FRIDAY, NOV. 16: Last Friday marked the 14th anniversary of the PLP’s 1998 election victory.

I still remember the jubilant phone calls made as seat after seat fell. I still remember the rush down to Court Street to see our new leaders, and I still remember being one amongst thousands of Bermudians who saw this victory as a watershed event in Bermuda’s history.

Yes, I remember that day, but most importantly, I remember why we elected the PLP. It was to actually have a progressive labour government, as was clearly defined in the opening of the 1998 Throne Speech:

“This first Throne Speech of the new Government sets out the Legislative programme for the forthcoming year. It represents the first step in the social and economic reconstruction of government to create a country that is a land of opportunity for all.

“As Government transforms the jubilation of victory into the energy of service, there are several areas of Bermudian life that require immediate Parliamentary attention.

“Government will move swiftly in this first Parliamentary Session to begin to fulfill the plans identified in its Platform. It will, as promised, always put Bermuda’s people first — in legislative initiatives and in the implementation of new policies.

“Mr. President and Members of the Senate: Mr. Speaker and Members of the Honourable House of Assembly: In order to lay the proper foundation for true educational success and the mobilisation of the talent of every Bermudian, Government proposes to introduce amendments to the Education Act to ensure an education system that works better for all of our students.”

It was not a mere coincidence that public education was the first subject in the first Throne Speech, because in ‘98 we understood what denial of education did to previous generations, and we understood that getting a great education was the first priority in addressing the inequality that still existed in our society.

While the PLP claims to have been standing strong for Bermudians, you only need to look at its 14-year record in public education to clearly see that they have not governed as a progressive labour government should.

Consider, for instance, how we looked forward to having a Premier who was also the Education Minister. Well, to the disappointment of many, only two months after becoming Premier, Education was handed over to Milton Scott. Two years after, Paula Cox... three years after, Terry Lister... two years later, Randy Horton... two years later, Elvin James who resigned in protest of Dr Brown’s leadership (but rejoined several months later)... one year after, Jennifer Smith. Who would deny that the musical chairs played out in the Education Ministry has been a major hindrance to progress?

The continual battle for the role of Premier hasn’t helped, either. Immediately after the 2003 General Election, we saw the party split. Smith was overthrown and then followed by Scott with his “Compromise Cabinet”.

A threat to Cox

Scott only lasted three years after being challenged by Brown in 2005. The PLP tried to remove Brown in the hot summer of 2009. He managed to hold onto power but resigned in 2010. Cox is now Premier, but let’s not ignore the obvious — Burgess’s resignation from Cabinet is a very strong indication that he is a threat to Cox.

So if the PLP hasn’t been focused on empowerment through public education, exactly what have they been focused on?

Check the record. They’ve bumbled through Berkeley Institute and ProActive. They’ve prioritized fast ferries, vehicle emissions and oversized cars. They’ve gone to war over GPS, the Dockyard Cement Silos, and the Uyghurs. They’ve been caught up in scandals related to the BHC, Faith Based Tourism, the BLDC, the financing of the Brown/Burgess defamation lawsuit and Bean’s 21 year lease for White’s Island. They’ve had to face audits for overspends on the TCD Building, the Dockyard Cruise Ship Terminal, misuse of funds at BLDC and Global Hue.

Given all of the above, is it any surprise that the Bermuda Educators Council, made law in 2002, was practically non-existent until 2010? Is it any surprise that the BEC resigned in 2011, and it took the PLP a year to re-elect a new board? Is it any surprise that it took nine years for the PLP to commission a report on the quality of public education? Is it any surprise that the Hopkins Report and Cambridge Curriculum have been implemented at a snail’s pace? Is it any surprise that the PLP has been taken to court by a PTA? Doesn’t this denial of a proper education sound a lot like the UBP’s track record on public education?

So now I ask you, is that what you call standing strong? How can anyone claim to be standing strong  when they have consistently withheld GCSE exam data or have politicized graduation rates? How can anyone claim to be standing strong when they don’t see fit to having sufficient teachers in place for the start of the school year? This kind of chaos is exactly what should be expected when lip service is given to black empowerment. To put it bluntly, there cannot be this much smoke without fire, and I simply cannot vote PLP because they have been incredibly insincere about empowerment through education.

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