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Economist denounced as ‘out of touch’

Progressive Labour Party MP Derrick Burgess has labelled economist Bob Stewart “out of touch” for writing an opinion piece criticising Bermuda politicians who “play on irrational fears about immigrants”.

The article, ‘The Ambivalence of Bermuda Immigration', which appeared in yesterday's Cayman Financial Review, states: “It would be surprising if some of Bermuda's politicians failed to take advantage of the opportunity to earn votes by playing the fear and race cards in the political process.”

Mr Stewart — the director of several Bermudian companies and the former chief executive officer of the Royal/Dutch Shell Group of companies in Bermuda until his retirement in 1998 — goes on: “This was recently seen in March 2015 when a Senate session was interrupted by chanting mobs furious at changes liberalising immigration laws.

“The tragedy is that democratic politics makes it a successful strategy for politicians to play on the gullibility of an ill-informed electorate.

“In 1989 the then Opposition Progressive Labour Party political platform defined one of the major issues facing the country as the ‘restoration of the Bermudian birthright through tightened immigration policies, the need for an immediate moratorium on the granting of status, and a more effective programme of Bermudianisation'.

“When it came to power in 1998, it followed through on its promise to the long-term detriment of the economy.”

Mr Burgess, a former Minister of Immigration and a former president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, hit back by saying that Mr Stewart would do well to talk to average Bermudians for their opinions.

He told The Royal Gazette: “Being former president of the union we represented many workers. Regardless of where they were from, we gave them the representation they deserved.

“Mr Stewart has never experienced the racial and economic injustice particularly black Bermudians have faced. He seems to write about us from a distance. I have never seen him write anything positive about us.

“I welcome and know the value of foreign capital. I know we need foreign folks here. We don't have enough human capital to take care of international business and our businesses. We know that and appreciated them.

“I want all workers, regardless of where they are from, to be treated fairly. We say, ‘Let's all sit down and address the immigration policy'. It needs to be addressed by both political parties so everybody is treated properly.

“He always writes inflammatory articles about Bermuda but he needs to stop that, get among the people and find out how they live and talk.”

Hitting back: Derrick Burgess says businessman Bob Stewart has never experienced the racial and economic injustice particularly black Bermudians have faced (File photograph)

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Published August 20, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 20, 2015 at 2:03 am)

Economist denounced as ‘out of touch’

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