Well, I didn’t go to the banquet the other night due to prior committments, however the Royal Gazette has published a transcript of the Premiers’ speech on their website, and the transcript can also be found on the official PLP website. Both links for these follow below.
So, I’ve just read through the transcript, and I thought it was worth posting my thoughts on some of the issues brought up in it.
a) I think the Premier gave a satisfactory rebuff to many of the allegations and his reaction to them, such as the claims of cedar beams. I am separating here unsubstantiated allegations from those of potential greater substance such as the BHC issue. Around the workplace, in the pubs, often online, I come across what amounts to a whispering campaign of all sorts of rumours and allegations, many apparently originating from anomynous sources. It may well be that some of these allegations have a grain of truth, or that the originators have good reason to hide their identity. Many, if not all, however are of a nature that is almost impossible for someone to refute; sort of like the infamous witch trials – the more you try to deny the allegations the more you appear guilty, or the allegations are of a nature that no proof exists either to prove or disprove them.
For allegations like this it is best to simply ignore them, but even through this ones credibility is effected through a sustained smear campaign. There really is little one can do to respond to them (for instance one cannot really take an anomynous entity to court for slander) other than appeal to the critical reasoning faculties of the citizenry concerning the nature of the allegations and the anomynity of their originators.
b) I continue to disagree with the stance concerning the BHC files. I agree that the investigation was completed some five years ago, and that the results at most were accusations of ‘unethical but not illegal’ behaviour. I continue to maintain though that any files/investigations concerning holders of public office and potential abuse of public monies and power should be made available to the public on completion of the investigation. I continue to call for the reform for freedom of information, and see the defence of the media gag order and so forth in the name of protecting confidential police files a red herring and have not been convinced otherwise to date. My position on the whole BHC files have been stated elsewhere, and I have not changed from this position; if Party members did act unethically as alleged in the investigations, and if these allegations can be substantiated, then the Party should sanction such Party members appropriately.
c) I agree with the dismissal of the UBPs argument for a Royal Commission to re-investigate the BHC issue. I never did understand the UBPs position on this, it seemed to be a cheap shot for oppurtunistic political gain. The investigation has already been conducted adequately by competent investigators. What needs done is action on reviewing the claims by the then DPP that existing legislation needs rewritten, Freedom of Information legislation needs drawn up and enacted, and the Party needs to review the nature of the allegations to determine whether Party members need to be sanctioned.
d) I agree with the sentiments expressed that the UBP does not have the moral authority to accuse the PLP of corruption and the like until the UBP itself deals with the many skeletons in its closet. I do not think this is the same thing as saying ‘well, the UBP did it too…’ rather I see it as a call against hypocrisy and underlines the need for full freedom of information and investigations of past potential conflicts of interest, such as the issue of TBI mentioned in the speech, as well as allegations such as concerning the National Sports Stadium under the UBP. This is not to say the PLP should not be called on possible corruption, but that if the UBP is going to do so it must acknowledge its own questionable past at the same time.
e) I think it was unneccessary to lable Harold Darrel as a ‘demented deviant.’ I do question the political motives behind his actions, but ‘shooting the messenger’ is usually not the best policy as I see it.
f) I think the Premier is correct when he spoke of the UBPs position on race. I will admit that the language and style of the PLP or PLPers sometimes is counter-productive, but I do believe the PLP is and has genuinely made a sincere effort to bringing about racial reconciliation. Race is a very emotional issue, but it is one that we need to discuss and not sweep under the carpet. I find the UBPs position on race to be akin to an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, and I have written concerning this tendency elsewhere on this blog. The UBP preaches colour blindness, and apes the reactionary comments of much of its support base in viewing the discussion of race as divisive, that affirmative reaction equals reverse discrimination and so on. Colour blindness, a colour blind society, is and remains the ideal of most Bermudians. But it is not the current reality; we live in a society that desires colour blindness but not in a society that is colour blind. There are a lot of issues that continue to haunt us from our past (the correlation of class and race for example) and the general dynamic of white superiority/black inferiority that continues to haunt our world, however more subtle racism has become, even to the point of subconscious and unconsciousness as opposed to the overt conscious racism of times past. We still have a lot of work to do before achieving racial reconciliation and the colour blind society, and the UBP approach of colour blindness now equate with affirming the status quo of systemic institutional and cultural racism.
g) I think the Premier presented a pretty fair catalogue of what can be viewed as a media bias against the PLP, but I can see how others will argue that the media will naturally focus more on the Party in power than the Opposition Party.
h) I do think the Premier is correct when he says that the UBP has a rather superficial approach to race in its own public presentation of itself as a Party that represents Bermuda’s demographics. It is true that its Parliamentary candidates largely correlate with Bermuda’s racial breakdown, but the consistent fact (based on polls and actual UBP membership) shows that this ‘public face’ is quite different, if not the reverse, of the UBP’s actual racial composition. Its not hard from here to view the UBP as cynically exploiting race and engaging in deception as opposed to the PLP.
i) I was disappointed but not suprised by the invocation of religion in the speech. This largely dominated the last quarter or so of the speech. While Dr. Brown may very well be sincere in his beliefs, I remain of the opinion that religion and politics should be kept separate, and just like Mr. Dunkley’s bringing up religion in regards to the elections proximity to Christmas, it is hard not to be cynical and interpret this as an oppurtunistic attempt for the Church vote.