‘I did it, my way’: Dr Brown at the piano at his home — watched over by a mini version of the Sally Bassett statue outside the Cabinet Office. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
‘I did it, my way’: Dr Brown at the piano at his home — watched over by a mini version of the Sally Bassett statue outside the Cabinet Office. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

Though he’s been out of public office for three years, the imposing persona of Dr Ewart Brown still looms large over our political landscape. Love or loathe him, few would argue convincingly that they truly know the man or his motives. Here, in the first of a two-part interview, we aim to get a little closer.



You are the only PLP Premier to leave on your own terms and you were also seen in the eyes of many as the most polarizing. Is there a connection between the two?

The reason I was able to leave on my own terms is because it was planned that way. There were some people who tried to have me leave under some other terms but I had to resist that and we were able to stay for the length of our term.

I have been often referred to as a polarizing or divisive figure and of course I would be less than honest if I told you that I hadn’t looked into that. I’ve done some introspection.

The polarization idea comes from the fact that I try my best not to be a middle of the road person. I try my best not to be compromised when it’s not necessary. I try to be clear on what I have to say and the way that I say it sometimes offends people, no offence intended.

But for some people, when they call me divisive or arrogant, what they mean is that I don’t have a bend in my back, that I stand up straight. And in particular, on the issue of race, that is where they claim that I introduced racism to Bermuda. I caused Bermuda to have a problem with race.

As I’ve said so often, I was born in 1946. I was born into a racist environment, so it had to predate me. I mean I appreciate the compliment but no, I didn’t cause it. I am simply a commentator on it and the way that I have commented on it has infuriated some people and I think it has infuriated the right people.

 

For good or bad, you were arguably Bermuda’s most controversial Premier. How do people react to you now?

Well, you know, most people who say terrible things around me when I’m not in their presence soften up quite a bit when we’re together because most people who deal with me, including the media, cannot say that I haven’t been open or fair and inviting to them. If I thought they were asking me a question that was insulting, I called it a plantation question and I would do it today. Controversy goes with the job. Controversy has also been an important part of my life and I’ve been controversial for a long time and that’s okay. The people bring different qualities to the job. There are people who bring other qualities and traits to the job and the country tolerates it and deals with it.

 

Does it matter to you what people, generally, think of you?

Sometimes it does but for the most part it doesn’t. Many years ago a lady in California told me, ‘Son, what other people think about you is none of your business’. I found that to be extremely helpful.

I used to say when I was in office that I have a wife and four children and family. That’s where I go for love. When I’m in politics, that’s work or if I’m in the medical field, that’s work. And so I separate the two. When I’m working in politics, I’m not looking for love. If it comes, fine, but in my job especially, I was coming into a situation where people were complaining that there were so many things that needed to be fixed. That’s what they tell every politician coming in.

You have this long list that they want things to be changed and fixed. That’s what they say. I took them seriously and I had 48 months to make an impact and so I moved at the pace that I thought was appropriate and did what I had to do. No offence intended but I’m not one to lead by using polls all the time. At some point you have to make a decision and execute it.

 

Do you feel that there’s anything you could’ve done differently in your Premiership?

Oh sure, there’s some things that I could have done differently yesterday. I don’t like to second-guess but I have looked back over it. In my book I’m going to elaborate more about some things that I could have done differently.

But you know, you make these decisions and you live with the decisions. That’s a sign of maturity. You don’t make a decision, have an impact on thousands of people and then later on talk about how you should’ve done it. Because then people wonder how convinced were you that you should’ve done it.

In many of the decisions that were considered unpopular, the public has not been informed of the groundwork that was done. For example, with GPS and the taxis, it looks as though all of a sudden there was a fight between me and the taxi drivers. The truth is that I started off years earlier offering the taxi owners their industry. Offering them the opportunity to own the dispatch service for their own industry. Now some people consider that a great offer. But for some reason our taxi owners weren’t ready for it and turned it down. Many of them have come to me since and said ‘wow, we missed an opportunity’. After they turned it down, I had to move to the next level, which was to execute it the next best way, and of course that involved ruffling some feathers.

 

Will you will ever return to politics?

No, I don’t think I will ever return to conventional, electoral politics. I don’t think I will ever leave the political arena totally but I will find a way to be useful by helping some of the younger politicians. And I’m available to those who think I might be able to help them.

 

What do you miss the most about being in politics day to day?

The rhythm. The rhythm is different. When I was in the Premiership in particular, everyday was all day. And it was essentially, a nonstop operation interrupted only by a few hours of sleep but I took it very seriously and looked at it as I used to look at a 400-metre race. It wasn’t over until it was over and I just had to press as hard as I could. In some instances, all I could do was plough up the ground. I didn’t have the time or the capability at the time to plant seeds. In some instances I was able to plant seeds.

In some instances we were able to complete. The cruise terminal in Dockyard that we’re very proud of. The TCD facility that we’re very proud of. The Urgent Care Centre. Those are all visible for people to see but there are a lot of unheralded things that we did or we got started.

I just saw something the other day where Walton Brown revealed the work he had been doing quietly through our office to get Bermudians the right to travel within Europe without a visa, that’s major. That’s huge. That was started in our administration. However, it was reported that it was a gift from Government House and nothing could be further from the truth.

Walton actually should be given credit for coming to me and saying that he needed a small budget in order to travel to see the key people. He did that and now it’s a matter of policy. So from things like that to the things you can see to Sally Bassett, who watches over Cabinet to make sure things stay progressive.

 

What do you miss the least?

I miss the least the lack of energy that I saw in the House of Assembly. Intellectual and physical energy. That I don’t want to see again, where people claim in one breath that they wanted to see a change but didn’t want to put in the energy to make it happen. I don’t miss that.