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Vote of no confidence should be postponed

It was with considerable concern and disappointment that I became aware on Saturday morning that David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, had on Friday night filed a motion of no confidence in the One Bermuda Alliance government that he plans to debate when the House returns for business on June 9.

It is not that he has proposed the motion that causes me such concern; it is the timing of it.

June 9 is literally right in the middle of the month-long racing for the 35th America's Cup, which will commence on Friday.

Say what you will about the America's Cup, it is the biggest event ever held in Bermuda and may well never happen here again.

Back in late November 2014, when I heard for the first time that Bermuda was even being considered to host this truly world-class event, I was incredulous and really did not think that it was true or likely.

Two and a half years on and it is now upon us and Bermuda and Bermudians have worked incredibly hard to get us here. As I happen to have been a supporter of the America's Cup for as long as I can remember, I have kept a close eye on the progression to this point both internally and from an overseas perspective.

Without exaggeration, Bermuda will be the centre of the world's eye for a month. To call for a motion that could put a stick in that eye is clearly not a sensible thing to do.

I understand the rules, practices, procedures and traditions of our Parliament, which are derived from the Westminster system. I understand that on any construction or interpretation of those rules, practices, procedures and traditions that the Leader of the Opposition has every right to call for such a motion in the circumstances that now exist, with the Government having suffered two major resignations from its ranks and as a result of losing the vote on two opposition-proposed Bills on Friday.

Such a situation presents to the Opposition an opportunity analogous to being awarded a penalty towards the end of 90 minutes to win the match.

In ordinary and normal conditions, they would be viewed as stupid to not take the opportunity presented to them. However, we are not in ordinary or normal circumstances.

Bermuda suffered a serious economic setback with the global recession of 2008, from which it is still to dig itself out.

Hosting the 35th America's Cup presents us with a totally unforeseen opportunity to dig ourselves out of that hole. And now as the commencement of the racing draws near, the proof of that can be seen in the pudding.

The exposure that Bermuda received last Thursday and Friday on the hour-long NBC morning show Today — with Hoda and Kathie Lee with their guest, our very own, Michael Douglas — afforded us an unprecedented opportunity to showcase what our beautiful and peaceful island has to offer to the travelling public of the United States. Anyone who watched those two shows cannot have any doubt as to how attractive it made Bermuda look. It is, however, regrettable that it appeared to depict us as a white country as opposed to one of mixed race.

Unfortunately, there are dark clouds hovering over our international business sector that has put food on our tables for the past 35 years. There are many indications that going forward we may need to fall back on tourism to put food on our table. We need every second of this positive exposure and no negative exposure.

You will all see the gathering of the world's superyachts in our marinas and on Front Street. This may be the greatest gathering of superyachts and the super-wealthy of this world that has ever been seen up until now.

Superyachts and the super-wealthy in Bermuda mean money spent in Bermuda now and into the future. These individuals need to be made to feel safe and comfortable as to what is happening in Bermuda, and not uneasy and concerned.

Once the America's Cup gets under way, we will be seen live around the world every day for a month. Not only will the viewers see the races themselves, but at every opportunity, the cameras will flash over to our beaches, historical forts, clear blue water and beautiful coloured homes.

That is what we want them to see and hear. Not negative stories about a deep divide in our government. The news agencies reporting on the America's Cup can easily turn their cameras and their reporters around and focus then on our troubles.

Therefore, I would urge and call upon our leaders — David Burt, the Leader of the Opposition, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, and Randy Horton, Speaker of the House of Assembly — to get together at the earliest opportunity and agree to postpone this motion until July 7 or such other date after the completion of the America's Cup.

This may require concessions from both sides, but at all times our leaders should keep at the forefront of their minds not their own political agendas but the best long-term interest of our island.

From a different perspective, now is not the time to divide us as a people along political and racial lines. Remember how we all came together in harmony for the Music Festivals and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, delivered and arranged by the Opposition when it was in government.

Remember how we all came together and how much we enjoyed the Louis Vuitton America's Cup World Series in Bermuda in October 2015. Now is not the time to divide us. Now is the time to unite us as a people in the joint support and enjoyment of the 35th America's Cup to be hosted here over the next month.

If we are to advance successfully as a people, we must embrace the opportunities that bring us together, not seek ways to separate and divide us.

Wendell Hollis is the retired former principal of HCS Law

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Published May 23, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 23, 2017 at 1:27 am)

Vote of no confidence should be postponed

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