Born versus status rhetoric is toxic
This is being sent also to the Right Honourable David Lidington and the Governor of Bermuda, John Rankin:
To those who read this newspaper online, David Lidington has been appointed by the British Prime Minister as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster — the portfolio of the Queen’s estates and private holdings.
Additionally, he will now oversee constitutional discussion or review with any Overseas Territory that desires change.
Readers may query why I would write directly to Mr Lidington about Bermuda’s desire to seek constitutional changes before any formal discussions and as a private individual living in London.
First, Mr Lidington, let me be frank and state that I am a born black Bermudian, and let me be equally frank and state that both of my parents, now deceased, were status Bermudians.
Was there any difference in our immigration status under the law? No, there was/is not, but apparently in the eyes of the Deputy Premier of Bermuda, Walter Roban, who represented the island at the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council, there are very real differences between the two categories.
Second, I am humbly requesting that you hold a meeting with Lord Ahmad, who chaired the most recent Joint Ministerial Council meeting in London, to get the facts of what was said by Mr Roban and how he differentiated between “born” and “status” Bermudians?
And further, please carefully note the example he applied when making a differentiation as his grave concerns of the Progressive Labour Party government that the new Chief Justice of Bermuda is not a born but rather a status Bermudian.
Third, to further qualify my opinion here, please have your researcher look at the Bermuda Parliament’s Hansard official record of the remarks made by another government Cabinet minister — the Minister of Public Works [Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch] — regarding the appointment of the new Chief Justice.
Fourth, this is a critically important controversy at a critically important time because the PLP government was elected without a published manifesto (platform) that gave/gives the people of Bermuda any written and published intent of its goals, initiatives, future policies and programmes on behalf of Bermuda.
Here I must reiterate; there was no published political manifesto by the Progressive Labour Party at the last General Election.
Fifth, how did the PLP win a convincing and astounding, landslide General Election victory?
Well, by using the divisive and highly toxic rhetoric of born versus status Bermudians, and in short, largely by using race and immigration as political weapons.
So, when Mr Roban speaks of born v status Bermudian, there is real meaning behind his words. And what deeply troubles me is that with a political majority of 24-12, which has recently increased to 25-11 after a by-election, the PLP will attempt to spin the rhetoric to the British Government that it represents all in Bermuda equally.
Sixth, now let’s be very realistic. This 25-11 majority means the PLP has the ability to pass immigration legislation that could be very regressive for many individuals who seek status in Bermuda, stemming from many different social circumstances and backgrounds.
And let’s be equally realistic. Although the United Kingdom is offering British citizenship with enhancements after Britain leaves the European Union, not all persons living in Bermuda may want to exercise that option. Note, like many children of the Windrush generation who know no other country but Britain as their natural and continuous homeland, to many individuals, Bermuda is either the only homeland they know or has been their adopted homeland for a very long time.
The very unfortunate part of the PLP social agenda is that it espouses an unapologetic “race v Bermuda-born” ideology, but now with a legislative majority to put it into law.
But you have no reason to believe one person, and one very insignificant individual at that, so I would invite as many individuals as possible in Bermuda to e-mail you and the Governor with their unique immigration issue so that you and the Governor will have a real sense of this destabilising social issue that the PLP will attempt to bury in the tall grass of constitutional discussions.
And, finally, why should the British Government look into an issue that is deeply contentious and would be considered an internal matter?
I can only answer that question in this manner: why would the Deputy Premier of Bermuda raise the matter of born versus status Bermudians to the British Government in the first instance? For wasn’t it he who opened and invited the British to the discussions as he came to London with what he argued was a legitimate expectation of finding a fair and equitable solution to this matter?
Well, I think that the British Government in London can deliver on that.
VALIRIE MARCIA AKINSTALL
Roland Skinner (1940-2018)
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