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Our pragmatic view of the world

January 22, 2013

Dear Sir,

Recently a call was made to grant Bermudian status to the four Uighur refugees stateless and stranded in Bermuda. The call was made by their lawyer and addressed to Premier Craig Cannonier. Even if the new One Bermuda Alliance government were to agree to such a request; it is highly unlikely that the British Government would ever allow its overseas territory Bermuda to do such a thing. The truth is that the four refugees ae caught in a web of conflicting national interests of both the Americans and the British that has nothing to do with diplomatic protocol or jaded British feelings of not being told about the circumstance of their entry in Bermuda.

US President Barack Obama’s original stance that he intended to close the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba was stymied by the Republican party feeding on the anti-Muslin paranoid and hysteria in America which occurred in the aftermath of attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent American war on terrorism and its military intervention into Afghanistan and Iraq and the determination of the Republicans to make President Obama a one term President. In the case of the British, it is purely based on commercial and trading relations with China which is in conflict with the Uighur and Tibetan minorities; who have seen their territories flooded with Chinese people, mainly of the Han ethnic group from eastern China.

An interesting book called ‘The Revenge of Geography’ by Robert Kaplan which tells us about coming conflicts between different ethnic groups within the same nation; it deals with China’s conflict and repression of these two ethnic groups who are not Han Chinese who are the majority population in mainland China. At the same time under the soil of Xinjiang and Tibet there is billions of tons of oil; natural gas and copper. In the case of Tibet the head waters of at least seven rivers meet. It is in fact the world’s largest store house of fresh water; all of which are major factors why China wants to hold on to those territories and will crush any moves towards self-determination on the part of the Tibetan or Uighur peoples.

Have you really heard the British or the American ever criticise to the Chinese over it’s repression in those areas? Or any outrage over the tragic if not dramatic protest on the part of Tibetans who have burned themselves to death over Chinese rule? The British only want to preserve their economic relations with China and the Americans for geopolitical reasons and the current anti-Islamic feelings in Bermuda will not take up the cause of the Uighurs.

Was then-Premier Dr Ewart Brown right to accede to the American request to take in the four Uighurs? Of course he was, although Bermudians and especially most of their political leadership are loath to think in terms of Bermuda having it’s own national interests which may not coincide with British national interests. Did we not in Bermuda’s history sell gunpowder to the American rebels in their war against the British? Gunpowder that was used to kill British soldiers that attempted to prevent American independence? Why did we do that if it was not in Bermuda’s interests to get the Americans to lift the naval blockade of our country and thereby save ourselves from starvation.

There is one thing that I admire about Bermuda’s history and that is our pragmatism when it comes to international interests. Did we not turn around and make money off the US Civil War allowing the Southern Confederacy to evade the North’s blockade by using ports in particular the port in St George’s which many a ship from the south loaded up their war contraband. I wonder where all that pragmatism has gone? But it did come back when Premier Brown agreed to the Americans request to take in the four Uighurs done in the best Bermudian tradition of acting in it’s own interests.

ALVIN WILLIAMS

Warwick

Former Guantanamo Bay detainees Salahidin Abdulahad, Abdulla Abdulqadir, his son Muhammad, Ablikim Turahun, his son Ali, and Khalil Mamut. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published February 06, 2013 at 8:43 am (Updated February 06, 2013 at 8:43 am)

Our pragmatic view of the world

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