Last week during the motion to adjourn in the House of Assembly, those in the chambers and, indeed, the wider listening audience were treated to former Cabinet minister Sylvan Richards throwing a challenge to members of the Progressive Labour Party.
The particular challenge was that they have to “change the mindsets” of themselves and those of their fellow Bermudians, in terms of how they think about education, healthcare and immigration.
“Change the mindsets of our people” were his exact words, a very interesting choice of words indeed.
To begin with, politics or political parties, are formed from the mindsets and the will of the people. Political parties do not form the life experiences of the people, how they feel or what they wish to see for their present and their future.
Essentially, political parties do not change the mindsets of “their” people.
Worldwide, the ideologies of political entities are borne out of the respective various segments of society.
In Britain, the ruling Conservative Party was birthed in 1834, to represent the interests of the merchant and upper classes.
Conversely, the opposition Labour Party was created in 1900, to represent the needs of the working class, and the trade union membership.
In Bermuda, the One Bermuda Alliance was formed in 2011 to amalgamate the conservative United Bermuda Party and the fledgeling Bermuda Democratic Alliance.
Likewise, the Progressive Labour Party was formed in 1963 to represent the working class and trade unions of Bermuda.
As we can see, political parties, both locally and around the world, take their lead in policies and election platforms, from those who form their respective membership and voting base.
So, for Mr Richards to attempt to say that the PLP must “change the mindset of our people” particularly, on the topic of immigration, is somewhat insulting to many Bermudians.
It speaks to someone who apparently thinks very little about the ability and God-given right for the people of this island, individually and collectively, to have their own views on a vexing issue that has negatively affected multiple generations of Bermudians of all stripes.
Should men be so arrogant as to tell women that they should “change their mindsets”, when it comes to how they view negative aspects of a relationship?
I say not. When we take the time to peel back the layers of what people would like to see or expect out of immigration reform, we find a wide spectrum of needs and desires.
Let’s have a look of some of the key issues, shall we?
For many business owners, they are hoping to see quicker, more efficient processing of their work permit applications and renewals.
That is not an unreasonable wish, depending on if there are no qualified Bermudians for a particular opening.
A large proportion of people who have Permanent Residence Certificates are hoping for full Bermudian status.
Those who find themselves, or family members, in any given of the multiple forms of Mixed-Status family categories are looking to have their families immigration statuses harmonised.
Again, depending on the circumstances, this is not an unreasonable desire.
Now, for many Bermudians, of all stripes, their key desire for immigration reform is to see that they and their family members have primacy in their own country when it comes to key issues, such as the ability to gain employment, earn a decent wage and to be able to own a piece of the rock.
These are but a snapshot of the myriad of valid issues that need to be and are being addressed by bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.
So, for those like Sylvan Richards, who say it is solely the people of this island, that have to change their mindsets when it comes to immigration, it leaves one to wonder, why should Bermudians not have the mindset that they should come first in Bermudian society?
Some questions to ponder:
Should we change our mindsets that our university educated children should not gain full employment?
Should we change our mindset that we will not work for near slave-like salaries that a growing number of employers are offering?
Should we change our mindsets that Bermudians should be getting paid the same salaries, allowances and bonuses as non-Bermudian workers doing the same jobs?
Should we change our mindsets that we have to preserve our limited land space for our future generations to own their own homes?
Or should we just adopt a mindset that the desires of others come before us?
I ask these questions, as Bermudians, like all other people around the world, are not supposed feel like or to be treated as second-class citizens, in their own countries.
Why was no challenge, publicly given for certain employers to change their mindsets towards hiring and compensating qualified Bermudians, on an equal basis, as guest workers?
Why is Mr Richards afraid to address that part of the immigration challenge? Why is it that we and we alone, should “change our mindset”?
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org