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‘Reluctant’ politician who enjoyed being outsider

Trevor Moniz was candid about his maverick, sometimes gadfly status yesterday, as the Opposition MP for Smith's West announced his retirement from politics.

Mr Moniz described himself as a reluctant politician when he started out in the United Bermuda Party in 1989.

He said in his first ten years after being elected in 1993, he turned down the post of Deputy Speaker as well as two Cabinet positions.

He recalled his friend, the late Eddy DeMello, warning him off politics with: “Trevor, nice guys finish last, and you're a nice guy.”

He added that C.V. “Jim” Woolridge, the tourism minister with whom he partnered in the old dual constituency of Smith's South, had likened him to the United States activist and left-field presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Mr Moniz got the comparison “because I was interested in government reform, and he said that I marched to the beat of a different drummer”.

In his “gruelling” first foray, he replaced Mr Woolridge's previous running mate, Tony Correia, calling the late Mr Woolridge “wonderful” and “charismatic”.

Mr Moniz made no secret yesterday of enjoying the outsider role.

He said that as a lawyer in the 1980s he was a frequent “irritant to the establishment”.

He said: “Before my parliamentary career, I was best known for battling against conscription abuses, and I successfully fought several cases resulting in hundreds of young men being released from unlawful military service.”

He added: “I also had developed an immigration practice and fought for the rights of guest workers and long-term residents.”

Mr Moniz was a close friend of the late MP and Cabinet minister Ann Cartwright DeCouto, and credited her with nudging him into politics.

The two took on the UBP elite during the party's disarray ahead of its rout at the polls in 1998 at the hands of the Progressive Labour Party.

Mr Moniz revealed that the chairman of the UBP selection committee had called his choice as a candidate “the worst selection mistake he had ever made”.

He said the late Tim Hodgson, then editor of the Mid-Ocean News, told him he lacked the ego necessary for politics.

But Mr Moniz joined a sometimes firebrand circle of dissident MPs within the UBP during the 1990s, dubbed the People's Five, with Mr Woolridge and Ms Cartwright DeCouto, as well as David Dyer and Clarence Terceira.

He said that he, “together with my friends, fought against an unwise independence initiative in 1995 and the infamous McDonald's case in 1996”.

“I also am proud to say that, in the 1990s, I initiated the Members' Register of Interests for Members of Parliament, and I shepherded a Bill which opened the accounts of charities for public inspection. These were all in the days when backbenchers were supposed to be seen and not heard.”

Mr Moniz added: “I also fought for the creation of the Working Resident's Certificate in 1998.

“This gave long-term resident work-permit holders some rights of permanency in Bermuda.”

It became the Permanent Resident's Certificate under the new PLP government, when Mr Moniz was “part of the pressure group, the Coalition on Long Term Residents”.

Mr Moniz did not shy from his expulsion from the UBP after he neglected to turn up to meetings. Although he returned in 2002, he said his efforts “led to me being permanently expelled from the UBP in 2001”.

He said Grant Gibbons, then party leader, also said he would permanently lose the role of whip, adding that “it lasted almost three years”.

He thanked Mr DeMello and the late UBP stalwart and former minister Quinton Edness “for their support during that period in the wilderness”.

Mr Moniz consistently held his seat in what became Smith's West, also serving as the president of the Bar Association from 2001 to 2003.

He wrote: “I was the only Bar president to simultaneously serve as an MP. I sat on the Bar Council for 11 years.”

He said he was “greatly honoured” to be knighted in 2002 by the President of Portugal for his service to Bermuda's Portuguese community.

Culture was “another great love of mine”, Mr Moniz said, noting his 20 years as a trustee of the Bermuda Maritime Museum, now the National Museum of Bermuda.

From 2004 to 2006, he was chairman ­— “a first for a sitting MP” — and was its “champion in Parliament for the conservation of cultural heritage”.

He added: “I enjoyed helping to bring Bermuda under Unesco provisions for underwater heritage and shepherding the completion of the lease to the National Museum of HM Casemates Barracks.”

Mr Moniz said it was “a long slog”, especially during overnight sessions of the House with a young family.

He thanked “an incredibly close, loving and supportive family, including my cousin June”, as well as those who served on his branch committees over the years.

Retaking government in 2012 with the One Bermuda Alliance holding “a tiny majority” was “challenging”.

He said the OBA pulled off a “miracle” with Bermuda's economic recovery and its rebranding with the hosting of the 2017 America's Cup.

“Two outstanding achievements in my final ministry of [Attorney-General] were the reform of Criminal Law procedure and the passing of the Bribery Act.

“I am also very proud of the Civil Partnership Act, originally intended as an interim step of moderation in a divided community, but which was finally passed under the PLP with a change of title and minor changes. We should have moved to full equality by now.

“I encourage the Government to do the right thing and stop playing games.”

Mr Moniz called the Fraud Act, which he tabled but was never debated, a “piece of unfinished business”.

He said there were “serious weaknesses in our Civil Service as pointed out by a number of independent reviews, but there is also a strong core that can be built upon”.

The OBA was overwhelmingly defeated by the PLP in 2017, and Mr Moniz said a “vibrant and outspoken” Opposition was needed.

In characteristic hard-nosed style, he added: “It is very tough when so outnumbered and with a government happy to be dismissive of democratic rules and traditions.”

He accused David Burt, the Premier, and Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, of permitting “continuing language of racial hatred and misogyny spewed by a few PLP members”.

Mr Moniz also said “ample evidence” pointed to allegations of political corruption in the PLP government before 2012, which the party last night rejected, and reiterated his support for his civil case in the US courts against Lahey group, which was dismissed in 2018.

He closed by saying: “I did my best to serve with honesty, courage and integrity for 27 years, and wish all Bermudians and residents the very best going forward.”

Mr Moniz called his commitment to public service “very strong” and said opting to retire had been difficult.

He added: “However, now is the time to move to the next chapter and to bring new blood to the House.”

Trevor Moniz (File photograph by Akil Simmons)
<p>Trevor Moniz in his own words</p>

“It never ceases to amaze me that the present leadership of our party, which likes to talk about democracy, education and checks and balances, was so against those ideas in reality” — On the attack in 1995 against the United Bermuda Party’s pursuit of an independence referendum, led by Sir John Swan, the Premier. Moniz was speaking of concession points raised by his group of rebel MPs in the party

“I’m not charismatic. I do a lot of work behind the scenes: research, brainstorming. Jim is a ‘hail fellow, well met’ sort of person. He’s very much at ease with people. I’m a shyer person, so we made a good pair” — Comments in 2001 at the retirement of C.V. “Jim” Woolridge, the former tourism minister and his running mate in Smith’s South in the early 1990s

“At the end of the day, I put forward an amendment setting the age at 18. It would not have passed without my amendment” — Comments in 2016 on his compromise in the 1994 fight over the controversial Stubbs Bill legalising sodomy, in which he proposed raising the age of consent from 16

“He’s on the front bench over there, so he thinks he’s a wonderful boy” — Sparks a race row with a comment about education minister Diallo Rabain in October 2017

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Published August 04, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated August 04, 2020 at 7:55 am)

‘Reluctant’ politician who enjoyed being outsider

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