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UK refused US help on gangs: Brown

Bermuda's problem with gang violence may not be so prominent today had Britain allowed the Island to handle it at an early stage, according to former Premier Ewart Brown.

He had sought permission from the UK to engage American law enforcement personnel to help stem the gang problem but was rejected, he said yesterday.

In his first public comments since leaving office in 2010, Dr Brown argued that a belief that the British are superior is a fundamental tenet of the relationship between Britain and its colonies.

Former Governor John Vereker's rejection of his proposals to tackle the looming gang problems was just one of the examples he offered in support of his thesis.

The belief in British superiority is the reason why no one had called for cutting the budget for Government House and why the Premier's residence pales in comparison to the Governor's “stately, manor-like structure”, he said.

Dr Brown, who served as Premier from 2006 until 2010, was speaking at the 50/50 conference in Cayman yesterday.

He had been asked to speak on the topic “Is the UK/OT relationship based on mutual interests? Bermuda and the Uighurs a case study”.

Far from being based on mutual interests, the relationship between the colonies and Britain is structured to ensure that Britain's interests come first, Dr Brown argued.

Governors sometimes check with Whitehall before signing laws passed by legislators and even sit in Cabinet in some territories, he said by way of example.

“Before doing some things in the name of your people and your country, formal permission in writing is required in the form of an Entrustment,” Dr Brown added.

“So your Government's election by popular vote, and the mandate that typically brings in normal democracies, is regulated by an institution professing mutual interests but whose function in the Entrustment is to protect the interests of the UK.

“Mutual interests? Certainly not.”

Dr Brown referred to calls for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into his administration, saying while he thought it was not a good idea, he had “nothing to hide”.

“I have nothing to fear from a Royal Commission of Inquiry; I have nothing to hide,” he said. “In fact, there are supporters who have encouraged me to call for one myself to clear my name and the name of the PLP Government.”

But Dr Brown said that such an exercise would achieve nothing. Instead, “it would risk creating a crisis of confidence in our Island at a time of international economic uncertainty”.

Dr Brown's comments about his administration's efforts to fight gangs came as he defended the manner in which he brought the Uighurs to Bermuda.

He said the controversial decision was his alone and there was no other way to accomplish the transfer of the Uighurs to Bermuda.

“If you think otherwise, cast your mind back to 2007 in Bermuda,” Dr Brown said. “Gang violence in Bermuda was rearing its head.

“Gun play was rare but increasing. Gangs were forming and turf skirmishes were rising. For better or for worse, I spent decades in California where the gang culture is ingrained and the fight against it is well known and respected.

“When I recognised the signs in my own country, I sounded the alarm.

“The record will reflect that my call for overseas assistance went virtually unheeded. I knew then and said so at the time that this gang thing could not be allowed to grow that it had to be stamped out without delay.”

Dr Brown told his audience that, despite making a request through the right channels, the Governor refused to act.

“We made presentations; we urged action; we even engaged in some sabre-rattling to spur the British to act. We wanted to engage the assistance of former American law enforcement personnel because gang activity in Bermuda best mirrored the American model.

“Our entreaties were given cursory attention and rejected. We were provided with the UK version of assistance, which essentially did not work. We now have a more visible gang problem in Bermuda, which might have been prevented had we been granted permission to deal with this phenomenon early.

“So, were our mutual interests served in this case? Could it be that the American option we suggested was rejected because Whitehall couldn't have a former colony fix the problems of an OT?

“Could it be that the mutual interests that are supposed to characterise the relationship mean that priorities are set between Government House and the FCO while the local Government struggles to be heard?”

Dr Brown explained in an e-mail that he had sought to engage Giuliani Security and Safety a firm owned by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani but that the Governor had informed him that Midlands Police would be brought in instead.

The PLP refused to comment last night when asked about the contents of Dr Brown's speech.

Former Premier Ewart Brown

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Published March 23, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated March 23, 2012 at 9:53 am)

UK refused US help on gangs: Brown

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