It’s been a week since my ‘direct action’ sit-down at the Ministry of Home Affairs.
There’s been a lot said about me, and my action, in the various media, and I’ve been able to follow the action up with various quotes in the Royal Gazette, an op-ed in the Bermuda Sun and a Q&A on the Sherri J Simmons radio show last Thursday.
I’ve tried to answer some of the criticisms and questions that have come up concerning my action.
It’s been a week on though, and I’ve had some time to reflect on the event and its fallout.
What was achieved?
I think my action achieved a few things.
Perhaps the most important is that the issue of term limits, and by extension work permits and immigration reform, has become much more closely discussed than it may have been otherwise. It helped highlight the issue and bring it to greater levels of public awareness than may have otherwise been the case. This is good. Government policies should be closely scrutinised, and the people should seek to become as educated as possible on policies and to debate alternatives and reforms in general.
Two policy papers were subsequently leaked. One of these, the ‘Impact Assessment on the Elimination of Term Limits’, was the target of my direct action, and has since been communicated to the public through both the RG and Bernews. The other policy document has not yet been made available to the public, but I am aware that the media also received copies and I believe it will be made available shortly.
I don’t know if these documents would have been leaked to the people if it hadn’t been due to my actions. I really cannot say. What I can say is that I know I wouldn’t have also received these documents if it hadn’t been due to my action. Whether the media would have also received them or not, or in the time-frame that they did, I don’t know.
Additionally, I think people have become more willing to challenge and criticise the OBA for both how they’ve handled the first months of their being the government and that they’ve reversed a key election promise.
This is good. And it bodes well for the future.
While OBA supporters may not particularly like the fact that the OBA is being challenged in this way, as far as I’m concerned it means that there is a greater chance now for the OBA to be more careful and considerate in developing and implementing policy. And it also means that the OBA may move forward on accelerating PATI (freedom of information) and Whistleblower legislation.
Of course, there is the possibility that the OBA will retreat in terms of openness and adopt a siege mentality, which will only lead to it being increasingly isolated from the people, and thus more and more likely to misstep, provoke and misgovern. I hope this is not the case.
One key aspect however is less about the term limits itself, and more about expanding the social-political imagination in terms of engaging in alternative approaches to politics.
Bermuda is a conservative place, both in terms of general ideology and political practice. Too often politics is limited to formal politics and the more negative bureaucratic cultures in terms of secrecy and patronising – as well as intimidation – when it comes to involving the people in the political process.
I believe that my action, in and of itself, has expanded the political imagination in terms of creating a new space for popular political action, to the development of a new and active participatory politics. Quite frankly, it’s shown people that there are more ways to be involved than formal political parties, formal bureaucratic channels and online commentating. All of these are important and do play a necessary role – and can even be used creatively in themselves. However, there are additional spaces of political action, and there is a role for these to play too – they can enhance and complement our existing ‘formal’ politics.
Would I do it again?
I’m not sure. I think so.
I would have approached it differently though. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.
I think I could have communicated my intentions with greater clarity, both at the time and after. I certainly would have tried harder to get more support prior to acting. And I would have waited until Wednesday had I known the Minister was off-island, although the acting Minister and Premier could have indeed acted, which is why I continued on the Tuesday.