Hundreds expected at Friday’s march on Parliament

Organisers expect hundreds of people to turn up at a march on Parliament this Friday to protest the elimination of term limits and demand more consultation on the work permit policy review.

The group behind the effort, “concerned Bermudians”, is also calling on Premier Craig Cannonier to remove Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy from Cabinet if he doesn’t apologise for his “condescending attitude” toward Bermudians.

But Government is showing no signs of backing down, with the Premier saying that the decision to abolish term limits will benefit Bermudians and was taken “after much deliberation and consultation”.

“We are encouraging all Bermudians, who are concerned about the future of our children and grandchildren, to meet on Friday, March 1, 2013 at noon on the grounds of the House of Assembly,” reads a message being circulated on the internet.

“We need to let our voices be heard on issues affecting Bermudians currently in the workplace, and those Bermudians who are preparing to enter the job market.

“We are requesting the following of Premier Craig Cannonier:

“1) The Term Limits Policy, as outlined by the former minister Patrice Minors, in the document dated October 2012, be reinstated immediately.

“2) An extension of three months until June 30, 2013 for the review of the Work Permit Policy dated February 13, 2013.

“3) A public apology from the Minister of Home Affairs, Senator Michael Fahy for his deception and condescending attitude towards the Bermudian people for statements such as: People who were ‘angry about term limits’ are people who are ‘without jobs — they are looking for someone to place the blame on’.

“Should this apology not be received forthwith, we are requesting that Minister Fahy be removed as Minister of Home Affairs.

“4) We are also requesting that officials in the One Bermuda Alliance members refrain from insulting Bermudians by calling us xenophobic. Bermudians are concerned about the future for our children and grandchildren.

“We are requesting that officials and members of the One Bermuda Alliance cease and desist calling Bermudians xenophobic.”

Government’s decision to eliminate work permit term limits has been praised by the business community but aroused considerable anxiety among many Bermudians.

The idea for a march on parliament came about on a radio talk show, but organisers are unwilling to be named for various reasons.

One organiser explained that she accepted a challenge by a radio talk show host to channel her frustration into action when she complained that no one was doing anything to influence the policy.

“People have been calling from the banks, the schools, hospital workers. The calls have been coming from all walks of life,” she told The Royal Gazette.

Government first faced criticism for abandoning its election pledge to suspend the policy pending a review — choosing instead to eliminate it with immediate effect.

“It defended its decision saying that legal advice had been given several years earlier that term limits were not necessary to prevent expectations of non Bermudians that they could gain permanent residency.

Unions criticised Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy for allowing very little time to consult over the policy reversal.

Then Deputy Chairman Michael Branco offended many when he wrote in the party’s official newsletter that the former Progressive Labour Party Government had introduced the policy to “pander to the xenophobic views of those Bermudians who would like Bermuda to be foreigner-free”.

One Bermuda Alliance Chairman Thad Hollis did not respond when asked whether the party regretted Mr Branco’s stance.

Instead, he said that the party had committed to grow 2,000 jobs and that remained its priority.

“The OBA’s Jobs and Economic Turnaround Plan was the main pillar in our approach to reversing mass unemployment and massive public debt, which are the legacy of the PLP Government’s last year’s in office,” he said.

“The Number One priority of the OBA Government is to restore opportunity and hope to Bermudian families through policies that promote economic expansion while eliminating policies and red tape that hamper jobs-producing growth.

“We understand people’s concerns about term limits and job protection, but the fact remains that Bermudian employment declined steadily during the term limit era.”

And he repeated the Government’s argument that work permit policy protects jobs for Bermudians and that Government is implementing measures that “ensure strict compliance with work permit regulations.

“All work permit holders, moreover, will be required to sign a declaration confirming their understanding that Bermuda law does not confer rights of residence and that they have no expectation of such residence.

“The OBA Government is in the business of helping Bermudians not hurting them, as the PLP and their proxies would have people believe.”

Mr Cannonier struck a similar theme and said some remained confused about term limits.

“ It is unfortunate that there still remains some confusion regarding the rationale for the abolition of Term Limits and the subsequent benefits to Bermudians. However, we will continue to communicate those benefits to the public through various media,” Mr Cannonier said.

“This government remains steadfast in making job creation and safeguarding those jobs for Bermudians a top priority.

“The decision to abolish Term Limits was not made lightly, but was made after much deliberation and consultation. As stated, we will be a decisive government, making decisions for the benefit of all Bermudians.”

The Premier also failed to respond when asked whether he agreed with Mr Branco’s stance.

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Published Feb 26, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm)

Hundreds expected at Friday’s march on Parliament

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