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Union debates Tweed action

Reverend Nicholas Tweed

The Bermuda Government’s decision to refuse the Reverend Nicholas Tweed’s work permit renewal will come under intense scrutiny again today as the Bermuda Industrial Union and the People’s Campaign stage meetings to determine what action to take and show solidarity for the St Paul AME Church pastor.

The gatherings come after claims by BIU president Chris Furbert and Alex Scott, the former Premier, that the Bishop of the AME Church, the Right Reverend Gregory Ingram, is on his way to Bermuda as the storm around the decision by Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, continues to build.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin had said the pastor’s application had been turned down because it was incomplete and contained inaccuracies, however she was not prepared to make further details public without permission from the AME Church or Mr Tweed. The Royal Gazette understands Mr Tweed’s campaign has gathered momentum and that he has the backing of many union members, particularly because they perceive Ms Gordon-Pamplin to have a conflict of interest against him.

However, several sources said support is far from unanimous, with many members said not to be prepared to attend today’s meeting. It is further understood that some parishioners at St Paul do not support Mr Tweed.

Reasons include the perception that Mr Tweed contributed to his own downfall by failing to co-operate with the requests of the Department of Immigration, a lack of facts on how his application fell short, the issue is outside the remit of the BIU, and the notion that politics should be kept separate from the Church.

One source, who is close to a number of BIU members, said he expected some to stay away because they know they would be unlikely to be paid for any action, as Mr Tweed’s work permit is not a union matter.

A second source close to union members said: “I’m hearing that the AME Church and Mr Tweed were given the opportunity to provide certain paperwork so that he could get the work permit, and they didn’t do it. If that’s the case, I don’t see what reason they have to protest. He should follow the rules like everyone else, church or otherwise.

“Is this really what the union should be about? You are going to take people away from work, potentially putting them out of earning money, for one person who sounds like he had the opportunity to make things right with his application, but didn’t.

“Those are the questions people want to ask before they jump up and march. They need to make sure the know the facts.

“Many Bermudians are struggling to find work at the moment. They are asking, are we going to go and march for a guy who had the opportunity to do his paperwork but didn’t do it?”

That source did point to support for Mr Tweed, however, explaining: “It appears that a lot of people are caught up in the emotion of it all, and many of them think Ms Gordon-Pamplin had a conflict of interest because of what she said about Mr Tweed in the House of Assembly.”

The BIU’s General Meeting at 9am, which is expected to disrupt public services, follows last Friday’s Special General Council meeting in which Mr Furbert condemned Ms Gordon-Pamplin’s decision.

Meanwhile, the People’s Campaign has encouraged residents to attend their noon meeting at St Paul AME Centennial Hall if they are “concerned about Bermudians being pepper-sprayed, the airport redevelopment deal, or the Bermuda Government’s rejection of Mr Tweed’s work permit”.

Last night, LaVerne Furbert, a community activist with the People’s Campaign, told The Royal Gazette: “To my knowledge, no demonstration is planned other than a demonstration showing solidarity for Reverend Tweed and by that I mean hopefully the numbers in attendance should tell the story.

“I guess we will have to wait to see what those in attendance want to do to show their dismay with the minister’s decision. It is my understanding that Reverend Tweed will be in attendance.”

Efforts to garner further comment from Ms Furbert were unsuccessful.

The Royal Gazette also tried to contact the AME Church’s presiding elder, Betty Furbert-Woolridge, yesterday but received no response to our messages. On Friday, BIU president Chris Furbert revealed that the Bishop of the AME Church was heading to Bermuda, a claim later backed up by Mr Scott.

The former Premier under the Progressive Labour Party from 2003 to 2006, has said rising tensions mirror those identified by the Pitt Report, which he helped compile after the disturbances which rocked the island 40 years ago.

He called for Mr Dunkley to open talks with the Bishop of the AME Church and for Ms Gordon-Pamplin to use her discretionary powers to revisit the matter.

Yesterday, Cole Simons, the Acting Minister of Home Affairs, reiterated the Government’s stance that foreign nationals needed to provide “complete and accurate information on their work permit applications”, and that there should be one set of rules for everyone.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Police Service confirmed that today’s meetings would be monitored closely.

“We will monitor them closely, and we will continue to respond appropriately to any activity that might arise as a result.”