Cole Simons. *File photo
Cole Simons. *File photo

In my years in the House of Assembly, I’ve learned a few important things about the working of our Parliament.

The first is the huge responsibility MPs carry into the House each time we meet — to represent the needs and views of the people who elected us and also the people who did not. The second is the importance of showing up. If you’re not there, you’re not representing the people and you’re not taking care of the people’s business, which is what we were elected to do.

For these reasons, I question whose interests are really being served with the PLP’s boycott of Parliament. 

When I first heard that PLP Leader Marc Bean had announced his colleagues would boycott Parliament until the Governor was recalled, I questioned their judgment.

The Governor’s statement on the matter did not reject the idea of an inquiry into historic losses of citizens’ property, rather he was sending back a motion he did not think was workable while suggesting a way to put forward a new one that would.

That’s not a trampling of our rights nor does it make our Parliament a “sham and a farce”, as Mr Bean says.

PLP leaders chose to ignore the Governor’s suggestion for the House of Assembly to give him “clearer references” on the matter and instead said they would boycott Parliament until Britain recalls the Governor. 

Now that’s putting oneself out on a limb. What if Britain ignores Mr. Bean’s demand? Is the PLP going to stay out of the House and the Senate for months? For years? 

It seems a climb down is in order.

It was odd in the House last Friday with no Opposition opposite — just empty seats, with the exception of Independent MP Terry Lister. He expressed disappointment with the “absent Opposition”, who should have been there to speak on a Bill affecting civil service pensions, “but they’re not here”.

Mr Lister asked that debate on the Bill be postponed a week in the hope that the Opposition would return with their views, but Finance Minister Bob Richards declined, rightly saying the Government had to get on with the people’s business.

The important point to remember in all of this is that the interests of the people are not being served in the House of Assembly by the PLP’s boycott. In this instance, Parliament is the place where a constructive approach can be worked out to an issue of significant historic and ongoing importance to many Bermudian families — loss of land, displacement of families and loss of generational wealth. 

The only way that can happen on this and any other issue is for the Opposition to take their seats.

And here’s what doesn’t make sense to me: PLP leaders are off protesting to protect Bermuda’s democracy while their absence from Parliament prevents them from representing the needs and views of the people they say they represent.

My colleagues in Government would prefer the Opposition to be in the House, in spite of our differing views at times, helping to pass legislation that best reflects the needs of all the people. But that can’t happen if they remain on strike. 

To end the boycott and bring some sense back to their ranks, I would urge my colleagues opposite to re-think what they are doing. Get back to the House, get back to the Senate and do what you were elected to do — making progress on the people’s business. There’s nothing more important.

Cole Simons is Government Leader in the House and Government Whip