Where they came from: Treatment at Guantanamo Bay is notoriously harsh. *MCT photo
Where they came from: Treatment at Guantanamo Bay is notoriously harsh. *MCT photo
While the Muslim community plans to welcome the four prisoners from Guantanamo Bay with open arms, the UBP has said the move "blatantly disrespects the people of Bermuda."

Reaction ran the gamut yesterday as news of the four Chinese Muslim men being given permission to resettle spread across the island.

Walia Ming, a Bermudian Muslim, said the Muslim community would do their best to "accommodate them and assist in whatever way they can."

She said: "They will definitely be welcome, we welcome all people. As Muslims we have an obligation to the guest and to the wayfarer and to persons in distress.

"I have no idea what they are going to do about accommodation or jobs, however, where there is a way, there is a will, and we will work on it."

Ms Ming said the public's initial outrage was "to be expected" because most people were not kind to foreigners.

She said: "Bermudians are selfish for the most part - we want to enjoy all the amenities the world has to offer; free trade and travel to the U.S.  We have right of abode in the U.K. and EU countries and we cannot even, on a humanitarian outlook, reach out.  

"Well, it's time for Bermuda to start giving instead of continuously taking and wanting to have their cake and eat it too."

She added: "I believe these men are innocent.  I know for a fact that many Muslim men around the world were sent to Guantanamo Bay simply because they were Muslim."

'Humanitarian'

The Human Rights Commission also applauded the government's decision saying it appears "the Premier had acted on humanitarian grounds."

Chairperson Venous Memari said: "I think that this humanitarian initiative is a clear recognition that Bermuda is a part of the world community, and we have a role to play.

"It is also a recognition of our respect for human rights and the presumption of innocence that is the cornerstone of fundamental universal human rights in modern democratic societies."

However, Shawn Crockwell, the shadow minister for immigration, said at first he had hoped it was some kind of joke, but said: "this is no joke and Bermuda is not amused."

He said: "I can recall no other decision that so blatantly disrespects the people of Bermuda as this one.

"I can recall no other decision that so publicly disrespects and challenges the Bermuda Constitution.

"Certainly, no other decision better captures the type of one-man autocratic rule that this Premier has been allowed by his party to exercise."

Mr. Crockwell said it was "unnecessarily dangerous and unprecedented" to "tie Bermuda so explicitly and inextricably into the world of terrorism" without any consultation.

He said Bermudians should have been consulted as "it is their country, not the Premier's to do as he wants." He said by making this decision the Premier had "reduced them to mere spectators with no say."

Mr. Crockwell said: "The Premier folded the issue of independence into the Guantanamo decision - by effectively challenging the Governor to reverse it after making the announcement - brings a level of cynicism and manipulation into the equation that is simply appalling.

"We should not forget there are security concerns in this matter, for which the British Government have explicit responsibilities as well as expertise."

The UBP want to make it clear that they believe in the importance of maintaining the best possible relationship with the U.S., but not "at the expense of our own best interests."