More on Term Limits – A reply to ‘Feelings vs Facts’

The Local (Political) Blogs

There has recently been a burst of new life on the Bermudian blogs, with 21square briefly resuming activity with a series of excellent posts (although the blog seems to be offline right now?), and that old stalwart of the Bermudian blogs, Politics.bm has recently shrugged off its dormancy and resumed posting.  New Onion and Vexed however seems to have slipped into inactivity, and the rest remain inactive.

‘Feelings vs Facts’

The latest post on Politics.bm refers to the term limits controversy.

The author, Mr Dunleavy, recounts his attendance at the public forum on term limits which was held last night (February 13th) at St Paul’s.  Now, I wasn’t there (being as I’m now in Scotland), and although I tried to follow the live-stream on Bernews, unfortunately the quality of the feed, combined with my being four hours ahead of Bermuda, meant that I’m going to be more reliant on follow-up reports of the event.

This doesn’t mean I’m not able to critique Mr Dunleavy here though.

One wonders how much of an argument one could make about Mr Dunleavy’s choice of title ‘Feeling vs Facts’ seeing as there has been a long-standing trend of those at the top of the power structure in the West (read, White males) to trivialise the ‘other’ as being overly dominated by emotions and feelings rather than rational thought and facts.

White males have long used this argument to both trivialise (and thus dismiss) females and non-Whites, as well as to justify White supremacist patriarchy (in its various forms, but well caught in Kipling’s ‘the White man’s burden’).  Indeed, there has been a distinct trend from the OBA to dismiss significant proportions of the population for being ‘ignorant and unthinking’.

It’s always struck me as a bit odd that the OBA would seek to belittle the people in this manner rather than trying to clearly convey their positions to the people.

While canvassing I came across a number of self-identified OBA members/supporters who mostly relayed how ignorant ‘PLP voters’ were.  They didn’t really explain why they were voting OBA other than as a reaction against the PLP and ‘because the OBA were better’ (without explaining how the OBA were better).  Self-identified PLP voters however spent a good time discussing with me the pros and cons of different policies and seemed to have a much more holistic grasp of politics and socio-economic realities.

But I digress… (for now)…

Fact is…

Fact is, the OBA made an election promise not to abolish term limits, but to instead suspend them for two years in order to provide a thorough review.

Fact is, the OBA abolished term limits within two months of coming to power.

Fact is, people are upset about this about turn by the OBA.

Fact is, people are unsure what other election promises by the OBA will be reversed.

Fact is, there may very well be some confusion about the term limits policy itself.

Fact is, suspending term limits and engaging in thorough review, including (especially) public meetings and other forms of public consultation (a full discussion through the media and requests for ‘write-ins’ on the policy), would have gone a long way to establishing ‘fact versus fiction/feeling’ on this issue – reducing confusion on the policies involved.

Fact is, if the OBA and its supporters are convinced of the ‘facts’ regarding term limits, this two-year suspension and review process should be enough to ‘convince’ the people and they may even have been able to abolish term limits sooner than the two-year deadline, provided they had engaged sufficiently to get popular buy-in for that move.

Fact is, even if the OBA and its supporters thought that the ‘ends justify the means’ enough to abolish term limits and their credibility through this policy reversal, in terms of economic growth, the popular uproar resulting from this decision now threatens to undermine that prospect.

Fact is, the policy paper on which the OBA apparently based their decision to abolish term limits, the Impact Assessment on the Elimination of Term Limits:

Does not provide a sufficient cost-benefit analysis or other statistical (fact-based) argument in favour of abolishing term limits;

Does not outline how to counter the presumed negative consequences of abolishing term limits;

– Clearly acknowledges that term limits are a controversial policy and that changes to them will have to be handled in an inclusive and open manner in order to prevent social concerns;

– Clearly calls for a clear communication strategy to be implemented before abolishing term limits.

Fact is, the OBA abolished the term limits policy without engaging in this clear communication strategy or by making a clear ‘fact-based’ argument in favour of abolishing term limits.

Fact is, the 2012 Working Paper on Work Permit Policies, which some in the OBA have cited (without providing documentation) as containing a pre-OBA review of term limits and calling for their elimination, does not in fact call for their elimination but instead advocates for their continuation, albeit with some tweaks.  [I have a copy of this document and will make it available by tomorrow, unless the media do so first (I’m giving them time to do some investigative reporting).]

Fact is, the OBA lied as part of their election strategy.

Feeling is, work permit and term limits issues are going to be one of the most closely publicly inspected policies for years, and that it will continue to grow as a political ‘issue’.

Feeling is, the OBA could have saved themselves a lot of trouble had they practiced what they preached, namely sticking to their election promise of a two-year suspension and acting on inclusiveness, openness and transparency.

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