Khalid Wasi

Forty-five years later: a movement I thought the PLP would become

  • Age of awakening: Khalid Wasi hopes the FDM can provide needed inspiration for the PLP and OBA (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Whether anyone believes the appearance of the Free Democratic Movement is just a trick or political ploy, one interesting phenomenon is it’s called a “movement”.

I read John Barritt’s opinion and he right away characterised FDM properly by not calling it a party; rather, he labelled it a movement. Everyone including the media is guilty of that mistake when we say another party or a third party has formed when it says clearly a “movement”.

For all of those who believe there is a need to evolve our political system, perhaps 15 persons standing together and not calling themselves a party, independents or even an association means they either deliberately or inadvertently are slated as representing something bigger themselves.

It is something I had hoped that the Progressive Labour Party would do. When I joined the party way back in 1975, and when I rejoined circa 2011, I still held out hope that they would be, or even should be, the group most interested in bringing the political level to a more progressive system of governance.

Sadly, the One Bermuda Alliance when it came out of the blocks claimed it was to be the party of reform.

Thing is, for those who may assume I am suddenly raising the flag for FDM, not really — I am raising an old learning. Back in 1994, I was probably laughed at for suggesting to the United Bermuda Party that they should get rid of this term “members”.

I recall clearly describing to them how I received mail from St Anne’s Church every so often, saying the church wall needs to be fixed or the bell — the point being the church considered every parishioner as if a member. They felt everyone had an innate responsibility to the church and they had a role with the entire parish.

OK, I know the history of how that became their practice and legacy. Notwithstanding that, I appreciated knowing the wall needed to be fixed and also in some way felt partly responsible for it.

That to me was a healthier position than presuming “I’m a Muslim, that’s their wall, let them go to their own members to fix their wall”. It is not until one of my family or friends dies or has a wedding that I go to St Anne’s when I will experience the value of the church and the wall — or when the bell rings and I know I must hurry because the service is about to start.

The Government is even more imposing and significant in our daily lives, affecting everything we do. Representation in government and the process of appointing persons is far more of a role than that of a church functionally, so why can’t the function of a political organisation be as inclusive and considerate of every adult person in the parish as equally responsible, as the church has displayed. It dawned on me years ago what a natural position for our politics should be.

To show how we have devolved, years ago when we listened to political rhetoric, we would hear the term egalitarianism as an aim for society. Those days are gone and the words have disappeared from the lips of politicians. Winning, who can win and how to gain power dominate the ethics of today.

It must begin somewhere and at some time. Society must return to its purist ideals with pure hearts as practised years ago by a generation that has all but gone. Friday marked the 100th birthday of the late Eddie deJean, one of the founders of the PLP. Those days of innocence, when what was wanted was a pure democracy where all persons were treated equally. Yes, we fought for the right to be treated equally and that society should make all persons free, enjoying equal rights with the same level of justice for everyone. It was not a fight then to have “a turn”.

So I hope the FDM inspires the PLP and the OBA to take on the “democratic movement”, which is a bigger idea and mission than preserving the position of party members. I would also hope the representatives of the movement themselves recognise the higher aim and not get sucked into becoming just another “party”.

The tendency is always there to just become an elite political class with little to no interaction with the electorate other than at the polls. The bigger mission is about empowering the electorate and creating the environment and structure for their participation. The goal is the advancement of freedom and the pursuit of happiness for the people. Defending a party is small in comparison.

The General Election is in the hands of the PLP; it’s theirs to lose. In reality, the only winners and losers are the people. Would it not be a complete victory if, instead of the PLP fighting to protect members, caucus, selection committees, party officials or even the history of a labour struggle, it actually took the philosophy from the FDM and aimed for the same goal and fought for bringing freedom and democracy to the entire electorate?

It is not about joining them or reacting; it’s the Socratic way of taking their argument away from them. This is what the original aim of the party was when it adopted the term “progressive”. The party more or less resolved the labour issue; now it’s time to advance on the long-abandoned progressive aspect of its mission.

The same would be true of the Bermuda Democratic Alliance sector of the OBA — it was lost, essentially abandoned during its short reign, blinded by the business of the day. Let’s raise the bar in this election and let the people have a victory.

Maybe we should look at this period as a time for renewal and a reacquaintance with ideals and objectives that we as a country have forgotten as we became engaged and preoccupied with the struggles and issues of the day. Maybe it is not folly but a wind that came by as a mercy so that we can all reflect.