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Sir John Swan warns of ‘dictatorship’ risks as he accepts new award

Honoured: Sir John Swan, the island’s longest-serving premier, gets the first Legacy Insights Award from Atlantic Publishing House. From left are Rodney Smith, Sir John and Dale Butler, the founder of APH (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Premier’s decision to hold three Cabinet portfolios at the same time is “almost like a dictator”, one of David Burt’s best known predecessors has warned.

Elder statesman Sir John Swan made the comments after being honoured for his vision, insight and public service with a new award.

He was the first recipient of the Legacy Insight Award, the brainchild of Dale Butler of Atlantic Publishing House, a former Progressive Labour Party minister and MP.

Mr Butler said Sir John, who led a United Bermuda Party Government between 1982 and 1995, was given the award for a Throne Speech from 1994.

Mr Butler added that the speech was “visionary, relevant, insightful and thought-provoking”.

He said: “That speech was visionary because in it, Sir John warned us of problems that we were likely to face in the future — problems that we’re facing now, such as gang violence. He was a man before his time.”

Mr Butler was speaking as the award was handed over on Thursday at the Leopards Club on Cedar Avenue in Hamilton.

Master of ceremonies and former OBA election candidate Rodney Smith, a former One Bermuda Alliance candidate, told guests that Sir John was a national hero who achieved so much because he was willing to seize opportunity.

Mr Smith said: “He turned a wooden spoon into gold. We want to thank him for all he has done for Bermuda and the contributions he has made to our lives.”

Sir John made headlines last week after he criticised David Burt, the Premier, following the shock resignation of finance minister Curtis Dickinson.

He said that Mr Burt had mishandled the crisis and had suffered self-inflicted injuries.

Sir John at first told guests at the awards ceremony that he would make no further comment on politics.

But he warned that the island was in a perilous position in a later Q&A session with the audience.

Sir John said the economy was in “dire straits” and that the younger generation felt neglected.

He added: “Most of us have children, and kids today are no different from what we were.

“But our children are being pushed out on their own because parents are working so hard just to make ends meet.

“It’s important that we understand that morality and ethics count, and should filter down. What we’re seeing in Bermuda now is a breakdown of the system.”

Sir John said: “We have got an economy now that is in dire straits with a massive debt. We need to start earning money because we can’t solve our social problems without having the economy to fix those problems.

“But if you walk down Front Street now, the place is falling apart. We need to have a new Bermuda, but instead, we’re heading towards being a Third World country.

Sir John accused the Government of “dishonesty” over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and said it had created a culture of fear.

He also took another swipe at Mr Burt, who has taken over Mr Dickinson’s portfolio in addition to his own roles as Premier and tourism minister.

Sir John said: “A man with three portfolios? That’s almost like a dictator.

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And the thing about power is, when you think you have it, it can quickly backfire.

“I wouldn’t want to be the Premier, but what I do want is a government that trusts in its people and a people that trust in it. I don’t see that right now.”

Sir John earlier highlighted his humble beginnings as a “pond dog” in Marsh Folly, Pembroke.

He added that he also had very poor eyesight, which meant that he did not start to learn to read until he was 12 years old.

Sir John said: “My journey has been possible only because of people who have inspired me — some who have passed, but also young people today.

“It has been a very special journey. Thank you for allowing me to be the person I have become. I will always be beholden to you.”

Guests at Thursday’s presentation included Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Cole Simons, the leader of the Opposition, and Susan Jackson, OBA MP.

Terry Lister, a former Progressive Labour Party minister and MP, John Barritt, a former UBP minister and MP, and Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, also attended the event.

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Published February 21, 2022 at 2:41 pm (Updated February 22, 2022 at 7:50 am)

Sir John Swan warns of ‘dictatorship’ risks as he accepts new award

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