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Premier: Brown approved immigration legislation

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Premier Michael Dunkley has claimed that Shadow Immigration Minister Walton Brown approved legislation which sparked a march on the Senate.

However Mr Brown has responded that the Premier's comments were “not accurate” and that he would adjust the extent of his meetings with Mr Dunkley in the future.

The dispute stems from a protest on Wednesday over the Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2015, which was debated and eventually approved in the Senate.

In the midst of the demonstration, singing crowd of protesters piled into the Senate chamber, forcing Senate president Carol Ann Bassett to halt debate for two hours.

In an opinion piece (See Page 4), Mr Dunkley said he was “disturbed” that Opposition Members of Parliament led protesters into the chamber and questioned the sincerity of the Opposition's objections, saying that it appeared to be “political gaming.”

He said that at around 3pm on Wednesday — hours before the demonstration was set to begin — he had met with Mr Brown, at the MP's request.

“In that meeting, which included Home Affairs Minister Fahy, Mr Brown said he had no problem with the proposed legislation and that he wanted to avoid an escalation in political rhetoric,” Mr Dunkley said. “Yet hours later, he raised the spectre of civil disobedience if the Opposition did not get its way.

“Bermuda does better when there is trust between the Government and the Opposition.

“Trust depends on consistency and we just haven't seen that from the Opposition. We need to see one face, not two.

“I want to assure the people of Bermuda that their Government will maintain steady progress toward the job-creating recovery everyone wants. The Opposition can help make it happen, but its leaders need to be on the same page and be aware that their actions can help or hurt that recovery.”

Responding to the claims yesterday, Mr Brown said: “The Premier's comments are not accurate and he knows this.

“I refuse to descend into an unproductive ‘he said-he said' parlance but I will certainly adjust the nature and extent of my interaction with the Premier going forward.”

Mr Dunkley subsequently responded: “I'm flabbergasted that MP Brown would say that, because my comments were accurate and there was someone else in the room who can verify that.

“If they were inaccurate, he should be willing to say how.”

The Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2015 — which must still be approved by the House of Assembly before coming into effect — expands the ability of non-Bermudians to purchase property, lowering the average rental value (ARV) threshold from $177,000 to $153,000.

It also allows non-Bermudians to purchase up to two homes and loosens 90-day and 120-day annual restrictions on tourist accommodation and the division of fractional units so that those holding licences for tourist accommodation would get up to six months annually.

While Sen Fahy said the legislation is intended to stimulate the real estate market and create jobs, the PLP has argued the legislation would worsen the economic divide, doing nothing for struggling Bermudians while helping non-Bermudians.

Michael Dunkley
Walton Brown

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Published March 30, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated March 30, 2015 at 12:35 pm)

Premier: Brown approved immigration legislation

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