Be ready for PRC protests, says PLP
Protests are looming over potential Bermuda status for Permanent Resident's Certificate (PRC) holders, the Opposition Progressive Labour Party last night vowed.
In the PLP's second of three town hall meetings on the topic, the One Bermuda Alliance Government was castigated for failing to engage the public in a dialogue over the issue.
In the wake of the meeting, Shadow Immigration Minister Walton Brown told The Royal Gazette: “If Government does not suspend Bermuda status applications and undertake, along with us, a comprehensive review of immigration policy, then these meetings will evolve into serious protest activity.
“Hopefully, Government will reason with us — we're having one more meeting next week in St George's. If not, then we will step up our efforts.”
Charging Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy with being “silent on the issue”, Mr Brown drew applause when he threw down a challenge for Senator Fahy to speak out in public.
“I invite him to appear on a platform with me any time, any place — let's have a proper and full debate about this issue,” the Pembroke Central MP said.
Last night's attendance of roughly 80 was smaller than the 250 or so people that packed the first meeting.
But the gathering was vocal on the subject of widespread public uncertainty over the implications of the emergence of a legal loophole that stands to entitle certain PRCs to become full-fledged Bermudians.
The meeting in the Dalton E Tucker Primary School Hall heard repeated calls for marches and action, as Mr Brown spoke along with PLP MPs Michael Scott and Kim Wilson and Senator Marc Daniels.
Opting to appeal the matter further, Government has refrained from any direct action over the PRC question, which rose from a ruling in May by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley on two PRCs endorsed for status by the independent Immigration Appeals Tribunal — based on section 20B (2)(b) of the Immigration and Protection Act.
The two sides have clashed over the numbers involved: Government maintains about 1,500 residents stand to obtain status, while the PLP cites a figure of more than 6,000.
Mr Brown said the OBA's elimination of Term Limits, plus legislation such as the Incentives for Job Maker's Act, gave privileged access to PRCs and status on the part of “a very small group of people — rich white men”.
Ms Wilson said a flood of status newcomers would likely compete with Bermudians for jobs and property in an already overheated economy.
“Some people have this impression that the PLP is just bashing, and that we're not interested in PRCs — nothing could be further from the truth,” she added.
“Everyone here came from somewhere else — unless you're a skink.”
One audience member drew cheers with a recollection the Government's manipulation of the property vote in the 1940s, adding: “What's going on now is nothing new. These people have been practising this type of politics for years.”
Another opined: “It's all about votes for power, and nothing to do with jobs. Here we have a party that can't win a normal election unless it's given to them. Now we have a situation where the OBA is just looking at getting an additional 1,600 votes. That's game, set and match.”
Construction worker Shawn Dill called for an end to talk and “a movement of bodies” to halt the granting of status, adding: “If this goes through, I am out of here, because none of us can get jobs.”
Mr Dill's dialogue with PRC holder Tiago Garcia at last week's town hall meeting was captured in a front page picture in last Friday's The Royal Gazette.
The drywaller said he'd been engaged in a Hamilton job that week, but received a text on the Sunday after the article appeared, telling him: “We don't need you tomorrow.”
One audience member called for advice on how to secure a vote of no confidence in the OBA, prompting moderator Dennis Lister to respond: “Government has the numbers to pass or defeat whatever it wants.”
A vote of no confidence could be secured only if Government MPs opted to side with the Opposition, he said.
“Short of that, the real vote of no confidence has to come from you,” Mr Lister told the crowd.