BIU threatens America’s Cup
An intense day of protests over the Reverend Nicholas Tweed’s work permit culminated with Chris Furbert threatening to derail the America’s Cup.
The Bermuda Industrial Union president levelled an ultimatum yesterday at Michael Dunkley, the Premier, warning that he would jeopardise the showpiece event if the permit is not renewed, and that the island would face further labour withdrawals.
The pair had met yesterday afternoon, after several hundred people had joined a People’s Campaign march through Hamilton in support of Mr Tweed, the London-born pastor at St Paul AME Church.
Speaking to the crowd at St Paul AME Centennial Hall at the end of the rally, Mr Furbert added that the airport redevelopment deal had formed part of his attempted bargain with Mr Dunkley.
“The America’s Cup is in great threat of being derailed in June and July,” he said.
“The America’s Cup will be in jeopardy,” he said. “The membership is not going back to work until those two matters are resolved.”
The Premier rounded on Mr Furbert last night and vowed that the Bermuda Government would not be bullied. “We will not be bullied or threatened or intimidated,” Mr Dunkley said. “If there are those who wish to impede our progress, they impede the progress of all Bermudians and we all suffer.”
Crowds had been energised at a People’s Campaign meeting at noon, with Mr Tweed and Bermuda Public Services Union president Jason Hayward delivering rousing speeches and prompting members to march to the temporary home of Cabinet on Reid Street.
Along with Mr Furbert, they repeated their allegation that home affairs minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin had political motivation for upholding the decision to refuse a work permit for Mr Tweed, a prominent member of the People’s Campaign.
A defiant Mr Tweed told the audience: “God sent me here for such a time as this, that I might speak with power and authority.”
Mr Hayward said of Mr Tweed: “Some members of this country, while we love him, they hate him. While we trust him, they despise him. And while we follow him, they fear him. And that’s the reason why they want him gone.”
Mr Furbert had opened the meeting by accusing Ms Gordon-Pamplin of perpetrating a fraud, telling the crowd: “Today, this is about truth and honesty.”
Announcing the work permit decision last Thursday, Ms Gordon-Pamplin said the pastor’s application was turned down because it was incomplete and contained inaccuracies.
St Paul AME Church broke its silence on that claim yesterday, suggesting that it was a standard renewal “and should have been handled as such”; Mr Dunkley maintained the employer had not met the advertising requirements, and had failed to provide accurate and complete information.
Also yesterday, Mr Tweed attacked “cyber-rats” who have cast doubt over his paternal links to Bermudian pastor and activist Kingsley Tweed.
Describing Dr Tweed as his father who had raised him for 50 of his 52 years, he said: “I can’t remember who my birth father was.”
Buses were out of service throughout the day — although it appeared not all drivers supported the action [see separate story] — and could be out of action again today, with Mr Hayward saying protests would continue.
The day began fairly quietly, with a meeting at BIU headquarters attracting about 80 people. Many members were said to have stayed away on the grounds that Mr Tweed’s work permit is not a union matter, that he contributed to his own downfall by refusing to co-operate with the Department of Immigration over his application, and over the notion that politics should not be mixed with church.
Mr Hayward noted his own members’ lack of presence, telling the audience: “I can’t drag the BPSU out. Unfortunately, my members do not operate in the same vein.”
But the People’s Campaign meeting at noon was filled to capacity, with audience members loudly cheering remarks before embarking on their march.
At one stage, Mr Tweed left the proceedings to collect the presiding prelate of the First Episcopal District of the AME Church, the Right Reverend Gregory Ingram, from the airport.
Bishop Ingram later spoke at the Centennial Hall, calling for “calm heads to prevail” as they search for a resolution.
• Additional reporting by Simon Jones and Tim Smith, News Editor