Elaine Murray. *File photo
Elaine Murray. *File photo

Our island is so beautiful — with its emerald lushness and magnificent, impossibly turquoise ocean — that you could forgive me for thinking everything in Bermuda is absolutely perfect. It’s too bad that we seem to hate each other. 

Right now, no one likes anyone who happens to hold a Permanent Resident Certificate, who are more familiarly called ‘PRCs’ and if you are a member of Tucker’s Point or The Mid Ocean Club or bought a home in Tucker’s Town you are now guilty of perpetrating a land grab and thievery and you should be hated, too.

PRC holders are now in the unenviable position of wondering why they’re the target of such hatred. The radio shows are spewing with finger pointing, accusations of job theft and the real undercurrent that has many worried, the future ability to vote.  PRCs’ legitimate right to live and work in Bermuda has now become part of an OBA conspiracy theory that the party knew all along about the loophole in the legislation and was practically lying in wait to turn them into future OBA voters. Newsflash:  there are actually OBA supporters who are just as concerned about this development as PLP supporters. 

Sure, it was very clever of two PRC holders to hire a crackerjack attorney and have a decision preventing their quest for status overturned. To a certain degree it has opened a door but I’m not sure if the floodgates have opened. Many PRC holders are long past the age or perhaps the desire to hire an attorney (never a cheap exercise), fill out endless forms so that they can “just” vote. They missed their opportunity years ago to buy homes in Bermuda and despite the recent decrease in the licensing fees, it is simply too late for them to be eligible for a mortgage and make a real estate investment.  Many have made investments elsewhere and will probably spend their golden years somewhere else. This will not be good for Bermuda and will begin to play out sooner than you think.

Is it 1,500 people,, as Government claims? Or is it 6,000 as the Opposition has claimed, that might get Bermuda status? Is it somewhere in the middle? I don’t know but I am in full agreement with Shadow Immigration Minister Walton Brown that the stony silence from Government is unacceptable. Speak! 

It is patently unfair to have Permanent Resident Holders bear the brunt of criticism and hate lobbed at them for a condition that they did not create.

Nor should they be maligned for seeking a remedy for gaining Bermuda status if given the chance. It is perfectly understandable that one would want the security of being able to say that they’re Bermudian and yes, perhaps the chance to vote. It’s ironic that at a recent PLP town hall meeting, the art director of the Chewstick Foundation, a foundation that is dedicated to promoting Bermudians’ voices through expression in music, poetry and art, became a target on a radio talk show for stating his desire to become a full-fledged status Bermudian. The vitriol aimed at him and especially his parents was as stunning as the scenery around here.

The Opposition is correct in that the intent of the legislation was not to create more status Bermudians. But the reality is that whether it’s 1,500 or 6,000 PRC holders, these folks have the right to live and work in Bermuda. This will not go away.  This fact is not meant to be disrespectful or insensitive to those who oppose their gaining status but a reminder that any discussion that uses “jobs” in the argument for not granting status is irrelevant. If you don’t think someone should have the right to vote in your country, well that is something very different and that is the argument to make.

But don’t make PRC holders, your neighbours, the scourge of Bermuda. We desperately need more people, more “buy-in”, more foreign capital in Bermuda.  That will be the difference in getting more Bermudians back to work.   

And if you are unwilling to hold the former Government accountable for the loophole in the legislation, then why not do what everyone else in the world does and blame the lawyers? They’re used to it.