Who is paying for all these writs?

I think Bermuda Blue is raising a good point here, and the Government should be pro-actively answering such a question – and I hope the media is pressing similar questions too.

I am concerned that this rash of litigation by the governing party could lead to self-censorship by all, and ultimately a chilling of what has been a relative flowering of online discourse over the last few years.

Bermuda Blue

There are now, apparently, six writs outstanding which have been issued by various OBA Ministers. The latest is by the Finance Minister Bob Richards.

Apart from the fact that this smacks a little of being unstatesmanlike (making me a little uncomfortable) there has been no mention of who is funding these legal cases.

You cannot defame a Government, therefore Government (ie you and me) should not be funding these actions.

I have asked three times on an OBA Facebook thread for an explanation of who is paying, I have yet to receive an answer.

There has to be clarification that these actions are being paid for by the OBA Ministers themselves or by the Party.

For those out there who want to jump on my back, I instructed, when I was at the RG, for reporters to ask exactly the same questions when EB was throwing writs around…

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Commodification of the Pillars of Life: The Water

Interesting little piece by a fellow urbanist on water and neoliberalism. Thought I’d share – it’s got some relevance to Bermuda and our fresh-water limitations.

Urban Issues

Picture4

(Image Credit: The Washington Post)

As Aristotle pointed out a long time ago, when two equal rights meet, power decides. Indeed, under the current neo-liberal hegemony, water rights are increasingly articulated via dynamics of commodification of water, private appropriation of water resources, dispossession tactics, and the like (Bakker 2003). (Swyngedouw)

As Erik Swyngedouw argues, in the age of commodification of everything, a.k.a. neoliberalization, water has been a pioneering issue via which neoliberal policies of privatisation has been rolled-out and tested.

By the effect of climate change, the condition has become even more severe.

cityLab’s recent article, Class Warfare and the California Drought, highlights the inequality of access to water and the risk of normalisation of the commodification of vital aspects like water.

Steve Yuhas, a conservative talk-show host and part-time resident of Rancho Santa Fe, explained in a Washington Post hate-read this weekend: “We pay significant property taxes…

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De-Escalation Musings

I’ve been largely away from the news today – and from computers generally, hence the lack of posts today – however, I did have the opportunity to muse over what would it take for this situation to de-escalate. question mark

Now, I’m not saying this is how things are going to play out, or should play out, but I thought it to be a useful exercise all the same.

  1. The Government needs to rescind its invoking of the Labour Disputes Act 1992, referring the matter to arbitration.  This seems to have been done primarily to try and stop the movement in its tracks and/or intimidate workers.  This seems to have failed and, rather than putting a brake on the incident has acted as the proverbial gasoline poured on a fire.  Rescinding this action has to be the first step to de-escalating matters.
  2. The Government should, along with the BTUC, release the list of BTUC proposals that were rejected by the Government, and Government should clearly state the reasons why they chose to reject them.  The BTUC should release their rejected proposals anyway and put forward their arguments as to why they should not have been rejected.
  3. Government should accept that it has to take furlough days off the table.  The unions have made it clear that this need only be a temporary matter and is something they can talk about going forward.  I read that as the unions saying their members need a relief, at least for the coming year, and they wouldn’t be opposed to re-introducing them next year if warranted.  Government should have approached the unions this time last year to begin discussions about extending the MOU on furloughs – trying to dictate the extension the way the Government has done was counter-productive.  It’s quite possible that the unions would have actually been flexible on this issue on Monday.  I don’t think they would have agreed to a full-on furlough system, but I think they might have been amenable to a 50% furlough system.  This would still have been a hard sell to their members, but I think that it would have been doable and a possible compromise.  Government’s standing up the unions on Monday night however seems to have ruled out the flexibility there.
  4. Minister Bob Richards announced last year that he would be pushing for a 7% budget reduction in 2014, a 5% reduction in 2015 and a 3% reduction in 2016.  I questioned that as being designed from a political perspective – do the big cuts early and they’ll be forgotten sooner to election time.  I argued that it would be easier for members to adjust if he’d adopted a 5% cut per year for five years – same amount of total cuts, but spread out easier and posing less of a risk to fragile economic recovery.  I don’t see any reason why he has to stick to his 5% cut for this year.  He could go with the 3% cut this year (I think we have that with the already agreed BTUC+Government cuts), avoid the furlough, and maybe do the 5% next year, possibly with the furlough at that time.  Alternatively, we could go for a 4% cut this year and a 4% cut next year.  Still the same amount of cuts, just more spread out.  This gives both sides the flexibility they need.  Government can stick with its overall cuts program and the unions can get much-needed relief for their members, and both can leave this incident with face.
  5. If Government insists on pursuing furlough days, including acting unilaterally, then if they want to de-escalate matters then they need to offer some significant concessions.  This could be taking some serious actions to reduce other cost-of-living matters, be it through using its regulatory powers to reduce electricity bills (taking note of the cost of oil dropping by almost 50%), taking measures to encourage banks to provide more small-loans or adopting a more progressive approach to mortgages.  What can be done to reduce the cost of food for example. beyond the current discount system?
  6. In addition to the above, I think that due to Government’s mishandling of the issue, they need to make some additional concessions here.  Of the top of my head, if I was the unions, I’d be pushing for, at a minimum:
    1. Progressive campaign finance reform laws (to come into effect immediately).
    2. Extended maternity leave AND introducing equal paternity leave.  The Employment Act 2000 already ensures maternity leave, but this can be improved.  And there is some paternity leave within certain collective bargaining agreements, but are not national.  Now’s a good time to push for them.
    3. The repealing of Section 27 of the Trade Unions Act 1965.  This ties in with campaign finance reform and allows unions to engage in political action equal to corporations (but under new campaign finance laws) – the idea being to reduce the domination of our politics by capital, and thus ensuring greater democracy.

To me, the above at least lays a plausible foundation for de-escalating the situation.

What do you think?

What course are we heading down?

Bermuda Blue makes some good points about the Auditors report on Port Royal, and how the OBA’s walkout appears to have backfired politically.

Bermuda Blue

I’ve been very quiet recently because I have been very busy, which is a shame as there have been plenty of topics to blog about.

I’m still busy, but I cannot stay quiet any more. The red mist has descended – which means I’ll probably regret what I write here. So be it.

Two reports on Bernews today: Auditor Criticizes Port Royal Cost Overruns  and OBA Walks Out of House to Protest Marc Bean

Let’s deal with Port Royal first. The Auditor General in a statement says: (The highlights are mine)

“The Special Report speaks of cost overruns, a lack of proper oversight and monitoring by the Government, loan financing authorized by the Minister of Finance without the approval of Parliament and a total disregard of established financial practices and controls for government expenditures – including the lack of tendering and conflicts of interest relating to Board members, one…

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The Tragedy of Ukraine?

Ukraine & I

I’ve had a long distance relationship, so to speak, with Ukraine for a long time.  Ever since I went to Trent University back in 1997.

The blue & yellow flag of Ukraine.

The blue & yellow flag of Ukraine.

One of my closest friends there, at university, was from Lviv, in the west of Ukraine, and I’ve also been fortunate to know several other Ukrainians over the years, both at Trent and elsewhere.

My close university friend, from Lviv, was also a central member of the Trent Socialists that I was involved in at the time, and, in many ways, he was our chief theoretician.  I personally thank him for introducing me to, first, the writings of Leon Trotsky, and, later, Rosa Luxembourg.

It was also through his encouragement that I set about to truly study Marxist thought, spending hours in the university’s various libraries reading through the collected works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Kautsky, and others, including the philosophical work of Ilyenkov, the writings of Vygotsky and some of Bukharin’s early works.

And while I later studied the works of Lukacs, Gramsci, Pannekoek and others, which have greatly influenced my theoretical positions, I do credit my friend and his influence for providing me with a solid theoretical foundation.

My friend was also, at the time, strongly associated, if I recall correctly, with the Socialist Party of Ukraine, then under the leadership of Oleksandr Moroz, which was essentially the successor of the Ukrainian Communist Party, and it was through this that I learned also somewhat about the politics of Ukraine.  I also learned some rudimentary Russian (I decided that was a more useful language, in terms of a lingua franca, than Ukrainian itself), which would be invaluable for me later.

And so, I’ve always had a soft spot for Ukraine – it’s like a cousin who I think of dearly, even though far away.

Which has made the last few months, and, particularly, the last week and days all the more worrying for me.

Democratic Uprising or Right Wing Coup?

There are a lot of narratives coming out of Ukraine right now, in the Western media reporting from there.

Some render the situation incredibly simplistic, although in places capturing partial truths.

It’s a clash between pro-EU and pro-Russian factions; it’s a clash between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians; it’s Western influence versus Russian influence (although in the Western media it’s reported as ‘the West’s concern for the situation and support for democracy in the face of Russian interference’…); it’s the western half of Ukraine versus the eastern half; it’s democracy against dictatorship; it’s a popular uprising against discredited politicians; it’s good versus bad.

Naturally, the truth is far more complicated – far more so than I can hope to capture here.

My own feeling is that it started off as a legitimate expression of protest.

Just as people in southern Europe have chafed against austerity and interference from a dominant neighbour (Greece versus Germany), so people were chafing against the economic situation in general and the influence of Russia.  And I do think there are/were legitimate grievances there, and also regarding official corruption and the ineffectiveness of the Government to deal with these.

However, I also think these protests were very quickly hijacked by right-wing forces, including the far-right, and Western interests (particularly the USA).

The US has been developing regime change through stealth, through the training, funding and organising of opposition groups in various countries, and has been relatively successful in the process, as seen in the various velvet ‘colour’ revolutions in various countries.

There’s plenty of evidence here that the US has been aiding and abetting the ‘revolutionaries’ in Ukraine, including undermining the EU’s efforts (who’ve been supporting Klitschko’s UDAR party).

The Rise of Neo-Fascism

What’s particularly disturbing to me in Ukraine is that the oppositionists which have come to the fore have been the the far-right, both in the form of the Svoboda (Свобода = Freedom) Party and the Pravii Sektor (Пра́вий се́ктор = Right Sector) militant group.  Both of these groups are very much on the far, even ultra, right.

Svoboda members in Kiev celebrating Ukrainian WWII Nazi collaborators (portrait of Stepan Bandera, Ukrainian WWII fascist leader, at front).

Svoboda members in Kiev celebrating Ukrainian WWII Nazi collaborators (portrait of Stepan Bandera, Ukrainian WWII fascist leader, at front).

The Svoboda, for example, is officially partnered with the fascist British National Party, to use a more familiar Western group, while the Pravii Sektor is pretty much a modern version of the Freikorps.

There have been instances of these right-wing groups assaulting and suppressing leftist groups, with many leftists in the west of Ukraine being forced underground – the toppling of Lenin statues further cementing the anti-Russian and anti-left orientations of these groups, while they’ve been quite open in displaying fascist symbols and slogans affiliated with the Ukrainian Nazi collaborators of WWII.

Toppled Lenin statue in Ukraine, with far-right symbols (Nazi SS and circle cross of White supremacism) in Ukraine.

Toppled Lenin statue in Ukraine, with far-right symbols (Nazi SS and circle cross of White supremacism) in Ukraine.

Not every popular uprising is ‘good’ and the conditions in Ukraine, combined with the loss of legitimacy of the left as a result of the Stalinist nightmare, has left open a vacuum that has been filled by neo-fascist groups there.

And while there was/is mass disillusionment with the Government there, it’s not clear that the ‘revolution’ there has been anything more than a fascist insurrection from western Ukrainian forces, aided and abetted by the West; indeed, the prominence of fascists in the ‘EuroMaidan’ in many ways prevented a unified ‘all-Ukrainian’ revolution.

No side is ‘right’

Neither the West and its fascist proxies or Russia and its proxies are to be supported here.

Both are in the wrong – the West for its active support and assistance in this fascist insurrection and Russia for its cynical maneovers in Crimea and elsewhere.

At best one could argue that Russia is acting purely defensively and legitimately in support of the democratically elected Government, now in exile, against a fascist coup d’etat, however even that is questionable – although arguable all the same.

Events on the ground are rapidly changing – I’ll hope to give a clearer analysis when I can.

OB-Amnesia?

Amongst all the various crazy things going on in Bermuda right now, from ferry strikes, bizarre attempts to intimidate the media, allegations left right and center, and the OBA’s refusal to address even factual issues, we also seem to have a Governing Party with an acute case of collective amnesia.

I want to make clear that it’s evident that not all members or supporters of the OBA are suffering from this amnesia; however, the top leadership of the OBA certainly is, including the Premier and his Cabinet.

This amnesia has manifested itself most recently in the form of the Premier and two of his Ministers launching defamation suits against the Opposition Leader and the Shadow Finance Minister in relation to allegations made by the latter.

That alone isn’t necessarily a problem – personally I feel the two PLP MPs in question may have overplayed their hand here, even if I personally believe they are more likely to be speaking the truth or not.  I am just not sure it was wise for them to court these lawsuits by repeating their allegations outside of parliament, even though I also believe their having the courage of their convictions lends greater credibility to their allegations.

What is a problem, and what is a manifestation of this amnesia, is the announcement that “as the accusations were made to the Premier in his official capacity, it will be a government lawsuit”.

"This is now a legal matter" - Courtesy of Bernews.

“This is now a legal matter” – Courtesy of Bernews.

Not so long ago, under a previous administration, a Premier and a Minister (Dr Brown and Derrick Burgess, respectively) launched a defamation suit of their own, and argued that this should be paid for with public monies, as they were defamed in their official capacities.

This subsequently led to a good deal of criticism from the then Opposition and Opposition supporters, and was found to be a ‘misuse of public funds’ by the then Auditor General, and a legal absurdity by learned members of the legal profession.

Indeed, I believe the two individuals in question subsequently were made to pay back some of the costs which public monies were spent on this for.

For the benefit of the OBA, in the hope that it helps them recover their memories, here are some excerpts from various articles relating to when the PLP were in power:

From the Special Report of the Auditor General on the Misuse of Public Funds, December 2011 (available on Bernews here):

AudGen2011

*Just a side note, this document deals, in detail, with this issue over pages 13-24.  I’m only going to quote some of this!*

The most relevant part of the document, however, is found on p.15.

“The key issue here is that public funds were used to initiate a private legal action which is inappropriate and a direct violation of Financial Instructions.  Financial Instructions 3.5 provides that ‘Government funds or property should only be used for Government purposes and must not be used for personal reasons.’  Further Financial Instructions 10.4 places the onus and the responsibility on the Accounting Officer to ‘ensure that Government funds are not used for personal gain or profit’.

“We sought legal advice to determine if there were any statutory provision which imposes on Government a duty to pay the legal expenses of the Premier or any Minister whilst in or out of office.  We were advised by our legal adviser that although Government may provide insurance coverage for ‘legal costs associated with any legal action taken against a Minister or a public servant in respect of any act performed in the normal course of duty or employment’, there is no statutory provision for the underwriting by Government of the legal cost of a Minister, servant or agent suing in a private civil action.”

“We, therefore, considered any such expenditure to be improper and unjustified.”

What legal privilege means – RG OpEd by lawyer Kevin Comeau, January 21st, 2012

“Clearly the former Premier and the present Deputy Premier are clients of the Canadian lawyer.  The defamation suit was launched in their names, so they are the clients of the Canadian lawyer who is acting on their behalf.  They cannot be, in their individual capacity, the clients of the Attorney General because the AG can only act on behalf of the Government.”

Government and defamation – RG OpEd by lawyer Kevin Comeau, February 7th, 2012

“The Deputy Premier appears to be saying that the defamation action was not being brought by him and the former Premier personally but rather it was the Bermuda Government’s defamation action, and he and the former Premier were only bringing the action under their names because of some legal technicality.”

“Legally speaking, that explanation makes no sense.  Here’s why.  In law, when we say someone cannot sue in their own name, we are talking about Legal Capacity, which means the ability to sue or be sued.  For instance, a minor cannot sue in his own name because a person under 18 years of age does not have the Legal Capacity to sue of be sued.”

“A second example is an unincorporated association such as a local football club.  It is not a recognised legal entity and therefore lacks the capacity to sue or be sued.  So if someone steals money from the Barbarian Football Club, the lawsuit will be brought in the name of Joe Blow ‘on behalf of himself and the other members of the Barbarian Football Club’.”

“In each case the lawsuit has legal merit and is being brought in the name of someone else because of a legal technicality.”

“[However] the Bermuda Government, as a recognised legal entity […] has the legal capacity to sue and be sued…”

“Further, any suggestion that the Government’s lawsuit had legal merit is incorrect.  A government bringing an action for defamation makes about as much sense as a government bringing an action for someone running over its foot.”

“Defamation is a personal action for harm to one’s personal reputation.  A Government, as a non-human, has no personal reputation.”

See also Bermuda Blue’s take on this.

Vexed Bermoothes aslo has a little bit on it now too.

Vote Starling – Updates

I’ve made a few updates to my Vote Starling site.

I’ve moved all of the media articles/links from 2013 to their own page, and updated the static ‘front page’ to be the 2014 media page.

Additionally, I’ve added a page concerning my submission to the Ministry of Education on inclusive and special needs education.  If anyone’s interested in reading it, a pdf of my submission may be opened here.

There’s now also a call for submissions to develop a National Sports Policy, and I encourage everyone to contribute to that too if possible!

Inclusive education

The Municipal Reform Act 2010

To begin with I want to make it clear that I am in favour of reforming the municipalities. Furthermore, there is nothing all that bad in the draft legislation that I am strongly opposed to. At best there are some aspects of it that I need clarification on, and depending on the clarification I might advocate various amendments.

That being said, I am not very happy with the way the Government has approached gone about with the reform process, and I am disappointed with the end product; I think the Government – or rather the PLP – has squandered an opportunity to effect some real, long-reaching political reform for the whole country.

The Process

A year ago, when the initiative to reform the municipalities was announced, I questioned both the $800k cost of the consultants and the sudden focus on the reform when there are many other social issues that I thought were more pressing. I still have that double position.

Having seen the end result of that $800k consultancy I am left thinking we were completely ripped off. The draft legislation does have the feeling of being rushed, and there is nothing in it which couldn’t have been created by our own people. The Central Policy Unit could have pumped that out in a month, easily. With no added extra cost. My impression is that the bulk of the funding went into researching legal issues in order to prepare against any possible legal challenges to the legislation from the CoH. That and travel/living costs for the consultants.

I would have much preferred a series of public meetings, like we had when the Sustainable Development Initiative was launched, as well as a series of submissions from stakeholders like was done by the Bermuda Independence Commission. This kind of participatory approach would have been educational for all involved (particularly the lay citizen who is generally ignorant, like me, of the issues involved here), and would most likely have produced a reform policy at least equal to (if not better than) the current draft legislation. It certainly would have cost less than $800k, as well as generating mass support for the reforms.

The rather secretive approach taken by Government was always going to generate mistrust. For a Government which already has a trust deficit with much of the public, this approach could not but help lead to all manner of rumour and anger. I saw – and still see – no reason for taking that approach. It has led to the Government fighting unnecessary battles and reinforcing a sense of alienation amongst many. And over an issue where they could have easily cultured support and developed a more far-reaching reform. It just makes no sense to me.

I know there are some in Government who will argue that the CoH ‘started it’ or, at least, approached the reform initiative negatively, at least privately. You know what, I don’t care. You’re the Government. Be the bigger person; let them fall on their own sword rather than stoop to their level. Government completely failed to use the resources available to it (press releases or the PLP site) to put forward its positions. It didn’t, at least not until the very last moment, almost literally.

And even then what they produced had me thinking they were opening themselves up to a defamation suit. The CoH has since rebutted much of the PLP’s piece too, and this means that either the PLP defamed the CoH or the CoH has now defamed the PLP. I don’t want the PLP to be sued, but at the same time I don’t want them stooping to defamation when they could win arguments cleanly. And if the CoH has defamed the PLP, well, surely that gives the PLP a gift on a silver platter?

As for the draft legislation itself, I find it piss poor that it wasn’t made available to the public earlier than it was (and even then I don’t know if it was officially released or leaked). This isn’t unique to the Municipal Reform Act 2010, true, but I don’t see any reason why such draft legislation isn’t made more regularly available to public scrutiny before going to the House. That it was only made available yesterday and gone to the House for a vote today meant that the public has not had the opportunity to consider its implications or seek clarifications.

The Draft Itself

I have to admit I had always seen the CoH as an autonomous part of the public estate. As such I was surprised to see that it’s exemption from land tax was being revoked. If the CoH is indeed a private entity, then it is my opinion that it should indeed be abolished as a private entity and replaced by an autonomous public city government. As such I need more clarification on this point.

The draft repeals the Hamilton Extension Act 1951, which extended the City limits, adding over one hundred acres to the municipality. I skimmed through that act briefly, but it really wasn’t clear to me what areas are subsequently being stripped from the City. As such I need clarification on that – although going by the RG/CoH it would seem that this area is roughly Par-la-ville Park, Bermudiana Road and Albouy’s Point, but I can’t say if that truly is the case. [Having had the time to reread the Municipal Reform Act 2010 and the Hamilton Extension Act 1951 again, since writing this, I realise I misinterpreted this bit. On my second reading I do not think the City area is being reduced at all; I was misled by my quick reading of the legislation and the article in the RG earlier in the week.]

Personally, even though I know the official City Limits (more or less), I regard everything on the harbour and west of Albouy’s Point, along to Hamilton Princess, as part of the City, including Ace, XL, Robin Hoods Pub and BHS. If anything I would have expected the officialy City Limits to have been extended to cover these areas.

I need to study the issue of wharfage duties further before I comment on it really. As is I don’t have a problem with wharfage duties coming solely under the national government. However, if the CoH does indeed own the docks, then they have an excellent excuse now to increase the rent they charge Government… Personally I thought converting Morgan’s Point into an industrial dock (complete with a reverse osmosis plant, a composting plant and a solar power plant) would be a good idea, and replacing the Hamilton docks with some new office space or tourist infrastructure would be beneficial.

The Demonstrations

Having read the draft legislation I am not in support of the demonstration that should have been held today. I am not endorsing the Act as it is, but I am certainly not opposed to it, and need further clarification on the reasoning behind parts of it before I support it. Having said that, I always support people demonstrating publicly for something they believe in, even if I disagree with them. PLPers, and others, should not attack them for doing so, but instead should welcome them. With the pathetic Opposition Parties that we have we should certainly welcome any half decent opposition as it is, as well as offer our respect for those willing to stand for something, even if they oppose us.

Will it have any effect? I don’t know. Personally I doubt it, I don’t think they will be able to mobilise enough people to be honest. This is more due to the general ignorance that surrounds both the CoH and the draft legislation than anything else. At best they can draw attention to the issue and cause the legislation to be postponed for a week until people have had a better chance to review it. At worst they will reinforce the PLP’s argument that the CoH and it’s ‘supporters’ are little more than the old oligarchy, and in so doing increase the support for reform.

The Reform

The proposals really seem pretty mild compared to all the rhetoric that has surrounded the issue. It’s actually a bit of a let down and I expected more from $800k. I reckon I could have done all the research and drafted the same legislation in two months and for a fee of, hmmm, lets go with $20k.

I’ve noted the clarifications I need on the draft Act; I cannot really comment further on them. What I would have liked to have seen is this opportunity used to stimulate overall political reform, from our Westminster parliament, an appointed Senate and a revitalised parish council system. I’ve written before that I see the council system as an alternative to a parliamentary system, with a series of nested councils – of parish, municipality and industry – being a viable system, with the neighbourhood and shopfloor as the smallest political units. That would be a much more grassroots democratic system than the current one we’ve inherited from our colonialism, along with a colonial mentality that devalues our own abilities.

Generally I adopt the position that decisions should be weighted on the basis of those who will be most affected by them. On that basis I am completely for expanding the residential vote, and giving them extra weighting on matters relating to living in the City. In place of the property/business vote though, I would like to see all those who work regularly in the City (and by that I mean those who have a full-time job based within the City Limits) to have a vote, especially on matters relating to them (which could be from traffic control, crime, sewage and health and safety issues). I don’t think Capital needs it’s own voice though; they have the Chamber of Commerce as a lobby group as is, and business owners can speak (on equal terms) with the workers.

Perhaps more controversially I would also suggest we look into the possibility of extending the franchise to citizens from CARICOM and our sister UK Overseas Territories. An argument could also be made to extend this to Commonwealth citizens too, though that could be more difficult. At least those citizens working in the City should have some say in the workers section of my proposed municipal voting reforms above; one could also add the restriction of limiting this extended franchise to PRC’s of the above (CARICOM/UKOTS).

Southlands & Morgan’s Point

Ah, Southlands. The issue of Southlands has I think been an important factor in my relationship with Dr. Brown. I was (I think) the person responsible for making the original Southlands plan public knowledge. I came across it completely by accident and was shocked at the audacity of the plan. This occurred just before I started this blog, and my comments on the issue were instead over on the now defunct Limey In Bermuda blog. This also led to some nice Central Committee discussions.

I was upset with the destruction of a green site, especially one as unique as Southlands, although I was willing to entertain a more small-scale cottage colony style resort. When the idea for the land swap was put forward, while I have some personal ideas for how better to use Morgan’s Point, I was enthusiastic for the potential it opened up for the Southlands area. My vision of it was a partial clearing of the quarry gardens (I quite like the ‘wild’ look so I didn’t want a full clearing), and the creation of both a high quality Convention Centre and a Slavery Museum (see http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/) set amongst parkland.

I was particularly upset about the PLP, as Government, facilitating any deals with Jumeiriah, something that I thought was contrary to the ideals of the Progressive Labour Party. You see, Jumeiriah is owned by the Al Maktoum ruling dynasty of Dubai. They run Dubai as a de facto dictatorship, exploit thousands of workers from the Indian subcontinent, refuse to allow organised labour unions and have been accused of enforcing racial segregation akin to apartheid. For a political party based (originally and nominally) in combating racism and exploitation of workers, I found the notion of working with such a company hypocritical at best.

So, yeah, I raised these issues both publicly and internally within Central Committee meetings. Suffice to say I don’t think I was Mr. Popular within those meetings, with Dr. Brown being very much in support of the Southlands deal. He was also very enthusiastic about the decision to instead build at Morgan’s Point, talking about how this gave Bermuda the opportunity to build something to rival Atlantis in the Bahamas. He was especially happy about the Southlands team, citing how they were quality people and that this would see Bermudians themselves taking a pro-active role in rebuilding tourism, developing a flagship massive resort at Morgan’s Point. These sentiments were echoed in the media at the time, and the unprecedented granting of the SDO and land-swap deals demonstrated how supportive he was at the time.

Which brings us to the current situation. We now see Dr. Brown criticising the Morgan’s Point plan as being ‘too much concrete’ (not necessarily a bad criticism in itself, less concrete is usually a good thing), and complaining that Southlands plans for Morgan’s Point were that of a massive resort. Dr. Brown doesn’t want a massive resort there, we now learn, rather, he would like a small scale 40-room type hotel there. Quite an about face, no? If Southlands were instructed to put forward a proposal for Morgan’s Point to be Bermuda’s answer to Bahamian Atlantis, to be a massive resort style development, and if these instructions came from Dr. Brown then, then why is he complaining now that Southland’s came up with just such a proposal? It just comes across as if Dr. Brown is changing the goalposts halfway through the game. Comparisons with the BCC fiasco, where BCC found the goalposts changed continously to the point they could not continue, and then the new company (with connections to Dr. Brown and the PLP) were given much relaxed restrictions, are almost inevitable here. And, mind you, the BCC fiasco is still unsatisfactorily explained and continues to be a blight on the PLP’s record.

Additionally, Dr. Brown seems to have gone from being one of the biggest supporters of the Southland’s group to one of their biggest haters. From extolling the virtues of the Southland’s team as competent businessmen who knew what they were doing he has gone to belittling them as incompetent and inexperienced. Its hard to understand how such an about face has come to be. And its harder still for PLP members, should they use their memory banks, to accomodate the double think involved here. If one adopts the current argument of them (Southlands) being incompetent and inexperienced now, then automatically they invalidate the previous argument of them (Southlands) being competent and something to be supported. It’s really not clear how to reconcile the two positions.

There are also apparent charges of Dr. Brown interfering in the private business, insisting that Southland’s replace their own developer with one which Dr. Brown prefers. I understand that Dr. Brown is pushing for a Mr. Patrick Ellis to be the developer. Should this be true it would be rather surprising, as Mr. Ellis is implicated in a good deal of the corruption charges and shady practices that brought down the Turks & Caicos Government of Mr. Misick – who Dr. Brown has been implicated as having a close relationship with oddly enough. Now, from what I understand, Dr. Brown is pushing Mr. Ellis because he has been involved in resort development in the Caribbean (the shady deals in TCI) and is associated with a ‘brand name’. The brand name is ‘Aman’ or Amanyara. The developer that Southland’s themselves has selected is instead associated with the apparently no-name brand of Ritz-Carlton. Yeah, because if you say Ritz-Carlton to me I don’t think of hotels, nope. Amanyara, sure! Note the sarcasm? Who’s ever heard of Amanyara? At least I’ld heard of Jumeiriah or Ritz-Carlton. Or Raffles, Sandals or Hilton. But Aman? And besides that, why is Dr. Brown even getting involved in selecting the developer in the first place? Don’t get me wrong, Amanyara in TCI is a decent looking resort. I’m not opposed to such a development or something similar. To me that isn’t the issue. The issue is that Southland’s were told one thing, worked according to those instructions, and now are being told another thing. It doesn’t set a good precedent and it just doesn’t make much sense.

I can also understand the sense of frustration that the Southlands developers must be feeling. They seem to have complied with the original instructions given to them by Government when they agreed to the land-swap deal. They appear to have all their ducks in a row. They were promised the land at Morgan’s Point and without assurances of the land there I can understand they will have difficulty getting a solid support from big developers like Ritz-Carlton. I personally thought they had secured the land, but now it seems this was not the case (which just adds to my confusion).

Maybe there are perfectly reasonable explanations for this fiasco. I don’t know. What I do know is that it doesn’t look good, and someone’s got some explaining to do…