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Activist group to host election debate

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A group of activists committed to keeping the public involved in politics has confirmed a pre-election leaders' debate next week.

Community Voices for Democracy set the stage for a showdown involving party leaders to give members of the public, particularly young people, an idea of party platforms before the October 1 General Election.

Qian Dickinson, a member of the group, said yesterday: “Our ancestors made sacrifices to give us the right to vote, but now is the time that we empower this process to be an informed decision.”

He added: “This is an important time, the stakes are high and we believe what we're proposing is going to strengthen and put everyone in our island in a better position going into the future.”

Mr Dickinson, also a member of Bermemes, said that the debate would play an integral part in democracy because it would allow voters to make an informed decision.

He added that many people had contacted him because they were concerned about a lack of information and engagement from the parties.

Mr Dickinson said that the election had not been scheduled at an ideal time for young people because many of them had already left for school overseas.

Mr Dickinson added that the group had invited the Progressive Labour Party and One Bermuda Alliance to a debate last month and later extended the invitation to the Free Democratic Movement after it was formed on September 1.

Mr Dickinson admitted that both the PLP and the OBA had still to confirm their participation.

But he said that a debate would still happen even if only two leaders were able to attend.

Mr Dickinson added: “The community is asking for information — to be able to compare policy — and so if two of the three is what we get then that's better than nothing.”

Ajai Peets, a co-founder of political organisation Bermuda Youth Connect, said that the debate would be a good way to communicate with many young voters who “don't know where to turn”.

She added: “I can speak for many young people when I say we have evolved past the traditional scheme of knocking on doors. “We need a platform for all young people to come together and engage with our leaders.”

Ms Peets said: “On a global scale debates play a crucial role in democracy — why should Bermuda be any different?

“A debate at this level allows the public of Bermuda to see the character and leadership it takes to move this country forward.”

Rick Richardson, the former chief executive of Bermuda Broadcasting Company, who led the only pre-election debate between party leaders in Bermuda's history, said that he would offer moderators guidance before the debate.

He added that the call to action mirrored the one that led to the first pre-election debate in 1985. Mr Richardson said: “We are in the midst of a sea change as this call for accountability has come from the young of all races, religions and all financial backgrounds.

“It's a youth movement and it's something we as parents, political and civic leaders and past leaders have always asked for — to get involved.”

The debate will be held at the Bermuda Broadcasting studios on Fort Hill Road in Devonshire on Monday at 8pm.

Community Voices for Democracy confirms a debate between party leaders set for Monday. From left: Rick Richardson, Qian Dickinson and Ajai Peets, with Charles Jeffers on the monitor (Photograph by Sekou Hendrickson)

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Published September 23, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 23, 2020 at 2:20 pm)

Activist group to host election debate

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