Log In

Reset Password

'The foundation has been laid'

Premier Jennifer Smith
Q: What have you found to be the key parochial issues in St. George's North?A: What I have found is that the majority of constituents say that they do not have any burning issues because they know that Government has done a good job and we've done the best under the circumstances.

Q: What have you found to be the key parochial issues in St. George's North?

A: What I have found is that the majority of constituents say that they do not have any burning issues because they know that Government has done a good job and we've done the best under the circumstances.

This does not mean and I do not take it to mean that they are completely satisfied. What it means is they understand the challenges and that nothing happens overnight.

I have also met people who have expressed that, while expressing that they knew that I know, that they're concerned about crime that they want to make sure that the area will continue to be properly policed, that they are concerned about double taxation and that they are quite happy with the rest home plans that have been revealed to them. I've found that the same concerns that people have in the rest of the Island, they have in St. George's.

But have people said that to me? No they haven't said it like that. They have primarily said 'We think you've done a good job, we know you haven't finished yet, keep it up'. If pressed about an issue then you get all the other concerns. They are concerned about young people, they're concerned about increasing violence, they're concerned about everything they've seen and heard in the news.

Q: What are your proposals about this issue of double taxation?

A: I agree with the public entirely. We don't think it should happen but you must realise that the Municipals Act gives the municipalities the right to impose certain taxes. They cannot be voided or done away with without that coming from the Corporation. Certainly we are open. We cannot - government cannot - go ahead with legislation to do away with some other group's ability to raise funds without that group agreeing. You can't just do that. So what I'm saying is that the ball is still in the court of the Corporation of St. George's. However, we have been looking for a solution to the problem. And we are hoping to, should the Corporation would want to do away with that right and thereby stop the double taxation on people - government is open to talking to them about doing that.

Q:I was speaking to Minister Terry Lister who said that some headway had been made with regard to young people hanging out in the area...

A:He would be speaking from the perspective of the Police. But I just want to say about young people hanging about anywhere - it happens all over the Island at various locations and it happens in St. George's. That, in particular, has not been raised as an issue with me. But what I have heard people express are concerns about young people and violence. In fact just yesterday one of the people I've canvassed commented about the fact that he no longer had a problem with young people hanging out in his particular area and he further commented that he had approached the young men and had spoken to them very sternly. One young man, I think, was not appreciative but he made mention of the fact that ever since he had spoken to them how respectful the other young men were whenever he saw them. So it says something about approaching people.

Q:Is it correct to assume that you will remain as Premier for a full term if successful at the polls?

A:Are you trying to enquire as to any future plans I might have?


A:If elected by the people of St. George's in Constituency One to represent them for a term I would expect to do that. My term as leader of the Progressive Labour Party is subject to our Constitution and I expect to continue to lead them as long as members continue to want me. So I'm available to do that.

Q:What arrangements are in place to handle your duties as leader of the country, the party and a single representative of your district ?

A:I really try very hard not to re-invent the wheel. There are single seat constituencies all over the world. And what do other people do? They have branches and people who are in the constituency who ensure they are aware of problems and situations and they work on them. In the same way that Ministers have had to do in the past. I wouldn't be so naive as to think that in every dual seat that both partners pulled equal weight and I certainly know in the past Bermuda has had people in dual seats who represented both parties. So in that case one person has been the representative and if that one person was a Minister and the other person was an Opposition Member that one person was on their own, so it has happened already.

In the last five years I had a running mate who was there and furthermore I was down there on the second Saturday of every month.

Q:Caricom. You're about to go to Jamaica. How excited are you that we are about to make that step ?

A:Not at all. I say that because we announced - it was almost a year ago exactly that we did it in Parliament and we've announced it and one would have expected, given normal circumstances that we would have signed before now. But it is significant, I think, that we are signing on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Caricom. So I do think it's somewhat of a coming of age for Bermuda and a coming of age for the Caribbean - that on this 30th anniversary we become associate members in more than name only because we've acted in that capacity for the past several years.

Q:Are there any potential risks with Caricom associate membership?

A:Well if I saw any potential risk I wouldn't do it would I?


A:Why would I do something which carries a potential risk? I mean does it sound sensible to you?

Q:I don't know.

A: What do you mean you don't know? You must have an opinion. I think I'm a sensible person I wouldn't do something that was stupid. As an overseas territory we cannot do things that are international on our own. We must first seek what they call an entrustment from the UK. So that means somebody other than me has looked it over and said "OK Bermuda, this is something you can do'.

The UK sent their entrustment that said yes. And once we had that that's when we said we can go ahead. Beyond me looking, there's someone over my shoulder. So there's two people, there are two methods of careful examination.

Q: Would you describe yourself as very cautious?

A:I think I'm very practical, I think I'm sensible. I'm certainly not incautious -that's never been my modus operandi. I don't even think I should have to describe myself. The fact that it took me 17 years to win my seat - in the same seat running in every election - must speak to the fact that I'm... I almost want to say a plodder. I take my time doing things.

With Caricom, it's been some three years that we've been talking about it. It was a year ago that we actually finally said we were going to go ahead with it and it's just been a simple matter of the actual physical signing that has been delayed over a year. So it's somewhat anticlimactic I would think.

Q:Did it start with Mr. Patterson's visit, when he basically challenged Bermuda to make a decision ?

A:No it started with Baroness Scotland who said that Bermuda, [while not geographically in the area, should be operating with our neighbours and should be sharing our intellectual capital and our experience. And that's why you hear me constantly talking about the two way street. It's not a matter of what is Bermuda going to get? Bermuda has a lot of experience and it's "what experience can we help others out with?" And Bermuda I can say, has been doing that for some time. As I told you we've been associate member on everything except in name. We've been the leader on reporting on AIDS/HIV, and so Bermuda has actually been taking the lead - so much so that we are very recognised within the region in that area and the WHO has recognised it as well. There are benefits to being a good neighbour and Bermuda should look forward to being a good neighbour. We benefit when other countries have experiences and we should be willing to share the same way. I don't think that should be a problem.

Q: What are the two most important reasons for the PLP to be voted back in?

A: I can give you one and I can give you several. The most important reason is that we have delivered on our promises. That's the most important reason. The second reason is that we have only just begun. So we have not finished what we have begun. If I were to give you 36 reasons it would be my fabulous candidates - each one of them. Choose.

Q:If re-elected, would you expect to go the full five years?

A:I don't have a crystal ball. You're asking me questions that require me to know something about the future. I'm not going to reply to that. If you had asked me in 1998 'would I go the full five years?' I would have said no.


A:Of course I would not have planned to go five years. Why would I?

It's like in life. I'm sure you expected to be married now with little children running around. So you know - best laid plans of mice and men...

Q:You'd be wrong there.

A:I can tell you without fail I was planning the election last year. It took longer than expected to have single seat constituencies. So I can not answer what's going to happen next term. The only thing I can answer without a crystal ball is 'will the PLP government perform even better in its second term than its first?' Yes. There's been lessons learned, there's been progress made and I think we are more experienced.

Q:What do you think are the biggest problems facing the Island now?

A:The same problems that were facing us before. So let me say this. We have not in four and a half years solved the drug problem. You can write that down in big bold headlines. We have not in four and a half years solved the housing problem. We have not in four and a half years completely eliminated violence from our society. We have not in four and a half years completely revamped the education system and ensured that every single child is indeed a student of excellence. Those are the things we have not done. So when we came in 1998 the major concern was education, other issues of concern was tourism, traffic, crime, housing drugs, seniors and healthcare. Those issues remain today. But in each area we can talk about the progress that has been made under the PLP. Progress, but we have not completely eradicated problems or completely taken care of everything. In education you already know the steps we've made. I can tell you that in health care it's one of the issues that I've been discussing on the doorstep in St. George's because you will recognise that closing the St. George's Rest Home was one of our first actions. Well I take great pride in taking credit for the fact that we introduced standards for rest homes and we introduced standards for private rest homes as well as government homes. And these are standards that can be tied to licences because if anyone has an elderly parent and wants to contract for care, you would want to know that the care lives up to certain standards. That was not required prior. So once we introduced standards we held government to the same standards that we had for private institutions. And once we held Government to those standards we had no choice but to close Government-owned facilities because they did not live up to that standard.

Now in seeking to rebuild a government facility for the east end some of the things we did was to look at the population projection to tell us how many people over the age of 65 and 70 would be in the eastern parishes at a certain point in time and we did the same for the western parishes and the central - so we could plan for at least ten years. Having determined the capacity that a facility in St. George's would need in order to take care of the seniors at the eastern end of the Island, remembering that seniors are the largest growing segment of the population - so you can't just build a little small something and think you are taking adequate care for future seniors. You need a facility that encompasses certain parameters. Those parameters included, because we believe in mixed living. We don't believe in shuttling our seniors off to an isolated part away from everyone. We believe that they should be a part of a residential community, we believe that they should include all of the various types of seniors there are so the facilities that we have plans for - not just plans, we've got a location, we've got plans and I believe there's been some funding for the plans and I think the next thing has to be actual funding for the structure. What we had envisioned will be a mixed use facility. There will be an Alzheimer's unit, there will be an assisted living unit, there will be an independent living unit. It is situated right across from a clinic. It is situated convenient to buses, convenient to a pre-school, a primary school and a community centre. Could you ask for a more convenient location ?

Q:This is going to be a priority?

A:No, we've been working on it from the beginning, but the method of working on it has been not just to go and hastily throw something up. But first we undertook to determine what's the future aged population in eastern parishes, what are their needs and what kind of facilities should we build. Then you have to look for locations. Once you have those locations then you have to draw up plans. Plans are site specific... so we've come that far. Having agreed the process - that's the process for all of the Government rest homes.

There will be changes depending on the location of each rest home but all of the Government facilities will be brought up to the same standards. We've instituted standards.

Q:It's interesting you should focus on that for a while because I was going to ask you whether you accept this criticism of the PLP, where some supporters of the party say that there has not been enough focus on social issues.

A:That's not true. That's certainly not true.

Q:You reject it completely?

A:Yes. It's certainly not true. Our focus is not band-aid. We do not have a band-aid approach. Having been on the outside for 35 years and complained of the band-aid approach of previous administrations, where they looked like superficially they were doing something for social issues, where we now know from experience that social issues were not dealt with.

We were not going to give it the same kind of superficial band-aid response. The response of how seniors should be housed - and I say to you it's the fastest growing segment of the population, it's the largest segment of the population and that there were no standards. If I'm telling you, there are no standards for rest homes, you're going to tell me seniors are being taken care of? Impossible. So what we've done is a laborious and methodical way and it's the best thing. We introduced standards. We didn't introduce standards out of thin air. That meant we had to look at what other countries do. What should the standards be? What do you require? We actually went into great detail about this. In what should a facility - and I don't want to call it a rest home anymore - what should a senior care facility provide? People like to talk about mission statements now. What should their mission statement be? They are there to serve the needs of the population in their later years. And that means that they recognise that those people have value. People don't realise they have the same body, that means you need exercise, you need fresh air, you need all these things. But there was no exercise component in our rest homes, there was no activities component.

So don't let them tell you we haven't done anything for seniors, we haven't done social issues - we have done a great deal of work. And I've said it before it's like building a house and I can use the Bible in this as well as construction - if you build in sand it will blow down.

You have to build on a solid foundation and the foundation is important. The foundation is not glamorous. People don't appreciate a house until they see the roof go on, then they start to look at it. And the point was we're building a foundation and it's not glamorous, it doesn't look nice and everybody's saying you haven't done anything, I'm looking up there and I don't see anything. But if we didn't put the foundation in and we just put up the house it would go down, that's my point if we just put up the house it would be irresponsible.

Q: So the foundation has been laid?

A: The foundation has definitely been laid. And not just in that area - one of the major accomplishments of this government has got to have been the alternatives to incarceration initiative. You couldn't get more social problem solving than that initiative. It was cross Ministry, it impacts on people's lives in a very real way and it provides the benefit of if you are young and make a mistake, of not having that reflected on your record - that will affect you for the rest of your life. Surely that must be an achievement - that we've created a system whereby you can receive help, pay recompense for what you've done wrong and come out of it with your record intact so you can go on having made a mistake, having corrected that mistake, to be a law abiding citizen.

It was a major initiative and for that we had to train judges, we brought in all kinds of stuff, it ran across three Ministries, and it was a major, major deal.

You can't sit here and say what's wrong with our young people, the boys are being locked up. We know what the prison population is, and yet when we do something to stop that revolving door, to see that young people are given a second chance - tell us we haven't done anything about social issues? We have. That's a major issue.

Not only that we did more things than that. We introduced home care givers for people who keep their aged parents at home, because we realised that it's better financially rather than having them in long term resident extended care unit at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital which is a primary health facility. If you keep them home it is better for us to provide somebody to help you keep them home than to have to foster care at the home. So you know things have been happening and people just aren't aware of it and why? We print up the brochures, we've got a one-stop for seniors where you can find information on anything that we provide. We advertise. You know we cannot do more than that. If someone says I don't know, they don't know. But I cannot force feed information.

Q:ATI, though, started under the previous administration.

A: I beg your pardon? No it did not.

Q:Are you saying the PLP is completely responsible for ATI?

A:No, no, whatever the previous administration started was not what we had done. If they are trying to take credit for this then you need to know we obviously did something good.

They were doing something with somebody in Scotland about something. That was not even close to what we came up with. It's the difference between you making mud pies as a child and your mother made the real pie and you say you made that pie. A mud pie is not a real pie.

Q:I have to ask you this though. One of the things that might have confused some supporters of the PLP was that three days after you paid a glowing tribute to Reginald Burrows he comes out calling for your resignation after the election?

A:What does that have to do with my glowing tribute?

Q:I'm asking you what were your thoughts when that happened ?

A:How is it that you don't know, as I've told everyone, I don't read the papers ? I wasn't there. If Reggie said that, I'm sure Reggie had his reasons.What does that have to do with my telling you about what he did. What he did, his accomplishments, stands alone. And contrary to popular opinion, if you have done something good I try and say it. Haven't I been known even to compliment you Ayo Johnson ? Answer me now...

Q:On the odd occasion.

A:That's right. So what I'm saying is when somebody does something good I compliment them no matter who they are - even reporters. And when somebody does something bad, I might comment on that too. There's nothing new about that. I don't think that would confuse any PLP supporters, you see, because one thing about us in the Progressive Labour Party is we agree to work as a team. That doesn't mean that we think each other is perfect and it doesn't mean we agree on every single issue. That has never been the case of my political party and given the variety of characters that we have in our party I don't think that will ever be the case. So to say that two PLP members present different opinions, this will not cause you to blink an eye because that is not unusual.

I could go back and find you historical examples. You want me to do that ?

Q:We could do that, but we won't.

A:I sure could.

Q:So effectively then, the PLP is in good shape heading into the elections despite these criticisms coming so soon before an election?

A:I don't know what people you are talking about coming out with criticisms ?

Q:We're talking Reginald Burrows and Arthur Hodgson...

A:What criticism did he make?

Q:Mr. Burrows said you should step down within a year after the election.

A:Isn't Mr. Burrows entitled to his opinion?

Q:I guess he is. Mr. Hodgson said nothing different was done from the previous administrations.

A:Mr. Hodgson ran against me for leader so wouldn't you expect that ?

Q:My question is...

A:Your question is what? 'You still have, Premier, somebody who ran against you in the year 2000 because he didn't think you were doing a good job still doesn't think you're doing a good job.' I think that's consistent. And if Mr. Burrows thinks I should step down, well, he's entitled to his opinion.

Q:My question really is about the state of the party.

A:I've answered it already. I answered it coming out of the 2002 delegates conference. We came out ready for the general election, united and there's been no change.

Q:What would you do differently in a second term as leader of the party?

A:I don't know if I can say what I would do differently. The second term would be different by virtue of the fact that it's the second term. But you need to know this as a matter of fact. People like to find out would you do something differently. I do not believe in the retrospective thing. Hindsight is 20/20. If I had to do something all over again would I do it the same way? Yes, I would because that was all I knew when I did it and I did the best I could. And I am comfortable with that, That I have done the best job I could do. Now other people may have different opinions, but I was the person who was in the situation at the time and I did the best I could. So if I had to do it all over again I would do the same thing. Unless somebody magically gives me other powers that I didn't have when I did it the first time.

Q:But now you've got the experience.

A: That's what you said about the second term. That's why I said that's different by virtue of being the second term. You've already have had the experience of the first so obviously some things are different. I mean if one doesn't grow one ceases to live. So you can't be asking me have I learned something from the last four and a half years. Of course I have. I'm not stupid. I mean I keep having to remind people. I mean, yes, I've learned something from the last four and a half years. I've learned many things.

Q: What are some of the most important things you've learned?

A: To thine own self be true.

Q:You must have known that before.

A: Not as… It wasn't brought home as definitively as it has been. They were all lessons I knew already. 'Cast your bread upon the waters and it will be returned to you.' I found that to be true. 'Make your friends before you need them'. They're all things that I knew before. Have I had all of those come home to me? Yes. There were other things I learned that were particular lessons for particular situations, which would be experience. You became a reporter but you learned other things - that was part of the experience gained on the job.

Q:Can I ask you about campaign finance. Who are your largest donors?

A:I don't have a clue.

Q:You don't ? Who does?

A:Who does? I could probably go and find out. But when I say I don't have a clue, that's not something I concentrate on. I've been asking everybody for funds. In fact have you made a donation?

Q:No comment.

A:You give it to me, I will take the cheque and give it to the treasurer. So I don't keep in my mind how much Ayo gave or how much David gave.

Q:If somebody gave you a check for $100,000 you would remember that?

A:Not necessarily because I expect to get a few.

Q:From who?

A:From whomever. I'd like to know why you ask me. Have you go $100,000 to give me or has somebody said they're going to give me $100,000 ?

Q:Could be.

A:Could be what ?

Q: Either one.

A:That was clear as mud. You must be making some more of those pies.

Q:The reason why I ask the question is...

A:I don't read your newspaper. So whatever else is going on I don't know about it.

Q:We haven't dealt with this in the paper at all. But there might be some people wondering who might be trying to influence what they think might be the next government. Do you think those are legitimate concerns in a democracy?

A:I wonder whether those concerns have just arisen because they've had governments for the past now 40 years. Have they never been concerned about who influences the previous government? Are they making an accusation that only the PLP can be influenced? Because I resent the implication.

Q:There's no specific accusation. What I'm leading to simply is, is it not time in your view that we had campaign finance regulations where these thing would be transparent.

A:Considering the PLP has never had campaign finance, I don't see why we would be looking at campaign finance regulations. We've been outspent 10-1 every election. And we were outspent 10-1 in the '98 election. It looks like it's going to be 20-1 in this election.

Q:Why do you think that?

A:Because I know. Why do I think it's 20-1 ? Because I'm counting the dollar bills that have been going since how long? Last year? And I'm surprised you haven't asked that question of the right people. You've seen me conduct a very -I don't want to say parsimonious - but certainly a very careful campaign. I've seen campaign money flowing around for another party and you're not asking the question. You asked it and I just didn't read it, is that it?

Q:You don't read the paper.

A:You asked it and I didn't read it?

Q:You said you don't read the paper.

A:I would ask Dean (Foggo) cut it out for me.

Q:You cannot accuse me of not asking the question if you don't read the paper.

A:I said 'did you ask'?

Q:So the same question will be asked of the other party?

A:Will be.

Q:So you're not telling me how much money you are spending on the campaign and you're not saying whether you think campaign finance regulations...

A:I think that is not a question for us at this time. The Progressive Labour Party has survived its 40 years based on the funds of its members and the volunteer work. That's how we survived. And since 1996 we are very grateful to those businesses that have seen fit to give us some of what they have been giving to the Opposition. Write that down. I want you to write that down. We are very grateful to those who have seen fit to share with the PLP their campaign contributions.

Q:And they have continued to do that ?

A:You've heard what I said. Share. Because that's what they do.

Q:Have you seen the Auditor General's report?

A:He does not submit it to me.

Q:Does that mean you haven't seen it?

A:Of course I haven't seen it. He does not submit it to me.

Q:Of course you know...

A:No 'of course you know'. Don't start with that. Of course I know what ?

Q:Would you have liked to have had it tabled before the election?

A:That's a non-question. It was not an issue.

Q:Well it's an issue now.

A:It's not an issue at all.

Q:Your opponents are making it an issue.

A:The laws they wrote in their 35 years of office includes the Audit Act. And as a former government they are aware of what the Act says. And they knew before they started that the Audit Act does not provide for what they are asking for. If the Opposition Leader in his capacity as chairman of the Finance Committee has some information available to him, then perhaps he would have been better served if he had gotten the Auditor to do it sooner. Because I don't read minds, or read crystal balls or anything else. But the Audit Act provides that the Auditor General sends it to the Speaker of the House and it is tabled in the House. They know that. And I certainly will not be basing my call of an election on any delusions from that side as everybody over the age of infancy knows - single seat constituencies were the valid reasons for my election call and the fact that I wanted Bermuda students to be at home. Nothing else. Now I would think that if whatever they are saying now was valid they might have said it a little sooner like when I called it. But I think that it is a desperate attempt from a desperate party clutching at straws. And that's what I said at the press conference.

Q:Sorry I missed that.

A:You should be.

Q:You called the election the day after the Governor signed the final housekeeping bill?

A:I would have thought somebody would have recognised that by now. I can't help it if they want to think that some stupidness that he knows about. I was so transparent that had you looked it up - I couldn't be more transparent if I tried.

Q:I'm not arguing the point. I've made the point. So it's that simple That's the reason...?

A:I had my fingers crossed. I was so transparent I figured you all would figured it out.

Could you get more... ? You know put a sign up there.

Q:We were on it. Don't worry we were actually right on it.

A:Oh yeah. That's why you said you were surprised. You all make me laugh. (mocking) 'Oh yes I knew she was going to call it then. When else was she going to call it. There was no other time'.

Q:Okay I know the platform's not ready yet. I'm not asking about the platform.

A:You're over your time.

Q:Over ? My time ? Five more minutes please.

A:No I have another appointment. And a six o'clock and a seven and an eight.

Q:I just have two more questions.

A:They're probably not valid. It's probably what you've asked me already.

Q:No. They're very valid. Would you personally...

A:Go on I can hear you... What, you want me to look in your eyes?

Q:Yes. Would you personally like Bermuda to go independent...?

A:I knew it... I knew I was right. (laughing). I'm finished with you...

Q:Within three to seven years.

A:ESP must have told me...

Q:No ?

A:The answers to the rest of your questions are not worth my time.

Q:Why ? It's about independence...

A:Ayo, how many times have I answered that question ?

Q:No. I meant you personally.

A:Let me give you something that might help you. Let me have pity on you.

(Hands over a "daily word" pamphlet)

Q:I was a but confused about the work permit limit policy.

A:I refer you to the Act.

Q:Does it mean Brian O'Hara would have to leave the Island by 2010?

A:Ayo, you have a copy of the Act. Read it. Now you're just mischief making.

Interview ends