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OBA calls for increased support for police to combat gun crime

Cole Simons, leader of the One Bermuda Alliance. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A crackdown on gang violence is needed to shake Bermuda out of its acceptance of gun crime, the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday.

Cole Simons demanded a tougher response from David Burt, the Premier, in the aftermath of a string of shootings that he said had left the island “numb” to gun crime.

Mr Simons said in his reply to the Throne Speech: “We have had recurring spates of violence in Bermuda and the sad thing is that our community appears to have become numb to this type of behaviour and has begun to accept this behaviour as new way of life.

“We have had eight shooting incidents so far this year.

“Just last week, we had two young people lose their lives as a result of gang violence at a popular local restaurant in Hamilton.”

Mr Simons warned: “We must also stop living and believing that we live in a dream land when it comes to youth and gang crime.

“We must stop saying that this is not who we are, and this is not who we want to become.

“This is who we are, and this is who we have become.

“It is clear that we are killing our own brothers and sisters and our leaders must retire from that state of denial because youth violence is here and it appears that it is here to stay as we are unable to arrest this scourge.”

Mr Simons added: “As parents, we must hold our young people accountable for their behaviour, and not enable or support bad and antisocial behaviour.”

Mr Simons told the House of Assembly there needed to be increased resources for law enforcement, frontline health workers and other uniformed services.

He added: “This Government has disrespected our uniformed services. They have slashed the police budget, they have not provided our firefighters with the necessary equipment and they have allowed conditions at the prisons to fester.

“They also failed to provide some frontline workers with the necessary personal protective equipment during the Covid lockdown.”

Mr Simons also demanded action to tackle rising inflation and supply chain delays.

He told the House of Assembly that the Government needed to do more to help Bermudians out of the economic slump triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said gas prices were now treble those in other Overseas Territories.

Mr Simons said: “If current global inflation is hovering at around 4-5 per cent, Bermuda should expect inflation to be 6-7 per cent for the next year or so.

“Bermudians will have less purchasing power, and experience less value for our money as our real purchasing power will decrease accordingly as the prices for a basket of essential goods increase.

“Bermuda’s fuel prices have increased at the pumps. A gallon of gas costs approximately $18 a gallon, compared to other Overseas Territories which are priced between $4 to $6 per gallon.

“This must stop. We must review the taxes which are applied to our fuel at the pumps as it has a significant negative impact on Bermuda’s cost of living.”

Mr Simons demanded answers from the ruling Progressive Labour Party on the role of professional services firm KPMG in plans for an economic recovery.

He also claimed the future of the Bermuda Tourism Authority was now in doubt.

Mr Simons said: “I was very startled when, in this Throne Speech, the Government indicated that they were leaning towards dismantling the BTA.

“I then reflected on the historic tension and strain between the PLP government and the BTA, as a former PLP tourism minister stated that they, the Government, were going to quote ‘rip out the engine of the BTA’ end quote.“

Mr Simons also asked for clarity on health policy.

He asked: “How can they develop a healthy Bermuda without a National Health Plan?

“When we read the Throne Speech, it appears that our government is guiding and leading Bermuda down the path to socialised medicine as we know it in the UK and Canada.

“That comes with its own unique set of problems.

“As the PLP government has run Bermuda’s healthcare for most of the past 20 years, it is unconscionable and incredible that there is currently no healthcare plan.

“Over the past 15 years, the cost of healthcare in Bermuda has increased a whopping 193 per cent.

“Per capita, the cost of healthcare in Bermuda ranks in the top two countries on the planet.”

But Mr Simons said: “Despite the high spending, our current healthcare doesn’t provide coverage for the entire population – approximately 10 per cent of people have no insurance and due to the economic impact of the pandemic, that number is constantly rising.”

He also demanded a greater focus on improvements to the education system.

Mr Simons added that consideration should also be given to the privatisation of public transport.

He said: “This move will result in economic efficiencies and better value for service to the people of Bermuda.”

He also emphasised the need for the reform of Parliament and for action to reduce the $3.5 billion national debt.

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Published November 13, 2021 at 7:49 am (Updated November 15, 2021 at 8:03 am)

OBA calls for increased support for police to combat gun crime

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