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Jarion Richardson: ‘I want to stop Bermuda becoming a one-party state’

Jarion Richardson, deputy leader of the One Bermuda Alliance (Photograph supplied)

One Bermuda Alliance deputy leader Jarion Richardson has warned that the island is in danger of becoming a one-party state.

The former police officer insisted his party was still relevant and that the OBA name did not stand for “Only Barely Alive”.

However, Mr Richardson admitted that the OBA had come across as arrogant and insensitive in the past as he expressed concern about the dominance of the Progressive Labour Party.

With a crushing 2020 General Election result reducing the OBA to only six seats out of 36 in the House of Assembly, Mr Richardson told The Royal Gazette: “Only barely alive? That’s a good one; we are what the electorate has determined what we should be.

“The OBA is in opposition because of the numbers, and strengths, that was what was decided.

“If the OBA ends up being five people in a room by themselves fighting against the one-party state, or the degradation of democracy, then I’ll be one of the five.

”I want to stop Bermuda becoming a one-party state.“

Mr Richardson caused political ripples last month when he said that OBA leader Cole Simons had faults.

The deputy OBA leader stuck to his position, stating: “I would say that criticism is good.

“I would say we don’t have one thought flowing through all those parts in the party, so, sooner or later, someone is going to have a thought which isn’t consistent with the rest – and that’s good.

“Cole’s a pretty open book, he’ll listen to everyone. The reason I say that is because nobody is perfect.

“My default is always, I can do my job better, somebody else can always do their job better.”

Pressed on whether the OBA was more pro-business than pro-community, Mr Richardson said: "That comes up quite a lot, and I am not entirely sure where that stems from.

“The OBA focuses on systemic issues, not exclusively individual issues.

“Because, what we are trying to do is maximise the impact for as many people as possible.

"The difference between us and other political parties is that, traditionally, other political parties have focused on the individual at the expense of everyone.

"If you do that, because everyone needs assistance, and everyone needs relief, and, if the problem is systematic, then we have to address the problem that's leading to the suffering for everybody.“

Asked about former premier Ewart Brown’s claim that Black people are still second-class citizens in Bermuda, Mr Richardson said: “Race has been weaponised for political purposes too often.

“It’s easier to group up. The issue is just too big for it to be dealt with in silos.

“When somebody says Black people are second-class citizens, that needs to be unpacked – that’s saying a lot.”

Mr Richardson insisted tax reform and pro-business measures were the way out of the rising cost of living situation.

He said: “We have to acknowledge that we are actually quite limited in the size of our economy.

“We have to tackle the big ticket items — anything to do with tax. At the end or the day, our tax structure has not been updated in some years.

“An economy is a series of connected expenses — connected costs. Nothing in Bermuda is disconnected.

"We have to look at businesses and how we can lessen the damage to them.

“Right now, we have quite a dated customs structure, which means that for small businesses, especially small businesses involved in retail, their biggest problem is payroll.

“One of the ideas is looking at what does that do to businesses and how can we reduce the damage it does to them on the cashflow front.

“One of our biggest problems is that we are small and dependent on a number of macroeconomic factors — like we have to import everything.

“So the relevance of that is to everything. Nothing in Bermuda is disconnected from how we import goods.”

Asked if the party could come back to power at the next General Election, Mr Richardson said: "Every seat is winnable.

“Every seat is made up of 1,200 voters. If you look at the performance in these elections, they are really won by some 500 to 700 voters in every constituency.”

Mr Richardson said there were clear dividing lines between the OBA and the PLP. “The first one is inclusion. The OBA looks like diversity in action,” he said.

“The other thing that differentiates from the PLP is, we do fundamentally believe that integrity is a key part of politics in Bermuda.

“You don’t have to make waves to make things right. There are some things that can be fixed without burning down everything.

“PLP governments have demonstrated a tendency to rip things up.

“We need to listen, not in a way that is a performance theatre, but in a way that actually receives information and acts on it.

“That’s what we have heard most consistently — the appearance of a disconnect.

“Has the party been too arrogant in the past? I think, yeah.

“In the past people have criticised ministers for appearing to be insensitive.

“If someone did see us to be arrogant, or dismissive, that was not what we were trying for. That it came across that way shows that we have something to do better.”

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Published October 07, 2022 at 4:41 am (Updated October 07, 2022 at 4:41 am)

Jarion Richardson: ‘I want to stop Bermuda becoming a one-party state’

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