is another world and it is truly another world in keeping
with the lyrics of the lilting national song.
Located in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic, Bermuda
is one of the few remaining overseas territories in the region.
Its traditions, including place namesSouthampton, Somerset
etcare British, so too is the British-descended (in
the main) white Bermudian population that is listed at approximately
39 per cent.
Its black population (61 per cent) came through the Middle
Passage like most other Caribbean peoples and has been boosted
over the decades by new infusions of people from all over
Situated approximately 90 minutes flying time off the eastern
coast of the United States (New York), the island is heavily
dependent77 per centon America for arrivals and
is one of the major financial centres, the third largest reinsurance
business after Britain and the United States allied with a
significant off-shore financial centre.
In power for a second term since 1998, the Progressive Labour
Party (PLP) with its base support amongst the black population
is mobilising, informing and educating the 65,000 Bermudian
population to vote yes in a referendum for independence
Premier Alexander Scott, half way through his first five-year
term expects the referendum will come either as an attachment
to the 2008 general election or separately after the election,
depending on if his party wins third straight term.
It is an attempt by the PLP to define an identity for Bermuda
out of the maze of historical accidents.
It wont be the first referendum. One called in 1995
by the United Bermuda Party (UBP), the political vehicle of
white Bermuda, was soundly defeated, 73 per cent said no
with only 25 per cent wanting to get out of the 400-year old
dependent relationship with Britain.
Curiously, but in this respect very typical of the political
culture of the Caribbean, ie, oppose when in opposition and
advocate when in power, the PLP, then in opposition, called
for a boycott of the last referendum while the UBP, perhaps
now chastened by its last experience, is firmly against any
move to independence.
that people have a right to choose and the right to go to
work and live anywhere in the European Community (Bermudians
were given British citizenship in 2002) they have the power
of choice instead of being tied down in a 21-square mile territory,
says opposition leader Wayne Furbert. And he says his party
has done a poll in which 65 per cent of the respondents said
no to independence.
Furbert says the advanced constitution leaves the essential
power with Bermudians, the British having responsibility for
external affairs and defence.
However, its exactly because of Bermudas present
inability to interact and trade on its own as part of the
international community of nations that Premier Scott believes
the island has to make a break with Britain.
Britain looking after our interests is not taking care of
us, says the premier pointing to the direct competitive
interests Britain has with Bermuda in the reinsurance business,
the claiming of the islands right to a satellite space
in orbit and the airline business in which his government
wanted to introduce competition to British Airways but was
denied by London.
any country is ready for independence, it is Bermuda,
Premier Scott told this journalist with an obvious reference
to the islands flourishing economy.
With a per capita income estimated at over US$60,000, the
Bermudian resident ranks as one of the richest in the world.
Seventy five per cent of the income comes from the financial
and tourism industries; government is running a surplus on
its current operations amounting to BD $600 million (the Bermudian
dollar exchanges at one to one with the US dollar).
Unemployment is said to be two per cent, effectively no one
wanting a job is without one with significant numbers of workers
in the financial, tourism and government administration imported
from the UK, the US, Canada and the Caribbean, the police
commission is Vincentian.
However, the island is not without major problems.
The cost of living is extremely high; the cost of homes range
between BD$500.000 to BD$1.8 million and the government is
now on a massive drive to house the approximately 48 per cent
of the population which does not own a home.
Because of its wealth, Bermuda is not a transit point for
drugs going north but rather a destination and large numbers
of young people are said to be caught in drug addiction, from
which crime is flowing, according to the premier.
In a television statement recently, the premier expressed
concern about the young black male; the majority achieving
but a significant group in fall-out mode, victims of the system;
lack the ability and or have not been given the right incentives.
study is suggesting its a mixed bag, says Premier
Social problems include a measure of conflict between white
and black Bermuda.
Opposition leader Furbert, a brown-skinned man of mixed heritage,
leading the UBP that represents the white population, admits
to a problem between white and black but argues that the ruling
PLP is not helping the process: Bermudians do not want
to be divided by race: there are poor whites and there are
many blacks in the PLP who are doing well, says Furbert
seeking to dampen the reality of racial competition and conflict.
Will independence, if it comes, bring Bermuda closer to the
southern and northern Caribbean?
The island now has observer status within Caricom. Obviously
hedging on the issue, Premier Scott anticipates continuing
links with the regional integration movement but is hesitant
to say whether there is the possibility of full membership
in Caricom; when that time comes is his best venture.
Furbert is certain there will be no deepening of the relations,
fearing an influx of Caricom people in an environment of free
I am told by Caribbean people living here that while their
contributions are appreciated, they have not been fully accepted.
One Trinidadian, Bermuda shorts and all, who has been living
and working here for 20 years and the major anchor of the
television evening news, a man who insists on wearing T&Ts
national colours literally and figuratively, say they remain
The possibilities for increased trade with Caricom are enormous.
Bermuda, without a productive base, has an import bill of
US$1 billion and Caribbean people with their well-known appetite
for travel can experience a non-Caribbean vacation environment
somewhere in the Caribbean.