The latest anti-Bermudian quotation attributed to Senator Burch is this: "It is a personal wish of mine that if you bring one foreign spouse and you divorce them, you can't have another one."

This should be a cause of concern to all right-thinking Bermudians. Such a comment is so ignorant I can barely believe it has been uttered.

What makes it all the more insane is that the Minister of Immigration has expressed it as part of his "wish list".

Failing to vocally protest against these outbursts indicates that there are people in Bermuda who believe such comments are perfectly reasonable.

I absolutely and unequivocally disagree with Senator Burch's sentiments - as do my colleagues in the Bermuda Democratic Alliance. Allowing such remarks to go unchallenged is where we have failed as a society - a society I have always wanted to believe is based on tolerance and mutual respect.

But when there is no general public outcry, no vocal distancing by other ministers and no public slap-down by the Premier about such divisive and xenophobic remarks, I start to rethink my views about our society.

Hogwash

The excuse often given for such remarks is that they are a personal view, not a Government view, or that the comments were made in a private conversation.

Frankly, such defences are absolute hogwash, especially when made by ministers and consultants paid by the public.

Just a few weeks ago, the Premier's race consultant was embroiled in a dispute with a black member of the Alliance over the phrase "house n*****".

A couple of years ago, Senator Burch directed the same disgusting phrase at someone on the radio. Last year a PLP spokes-person wrote that anti-Ewart Brown protesters had "a genetic predisposition to anti-PLP bias".

Time and time again, insults against non-Bermudians and un-parliamentary language have gone unchecked. Not a single person has been disciplined politically or otherwise.

How can these same leaders demand our young people and their parents behave in a "proper" fashion when those very same leaders behave in a way that in other western democracies they would be either censured or fired?

It is simple. The leaders of our country are not leading by example. We, the people, have allowed this hypocrisy to happen and the pigeons are coming home to roost.

The tacit acceptance of racially charged and xenophobic remarks has become the norm and is an indication of a more sinister underlying issue - the total lack of accountability and "it's not my problem" attitude which is destroying Bermuda from within.

Our country is starting to fail. The Budget debt, shootings, taxes, outsourcing of jobs in international business, Government travel and consultancy bills are all rising. Does Bermuda need to continue down this path? No.

Is it too late to save ourselves from racial divisiveness and economic ruin? Absolutely not.

The Alliance believes bridges can be built between the races, which in turn will save Bermuda from economic disaster. It is time to seize the opportunity to have frank, open and honest dialogue without resorting to name-calling and fear mongering.

It is time to shun leaders who want to divide our country for personal gain.

The Alliance believes the only way to move forward is to reach for the ideal situation of races working and living together. To do this we must reach for the ideals of equality in the fullest meaning of the word.

Challenges

When we remember and focus on our strengths and what makes us great as an island, we will find solutions to the challenges we face.

This starts by calling out our leaders when they wrong us and standing up for what is clearly right and clearly wrong.

When we do that as a people there will be proper accountability - only then will our leaders make decisions that are in the best interests of the country. That is the better way.

SENATOR MICHAEL M. FAHY is chairman of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance.