Submission from Geoffrey C Parker Sr,
President, Voters' Rights Association, Bermuda
With reference to the subject of security and
good governance of the Overseas TerritoriesBERMUDA.
To the Honourable the Commons of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
We humbly take this opportunity to make the submissions below
for your review and action, upon the invitation by the Deputy
Governor of Bermuda, Mark Capes, published in the Bermuda daily
Royal Gazette newspaper on 10 July 2007. We understand
that the period for acceptance of written submissions has been
extended until 31 January 2008, and pray that this information
will arrive in time.
Our submissions will provide information on
the following subjects that we believe are of great concern to
Bermudians and so should be addressed by the Foreign Affairs Committee.
1. A Voters' Bill of Rights enshrined in
Bermuda's Constitutional Order to ensure that the People have
control of their government and not the reverse, as currently
2. Reforms to the Parliamentary Election
Act: in particular to voters' registration, to reduce the opportunity
of the voter fraud that appears to exist. In particular we recommend
that an independent authority should conduct an audit of the voting
in the recent General Election [December 18th, 2007] to determine
the number of illegal voters in each constituency in which candidates
won by small margins, say, 10% or less. Where the numbers of illegal
voters exceeded the difference between the winner and loser of
any constituency, the result should be voided and a new election
for that constituency should take place after removal of those
illegal voters from the register of voters.
3. A constitutional Election Commission
of independent individuals to administer, supervise and report
on all facets of the election and polling process including an
audit on each constituency to ensure no voter fraud took place.
4. Fixed Parliamentary Term Elections to
remove the political advantage gained for the Government.
5. Absentee Balloting to enfranchise Bermudians
resident outside or temporarily absent from Bermuda, as they currently
are when they are overseas at school, on business, in hospital
or on holiday, etc.
6. Reform the broadcasting legislation to
prevent the contravention of the regulations of the blatant sort
that occurred during this past General Election, creating a major
unfair advantage for the governing party.
7. A constitutional Ombudsman with power
to investigate the activities of all members of Government including
the Premier and Cabinet Members, to stop abuse of power, as no
one should be above the law.
8. The removal of the Office of Attorney
General from direct political influence, as presently exists,
in order to provide a fair judicial system expected by the People
under the law.
9. The reform of the weak Bermuda laws on
corruption so that local anti-corruption legislation mirrors that
of the UK Legislation and complies with United Nations Convention
10. Investigation by an independent authority,
of the Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal and all persons involved
that have allegedly benefited. We support the Opposition's call
for a Royal Commission to get to the truth in this and any other
irregularities, misuse and abuse of power and public funds that
may be brought forward from the Auditor General or other credible
11. Review and reform the Human Rights Commission
to eliminate political influence.
12. Investigation by an independent authority
of the case of Mr. Harold Joseph Darrell in his seven-year fight
to bring a claim of discrimination against the Bank of Bermuda.
This claim had been agreed to by the Human Rights Commission but
its progress has been consistently blocked by alleged political
influence and subterfuge.
13. Enhancement of the powers and independence
of the Auditor General to insulate that office from harassment
and intimidation by the Government.
14. Legislation to ensure fiscal accountability
by Civil Servants, Government, the Premier, the Cabinet and all
Parliamentarians, to reduce waste of tax revenue on policies and
perks that are not in Bermuda's best interest or that of the tax
15. Establish an independent, possibly constitutional,
committee or commission to oversee fairness in government purchases
and contracts. Presently major construction contracts are going
to the same contractors who are personal friends of the Premier.
One was involved in the Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal and
one is alleged to be in a cooperative venture with the Premier
in another island in the Caribbean. These associations have raised
questions about the fairness of the current system by many of
the Bermuda tax payers.
16. Improvement of the Bermuda Police Service
to ensure public safety and to reduce the political influence
over the Police Administration that is generally perceived by
the Bermuda public.
17. Confirmation that the United Nations
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights apply to
Bermuda, particularly, Article 20.2, which states that Any advocacy
of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement
to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by
law. We recommend that Bermuda adopt the UK's position on the
promotion of swastikas, black power salutes, cross burning and
other demonstrations of political hatred. The recent General Election
saw unchecked racial hatred expressed against whites in speeches
by the Premier and candidates, which shocked this community.
18. "Whistle blowers" legislation
to ensure that the truth is brought out and justice served.
19. Review and reform of General and Special
Orders for the Civil Service. Currently civil servants are not
allowed to join or support political groups, including the neutral,
non-partisan Voters' Rights Association. We are aware that the
regulations have affected spouses of civil servants who are fearful
that their joining could be detrimental to their civil servant
spouse. We feel this is a Civil Rights issue that must be addressed.
20. Review the results and costs of the
public education system over the past decade in comparison with
local private education. As the quality of education affects the
quality of the economic and social environment any falling behind
in any area has a negative affect on the overall performance and
stability of the country.
21. Investigation by an independent authority
of the Rebecca Middleton murder case and all other unsolved murder
cases to determine whether the investigative arm [the Police Service]
and the judiciary [the Courts] have functioned as expected by
the People of Bermuda and determine and implement any reforms
to improve the process to ensure justice is done. To determine
if compensation is due to the victims estate for those cases in
which major errors by the Police and Courts have taken place and
justice is not served.
The Voters' Rights Association hopes that, based
upon your review of all of the above submissions and supporting
data, you find sufficient reason to make a lengthy visit to Bermuda
to hold public hearings on all of the above issues and any others
that may have been brought forward by others.
We have some serious problems here in Bermuda.
Our island had been evolving quietly until a group of individuals
within the Progressive Labour Party [PLP] decided it was now,
as they put it, "pay back time". They ousted two former
premiers and have now ensconced themselves in an almost untouchable
situation to do as they wish, to spend as much as they wish, ignoring
all the basic principles of democracy and the laws of natural
To quote one of our well-known and highly respected
attorneys, Mr. Michael J. Spurling: "We are witnessing
the erosion of the rule of law, constitutional rights, individual
political rights and the progress made over the past 50 years
in terms of civil rights and social cohesion and complete disdain,
if not contempt, and adverse consequence for contrary opinion".
Bermuda is just a month or so along since the
General Election and many foreign long-term residents are contemplating
their future. Small and medium size international exempt companies
have begun downsizing or relocating as the political climate and
unworkable immigration policies are taking their toll on the patience
of multinational business. Although new business continues to
arrive we fear it will not be long before the word gets around
that Bermuda is now "unfriendly" to international business.
Trust for the new government of Dr Brown has been eroding.
The newly introduced amoral [Americanisation]
approach to politics in Bermuda has frightened many people who
have nowhere else to go. Under the Westminster system of winner
take all, allowing the winner to do as it wishes for five years,
a run away government can bring a country like Bermuda to its
knees very quickly. When that happens the quality of life in this
island will be hugely and quickly affected, particularly those
retired with fixed incomes. With the Bermuda Social Insurance
scheme impossible to fix, many of the lower and middle class will
be the first to feel the economic downturn. The number one industry
is the international business that can move its business with
a click of a button, leaving thousands of Bermudians out of work
and no chance of getting a job. This is where we are heading.
The attached comments from the President of the Bermuda Chamber
of Commerce provides food for thought.
During the run up to the recent General Election
the Voters' Rights Association offered to facilitate debates on
the issues for each constituency and at the end of the campaign
there was to be a Leaders debate on national TV. The United Bermuda
Party agreed but the Progressive Labour Party declined, thus providing
no democratic debates on issues for the people to decide. The
Progressive Labour Party stirred their supporters with racially
divisive rhetoric and allegedly padded several constituencies.
This was not democracy at work! This is not the real Bermuda that
the People of Bermuda know and expect.
We have to have checks and balances that place
the People in control of their destiny instead of at the mercy
of a Premier and six hand picked Cabinet Members who dictate to
the people. At the moment the Bermuda Constitution offers no way
out of this distressing situation except through an appeal to
the Mother Country to take note of the deterioration and offer
assistance through reforms designed to protect the Bermuda people,
not the Political Parties for whom the Constitutional Order of
1968 was written.
The Constitution was written 40 years ago for
a two party system. The ordinary man in the street is excluded
from any participation in the political process except in national
and bye elections. There is no positive right in the Constitution
of every Bermudian, in all circumstances, to votejust the
right to elect a candidate if ordinarily resident and present
in Bermuda on the Advanced or National Polling Day. This restricted
right to vote does not suffice in this age of globalization, international
business and movement of people. Bermuda's people want and deserve
political rights, they want to have a say in the determining of
their future. The Voters' Rights Association has arisen in response
to this need.
The UK Government has the right of intervention
to ensure the people under their jurisdiction are properly governed.
At the moment Bermuda is not properly governed and a full commission
of enquiry will bear that out. After all, is this not the main
reason for this Overseas Territories Audit: to find out exactly
what is going on to prove that good governance and security for
the people exists, and if not, make the required reforms to get
good governance back on track?
The division codified by party politics over
the past 40 years has now become a huge chasm and the government
appears uninterested in building any bridges. Dame Jennifer Smith
was ousted from the Premiership by Dr Brown and company on the
night she won the PLP's second term. Dr Brown's famous words at
the time to the public were ..."We had to mislead you!".
However, he did not get the nod from his party and William Alex
Scott was chosen as the Premier, with Dr Brown as Deputy.
Just short of three years later Dr Brown took
over the Premiership through a simple vote at a PLP delegates
conference. Mr Scott, an honourable man, had put in place a Sustainable
Development Initiative that brought the people together on the
many issues facing Bermuda's future. He also had other programmes
he intended to move on to in order to try and heal the great divide
within this country. When Mr Scott was removed from office all
such programmes were sidelined or halted. The Sustainability Initiative
was truncated and the huge cost and effort that had gone into
it was basically wasted.
Dr Brown's government seems uninterested in
healing this country, and instead seems intent in exploiting divisions.
Instead of preserving open space the Brown government has doled
out Special Development Orders [SDO's] for new construction, in
several cases by-passing the planning requirements established
in law. Despite environmental protests, most projects approved
by SDO's have been to the detriment of Bermuda's environment and
prospects for sustainability. With just 20 square miles of land
Bermuda's survival in the future is dependent upon the checks
and balances of a sensible and sustainable approach. With global
warming and sea levels rising it is estimated that in less than
50 years the size of Bermuda could be cut by a third through erosion
and flooding of the many low areas in and around the Island. The
airport itself would disappear. To ignore the obvious is folly,
yet long term planning for such calamities is not on the political
The Bermuda Housing Corporation scandal implicated
Dr Brown (prior to his becoming Premier) and several other sitting
parliamentarians in what was termed "unethical but not illegal"
dealings. The Police alleged that unknown individuals had stolen
a comprehensive dossier on the scandal from Police Headquarters
and leaked various aspects of the contents that were then published
in the press. The Premier Dr Brown, through his political appointee
the Attorney General, and the Police Commissioner worked closely
together to delay or stop further publication, going as far as
the Privy Council to delay the publication, presumably so it would
not affect the upcoming election. We see this as evidence of a
continuing erosion of the rule and respect for law.
We need increasing accountability and stability
to ensure our future. At the moment the current government is
preaching black power, anti-white rhetoric. Over the past few
years the government has introduced programmes in the public schools
that arguably are developing a negative image of the white population
among young children. The Premier has intimated that they will
continue to make the whites feel uncomfortable. Such a stance
must be in contravention of the United Nations International Covenant
of Civil and Political Rights, Article 20.2.
The Voters' Rights Association identified an
average inaccuracy of 8% in the Parliamentary Voters' Register.
Such inaccuracy in the recent election should have triggered the
Opposition to demand an audit to identify the number of illegal
voters in the close decision constituencies [say 10% and less]
and if the number was more than the difference in the win then
the results should be made void and new bye elections required
with those illegal voters removed from the register. We understand
that in one constituency that voter challenges were ignored contrary
to the law. In this same district a large number of basically
homeless people were moved into the constituency just weeks before
the election and were not allowed visits by the Opposition Candidate.
These affronts to democracy desperately need your inquiry.
We believe that your Committee should by now
begin to get a picture of the growing problems in Bermuda where
the expectations of good governance requires the Committee's investigation
The Voters' Rights Association prays that the
House of Commons will take note of the foregoing and will review
the supporting submissions that follow.
We fervently hope that the House of Commons will agree, at the
very least, to send a delegation to Bermuda to discover the truth
and initiate suitable reforms.
31 January 2008
258 Documents not published as publicly available. Back