I believe that Bermudian independence is inevitable. I am not opposed to remaining part of Britain, although I am opposed to remaining part of the United Kingdom. Whats the difference? By Britain I envision a federal British republic, something along the lines of the vision outlined by Tony Benn in his Commonwealth of Britian Bill. This would have entailed, amongst other things, the end of the monarchy, the disestablishment of the Anglican Church as the State Religion, the replacement of the House of Lords with an elected upper house, equal representation of men and women in both elected houses of parliament, national parliaments for England, Scotland, Wales and the territories, and a federal parliament and president. I can see and support this form of remaining part of Britain.
Unfortunately, I also see the realisation of Bermudian independence as much more likely to occur before the rise of a federal British republic.
There are a lot of arguments both for and against independence, and despite the flaws of the Bermuda Independence Commissions report, I do believe that it does provide an excellent overview of these pros and cons; it also serves as a useful resource for exploring the independence debate.
I’ve always held that independence in name, that is a new flag, a new anthem, a new motto, and all the other paraphenalia of independence is independence in name only as long as we are dependent on others economically. We would simply move from the realm of official colony of the UK to an unofficial (or neo-colonialist) colony of the US (which in many respects we are already in most things aside from name).
In order to achieve true independence it is necessary to also build self-sufficiency; only in this way does one avoid the neo-colonialist trap. I will admit that Bermuda, with its limited resources, really does not have the ability to achieve self-sufficiency. But we do have the capability to greatly increase our self-sufficiency as well as diversify our dependence on foriegn imports in such a way as to avoid our total dependence on one alone, and thus reducing our chances of being subjugated in a neo-colonial fashion to that other country.
In the last nine years of the Progressive Labour government, a Party which is committed to independence from the United Kingdom, while it has achieved certain necessary preconditions for independence (such as the constituency review and other modernisation reforms), has so far failed in developing or expanding our capacity for self-sufficency.
The Sustainable Devolepment Plan did offer the potential to increase our self-sufficiency, and remains an important starting point for any future development. Social investment into alternate energy resources, including home solar panels (complete with the ability for reverse meters), expanded desalinisation plants, waste treatment of Hamiltons sewage (which could be used for gray water and has other potential uses as well), genuine work on marine energy (through thermo-cline and tidal energy), wind power, investment into communal gardening and domestic container gardening, a realistic fisheries plan (including adequate processing centres and aquaculture), a national compost plan, expanded public transport and a phased transition to alternate fuel vehicles, all would contribute to greater local self-sufficiency. Investments in alternate sites for food and other vital commodities away from the monopolistic control of the US, say through greater use and investment in Caribbean and Latin American agriculture and industries, would also go a long way to increasing our ability to achieve independence.
All of this and more can be done while we are still a UK colony, and would benefit us while a colony.
However, as I’ve said, Bermuda has limited resources, and ultimately I do not think Bermuda by itself can achieve self-sufficiency and thus political independence. As a result I think a natural evolution following Bermudian independence is greater integration with the Caribbean, and ultimately a Caribbean federation.
There are some who jealously reject any lumping of Bermuda with the Caribbean, and will give learned geographical lectures to any who try to say that we are part of the Caribbean. They almost fanatically oppose connections with the Caribbean, with Caribbean regional organisations, and there are even those who single out Caribbean-born workers in Bermuda as trouble makers, ‘jump-ups.’
Of course, geographically speaking, we are not part of the Caribbean basin, we are a mid-Atlantic island, one of the most remote island outposts there is (only modern transportation and our ‘proximity’ to the present major power in the world reduce the ‘feeling’ of this isoloation). But there are quite a few similarities, that in my opinion make the idea of working with and learning from the Caribbean common-sense. We are a small island, in both population and size, like many Caribbean micro-states. We are traditionally a ‘plantation’ economy not in the sense of us having a long history of sugar-cane production, but in our history of dependency on more or less one economic mainstay (this has fluctuated over our history, from tabacco, to whaling, to privateering, to onion/lily production, arrowroot, tourism, and more recently, international business). We are also subject to similar environmental problems (hurricanes for example). Ecologically, although of course unique, we have the similarities of (albeit reduced biodiversity) of coral reefs, sea grass meadows, mangroves, sub-tropical vegetation.
A Caribbean federation would benefit us all, from Bermuda to Barbuda, to Cuba to Guyana. It would have to offer membership to all of the Caribbean islands, not just the anglo-Caribbean. Despite our unique histories and cultures/languages, there is also a good deal of similarity. Also, the Caribbean as a whole does have the resources, agriculturally, minerally, industrially, intellectually, to actually build regional self-sufficiency. At the moment most of our economies remain stuck in a plantation style of dependence on one or two main pillars, international business and tourism in Bermuda, tourism and bananas elsewhere. Also, our economies are loargely dominated by a periphery-centre dynamic; despite their agricultural potential suprisingly most islands concentrate on cash crops for export and actually import foodstuffs that could easily be grown at home. Under an integrated federal Caribbean there would be the ability to change our economic dynamics into greater regional integration.
I sense that most fears of joining with the Caribbean stem from a general perception of the region as being poorer than Bermuda, or a region of ‘banana republics.’ This perception fails to take into account the combined effect of formal colonialisms legacy of imperialistic economic structures, the structural inequality and poverty of much of the region, or the role that neo-colonialism has had in the region, especially during the Cold War (the modern history of Haiti, Domincan Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and Grenada spring readily to mind).
There is also a sensation that by joining with the Caribbean Bermuda would be exploited for its wealth by the greater Caribbean. I myself beleive that the strong should indeed help the weak, and in as much as we are economically strong we should commit ourselves to assisting or weaker neighbours with social investment. But it is not necessarily true that Bermuda would have a greater economic burden than other countries should it join with the Caribbean. Furthermore, through unity Bermuda would be better able to protect its interests on the global scale from threats to its welfare. The cooperation of the islands, including Bermuda, in the aftermath of Hurrican Ivan, and likely after Hurricane Dean, further demonstrates the potential for integration.