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‘Bermuda is fed up with this power play’

Michael Dunkley

Michael Dunkley has questioned the motives of those protesting against the refusal of a work permit application, highlighting that the unions agreed to existing immigration policy after broad consultation. “What has changed?” the Premier asked, with regard to an agreement reached through the Labour Advisory Council in 2014.

Mr Dunkley said the agreement, which Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert signed off on, mandates that all job positions must be advertised to allow Bermudians first opportunity.

The Premier was speaking to The Royal Gazette in the wake of protests against the Bermuda Government’s refusal to renew the work permit of the Reverend Nicholas Tweed.

“This is the immigration law of the land,” he said. “There was broad consultation with the Labour Advisory Council, which Chris Furbert was a member of, and all the alphabet groups — they approved this policy of advertising every work permit. But here we are, two years later, the shoe is on the other foot. What has changed?

“To cause a disruption like this over a work permit application is unprecedented and makes one wonder where people have their values. It is not about the work permit, it is about an agenda — a power play — and Bermuda is fed up with that.

“There will be time for an election and there will be time for politics, but now we are putting Bermuda on the road to progress and, in face of threats and innuendo, we will stay calm and composed and move Bermuda forward.”

He also called on the Progressive Labour Party to “respect and support as we try to move forward on this issue”, but questioned its public silence this week — until Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs released a statement yesterday afternoon — during meetings organised by activist group the People’s Campaign in conjunction with the BIU over the St Paul AME pastor’s work permit refusal.

The Premier added: “Silence can get people to think about what it means, and when you see the Opposition sitting in the front row at the People’s Campaign meeting — probably seven-strong — and when the Opposition leader [David Burt], who is never lost for words, is there and lost for words, it makes you wonder whether they are questioning their position on this.”

Mr Dunkley alluded to what he perceived as a waning of community support for the union over the Tweed issue. “There is a small minority of people who are using their influence and power in the most inappropriate way,” the Premier said.

“Based on the community reaction with this work permit issue, the majority of Bermudians are standing up and saying ‘enough is enough’.

“Bermudians have shown that they are tired of this. They are tired of people using the bit of leverage they have to inconvenience people who just want to get on with their lives. We have heard loud and clear, and we will do whatever we can to ameliorate that situation.”