Archive for the ‘bermuda politics’ Category

Truth-and-lies

Given all the fuss over Jetgate, Wetgate, Gardengate or whatever Gate is in vogue this week, I think our politicians need some help. Maybe they should start their own 12-step programme, although being the self-important, self-serving, egotists that most of them are, I imagine it would probably go something like this …

  1. We admitted we were powerless over the media – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that no power greater than Ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Ourselves.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of other people.
  5. Admitted to the Party, to the media, to the voters, and to any other dumb human being who will listen, the exact nature of our rights.
  6. Were entirely ready to have Spin Doctors remove any apparent defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked them to cover up our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons who had slighted us, and became willing to settle scores with them all.
  9. Made direct verbal attacks on such people wherever possible, except when there was no chance of media coverage.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly lied about it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Ourselves, praying only for the knowledge needed to win the next election and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having achieved spiritual and moral bankruptcy and a complete loss of trust and credibility as the result of these steps, we still insisted on carrying this message to the voters and to impose these principles in all their affairs.

(With apologies to 12-step recovery programmes everywhere. You can find the real powerful stuff here.)

Ayo Johnson: Independent thinker

Ayo Johnson’s new media organisation Think Media and its “fearless independent” digital journal Politica may not quite be the status-shaking reporting revolution that this week’s pre-launch hype in the Bermuda Sun breathlessly suggested but Johnson is certainly to be applauded for at least firing the first shots.

The former Royal Gazette and Bermuda Sun reporter takes his profession very seriously and believes local media can and should play a much more influential role in holding governments and institutions accountable, and ensuring that the integrity of the organisations on which society depends is not compromised by narrow political and economic interests. In doing so, he says the media must also strive to meet and maintain high standards of integrity and ethics – areas where he claims Bermuda’s established media often fall short because of pressure from boards, politicians and advertisers, as well as lack of time and resources.

These are worthy but lofty goals and cynics will no doubt dismiss Johnson as naive and idealistic. But he is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. Think/Politica is not trying to be a daily news service like The Royal Gazette or Bernews, or another opinionated blog, but a platform for longer, in-depth articles and a serious, thought-provoking alternative voice on the local media landscape. And that’s to be welcomed.

Politica is not (yet) beholden to advertisers – readers pay to read beyond the first few paragraphs. Whether that’s a sustainable business model remains to be seen but hey, why not try something new? If nothing else it puts a value on journalism’s labour-intensive craft that is increasingly taken for granted in the internet age.

So what did readers get for their $3.00 today?

Johnson spent six months producing the 4,000-plus word piece, “Selling Bermuda”, on Premier Cannonier’s dubious handling of his relationship with American casino developer Nathan Landow. It meticulously detailed the background to the ‘Jetgate’ scandal – much of which was reported extensively in early 2013 by Johnson while he was working at the Gazette – and the Premier’s apparent dishonesty about his relationship with Landow.

(more…)

Essential reading

Posted: July 4, 2013 in Bermuda, bermuda politics, media
Tags: , ,

The Media Council of Bermuda, of which Breezeblog is a member, has just published guidelines for journalists reporting on race. You can read the full guide here:
Reporting On Race – A Guide for Media Professionals

The main thrust of the guide reinforces the Council’s code of practice which states that journalists should not refer to a person’s colour, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness or age unless it is relevant to the story.

These are important and basic points, especially in Bermuda where so much of society is still racially charged, but are frequently ignored on radio talk shows, letters to the editor and online comments.

The guideline also includes a useful summary of Bermuda’s racial history which provides perspective and context to the island’s social and political issues. It is essential reading for Bermudians or all ages and backgrounds, new arrivals and visitors to the island. I urge you to read it and help dispel some of the ignorance that still exists about Bermuda’s history.

Bermuda’s MPs tonight finally passed the amendment to the Human Rights Act making it illegal to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation.  [They also voted to ban age discrimination … although oddly not in the workplace.] The bill will now pass to the Senate next week for debate. An amendment by the PLP MP Wayne Furbert to specifically prohibit gay marriage was defeated.

It took nine (yes, NINE) hours of often self-righteous grandstanding in the House of Assembly before the amendment was passed. OBA Sylvan Richards said it best: ““It’s kind of absurd to me that we’re even having this discussion. The God I serve says we are to love one another.”

Some of the statements were so absurd they were outright laughable. Like this, from PLP Leader Marc Bean, who should surely know better: “It is my position is that sexual orientation is not a basic human right. It’s orientation to something that already exists. One’s orientation can change.”

Thankfully others, like Attorney General Mark Pettingill (OBA) offered some much-needed perspective: “People are born gay. They don’t wake up one day and turn gay.”

At the end of the day, though, it was a sign of political and social maturity that the issue got debated at all, even if the level of debate was barely above that of some of the social media “discussions” online. In 2006, the House fell silent when PLP MP Renee Webb tried to table the amendment.

The Royal Gazette quoted a spokesperson from lobby group Two Words And A Comma as saying: This is a significant day for human rights in Bermuda. We are encouraged by the debate, though this amendment is long overdue. It looks like Bermuda’s closely-held belief that discrimination is unacceptable will soon be enshrined more fully in our human rights law.”

Incidentally, I’d like to make a point of thanking all those reporters and commentators who worked their tails off today keeping everybody up to speed with events (and supplying the quotes I used above). We’re beginning to take this stuff for granted but today I was able to follow everything live on The Royal Gazette and Bermuda Sun websites and social media sites, on Bernews, via the live audio stream on the Government site, and even Bermemes. That sort of rolling coverage would have been unthinkable in Bermuda even five years ago.

Yes, there was a lot of rubbish spouted on Facebook, Twitter, etc. as there always is but on balance, it enables a level of public engagement, free speech and frank, open discussion that, again, would not have been possible a few years ago. That can only be a good thing.

I don’t often find myself agreeing with Walter Roban (PLP) but as he stated: “It’s been a good day for the principles of freedom and democracy.”

 

UPDATE (June 20): The amendment was passed in the Senate.

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Photos by Chris Gibbons

I’m not sure what it says about Bermuda in 2013 that a National Day of Prayer, at which some clergy chose to openly advocate continued discrimination against gays, drew far more people to City Hall yesterday than the 100 or so who turned out at the House of Assembly today to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and the tabling of a bill to amend Bermuda’s Human Rights Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Does it mean that Bermudians place more stock in religious dogma than human rights? That their unfounded fear and ignorance prevents them from recognising that discrimination and injustice in any form is to be opposed? I hope it means that many Bermudians – and not a few clergy and churchgoers, I would wager – privately agree with the amendment but for whatever reason don’t wish to be seen publicly supporting it. Either that or they couldn’t justify two consecutive days out of the office.

It was disturbing to hear hysterical rhetoric such as that by Bishop Lloyd Duncan of the New Testament Church of God who declared: “I now implore our newly elected Government to exercise Biblical caution and spiritual restraint as you seek to approve what God’s word does not endorse, and as you seek to legislate what heaven has deemed inadmissible from the inception of time.” He said the amendment would be “a critical error and what can only be termed a lethal mistake”.

Or this statement, from the AME Church warning the Government “legislation that endorses homosexuality violates God’s Word” and said that all people are made in God’s image, including those “affected by same sex attraction”.

They are entitled to their view but are missing the point. No one is demanding that they support gay marriage or condone homosexuality. What they are not entitled to do is to actively support an encourage discrimination against a section of the community. Their claims that gays can be “cured” by prayer belong in the same category of ignorance as those who still believe  the earth is flat. A gay person can no more change than a white man can become black. In the words of the wonderful Macklemore & Lewis song Same Love: “I couldn’t change even if I tried/Even if I wanted to.” (By the way it was encouraging to hear The Captain play that track on the Mix 106 drive-in this morning to mark the day).

As Phil Wells posted on Facebook today: “Someone should ask the churches whether they would support the removal of ‘religion or beliefs’ from the Human Rights Act.”

Although consensual homosexual sex was de-criminalised in 1994 (yes, as late as that) it still takes courage to be openly gay in Bermuda. In the same way it took courage for black Bermudians to fight – and continue to fight – against racial discrimination and prejudice it took guts for gay Bermudians (supported by Amnesty International, Centre for Justice, Rainbow Alliance, Two Words and a Comma and the Vision Ministry) to publicly stand up and be counted at the House of Assembly today.

Now lets hope that our MPs have the sense to give the religious bigots short shrift and add those two simple two words and a comma to the Human Rights Act.

Finance Minister Bob Richards presented his first budget today and finally some – albeit with a small “s” – good news for us Permanent Resident Certificate holders.

Readers may remember I had a rant last year about the continued treatment of PRC holders as second-class citizens, in particular when it comes to buying property. Even though I have been a resident of Bermuda for more than 30 years, own a business, and have three Bermuda-born children I still can’t vote and would be penalised with a 25% licence fee (10% for a condo) should I wish to buy a home. Oh – and that property has to have an Annual rental Value of more than $63,000 and I would not be permitted to let out any part of that property, even if it contained existing rented apartments.

Today Mr. Richards offered some relief as a means of stimulating the stagnant real estate market, cutting the 25% rate to 6% for 18 months before rising to 6%. For non-Bermudians who are not PRC holders, the rates will be cut to 8% (rising to 12.5% after 18 months for houses) and 6% for condos, rising to 8% after 18 months. The ARV level and the apartment restrictions will remain in place.  

While the licence fee reduction is certainly welcome and a step in the right direction, it really doesn’t go far enough. Why should PRCs still be discriminated against when it comes to buying property? Why subject us to a rise in the fee after 18 months and other restrictions?

Surely the logical step – from a human rights standpoint if nothing else – is to grant PRCs full Bermudian status. I am delighted that the OBA Government plans to finally protect gays under the human rights laws. It would be nice if PRCs were given similar consideration.

Some of the commentaries worth reading today after yesterday’s election:

“If we want a better Bermuda, we need to do much more than vote in a new government. We are going to have to demand more accountability from everyone, but starting with ourselves.  Succinctly, we must start practicing collective responsibility.” – Bryant Trew in the Bermuda Sun.

“This election … proved that appeals to racial loyalty are not effective. The PLP attempted to make this election about race, especially in the last days, and voters seem to have rejected that in favour of an improved economy. Unemployment knows no bounds and even the anti-business rhetoric which infused the PLP campaign at the end failed to mobilise the PLP base and may even have backfired.” – Analysis in The Royal Gazette

“The PLP is reflective of all the people of this island. Yet they wish to label us as a black party only to subliminally tell whites not to vote for us … We know there are many PLP supporters and members of many different races. However, for a multitude of reasons they seem a bit hesitant to come forward and publicly involve and engage with our events and activities … Persons such as Dorothy Thompson, David Allen, Zane De Silva, Jonathan Smith and Dr Barbara Ball must not be the exceptions .They must be the norm.” – Christopher Famous in the Bermuda Sun.

“The new team (OBA) must be genuinely — not rhetorically — transparent. It must be genuinely direct – not obtuse and non-commenting and non-answering. Above all else, this new team must genuinely embrace all residents and all Bermudians – and not just those who can be described as “our people”. – Larry Burchall in the Bermuda Sun.

“The hope of this newspaper is that this election will open a new chapter in Bermuda politics, which will be less divisive, less reliant on race as a motivating force, more open to problems all Bermudians face and more constructive. The next few years will not be easy, but they can lead to a better Bermuda, provided all people are willing to work together for the betterment of all.” – Editorial, The Royal Gazette.

“The first job for the new government is mending fences. Because the biggest threat to our economic stability is the massive debt and a dearth of ways to repay it, I believe the OBA government must make peace with our income generators and take clear steps to woo them back. This will not be an easy task because of the race-baiting that has been a dominant theme in how previous administrations beat up on their political opponents.” – Stuart Hayward in the Bermuda Sun.

“Posturing, arrogance,  hubris, defensiveness, an unwillingness to change policies that aren’t working out … the list of damaging side-effects of UBP-PLP hatred goes on and on. And it has gone on and on, for way too long. There were understandable historical reasons why it developed. But the great hope that the OBA has offered us this week is that it need not go on forever. Bermuda, Bermudians and the Bermudian political system can move forward, grow and mature. The time has come, and here is our opportunity.” – Tom Vesey in the Bermuda Sun.