Some Questions

Again, my apologies to readers for the lack of posts.  As many know, I am currently completing a PhD overseas, although I do try and return home and canvass or otherwise stay involved in local issues.  However, the PhD does have to take precedence, and at times the blog does suffer accordingly.

This post isn’t so much an article as just a series of questions or ‘wonderings’.

Not to be taken necessarily as an endorsement of Leninism, but it does ask the right question...

Not to be taken necessarily as an endorsement of Leninism, but it does ask the right question…

Bermuda

In local politics, we’re seeing the racial tribalism of the two-party system continue, this time quite graphically by a recent Bermuda Sun article.  I don’t think this is news to many outside a section of the population who may have convinced themselves that we’re ‘post-racial’.

So, how do we move beyond this and break the racial tribalism of the two-party system?

There’s been talk of a Third Party, with Independent MP Terry Lister rumored to be at its epicenter.  While there’s no shortage of people who complain about the inadequacies of the dominant two-party system, there does seem to be a shortage of people who are willing to take steps to change it.

Of course, a big question is how do we change it?  Encourage, support and vote Independents or Third Parties?  Organise an activist campaign for constitutional reform, perhaps to something like we see in Scotland, a mix of first-past-the-post and proportional representation?  And if that, how do we organise that successfully?  Who sticks their neck out and takes the risk?  What are the limitations we can do while still a colony and dependent on UK approval for constitutional change?

And if we are to have a third party, what kind of party would it be, or should it be?  Another centrist party?  A socialist party?  A green party?  A libertarian party?  How should it be structured?  Who should organise it and how?

Both parties betray a collectivist mindset, of democratic centralism or ‘toeing the party line’, which leads to defending the indefensible and a stagnation of policy innovation – and a stunted ability for critical thinking and activism.  But how do we break that?  What’s the collateral damage for those who stand up?  How do we guard against blacklisting?

International

Internationally we’re seeing geopolitical crises in Syria and Ukraine, where proxy wars between regional and global powers are interfering, supporting and perpetuating strife.  The West is implicated in their support for rebels in Syria and for aiding, abetting and supporting a coup in Ukraine.  Russia is implicated in supporting Assad and for taking defensive actions in the south and east of Ukraine.  Who’s right?  And if no-one’s right, what do we do?  And what about the whole Sunni-Shi’a schism being played out in the Levant right now, tied directly to East-West geopolitical games and Israeli apartheid state terrorism?

And then we see the demonstrations in Venezeula, and I for one have a hard time believing the US isn’t involved, to some degree, in perpetuating them, especially after their direct involvement in the aborted coup against Chavez and revelations of ongoing US attempts to destablise Cuba.  What implications does all this have globally?

In Egypt we see the military junta consolidating their control, crushing dissent and committing atrocities.  We now know that the coup was well planned, with the Tamarod movement – however organic it may have been initially - having been infiltrated and used by the junta to engineer the coup.  Bermuda still plays host to Egyptian military hardware flying to and from the US – it’s not unusual to see Egyptian air force jets and planes at our airport.  Do we have a responsibility to end this?  If not why?  If so, how?

Environmentally speaking, we see a continued failure to address the catastrophe of climate change and a continued destruction of ecologies on a global scale.  What needs to happen to change this?

Any ideas?

Shooting at our feet…

I am extremely disappointed with the decision by Minister Fahy to deny work permits to a film-crew who were hoping to do a documentary on the tragic case of Rebecca Middleton.

Shooting ourselves in the foot...

Shooting ourselves in the foot…

‘Reputational Risk’

Minister Fahy gave the following explanation for his decision:

“Regarding the film crew’s request to visit, after carefully and extensively assessing the matter, we recognised there could be some potential reputational risks to Bermuda associated with the ultimate airing of this documentary.”

“Based on the provisions under the law and at my discretion, a decision was made to decline their application for temporary work permits.”

I’m afraid I fail to follow the logic here.

Yes, the documentary makes us look bad, because, quite frankly, we (our police and judicial system) did indeed screw up.

We look bad because we did handle it badly.

Add to that, whether we allow the film crew permits here or not, the documentary is going to be made, and so declining the film crew work permits does absolutely nothing to prevent ‘reputational risks to Bermuda associated with the ultimate airing of this documentary’.

In fact, this move has completely the opposite effect.

Rather than helping protect Bermuda’s image, we’ve further tarnished it with this decision.  We’ve compounded the situation, and made ourselves look worse.

This decision alone has negatively affected our reputation, even before the airing of the documentary – even before it has really begun!

Had we allowed the film-crew to come, we could have ensured that Government could acknowledge the errors that were made in the original case and highlight the reforms they led to, and project a good image of Bermuda as safe for tourists.

Instead we’ve invited criticism of censorship and comparisons to totalitarian regimes which crush negative reporting through the power of the State – and largely excuse their actions along similar Orwellian language as Minister Fahy has used here.

Point blank, this was the completely the wrong decision.

BTA Interference?

In one of the original stories regarding this the Minister noted that the Bermuda Tourism Authority would be ‘consulted’ about whether or not to allow the film crew permission to film here.

I criticised this at the time as giving a private/quango entity power over the decision, enhancing the democratic deficit, as the BTA is not accountable to the people.

The Minister later released a statement saying that neither the BTA or the DoTourism have the power to vet work permits, but are simply consulted.

It seems to me that while the final decision, the actual ‘vetting’ is, indeed, done by the DoImmigration, it is clear that the consultation carries significant weight, and the BTA, at least, does appear to have had de facto vetting power in this instance.

Unfortunately, we don’t have PATI (Public Access To Information) in place yet, so we’ll likely be unable to get a proper account of what this ‘consultation’ constituted…

Political Interference?

I doubt it will be lost on the film crew that our current OBA Attorney-General, Mark Pettingill, was central to the Rebecca Middleton tragedy.

I doubt that they will not seek to investigate, or frame, whether the decision to prevent them from filming in Bermuda, was due to the embarrassment that this might cause to the current Government, as the current AG’s role would no doubt have featured prominently.

Whether or not the AG did apply behind-the-scenes pressure on Minister Fahy (and it should be noted that both are from the BDA faction of the OBA) I cannot say.

Nonetheless, the connection is there and will no doubt be seen by some as a very real possibility.

NB – Mark Pettingill was the attorney for Kirk Mundy, one of the two accused in the Rebecca Middleton case.  In some versions of the story (it’s not as clear as one would imagine, very much a ‘he said, she said’ mess) he was central to obtaining the plea bargain for Kirk Mundy, which ultimately led to the collapse of the case.  Alternatively, there’s questions about how the police handled it, mistakes with forensic evidence, etc.  As such, it’s not clear to what degree Mr Pettingill should shoulder for the tragic mishandling of the case, but he would be a central figure nonetheless.

Independence, someday?

When, not if…

As I currently divide my time between Bermuda and Scotland, I can’t help but muse about the issue of independence, with the Scottish referendum on independence now in full swing.

Rather coincidentally a very old thread on the issue of Bermudian independence and Caribbean integration has sprung back to life with some interesting recent comments.

I’ve discussed the issue of independence now and then.

Ultimately, I think Bermudian independence is only a matter of time – the only question really is when, not if, as far as I’m concerned.

The French Model

Having said that, I would support what might be called the ‘French model’, where the UK becomes a federation (and preferably a republic at that!).

This would see continued devolved parliaments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as an English parliament – or perhaps even a series of regional parliaments in England (one for the ‘North’, one for the southwest and the midlands and one for London, for example).

And then a federal parliament, say based in York (a former British capital, and a more central one too).

Such a federal parliament would have MPs from the entirety of what is currently the UK, including MPs from the UKOTs.  Under such a system each UKOT would represent a single constituency and elect a single MP – and as such we’d have representation in a truly British federation.

I call this the French model, as this is essentially what we see in Martinique and Guadeloupe.  These French territories far to our south have their own local parliaments, but also elect MPs to the national French parliament.

I’m okay with such a model – I’d certainly prefer it to the status quo.

Even then though…

I’m not sure that would be any more sustainable than the status quo though – our interests would still be liable to being sacrificed for the interests of more geographically British ones, specifically the City of London, whose interests are in many ways contrary to our own current economic model.

The Caribbean or Lucayan alternatives?

A much more sustainable alternative, to me at least, is independence from the UK followed by integration with EITHER the Caribbean as a whole, OR with the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos islands.

While the West Indies Federation failed, I don’t think that means that a Caribbean Federation wouldn’t work.  I think it makes sense really to unite the region into a proper federation – incorporating Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Maarten/Martin and the ABC islands.

My vision here is for some sort of United States of the Caribbean – something more than the limited vision of CARICOM.

That’s perhaps more of a long-term goal though – realising a Lucayan Federation between Bermuda, the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos is perhaps a more realistic initial step.

We all share a common history and ancestry more than we do with the wider Caribbean, with both the Bahamas and TCI being founded by Bermudians and having had intimate relations, economically, ecologically and politically, almost since our respective post-Columbian origins.

Bermuda alone?

Of course, Bermuda could quite easily just set off alone as an independent country in its own right.

I just feel that it a federation, one we’ve entered into mutually, would benefit us more than the status quo with the UK or straight up Bermuda alone independence.

We’d retain our own parliaments still, but develop a federal system too, and overall complement each other and generally be quite a successful federation in my opinion.

Not a silver bullet

Don’t get me wrong here, I don’t believe for one minute that taking down one flag and putting up another is going to magically change things.

It won’t.  At all.

And I continue to support the general critique of such a mentality that the late Maurice Bishop and the NJM of Grenada had to say on this matter:

“But after all the celebrations and bacchanal are over and we wake up [the] next day (or next week) with a hangover, the price of food, clothes and everything else will still keep going up, wages will still be the same (or less), the condition of the schools, hospitals and roads (except for maybe two more roundabouts) will continue to get worse, and the people’s housing will still be the same or worse”

However, I’m not afraid of independence and if there was a new referendum on the issue I would vote in favour of it.

It’s not going to solve our issues, but I do think it can serve as one step towards doing that.

Time to organise?

In the middle of 2008, after I had already made the decision to leave for further studies in September, I convened a small meeting of individuals I considered relatively like-minded. ForwardEverBackwordNever

The topic of the meeting was to discuss the issue of independence and tactics and strategy to realising Bermudian independence.

We set ourselves an ambitious target of seeing Bermudian independence by 2020.

I regret that we failed to follow-up on that plan.

Perhaps it’s time to reconvene and discuss the topic and to set out a positive vision for Bermudian independence and to work out a the tactics and strategies to give life to that vision.

Update on the BTA, Minister Fahy & the Middleton Documentary

Just as a quick update to yesterday’s post concerning the Rebecca Middleton documentary, I’ve been forwarded a pdf of a Ministerial statement from Minister Fahy. roll of film

It’s available here if one wants to read it. Ministerial Statement Middleton Film Crew Denied Work Permits

Essentially though it is highly critical of the RG’s reporting of the story and seeks to rebut what it considers misinformation in the original article, notably that:

  • The Minister disputes that he ‘denied work permits’ and says the crew hadn’t applied for them in the first place;
  • The crew did not have letters from the Ministry saying they had permission to work ;
  • Instead, the crew did have a letter from the Ministry of Tourism welcoming them to Bermuda;
  • The Minister says he hasn’t sought to sabotage anything;
  • The Minister insists he didn’t ‘intervene’ on the Friday (March 21st);
  • Instead the Minister was made aware of the issue on March 20th and determined they needed temporary work permits;
  • These temporary work permits require a ten-day lead time;
  • The Minister sought to stress that the BTA doesn’t get to vet work permits but, rather, is ‘consulted’ ‘as a matter of courtesy’.

While this does clear some things up, it also raises additional questions.

And it doesn’t really address the main thrust of yesterday’s post, that of the democratic deficit in that the BTA can act pretty much with impunity in dishing out contracts using public monies – and that this makes it very much at risk of being a vehicle for corruption, a la ‘friends and family’, be it OBA (now) or PLP (hypothetically in the future).

The more immediate concerns it raises to me is that there seems to be a communication breakdown within the Government, specifically between the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

This isn’t particularly surprising, seeing as the problem of Government silos has been around for far too long.

It is concerning all the same, especially in light of various questionable actions by the Minister of Tourism and the OBA government itself – it adds to the sense of a sense of entitlement, an arrogance, and dysfunction within the government.

Further, this incident highlights the very poor communication/PR abilities of the Government itself, but also very much the BTA.

I don’t know who’s handling the PR for the BTA, as they haven’t been exactly forthcoming in volunteering such information, but one feels that they – and by extension all of us (as it’s using public monies) – are not getting a good return on the investment, by far.

It also raises issues about the quality of the daily newspaper as well as the question of who’s telling the truth here – the media or the Minister – and what are the consequences for this going forward?

The Bermuda Tourism Authority & sanitising history?

“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past” – A Party slogan from Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984.

There’s an interesting article in today’s RG, concerning a documentary about the tragic story of the Rebecca Middleton case.

Leaving aside the curious focus of these Canadians on Bermuda and the racial aspects, of a White Canadian girl being brutally raped and murdered by Black men in an island paradise…

…rather than First Nations women being disappeared in their own homelands while being overwhelmingly ignored by the Canadian mainstream media, and the overall general tragedy involved – and that’s exactly what this case is, a sad and tragic case, both in the initial crime and the subsequent handling of it…

…the most disturbing aspect of this article is a quote at the end.

The quote in question is:

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport added: “The production company can resubmit an application that will be considered by the Department of Immigration in consultation with the new Bermuda Tourism Authority.”

Why, one must ask, is the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), even involved here in the first place, and why do they seem to have the power to influence the decision on whether or not this documentary can proceed?

One may reasonably assume that the BTA, which is focused on tourism, has concerns about the impact any such documentary may have on tourism numbers – presumably they fear that highlighting such a tragic incident may deter individuals from visiting Bermuda and so would wish to either damage control or prevent the documentary in the first place.

In particular I assume the BTA is working under the mandate of ‘Part Three – Principle Objectives & Powers of Authority’, section eleven, subsection 1(a) “to develop and promote Bermuda as a tourist destination’.

This raises issues about sanitising history, rewriting it even, or sweeping it under the floor, all for the sake maintaining a facade for tourist dollars.

It also raises very real questions about how the quango-isation of government is contributing to a democratic deficit in Bermuda.

The BTA is essentially a quango – it uses public monies but is not accountable to the public in terms of democratic oversight.

And yet, as a de facto private entity, it apparently can influence the granting of work permits for a historical documentary?

The legislation empowering the BTA also gives it the power to:

Part Three, Section 11, subsection 2

(a) to acquire, take on lease, hire, hold and enjoy movable and immovable property and to convey, assign, surrender, charge, mortgage, demise, transfer or otherwise dispose of, or deal with any movable or immovable property belonging to the Authority upon such terms as the Board considers fit;

(b) to grant loans or advances to any person carrying on a tourism enterprise, except that the Authority shall not grant loans or advances the aggregate amount of which exceeds $1,000,000 without the approval of the Minister of Finance;

(c) to enter into any contract or agreement for carrying out the purposes of this Act;

(d) to receive such fee, payment or commission as may be agreed upon, in consideration of the services rendered by the Authority;

(e) to subscribe for or acquire any stock, share, bond, debenture or other financial instrument in any company carrying on a tourism enterprise;

(f) to invest any money of the Authority in any business within or outside Bermuda which will promote or be conducive to the tourism trade in Bermuda;

(g) to enter into any joint venture with any person or to form or participate in the formation of any company, whether in Bermuda or elsewhere, for the purpose of carrying out all or any of the functions of the Authority;

(h) to manage, control or supervise tourism enterprises within or outside Bermuda by appointing advisers, or by collaborating with persons carrying on tourism enterprises or entering into partnerships or any other arrangements with them;

(i) to borrow money whether by way of bank overdraft or otherwise for such purposes of the Authority as the Board may from time to time consider desirable with the approval of the Minister of Finance;

(j) to require such fee or payment with respect to any matter, in accordance with the objectives of this Act, relating to tourism or tourism enterprises to be remitted to the Authority;

(k) generally to do all such matters and things as may be incidental to or consequential upon the exercise of the Authority’s powers or the discharge of its duties under this Act.

Add to the above, Part Five – Miscellaneous, includes section 23 ‘Confidentiality’ and section 24 ‘ Rules’ which allow it to chose whether or not to disclose contracts (who’s hired, for what and for how much), with whistleblowers providing such information to be subject to either a fine ($10k to $20k) or imprisonment (for one or two years) or both.

Former UBP Minister heads the BTA under the OBA.

Former UBP Minister heads the BTA under the OBA.

So, we have a de facto quango, using public funds, apparently able to influence work permit decisions and potentially censor information AND that can hire people, spend public monies, without being accountable to the people.

We have no way to ensure that contracts are tendered properly, that it’s not just a ‘gravy train’ route to facilitate OBA ‘friends and family’, we have no way to know whether we’re getting value for money.

The quango-isation of public monies accelerated under the PLP, and it seems to be continuing now under the OBA.

The democratic deficit continues to grow…

 

 

“An insult to the House…”

The title of this post comes from around the tenth minute of the audio recording found on Bernews here, where an Opposition MP (I can’t tell who) basically tells the Speaker that the Premier is insulting the House and the Speaker with his refusal to answer questions put to him, in the House, concerning JetGate.

I implore readers to listen to the whole audio clip – it’s about 17 minutes long.

Myself, listening to the Premier’s refusal to answer questions and resorting to deflection, etc, I have to agree with the Opposition MP in question.

The Premier is insulting the House of Assembly and the Speaker – quite frankly I’m surprised the Speaker isn’t holding the Premier to account for his contempt to the House and the Speaker.

More than that, the Premier is insulting our electorate overall – his responses and actions are contemptuous of democracy.

That the AG, MP Pettingill, quite readily answers the questions, just makes the Premier look all the more childish and trying to hide something from the people.  And more than that, the AG’s answering makes it appear that the Premier himself is losing internal support, not just within his Party, and not just within his Cabinet, but within the troika of Cannonier-Pettingill-Crockwell, who are central to the whole JetGate scandal.

The Premier is bringing our democracy into disrepute.  He is bringing his Party into disrepute.

While OBAers may well be willing to close ranks and defend the Leader to a degree, at a point they will have to conclude that the Premier is fast becoming a liability who risks discrediting the OBA and its Government completely, to a far greater degree than even the PLP did in their eyes.

The Premier needs to go.

On a ‘slow-go’

My apologies for the lack of posts.

I’m back in Scotland now and the reality of the amount of work I still need to do for my studies is beginning to hit home.  As I’m sure many readers will understand, that has to take priority over blog posts I’m afraid.

I’ll keep posting, but it’s not going to be anywhere near as regular as I would like.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get this stuff done and return to more regular posting in the near future.