Writer not representative’ of Jamaican Association
The Jamaican Association has distanced itself from comments made by a former president who claimed the Premier’s calls to put Bermudians first were an insult to immigrants to the island.
Orville Campbell said David Burt should acknowledge the “great injustice suffered” by Jamaicans who helped to build the country he leads.
But Roxanne Christopher, president of Bermuda’s Jamaican Association, said Mr Campbell’s comments were not representative of the organisation.
She explained that people from all over the West Indies had contributed to the island “in so many ways”, including education, hospitality and medicine.
“We are proud of that legacy,” Ms Christopher said. “There are so many Caribbean nations that are reflected in Bermuda and we pay homage to all of them, and we appreciate if it was not for them, there are many of us that would not be walking strong in the footpaths that we are.”
Mr Campbell expressed his personal views in a letter to The Royal Gazette after he read about the Premier’s request to the Governor to grant a posthumous pardon to the Reverend Charles Vinton Monk, who was jailed early in the 1900s after he exposed the harsh treatment suffered by Jamaican workers at the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Mr Campbell said: “May I suggest that, in the same breath that the Premier is now moving to right the record of the late reverend, that he also consider as a minimum, acknowledging the great injustice suffered by the hard-working men and women of Jamaica, who gave sweat and tears building the nation he now leads.
“Failure to do so is a disservice to the late Reverend Charles Vinton Monk, who stood up for these souls so much so that he was jailed for it.”
Mr Campbell’s letter added: “A good start for the Premier in this process would be him abdicating the insulting rhetoric of building Bermuda for Bermudians, as it is indeed an insult to all immigrants living on the island and working hard to make Bermuda a better place for everyone.”
It is understood Mr Campbell, who left the island last year and now lives in the American state of Georgia, was in part referring to the Progressive Labour Party’s platform promise to “put Bermudians first”.
Ms Christopher said that Mr Burt’s mother, Merlin, was Jamaican and that the association was “very proud of the honourable blood that runs through him” and in his achievement in becoming “the youngest premier in the western hemisphere” last year aged 38 after the PLP swept to power.
She added: “He has a proud Jamaican mother that we all love and adore.”
Mr Campbell said after his letter was published that the article he read highlighted concerns that Mr Monk was wrongfully jailed.
He added: “I thought that was a powerful stance for the pastor to stand up for those workers.
“I agree that it’s something he should not have been jailed for, but I also wanted to point out the important contribution that immigrants have made in the development of Bermuda, particularly Jamaicans.”
Mr Campbell said: “When you start to talk about ‘Bermuda first’ it’s sort of not giving credit to, or sort of not making it inclusive, for all those other persons that have given their labour to this country to make it what it is today.”
He said he believed Mr Burt had “good intent” but that “just in addressing one issue, he seemed to have left out the other”.
Mr Burt declined to comment yesterday.