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Sabre rattling, drum beating and hint of martyrdom

All quiet: the Reverend Nicholas Tweed has kept his counsel over the refused work permit (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

“If the Government thinks they can play games with this one, then the house of cards will come tumbling down. We will do everything in our power to make sure that this will not happen. Make no mistake about it, this is a very serious matter.”

— BIU president Chris Furbert, Labour Day 2016

One did not need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the unnamed expatriate that Chris Furbert was willing to go to war for was none other than the Reverend Nicholas Tweed. But what is most concerning is that Furbert put the union on a war footing regardless of the undisclosed facts about the work-permit controversy.

Per the September 8 Royal Gazette, Furbert strongly believes that there are “people who wanted the non-Bermudian clergyman off the island”. Further, he claimed that “the One Bermuda Alliance had a vested interest in blocking the permit”.

It is critically important to note that Furbert did not, and has not, put forward a single piece of information that proves his claim of political interference. This is just his belief.

On October 28, Progressive Labour Party officer and Gazette columnist Christopher Famous wrote nostalgically about the seismic protest against Pathways to Status. He also called for protesters to once again stand united in defence of Tweed.

To support this call to action, he claimed that immigration policies give international businesses the ability to waive the requirement to advertise jobs for key positions. While this statement is true, Famous also rhetorically asked: “Are we to believe that a community-minded pastor is less important to the Bermudian society than an international business executive?”

The desired effect of asking this question was to lead readers to believe that only international businesses have the ability to request a waiver to advertise positions.

Interestingly, I can find nothing in either the work-permit policy or application form that stipulates that the ability to request a waiver is restricted to international business companies.

This leads me to believe that:

• I have somehow missed this special grant to international businesses

• Famous did not read the policy/application before writing his column

• This is a deliberate attempt to mislead readers and thus mobilise them to protest

Famous took his call to arms a step farther on Facebook with the following claim:

“And we just had the OBA pass a law to allow gay couples to live and work with no work permit. But someone with a biological Bermudian parent and a biological Bermudian child should get deported.”

What I find incredibly offensive in this statement is that it is implied that gay partners of Bermudians are naturally less deserving of the right to live and work here than an expatriate with a biological Bermudian parent. That is, the statement seeks to pander to homophobic resentments.

In any case, Famous’s claim is completely erroneous. The One Bermuda Alliance did not pass such a law. The Government actually lost a Supreme Court case where gay Bermudians sought and won equal working rights for their foreign partners.

On November 1, Citizens for Uprooting Racism in Bermuda predictably declared its unqualified support for Tweed. What is most interesting about its statement is that at no point did it discuss the known facts or unsubstantiated claims of the controversy.

Bizarrely, Curb declared that Tweed is uniquely qualified for the post without bothering to explain why a Bermudian should not be given the opportunity to apply, as is required in the waiver-request process.

Further, after reflecting upon historical cases of clear racial/political persecution, Curb flatly concluded that Tweed was being persecuted just like other men of the cloth such as the Reverend John Stephenson was in 1799, and how the Reverend Richard Tobbitt was in 1920.

What is incredibly lamentable is that Curb has effectively accused the technical officers and immigration board of being involved in a racist plot without evaluating any supporting facts whatsoever. Curb has judged them, along with the OBA government, as being guilty of racial persecution purely on the basis of what happened in the past.

In all three instances, we have persons who are banging the drum for a future protest that is intended to grind this island to a halt. And, they are treating Tweed as a political martyr, regardless of him repeatedly choosing not to comment on the matter.

Frankly, it is unacceptable that a person who has repeatedly condemned the Government over a perceived lack of transparency is one who has been content to keep the reasons for his permit denial withheld from public scrutiny.

The only transparent thing here is the blatant double standards being applied in Tweed’s benefit.

•To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail bryanttrew@mac.com