I’m featured in three articles in the local media today, all revolving around the issue of casino gambling and the OBA Government’s handling of it.
Due to space restrictions they obviously weren’t able to use everything, so if readers wish to see my comments in their full context, I am copying them here. F
For the sake of space, this post only has the full comments to the RG; the Bermuda Sun comments will follow.
Starling skeptical about ‘public education campaign’
I would like to welcome the Government’s launching it’s ‘public awareness campaign’ on the Government’s vision of casino gambling in Bermuda.
However, despite over a year of ‘the urgency of now’ the Government is finally engagin, at least in a limited fashion, with the people about what their vision is, although it does seem strange that despite over a year of research the Government is still in a last minute rush to finalise their ‘vision’ with trips to Singapore last week and only now consulting with hoteliers on the issue.
And while Government [is] finally engaging the people about their vision, one cannot help but feel that this whole process is a lost opportunity for the Government [to rebuild trust with the people]. One-sided consultation without honouring their commitment to ‘do the right thing’ of holding a referendum on the issue of casino gambling gives the impression that this ‘public awareness campaign’ is more an exercise in ‘going through the motions’ than honest consultation.
Revoking a promised referendum on this issue at the eleventh hour, without a reasonable explanation for doing so, and following tabling the legislation for the referendum, albeit with a questionable and loaded wording for the referendum question, all this sets a dangerous precedent for our democracy and acts contrary to the mandate that the OBA was elected for – not just their election promise to hold a referendum on this issue, but also the wider mandate of accountability, transparency and a more participatory democracy. It should be noted here that the OBA also promised to introduce legislation to allow the electorate to trigger an election on any issue by way of a petition…
It should also be noted that the Parliamentary Registrar has been preparing for the holding of a referendum on casino gambling since before the 2012 General Election, as both political parties had committed themselves to holding a referendum on this issue.
Importantly, a referendum on casino gambling has already been budgeted for, and the money set aside can only be used for the purpose of holding a referendum – it cannot be used for any other purpose.
The Government’s decision to finally involve the people in town hall meetings on their vision for casino gambling should be welcomed – but their decision to revoke the promised referendum on casino gambling should concern us all.
It is said that the people in a democracy get the government they deserve – that is, that if the people in a democracy do not hold their government accountable, they give their government a free reign to disregard democracy.
The Government’s decision to break it’s commitment to transparency, accountability and participatory democracy is not a ‘done deal’ – the people have the power to hold them to account.
In many ways, the Government’s revoking of the promised referendum on casino gambling represents electoral fraud on the part of the OBA, and this should concern us all.
The petition for a referendum on casino gambling is both non-partisan AND neither for or against casino gambling.
However, I encourage every Bermudian to engage with the ‘public awareness campaign’ of the Government. At the same time I encourage every Bermudian to hold the Government accountable to its mandate and to sign the petition for a referendum on casino gambling.
Petitions may be signed online; additionally, hard-copy petitions are circulating throughout the community and are also available at Rock Island Cafe, Kirk’s Jewellers, the BIU Gas Station and the BIU Headquarters.
Every single OBA and PLP MP, as well as the Independent MP, Terry Lister, have been provided with petition sheets for the ease of constituents, and petition sheets have been provided to both the OBA headquarters on Reid Street and the PLP headquarters on Court Street, so that Party Members can exercise their democratic rights to hold their respective parties accountable to their election mandates.
The most recent provisional count of signatures for the petition, from last week, is that over 2,500 people have signed the petition, and there is every indication that awareness and support for the petition is increasing.
This issue transcends party loyalty and personal support or opposition to casino gambling.
Ultimately, this is about democracy and what kind of democracy we believe we deserve – one where election promises are honoured, governments are accountable to the people and engage in participatory democracy OR one where we resign ourselves to deceit and the dictatorship of lobbyists.