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Famous and infamous all at once: the epitome of drivel

Michael Fahy

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”— Abraham Lincoln

It is rarely worthwhile engaging directly with opinion writers who choose to write grossly misleading, hysterical, yet deplorably inaccurate pieces in response to my various opinions. However, in today’s climate, curtailing phoney facts for the benefit of public knowledge is essential, enlightening and serves to elevate a person’s understanding of the truth and reality — if at first they do not succeed, or like it.

One such example is a piece written two weeks ago by one infamous writer, in which he conveniently missed the mark when responding to my opinion about immigration reform for Bermuda. His piece suggested, erroneously, that I was asking Bermuda to turn into the Cayman Islands. I am sincerely invested in and care deeply for my home country and its people to not refute, respectfully, his disparaging opinion piece.

So let me set the record straight.

The point of my opinion was to show how an economy booms when you warmly welcome guest workers and give them opportunities, which, as is demonstrated all over the world, translates into opportunities for the local population. It is as simple as that.

Instead of trampling over my opinion, perhaps actually reading it in its entirety without blinkers and without cosying up to convenient selection, he might have been able to understand the point being made — and that is more people on island translates to tangible and direct benefits for Bermudians. However, such reality would not fit his and his handlers’ political mantra that foreigners are unwelcome and that they steal jobs from Bermudians.

In his piece, the infamous writer went on to suggest that liberalisation of immigration policies means little or no controls and protection for Bermudians. What utter drivel! In typical fashion, the writer famously disregarded the facts.

Convenient amnesia kicked in when he failed to mention that when the One Bermuda Alliance amended the work permit policy in 2015 after more than a year of consultation — with, among others, the Bermuda Trade Union Congress — the following concepts were introduced:

1, Civil penalties of employers who breached immigration rules. This allowed for the chief immigration officer to levy fines of up to $10,000 as well as restrict the issuing of permits to offending firms

2, The Bermuda Jobs Board, which required employers to advertise for eight consecutive days on that site — in addition to advertising at least three times in the newspapers over eight days — before an employer could apply for a work permit. The Bermuda Jobs Board was also on television as a result of the generosity of Cablevision

3, The requirement that companies advise their entire employee base when an application was being made to make a guest worker a job maker in addition to allowing for anonymous complaint letters by aggrieved Bermudians to be considered by the Department of Immigration in respect of such applications

4, The introduction of “Wanted” posters in respect of persons of interest to the Department of Immigration

How can I confirm the aforementioned points are true and factual, one may ask? I dutifully carved them into existence during my tenure as Minister of Home Affairs — fact!

The OBA’s approach was a deliberate carrot-and-stick approach. The Progressive Labour Party never did that. In fact, when the PLP came into power in 2017, it changed very little indeed to the 2015 Work-Permit Policy, other than tinker with the policy on musicians. The initiatives introduced by the OBA are regularly used for the benefit and protection of Bermudians.

And no time was it ever, ever said that Bermudians should be sacrificed on any altar of convenience! The PLP’s Trumpian attitude towards foreigners and those that the PLP says are not “real Bermudians” is what is killing our economy.

The fact is when Bermuda’s unemployment was at its lowest in about 2007-08, the PLP issued the highest level of work permits in our history. As it happens, in 2013 the OBA issued the lowest number in about 15 years and never came close to the record highs under the PLP. Shame to let facts get in the way of a good story!

The PLP’s attitude is this: keep out anyone who is not a “real” Bermudian. Sad, since the most successful economies in the world embrace diversity and are welcoming to outsiders. However, immigration should never be to the detriment of the local population. Never, ever.

The Pathways to Status initiative was actually quite simple and was certainly not detrimental to Bermudians. It was designed to regularise the issue of children who were born in Bermuda; give persons who had been in Bermuda at least 15 years the right to apply for permanent residency and those who had been here for 20 years or more the right to apply for status. These applications would be subject to criteria laid out by the Government. The numbers we were talking about were not 7,000, as the PLP would have you believe, but were fewer than 2,000 — if everyone took up the offer that met the minimum criteria and was approved.

Some of the matters being addressed were being dealt with by the courts, so it was high time to address them in legislation and policy. Interestingly, the working group borne out of the withdrawn Pathways to Status Bill came up with proposals eerily similar to Pathways to Status.

The sad part is that the pathways initiative was killed off for political expediency. Pure and simple. The PLP refused to debate it. Some of the OBA MPs cowardly buckled even after agreeing and assuring their support. Open information forums were shut down, Parliament was blocked and the Senate invaded. Democracy requires debate, not mob rule exploiting ignorance and encouraged by lies and deceit.

Article 20 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. Now, with this UN declaration in mind, please reconsider whether this basic human right entitlement was upheld during a dark time in Bermuda’s history. Our global citizens are ashamed, alarmed and wholly embarrassed at the degrading behaviour displayed. Most unwelcoming and uncaring indeed.

The PLP and its writers would rather paint a narrative that those who help Bermudians via encouraging non-Bermudians to the island are evil people who are anti-Bermudian or not “real” Bermudians themselves. Such tactics are doing a disservice to all Bermudians — “real” or otherwise — and taking us backwards.

These writers are in fact so desperate to paint a false narrative that they use partial quotes to make a point. For example, I said: “Until we unlatch and swing open the gates to the outside world and warmly welcome job makers, investors and overseas workers, and give them reasons to remain in Bermuda, we are doomed to a deep, dark depression.” Instead, the PLP writers say I simply said: “Swing open the gates to the outside world.”

Presumably this was done in an attempt to suggest that “opening the gates” should be to the detriment of Bermudians. It is this intellectual dishonesty from the PLP on the issue of immigration that is lowering the debate that needs to be had.

The scare tactics may be successful in many arenas, but in the interest of all Bermudians it is time to be really progressive, not regressive. It is time to heed the words of Abraham Lincoln or we will continue to sink into the abyss.

Michael Fahy is a former Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, and Junior Minister of Finance under the One Bermuda Alliance government