Year in Review

August: Changing faces in the OBA

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August brought about a change in the political landscape after Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition, announced his retirement from public life. 

The veteran MP, 71, who had represented Smith’s South for 25 years, insisted that he was not being forced to step down, but was doing so because he wanted to spend more time with his family. 

Mr Simons took over as OBA leader in November 2020, a month after the party had suffered a bruising 30-6 defeat by the ruling Progressive Labour Party in the General Election. 

Announcing his retirement, Mr Simons said: “The decision to retire was not an easy one to make. Last summer, I embarked on a soul-searching journey to assess the impact of my service and the accomplishments achieved. 

“With unwavering conviction, I believe that now is the right time to step back and make room for the next generation of leaders, while cherishing precious moments with my family that I have often sacrificed along the way. 

“I can with hand on heart state that serving the people of Bermuda and representing them as the Leader of the Opposition has been one of the highest honours of my life. 

“I leave with a heart full of enduring gratitude for the trust your people placed in me. The future of our nation is bright and is in capable hands. Undoubtedly, there will be further challenges along the way — that’s life. 

“Those barriers are there for us to dig deep, to climb over or go around and collectively refine our path. We must continue to strive for a fairer and more prosperous Bermuda.” 

Jarion Richardson, the party’s deputy leader, initially stepped up as interim leader, a position that was minted later in the year after he received no challenges for the post. 

After a swearing-in ceremony, Mr Richardson pledged to change the culture of confrontation in Bermuda politics. 

He said: “We have reached a sorry state where people seem to believe that one side holds dominion of the truth so the other must be intentionally malevolent, mislead or irrelevant — and the state of our country shows us how well this approach is working out. 

“We’ve been fed for some 20-plus years a diet of division, dissension and disregard. Told, and retold, that we are victims of fate and that our fortune has been taken from us, that we are victims of other people’s actions. Blame is not a solution. 

“Some people seem to think it’s OK for our politics to be manipulative, dishonest and corrupt. I think that is just wrong. 

“Tomorrow is about hope — not a fairy dream, but a clear vision that the things we do today make our lives and the lives of those we love better.” 

The Opposition was also able to retain Mr Simons’s Smith’s South seat in a subsequent by-election, with OBA veteran Ben Smith winning the poll handsomely against PLP newcomer Mischa Fubler. 

August proved to be a momentous month for another politician — government backbencher Zane DeSilva. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions opted to not proceed with a criminal case against the MP and former government minister, which concerned an alleged connection to the loss of nearly $800,000 of taxpayer money. 

Anthony Blakey, a US music promoter, had borrowed the funds from the Government five years earlier to open a recording studio in Bermuda, and stands accused of not paying back the loan. 

Mr DeSilva, 63, the MP for Southampton East, appeared at the same hearing, where he was charged with entering or becoming concerned in an arrangement that he “knew or suspected facilitated the use or control of criminal property by or on behalf of” Mr Blakey. 

Speaking outside Supreme Court, Mr DeSilva said: “My family and I have been through turmoil the last few years. 

“No one should be deemed guilty; they should be deemed innocent until proven guilty. 

“I wouldn’t want anyone to go through what we went through. There’s nothing worse than being accused of something that you know you absolutely had nothing to do with.” 

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