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Simons: independence talk ‘ironic’ after SSM case

Bermuda's Constitution is unfinished because it failed to give human rights protection to women and gay people, One Bermuda Alliance senator Andrew Simons said yesterday.

Mr Simons told the Senate that there was a “certain irony” to David Burt's call last week for a new chapter to be written in the Bermuda Constitution on independence, while a court case took place over same-sex couples being stripped of the right to marry.

The Premier's comments on the need for Bermuda's people to “finish” the Constitution by writing their own chapter were made at a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of universal adult suffrage in the House of Assembly. The Supreme Court the same day heard arguments in a civil case brought against the Attorney-General by marriage equality activists, who said a new law which will prevent gay people from marrying is unconstitutional.

Mr Simons, speaking during the motion to adjourn, said: “There was a lot of furore over the subject of same-sex marriage in the run-up to the last election.

“People had bumper stickers on their cars, there were rallies, people got registered to vote.

“But in the end, a handful of people applied to be married while that window was still open. The sky didn't fall.

“We just saw some people trying to live their lives. So, yes, our Constitution is still unfinished.

“Those protections should be in the Constitution. If they were in the Constitution, we wouldn't be having these court cases.”

Mr Simons added: “Remember constitutions are always there to protect the people who don't have power, who are not the majority. I think 50 years on there still is work to do.”

Mr Simons said the legacy of colonialism was real and he understood and shared many people's ambivalence about remaining a British Overseas Territory.

He added the island resembled a “40-year-old accountant who still lives at home” and that Bermuda's relationship with the United Kingdom “sits oddly”.

But he suggested the island might want to set itself a series of fiscal tests to meet before it considered independence.

He quoted the five convergence criteria that EU member states were required to comply with to adopt the euro currency — inflation, government budget deficit, government debt to GDP ratio, exchange rate stability and long-term interest rates — as examples to consider.

Mr Simons said: “I think for a long time Bermuda prided itself on a certain financial independence. That financial independence matters and I would hope that the current government reflects on the importance of that.”

He added: “The debate about independence could certainly be enriched by looking to the ways in which other countries and regions have talked about the glide path to that type of large systemic change and its relationships to its own sovereignty and other sovereign nations.”

Anthony Richardson, of the Progressive Labour Party, said the Premier had not suggested independence should happen tomorrow and had stressed the need for preparation in his speech.

He pointed out that Bermuda was financially independent — and paid the Governor's and Deputy Governor's salaries.

Mr Richardson said independence was a natural progression for Bermuda. He asked: “What woman wants to marry a 40-year-old accountant that still lives at home?”

Mr Richardson said the UK's recent decision to require Bermuda to establish a public beneficial ownership register by 2020 showed a divergence of interests.

He added it demonstrated a “lack of concern or care” about the impact Britain's actions would have on the island.

One Bermuda Alliance senator Andrew Simons

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Published May 31, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated May 31, 2018 at 10:30 am)

Simons: independence talk ‘ironic’ after SSM case

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