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Marc Bean assails Burt leadership

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A sit-down conversation with Marc Bean, leader of the Free Democratic Movement (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The Premier has been accused of “attempting to spark up base emotions” and create a divide with Britain by Marc Bean, the leader of new political contenders the Free Democratic Movement.

Mr Bean, a former leader of the Progressive Labour Party, spoke of Mr Burt’s warning on Friday that a failure to get Royal Assent for a legal cannabis industry would “destroy” Bermuda’s relationship with the UK.

Mr Bean, who insisted he would not get vaccinated against the coronavirus, also said the Government’s containment of the pandemic had been heavy-handed and had stifled the economy.

He cried foul after saying he had been “crucified” within the PLP for pushing to legalise cannabis, only for the party to pursue the same initiative.

In the first part of a wide-ranging interview, Mr Bean – back on the island from Miami, Florida – spoke of his work behind the scenes on the FDM, and attacked the ruling party for taking up policies that it staunchly opposed in its term in Opposition.

Mr Burt last night said he was proud the Government had “preserved economic activity and allowed the opportunity for limited tourism”.

He said he would prefer to be criticised for being heavy handed than for allowing “excess death and endless lockdown”.

Mr Burt’s remarks came as Mr Bean said the FDM, which emerged just before the General Election last October 1, would give an alternative to “the status quo of the PLP and the One Bermuda Alliance”, which he called “two sides of the same coin”.

The Free Democratic Movement, led by former Progressive Labour Party head Marc Bean, is in its “formative stages” six months on from its launch.

Mr Bean said: “I can report we are very much in the process of ratifying our constitution, which is absolutely essential before we take any other steps in engaging the public.”

The party was announced in September, 2020 with scant weeks to go before the October 1 General Election, in which the FDM failed to take any seats in a PLP landslide.

Mr Bean had no timeline for when the FDM constitution would be ratified, allowing the nascent third party to “open up our doors” and unveil new strategies.

He added: “Our policies have not adjusted from those expressed in the campaign. They can be refined as we go forward.”

Mr Bean said of the party: “We represent fiscal responsibility, social liberalism – but most importantly we advocate smaller government and freedom of expression, of conscience.”

Mr Bean conceded third parties were “never a scenario fully embraced in Bermuda’s very small community”.

But he pledged the FDM was “totally different” from what he called the “status quo” of the island’s two other political entities.

But Mr Bean denied he had “anger towards the PLP or the Premier”.

He added: “The reality is that many of the ideas the PLP are attempting to implement emanated from my mind.”

He said there was “no wonder they have made so many mistakes in trying to implement this vision”.

“When you take innovation and free mindedness and someone tries to appropriate that, but they have a bureaucratic mind based on control, you’ll have great difficulty in trying to execute that vision. That’s where we are today. Not just cannabis, but many other initiatives you see on the agenda of the PLP.”

Mr Bean said he had come under attack by the party in 2014 when he spoke up in the House of Assembly on the benefits of cannabis.

In the debate on decriminalising cannabis, Mr Bean referenced curing his young daughter’s asthma with “ganja tea”, which he said was medicinal, not psychoactive.

“Oh, the irony,” he said of the new cannabis regulations, which go before the Senate next week.

Mr Bean said that in 2014, “I also spoke about taking a hard stance against corruption, regardless of which political party you were in.

“By halfway through that speech, my colleagues on the back bench and front had begun a revolt. They started attacking me. That was the next phase of this long, winding coup to remove me as leader.

“After using the mention of cannabis in the Throne Speech reply as reason to attack me, three months later David Burt got up in the Budget reply and repeated what I said. Everything was accepted.”

Mr Bean claimed the “chaos” around the roll-out of legal cannabis was “not based on clean hands and a pure heart”.

He suggested the “attack” on him as PLP leader in 2014 had been a campaign within the party.

“Who organised and coordinated that type of attack because I contributed under parliamentary privilege to a debate that spoke about decriminalising marijuana and all of a sudden it turned to a circus against Marc Bean?

“Today all of them are falling over themselves, especially in the PLP, to attach themselves to what seems to be politically expedient to bring legalisation.”

Mr Bean said he agreed with the Opposition’s stance on Mr Burt’s broadside over Britain refusing to approve legalising cannabis.

He added: “Everything it seems the Premier is doing, typically, is based on cleverness, sleight of hand, deception, hypocrisy and contradiction.”

Mr Bean said: “Instead of being honest and upfront with people, even going back and adjusting the legislation so it can fit the international obligations, it seems the Premier is attempting to spark up base emotions among the populace, to create a measure of division between the UK and the people of Bermuda or the Bermuda Government.

“If you’re genuine, you don’t have to manufacture conflict with the coloniser. There’s no need to.”

Mr Burt last night addressed the remarks from his former PLP colleague.

He said “politics makes strange bedfellows” and that Michael Dunkley of the OBA and Mr Bean, were formerly “at war in court and now they are at war with me”.

“So be it,” the Premier said. “We are going to press on.”

Mr Burt called Mr Bean’s accusation regarding the UK “surprising” and “political sniping”.

He added: “It’s very easy to speak from the sidelines and very difficult to lead.”

Mr Bean yesterday was unsparing of the media, saying local news organisations had been “lazy” in failing to challenge the Government.

He railed against the “silence” of the PLP back bench.

“Is it because everyone’s afraid to rock the boat, because you’re hoping in vain the Premier will call you to sit in that hallowed room called Cabinet, which for PLP participants, that’s the highest step you can take in this country?”

He added: “Would you rather sacrifice the interests of your constituents for personal mobility in politics?”

Mr Bean said the FDM’s liberal stance on immigration, in which the party last year promised citizenship for foreigners who resided long enough in Bermuda, “shouldn’t be surprising”.

He added: “What has been lacking is a discussion and an understanding among black people in this country as to how they can fully participate.

“If they can’t see how they can participate, they’re going to see foreigners as competition. That allows you to foster that phobia, and that leads to more divide and rule.”

He said the island should encourage Black American, Caribbean and African immigration.

Mr Bean said he had suffered a stroke during mass protests in March 2016 against the OBA government’s Pathways to Status changes to immigration.

He said present moves to boost the economy through immigration was “contradictory”.

“Shut down the country, and then implement the same policy? It shows there wasn’t a real strategy behind it except pure base politics, and that is a shame.”

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Published February 24, 2021 at 8:36 am (Updated February 24, 2021 at 12:17 pm)

Marc Bean assails Burt leadership

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