Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban *File photo
Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban *File photo

A bid to get expatriate workers to sign a waiver on rights of residence may not be legally watertight, Opposition leaders warned yesterday.

Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban said: “The OBA trashed term limits without toughening immigration laws and policies to protect job opportunities for qualified, hard-working Bermudians.

“The OBA trashed term limits, replacing it with a dubious waiver document that offers no credible guarantee that Bermudian citizenship will not be demanded and received by the thousands of non-Bermudians on work permits in, or soon to be in, Bermuda.” He added: “We believe that declaration will not stand up in a court of law if tested.” And he said that Government should take steps to ensure that long-term expatriates “do not have a claim in court to permanent residency.”

The new Government announced earlier this year that it was to axe the six-year term limits imposed by Government – a move designed to boost overseas confidence in the island as a business destination.

Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said term limits had not protected Bermudian jobs, but lost them as big business opted for other jurisdictions, cutting opportunities.

He added that advice given to the previous PLP Government that term limits were unnecessary and damaging had been ignored. Mr Fahy added that work permits were the proper mechanism for protecting the rights of Bermudians – and said that expatriate workers would now be required to sign a declaration acknowledging that they understood they would not gain the right to live and work on the island.

Mr Roban was speaking as he and leader Marc Bean launched an assault on the new OBA Government’s record as it prepares to mark 100 days in power tomorrow.

Mr Bean said: “During this period we have been very concerned at how so quickly, things have seemed to have gone astray. Governing Bermuda requires vision, sober reflection and humility. Attempting to govern without any or all of these elements creates mistrust, dissatisfaction and hinders our country from moving forward together.”

Mr Bean said that the OBA had broken eight of its pre-election promises, including a commitment to suspending term limits for two years while a new policy was worked out.

He claimed that pledges to cut spending and reduce debt had been broken, as had promises to slash travel spending and decrease the size of Cabinet and “not to hire consultants”.

Mr Bean added, however, that he was not aware of how much the OBA had spent on consultants or travel – but said PLP Parliamentary questions would be tabled.

Mr Bean said that the PLP had been reorganizing as it came to terms with losing power after 14 years in charge of the country.

He added that the party had supported most of the OBA bills that had come before Parliament – and only opposed the abolition of car licensing exemptions for seniors who drive the largest classes of cars and a proposal, later dropped by the OBA, to allow the children of work permit holders to seek summer employment without requiring a work permit.

He said: “We have rejected the idea that we must oppose for the sake of opposing by supporting the OBA where possible, providing suggestions where possible and standing firm for Bermudians where necessary.

“We believe that the OBA still has an opportunity to move our people forward if they will humble themselves, reflect and adjust their approach towards governing our people.”

Premier Cannonier hit back with a statement yesterday: “I find it amazing that the PLP is still resorting to school yard fighting tactics to provoke nonsensical dialogue, none of which will benefit Bermuda or Bermudians. While they continue to grasp  at straws and propagate untruths, the world is passing Bermuda by.

“For the past 14 years the PLP has consistently misled and misdirected the people of Bermuda. I can assure the Country that the OBA Government is working hard on their behalf; we remain steadfast in our commitment to the well-being and prosperity of Bermuda and Bermudians...”