The Bermuda Government's decision to take in Four Chinese nationals of Uighur ethnicity was a bold humanitarian gesture that I hope all residents will come to embrace. These men, who sat languishing in the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility for eight years, have committed no crime and were meant to be released under the Bush administration.

While we have a series of challenges here, with our own citizens in need of housing support and work opportunities, for example, we never step away from our moral obligation to provide support to those in need around the world. We have done so with tsunami victims, hurricane victims and with people ravaged by war.

We undertake such actions in spite of the challenges that exist here because the only logical alternative is an untenable one: that we help no one else until we fix all of our local problems first.

Premier Brown has taken a lot of heat - at times boiling to an irrational rage - over two aspects relating to the arrival of the Uighur refugees in Bermuda: the secrecy he maintained and the concern he acted outside of his constitutional remit.

The request for the negotiations to remain a secret came from President Obama's administration - and a leader who has almost universal goodwill in Bermuda, who is trusted and respected. The following was reported on the BBC website: "A senior U.S. official has told the BBC it was a deliberate decision not to consult London on the resettlement, after other countries came under pressure from China not to accept the Uighurs. In a highly unusual move, a senior U.S. official said Washington opted to keep details of the deal from London until the last minute to enable Britain to deny all knowledge of the deal and thus avoid China's anger, says the BBC's Washington correspondent Kim Ghattas." People are free to disagree with the decision by the U.S. but there is no doubt the request came from them.

There are leaks from Cabinet - the sports awards controversy is a recent example - and any leak would have undermined the negotiations. This is an unfortunate reality but not uncommon, for as a former Minister in a UBP Cabinet told me earlier this week, Cabinet leaks were something his government had to confront on a regular basis. And of course, any disclosure of Cabinet deliberations is a violation of the Bermuda Constitution.

Knowing this, I sincerely doubt any leader of Bermuda would have denied the U.S. request. There are times when confidential negotiations are required -this was one of those times.

This was not any request from any country: it was a request from the United States.

Bonding with the U.S.

Some may scoff at this and assert the primacy of our relationship with the U.K. Again, consider the following: (1) Bermuda residents benefit from the more than $800million American companies contribute to the island, making American our largest trading partner by far. As Cheryl Packwood, CEO of the Bermuda International Business Association commented in a press statement on June 4: "For years, Bermuda has known that we are dependent in large part on the U.S. for our continued economic growth and success." 2. Bermuda passports holders (not full British Citizen passport holders) have the privilege of visa free access to the U.S., a status only shared by one other country, Canada. We take this for granted because we have had it for decades and perhaps we don't fully appreciate the convenience. 3. There is pending U.S. legislation in Congress, which if passed would seriously reduce that $800 million foreign exchange earnings you and I benefit from.

These factors alone make the decision an easy one as we continue to foster good relations with the country we are closest to in so many ways. There was certainly no need for any quid pro quo and I accept Premier Brown's statement in this respect; I also hold President Obama's leadership in high esteem and believe that his administration has been forthright on this aspect. Having accepted this, there can be no doubt that an additional level of goodwill has been gained by Bermuda assisting the U.S in its closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. I expect this goodwill will benefit us when we meet American officials to discuss any number of issues, ranging from legislation targeting reinsurance companies, Bermudians on the U.S. Stop List and the Base Lands cleanup.

The U.K. Government and Governor Gozny have expressed concern they were not involved in this decision, indeed, they have asserted it should have been their decision in the first place, given the foreign policy and security implications. Government's response is that they view the matter as an immigration issue, for which responsibility rests with them. It is not blatantly apparent the U.K. position is the correct one - nor Government's for that matter. But both have acted as if their position is correct. Does the U.K. get the benefit of the doubt simply because they are our constitutional master? The British, however, predicted such disputes over constitutional responsibilities two years ago when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in the document 'Overseas Territories: Relationship with the U.K.' observed the following: "More generally we are moving into a world which is becoming ever-more interconnected, in which the distinction between domestic and foreign policy will become less and less clear." This is certainly one of those cases which is "less clear."

Once we get beyond the political bruising caused by this action, the U.S and the U.K. will find their relationship unhampered. I encourage the U.K. to have a meaningful dialogue with Bermuda about the meaning of this "ever-more interconnected" world based on the principles it articulated in its 1999 White Paper on future relations with its Overseas Territories, Partnership for Progress.

On the specific issue of the Uighurs arrival in Bermuda, this humanitarian gesture, this inherently ethical decision by our government, trumps any discomfort or fraying of British sensibilities.

Walton Brown is a PLP Senator.