Politics

Former MP criticises willingly shorthanded OBA

  • Full slate: Wayne Perinchief (File photograph)
  • John Barritt (Photograph supplied)

Democracy has suffered because the Progressive Labour Party was uncontested in three constituencies, a former MP for Pembroke Central said last night.

Wayne Perinchief was speaking after his former turf for the PLP was retained by the party, along with Pembroke East Central and Warwick South Central.

Mr Perinchief criticised the One Bermuda Alliance for its failure to run candidates in all 36 constituencies.

He said: “Every party should run a full slate of candidates — the voters deserve it.”

David Burt, the Premier, said yesterday: “Our election laws on uncontested elections have not changed since they have been implemented.”

Mr Burt said that Nomination Day had been “a celebration of our democracy”.

The OBA fielded 31 candidates on Thursday and the new Free Democratic Movement lined up 15 candidates for the General Election on October 1.

The line-up left Michael Weeks as MP for Pembroke East Central, Jason Hayward in Pembroke Central, and Neville Tyrrell in Warwick South Central.

Craig Cannonier, the leader of the OBA, said on Thursday he had not been “racing to fill seats” when he selected candidates.

But John Barritt, a veteran former MP who resigned in September 2011 so Mr Cannonier could run in his seat, said last night: “In the absence of a credible, cogent explanation, the decision not to run candidates in those three constituencies stands as a ringing endorsement of the three sitting MPs — two of whom are Cabinet ministers.”

He added: “It could also be viewed as an endorsement of the Government, which is a surprising position for an Opposition that wishes to be the Government.”

Mr Perinchief said he had been moved from Pembroke Central by the PLP in 2012 to run in Smith’s South against Cole Simons, of the OBA.

He admitted: “I didn’t stand an iceberg’s chance in hell. But I ran because we needed to have a candidate.

“If anyone is going to form a party to run against the Government, you have to come equipped. Stay the course.

“Right now, I despair that we’re going to get a proper Opposition in place that will not only test the PLP, but raise the level of debate, and challenge the Government to do right for the people.”

The former national security minister said the stakes were high because of the severe economic problems caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Perinchief said the FDM had appeared “like a bullet out of the blue”. He added: “This election is a shambles.”

Marc Bean, a former PLP leader and the founder of the FDM, said earlier this week that the new party would not field a full slate of candidates.

He declined to comment further last night.

Mr Perinchief said: “It’s because the Premier called a snap election. But the Loyal Opposition should be better prepared.”

Many residents of Pembroke East Central said yesterday they saw no problem with the default and backed Mr Weeks as an MP.

Wayne DeShield, 63, said that the win could not be considered undemocratic because other parties had the opportunity to run.

He added: “Certainly you would like to see a fair contest, but I can’t force the OBA or Mr Bean’s party to put somebody forward.”

Mr DeShield, a Friswells Hill resident, said Mr Weeks was prominent in the community and often spoke to people in the area about their concerns.

He added that residents still had a chance to have their voices heard, irrespective of who was the MP.

Mr DeShield said: “Clinics are held on a monthly basis and even if clinics are not held, you always have the opportunity to call your MP or otherwise contact your representative.”

He added: “Change is slow, but people could always protest or advocate in some other avenue if they’re not happy.”

A householder in nearby South Terrace, who asked not to be named, said that she found it concerning that someone could be elected an MP without a contest.

The 50-year-old said Mr Weeks often followed through on problems brought up by constituents and highlighted her request for fencing around a nearby cliff to protect children.

She added: “I made that complaint and within weeks I saw guys from [the Department of] Works and Engineering here fixing that problem.”

Granville Gibbons, 63, who lives in the Pembroke Central constituency, said the situation was a byproduct of democracy.

He added: “It’s really difficult to leap up and down about this. Democracy is based on the will of the majority.”

Mr Gibbons, who lives on St John’s Road, admitted that he was surprised to learn other parties had not mustered candidates for all 36 constituencies because “it just seemed like that’s what people do”.

He added that, while Mr Hayward said that he would canvass and hear residents’ concerns, he did not think many would be dealt with.

Mr Gibbons said: “Politicians are politicians. The only time that they’re prepared to listen to you is election time; after that they have their own agenda.”

He wanted to see the country’s massive debt tackled.

He said: “Parish issues are always taking a back seat to national issues.”

Mr Gibbons said that those who felt that their voices were not heard after they spoke to their MP could take their complaints further or mount a protest.