Upbeat new year wishes from leaders

As the island prepared to ring in 2021 – and bid farewell to a 2020 that turned into a nightmare – public figures spoke about their hopes for the new year.

Walter Roban, the Acting Premier, said the pandemic of 2020 meant “thousands shattered the digital divide”, with Zoom birthday and Christmas parties, WebEx family reunions and church services, and Bermudian recipes shared through Microsoft teams and Instagram.

He added: “Whether due to working from home or schools switching to remote learning, families spent far more quality time together and we all managed to hold our holidays and honour our traditions and in many ways learnt the value of our Bermudian culture.

Mr Roban said: “2021 can be a very different year for us all.”

But he warned the problems of last year would endure, with social distancing and mask-wearing continuing.

Mr Roban said: “But there is a renewed hope that a new year brings and in that spirit of hope and renewal we can commit as a community to bring a positive outlook and energy to all that we do

“Families will still need help to face economic and employment hardships and, more than ever, we must work together to lift up each other and especially the most vulnerable.”

Mr Roban said he and his colleagues would enter 2021 determined to secure “a brighter future for Bermuda and all those who call this island home”.

He added the Government would build on “the foundation for growth and success that has been laid even in the midst of this pandemic”.

Cole Simons, the Leader of the Opposition, said: “While 2020 was an unprecedented year of turmoil from the devastating impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic, and the knock-on effects culturally, socially and financially, I believe that as a country we learnt many valuable lessons – chiefly that, as a small nation, we must work collaboratively and cooperatively with one another.

“We must continue to support our healthcare workers, teachers and other valuable frontline workers.

“We all must acknowledge, and embrace the contributions which we individually must make to support our families, our communities and Bermuda.

Mr Simons added: “If we keep this mindset, by the grace of God, I believe that we will successfully navigate 2021 together.”

Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, predicted exciting prospects for 2021 with “greater autonomy for Parliament” and better separation of the executive, judicial and legislative branches.

Mr Lister said: “We’ve been hard at work on the legislation. It’s a major step for Bermuda, but in keeping with best practices around the world.”

He added that, as with everyone in Bermuda and worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic had forced a total overhaul on his way of life.

Mr Lister said: “The real challenge moving forward will be all of us understanding that how we conduct our affairs will get us through this.”

The Right Reverend Nicholas Dill, the Anglican Bishop of Bermuda, said he hoped the tough lessons of 2020 would not be forgotten.

He highlighted “community spirit, sacrificial care and protection of the vulnerable, working together, the need to slow life down and focus on the things that are most important, the ability to adjust, adapt, try new things and take risks, the impetus towards greater racial justice, the spirit of generosity in helping the most needy, the awakened hunger for the spirit life and its focus on the presence of God in the midst of our messy lives“.

Bishop Dill said he wanted to see solutions for the homeless, sheltered housing for the vulnerable, progress on mental health treatment and work to repair “unresolved trauma in the community, schools and prisons”.

He added a vaccine would help bring social contact to the isolated and the return of celebration such as “weddings, funerals, church, sporting and other points of social gathering”.

Bishop Dill said he wanted to see “greater mutual respect and collaboration across the community, politically, racially and in every way”.

He added he looked forward to the wedding of his son, postponed in 2020, and taking greater control over his fitness – as well as “my own growth in the knowledge of God and in making him known”.

Charles Gosling, the Mayor of Hamilton, said his main wish for 2021 was the revival of tourism and hospitality.

Mr Gosling said the quickest road to recovery would be “the reintroduction of regular multi-night, contract cruise ships back into Hamilton and St George”.

He said cruising’s size and profitability was too great to “allow a microbe to destroy it” and that smaller cruise ships were in “rebirth” for passengers who wanted a more personal experience.

Mr Gosling added: “At least two major lines have declared that they want to come into Hamilton Harbour and the immediacy of our city.

“The Corporation of Hamilton does not have the remit to enter into contracts with cruise lines or even to permit those ships to tie up to our waterfront. We hope that those who do will see the pragmatic and positive reasons for engaging in this action.”

George Dowling, the Mayor of St George, looked forward to a new boom time for the Olde Towne with the opening of a new hotel and golf course in April.

He added: “The St George’s Marina is also close to being fully progressed.

“I also wish for the peace that passes understanding, so we can come together and all win as a town and as a Bermuda.”

Mr Dowling said: “Lastly, it is my desire that the Cup Match trophy comes back home to St George’s where it belongs.”

Sharon Wilson, an artist, said: “If ever there has been a sobering year, this has been it.”

“There is a lot of pain, stress and loss out there.”

Ms Wilson said that “happy new year sounds obscene, and terribly inappropriate”.

She added: “I feel there is a need to steady oneself to deal with whatever 2021 brings.

“My mother is 88 and well, my daughter is back home from East Asia, and we keep reminding ourselves and each other that it’s good to be together.

“We should make peace with our neighbours, and our families and pray to the God we know for courage.”

Graham Foster, also an artist, said the pandemic’s arrival in March evoked thoughts of the post-apocalyptic movie Mad Max.

Mr Foster said he had imagined “stashing some tins under the stairs, just in case, as many of the things we took for granted were turned upside down by this once-in-a-century event”.

But he added: “The lockdown, while driving some people crazy, did allow for some introspection, giving a renewed appreciation for what really matters in life.

“I look forward to a return of some semblance of normality for 2021, with the virus being beaten back, a new positive direction for the United States, people emerging with a renewed sense of purpose, and an appreciation for all those who were instrumental in helping us get through this crazy chapter in human history – grocery workers, truckers, doctors, nurses, and all those who didn’t have the luxury of working from home.”

Kendaree Burgess, the chief executive of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said she wanted “jobs, jobs, jobs” in 2021 with a “Covid-free existence” to boost tourism and service industries.

Ms Burgess said more people in Bermuda would stimulate demand for goods and services.

She added she hoped for no new taxes and that the Government would focus on collection of outstanding debts, and that there would be “sustainability through increased food production, technology and innovation”.

Sandy De Silva, the executive director of Family Centre, said: “Cheers to a new year and the opportunity for fresh starts, resets and new beginnings.”

Dr De Silva’s prayer was for this year to bring the end of the pandemic worldwide, allowing humanity to heal from the “health, economic, social and emotional traumas” of 2020.

“I pray for social equity, racial justice, reconciliation and respect for all humanity.

“I wish for kindness, patience, and courage between all people.

“I wish for love between friends and family members.”

Nadanja Bailey, a comedian and entertainer, said he hoped for a return to normal life.

But he added: “I’m somewhat grateful for the pandemic, because it forced me to do things I didn’t really do – which was spend time with family.

“A person can live in a house with people and not spend quality time with them.”

Mr Bailey said he had been involved in taxi driving, DJing, comedy shows and work as a host, as well as playing in the pool league.

He added the break of a few months made him realise what he was missing – and, “most importantly, family”.

He said: “So for 2021, I’m looking to do all those things and include some balance in my life.

“I miss going to a bar to celebrate a friend’s birthday or to even just go to have a drink.”

Mr Bailey’s said his wish for 2021 was for “everyone to be happy” and to “ appreciate each other more and not be so materialistic would be another wish”.

He added he asked himself every day: “What do you want?” – and set achievable goals for that day only.

Mr Bailey told the public: “So I encourage you to try it as well – it definitely works.”

Gina Spence, a charity worker and social activist, said: “My prayer is simple – that all would be grateful for what we do have in spite of the many challenges that we experienced during the 2020 pandemic.”

Ms Spence added: “I pray good health, safety and love to all mankind.

“Bermuda is resilient, we have weathered many storms, and this too shall pass.”

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