*iStock photo
*iStock photo

Ex-UBP leader Kim Swan has branded Government’s U-turn on a gaming referendum “a travesty”.

He pulled no punches as he accused the OBA of “disrespect and utter contempt for the electorate”.

As critics weighed in on what they see as a betrayal of an election promise to the people, the leaders of the PLP and OBA locked horns over the train of events
surrounding the controversy. 

Independent MP Terry Lister offers a solution — that both parties meet to change the wording of the referendum and restore the public’s faith in government.

But last night, Premier Craig Cannonier said “there is no evidence to suggest that public confidence has declined… We took a decision to protect jobs.”

He added that the decision to move forward on gaming with a vote by Members of Parliament, sans referendum, had already attracted new investment potential for Bermuda.

Sad day for the people
By Kim Swan, Guest columnist

Bermuda’s democracy has been short-circuited by the pro-gaming lobby that has worked its mojo on the political system and our politicians.

On the OBA Facebook page, Bermuda statesman Quinton Edness summed it up best:

“You have just destroyed the last of your credibility and deprived the people of Bermuda from having a fair say on a major issue that will greatly impact their lives...”

The withdrawal of the referendum bill is a sad day for the people of Bermuda who were courted with the promise of a referendum on gaming, good governance and transparency, only to have the government pull an 11th hour U-turn.

The OBA’s first year as government has been a bumpy journey, made worse by a plethora of broken promises but this latest move is reminiscent of the UBP McDonalds days — save and except that then, the UBP had backbenchers prepared to stand up against what they disagreed with and even hold hands with the PLP Opposition of that era against accusations of business self interest, insider trading and the pressure of special interest lobbying.  

The collective voice of ‘The People’ has been muted — for now — by a government that needs to be reminded who elected them. The sad thing about this gambling fiasco is that money and special business interests are running roughshod over our democracy. No one will disagree that Bermuda is in a precarious economic state but that doesn’t mean that our government needs to be allowed to act in a manner that is ultra vires of their promises and circumvent the transparency that they promised.

The global recession was caused by bad business decisions — Madoff and Stanford led the way and major local companies were impacted by these destructive economic currents when their decisions were closely aligned with the sub prime and other negative economic forces at play. Today in the aftermath, the government is gambling on gaming to help prime Bermuda’s economic pump and is caught up in the flip flop which surpasses all flip flops.

The OBA Government’s actions can be characterized as ‘Gaming End Run’, which quenches the pro-gaming lobbyists’ thirst but short-circuits our Bermuda democracy. A reversal of a promise that has shown disrespect and utter contempt for the electorate of Bermuda. 

Kim Swan is a former leader of the UBP