Brand new Bermuda premier

A new woman premier was sworn into office in Bermuda at the weekend calling for severe spending cuts and pledging fiscal discipline to go with some of her main priorities.

Former finance minister Paula Cox, the daughter of a previous finance minister, will keep her old portfolio and plans to focus on healing healing rifts in the governing party.

Cox replaced Ewart Brown who said he had had enough as head of government and walked away from the job just when rumblings were beginning to rise up about his combative management style, which he defended to the very end.

“I feel pleased but I am also aware that we have a lot of work to do,” Cox said after being sworn in by Gov. Sir Richard Gozney.

“When you have an election for a prolonged period, you turn up a lot of stuff but my job is really to deal with community issues and national issues,” she added.

Cox becomes the third woman premier of the mid-Atlantic member of the Caribbean Community, two hours by air from New York. She will now head up the Afro-dominated Progressive Labor Party (PLP) that took the reins of power from whites for the very first time in 1998 through the leadership of another woman, Dame Jennifer Smith now a senior legislator.

Cox won the premiership after trouncing two other political pretenders to the ‘throne’; beating longtime PLP stalwarts Terry Lister and Dale Butler. Butler was embarrassed by the two votes he won — one obviously his own vote, and Lister picked up only 39 floor votes to Ms. Cox’s 124.

Cox has already warned of a cabinet shake-up and changes to the mixed-raced civil service that comprises whites and expatriates from all over the world. Bermuda has a population of about 65,000, nearly half of them foreigners on work permits.

The new head of government takes control at a time when race relations between blacks and whites are not necessarily improving, in part because some whites seem to object to efforts by government to correct past wrongs committed by their ancestors.

Brown had made no bones about how he saw those reactionaries, saying that he had no plans to apologize for any attempts to make the playing field fairer and to make blacks feel at home on the island off the Carolinas.

Cox said she was forced to dismiss critics who said her election was more of a party coronation because she was riding on the legacy and coat tails of Eugene Cox, her father.

“I have no doubt that that was not done as a knee-jerk reaction. Many of them weren’t even old enough to know my father. They voted for Paula Cox, not withstanding all the drivel that’s been written about me,” she said as celebrations began.

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