The Bermuda Tourism Authority & sanitising history?

“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past” – A Party slogan from Orwell’s masterpiece, 1984.

There’s an interesting article in today’s RG, concerning a documentary about the tragic story of the Rebecca Middleton case.

Leaving aside the curious focus of these Canadians on Bermuda and the racial aspects, of a White Canadian girl being brutally raped and murdered by Black men in an island paradise…

…rather than First Nations women being disappeared in their own homelands while being overwhelmingly ignored by the Canadian mainstream media, and the overall general tragedy involved – and that’s exactly what this case is, a sad and tragic case, both in the initial crime and the subsequent handling of it…

…the most disturbing aspect of this article is a quote at the end.

The quote in question is:

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Tourism Development and Transport added: “The production company can resubmit an application that will be considered by the Department of Immigration in consultation with the new Bermuda Tourism Authority.”

Why, one must ask, is the Bermuda Tourism Authority (BTA), even involved here in the first place, and why do they seem to have the power to influence the decision on whether or not this documentary can proceed?

One may reasonably assume that the BTA, which is focused on tourism, has concerns about the impact any such documentary may have on tourism numbers – presumably they fear that highlighting such a tragic incident may deter individuals from visiting Bermuda and so would wish to either damage control or prevent the documentary in the first place.

In particular I assume the BTA is working under the mandate of ‘Part Three – Principle Objectives & Powers of Authority’, section eleven, subsection 1(a) “to develop and promote Bermuda as a tourist destination’.

This raises issues about sanitising history, rewriting it even, or sweeping it under the floor, all for the sake maintaining a facade for tourist dollars.

It also raises very real questions about how the quango-isation of government is contributing to a democratic deficit in Bermuda.

The BTA is essentially a quango – it uses public monies but is not accountable to the public in terms of democratic oversight.

And yet, as a de facto private entity, it apparently can influence the granting of work permits for a historical documentary?

The legislation empowering the BTA also gives it the power to:

Part Three, Section 11, subsection 2

(a) to acquire, take on lease, hire, hold and enjoy movable and immovable property and to convey, assign, surrender, charge, mortgage, demise, transfer or otherwise dispose of, or deal with any movable or immovable property belonging to the Authority upon such terms as the Board considers fit;

(b) to grant loans or advances to any person carrying on a tourism enterprise, except that the Authority shall not grant loans or advances the aggregate amount of which exceeds $1,000,000 without the approval of the Minister of Finance;

(c) to enter into any contract or agreement for carrying out the purposes of this Act;

(d) to receive such fee, payment or commission as may be agreed upon, in consideration of the services rendered by the Authority;

(e) to subscribe for or acquire any stock, share, bond, debenture or other financial instrument in any company carrying on a tourism enterprise;

(f) to invest any money of the Authority in any business within or outside Bermuda which will promote or be conducive to the tourism trade in Bermuda;

(g) to enter into any joint venture with any person or to form or participate in the formation of any company, whether in Bermuda or elsewhere, for the purpose of carrying out all or any of the functions of the Authority;

(h) to manage, control or supervise tourism enterprises within or outside Bermuda by appointing advisers, or by collaborating with persons carrying on tourism enterprises or entering into partnerships or any other arrangements with them;

(i) to borrow money whether by way of bank overdraft or otherwise for such purposes of the Authority as the Board may from time to time consider desirable with the approval of the Minister of Finance;

(j) to require such fee or payment with respect to any matter, in accordance with the objectives of this Act, relating to tourism or tourism enterprises to be remitted to the Authority;

(k) generally to do all such matters and things as may be incidental to or consequential upon the exercise of the Authority’s powers or the discharge of its duties under this Act.

Add to the above, Part Five – Miscellaneous, includes section 23 ‘Confidentiality’ and section 24 ‘ Rules’ which allow it to chose whether or not to disclose contracts (who’s hired, for what and for how much), with whistleblowers providing such information to be subject to either a fine ($10k to $20k) or imprisonment (for one or two years) or both.

Former UBP Minister heads the BTA under the OBA.

Former UBP Minister heads the BTA under the OBA.

So, we have a de facto quango, using public funds, apparently able to influence work permit decisions and potentially censor information AND that can hire people, spend public monies, without being accountable to the people.

We have no way to ensure that contracts are tendered properly, that it’s not just a ‘gravy train’ route to facilitate OBA ‘friends and family’, we have no way to know whether we’re getting value for money.

The quango-isation of public monies accelerated under the PLP, and it seems to be continuing now under the OBA.

The democratic deficit continues to grow…




2 thoughts on “The Bermuda Tourism Authority & sanitising history?

  1. Pingback: Update on the BTA, Minister Fahy & the Middleton Documentary | "catch a fire"

  2. Pingback: Shooting at our feet… | "catch a fire"

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