Column: What Julian Stood For, Father’s Legacy

July 16, 2017

[Opinion column written by Liana Hall]

July 18th will hold much significance. For this country, for obvious reasons. For me and my family, it will mark the eighth anniversary of the passing of my father, Julian Hall.

This election season, I have frequently read on Facebook, “Julian Hall would say…” followed by a denigration of the PLP and a cry of support for the OBA.

The comments usually involve attacking the PLP for confronting the dual issues of race and the widening gap between the Two Bermudas; the argument being that my dad had many white friends [which he did, which I do], that he wouldn’t race bait and that he wouldn’t play the card of divisiveness of which the PLP is accused.

While I cannot predict the words of a fallen soldier in a battle he’s not here to fight, I can always turn to my wooden chest filled with my father’s writings to remind me of who he was and what he stood for. Throughout his life, whether as Deputy Chairman of the UBP or a PLP MP, Julian Hall was unapologetically and loudly committed to dismantling our system of white privilege and championing the rights of the working class.

As then UBP Secretary, my father spoke at their Action 1978 Conference in a speech entitled ‘To be Young, Black and UBP’. News reports of the time quote him thus: “This country is doomed to be racially divided in perpetuity unless and until we train ourselves to look at the fundamental political and social issues facing us.”

He continued by saying, “Redistribution of wealth in this country does not have to come from robbing from the rich and giving to the poor or taxing unduly the wealthy… but by ensuring that there are opportunities, real opportunities, for everyone to participate in and enjoy the fruits of this small society.”

The flaw with the OBA’s version of trickle-down economics is that it serves to grow the rich’s riches and the working class receive only the side scraps “down” from the table, the often-rotten fruit.

While watching the YouTube trailer for the documentary about American writer and race activist James Baldwin entitled, “I Am Not Your Negro” I was interrupted by an OBA campaign ad. The irony being that it reminded me of the OBA’s unwillingness to address and repair the racial divisions that plague our country, their implementation of policies that serve to perpetuate the Two Bermudas and their own use of the “race card” as and when it suits them.

In a Bermuda Business magazine interview in August 1991, by then a PLP MP, my dad reflected on one of the many reasons he left the UBP. His perspective on the UBP being that “the object was to maintain the economic oligopoly within a very limited number of white Bermudian hands, while paying lip service to the political aspirations of the broader mass of the Bermudian people.”

In 2012, the OBA promised plenty to the broader masses; promises that mimicked a social conscience. Tellingly, there is no repeat in their platform of the many broken promises from 2012 and no mention of the unilateral immigration reform of Pathways to Status they were so intent on passing.

The OBA claims not to be a reincarnation of the UBP, but their leadership, their policies and the disastrous results of such say otherwise. They like to have their cake by using race to appear inclusive, and eat it by not addressing systemic racial issues. This is an unjust and indefensible position.

Without a social conscience, the OBA must rely on their claims of fiscal responsibility, but with over 2,000 jobs lost in five years and doubled debt, how responsible can they really be?

Their 11th hour pledges to assist Bermudians do not replace five years of hard work to disenfranchise us. Our society cannot function without the working class and small business owners that are the very foundation of this society, and they include many whites. I would say these workers feel like foreigners in their own land, but with the only job categories increasing being for work permit holders, they are actually treated far worse. Any attempt to upset the status quo that promotes only the interests of the economic elite is met with attack.

In a newspaper interview prior to the general election of 2007, my father said “I defy anyone to predict the outcome of the next general election constituency by constituency. Bermuda is just too small for that level of certainty. And things change rapidly… Look for a few so-called “scandals”, the usual establishment attempt to use the police and the prosecuting authorities, some claims of vestigial financial pressure here and there… and who knows what’s really going to happen. I have experienced the dubious benefit of seeing, live and direct, how brutally the Bermudian establishment can operate when it sets its mind to it.”

Ten years later, his words still ring true. With days to go, items within the control of the police find their way to political campaigners for scrambled efforts to malign and discredit David Burt and the PLP. We see attempt after attempt to crucify Dr. Ewart Brown through any means necessary and any legal loss by the Government results in hasty efforts at further investigations, court appeals and economic issues.

Many UBP members attended my father’s funeral and, as the stories flowed from the pulpit about the injustice and attacks he sustained at their hands, I turned around to look at them and wondered how they could stand there in full knowledge of their abuse of power.

So, as these abuses continue in 2017, I have confidence that my father would not be offering even a whisper of support for the OBA.

In his keynote speech at the 2005 BIU banquet, my father said “I don’t want to be part of a movement based on race, I want to be part of a movement based on ideology. I want to be part of a political machine that has belief, principles, that believes in what it’s doing and never forgets its core support, the working people of Bermuda.”

As we fight to get Bermudians back to work, as we fight to lower the cost of living and as we fight to make Bermuda brighter for our people, I know the PLP of today is that movement.

- Liana Hall 

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