Column: “Sent A Powerful Message To OBA”

February 11, 2016

[Opinion column written by MP Rolfe Commissiong]

The election on Thursday marked the day when the petals firmly came off the fading red rose that is the One Bermuda Alliance government.

This loss by their candidate, Andrew Simons to now MP and former Senator Diallo Rabain was by any measure extraordinary and sent a powerful message to the OBA and their supporters that 2012’s election rather than ushering in a new era of OBA dominance may have been an anomaly.

On Thursday the largely black voters – yes black; as we know that whites largely do not swing politically in Bermuda, save for an on average 2% percent of them – sent a message to the OBA and their government that after three years, the promise of shared sacrifice has turned out to be a cruelly empty one.

This, as the burden of sacrifice continues to fall on vulnerable hard-pressed households and communities from Dockyard to St. Davids.

Rolfe Commissiong 160211

But what did we really expect? The current unemployment statistics now indicates that black unemployment is at 9%. The corresponding figure for the white adult working age population on the other hand lies at a fairly modest 4%.

As I have stated before, most reputable economists will assert that an unemployment figure at 5% or under, essentially represents full employment .

In addition, the workforce participation rate has dropped indicating that persons have either stopped looking for work and/or that the anecdotal evidence which posits that hundreds of largely black Bermudians have given up on Bermuda and emigrated primarily to the United Kingdom, continues unabated.

Who would have thought that three years after the unfulfilled promises were first made in terms of an economic renaissance and jobs for all by the OBA that Bermudians –particularly – growing numbers of our young Bermudians would find themselves as economic migrants in a foreign land, thousands of miles from home.

In a previous op-ed I stated that my guestimate is that there may be at least five to six hundred non-students who have migrated to the UK seeking jobs or relief just over the last three to five years alone. Certainly the trend has accelerated since 2012.

I say guestimate because as a country we still do not have definitive or quantitative data to give us an up to date and accurate picture of emigration trends.

I believe a simple departure form would do the trick at the point of departure and I will be pushing that option upon the government once the House resumes this month.

As the newly elected MP Diallo Rabain and my colleague MP Kim Wilson by way of her recent forum confirmed, growing economic desperation, rising income inequality and incipient poverty is beginning to take hold in Bermuda and if there was one factor which drove the record numbers of voters to the polls it was that. Growing numbers are entering their second and even third year of unemployment or underemployment.

As to the OBA government, all of the above will mean that the level of black support that they enjoyed at the last election will continue to dissipate. More importantly, the hundreds of voters who sought to send the Progressive Labour Party a lesson by staying home now seem ready to re-engage with the political process but not in support of the OBA.

Both have what I term, buyer’s remorse.

Perhaps that is why – playing by the old UBP playbook – they and particularly Minister Fahy are seemingly determined to cook the electoral books once again by opening the floodgates to the granting of status to hundreds of long terms residents most of whom will become newly minted voters by the next election.

And while they will seek to downplay the racial and yes racist implications of the move by touting the fact that some persons from the Caribbean will be included, the reality is that as with the recent court decision by Chief Justice Kawaley, I speculate that over 80 percent of persons eligible will be white and cite either Canada, the UK or the US and Western Europe as their place of birth.

This while OBA Chair and Senator Lynne Woolridge desperately seeks to provide racial cover for a set of policies on status grants that a majority of black Bermudians and fair minded whites will view as an anathema.

Too many, particularly black Bermudians over 40 years of age would have seen this movie before. In fact the underdevelopment of Bermuda’s black community over the last 50 years in my view has been predicated in large part by racially skewed and indeed racist immigration policies such as these that were designed to marginalize the black majority of Bermuda even as we were democratizing the country in the post 1950’s environment.

Is this a new formula or the old one dressed up in new clothing? Some will say that the results will be the same. That, as more and more black Bermudians seek to emigrate or in real terms flee to the UK to escape the deteriorating economic and social pressures here, the present government is working overtime to grant status to largely affluent foreign born white residents.

Finally, now former MP Glenn Blakeney and his lovely wife must have enjoyed the satisfying irony of having Premier Dunkley who seems to like nothing more than the well placed photo op, welcoming the Danish Swim Team to Bermuda.

The Danes of course who are preparing for the Summer Olympics in Rio were here to utilize the aquatic centre’s pool and had no idea that it is was the then Opposition OBA who were so critical of then Minister Blakeney’s decision to finish the project. The project itself amongst other things was precisely designed and built to burnish Bermuda’s credentials as a credible destination for the type of sports tourism that the Premier is now eager to celebrate.

It also is not lost on Bermudians that the first rate facility contrary to the prognostications of the Premier’s own supporters at the time is widely used by Bermudians throughout the year.

This too will serve as a fitting tribute to a man – now retired from politics – who proved not only to be a good servant to his party but also to his country throughout his long Parliamentary career.

Stout, and at times unrelenting in defense of his party and more importantly his principle’s, Blakeney’s unbreakable and at times voluminous gift of gab was always leavened by the characteristic grace and charm that he effortlessly possesses in abundance – which is a Blakeney family trait.

I and all of my colleagues in the House of Assembly on both sides of the aisle will miss him and we wish him and his family well.

- Rolfe Commissiong


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Comments (51)

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  1. Ed Case says:

    I cannot even be bothered to read your drivel sir. It was a PLP stronghold so no surprise, no victory no story. You are hyping the mundane as usual because you have nothing of real value to offer Bermuda.

    People of all colours are emigrating because it is now possible – and it was not possible before. Again, no story, no race issue. Grow up and stop telling fairy tales.

    • Onion Juice says:

      This aint nothing new, they tried it 50 years ago.

      • hmmm says:

        Ask Rolf what was his role leading and up to the elections for the COH for team PLP.

        • hmmm says:

          or ask yourself Onion Juice if it is easier.

        • Build a Better Bermuda says:

          Ask Rolf how he was able to fix our education system, as he was the paid consultant to implement the Hopkin Report recommendations.

    • Unbelievable says:

      More to that, Andrew is the superior politician simply because at the Age Concern event he gave nuanced and well thought answers and the PLP candidate just returned with fluff answers meant to appeal to hearts and not facts.

    • lalalalala says:

      Exactly Ed… Thing is Rolf would make a mountain out of a mole hill, always has and always will. If he can spin something to look racial he will.

    • high road says:

      Forgive him, its the only way he knows

    • Terry says:

      The propaganda wing is in full swing….(has a little ring to it).

      Sad days ahead. Participants are crawling out of the woodwork and plaster.

      Sowing seeds wrath has just begun.


  2. Goose says:

    It’s cited that 4% of the white working age population is unemployed vs 9% of the black working age population.

    What is the breakdown for white Bermudians v black Bermudians as opposed to all residents of working age? Guest workers are going to skew those figures a bit- once unemployed they have to leave.

    I don’t doubt for a second that black unemployment is higher than white unemployment, but it would be good to get a true figure for Bermudians.

    • hmmm says:

      So if 25% make up 4% and 65% make up 9%

      (25% and 65% are CURB numbers from that article) “meanwhile the voting population is approximately 65% Black, 25% white and 10% other”

      Lets compare percentage of voting poluation unemployed in each class Black 9/65 = 13.8% of blacks and 4/25 = 16% of whites unemployed.

      It appears that white people are have a higher proportion unemployed than black…..

      That is interesting, not what the PLP are spouting. unsurprising really…and all this using their numbers.

      • scoob says:

        hmmm – I think you’ve got your maths a bit skewed.

        4% of the white working population is unemployed.
        9% of the black working population is unemployed.

        no need for further maths, these are the proportions.

        • hmmm says:

          but as a % of each class of Black and white I am absolutely correct. Better to be black than white under the OBA. Got more of a chance of working.

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        The unemployment numbers are further resulting more from the industries that have been effected. Legacy effect and the general slow nature of social evolution as a result of that legacy see that the while the presence of black Bermudian in the business, and particularly the international, is slowly rising, it is not yet representative of the population spread. This means that the historically and to today the majority of black employment presence is in the construction/trades. So how this has effected unemployment, initially it was the white population of Bermuda that felt the first initial effects of the recession as the first jobs to go were in the business fields. Once the business jobs left (and it needs to mentioned that there were thousands of them that left, 3 – 4 fold of what is reflected in our unemployment number) this lead to the reduction in trades work. Business were either moving out of here or downsizing, so office renovations all but stopped; the thousands of overseas works that rented from locals were leaving landlords without tenants, so no one was building or renovating. So the construction/trades industry ground to a virtual stop.
        Now we are here today, the business sector is slowly crawling back, more business jobs are slowly creeping back, but the effect to the trades will still be longer, the result is that the unemployment figure for the white community will increase first, while the unemployment for the black community will only show a significant rise when the trades industry builds back up again. And this will take time, because if it took 6000+ foreign (predominantly business) jobs to sustain 2000 local…. well

    • The Truth says:

      Some guest workers if you can call over a thousand some are not leaving. They are just finding another job and being given another permit. Some are even staying at their old job while their job description gets tweaked and changed so they can get a different permit when theirs expires. Some are coming here as tourist and having their friends and family find them a job. They have multiple ways of cheating the system because they have been working and sharing their ways for years. Here’s the rub, they are not in the category of black or white so while your foolish PLP keeps pointing fingers at the white man they keep taking your jobs out from under your noses. To put some salt on the rub of all you blind PLP loyalist PLP were the ones who directly started this so once OBA’s residents for 15 years law is in full effect they will become PRCs and then that is that. Open your eyes North America and Europe are not superpowers anymore. There are rising superpowers who are conquering all corners of the earth. They used to make up less than 1% of Bermuda’s population and PLP helped them to grow to 4% in a very short time. Once they are allowed permanent residence they will bring the rest of their family just like they have done in many other countries. This will happen and you will still be talking white and black because it’s not about someone taking your job it’s about the white man taking your job even when it’s not them really taking it.

    • Intergalactic member says:

      never happen until we class working Bermudians as BERMUDIANS NOT BLACK AND NOT WHITE. You can skew numbers a multitude of ways when you DONT COMPARE LIKE WITH LIKE. Last time I looked we are all in this together. Yes I may be white or undecided but would I like to emigrate somewhere HELL YES as long as we have people like the column writer around.

  3. Rhonnda aka Blue Familiar says:

    Well, it might have sent a powerful message to the OBA, not being a member, I wouldn’t know how they felt about it.

    Personally, I saw Mr. Rabain’s win as the expected outcome of the election. No offence to Mr. Simons intended at all.

    A PLP stronghold where the misinformation of the PLP will be taken as truth, along with Mr. Rabain’s charisma?

    Yeah, no surprise there.

    By the way, it was no confirmation of support of Marc Bean either. Rhetoric and Mr. Rabain. That’s it.

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Showmanship & baffling the electorate with bovine dumpings does it every time.

  4. hmmm says:

    How many years did the pool take and how much did the pool cost compared to the tender?

    It is not about having a pool, it is about having a pool in a timely manner and at a reasonable price.

    Don’t try and confuse people Rolf. PLP trying to manipulate Bermudians is unacceptable. Don’t fall for their nonsense and become their vote muppet. Use you own brain to weigh up all the facts.

    Diallio won a safe PLP seat. There is no surprise, so why is Rolf pretending there is? To make you think people are thinking a certain way and that perhaps you should be too….the PLP are very good at manipulation. PLP want power at any cost, if it costs you then they really don’t give a damn.

    • serengeti says:

      The project was announced in 2008 by the PLP Sports Minister, Glenn Blakeney. In 2010, when work was started, he said the cost would be $15m, and the facility would be opened in June 2012.
      Then the estimate went to $16.5m. Then to $18m-$19m.
      Then it went to $20m, and the pool was filled with water in mid-2013.
      This all despite Blakeney saying repeatedly it was “on time and on budget”.
      Built with borrowed money, and came in late and over budget. Like Grand Atlantic, it’s there now. We might as well use it. But let’s not pretend the project to build it was a resounding success.

    • jt says:

      Exactly….but you won’t hear RC mention the fact that everyone who knew better recommended the Myrtha pool and a different design layout. Or why that was ignored.
      Training and low level meets are all the more costly and time consuming version left us.
      As for the oba or tourism promoting its use – why wouldn’t they? It’s in our interest and it’s what we have. Lemonade from lemons.

  5. Ed Case says:

    Similarly, your drivel regarding the status grants and how they relate to race is a stretch at best, and outright misinformatuion at worst.

    What could be more fair than granting status to those who have been here the longest, irrespective of their skin colour or bank balance?

    This just proves that you will make a race issue out of absolutely anything. You and the CURB woman are an embarrassment.

  6. just wondering says:

    What an incredibly hypocritical statement from Rolfe!! The UK allows Bermudians (and I don’t care whether they are black or white) to move to the UK – to live there and, if necessary, to receive significant social assistance and he manages to turn that into a problem. Perhaps he might feel better if the UK Government acted in exactly the same blinkered manner he wishes the Bermuda Government to continue to act – namely to continue to breach international conventions on long term residents acquiring status. And to head off the typical nasty retort before it happens I am a born and bred Bermudian (not that this is relevant either).

    • the truth will set you free says:

      To Just wondering and others that have the same mindset: It is obvious you have not lived long enough or do not study history to know no matter where we are as a people we have always been second class citizens even if we are the majority of a country or continent. Slavery never ended it evolved.

      Like Malcolm X stated: Slavery ended on paper but not in practice. The Immigration policy is one of the tactics. It is obvious you can not spot a wolf(Fahy) in sheep’s clothing. Also if you are a male of African descent and you speak truth to power and take a stand against an unequal and unjust system those in position of power and those who have been successfully programmed and indoctrinated will tear you down.

  7. Rhonnda aka Blue Familiar says:

    Oh… and as for the emigration of Bermudians elsewhere, little to do with the OBA’s governance there.

    People started leaving, and telling their children who were overseas being educated not to come home, during the latter years of the PLP government. People saw the writing on the wall, they worried the PLP would win again. I know of some people who were prepared to leave and who stayed when they didn’t win again.

    People are still leaving because things are still hard. We’re not sinking near as much as before, might well be leveled out, but some people aren’t able, or willing, to stick around long enough for our revival.

    Oh, and some people, they’re leaving because there are better opportunities overseas for their chosen profession. Nothing political about it.

  8. ConcernedBermudian says:

    As a mid term by election, this was hardly a surprising result. There is still much work to do and the results will start to show over the next year, as major projects ramp up. And there are number of them. Many jobs will be created. Hard decisions have been made and nobody can expect those decisions to be palatable to anyone. The plp previously chose to govern in a state of denial, but the OBA have been charged by the electorate to fix the economy and reset Bermuda’s future.

    As for the pool up there. Wonderful that the Danes came and used it. At least whatever they paid to use it, might have covered the cost of one month’s electricity bill, to heat the thing at $100K per month. We will need teams coming from every country in the entire World to make a dent in the enormous building costs at $24 million, added to the maintenance and debt costs, which that project will be costing us for decades to come. Vision without any plan. At least the OBA are trying to making lemonade out of lemons – yet again.

  9. Guy Smiley says:

    So no one has come out with the figures on the racial breakup for the new PRC/status applicants. Love to know how he speculates 80% white.

    Talk about one great pool and leave out the other pool (Sandy’s 360)…

    No mention of the fact that it was a PLP stronghold that was won. At least focus on the number of votes cast vs election.

    No specific mention of the people “fleeing to UK” being due to gangs/witness protection. Dressed up as “economic and social pressures.”

    No mention of overall unemployment rate being up or down, just what it is for blacks and whites.

  10. Jah Warrior says:

    No matter which alphabet party is in power it’s all about how far can we get hoodwinking the people. Get rid of parties and have all independents.

    • wahoo says:

      What???? No parties! What will I do with this green tie? Who will tell me how to vote?

      Will there still be Koolaide?

  11. Starting Point says:

    “This loss by their candidate, Andrew Simons to now MP and former Senator Diallo Rabain was by any measure extraordinary ….”

    When the author starts with this statement he loses credibility from the outset. This was and always has been a PLP seat, it continues to be a PLP seat. The irony is that his justification of white voters never swinging politically was in fact the case this time around, but by blacks who did not swing politically and continued to vote for the PLP in this particular location.

    the only extraordinary occurrence would have been if it was determined that whites changed their vote and voted PLP this particular time around.

    Unfortunately when the Author begins his piece with such a juvenile attempt to sway the reader he exposes himself. It also points to an alarming strategy on the part of the PLP to assume the reader lacks the educations to see logic and reason and as such allows them to be manipulated.

    As for Mr. Blakeney, he seemed to always put significant work into his ministry, a bit arrogant and ignoring technical staff but a hard worker. In relation to the pool, the objection, if i remember, was not to the pool but that the technical expertise in the Bermuda swimming association was being ignored, as the pool built was not the pool that was recommended to host international meets, a pool which BTW was costed lower than the one actually installed……

  12. Young Bermudian says:

    I’m a young, professional Bermudian and would have counted myself as an OBA supporter (I voted OBA last election). Not any more. Their attitude to immigration and work permits is squeezing my school friends out of jobs. I have university educated, professionally qualified friends who simply cannot find work, they’re not getting interviews even. Instead, newly qualified lawyers / accountants are being brought in by companies with little experience to do these roles.

    • hmmm says:

      Evidence please…if you have it, please pass it along to immigration today.

    • blankman says:

      If you are aware of any violations Immigration has a hotline you can call. You can even file a complaint on line (anonymously if you prefer).

    • aceboy says:

      WHat a load of rubbish…

    • Onion says:

      It was the PLP that gutted the back offices of companies with term limits. It takes time to rebuild.

    • Widget says:

      @Young Bermudian

      Had the PLP not run the exempt companies out of Bermuda all of your friends would have great jobs. Give the government the opportunity to build a future for you and your children. If you quite now and re-elect the former government your grandchildren won’t have jobs. Your Rick politicians with take their money and move to the UK. Seriously, think about it. Yup I would agree this government does not have a good track record with communicating with the public, but I believe they are working towards fixing that.

      I will make the prediction that if the PLP were ever re-Elected this country would be sucked dry. After all, we are 2.5 billion in debt and how did we get here? Give it some serious thought before you stroke that pen next election.

  13. Truth is killin' me... says:

    Rolf…it also is not lost on Bermudians that the PLP had 14 years to fix immigration and DID SWEET F*** ALL!

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      It was on that long list of things that the Gonna Government was gonna do.

      It started with “We will turn tourism around in 100 days.” It also included “We are going to fix the education system.”

  14. Accurate says:

    The pool is a perfect analogy to the previous administrations economic hubris. The Danes would have to stay and pay to use it every day for it to even approach breaking even. Ask the soon to be rest home bound elderly residents of the constituency how much they are enjoying the new pool or better yet just tell them how many of their taxpayer dollars it takes to run on a daily basis.

  15. Jus' Wonderin' says:

    “But what did we really expect? The current unemployment statistics now indicates that black unemployment is at 9%.”

    Maybe because Blacks make up a greater percentage of the population! lmao…..nice try!


    More hot air….

  17. Joonya says:

    Rolfe, guess during which days Black Bermudians started obtaining their UK passports and running off to the UK..?

  18. Jimmy says:

    The opposition wants the economy in the toilet. Any tough choices and smart programs/policies will be attacked with racial demagoguery. They will get some support from the peanut gallery in the short run, but in the long run getting on with fiscal reform and creating a healthy economic environment is not only the right thing to do but also the wise thing to do.The government needs to keep moving courageously to optimize popularity in the long term aggregate and this can only be done making the hard decisions that sets some people’s hair on fire.

  19. Imjustsayin says:

    Message what message.. What a pile of rubbish. It’s a PLP strong hold who was their representative before? A PLP senator. Come on Rolf and Co stop the propaganda nonsense. Not everyone is stupid. Good grief! SMH. I just can’t stop laughing..

  20. bluebird says:

    WOW what a message,the PLP/BIU got an “EXTRA 50 VOTES” from the general election.And 850 votes did not vote for the PLP/BIU.
    Now a 51% of the total vote of the PLP stronghold might have given a slight chance,
    You are a long way from even getting 50% of the total vote.

  21. Widget says:

    Rolfe, is it true the peddles fell off your rose long ago. I have never liked the hatred the dribbles from your mouth every time someone gives you an audience. Sorry but I just can’t seem to ever want to read your opinions in the paper

  22. Sparxx says:

    Irony is Rolfe Commissiong talking about issues based on RACE when he was head of the PLP government backed organization CURE he ran away and hid when that organizations signature effort, The Workforce Equity Bill was about to be tabled, because Dr. Brown was doing away with the organization.

    Wonder what gives him a conscience now, when he didn’t have one when something could truly be done.

  23. Chateau le Roof says:

    What does the pool have to do with Pathways to Status?

    Why is there little mention of the Filipinos, South Asians, and Eastern Europeans that will be included in the Pathways to Status?

    Exactly what jobs are the white people coming from Canada, the UK and USA, taking away from Bermudians?

    Present facts please and not “guestimates”.

  24. Chateau le Roof says:

    So hundreds of non-student Bermudians have emigrated to the UK looking for jobs. What exactly is the work that they have found there, that they couldn’t find here?