Handing over the petition…
The tally itself is actually going to increase, as we were made aware that additional petition sheets are still being held by some in the community, so we need to add them and provide the updates to the Premier & Opposition Leader as soon as possible.
The new Premier did politely accept the petition, but he did dismiss the possibility of a rethink on the referendum – basically he said that the OBA’s position to ditch the referendum that they themselves promised and were elected to hold in the 2012 general election will remain the case.
The introduction of casino gambling will be done through parliament, where the OBA has previously said they will employ a three-line whip, which essentially guarantees the introduction of casino gambling seeing as the OBA has the numbers to carry any legislation in the HoA.
In his comments on this, the Premier sought to justify his position on the basis of ‘strong leadership’ – that he, and by extension the OBA, were elected to be strong leaders and to make decisions.
Now, this opens up an interesting question of whether political parties/candidates are elected on the basis of their electoral promises, as contained in their platform, or do we elect them to make whatever decisions they want, to ‘lead’, regardless of their electoral promises?
In short, are election platforms simply meaningless?
That was indeed one of the key motivations behind my being involved in the petition for a referendum on casino gambling – the need to stress to parties that they were elected to enact their promises, their platform, and are only excused from so doing if they are able to give a reasonable argument for not doing so.
Seeing as the OBA decided to officially ditch the referendum under false pretenses – a manufactured conspiracy that existed in their own fevered heads, and the subsequent Jet Gate revelations reveal that they were under pressure from investors and campaign donors to ditch the referendum, I personally don’t feel that the OBA has given a reasonable argument for breaking this promise.
To date we still barely know what the OBA’s vision of casino gambling – ‘integrated resort gaming’ – entails, what the pros and cons are, etc, all of which would have been brought into focus via a referendum process – and hence one of the important reasons why the OBA, when in Opposition (in its various forms) so strongly advocated the need for a referendum to decide this issue.
By ditching such a massive election promise, the OBA has effectively torn up their entire pre-election promises, along with their credibility.
And that their membership has largely accepted this, they now have a more or less white card to rule with impunity.
Challenging that was as important as trying to get the referendum restored for the sake of forcing clarity on the pros and cons of casino gambling for Bermuda and ensuring stability and stakeholder buy-in on the issue.
To me, the Premier’s dismissive attitude to the idea of restoring the referendum is not ‘strong leadership’ as he professes.
I was quoted in the RG on this, but unfortunately only half the quote made the final cut:
“He is trying to appear strong, but, if anything, he appears weak.”
The second part of that quote went along the lines of:
“It’s never a sign of weakness to face the people, to accept that the way the referendum was ditched, especially in light of the Jet Gate revelations, was wrong, and go to the people to ask for forgiveness, to restore the referendum and restore faith in the Government. If he’s genuinely convinced that casino gambling is right for Bermuda, then go to the people, through a referendum, and explain that. If he wins then that’s fine. Going to the people, democracy, is never a sign of weakness. It’s the right thing to do.‘
In general, whenever someone, especially a politician, invokes the rhetoric of ‘strong leadership’, it is an attempt to hide weakness using the mentality of ‘the best defense is a strong offence’.
It’s essentially a rhetorical device, and one that I perceive as a sign of weakness.
Now, it works, especially for ones support base. It’s a rallying call, in a way. If it didn’t work it wouldn’t be invoked so often by political leaders.
Strong leadership, to me, is recognising when you’ve made a mistake, being frank about that, being humble, and seeking to do the right thing in order to restore community trust and faith in ones leadership – in the Government.
I don’t think the Premier has done that here.
At best he’s rallied his base.
At worst he’s appeared dismissive and failed to end the concerns of Jet Gate.