Ewart Frederick Brown, Jr.
|11th Premier of Bermuda|
30 October 2006 – 28 October 2010
|Governor||Sir John Vereker
Mark Capes (acting)
Sir Richard Gozney
|Preceded by||Alex Scott|
|Succeeded by||Paula Cox|
|Constituency||Warwick South Central
(House of Assembly)
|Political party||Progressive Labour Party|
|Spouse(s)||Wanda Henton Brown|
Ewart Frederick Brown, Jr. (born 1946) was Premier of Bermuda and leader of the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) from 2006 until 2010. He served as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Warwick South Central for 17 years until his retirement from politics in October 2010.
Brown was elected leader of the ruling Progressive Labour Party on 30 October 2006, defeating his predecessor, Alex Scott, at a PLP delegates conference. He is the third leader of the PLP since the party won the 2003 general election. Brown led the party to win a third term in power in the election on 18 December 2007.
Brown is also a physician and medical director of Bermuda Healthcare Services. He is married to Wanda Henton Brown and has four sons, two are from a previous marriage. The sons are: Kevin, Maurice, Ewart III, and Donovan.
Brown was born in Bermuda to Ewart Sr. and Helene Brown of Flatts. His mother, Helene Brown, was a member of parliament for the United Bermuda Party (UBP), as was his aunt, Gloria Juanita McPhee, who became Bermuda's first female cabinet minister. He attended the public Central School (today known as Victor Scott Primary) in Pembroke until the age of 11, after which he attended Berkeley Institute. He eventually was sent by his parents to live with an aunt in Jamaica, where he excelled in sports, particularly cricket and track and field, while attending St Jago High School in Spanish Town, eventually representing that country in the 400-yard sprint.
Brown's sporting achievements led him to university in the United States of America. The University of Illinois offered him a scholarship, but Brown chose instead to attend Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C.. In 1966, he represented Bermuda at the Commonwealth Games, reaching the second round of the 400-yard dash. As a student leader, he was a vocal figure during the Washington riots, speaking alongside campus activists and Black Panther leaders such as Stokely Carmichael. Brown graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry, lettering in football and track and field.
Inspired by his uncle, G.B. McPhee, a practising physician, Brown decided to continue his education and become a doctor. He earned an M.D. from Howard's College of Medicine, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a Master of Public Health from the University of California. His key areas of study included family medicine, population control and international health. Brown remained in Los Angeles, acquiring US citizenship and opening a medical practice, the Vermont Century Medical Clinic, in 1974.
Brown received the Physicians Recognition Award from the American Medical Association in 1977, the Grassroots Health Award from the Sons of Watts California in 1979, the Community Leadership Award from the Dubois Academic Institute in 1982, and the NAACP's Pacesetter Award in 1984.
Brown became a director for the Marcus Garvey School, a K-8 school in Los Angeles, which named him Humanitarian of the Year in 1991. He also spent time as an assistant professor in the Department of Family Practice at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.
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At the urging of then-PLP leader L. F. Wade, Brown returned to Bermuda and became involved in local politics in 1993. That year, he ran as a PLP candidate for one of the two Warwick West constituency's seats in the House of Assembly, facing the two incumbent UBP members of parliament: Quinton L. Edness and John H. Sharpe. Brown finished only two votes behind Edness, winning Sharpe's seat.
In the following general election in 1998, Brown again won one of the Warwick West seats, and was joined by another PLP candidate during the PLP's unprecedented victory over the UBP. With the PLP in control of parliament, Brown was appointed to Cabinet as the Minister of Transport.
Minister of Transport
As Minister of Transport, Brown oversaw the public bus system, taxis, marine ports and ferries, vehicle licensing, and aviation. He introduced a number of reforms, including the completion of the oppositions plan for the replacement of the island's obsolescent ferries with faster, 205-seat catamarans, the Serenity and the Resolute, in 2002.. In May of that year, he clashed with the taxi industry over his proposed legislation to require a GPS-based central despatching system, which was eventually passed into law four years later.
Air arrivals at Bermuda International Airport increased by 15 percent between 2003–2007, largely due to the introduction of low cost airline service in 2004, reversing a twenty-year decline from the 1980s. While James G. Howes was the General Manager, the Bermuda International Airport was recognized as the best in the North American region for overall passenger satisfaction for both 2002 and 2003, as well as ninth in the world in 2002, for which the Brown threw a party for every airport employee and their families. In October 2008, however, the Department of Statistics announced that visitor arrivals had plunged from the previous year to their second lowest level since 1980, saying ”Air arrivals during the second quarter of 2008 [April–June] fell 10 percent compared to the same quarter last year... The number of visitors stood at 89,642 persons, representing the second lowest second quarter visitor total since 1980.” Cruise ship calls also declined from 181 in 2007 to 122 in 2008. In mid-2008, Brown put additional tourism promotional emphasis in the New York market (Bermuda's largest), resulting in a 27% increase in New York arrivals for December 2008 compared to December 2007, officials said. Overall, December 2008 arrivals were almost 7% higher than December 2007. The government projects 300,000 cruise visitors in 2009.
In 2004, Brown clashed with the US Consulate over what was alleged to be a "gross violation" of security at the Bermuda International Airport, when he was said to have avoided security screening procedures. Brown denied the claim, and criticized the Consulate for making the issue public.
Following the PLP's second general election victory by a narrow margin in July 2003, Brown mounted an internal power struggle in the PLP to replace then-Premier Jennifer M. Smith. Responding to criticisms that the leadership challenge was launched after the voters had already gone to the polls, Brown responded, "We had to mislead you." A compromise between the factions of the party led to Smith being replaced by William Alexander Scott and Brown being named Deputy Premier, and later adding the Ministry of Tourism to his portfolio.
Minister of Tourism
As Minister of Tourism, Brown replaced the advertising agency handling Bermuda's tourism promotions and closed some overseas tourism department offices in Atlanta, Boston, and Toronto. He also began a number of new tourism promotions, such as a "Pop 'n' Sizzle" local campaign to encourage greater awareness of tourism, with varying degrees of success. Spurred by the increase in air arrivals, hotel occupancy rates were up by ten percent in 2006, compared to 2005. Plans for new hotels have been announced – the first hotel development in Bermuda since the 1970s.
Brown never made a secret of his aspiration to lead Bermuda, telling a Howard University reporter in 2006, "I always wanted to seek the leadership of my country and I'm still in that process." On 12 October 2006, Brown resigned from cabinet to make a second bid for leadership. At a previously scheduled party delegates conference on the evening of 27 October, he defeated the incumbent, Scott, by 107 to 76, and was sworn in as Premier on 30 October. In a subsequent interview with the Bermuda Sun, he said, "I have worked hard, studied hard, and prepared for the task of leadership to the best of the abilities that God has given me."
When he reshuffled the cabinet, he reclaimed the tourism and transportation portfolios and became, in addition to Premier, the Minister of Tourism and Transport. Since then, the Bermuda Government has made a number of proposals, issuing a Vision Statement: Taking Bermuda to the next level. Current issues include indigent medical care, traffic congestion, environmental concerns over development and waste disposal, race relations, and independence.
On a private member bill concerning sexual orientation, Brown rejected the proposal, saying "I firmly believe in the right of all and any individuals to be free from discrimination in any form. However, I would not support the proposed Human Rights Amendment. I do not believe that there is a need for special protection of persons in Bermuda based on their sexual orientation.".
In April 2007, the government proposed restrictions on vehicle ownership, intended to curb Bermuda's growing road congestion problem. Among the solutions offered are free travel on buses and ferries. "There are too many cars in Bermuda. We must find a way – perhaps unpopular to many and disdained by others – to arrest the increase of cars on our beautiful island", he said.
The PLP remains committed to the goal of independence from Great Britain. The electorate defeated the idea with 73% of those who voted coming out against independence in the last referendum on the question (in 1995). However, only 58% of the electorate voted in the independence referendum, which had to be postponed one day due to disruptions caused by Hurricane Felix. Vote results may have been distorted by the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) call to boycott the referendum.
Polls in 2007 and 2008 indicate that two-thirds of the island's voters remain opposed to severing ties for various reasons, including loss of EU-status (which Bermuda currently has as a British overseas territory). Undaunted, Brown said "I am firmly committed to Bermuda becoming an independent nation." He has also spurned any participation in Whitehall's selection of the Governor of Bermuda, saying, "We want to clarify our position that we are not interested in sending any criteria for any future governors for selection for the reason we don't think it is our responsibility. [The British government] should send whoever they want to send."
Race relations continue to be a vexing issue in Bermuda, occasionally leading to heated exchanges with the press and the opposition UBP in Parliament. Brown rejected one reporter's interrogation as a "plantation question". He later explained, "A plantation question is for me a question which conjures up images of the plantation: of a master-servant relationship, a man-boy relationship. A question that would be asked of a black politician and not a white one. I will continue to indicate to reporters if that is what a question is."
Responding to opposition criticism of his wife's fund-raising activities voiced in the House of Assembly, he bristled, "Mr. Speaker, I have never had plans to cross this aisle, but in recent weeks that Honourable Member has said a few things that would encourage me to do so. I say to that Honourable Member that I would like to stay on this side of the House and not have come to the other side because it wouldn't be in order to vote for the UBP."
Acceptance of Uighur detainees
On 7 October 2008, Ricardo M. Urbina, a United States federal judge, ordered the immediate release of seventeen Chinese Uighurs from Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp (the Uighur detainees in Guantanamo). The United States had previously determined that the Uighurs were never terrorists, and it no longer considered them enemy combatants. Judge Urbina ruled that their detention is illegal because their indefinite detention was without cause. The United States continued to detain the Uighurs, believing their lives would be in danger if they were released to China. There was considerable political pressure from members of Congress not to release the Uighurs in the United States, and the United States had a difficult time finding another country willing to accept them. Eventually, the Republic of Palau announced that it would accept the remaining Uighurs on a temporary basis.
The following day, Brown announced that he had secretly made a deal with the United States to accept four of the Uighurs, who arrived on the island over-night, on humanitarian grounds; he also promised to make them Bermudian nationals (see also: Belonger status). The agreement to accept the Uighurs angered the government of the United Kingdom, which was deliberately not informed about the proposed agreement. The government of the United Kingdom maintains that it has the authority over the acceptance of the Uighurs because agreements between Bermuda and foreign nations are strictly under the United Kingdom's control; the government of Bermuda responded that the acceptance of the Uighurs is an immigration case and, thus, an internal matter.
The decision was also kept secret from Brown's Cabinet (Deputy Premier Paula Cox remarked that she had been "politically neutered"), the Governor and the Bermuda Police Service, which would be responsible for any security concerns. The Opposition UBP tabled a motion of no confidence against Brown the next day, saying that the premier's actions violated the Constitution of Bermuda and bordered on dictatorship; Brown responded by saying that the "firestorm" "would pass" and that his position was not in danger, but that he regretted the response to his actions. The following week, a protest march was organised by a PLP member to oppose Brown's continuing premiership, which was dismissed by Brown.
Brown had initially stated he only intended to serve one term as Premier and announced to a party conference in October 2008 that he intended to step down as party leader and premier in October 2010. He did so and was succeeded by as premier and party leader by Paula Cox.
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- Vision Statement: Taking Bermuda to the next level
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- "Premier reasserts his position as leader", Bermuda Sun, October 24, 2008