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Campaign group allied to PLP launches attack on party, PLP issues statement hitting back

Willie Ferguson (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A campaign group allied to the Progressive Labour Party yesterday hit out at the Government and accused it of ignoring “grass roots, labour and Black Bermudians”.

A letter to the party from the group Move Bermuda earlier this month accused the PLP of ignoring a request to meet and spurning the group as an ally.

The letter added that “it is clear the leadership believes it is above criticism or advice from anyone whatsoever”.

Move’s letter also accused the party leadership of being “toxic to authentic and grass roots PLP members” and of wanting to rule rather than serve.

The letter made no direct reference to David Burt, the Premier, but said that in 2018 the party leader had asked the group to contact the PLP with its concerns rather than going to the media.

Willie Ferguson, the chairman of Move Bermuda, said: “It’s just a matter of being respectful. We would like to have that meeting.”

But Mr Ferguson added: “It should not be looked at that we don’t love them any more. We just want better.”

He added that the group, which organised protests against the previous One Bermuda Alliance administration, would be more active in the future to “keep Government accountable”.

The letter, addressed to Dawn Simmons, the PLP chairwoman, highlighted recent comments from the PLP back bench that appeared to be critical of the party leadership.

It added that “over the last weeks, authentic PLP members have publicly seen our leadership at odds” with the Bermuda Industrial Union.

Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, accused the Government in April of giving unfair breaks to big business during Covid-19 restrictions.

Derrick Burgess, Lovitta Foggo and Jamahl Simmons, all PLP backbenchers, criticised pandemic quarantines for travellers in a June debate in the House of Assembly.

Move Bermuda’s letter also highlighted criticism from PLP supporters this summer over plans to close West End Primary, a historic Black school.

The letter said the group had asked to meet party leaders to discuss unidentified concerns and “their impact on Move’s traditional support for the party”.

But Move – an acronym for Mobilise, Organise, Visualise, Execute – added a meeting was not held.

Mr Ferguson declined to reveal details of the group’s concerns.

He said: “I want to be able to have that conversation with them first, because we definitely need answers.

“Put it this way. To quote the Bible, two people can’t walk together unless they agree.”

The group in June attacked the Government’s plans to build a fish processing plant in the East End, which the group said had moved away from an original proposal developed by Move to set up a co-operative.

Mr Ferguson said: “Every day I have to deal with people that do not have essentials.

“Sooner or later, when you ignore these people, they become frustrated and angry.”

He added the PLP had a history of “a little dysfunction between members and leaders” when it came to criticism.

But Mr Ferguson said: “Criticism is healthy.”

He declined to discuss the size of Move Bermuda’s membership and said it organised quietly through social media.

The letter to the PLP outlined “new and ambitious plans to improve Government’s accountability to the people who supported and voted for it”.

The group joined with another activist group, the People’s Campaign, in protests and demonstrations against the OBA, particularly over the OBA government’s public private partnership deal for a new airport.

Mr Ferguson said the airport proposal, which the PLP opposed, was “where we built up the relationship”.

The protests climaxed in a December 2016 standoff between police and demonstrators who blocked House of Assembly to prevent MPs debating the airport legislation.

Police officers were threatened and some were injured as they tried to open a path to Sessions House. Several protesters were pepper-sprayed.

This morning the PLP issued a statement which said: “All Bermudians know, the last year and a half has been difficult, and has challenged us all. That’s why the PLP Government helped Bermudians with income relief and support for small businesses.

“We said during the 2020 election campaign that we were going to have to make tough decisions and that things weren’t going to be easy. That’s certainly been the case.”

The statement said the PLP said the PLP is committed to its promises such as:

● reforming our public school system by phasing out middle schools,

● providing universal affordable healthcare for all,

● providing tax relief to working Bermudians

● implementing immigration reform to protect our Bermudian identity

● Reducing the cost of living

“The Government considered a proposal put forth by some members of the Move executive for Bermuda's fishing industry. The PLP Government asked the members of Move to work with the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) to enhance the business proposal to ensure the project would be successful. As indicated in the letter, members of the Move. executive refused to work with the BEDC.

“It is important to ensure that taxpayer funds are invested wisely to actually create additional jobs and economic opportunities in the fishing industry which will raise the standard of living for Black Bermudian fisherman.

“The reality is that, in times like these, when resources are scarce, and expenses such as providing $70 million in financial relief for those displaced by the pandemic are high, it is the obligation of your government to be good stewards of the public purse.

“So, as promised in the Economic Recovery Plan, the PLP government is taking action to support the growth of Bermuda’s fishing Industry, inclusive of more ownership opportunities for Bermudians in this essential industry.

“As Bermudians, we may disagree at times on how we get things accomplished. Yet, we must never forget why we must get things accomplished.

“The Progressive Labour Party supports our Government's demands for sound planning, and urge the private members of Move to reconsider their position and work with the BEDC to ensure this project is an even greater success.”

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Published August 11, 2021 at 12:48 pm (Updated August 11, 2021 at 12:48 pm)

Campaign group allied to PLP launches attack on party, PLP issues statement hitting back

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