Message: Senator Diallo Rabain, at the 49th Annual PLP Founders' Day and Drum Major Awards. * Photo by Amanda Dale
Message: Senator Diallo Rabain, at the 49th Annual PLP Founders' Day and Drum Major Awards. * Photo by Amanda Dale

SUNDAY, February 19:  There is strength through adversity – that was the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) message at the 49th Annual Founders’ Day luncheon.

Up to 150 members of the ruling party gathered at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess for an afternoon of speeches, entertainment and presentation of the Drum Major Awards.

Keynote speaker Senator Diallo Rabain spoke of the trailblazing leaders of the past and then challenged today’s supporters to pass on the baton to the younger generation, by teaching them the PLP’s heritage.

As she enters Budget week, Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox also reflected on the weight of the party’s history.

“The words that come to me are ‘back to the future’,” said Ms Cox.

“What do I mean by that? It means reflecting on the outstanding achievements of this great party.

“The party was born out of struggle. It has a soul and it has strength. That is sustainability going forward, remembering to stand on principle and for principle.”

Ms Cox said it remained important to “keep the end in view”.

This included a reference to “the big I, independence”.

“But first there’s much work we must continue to do as a family,” she said.

Sen Rabain said he was “humbled and honoured” to address party members as the keynote speaker.

He paid tribute to the founding fathers Hugh ‘Ryo’ Richardson, Albert ‘Peter’ Smith, Walter NH Robinson, Edward DeJean and Wilfred ‘Mose’ Allen. And he praised former leaders Arnold A Francis, Dame Lois Browne-Evans, L Frederick Wade and Dame Jennifer Smith.

“Subsequent leaders Alexander Scott, Dr Ewart Brown and our current leader and Premier, Paula Cox, have carried the green and white (PLP) flag with dignity, honour and pride as we have forged ahead with a government that has always been for the people of Bermuda as a whole,” added Sen Rabain.

He said the party’s election to Government in November 1998, 36 years after it was founded, was “even more significant when we pause to think that prior to 1998, Bermuda was governed by the same ruling class for some 378 years”.

The challenge now, after 13 years in power, was to “recognize that the struggle to maintain the Government is what is of paramount importance”.

“The only way forward is to come together and move as one body, period. This can only be achieved through honest and open dialogue within our PLP family in a non-threatening way,” said Sen Rabain.

 As the founders had to struggle to disseminate the message of “equal rights for all” against opposition, so too after the PLP’s 1998 victory did it have to face criticism that “a PLP Government will ruin the country”.

The struggle continues today with messages of ‘doom and gloom’ by the Opposition, Sen Rabain said.

“As we head into an impeding election, we find ourselves in a position of strength where the opposition cannot do much more but try their best to spread the message of PLP gloom and doom.”

He said the “modern day struggle” was now to encourage the younger generation into the party fold.

“These voters make up the next generation of leaders but for various reasons, they feel very much disengaged from the political process. I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I say we have not been as nurturing as we could have been with them, but all is not lost. If there is one area (where) we need to ‘pull up our boot straps’, this is it.

“I challenge every senior member of the party and our parliamentarians to take one or two younger people under your wing. Guide and teach them. Teach them the wonderful history of this island and teach them the wonderful history this party from an educational and not antagonistic point of view.

“Nurture and groom them to be our next leaders. Only then will they take their rightful place that our founders struggled to bring about the mechanisms to allow such. The legacy of you and me will not be seen or revered through the history we have witnessed, but though the generations we inspire to succeed and lead.”

Sen Rabain, Junior Minister of Education and Youth, Families and Sport, said: “If anything, we have stayed very true to our core philosophy at the cost of alienating our young future leaders. While we remain a close knit and supportive family, we probably haven’t fully taken into account the needs of our growing younger support base.”

But young voters were needed “at the table where the decisions that affect Bermuda are made”.

“We are in the crossroads of our administration and we need all hands on deck. As a family, we need everyone to buy into the collective vision if we are to prevail.

“Like every family we will have disagreements and arguments but these are not issues that we cannot overcome or share with members outside this family.

“This is not the time for personal pontificating as we need every single supporter to get on this train and help us move forward as a single collective voice. We are in a battle; a battle that needs all of us to move as one if we are to succeed.

“It is time to set aside any personal agendas, come back into and fully engage the PLP family fold and get on the Team Bermuda Train.”

He concluded: “I am confident that in the upcoming election we can focus and channel the vision and fortitude of the many that have come before us and show Bermuda that we are the only option for the Government of Bermuda.

“As we have survived the struggles of 1963 and 1998 we will prevail in 2012 and beyond.”

Sen Rabain’s speech was followed by the Drum Major Awards, presented for outstanding contributions to the community. This year’s recipients were the late Dorothea Simons, Reginald Pearman (for sport), Ann Pindar (for her work in trade unionism and the early beginnings of the PLP), Verneil Simons (for the arts) and Donna Watson (for youth and sport).

The Founders’ Day performances included a short drama ‘The Judgement Day’ by Dellwood Middle School students (teacher, Nishanthi Bailey) and music from saxophonists Aaron Spencer and Jordan Renfroe (students of Shine Hayward).