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Let’s engage across sectors to benefit whole island

Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Opposition leader, David Burt, for exercising his leadership by encouraging supporters who oppose the Airport Redevelopment Project to demonstrate in peaceful ways that are within the law.

As reported in the media, Burt made it clear on Tuesday evening that campaigners could make their feelings known to members of Parliament during the upcoming debate in the House of Assembly on Friday, doing so in ways that are lawful.

I am writing this opinion on February 8, the 58th anniversary of the first meeting of the Progressive Group, which provided Bermuda with a vital shared legacy.

The Opposition leader's call is honouring that legacy of almost 60 years that demonstrated, through the Theatre Boycott, the power of peaceful activism, which recognises rules of engagement that protect the whole.

This means that our small island can engage in frank dialogue around differences while limiting the possibility of unintended consequences that could be self-destructive.

It is worth noting that the obvious intention of those pioneers in the Progressive Group was to “open the island up”. Let me suggest that it was that intention — their commitment to peaceful means and their alignment with the “arc of the universe” — that resulted in the successful removal of the formal barriers of race in Bermuda in two short weeks.

Notwithstanding the example offered in 1959, at times our emotions have led us off track.

So that in 1981, during the protracted strike by government workers, some folks became frustrated and staged an unsustainable picket/blockade at the airport — trying to “close the island down”. Enough of us redirected that negative energy and were able to collaborate with the Police to move the activism into the streets of Hamilton for a peaceful demonstration, and the challenging circumstances were transformed for the benefit of the entire community.

Burt has touched on the point that with “rights” come “responsibilities”. It reminds me of the period when I co-ordinated the Anti-Apartheid Coalition during the 1980s. One of the thorniest issues was the matter of economic sanctions against South Africa in the context of the reality of Bermuda's financial sector.

One of the key events was the island hosting a joint visit by Margaret Thatcher and George Bush, and we wanted to express our right to demonstrate our opposition to their stance on sanctions — but in the context of our responsibility to provide Bermudian hospitality. On the Monday before the arrival of the two leaders, we invited residents to demonstrate their solidarity with South African people by driving with their vehicle lights on. This effective demonstration was supported by more than 60 per cent of drivers of all backgrounds.

Burt's call comes at an important time, a period when the tone of the political discourse — both locally and globally — has been the cause of concern by so many of us.

In addition, during 2017, we will be preparing for a General Election, a time of hyper-competitiveness among political parties.

However, given the universal challenges being faced by all of us, let's consider an option. Can we use this year to engage across all sectors to benefit the island as a whole?

Glenn Fubler is a social commentator who represents Imagine Bermuda

Opposition leader David Burt (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published February 09, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated February 09, 2017 at 7:41 am)

Let’s engage across sectors to benefit whole island

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