Marc Bean: Says commercial immigration would be a retrograde step. *File photo
Marc Bean: Says commercial immigration would be a retrograde step. *File photo

Don’t be fooled by the OBA— invariably there are ulterior motives at play. That was a consistent theme when we sat down to talk to Opposition Leader Marc Bean on a range of topics.

He wants islanders to be alive to what he sees as the danger of personal agendas, social inequality and the prospect of Bermuda effectively selling out to foreign investors. 

Here are some outtakes from our discussion with the Opposition Leader. 

Commercial Immigration

Mr Bean sees no real benefit of changing the commercial immigration model used by Bermuda. He says the island is already attracting world-class business leaders. He thinks the recent discussion about commercial immigration reform is a ploy by the OBA to give citizenship to wealthy business leaders in an attempt to skew the voting demographics in its favour.

“It’s a covert move by [Minister of Home Affairs] Michael Fahy to attempt to change the electorate back to something that occurred in the 1960s. That’s exactly what it is. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors.”

But how much of an effect could any change in commercial immigration really have on voting patterns? Mr Bean rejected the idea that any new commercial immigration programme would have to be huge to have an effect at the polls. It wouldn’t take much, he said.
“The OBA won the government by under 100 votes in December, 2012. They are on a mission to reboot the electoral landscape.”

[Also see Walter Roban’s column here

International taxation

Mr Bean worries that Bermuda is losing its competitive edge as a welcome place to do business and store money by appeasing international organizations and large countries like the US who are seeking to track down accounts held in Bermuda.

“The big discussion is tax harmonization or tax competition. I stand on tax competition. These big, indebted nations are the taxmen. They’re seeking tax harmonization – to apply taxation across the board to all citizens of the world.

“These persons who are seeking to come to a place like Bermuda, in some cases they are willing to renounce citizenship in their country, based on the principle of freedom and private property. Today, that is being eroded. In appeasing these international organizations, these big brothers, we are destroying our competitive advantages. Wealth management, asset management are under severe threat.”

Casino gambling

In addition to calling the government’s recent casino fact-finding trip to Singapore a waste of taxpayer money [reported in Wednesday’s Bermuda Sun], Mr Bean, who is in favour of casino gambling, cited the Club Med site as central to the Government’s plan: “Rest assured this whole casino charade is about one property, one casino, one deal to benefit a very specific set of people.”

Cannabis reform

Earlier this month, Minister of National Security Michael Dunkley pilloried Bean’s PLP for a proposal to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. Mr Dunkley called the PLP initiative, which would have decriminalized any amount of cannabis less than 20 grams, reckless.

Mr Bean, however, stands by the proposal.  While the PLP, as the Opposition, can’t push any measure that deals with taxation or funds — meaning legalization in these areas is not an option for them — Mr Bean still says the party can play a role regarding cannabis reform.
“We can bring something to the table, which allows us to take that first step, which removes the criminality of having in their possession a plant that they choose to consume. Now, in consuming that plant, some would say that’s not wise. But that only makes a person a fool, it doesn’t make them a criminal.”
He framed it as a social justice issue.

In what has become a common PLP talking point in recent weeks, Mr Bean brought up the situation of Thomas Moniz, the son of Health Minister Trevor Moniz. The younger Moniz was facing cannabis charges for possessing a small – 2.1 grams — amount of marijuana, but the charges were dropped earlier this month. 

“The Progressive Labour Party has no issue with young Mr Moniz walking free, no matter what the circumstance because, this is a young man who could have a bright future and he should have the opportunity to fulfill his life purpose… Every person, every tourist, every local Bermudian should have that right not to be criminalized for having small amounts of cannabis… everyone’s child should be treated the same.”

He acknowledged that decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis “doesn’t answer all the questions… but it wasn’t intended to answer all the questions, it was intended to get the ball rolling.”

Gang activity

Mr Bean disagrees with Mr Dunkley on more than just marijuana reform.

Mr Dunkley recently hailed the re-introduction of an anti-gang initiative at local schools.
During a press conference earlier this month, Mr Dunkley said: “We know there’s a number of gangs that stretch from one end of the island to the other. I think we made significant impact of taking people away from them, over the last couple years and this programme – we hope – will continue to reduce those numbers.”

Mr Bean has a different assessment.

“I don’t think there’s been a relative lull [in gang activity]... I don’t live in an ivory tower. I never separated myself from the communities – the communities that I come from and am part of, they [still] have those risks and those elements.”