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Sir John ‘insulted’ by treatment at Premier’s Concert

Not pleased: Sir John Swan, the island’s only living National Hero (File photograph)

Sir John Swan has said he felt insulted at a recent celebration of the island’s National Heroes, claiming that he was deliberately snubbed and treated like an “afterthought” by event organisers.

Sir John, who was appointed a National Hero in 2016, having served as premier between 1982 and 1995, spoke out in the wake of the Premier’s Concert at the Ruth Seaton James Centre on Sunday.

According to the concert programme, David Burt, the Premier, opened the evening with some welcoming remarks.

That was followed by video tributes to Bermuda’s seven other National Heroes — Dame Lois Browne-Evans, E. F. Gordon, Pauulu Kamarakafego, Sir Henry Tucker, Mary Prince, Gladys Misick Morrell and Sir E. T. Richards.

Owen Darrell, the Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, then gave a closing address, after which a video tribute to Sir John — Bermuda’s only living National Hero — was shown.

Contacted by The Royal Gazette on Wednesday, Sir John said he believed that he was poorly treated because of his recent criticism of the Government.

In November, he condemned government plans for the island to become a full member of the Caribbean Community.

Earlier this year, the 89-year-old relaunched his political career by standing as an independent candidate in the Smith’s North by-election, finshing second to Robert King, of the One Bermuda Alliance, and pushing the Progressive Labour Party’s Lindsay Simmons into third place.

Sir John said: “What this is saying is, if you do anything against the Government, then you’ll suffer the consequences. This is purely a consequential act against the independent MP movement that has rattled the PLP.”

Referring to his criticism of full Caricom membership, Sir John said: “They’ve said that I was uninformed and uneducated and a wannabe National Hero — because I took a position saying that this is not the time to go to Caricom and if we do we should have a referendum.

“From the Deputy Premier [Walter Roban] there was an immediate reaction and that statement was made. That upset a lot of people in the community when they made that statement.

“What you’re now seeing — ever since I started this independent politics movement — is another reaction, saying ‘yes, we don’t think much of you being a National Hero and you’re not really fitting in with the rest of us’.

“If you look at the programme, it makes it look as if I’m just an adjunct.

“The bottom line is, I’ve never been an adjunct in this programme; I’ve always been included with the rest of the National Heroes.

“The comment was, ‘by the way, Sir John, we know you’re here’, but the evening was already over. Once the minister speaks, that’s it. It was as if I was an afterthought.

“This is the first time I haven’t been included in the main programme. What they said was never corrected. Ministers have collective responsibility and whatever is said on behalf of the Government.”

An editorial on Wednesday in the Gazette described the treatment of Sir John as “cold”.

The editorial stated: “Politics is politics, so much of the thrust and counterthrust is to be expected. But where the thrust cuts to the quick is when a National Hero can be snubbed at an event put on to honour him and those who came before.”

Sir John also criticised the event for a lack of organisation, pointing out that only two of six entertainment acts featured on the programme were live performances.

He said: “They had all these films — it was a film programme rather than a performance programme.

“We have all these performers in Bermuda and we subsidise all these performers for events, yet when it comes to people that the Government claims made a contribution to Bermuda, they denigrate their programme.

“And the attendance was so bad, they had less than 50 people in the audience in a 600-seat theatre.

“They’ve let this whole thing go downhill. They didn’t plan it and they didn’t promote it.”

Mr Darrell did not respond to questions from the Gazette concerning the apparent snub.

However, a government spokeswoman said: “The narrative is false. Sir John was appropriately recognised in keeping with the events of the evening. Please see the concert programme attached for your reference.”

She added: “The Department of Culture wishes to thank all the local artists who performed in tribute of Bermuda’s National Heroes, as well as those who attended and those who helped to organise this year’s concert.”

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Published July 05, 2024 at 7:58 am (Updated July 05, 2024 at 7:58 am)

Sir John ‘insulted’ by treatment at Premier’s Concert

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