[Ministerial statement from Premier David Burt]
Mr. Speaker, spring will shortly turn to summer and this year of 2020 is unlikely to shake its reputation for turmoil. Our community is cautiously reopening and greater activity is taking place. There is a consistency in our message to the public and that is paying off with high levels of compliance with the phased approach outlined following the days of shelter in place.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, and the public will be aware of the series of Regulations made by the Governor on the advice of the Cabinet which is required to provide a framework around our resumption of free movement and activity. These, aptly named, “Continuing Precautions Regulations” have been amended from time to time to better reflect the balance provided between public health advice and the need to promote economic activity.
In that vein, Mr. Speaker, the Governor has been invited to approve amendments to the Regulations to extend the hours during which commercial boat operators can ply their trade, to 9 p.m. At this time of year, this sector would be booming owing to cruise tourists and other visitors, as well as a steady local trade. With the impact of the pandemic on our tourism, the economics of charter boat operations are incredibly challenging. Pending our move to Phase 3 this change will improve their opportunity to provide a more attractive service to local customers.
Additionally, Mr. Speaker, the Regulations have been amended to permit the Minister of National Security to grant permission for gatherings larger than the mandated 10 persons maximum. Dependent on public health advice, that maximum is likely to be increased to 20 in Phase 3.
Mr. Speaker, this change is principally for two purposes. Firstly, our Union partners operate in an open and democratic manner which requires them to assemble their large memberships to consider and vote on important matters. At this time, when we are working together to realize an efficient and workable means to reduce government expenditure, it is critical that they not run afoul of the law. The Unions’ leadership has confirmed that a suitable venue has been identified in which appropriate physical distancing and hygiene can be observed and they can safely conduct their ordinary business, properly informing their members.
Mr. Speaker, the second reason for this change is more somber. The world watched in horror at the images of a white police officer killing a defenseless black man; with no regard for his humanity as his life was snuffed out by a knee on his neck. Mr. Speaker, the murder of George Floyd may have sparked this movement across countries but let us be clear, this is no out of the ordinary occasion.
The celebrated black author James Baldwin wrote: You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.
Therefore Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Security will be invited to continue discussions with the organisers of this weekend’s planned March with a view to working with them to facilitate a peaceful expression of the universal demand for an end to the systems that unduly and unjustly target and destroy black and brown people.
Mr. Speaker, just as the pandemic appeared to unite us, the events in a Midwestern US city have stirred the unhealed divisions that know no borders. Bermuda cannot turn away from this moment. In a land wherein living memory children were taught that slavery in this country was “benign” we have a responsibility to enable the liberation of the minds of the people through a peaceful demonstration. These Regulations will be amended to allow us to answer a moral call to action that must convict every system that bears the hallmarks of oppression. We can do this safely. We can do this peacefully. One thing is certain, we must do this morally.
Thank You, Mr. Speaker.