BIU leader Chris Furbert, Rev. Nicholas Tweed of the People's Campaign, and BPSU General Secretary Ed Ball. *Photo by Glenn Tucker
BIU leader Chris Furbert, Rev. Nicholas Tweed of the People's Campaign, and BPSU General Secretary Ed Ball. *Photo by Glenn Tucker

 

The People’s Campaign and the Bermuda Trade Union Congress are planning to march today in protest of the government’s handling of a significant immigration issue that could grant Bermudian status for more than 1,400 longtime residents.

The announcement of the march comes after the One Bermuda Alliance-led (OBA) government said it would no longer be pursuing a legal appeal that challenged a court decision that would give a path to status for Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) holders. PRC holders are island residents who have lived in Bermuda since at least July 31, 1989. They do not need a work permit to be employed on the island. They do not, however, have the right to vote. A May judicial decision could change that. The government had appealed the decision but is no longer doing so.

The People’s Campaign, during a press conference inside the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) headquarters yesterday, claimed that the judgment that paved the way to status for PRC holders was at odds with the original intent of the piece of legislation in question.  The campaign is an advocacy group that has pushed for a myriad of policy changes in Bermuda and is backed by at least two of the island’s largest unions.

The campaign, as well as the trade union congress, are calling for the immediate suspension of the granting of status “based upon this legislative loophole”. Those two entities also want the government to work on a revised immigration policy that “would provide a reasonable and fair path to status for PRC holders”. They hope the march puts pressure on the government to achieve those aims.

Some OBA officials have argued that their government has inherited immigration loopholes from a previous administration led by the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) and are coping with the existing rules the best they can. 

That argument did not fly with Rev. Nicholas Tweed, who has spearheaded the People’s Campaign.

“The honourable thing to do, instead of engaging in the politics of avoidance, or the politics of blame — the PLP did it so why should we change it — would have been to close the ‘loophole’ legislatively, and then engage in a more reasoned and well thought out policy that would provide PRC holders who seek status with a path and an opportunity to attain it,” he said at the press conference yesterday.

Not xenophobic

Rev Tweed said the campaign’s position was not xenophobic and also rejected “fear and scaremongering of some people who have attempted to generate hysteria around PRC holders stealing jobs and opportunities from Bermudians. We likewise reject in the strongest terms”.

Rev Tweed deflected a question about who would benefit politically if the 1,400 plus PRC holders were granted the right to vote. 

Asked what the harm would be in granting status to the PRC holders, he said “It’s not a question of harm, it’s a question of honesty and integrity.

“People want to make this about the human faces of PRC holders,” he said. “That’s not the issue. We support having a path to status.”

He suggested the OBA should have known that legally “the case was very thin and it would have little to no chance of success.

“It was never a legal issue, it was legislative,” he said. “It was dishonest to pursue a legal remedy to a problem that you knew going in was legislative.”

The OBA have seized upon a telephone poll that surveyed 404 registered Bermudian voters earlier this month as proof that the majority of Bermudians actually favour granting PRC holders status. The poll found 57 per cent supported granting Bermudian status to PRC holders.

However, Chris Furbert, the BIU president, speaking at the press conference yesterday, questioned whether that poll necessarily reflected the will of the Bermudian people. He noted that in recent rallies, thousands organized in support of the agenda of the People’s Campaign.

 The campaign and the trade union congress asked all union members and People’s Campaign supporters to join them at the march. The march organizers have said those interested should organize at noontime today at Victoria Park. The march will then proceed to the Cabinet Office building. 


Statement by PLP Chairman Maynard Dill

The Progressive Labour Party is encouraging all Bermudians to join the gathering and march on Friday July 25,2014  organized by the Bermuda Trade Union Congress and the People's Campaign in relation to the unilateral decision by Senator Michael Fahy to grant status to thousands of Non Bermudians. The gathering will start at Victoria Park at 12 noon.

The People of Bermuda have a democratic right to peacefully gather and protest against actions that work against Bermudians.

We encourage Bermudians to exercise all peaceful and democratic methods to ensure your voice and will is recognized by Minister Fahy and the OBA.