Generally not right

In recent weeks, Attorney General and Senator Phil Perinchief has made inaccurate summations of the views our former Governor, racially motivated personal attacks justifying draft racial equity legislation and unfounded assumptions about the causes of perils of our society.  As the primary legal advisor to our government, should we not expect more from him and has he jeopardized his ability to be taken seriously in the future?

“This is the draft Act that the outgoing Governor Verecker, a non-Bermudian and a non-lawyer, took what he thought was a constitutional parting shot, together with his other parting shot against independence.”

These were comments made by Attorney General Senator Phil Perinchief which are clearly incorrect when the headline quote of the former Governor’s comments was ‘I understand case for Independence’.  Within the article, the former governor describes the arrangement of the UK’s power over Bermuda as awkward and outdated.  Is this an example of a “parting shot against independence” made by the governor or instead a shot against the governor made by the Attorney General in a clear misquotation.

Further confounding statements made by Senator Perinchief described how there has been no change in the stature between blacks and whites since 1616.

“There’s been no significant or fundamental change in the social and economic divide between blacks and whites, rich and poor, from at least 1616.”

Yet, in the very least between 1616 and today we have seen the end of slavery, the end of segregation and the election of an all-black leadership for 2 terms.  What is Senator Perinchief trying to say exactly when he suggests that there’s been no change since 1616?  There’s been a lot of change.

All of this comes after his remarks against local lawyer Tim Marshall who exercised real concerns with regards to the efficacy of the draft racial equity law.  Rather than addressing the concerns raised, Senator Perinchief threw equity out the window and took the low road by attempting to use racism to his advantage. 

“Mr. Timothy Marshall, a recipient and beneficiary of this unequal status quo, and a lawyer, should know better [before criticizing the draft equity law].”

To which Mr. Marshall responded that his family was far from privileged and his own father had to fight against discrimination himself as a person or Portuguese descent.

“What the Attorney General doesn’t know is that my father, brought up by a single parent who absolutely believed in the power of education, couldn’t get a job in Bermuda after university because of his Portuguese heritage.

“Neither the black nor the white school systems would hire him. He left Bermuda and did not return until he was 42. “

Mr Marshall continued by attributing his own success to his parents commitment to the power of education.  Something which leads us to the next question of Senator Perinchief; does appreciate the true importance of education in this whole racial equity situation?

Not long ago, Senator Perinchief suggested support for the inclusion of only black Bermudians in the draft racial equity law because of statistical evidence.

“Statistics show that black Bermudians as a group are underrepresented in certain occupational categories in the workplace,” he said.

Yet, fellow PLP MP Renee Webb has already suggested that such statistics alone are not an accurate measure when you fail to weight qualifications and experience equally.

“Until you address the education system you cannot turn around and say people should hire people who are underqualified” said Ms. Webb.

As much as we would all like to see equality amongst Bermudians, it is very difficult to advance under-privileged segments of society into positions for which they are not qualified without adverse affects.  To do so risks tokenizing and demoralizing black Bermudians which could cause more harm than the intended good.  As Ms. Webb suggests, without heavy focus on equipping all Bermudians with the correct tools for success, things won’t change for the better.  Risking our local economy on short term solutions that won’t yield the desired results over the long term is simply not a good course of action.

It is very concerning to discover that an individual can be placed in the position of Attorney General, the main legal advisor to our government, while carrying such ill-formed perspectives.  How can someone of such a position make grossly incorrect summations of the views of others?  How can he play the race card through dubious and false assumptions while at the same time trying to champion legislative changes purported to create racial equity?  How can he make unfounded assumptions about the prime causes of the perils of our society when his own colleagues are suggesting the correct course?  As the primary legal advisor to our government, should we not expect more from him and has he jeopardized his ability to be taken seriously in the future?

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8 thoughts on “Generally not right

  1. Very good post Denis.
    I think part of the problem is that the AG has in recent years become a political appointment and unfortunately this has clouded his (and previous PLP appointed AGs) opinions with party politics.
    Furthermore one has to wonder if this AG has the professional ability and depth of experience to carry out this important function given the almost immediate decision to outsource most legal services requiring court representation … the BHC scandal being the most recent example – and look how fast that moved up the feeding chain to the PC in London.
    One has to wonder if this AG is truly in a position to provide the government with sound legal advice if he himself can’t even understand and respect the opinions of others and properly respond to them without resorting to name calling and misrepresentations.

  2. “There’s been no significant or fundamental change in the social and economic divide between blacks and whites, rich and poor, from at least 1616.”
    Comments like this from people at that level of government are a perfect illustration of just one one of the reasons why affirmative action laws like the proposed “Equity” act are frightening to many Bermudians. If that’s what the government believes now, I can’t imagine how much better things are going to have to get for “black” Bermudians compared to “white” Bermudians before we need to stop discrimiating in favor of the “disadvantaged” part of the community.

  3. dennis – he ag’s comments may have been blunt but it reflects what many blk bdans – that white skin in bda whether u r portuguese or not has put them “ahead’ of blk bdans in the past and that portuguese tend to view themselves as white when it is to their advantage – this might not be a fair observation but it probably has some grain of truth to it.
    30 years ago the number 1 priority on david gibbons’/ubp agenda (see below) was exactly what the plp is trying to do now with this legislation – the sad truth is that if this is an issue that was supposedly dealt with 3 decades ago – why r we still in the same boat re; blk corporate advancement – surely we cannot blame public education for this issue 30 years ago – why don’t people deal with racism head on rather than pretend it does not or did not exist – there is a sickening revisionism going on in the minds of some whites that i see reflected on some blogs that all but absolve whites of any guilt in re; to the slave trade and lay all the blame at the feet of blk and arab africans and jewish bankers – it’s absurd. the truth is that many white bdans envisioned a bda that was similar to ex brit colonies like new zealand and australia – instead bda is turning out to be more like barbados and the bahamas – they need to get over it.
    The seeds of the Bermuda Plan – the issues and problems to be addressed by the Gibbons government in 1977 – were:
    1. Employment of black Bermudians in managerial and supervisory positions
    2. Problems of financing small-business enterprises
    3. Increasing the number and percentage of black Bermudians in policy-making positions
    4. Criminal justice system
    5. Elementary, secondary, and higher education
    6. Housing
    7. Specific professional and vocational training programmes
    8. Health and social services
    9. Social, cultural, recreational, and youth programmes
    10. Reorganisation of the Bermuda Race Relations Council.

  4. Vanz,
    he ag’s comments may have been blunt but it reflects what many blk bdans – that white skin in bda whether u r portuguese or not has put them “ahead’ of blk bdans in the past and that portuguese tend to view themselves as white when it is to their advantage – this might not be a fair observation but it probably has some grain of truth to it.”
    I am aware of the perception that many Bermudians have about what it means to have light skin in Bermuda. It doesn’t make them entirely correct and I expect a good government to play its part in setting the record straight rather than taking advantage of people’s inaccurate assumptions and beliefs to serve their own agenda.
    “30 years ago the number 1 priority on david gibbons’/ubp agenda (see below) was exactly what the plp is trying to do now with this legislation – the sad truth is that if this is an issue that was supposedly dealt with 3 decades ago – why r we still in the same boat re; blk corporate advancement – surely we cannot blame public education for this issue 30 years ago – why don’t people deal with racism head on rather than pretend it does not or did not exist”
    I can’t be entirely sure what you are trying to say there but you seem to me to be trying to insinuate that:
    a)What today’s government is doing is the same thing as what the government was doing 30 years ago.
    b)People oppose the PLP’s racial policies because they think the war on racism is over
    c)Nothing has changed for “black” Bermudians in the last 30 years.
    d)Because “black” Bermudians were disadvantaged 30 years ago, the failure of the education sytem today cannot be the problem.
    If that is not what you are trying to say then please accept my apologies but otherwise:
    a)The intentions of today’s government are similar or the same as the government 30 years ago, however what they are doing about it is not. For the most part, people are not objecting to the government’s intentions. The object to their actions. If I were to truly speak my mind, I would have to say that I often get the distinct feeling that the government puts some if this stuff out there as a sort of dare to the opposition and so-called “white Bermuda” to object. The objections can then be falsely framed as an attack on the inarguably noble intentions thus providing evidence of the opposition of “white Bermuda” to equality, which according to Dr. Brown is the only reason for the existence of the PLP.
    b)While the debate over who is disadvantaged in Bermuda, in what ways and by how much is ongoing in full force; very few Bermudians I know of believe that the negative effects of racism and economic disadvantage on “black” Bermudians are finished.
    c)Things have gotten much better for “black” Bermudians in the past 30 years and I am unaware of any data or even anecdotal evidence that would support the contrary.
    d)OK to tell the truth, I am probably wrong about what you are trying to say about the correlation between education and workplace equality so rather than try and chase a ghost there I will just state my opinion. The plight of Bermudians and especially “black” Bermudians in Bermuda’s present job market has a lot to do with the failure of the education system for the past 15 to 30 years. This does not mean that it is the only factor, nor does it mean that historical emonomic factors and racism have not played a negative part in the education of our young people. It is one spoke in the wheel and true parity will never be reached until we have equal access to adequate, safe schools for every Bermudian child.
    “there is a sickening revisionism going on in the minds of some whites that i see reflected on some blogs that all but absolve whites of any guilt in re; to the slave trade and lay all the blame at the feet of blk and arab africans and jewish bankers -”
    Are these Bermudian blogs? I must have missed quite a few posts there. If these are Bermudian blogs please point them out to me because that kind of ridiculous thinking is something I am not inclined to let stand unchallenged. I see a lot of “sickening” revisionism going on too and I sure wish our government and some PLP supporters would quit it.

  5. Vanz,
    The AG’s comments are vastly out of line for someone who is supposed to represent the legal interests of our government at it’s highest level. If he wasn’t the AG, then ok, but because he is, his comments betray his credibility to hold the position because he fails to make sound arguments based on reason and fact.
    Do you want to know why David Gibbon’s plan failed? It’s because number 5 wasn’t number 1. It is the exact reason why there aren’t more blacks in management positions 30 years later. Quick fix solutions do not work for problems that take generations to solve.

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