Former Bermuda premier praises formative years in Jamaica at book launch
Four years ago, after Dr Ewart Brown, former premier of Bermuda, officially launched his book, Whom Shall I Fear?, he had his eyes set on returning to Jamaica and hosting a book-signing event.
Jamaica has been dear to his heart, given that his father’s parents are Jamaicans, and he was shipped to live in the land of wood and water while he was a teenager and misbehaving in Bermuda.
“My parents were at their wits’ end and they said, ‘Would you like to go to Jamaica to visit your cousins?’ and then I took a look in my closet and found out that it was empty, so I knew then that I was coming to Jamaica permanently. I went to school in Jamaica. I went to St Jago [High School] and I lived in Jamaica for five years. I was totally immersed in the Jamaican culture, in the way of life, and I loved it, and I realised later how impactful that experience had been,” Brown, who served as the premier of Bermuda between 2006 and 2010, told The Gleaner on Friday, immediately after his local fireside chat and book-signing event held at AC Marriott Hotel in St Andrew.
“I had to come to Jamaica [to host a book-signing]. It was planned before pre-COVID, and then when we had the pandemic everything got changed around, and then we just couldn’t put it [planning and actual book-signing] together until now, but I was going to do one in Jamaica no matter what because I am at heart Jamaican. Jamaica was not just a part of my life, Jamaica changed my life, which is important to me, because I was not headed in the right direction and, as a young person, when I came to Jamaica, I caught myself. The Jamaican environment, which allowed me to mix academics with sports, was right up my alley and I just loved it and I thrived,” he said.
After completing secondary-level education at St Jago, he transitioned to Howard University in the United States (US), where he pursued medical studies. From there, the now 76-year-old went to the state of California and practised for 20 years, before returning to his country of birth, Bermuda.
Brown is an outspoken and controversial character in Bermuda and has, since making good on a promise to step down after one term as premier, faced accusations of financial impropriety before and during his tenure.
Coming out of those accusations and the resulting investigations, he was in 2021 hit with 13 charges, including five related to agreements with America’s Lahey Clinic, through which he allegedly received US$4.01 million in monthly payments between 2001 and 2010.
The other eight charges related to allegations of corruptly obtaining $350,000 in donations to benefit the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) and the Bermuda Health Foundation between 2007 and 2010.
Before all that, Brown was also forced to give up his US citizenship when he won a seat in the House of Assembly in Bermuda in 1993, after he returned to live in his homeland.
He retired from politics after stepping down as premier.
It was these life challenges and more, which inspired him to write his book.
Writing Whom Shall I Fear? was no easy feat for Brown. He started drafting the book in 2014, but had hiccups.
“It [writing the book] took me five years. It came out in [November] 2019, so around 2014 I started to piece together and I couldn’t continue. I kept stopping [and] starting until, eventually, my editorial assistant came up with a scheme where he agreed to call me two or three times a week and he would interview me for an hour and a half and he did that 72 times,” Brown told The Gleaner.
He also explained that, after the allegations of financial impropriety, which gathered steam with the 2011 establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into his conduct, he wanted his side of the story to be ventilated, so he wrote the book.
“I wrote the book because I think my side of the story had not been told in a complete way, and a way that reflected exactly what I thought. My side is that there are so many sides to various stories. But especially the political story is that, I believe, that my detractors have often planted the seed of discouragement, so that young people would not go into politics and not try to make change, and so my message in the book essentially was ‘No, there is a way to fight this’, and there’s a way to work sometimes around the obstacles that they face, and so that was the essential messages,” said Brown, who continues to battle his charges.
He told The Gleaner that some of the seeds of discouragement, in his view, could be seen in the printing of stories he said were half true, or allegations about him from the way he dressed to how he was trying to turn the government into an imperial presidency.
“Just trying to discredit me in general to the population, in order to discredit my message ... which essentially was to fight them and to change that system, if not do away with it,” he said.
It is for these reasons that his book was subtitled Pushing The Politics Of Change.
Penning another book is on his agenda and he promises that it will not be filled with as many chapters as Whom Shall I Fear?
“I would write another one, but it would be on something probably a little lighter,” he said.