On the banks of the Rubicon?
“alea iacta est” – The die is cast – such are the words that history (although so ancient it blends with legend here) record Julius Caesar as speaking on the banks of the Rubicon (a river in the north-east of modern Italy).
The Rubicon marked a key boundary for Caesar – by crossing the Rubicon and leading his troops from Cisalpine Gaul into Italy proper (Caesar commanded troops legally in Cisalpine Gaul, but under Roman law could not command his troops across the border without committing treason) Caesar committed a capital offence and triggered full-on civil war – a civil war Caesar won.
In modern times the phrase ‘to cross the Rubicon’ means ‘to pass a point of no return’.
From the minute Caesar had crossed the Rubicon the civil war was on.
On Valentines Day, last Friday, our democracy collectively stood on the banks of the Rubicon. One may even say we’ve crossed it.
Perhaps not all that romantically, I spent most of the afternoon and evening in the public gallery of the HoA. It was a particularly fiery session, to say the least. There’s way too much for me to give proper justice to in a single post.
While there were a lot of allegations thrown around, at least two issues were revealed and don’t seem to be contested as factual – although interpretations of them of course do!
- The Premier confirmed that in addition to himself, AG Pettingill and Minister Crockwell, and in the absence of a civil servant, there was also on the private jet (christened ‘Jet Gate’) owned by Nathan Landow (who has commercial interests in casinos and has been linked to the Club Med site) the Premier’s manager for his Esso Tigermart businesses.
- The Premier confirmed that one of his MPs, backbencher Nandi Davis, secretly recorded a private exchange between herself and Opposition Leader Marc Bean, and that this tape was subsequently ‘handed over to OBA officials’ with the Premier listening to it.
- The Premier asked Opposition Leader Marc Bean to abandon the referendum on casino gambling in a confidential meeting in September 2013;
- The Premier told Marc Bean that a developer had offered to pay him, the AG and Minister Crockwell to facilitate a casino license for the developer – in September, 2013;
- The Premier indicated that he was under financial stress and that this developer would give him the financial freedom to be independent from the traditional UBP group of the OBA – in September 2013;
- The Opposition Leader offered a coalition government option to the Premier;
- The Premier offered the Shadow Finance Minister David Burt a bribe, in the form of a contract for developing the absentee ballot system in exchange for helping facilitate the ditching of the promised referendum on casino gambling – in December 2013.
The two facts alone are damming in my opinion.
While there is some discussion about the legality of MP Nandi Davis’ actions in secretly recording and then sharing that recording, I find it hard to consider it as anything other than unethical. While it was pointed out to me that such recordings may be legitimate in certain situations (such as an individual being harassed and bullied), that doesn’t seem to be applicable in this situation.
Rather, this seems to be a calculated action by Ms Davis to entrap Mr Bean and to use the tape as some sort of political blackmail. That the she then, to quote the RG article, ‘handed the tape over to One Bermuda Alliance officials’ would seem to confirm that to me. As Ms Davis was in some degree of personal trouble at the time, perhaps the OBA thought this would be a useful deflection tactic?
While it may or may not be illegal, it certainly is unethical and this is not the politics that I think a lot of people thought they were voting for with the OBA’s pre-election pledge of doing politics differently.
That it’s been confirmed that the fourth person on the trip was the Premier’s business manager for his Esso Tigermart businesses, well, that just opens up a whole new slew of questions and, to my mind, open the Premier up to accusations of corruption.
Quite frankly, it’s hard to understand what possible role the business manager for the Premier’s private business had any legitimate purpose on that trip which, according to the three politicians was regarding a new hotel developer.
Back to the Rubicon
I’ll address my thoughts on the ‘allegations’ in a follow-up post.
Going back to the original theme of this posts title, the events of last Friday have placed our island at the point of no return.
The question though is what is the nature of that point of no return?
Is this the point where we will look back and say that’s when the OBA lost it’s way, when the position of Craig Cannonier as Premier became untenable, when Bermuda had it’s first successful vote of no confidence in a government?
Or is this the point where the electorate shrugs its shoulders and a precedent is set, where we’ll look back and say ‘see, that’s when we had a chance to truly build a new politics, one based on transparency, accountability and trust?’
Which will it be?