Cole Simons: Bermuda too divided for independence
Bermuda is too divided on racial and economic lines for the “unsettling” prospect of independence to be an option at this time, Cole Simons, the One Bermuda Alliance leader, has said.
The opposition leader said the island should concentrate on issues such as the cost of living crisis and reducing national debt as he accused David Burt of pushing his cannabis liberalisation agenda as a “stunt” means of getting support to break ties with the UK.
Asked if he was in favour of independence, Mr Simons told The Royal Gazette: “Not at this point in time. No.
“Because, number one, we are not united. Because we are not a cohesive country.
“The way the politics is divided, the country is divided along socio-economic lines and racial lines.
“And, if we are going to be a truly unified nation, we should try to bring everyone together before – and address the economic situation.”
Ms Simons added: “Right now, the issue of independence is unsettling.
“Unsettling in that we have the economy that’s in a tail spin, we have young people who feel that they have no future in this country.
“And, they are saying to mum and dad, ‘listen, I cannot stay here, there are more opportunities for me in the UK, or Canada’.
“So, there is going to be a brain drain. And it’s not just young people – people are unsettled about the economic situation and that there is no vision or hope.
“There is no clear pathway to economic security at this time.”
Mr Simons said that Bermuda’s current constitutional settlement was as close to independence as possible.
He said: “It is probably the most advanced constitutional position that we have in regards to overseas territories.
“Ours is the closest to independence that there is. We are, basically, a self-governing country.
“A lot of these countries are supported financially by the UK. And they get an annual grant, and the Governor is involved in the day-to-day administration, whereas, we don’t have that direct involvement.
“And, we are, almost, self-sufficient economically. Because we do not get any support from the UK government.”
Mr Simons said that if there was a push for independence and the OBA was in power at the time, he would ensure it became a reality.
He said: “As far as independence is concerned, it is for the people to decide.
“If I am involved in politics when it occurs, then if we are satisfied that the majority of this country supports independence, then I would deliver it.”
The comments came after the Premier commissioned a report on self-governance, at a cost to the taxpayer of $50,000.
The study stated that the island did not yet meet the criteria for independence.
The Progressive Labour Party’s Cannabis Licensing Bill, which sought to legalise the use and production of the drug, failed to make it into law after Rena Lalgie, the Governor, said in September she had been “instructed” by London to refuse it Royal Assent because it went against the UK’s international treaty obligations.
Curtis Dickinson, the former PLP finance minister revealed during his unsuccessful bid to oust Mr Burt as Premier in October that the Government knew the UK would reject its controversial plans to legalise the use and production of cannabis.
Mr Dickinson told The Royal Gazette: “I think that we may have overstepped the mark in that we knew from a policy prospective that what we were proposing was outside what was prepared to be accepted by the UK.
“I think we have to look at it again with a view to trying to stay in the UN convention and work with the UK government on that issue.”
Mr Simons dismissed the self-governance report as “biased”.
“It was a stunt. They knew it. And it is a part of David Burt’s road map to get independence back on the agenda.
“The PLP has never actually had independence as a priority in their platforms because they know it is not palatable at this point in time.
“If you are so keen on it why are you not putting it in your platform for election?”
Mr Simons said that he had never tried cannabis.
“I am comfortable with where we are now on cannabis in that – seven milligrams – decriminalised, I am comfortable with that.
“I am concerned about the addiction challenges because we have a big problem with addiction in this country as it stands.
“Almost every family has addiction challenges – including mine.”