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Tweed caught in permit row

Reverend Nicholas Tweed and BIU President Chris Furbert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Rev Nicholas Tweed, a pastor and prominent community activist, has found himself at the centre of controversy after the Bermuda Government was accused of interfering with his work permit.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, called the allegations from Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, “incorrect and misleading”, adding that she was not at liberty to identify the person in question.

“I don’t have a problem with criticism, but I have a serious problem when you malign my integrity,” she told The Royal Gazette last night. The minister added that she had no personal access to individual files, saying: “If I need to have information, I ask my technical officers. I was asked to consider the extension of a work permit that was about to expire, prior to the receipt of a replacement application. As such, it was my job as minister to examine the file, and I had every right.”

While Mr Furbert declined to name the individual “very dear to us” in his Labour Day address, The Royal Gazette understands it concerns Mr Tweed, who as a top member of the People’s Campaign has often criticised the Government’s conduct.

The clergyman is a leader in the grassroots group along with Mr Furbert and Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Service Union.

Mr Tweed’s permit is said to have expired on July 19, with the pastor not yet notified of its extension.

In a pointed warning, Mr Furbert said on Monday that a minister had taken a file from the chief immigration officer — and told the Government not to “play games”.

According to an immigration spokeswoman, a permit holder is generally permitted to continue working, but with the permission of the minister.

Dismissing Mr Furbert’s suggestions, Ms Gordon-Pamplin yesterday said the Government “looks out for Bermudians”, voicing concern at Mr Furbert’s remarks on “the responsibility for or the status of any work permit application”.

She also told this newspaper that she had no cause to take a file directly off Danette Ming, the chief immigration officer.

The minister said that under section 61 of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act, the minister had “full authority to issue work permits — however that responsibility is usually delegated to the Board, unless the minister’s input is required”.

“Therefore, it is entirely appropriate for me to have access to any file where the minister is needed to resolve a particular issue. I do not keep any files in my possession once my input is given, and any further information that may be required is sought by the technical officers.”

Mr Tweed declined to comment when asked yesterday about the issue. The Department of Immigration does not comment on specific cases, but Ms Gordon-Pamplin called it “interesting” that the union head would “be advocating for a work permit holder in one breath while asking for government to ensure that Bermudians are considered first and foremost for employment in their own country”.

In the past, Mr Furbert has called for a moratorium on work permits in the face of rising unemployment. Ms Gordon-Pamplin said his remarks on Labour Day raised “questions as to his ulterior motive”.

Mr Tweed, whose father Kingsley Tweed was a key civil rights campaigner in Bermuda, said in a 2014 interview that being non-Bermudian should not lessen his public stand on behalf of Bermudians, adding he was “definitely here for now”.

The Royal Gazette removed the comment facility on this story at 12.30pm. On occasion this newspaper may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.