Part II of II (Part I)

Today, Parliament will debate a motion brought forward by the Opposition that seeks to censure OBA MPs Mark Pettigill and Shawn Crockwell for their participation (or lack thereof) in the Jetgate/Deadgate affair.  

As stated in Wednesday’s column, two wrongs do not make a right. But, sometimes it is very much worthwhile to look at the past in order to better appreciate current affairs. Once again, here are excerpts from The Royal Gazette and for your consideration :

“Premier Ewart Brown suffered a crushing blow yesterday as his cruise ship gaming bill failed with seven Progressive Labour Party MPs voting against it.

Dr. Brown shocked the House of Assembly by attempting to push the legislation through without rebel or Opposition MPs knowing — despite pledging the day before to put it on the back burner until November at the earliest.

But his plan backfired as a host of rebel backbenchers and United Bermuda Party MPs dashed into the chamber to vote against it — and the bill went down 18 votes to 11.

Government Whip Lovitta Foggo — whom the Premier had instructed to tell the UBP, backbenchers and the media that the bill would not go ahead — was among the PLP MPs to oppose it.”

— Royal Gazette July 8, 2009

“Friday July 10 was the end of the Parliamentary summer session, with members having dealt with a slew of legislation. Throughout the session, the general opinion was the ‘Gaming Bill’ would not likely pass due to substantive opposition within the PLP Caucus. 

“It looked destined to remain on the order paper and disappear without success. Premier Brown, in spite of these odds, expressed his interest in getting it passed and would take any opportunity he might have to achieve this. To the surprise of some members of the Parliamentary team, on the final day, Premier Brown made his move. In the belief that he had the opportunity and votes to pass the legislation, he moved the motion to report to the House that the committee approve the bill. This motion was put to a vote and it was not successful. A number of PLP Parliamentarians voted No to the motion.

“Later that night, with the clock going into early Saturday, during the Motion to Adjourn on July 11, 2009 and first on his feet, Minister Terry Lister made a forceful speech in which he expressed concern for the country and the absence of the Premier from the chamber most of the day during the debate of his own motion. Minister Lister called for the Premier to resign. He was followed by Minister El James expressing similar concern and for the Premier to do the right thing. Randy Horton and Wayne Perinchief followed with a similar call for the Premier to resign. All of this happened on floor of House of Assembly.

“They all accused the Premier of mishandling the vote on the gaming on ships, secrecy around the Uighur issue and lack of respect for the House and the people of Bermuda.

“…The Central Committee meeting lasted for an exhausting 5 hours with the main discussion around a motion put forward for a Special Delegates Conference (SDC) to specifically address the issue of leadership. 

“After weighty discussion with submissions given by all of the so called ‘dissident members’, the motion was eventually withdrawn by the proposer. Premier Brown pledged to work more closely with the Deputy Leader and to be more open and accessible to the members of the backbench. As it stood, Premier Brown retained the full confidence of the membership, who wished for him to complete the duration of his term as leader.”

— Our Rich History

It is quite plain to see that 2009 was a tumultuous year for the PLP.  But the one thing that sticks out is that over the three attempts to hold the Premier accountable, the party still did not to make him resign. One of the points being made in support of the Opposition is that they are purely doing their job, and that whatever happened in the PLP’s past is irrelevant. I strongly disagree.  

It is critically important for voters to understand whether a party really believes in accountability and transparency or if they are merely trying to score political points. 

If it’s really about scoring points, then voters should expect that switching governments would only result in the resumption of the misconduct that they rejected at the previous general election. And, as pointed out in last Friday’s column, there are several instances where the PLP, even under new leadership and infused with new blood, has consistently failed to hold their own members accountable for misconduct or to be transparent on issues that demand an explanation.

Anger and disappointment with the OBA is understandable, but voters should not lose sight of the fact that the OBA has managed to do the one thing that the PLP failed, and continually fails, to do — they’ve actually held someone accountable.