With the recent revelations concerning the City’s waterfront, there have been some calls on social media for some sort of Turks & Caicos model, where the UK Government dissolves the colonial legislature and declares direct rule by the Governor in order to make various ‘reforms’.
I can see the attraction of this – it plays on the feeling that our indigenous abilities have fallen short, under the PLP and now the OBA and that our indigenous institutions are not fit for purpose. It plays on the sensation that we’ve proven our inferiority and it’s time for the colonial ‘mother’ to come in, clean house, put things back in order and set things up so we can start again.
I get that. And I don’t disagree that our institutions, especially our political ones, are not fit for purpose. However, I don’t agree that the recourse to that is to surrender our democracy and allow direct imperial rule – especially when these very failing institutions are themselves a product of our colonialism.
This isn’t simply about the fact that the UK Government is beholden to the City of London, a direct rival of Bermuda in terms of our main economic sector of IB. This is much more basic about the question of democratic principle.
If our institutions are failing, we have the power to critically analyse them and either fix them or replace them with more effective institutions for our local context.
If our politicians are guilty of corruption we have the capacity to address that within our framework – and that includes introducing and enforcing new legislation that better deals with corruption, of which campaign finance laws are perhaps the most important right now. And if our parliamentarians refuse to act, the people can apply pressure to ensure they do so – or take action to replace them.
I don’t have a problem at all with serving Ministers and MPs being arrested and facing trial in the event of allegations being made warranting such (and there’s a case for improving our laws to avoid a repeat of the ‘unethical but not illegal’ farce – unethical only because our laws were outdated). Our democracy can handle that. It may need some by-elections. It may lead to a no confidence vote in the Government. It may lead to an early election or a change of Government by other means (a handful of by-elections or defections could have the same effect).
That’s okay. Our democracy can handle that. Our people can handle that. We don’t need direct rule, we don’t need imperial ‘rescuing’.
Any such move towards imperial rule sets back whatever steps we’ve taken towards democracy, it brings us back to ‘year zero’ rather than advancing our capacities. It would be a hostile act – it is something to be resisted. And I am confident that it will, indeed, be resisted, by Bermudians on island and off.
Will it be welcomed by some? Sure. Partly out of exasperation, partly out of a belief that it would allow for horsetrading and a lighter reckoning than if we ensure local accountability.
I understand the calls for a T&C solution. But it disappoints me that some are so quick to forfeit their own abilities and sell short our indigenous capacities. We can solve our own problems provided we believe in ourselves and rule out the nuclear option of imperial dictatorship.
Power belongs to the people. It flows from the people.
It does not reside in Government or with the imperial center. They only have power should we grant it to them, but that mandate can be revoked, and the power of the people can be used to correct the institutional failures of our island. It can also be used to confront moves towards imperial rule.
If the people judge that the power lent to the OBA on December 17th 2012 has been abused, the people have the ability – and perhaps the moral duty – to reclaim that power, not to forfeit their abilities and surrender it to imperial diktat.