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Premier and Brown continue to trade blows

The debate over who said what during a meeting on immigration reform held between Premier Michael Dunkley and Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister of Immigration, continues to rumble on as both sides refuse to back down.

Despite wanting to avoid a “he said, he said” parlance, Mr Brown hit out at the Premier yesterday, claiming that he made “deliberately misleading comments” against him. Mr Brown attended a meeting with the Premier last Wednesday, hours before a scheduled protest on the grounds of the Cabinet Building.

The Premier claimed in an editorial carried in yesterday's Royal Gazette that during the meeting Mr Brown approved his immigration legislation, which had previously sparked a march on the Senate. But Mr Brown, despite refusing an earlier invitation from this paper to respond to the comment, came back after publication of the full opinion piece to say the Premier's comments about his approval were “not accurate”.

The dispute originated after a protest over the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2015 (BIPA), which was approved in the Senate.

The Premier wrote: “In that meeting, which included Home Affairs Minister [Michael] Fahy, Mr Brown said he had no problem with the proposed legislation and that he wanted to avoid an escalation in political rhetoric.”

Making his case clear, Mr Brown sent a lengthy response to this newspaper outlining his position.

“The meeting was primarily about the need for collaboration,” he said. “As I indicated to the Premier, the proposed immigration legislation provided the lightning rod for the protest.

“It was clear to me that the Premier and Minister Fahy understood this. When speaking specifically about the legislation, I said while I think there is great merit in allowing PRC holders to purchase a greater range of properties and avoid a class bias benefiting the wealthy, so typical of OBA policies, there were other aspects of the legislation I had grave concerns about.

“When it was clear no commitment to a bipartisan effort would be announced before the planned start of the protest, I indicated the protest would go on as planned.

“The Premier and Minister Fahy did commit to engage in a process with the PLP over the ensuing weeks to see if we could come to an agreement over key principles that would shape a collaborative undertaking.

“The Premier asked that I begin to set out my views on some key guiding principles. I left the meeting with that clear understanding.”

Contacted again, Mr Dunkley stood firm, saying there was no doubt in his mind over what Mr Brown said and that he had probably “changed his tune” because of pressure within the Progressive Labour Party.

He told The Royal Gazette: “Yesterday he [Mr Brown] was very brief in his comments and about the only substantive thing he had to say was that my comments were inaccurate.

“Now he has changed his tune, which tells me one thing: that he is under pressure and needs to clarify himself. Referring to the legislation that was due to be debated in the Senate on Wednesday night — the BIPA Amendment Act 2015 — Minister Fahy asked him, ‘With regards to the legislation that will be debated in the House tonight, do you have any concerns with that?'

“He said, ‘This particular piece of legislation I do not have a problem with.' You can't misconstrue that in any way. I wrote it down and he saw me writing it down.”

Walton Brown addresses the crowd who gathered on the lawn of Cabinet before marching into the Senate Chamber last week (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

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Published March 31, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated March 31, 2015 at 10:24 am)

Premier and Brown continue to trade blows

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