In addition to the various Q & A I published recently, based on issues that have been raised to me while collecting petition signatures, I realised I missed an important one, plus a few other things…
Civil Servants & the Petition
There’s been quite a few people who have stopped to speak with our petitioneers and explained that while they fully support the petition’s call for a referendum on casino gambling, they feel that they cannot sign because they are civil servants.
That is a mistaken interpretation of the civil service code/general orders.
Quite frankly, if you’re a registered voter in Bermuda, then you can sign the petition, regardless of whether or not you are a civil servant.
The only thing that you, as a civil servant, cannot do in relation to the petition, is to take a front-line role in it. You cannot be prominent in being behind the petition, in that your name shouldn’t be linked in the public as helping organise or launch the initiative – you can’t be advocating for it in the media with your name and photo attached in other words, taking a prominent role like Kim Swan, Michael Ashton, Stuart Hayward or myself have.
But you CAN sign the petition if you agree with it.
There’s been a few comments that have attempted to dismiss the petition because of who has taken a front-line role in it.
There was a concern, on the part of those of us who have taken a front-line role in this, that people would focus on the ‘who’ and not the ‘what’.
To a degree that has happened, and that is unfortunate.
Now, I can’t speak for the others in this, but I will give my own perception on this.
Those of us who are taking a front-line role, well, we’ve already been, for the most part, public on other issues in the past. Stuart Hayward was an Independent MP, Kim Swan has been involved in politics for a while (UBP MP, UBP Leader, Independent MP and Independent Candidate) and I’ve been involved in politics, first as a member of the PLP and most recently as an Independent candidate.
For one reason or another we believe passionately about politics or political issues in Bermuda – so I don’t see why there is any surprise that on this issue, which has several key precedents and ramifications for our democracy, we have concerns and are not afraid to put ourselves in the front-line, with all the personal attacks that comes with it?
We all come from markedly different political traditions – Stuart Hayward as a moderate environmentalist politics, Kim Swan as a moderate/liberal conservative (in as much as he was heavily involved in the UBP) and me as a democratic socialist. We all just happen to have concerns about this issue and weren’t afraid to stand up on it.
And we’re not ‘everyone’ involved in it. We’re just the ones who have experienced the personal attacks that being publicly political brings, and we’ve got enough thick skin as a result to be willing to endure more IF it helps raise consciousness about the issue in question and the ramifications of the Government reversing its commitment to a referendum on casino gambling.
I find the personal attacks towards those of us who have taken a front-line role on this issue as a form of political intimidation.
Not so much against us in particular, even though the attacks are directed at us.
Instead, it is indirect intimidation against those who would contribute to our political discourse but are afraid of the public backlash – it inhibits frank discussion and democracy in general in our society.
It also helps to maintain an ‘us versus them’ mindset, where you’re either ‘with’ the OBA or ‘against’ them and therefore are evil, rather than listening to what is actually being said and judging the message on its own merit.
Another problem I’ve found is that we’ve been approached by people who fully support the petition and its call for a referendum on casino gambling, but have said that either they have contracts with the current Government or their boss is a big OBA supporter, and they’re afraid that if they sign the petition they will lose their contracts, or lose their jobs or otherwise suffer consequences, such as by blacklisting.
Now, I don’t know how valid those concerns are – in some ways I think its a hangover from the darker days of Bermudian politics.
Nonetheless, they are concerns that are being voiced, and, whether real or not, it is having a real effect on how people act politically, and so is de facto real. And I find that extremely worrying for the health of our democracy.
I mean, what does that say for our democracy when people are afraid to sign a petition that they support because they fear consequences from the Government or its supporters?