Junior Environment Minister David Burt told the Senate of Government’s sympathy for descendants of families who were forcibly removed from Tucker’s Town in the 1920s.

…But he added: “We are unable to undo the past but we can certainly take steps to ensure the future wellbeing of our people.”  — PLP Senator David Burt, March 19, 2011, Royal Gazette 

Here is something of a riddle: Let’s imagine that during a Commission of Inquiry into historical land deals, it is discovered that a particular lawyer engaged in either an unethical/illegal/legal transaction. And, let’s propose that the lawyer was granted immunity to provide their testimony.  Under such a circumstance, who should be made to pay compensation?

* The lawyer (or their family)?

* The law firm?

* The UK Government?

* Bermuda Government?

* The current landowner?

Let’s go a little deeper.  What should the compensation be based upon?  Will we seek to reverse property deals?  Shall we pay out sums based on a theoretical pre-development value, or should it be based on current market value of Tucker’s Town property?  What about funding the legal expense that will be required?  At what point does the legal expense exceed the theoretical compensation awarded?

All of these questions are in no way, shape or form, intended to dismiss the calls for a commission of inquiry.  Instead, the questions are intended to demonstrate that such an inquiry is not as simple, straightforward or inexpensive, as we have been led to believe. That is, it is not merely a matter of democracy:

“Whatever alternative mechanism for an inquiry might otherwise be looked at, it may be useful to set out for the record that I see no case for asking Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom to consider funding an investigation into allegations of commercial transactions not involving the Crown, if such funding is not forthcoming from Bermuda.”

“I would be open to consider this again, however, if the House gave me clearer references to the kinds of alleged abuses concerned and a clearer mandate for me to incur expenses from the Consolidated Fund.” — Governor George Fergusson, July 10.

Assuming that the primary objective is to bring about justice, I would’ve expected the PLP to propose an alternative mechanism (even one that might not currently exist) or make a stronger case for why the United Kingdom should fund such an investigation. I also would’ve expected greater clarity on how reparations would be funded, given Bermuda’s excessive debt. One is therefore compelled to question why the PLP is now prioritizing this issue after 14 years. This is especially the case when you consider the PLP’s actions from only three years ago:

“She [PLP Senator Laverne Furbert] hit back at claims by Lynne Winfield, of anti-racism group CURB, who stated the SDO was a ‘slap in the face’ to the descendants of up-rooted residents of Tucker’s Town.

“I find that very strange because in my research I found that many that lived in Tucker’s Town didn’t live in Tucker’s Point property they lived in Mid Ocean Club property.”

She said it was important for people to understand that Tucker’s Point consists of different areas. She said the people that were moved out of Tucker’s Town were slapped in the face a long time ago and many had since passed away. “In fact they do not even have a face any more. They have souls, but do not have a face.”  — March 19th, 2011, Royal Gazette.

Furbert wasn’t the only PLP Senator to dismiss justice for those who no longer have a face.  Burt, Shakir and Burch joined her in tossing the matter into the dustbin (http://www.royalgazette.com/article/20110319/NEWS01/703199943).

Back to 2014: It is not at all surprising that the PLP has decided to milk this opportunity for all that it is worth. We have seen this kind of self-destructive, manufactured outrage before, and once again it is wrapped up in claims of protecting democracy, desires for independence, fury over racial injustice and most importantly, defending the rights of Bermudians.  

It doesn’t matter if we don’t have the money to pay reparations. It doesn’t matter if demands for recalling the Governor project the kind of political/social instability that could cost us the America’s Cup or destabilize our economic recovery in general. It doesn’t matter if paid PLP MPs walk off the job by boycotting Parliament until the Governor is removed (or not). It doesn’t matter if the next Governor takes the same position as the previous Governor.  It doesn’t even matter if the PLP’s track record on democracy is patently hypocritical.

We can also ignore the basic fact that we as a colony are not in a position to dictate how the Crown will spend their time and money to attempt to resolve what is essentially a Bermuda problem.

When we look at what “Standing Strong for Bermudians” looked like in 2011, it is clear that this protest is not about democracy or resolution of injustice. Instead, it is about the PLP’s relentless pursuit of political power by any means necessary, even if it means having our democratically-elected Parliament dissolved by the UK. 

bryanttrew@mac.com