served should leave with their hands as empty as their consciences are clean.
I would like to see this vision given a chance and have hope that Marc Bean has what it takes to pilot Bermuda into better days for all.
• This article was amended to remove the incorrect suggestion that the Progressive Labour Party MPs Derrick Burgess, Zane DeSilva and Wayne Furbert leaked party e-mails to this newspaper. In fact the e-mails in question were not leaked to this newspaper by either Mr Burgess, Mr DeSilva or Mr Furbert. We apologise for the misrepresentation.