Our Rich History
Bermuda's oldest political party, the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party, founded in 1963, has in the relatively short span of forty-eight years grown into one of the two major political forces in this mid-Atlantic country.
The first PLP Platform, adapted in 1963, called for equitable taxation, the removal of racial discrimination, greater economic parity, the implementation of programmes for healthcare, insurance and pensions. In addition, it called for better housing, improved educational opportunities and electoral reform.
When the PLP was formed, Bermuda was still suffering from centuries of race-oriented policies and an oligarchal Government. It was a veritable feudal system, with only land-owners having the right to vote (they retained an extra or "plus" vote until the late 1960s, even after the right to vote at the age of twenty-five years was achieved). Additionally, racial discrimination was widely practised in the churches, the school system and the employment sector.
The Progressive Labour Party contested its first General Election just three months after its formation, in February 1963. The Party contested nine of the then thirty-six Parliamentary seats. The PLP's first successful Members of Colonial Parliament (MCPs) were: Mr. Arnold A. Francis (Party Leader), Mr. Walter N. H. Robinson (Deputy Leader), Mrs. Lois Browne-Evans (Bermuda's first black elected woman Member of Parliament) Mr. Russell Dismont, Mr. Cecil Clarke and Mrs. Dorothy Thompson.
Bermuda was electrified to learn that this bold new Party had won Parliamentary seats for six of the nine candidates it had endorsed.
Six out of a total of 36 House of Assembly seats may seem a modest accomplishment by contemporary standards, but in the following year (1964), worried conservative Members of Parliament formed their own political party. They did this during the summer recess of Parliament, in spite of the fact they had campaigned against political parties in 1963. Thus the United Bermuda Party was formed with the sanction of then Governor, Lord Martonmere; who dismissed a formal application from the PLP to dissolve Parliament and hold fresh elections.
The Progressive Labour Party faced a conflicting political identity crisis among some of its M.P’s in the summer of 1965. A split occurred, due to disagreement over how aggressively the PLP should campaign for true equity in Bermuda; and as the Party struggled to maintain its original principles, all but one of its Members of Parliament (Mrs. Lois Browne-Evans) resigned from the Party.
However, in 1966, two members, Mr. Walter Robinson and Mrs. Dorothy Thompson, returned, and Mr. Robinson became the Progressive Labour Party's second Party Leader.
Pressure for political reform led to the Bermuda Constitutional Conference in 1966, held in London, and to which the PLP sent a delegation of three Parliamentarians and two observers. The Progressive Labour Party with the able assistance of their legal advisor, the late Mr. Geoffrey Bing, Q.C. fought valiantly around the conference table and gained a measure of success with the abolition of the "plus" vote and more seats for Pembroke. But the PLP delegates refused to sign the majority report which enshrined many basic iniquities in the Bermuda Constitution: like the foreign resident, non-Bermudian vote, and restrictive terms of reference for drawing electoral constituency boundaries; which had been introduced in the 1960s to frustrate the popular will of the indigenous Bermudian people.
The PLP delegation was unsuccessful in their campaign for an electoral system of "one man - one vote." Bermuda's first Constitution restructured the voting districts into dual seat constituencies and increased the number of seats in Parliament to forty to offset the gains of four seats in Pembroke Parish. While this new constitution also lowered the voting age to 21-years (prior to this it was 25) and removed the landowners "plus" vote; it retained the foreign vote and allowed the gerrymandering of districts.
In 1967, the PLP moved to its current National Headquarters in Alaska Hall on Court Street in Hamilton. This move was made possible by a generous donation to the Party from member Mr. George Haaslacher, an American who supported the Party when he worked in Bermuda. When Mr. Haaslacher left Bermuda he turned over his shares in the Kirkland Company Limited (the forerunner of the Bermuda National Bank).
In 1968, the first General Election to be called under the new Constitutional saw the Progressive Labour Party contest all twenty constituencies . . . a major accomplishment after just five years of existence.
The PLP won ten seats in this election; unfortunately, the Party's Parliamentary Leader, Mr. Walter Robinson, was defeated in his marginal constituency of Hamilton West, leaving the Party to elect a new Parliamentary Leader. Mrs. Lois Browne-Evans became the Party's Third Leader, and gained the distinction and world-wide recognition as the first woman Opposition Leader in the Commonwealth. Mr. Walter Roberts, a former independent Member of Parliament and elected as a PLP MP became the new Deputy Leader.
In the General Election, of 1972, the PLP increased its share of the popular vote from 33 per cent to 38 per cent. The Party again contested every constituency. With the successful re-election of Walter Robinson, Lois Browne-Evans yielded the leadership of the Party back to him. The Party retained ten seats in Parliament.
In April 1976, Mr. Robinson retired from active politics later becoming a Puisne Judge, and Mrs. Browne-Evans became the Parliamentary Leader of the PLP for the second time and also the Opposition Leader once again. Economist and lawyer, L. Frederick Wade, became the Deputy Leader of the PLP. The General Election of 1976 saw the PLP increase its Members of Parliament to fifteen and its share of the popular vote from 38% to 44.6%.
That year the PLP had its most spectacular breakthrough up to that time, for it increased its House seats by nearly 50 per cent - from 10 seats to 14 seats in the 40 seat House of Assembly. During this period the PLP increased its share of the popular vote; it rose from 33 per cent in 1968 to 38 per cent in 1972, and then 44.6 per cent in 1976.
The Progressive Labour Party favoured Independence for Bermuda since its inception and in 1977 launched an Independence Action Plan, which fostered public debates, television programmes and public meetings.
Other Progressive Labour Party prominent activities during this time were as follows: an active role in the campaign against capital punishment in Bermuda (Both in its own right and as a member organisation of the National Committee Against Capital Punishment); a vigorous campaign against Government proposals to introduce new restrictions which would have hampered voter registration (Parliamentary Election Reform Act of 1978); and participation in and membership on the Royal Commission appointed to investigate the causes leading to the riots of December 1977, which followed the first executions held in Bermuda in a third of a century (i.e. thirty five years).
The Royal Commission report indicated that the frustration of Bermudians' political will, as well as socioeconomic discrimination, had largely contributed towards the 1977 riots. There had been three other riots in the previous twelve years, one of which, like the 1977 disturbances, resulted in the dispatching of British troops to Bermuda.
Between 1976 and 1980, the PLP had mixed political fortunes. It lost a seat in Parliament when Hamilton West member, Paul de la Chevotiere, crossed the floor of the House of Assembly to become a member of the UBP; and the Party gained a seat when C. Eugene Cox won a seat in the Sandys North Bye-Election.
At the Constitutional Conference of 1979, held in Bermuda at Warwick Camp, the PLP delegation argued strenuously once again for the introduction of a system that would give each man one vote, each vote of equal value. No agreement could be reached on the adoption of a new, more equitable electoral system; at its conclusion, it was decided that whichever party actually campaigned in the next general election or any general election on its preferred electoral system and won a majority of both the Parliamentary seats and the popular vote in that election - then that Party would be granted permission by the U.K. Government to amend the Bermuda Constitution of 1968 accordingly; and thus introduce its preferred system.
Amongst the gains of the PLP at that conference: a new system of compulsory voter registration; and an additional seat for appointment by the Opposition Leader in the Legislative Council or as it was called the "Upper House". The Legislative Council's composition was changed and it was renamed "The Senate" and the number of foreign voters able to vote in an election in Bermuda was cut in half by what is called the Lord Carrington formula.
Thus the scene was set for the 1980 Bermuda General Election. An Election which saw the largest number of registered voters (ever registered) to vote in a Bermuda Election - over 24,000 of the 31,000 eligible persons - the registration number in itself a record, due to the advent of compulsory voter registration.
The Party ran forty candidates and won eighteen seats and 46% of the votes casted . . . just three short of the number needed for victory.
The Party used its increased appointment to the Senate to give young candidates exposure. In 1983, the Party had to fight a snap General Election. Once again, the Party ran forty candidates contesting every seat. The PLP lost four seats in this election, gaining only 43.4% of the votes casted.
In keeping with the Party's revised Constitution, a special Delegates Conference to elect a Leader was called within 72 hours of the Election. Charging that the losses were directly attributable to Mrs. Brown-Evans' leadership; Mr. Gilbert Darrell again contested for the position of Leader. Mrs. Browne-Evans defeated his bid, this time with a vote of 43 to 17.
By 1985, Members of Parliament supportive of Mr. Darrell's attempts to oust the Party's Leader had taken their fight from within the Party to the news media, resulting in much dismay and disaffection amongst the Party's members and supporters. To hear both sides to the dispute the Party in accordance with its constitution set up a Disciplinary Committee. The Members were charged with "bringing the Party into disrepute." In the end four Members of Parliament: Gilbert Darrell, Austin Thomas, Lionel Simmons and Walter Brangman; as well as former M.P., Calvin Smith and former candidate, Roger Russell were expelled from the Party. The four M.P.'s formed a third Party, the National Liberal Party, under the leadership of Mr. Gilbert Darrell, and remained in the House. Former M.P.'s Calvin Smith and Lionel Simmons later returned to the PLP.
Another snap General Election was called by then Premier Sir John Swan in November 1985. A small, but determined PLP contested eighteen of the twenty constituencies, offering 30 candidates. The split had affected the electorate and this was reflected in the Party's further loss of seven seats and only 31% of the votes casted.
At the special Delegates Conference, convened 72 hours after this election, Deputy Leader, Mr. L. Frederick Wade became the PLP's fourth Party Leader with Mr. Walter Roberts as the new Deputy Leader.
Party Leader, L. Frederick Wade, committed the Party to a period of rebuilding, which included restoring the historic Alaska Hall Headquarters. In 1988, the Party moved out of the building to allow renovations to be carried out under the scrutiny of M.P. Reginald Burrows and Architect and Hamilton Parish Branch Chairman, Charles Daniels. This period was spent rejuvenating the PLP and healing the wounds created during the period of division.
A rejuvenated PLP was ready for the General Election of 1989. The Party contested all twenty constituencies and regained eight seats to increase the number of PLP representatives to fifteen and an increase of 37% of the votes casted.
The Party's successful candidates included former MP's and a number of young, new representatives. The Party also achieved a new seat - that of St. George's North.
At the Special Delegates Conference called following this election, Mr. L. Frederick Wade and Mr. Walter Roberts were returned unopposed as Leader and Deputy Leader respectively. The process of rebuilding continued with the Party regaining the confidence of its supporters and building new bridges with the electorate. Party Leader, L. Frederick Wade also began making inroads with the business community.
In the continued effort to rebuild confidence in the Party, the 1990 Party Conference saw the Executive of the party, once again filled by lay members of the Party.
When the Premier, Sir John Swan, called a General Election for October 1993, Party Leader L. Frederick Wade led a well prepared PLP to the polls. The Party contested all twenty constituencies and gained three seats to increase the number of PLP representatives to eighteen. In this election the Party once again approached the threshold of victory with 46.7 % of the votes casted. The PLP was out of the wilderness.
A year later at the Party's 1994 Annual Delegates Conference, there was a change in the second-in-command. Ms. Jennifer Smith contested Mr. Walter Roberts for the position of Deputy Leader and was elected.
In August of 1996, after a period of illness that saw Deputy Leader Jennifer Smith assume the role of Acting Leader from 3rd, April, Mr. L. Frederick Wade suddenly passed away. The Party's constitution called for a new leader to be elected at a Special Delegates Conference one week following the untimely death and Ms. Jennifer Smith was the victor in a three-way race, against Mr. C. Eugene Cox and Mr. W. Alexander Scott. Mr. Scott was elected Deputy Leader. After eleven years under the leadership of Mr. L. Frederick Wade, the party had a new leader - the fifth.
Since then, election of officers takes place biennially, in accordance with the Party's Constitution, another leadership vote was held in November. Pleased with Ms. Smith's leadership skills, the delegates re-elected her 2-1 over a challenge from Mr. Alex Scott. Senior statesman, Mr. C. Eugene Cox, was elected Deputy Leader.
Ms. Smith immediately set about establishing her mandate for the Party with an agenda to get the organisation ready for the next General Election, due to be held no later than October 1998.
Under her leadership the Party continued working to rebuild and strengthen the party apparatus. In addition, the PLP entered into an aggressive fundraising campaign, expanding its appeal to not only traditional supporters but also the business sector. The interaction with the business community, started under L.F. Wade continued - raising the Party's credentials as a future government that would work to ensure a sound business environment.
The heightened activity was also reflected at the rank-and-file level, with a steady increase in active membership in the Party.
In October 1996, a bye election was held in the Devonshire North constituency left vacant by the death of L. F. Wade. Ms. Paula Cox staved off challenges from five other hopefuls to be chosen as the Party's candidate for the Devonshire North Bye-Election. Ms. Cox gave a strong showing at the polls on polling day capturing 71% of the votes casted, easily out pacing her UBP and NLP opponents in the PLP stronghold.
In May, 1997, the Party faced yet another Devonshire bye-election - this time in Devonshire South due to the resignation of then Premier, David Saul. Mr. Dennis (Danny) Pavao Farias, a fisherman and well-known environmental activist, was the PLP candidate. He had previously represented the Party in the 1993 General Election. Mr. Farias made a respectable showing claiming 260 votes, 22.2% of the votes casted.
On that same day the Party also faced a bye-election in the traditional UBP stronghold of Paget East (once coined ‘the Lion's Den'), following the resignation of former Premier John Swan. The PLP chose Mr. Craig Walls, a financial analyst, to put forth the party message in this constituency. As expected, he did not gain the favour of the conservative voters of Paget East, garnering only 37 votes.
Another electoral opportunity came in September 1997 with yet another bye-election, this one, resulting from the resignation of UBP MP Dr. David Dyer. Mr. Rodney Smith, entrepreneur and developer, stepped forward as a fresh new face for the Party on the electoral trail in the UBP stronghold of Pembroke West. Mr. Smith and the campaign team moved quickly to ensure the PLP message was heard. The Polling Day result sent a clear message as to the potential fortunes of the Party, with Rodney Smith gaining 382 votes, 37% of the votes casted. This was an impressive showing for a PLP candidate in a safe UBP district. The swing of 17% towards the PLP candidate was seen as indicative of the growing interest and popularity of the Party and its message.
The momentum building towards the general election continued. In March 1998, the Party began announcing its candidates for the 1998 General Election. The candidate announcements continued for two-week intervals until the entire contingent was made public. The candidates were:
C Eugene Cox, Terry Lister - Sandys South; Walter Lister, Dennis Lister - Sandys North; Michael Scott -Southampton West; Reginald Burrows, Stanley Lowe - Southampton East; Dr. Ewart Brown, Elvin James - Warwick West; W. Alex Scott, Dale Butler - Warwick East; L. Milton Scott - Paget East; George Scott - Paget West; Lois Browne-Evans, Paula Cox - Devonshire North; Danny Farias - Devonshire South; Patrice Parris - Smith's North; David Burch - Smith's South; Renee Webbe, Derrick Burgess - Hamilton East; Randy Horton, Arthur Hodgson - Hamilton West; Carvel Van Putten - Pembroke West; Neletha Butterfield, Wayne Perinchief - Pembroke West Central; Ottiwell Simmons, Nelson Bascome - Pembroke East; Stanley Morton, David Allen - Pembroke East Central; Jennifer Smith, Delaey Robinson - St. George's North; Wilbur Lowe, Arthur Pitcher - St. George's South
At the conclusion of the candidate announcements in July 1998 the PLP team spread throughout the island canvassing voters and articulating the Party's message.
In August 1998, the Party's well laid plans received a set-back with the sudden death of Leon C. (Jimmy) Williams, MP for St. George's North, who was also the Party Leader's running mate and close personal friend. This left the Party looking for a replacement candidate for the Leader's constituency three months before the General Election had to be called. The need was for someone who could "hit the ground running" whiles the Leader was preoccupied with the national campaign. The choice was a St. Georgian of impeccable credentials, Delaey Robinson, the son of labour activist and guesthouse owner, Trew Robinson and former House of Assembly candidate and Secretary to the Corporation of St. George's, Ernest Robinson. In addition, his brother Cecil Clarke was one of the original 1963 successful PLP candidates in the House of Assembly.
On 20 October 1998, United Bermuda Party Premier Pamela Gordon, finally put an end to the speculation and waiting and announced the date of the much-anticipated General Election. That date will be forever etched in history - November 9, 1998.
Now the official campaign began in earnest for the PLP. In keeping with the feeling of excitement in the community - that victory was at hand - the phrase ‘Date with Destiny' was coined for use whenever the date of November 9, 1998 was used.
In a move that added drama to the anticipation, the PLP Platform was unveiled at the Party's Annual Conference Banquet, titled, ‘A New Bermuda’ on 31 October 1998. For the first time in the Party's history, the cover featured a photograph of Party Leader, Jennifer M. Smith strategically placed in front of the Bermuda Flag.
Key objectives highlighted in the platform included: Empowerment as a key development strategy; An investor friendly policy environment; Fiscal discipline in all matters of Revenue Management; Accountability and Transparency in all areas of governance; Investment in people as well as physical infrastructure; Protection of the vulnerable in society; Preservation of the family; Protection of the natural environment; and Inclusion of all in a fully participatory democracy.
On November 9, 1998 in stark contrast to the daily newspaper headline predicting defeat once again, the PLP received the people's mandate to take the reins of Government in the first change of government in Bermuda's history. When all the ballots had been counted the party had won 26 seats and 54.3 % of votes.
His Excellency the Governor Thorold Masefield invited Party Leader Jennifer Smith to form the Government and she was sworn in as Premier of Bermuda at Government House on November 10, 1998, the day after the election. That afternoon, the first PLP Cabinet was sworn in, with the following members becoming Ministers:
- C. Eugene Cox, Minister of Finance
- Dame Lois M. Browne-Evans, Attorney General & Minister of Legislative Affairs
- W. Alex Scott, Minister of Works & Engineering
- Nelson Bascome, Minister of Health & Social Services
- Terry Lister, Minister of Development, Opportunity & Government Services
- Arthur Hodgson, Minister of the Environment
- Dennis Lister, Minister of Youth & Sport
- Dr. Ewart F. Brown, Minister of Transport
- M. D Renee Webb, Minister of Telecommunications
- David J. Allen, Minister of Tourism
- Paula A. Cox, Minister of Labour, Home Affairs & Public Safety
- Senator Milton Scott, Minister without Portfolio and Leader in the Senate
- Jennifer M. Smith, Premier & Minister of Education
The Party having achieved the goal of the founding fathers and reached the pinnacle of electoral success set about the mission of building 'A New Bermuda.' Immediately, the government quickly moved the make substantive changes in key areas. Some of these were; amendment to the Election Act eliminating annual voter registration; the introduction of the political office of Attorney General which required the establishment of Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) as the chief law officer responsible for Crown prosecutions. Another welcomed change was the re-introduction of bi-weekly garbage collection.
The months following the Party's victory did not halt the change over the political scene. Electorally the political landscape continued to be active. The sudden and untimely death of the UBP member for Paget West, Ms. Madeline Joell caused the first of what would become a series of bye-elections. Held in March 1999, the PLP fielded candidate George Scott, who represented the Party in the 1998 General Election. Scott captured 399 votes, a higher percentage of votes from the previous contest.
In early 1999 Premier Smith released herself from the position of Minister of Education and the ministerial appointment went to trade unionist, veteran teacher and Government Senate Leader L. Milton Scott.
On August 18, 2000, Premier Jennifer Smith tabled a paper, proposing constitutional amendments, including the establishment of single-seat constituencies.' This was in keeping with a PLP platform initiative to ensuring that Bermuda's democracy enshrined the principle of "one person, one vote; each vote of equal value". This goal had been consistently stated from the establishment of the PLP in 1963 under the objective of constitutional reform.
In November 2000, the Party Leader faced a challenge to her leadership by Environment Minister Arthur Hodgson. The Party Leader defeated Mr. Hodgson by a vote of 2 to 1. As a result of his challenge to the leadership, Mr. Hodgson was removed from the position of Minister for the Environment. The Environment portfolio was passed to Minister Terry Lister.
In June 2001 veteran UBP MP C. V. ‘Jim' Woolridge retired from Parliament, vacating the Smith's South constituency seat and a bye-election was scheduled for 17 July 2001.
The party chose Senator David Burch, who had represented the PLP in this constituency in the General Election, as the bye election candidate. The PLP would garner 360 votes in this contest but the UBP managed to retain the seat. In September 2001, Randy Horton joined the front benches as Minister without Portfolio.
A month later in October 2001, Senate Leader L Milton Scott resigned from Cabinet to pursue private interests. Although he resigned as Senate Leader he stayed in the Senate until November the same year. Premier Jennifer Smith took this opportunity and made a Cabinet shuffle. Paula Cox was made Minister of Education; Terry Lister was made Minister of Labour Home Affairs and Public Safety; Dennis Lister moved to the Environment Ministry; and K. H. Randy Horton, who had joined Cabinet as a member without portfolio, became Minister for Community Affairs and Sport. Senator Milton Scott's impending resignation - also left a vacancy in the Senate to be filled. Lawyer Victoria Pearman was appointed to fill his seat and David Burch was appointed as Senate Leader and Cabinet Minister without Portfolio.
In December 2001, UBP MP Gary Pitman resigned his seat in Parliament, requiring a bye-election for Pembroke West that was scheduled for 6th February 2002. The PLP's candidate Carvel Van Putten had represented the Party in this constituency in the General Election. The party fielded a very organised campaign, but the UBP managed to hang onto their stronghold. The result saw the PLP gain 367 votes about 37% of the votes casted.
The year 2002 saw the death of a sitting Minister. The party had to deal with the loss of a dear colleague and friend and an integral component of the leadership with the death of David Henry Allen, first PLP Minister of Tourism, in October. Yet another bye-election was held. The bye-election was set for November 16, 2002 and the PLP fielded a talented young man, journalist Ashfield De Vent. The party successfully retained its stronghold, with Mr. De Vent becoming the representative for Pembroke East Central. The Premier chose the Minister of Telecommunications M. D. Renee Webb, to take on the additional responsibility of Bermuda's Tourism Minister. Minister Webb had deftly handled the delicate issues of Telecommunications and E-Commerce, a new Ministry, which she had helped to develop. Senator the Hon. Lt. Col. David A. Burch was appointed to a new Cabinet position of Minister of Housing and MP Neletha Butterfield joined Cabinet and the Minister without Portfolio.
On 11 October 2002 the House of Assembly passed the Boundaries Commission Report which included recommendations for 36 single seat constituencies.
On November 2002, Premier Jennifer Smith tabled a motion in the House of Assembly that the Government empower a Committee to examine the Parliamentary Election Act with a view to making recommendations about the wider questions of the voting franchise in Bermuda.
On 28 February 2003, an Order-in-Council was passed at Buckingham Palace ratifying the recommendations of the Commission to the Governor and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Order came into effect in mid-March 2003 setting the stage for the next General Election to be historic, with a single seat constituency system established in Bermuda.
The discussion paper on the wider question of the Franchise looking at broader questions for reform of Bermuda's voting system was submitted to the Parliament. The paper was consistent with the Party's long-standing commitment to examine the larger question of reform of Bermuda's voting system.
In June 2003, further parliamentary reform was completed, with amendments to the Parliamentary Election Act widening the categories of valid identification voters could use during an election. This would modernize requirements and contribute to more flexibility and ease in the voting process for all.
On June 11, 2003 the Premier announced that she would ask the Governor to dissolve Parliament in order to have a General Election on July 24, 2003.
The party election campaign machinery was thrown into official operation and the slogan; 'We have only just begun, the Best is yet to come' became the message. A campaign spanning six weeks was the longest in recent political memory and would unravel to be the most exciting in the islands history. The election was historic on a number of levels, as the first time a new PLP Government was going back to the electorate for a mandate, additionally being conducted under a new system of single seat constituencies.
The PLP strategy was to run on the party record of performance over the preceding 4 years of Government. The party projected itself as a Government that delivered on its promises to the electorate, as outlined in the 1998 Election platform.
In the face of relenting anti-PLP messages throughout the media and far-fetched schemes and promises by the Opposition, the PLP successfully retained its mandate with a 22-14 seat victory with a 51.4 percent majority of the popular vote. Members and supporters were jubilant about the PLP's succession regaining the confidence of the majority of the electorate. Once again PLP supporters were poised to celebrate a decisive victory.
It was not long after the final results came in that it was noticed that a number of the successful candidates had not arrived at Alaska Hall, PLP Headquarters for the celebration. Later, it was revealed that a group of eleven of the successful candidates had contacted Party Leader Jennifer Smith and indicated that they were not prepared to serve the new government under her leadership. They also demanded the right to choose a new leader from amongst the sitting members of the House of Assembly. In light of the developing situation a Delegates Conference was convened to address the political impasse with the eleven members.
Although the eleven did not attend the special meeting, the delegates decided after much discussion that members of parliament should get together and resolve the matter. A facilitator was chosen and the MP's gathered to resolve the issues on the Saturday. The Conference was decided to reconvene on the following Sunday.
The Conference reconvened to hear a report from the facilitator. It was reported that the Parliamentarians chose to put forward two names as possible choices for Leader. These were W. Alexander Scott and Dr. Ewart F. Brown, with the name of Jennifer Smith also being nominated. Subsequently, Jennifer Smith announced her resignation as Party Leader and endorsed the choice of W. Alexander Scott as the new Party Leader.
Now, there were two candidates for Party Leader, W. Alex Scott and Dr. Ewart F. Brown. The candidates were invited to address the membership and afterwards the conference then accepted the name of W. Alexander Scott with acclamation for the position of Party Leader.
In response Mr. Scott turned to Mr. C. Eugene Cox to ask if he would be prepared to step aside as Deputy Leader, however Mr. Cox informed him that he had already taken the decision to resign the post. This cleared the way for Mr. Scott to make a motion that asked the conference to support the nomination of Dr. Ewart F. Brown as the new Deputy Leader. The conference accepted Dr. Brown’s name and he was announced as Deputy Party Leader.
On July 28, 2003 Jennifer Smith submitted her resignation as Premier to His Excellency the Governor.
W. Alexander Scott was sworn in as Premier and moved to select a new Cabinet. The following persons were chosen to serve in the Cabinet of the second PLP Government.
- Ewart F. Brown - Deputy Leader, Minister of Transport
- Paula A. Cox - Attorney General & Education & Development
- K. Randolph Horton - Minister of Labour, Home Affairs & Public Safety
- Terry Lister - Minister of Works Engineering & Housing
- Patrice Minors - Minister of Health & Family Services
- D. Neletha Butterfield - Minister of the Environment
- Dale Butler - Minister of Community Affairs & Sport
- M. D. Renee Webb - Minister of Tourism, Telecommunications & E-Commerce
- C. Eugene Cox - Minister of Finance
- Ashfield DeVent - Minister without Portfolio
On 30 July 2003, the New Cabinet was sworn in at Government House. The new Premier immediately moved to unify the Party and to reassure the country in the new government. He informed the Party faithful, Executive Committee and Central Committee that he would take steps to involve them more in the day to day role of the PLP Government. He would also make them important stakeholder in their Government. The new Premier allowed unprecedented access by the media to himself and the new Government in an effort to cultivate fresh relationship with the community and voters is favourably received.
In early September, the new PLP government was tested with the first national crisis in the form of hurricane Fabian. The natural disaster devastated much of the island but the quick and effective response by the Government was praised by all quarters of the community.
On 18 September, the Government Senators Reginald Burrows, Raymond Tannock, Walter Roban and Larry Mussenden are appointed. Cabinet Minister Michael Scott is the Government Leader in the Senate.
The new Parliament opened in late October, with the election of former Premier and Party Leader, the Hon. Jennifer Smith as the new Deputy Speaker and the first woman to hold the post.
Early in the New Year, tragedy came to the Party. Although the public was aware of the challenges with his health, the party and the country was saddened by the announcement of the death of the PLP's first Finance Minister Hon. Cyril Eugene Cox at the age of 75 to cancer. He was honoured with an Official Funeral and Laid In State at Alaska Hall. Thousands of residents paid their respects to one of the party's most respected members.
On 22 January, Premier Scott had his first Cabinet shuffle. He appointed the first female Finance Minister Hon. Paula A Cox, daughter of the late Finance Minister. Senator Larry Mussenden became Attorney General, Hon Terry Lister moved to Education and Development and Hon. Ashfield DeVent moved to Works & Engineering.
On 4 February, the date of the bye-election in Constituency 36, Sandys North was announced for 4 March 2004.
After much speculation, on 10 February, Government Leader in the Senate and Minister, the Hon. Michael Scott was announced as the PLP Candidate in Sandys North Constituency 36. The announcement of Michael Scott as the PLP candidate required that he both resign as Leader of the Senate and as a Minister of the PLP Government. In his place Premier Scott informed the Cabinet and Parliamentary Group that Senator Larry Mussenden would become the Government Leader of the Senate.
In March 2004 a bye election as a result of the vacancy in Constituency 36 resulted in a victory for the PLP as Michael Scott won comfortably the support of the West End voters, gleaning 414 votes, compared to 220 for the UBP's Corin Smith. On hearing the poll results, he dedicated his victory to the late Mr. Cox. It was Michael Scott's fifth attempt to capture a seat into the House of Assembly. He was later re-sworn as Minister for Legislative Affairs.
As a result of the victory of Michael Scott arose the need to replace a Government vacancy in the Senate. Progressive Labour Party chairman Neville Tyrrell was sworn in as the ruling party's newest Senator. Premier Alex Scott announced that Attorney General Larry Mussenden would take over as Government Senate Leader.
In July 2004, to the surprise of many, Premier the Hon. W. Alexander Scott JP, MP announced the resignation of Minister Renee Webb from the Cabinet. The Premier recommended to His Excellency the Governor that Minister Ewart Brown take on the responsibility of Ministry of Tourism, giving him a dual portfolio of Minister of Tourism Transport. Minister Michael Scott also assumeed the responsibility for Telecommunications & E-Commerce
On August 26, 2004 Walter M. Lister, JP, MP, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly, was sworn in as Minister without Portfolio by His Excellency, the Governor, Sir John M. M. Vereker, KCB.
In November 2004, the Throne Speech detailed a comprehensive initiative by the Government described as The Social Agenda. This Agenda revealed new initiatives designed to be a key part of the Government's blueprint for social change.
Some of the highlights are:
- New plans for EMERGENCY housing with the Government to construct two, three and four bedroom manufactured emergency homes;
- A longer-term strategy will see the renovation of derelict and vacant premises to increase the number of houses available to rent or buy;
- An amendment to the customs tariff to reduce the cost of importing building materials;
- A new points system to deal with reckless drivers and new British style de-merit points; system will be introduced in a bid to rid the country's roads of irresponsible motorists;
- Tougher sentences for drug offenders;
- A recycled personal computer initiative will attempt to put computers "within the grasp of all Bermudians;
- Diversify the types of hotels on offer as well as pursuing business outside the traditional U.S. market in Europe
The protection of the environment and sustainable development is not only a global issue but also an important local concern. On December 6, 2004, Premier Scott announced that the Government would develop a Sustainable Development Plan for Bermuda. The Premier noted that it was time for us to ensure that development in this country is sustainable in order to provide a foundation for a better quality of life for everyone, now, and for generations to come.
In December 2004, Premier, the Hon. W. Alexander Scott JP, MP announced the formation of the Bermuda Independence Commission, an independent body of persons drawn from the widest, most representative cross-section of individuals, groups, unions and organisations in Bermuda. The Bermuda Independence Commission would have the express purpose of educating, informing and encouraging discussion and debate on the subject of Independence for Bermuda. The Commission would also prepare a report with recommendation on the subject of Independence.
Premier Scott appointed the Sustainable Development Round Table (SDRT) in April 2005, to facilitate broad community engagement and representation in sustainable development decisions facing the future of Bermuda.
In August 2005, the long awaited Bermuda Independence Commission Report was released to the public. Its release ignites a flurry of debate and discussion in the community on the report's findings from pro Independence and anti Independence advocates. The question and merits of an Independence referendum also enters into the debate
In October 2005, Ashfield DeVent was replaced as Minister of Works Engineering & Housing with Lt. Col David Burch OBE, ED, JP. The appointment of Col Burch to the Senate and as a Cabinet Minister by His Excellency the Governor Sir John Vereker was facilitated by the stepping down of former MP Reginald Burrows from the Senate.
In November 2005, Premier Alex Scott's appointed Wayne Perinchief to a Cabinet level position as Minister of Drug Enforcement, Bermuda's “drugs czar”. This new position was meant to make it a Government priority to coordinate resources to eradicate illegal drug activity and addiction. A reorganization of the National Drug Commission (NDC) to assist with this new policy focus would soon follow.
From February to May 2006, the Party held a series of meetings throughout the island to promote understanding of the findings of the Bermuda Independence Commission (BIC) and the issue of Independence. Overall, the meetings were well attended but support for the island moving towards independence remained elusive.
August 13, 2006 marked the 10th anniversary of the shocking death of Party Leader & Opposition Leader, L. Frederick Wade. The Party held a weekend of activities from August 10 - 13, 2006 to remember the man and his contribution to the party and Bermuda.
On August 26, 2006, the Party held an entertainment fundraising gala event, the Premiere Command Performance, featuring the famous Stylistics and a cadre of Bermudian performers. The opportunity was also taken to pay tribute to veteran contributors to the local music industry.
Speculation and discussion arose as to whether there was to be a leadership challenge at the upcoming Party Conference in light of the fact that it is an election year for all Party Officers. A leading contender was Tourism and Transport Minister Dr. the Hon. Ewart F. Brown. It was also suggested another leading possible contestant was Finance Minster the Hon Paula Cox.
On October 13 2006, the rumours of an impending leadership contest were settled when Dr. Ewart F. Brown JP, MP, Minister of Tourism and Transport announced his resignation from the Cabinet and that he would contest the leadership of the Bermuda Progressive Labour Party at the upcoming Delegates Conference. Dr Brown also stated that if the party chose the current Party Leader, W. Alexander Scott over him, he would resign from politics at the next election. In response to Dr. Brown’s resignation from the Cabinet, Premier Scott chose Col. David Burch to replace Dr. Brown as Tourism Minister and MP Walter Lister took over the Transportation portfolio.
There was considerable public attention to the build-up of the contest at the Party Conference. Many wondered whether it would be a two person race or three persons if Finance Minister Paula Cox decided to put her name forward for the leadership.
On Friday, October 27 2006 Dr. the Hon Ewart F. Brown JP MP was elected the seventh Party Leader of the PLP by a vote of 107 to76 defeating Party Leader the Hon. W. Alexander Scott JP MP. The night also saw The Hon. Paula Cox elected as Deputy Party Leader easily facing down a challenge by the Hon. K. H. Randolph Horton, who conceded before the count finished.
On October 30, 2006 Dr. the Hon Ewart F. Brown JP, MP was sworn in at Government House as the Party's third Premier and the Leader of the Country. The same day the new Cabinet was sworn in and the members were as follows:
- Ewart F. Brown - Premier , Minister of Tourism and Transport
- Paula A. Cox - Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance
- K. H. Randolph Horton - Minister of Education & Sport
- Dennis Lister - Minister of Works & Engineering
- Derrick Burgess - Minister of Labour & Immigration
- Nelson Bascome - Minister of Health
- D. Neletha Butterfield - Minister of the Environment, Telecommunications & E-Commerce
- Dale Butler - Minister of Social Rehabilitation
- Wayne Perinchief - Minister of Community Affairs
- Senator, Lt. Col. David Burch OBE, JP - Government Leader in the Senate and Minister of Public Safety & Housing
- Senator, Philip Perinchief - Attorney General and Minister of Justice
The change in leadership of the party sparked an interest amongst many in the community, particularly young Bermudians. The party experienceed a rush of new members and saw hundreds added to its membership roll.
Newly appointed Premier Brown and his Cabinet moved quickly to engage the public on key issues, particularly Education, Health and social issues.
The Throne Speech delivered November 4, 2006 pledges the Government would implement new, strong and significant programmes to address housing, education, healthcare, the quality of life for our youth and our elderly, alcohol and drug abuse, crime and race relations.
Following through with a promise made during Dr. Brown's leadership campaign, it is announced in the Throne Speech, that the Medical Clinic (formerly known as the Indigent Clinic) will be closed. The position is taken that it undermines the patients' dignity being treated in this manner. Under the new plans, patients will have access to the same services as the general public with at least 30 private doctors.
Some of the other initiatives that were highlighted in the 2006 Throne Speech are as follows:
- Establish a Ministry for Social Rehabilitation, focused on quickly implementing solutions to the challenges that exist in our community.
- Renew the Government commitment to producing 330 units in 30 months with 286 units under contract.
- Work with the private sector to generate progressive ways to finance new homes.
- Assemble the best legal and financial minds to determine how to renovate derelict homes for rent or ownership by deserving families.
- Introduce an income-based housing programme.
- Provide a zero rate of Customs Duty on imported materials for all proposals approved by the Government as 'affordable housing developments'.
- An Agricultural and Educational Outreach Programme to be implemented to familiarise senior secondary school students with farming.
- Shift the focus from where the new hospital wouldl be and work with the medical community to establish the priorities for healthcare in Bermuda.
- Declare the Economic Empowerment Zone in North Hamilton as an 'approved scheme' under the Industrial Development Act 1968.
In December 2006, Premier Brown stated he was "deeply and seriously" concerned about the state of education and that within the near future Bermuda would hear "some very significant statements" about what was planned to improve attainment levels.
In January 2007, the Minister of Education & Sport announced he would be asking Cabinet for a comprehensive review of the Education System to be completed by the end of May. The review would involve teachers, parents, officers, administrators and support staff, and would assess issues including teaching standards, accountability of schools, parental support and staff development. The announced review received support from all quarters of the community.
In February 5, 2007, Health Minister Nelson Bascome was forced to step down from Government to fight a possible court case, with Premier Ewart Brown granting him a leave of absence. Attorney General Phil Perinchief took over as acting Health Minister. The former Health Minister Patrice Minors was later appointed Junior Minister for Health, to speak for the Ministry in the House of Assembly. MP Michael Scott was also appointed Junior Minister for Justice in the House of Assembly.
In March 2007, party founding member Albert 'Peter' Smith died at the age of 80. Mr. Smith was the last of the 'Garage Gang' the core group of individuals who founded the party in 1963; the members of this group were Wilfred 'Mose' Allen, Hugh ‘Rio' Richardson, Robert Austin Wilson, Edward DeJean, Walter N H Robinson, Dilton Cann, and Alan Butterfield.
In April 2007, the architect of Universal Adult Suffrage in Bermuda, former PLP MP and Party Education Officer, Dr. Pauulu R N O B Kamarakafego (formerly Roosevelt Brown) passed away after a period of extended illness.
Excitement, speculation and interest continued to build with the prospect of a general election on the horizon and the revelation of the number of candidates who were interested in running for the Party. Some reports put the number as high as 70 people.
In May 2007, a report was given to the public on the findings of the Education Review and it revealed serious challenges in Bermuda's public Education system. The report outlined recommendations which the PLP Government commited to implementing.
On 29 May 2007, the public awoke to the devastating announcement that Dame Lois M. Browne-Evans DBE JP former Party Leader and Opposition Leader had passed away suddenly at the age of 79 in the early hours of the morning. She apparently suffered a stroke. Later that Tuesday morning Premier and Party Leader Dr the Hon. Ewart F. Brown and his Cabinet addressed the country on the passing of Dame Lois. In his comments on behalf of the Government, Premier Brown describes her as, "... a legend like no other…a champion for justice - not just for blacks but for all Bermudians..."
The funeral of Dame Lois on 5 June 2007 was the most emotional in recent memory with thousands of Bermudians witnessing and listening to the ceremony at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. A procession to her internment led by her family and closest colleagues in the party was followed by thousands of people. It was apparent that her contribution to the people and country was remembered and would not be forgotten.
On June 13 2007, Junior Justice Minister Michael Scott a former Minister of Telecommunications and E-Commerce, was appointed Minister of Health. Mr. Scott replaced Nelson Bascome, who stepped down from the position earlier in the year due to person legal matters.
The prospects of an election once again become apparent when starting in early July the party began announcing its candidate line up for the future election. George Scott, the incumbent MP for Constituency 27 Warwick North Central switches constituencies, and was announced as the candidate for Constituency 28 Warwick West.
In mid July, the party announced a pair of candidates to run in the Southampton area. Island Construction boss Zane DeSilva was selected by the Progressive Labour Party to be a candidate in Constituency 30 Southampton East Central. Another PLP candidate announced during the same lunchtime press conference at Southampton Rangers was Marc Bean to run in Constituency 31 Southampton West Central
By the end of August the party completed its announcement of the full slate of candidates for the next general election and the list was as follows.
Dame Jennifer M. Smith, Constituency 1, St, George’s North
M. Dean Foggo, Constituency 2, St. George’s West
Lovitta Foggo, Constituency 3, St. David’s
Philip Perinchief, Constituency 4, St. George’s South
Derrick Burgess, Constituency 5, Hamilton East
Charles Clarke, Constituency 6, Hamilton West
Wayne Caines, Constituency 7, Hamilton South
Jane Corriea, Constituency 8, Smith’s South
Larry Mussenden, Constituency 9, Smith’s West
Patrice Minors, Constituency 10, Smith’s North
Neville Tyrrell, Constituency 11, Devonshire East
Linda Merritt, Constituency 12, Devonshire South Central
Glenn Blakeney, Constituency 13, Devonshire North
Paula Cox, Constituency 14, Devonshire North West
Walter H. Roban, Constituency 15, Pembroke East
Nelson Bascome, Constituency 16, Pembroke East Central
Wayne Perinchief, Constituency 17, Pembroke Central
D. Neletha Butterfield, Constituency 18, Pembroke West Central
Walton Brown, Constituency 19, Pembroke West
Laverne Furbert, Constituency 20, Pembroke South West
Ashfield DeVent, Constituency 21, Pembroke South East
Davida Morris, Constituency 22, Paget East
Rolfe Commissiong, Constituency 23, Paget West
W. Alexander Scott, Constituency 24, Warwick South East
D. Dale Butler, Constituency 25, Warwick North East
Ewart F. Brown, Constituency 26, Warwick South Central
Elvin James, Constituency 27, Warwick North Central
George Scott, Constituency 28, Warwick West
Stanley Lowe, Constituency 29, Southampton East
Zane DeSilva, Constituency 30, Southampton East Central
Marc Bean, Constituency 31, Southampton West Central
K. H. Randolph Horton, Constituency 32, Southampton West
Terry Lister, Constituency 33, Sandys South
Walter Lister, Constituency 34, Sandys South Central
Dennis Lister, Constituency 35, Sandys North Central
Michael Scott, Constituency 36, Sandys North
On November 2, 2007, Acting Governor Mark Capes read the Throne Speech on the Cabinet lawn. In keeping with the Government's commitment to stability of the economic environment, social development and empowerment of the citizens, this is some of what was announced:
- Boosting Education and home-ownership.
- Free Bermuda College tuition for Bermudians in accredited programmes and boosts to various scholarships
- tax incentives to encourage landlords to bring affordable housing back on the market
- Interest-free down payment loans to 500 families for mortgages.
- Housing Corporation tenants to pay no more than 25 percent of their income on rent while putting another ten percent towards future home-ownership.
- Three purpose-built facilities for families needing emergency housing are promised for Southside
- Improving the treatment of the elderly, with plans for Elder Protection Legislation
- boost the police service's intelligence analysis human resources
- to apply international standards to Bermuda's human rights law
To the surprise of many, just hours after the Throne Speech, Premier the Hon Dr. Ewart F. Brown ended the election mystery and suspense. He announced to the country that he visited the Governor and requested he prorogue the Parliament in order to hold a general election dated Tuesday 18 December 2007.
In a first for Bermuda, Premier Dr. Ewart Brown used a YouTube video on the Progressive Labour Party's website to announce the date of the general election.
At the Annual Delegates Conference Banquet that followed on 3 November, Premier Dr Ewart Brown delivered a rally call to party supporters to mobilise and work in concert. In a hard-hitting speech, Dr Brown called for members to focus their energies on winning the upcoming election.
The six weeks leading up to the election was filled with a great deal of energy and sometimes-confrontational rhetoric between the completing parties. The campaign slogan for a third consecutive victory was, 'Moving Bermuda Forward' with a mission to make it ‘Three Straight!!!’ Another effective campaign tag line promoted across the island was ‘PLP Solid!’ The party focused its energy and resources on saturating the political landscape; proving the party was the dominant force in the country for progress and change.
The Party put forth a presentation and image of a government that delivered by ensuring sound economic stability and performance, enhanced the quality of life for seniors, providing affordable housing, a turnaround in Tourism and a commitment to Education reform.
The party launched it platform on December 9, 2007. A comprehensive and expertly crafted document titled, 'Patterns of Progress', it outlined the party’s vision, plans and promises to the people for its next term of Government. Some of the party's chief promises in the platform were:
- Interest-free down payments for 500 first time Bermudian homeowners
- Building more geared-to-income housing units, especially single unit apartments for young Bermudians.
- The continuation of the Bermuda Race Relations Initiative throughout 2008.
- Partnerships with businesses to develop training and apprenticeship models in information technology
- Free ferry and bus transportation
- Free day care for means-tested Bermudian families though neighborhood based childcare providers such as churches;
- Future Care; a comprehensive healthcare and insurance scheme for seniors.
On December 18, 2007, the party succeeded with a third straight victory winning 22 seats of 36 seats in the House of Assembly. Despite the disappointment of losing the seat in constituency 4, St. George’s South, two sitting members M. Dean Foggo, and George Scott; the party maintained its parliamentary majority. Two exciting victories for the night was new candidate Zane DeSilva gaining a seat in Constituency 30 and Patrice Minors retaining her seat by defeating challenger Michael Dunkley, the Leader of the Opposition.
Not only did the party successfully keep its majority, it managed to increase its percentage of the popular vote from 51.6% percent to 52.5% percent.
On December 20, 2007, Governor Sir Richard Grozny swore in the Cabinet and the appointments were as follows:
- Dr. the Hon. Ewart F. Brown JP MP Premier & Minister of Tourism and Transport
- The Hon. Paula A. Cox JP MP Minster of Finance & Economic Development
- The Hon. Kenneth Howard Randolph Horton, J.P., M.P. Minister of Education
- The Hon. Derrick Vaughn Burgess, J.P., M.P. Minister of Works and Engineering
- The Hon. Nelson Blake Ainsworth Bascome, J.P., M.P. Minister of Health
- The Hon. Elvin Gerald James, J.P., M.P. Minister of the Environment and Sport
- The Hon. Terry Eugene Lister, J.P., M.P. Minister of Energy, Telecommunications & E-Commerce
- Senator the Hon. David Arnold Burch, OBE, ED, J.P Minister of Labour Home Affairs & Housing
- The Hon. Dale De Lloyd Butler, J.P., M.P. Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation
- Senator the Hon. Kim Ninette Wilson J.P. Attorney General
Along with the two Cabinet Ministers in the Senate, the Governor appointed Wayne Caines, Walton Brown and Thaao Dill to fill the Government team.
In May 2008, the island recognized 40 years of Constitutional Government of Bermuda. The people of Bermuda for the first time on May 22, 1968 casted votes in a General Election on the basis of what we know as Universal Adult Suffrage. That year the PLP elected 10 members in this new House of Assembly forming part of ‘the Class of 1968’ former members of this group were Reginald Burrows, L. Frederick Wade, Dr. Roosevelt Brown, Stanley Morton, Barbara Ball and C. Eugene Cox as well as others.
In early June 2008, Wayne Caines, a Senator and Junior Minister of Tourism and Transport and the Environment and Sports, stepped down as the Premier’s Chief of Staff and resigned from the Senate. Caines made the decision to follow a private sector opportunity as the CEO of Digicel Bermuda, a mobile telecommunications company with over 23 markets throughout the Caribbean. Premier Dr. Ewart Brown showered tributes on former Senator for his service when he said: “Senator Caines has been a clear asset to the Government’s Senate team and has been a powerful advocate for road safety, leading in the area of addressing some of the recent issues on our roads.” Caines was replaced by Marc Bean, a former candidate in the General Election for Constituency 31.
In August 2008, D. Aurelia Burch JP, the first Secretary of the party, long-time candidate for Paget East and one the last of the original group to constitute the organization that would become the party died peacefully. Ms. Burch was interred with all the honour and recognition of a true stalwart of the Party.
In early November 2008, Education Minister Randy Horton was removed from the Cabinet by Premier Dr. Ewart Brown and was replaced by the Environment, Youth and Sport Minister Elvin James. Government Whip Glenn Blakeney, who had been an MP since 2003, took over as Environment and Sports Minister entering the Cabinet for the first time. It was suggested in the media that the Premier was not satisfied with the pace of public school reform for the reason he sacked Education Minister Randy Horton.
November 9, 2008 marks another milestone for the party. It was under the leadership of Jennifer M. Smith JP MP (now Dame Jennifer) the party won its first election victory on November 9, 1998. This was followed by 10 years of a successful Government under successive Party Leaders and Premiers W. Alexander Scott and Dr. Ewart F. Brown. The party marked the celebration with a week of activities culminating in a block party in front of the headquarters on Court Street.
In late April early May 2009, media sources both electronic and print revealed that backbench MP’s were not happy with the leadership of Dr. Brown and had made moves to have him removed. Backbenchers and former Ministers’ Wayne Perinchief, Randy Horton and supported by former Party Leader and Premier W. Alexander Scott tried to launch a motion to vote in Caucus on the leadership of the party. Additionally, they requested the exclusion of appointed Senators from the discussions of leadership. A number of members of the Caucus were reported to have argued that the question of leadership can only be decided by the wider party membership at a special delegate’s conference. At the end of the meeting the motion was defeated but members did agree via a motion to have a discussion about leadership at the following weeks’ Caucus meeting.
The events gave rise to a Central Committee meeting that was very well attended and the events of the previous weeks Caucus meeting were discussed. At the end of the meeting and many hours of passionate, open debate, Central Committee approved a motion that the Members of Central Committee supported Dr. Ewart Brown as Party Leader and wished for him to complete the duration of his term.
On 11 June 2009 Bermuda woke up to the revelation that four Chinese Muslim members of an ethnic group known as Uighurs from Northwest China who had been held illegally as detainees the US Guantanamo Bay detention facility, were resettled in Bermuda.
Premier Dr. Ewart Brown, having only revealed the matter to the Cabinet and PLP Parliamentarians earlier that day, officially made the announcement that morning at a press conference giving some details as to how the situation arose. He stressed that the men were innocent of any terrorist charges having long ago been cleared by the US Government. Dr. Brown said at the media conference, “These men are landed in Bermuda in the short term provided with the opportunity to become naturalised citizens and therefore afforded the right to travel and leave Bermuda potentially settling elsewhere.” The landing of the four gentlemen was facilitated by the Ministry of Labour Home Affairs and Housing which under the Bermuda Immigration law has responsibility for landing persons on the island.
It was also revealed that the action was taken without any prior discussion with the HE Governor or Her Majesty’s Government. The Premier defended the lack of consultation due to a request for secrecy by the US. He also stated the position was taken that no permission was required due to the fact that it was interpreted as an immigration matter.
As a result these actions, the Premier incurred severe criticism from wide cross sections of the community also from within the PLP parliamentary group and membership. Critics declared that Premier Brown overstepped and was acting as a dictator, ignoring his Cabinet, the Legislature and the people of the Bermuda. Some went as far to state his unilateral actions damaged relations with neighbors and put the country at risk. This might have appeared to be supported by HE Governors’ rebuke of the action taken by the Premier in landing the former detainees in Bermuda and the strong disagreement with the interpretation put forward on the scope of responsibility. As the day’s unfolded local and international attention focused on Bermuda and the situation created with the detainees.
Further pressure arose on 12 June 2009 with the Opposition UBP tabling a Motion of No Confidence in the Government led by Premier Ewart Brown. The Opposition Leader is quoted as saying it was necessary as the Island is “increasingly subject to the politics of one man rule”.
On 16 June 2009 a mass protest descended on the House of Assembly and the Cabinet Office. It was allegedly organized by a group of citizens who objected to the admittance of the detainees and the leadership of Premier Brown. The 1000-plus march of citizens upon arriving at the Cabinet Office demanded an address from the Premier but once he arrived refused to allow him to speak throwing verbal abuse at him. The Premier, his cabinet and a group of supporters, were left to listen only to a leader of the group of protesters recite a speech critical of his leadership demanding he step down. The crowd of protesters steadily degraded into an angry mob verbally and physically threatening the Government members and supporters present. Racially charged remarks were hurled at persons recognized as PLP members by the protestors, operating like an uncontrolled mob.
The group would repeat their march on the House of Assembly on two successive occasions thereafter with the same message demanding the Premier Brown resign from office.
On the 19 June 2009 the Motion of No Confidence was taken up after the conclusion of the Government business on the Order Paper. The Motion was debated in a marathon 14-hours in the House of Assembly and was soundly defeated by 22 votes to 11. The vote came after which Premier Dr. Ewart Brown apologised to the people of Bermuda for any of his decisions which they disapproved of regarding the former Guantanamo Bay detainees. One shock of the night was despite the Opposition efforts to defend their motion as principally an indictment of Premier Brown’s leadership and suggesting they had the support of his PLP critics; two Opposition members failed to cast votes in support of the motion. All PLP MPs were present in the House for the vote and voted against the motion.
The other shock of the debate was the resignation of Minister Dale Butler from the Cabinet who seemingly was not convinced by the genuines of the apology of the Premier for his actions.
On June 23, 2009 PLP MP Neletha Butterfield returned to Cabinet being handed the role of Minister of Culture and Social Rehabilitation following Dale Butler’s surprise resignation. Minister Butterfield rejoined the Cabinet for the first time since December 2007. Junior Minister for Labour Home Affairs and Housing Walter Roban was also appointed to serve as Minister without Portfolio.
Friday July 10 was the end of the Parliamentary summer session with members having dealt with a slew of legislation. Throughout the session, the general opinion was the ‘Gaming Bill’ would not likely pass due to substantive opposition within the PLP Caucus. It looked destined to remain on the order paper and disappear without success. Premier Brown in spite of these odds expressed his interest in getting it passed and would take any opportunity he might have to achieve this. To the surprise of some members of the Parliamentary team, on the final day, Premier Brown made his move. In the belief that he had the opportunity and votes to pass the legislation, he moved the motion to report to the House that the committee approve the bill. This motion was put to a vote and it was not successful. A number of PLP Parliamentarians voted No to the motion.
Later that night with the clock going into early Saturday, during the Motion to Adjourn on July 11, 2009 and first on his feet, Minister Terry Lister made a forceful speech in which he express concern for the country and the absence of the Premier from the chamber most of the day during the debate of his own motion. Minister Lister called for the Premier to resign. He was followed by Minister El James expressing similar concern and for the Premier to do the right thing. Randy Horton and Wayne Perinchief followed with a similar call for the Premier to resign, all of this happened on floor of House of Assembly.
They all accused the Premier of mishandling the vote on the gaming on ships, secrecy around the Uighur issue and lack of respect for the House and the people of Bermuda.
In light of the shocking end to the summer session the Executive Committee of the party met over the weekend and agreed to call a Central Committee meeting to be held on the following Monday.
A Central Committee meeting was held on July 13 and it was standing room only at Alaska Hall with hundreds of rank and file members in attendance. Nearly all the Branches were represented with all the members of the Parliamentary group there.
The Central Committee meeting lasted for an exhausting 5 hours with the main discussion around a motion put forward for a Special Delegates Conference (SDC) to specifically address the issue of leadership. After weighty discussion with submissions given by all of the so called ‘dissident members’ the motion was eventually withdrawn by the proposer. Premier Brown pledged to work more closely with the Deputy Leader and to be more open and accessible to the members of the backbench. As it stood Premier Brown retained the full confidence of the membership who wished for him to complete the duration of his term as leader.
Premier Brown moved quickly to fill the positions vacated by Terry Lister and Elvin James. On July 14, Junior Minister for Justice Michael Scott JP MP was reappointed to the Cabinet as Telecommunications and E-Commerce Minister. It is also announced that Health Minister Nelson Bascome has agreed to hold the Education Ministry through the summer period.
On July 14, 2009 in the early morning the Party was shocked to hear of the death as a result of a heart attack of another serving member, the Hon. Nelson Blake Ainsworth Bascome, J.P., M.P. Minister of Health while overseas.
At a press conference later that day to present the newly appointed Minister Michael Scott, Premier and Party Leader paid tribute to the late Minister of Health. He also announced that Attorney General Kim Wilson had agreed to hold the responsibility for the Education Ministry. Minister Walter Roban held the post of Acting Health Minister.
Minster Nelson Bascome funeral was on July 23, 2009 at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Hamilton and interred at St. Johns Church Cemetery.
It was announced that the bye election to replace the late Nelson Bascome in Constituency 16 Pembroke East Central would be held on August 27. The attention of the Party following the funeral focused on who would be the candidate chosen to run in Pembroke East Central. As the days passed the rumours floated that as many as 20 persons had expressed interest in the seat.
On Monday, August 10 the Branch had a meeting of members to consider a number of potential candidates for the seat. After interviewing a short-list of prospective persons the decision came down to a vote between two potential suitors. At the end of the night it was Michael Weeks who was chosen by the Branch to recommend to the Central Committee as their candidate. On the Tuesday August 11, the Central Committee unanimously accepted the nomination of Michael Weeks as the PLP candidate for Constituency 16 Pembroke East.
On August 17, Elvin James returned to Cabinet, resuming his position as Minister of Education.
On the 27 August after a short period of bye election canvassing, Michael Weeks, the PLP candidate stormed to victory to become the new MP for Pembroke East Central with 387 votes, winning 89 percent of the votes. The PLP’s margin of victory was slightly bigger than in the 2007 General Election, when the late Mr. Bascome claimed 87 percent of the votes.
October 28th, 2010 saw the beginning of a new administration at the helm of the Progressive Labour Party. The Hon. Paula A. Cox, JP, MP defeated two challengers in MP’s Terry Lister and Dale Butler to assume the Leadership of the Progressive Labour Party.
Elected to be the Deputy Leader, was Hamilton East MP Derrick Burgess.
The following Monday, at Government House, Ms. Cox was sworn in as Premier & Minister of Finance.
Her Cabinet was appointed as follows –
- Attorney General & Minister of Justice – the Hon. Michael J. Scott, JP, MP.
- Minister of Education – Dame Jennifer Smith, JP, MP
- Minister of Public Works – the Hon. Derrick Burgess, JP, MP
- Minister of Business Development & Tourism – the Hon. Patrice K. Minors, JP, MP
- Minister of Youth, Families & Community Development – the Hon. Glenn Blakeney, JP, MP
- Minister of Transport – the Hon. Terry Lister, JP, MP
- Minister of Government Estates and Public Information Services – the Hon. D. Neletha Butterfield, MBE, JP, MP
- Minister of Environment, Planning & Infrastructure Strategy – the Hon. Walter Roban, JP, MP
- Minister of Health – the Hon. Zane Desilva, JP, MP
- Minister without Portfolio – the Hon. Michael Weeks, JP, MP
- Minister of National Security – Senator the Hon. Lt. Col. David Burch
- Minister of Economy, Trade & Industry – Senator the Hon. Kim Wilson
In addition to the Cabinet Appointments, appointed to the Senate were –
- Senator David Burt
- Senator LaVerne Furbert
- Senator Cromwell Shakir
With the new leadership in place, and the resignation as a Member of Parliament by former leader Dr. Ewart Brown, a by-election was scheduled for December 15, 2010 in Warwick South Central. This by-election was the first one that featured a candidate from the newest political party in Bermuda, the Bermuda Democratic Alliance.
The Progressive Labour Party candidate, Mr. Marc Bean, handily defeated both opponents, Mr. Devrae Noel-Simmons of the United Bermuda Party and Mr. Sylvan Richards of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance, by more than a 2 to 1 margin, to coast to victory.
April 4, 2010 saw the elevation to Minister of National Security of the Hon. Wayne Perinchief, JP, MP. Also appointed to the Senate was former Police Commissioner Jonathan Smith. These appointments were to replace Lt. Col David Burch who resigned his post as Senator. Minister Kim Wilson was elevated to the position of Government Leader in the Senate.