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Minister stands firm in Tweed storm

Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, has stuck to her guns amid charges that Government is bent on denying the Reverend Nicholas Tweed the right to work in Bermuda.

Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, has repeatedly accused the minister of interfering with the renewal of Mr Tweed’s work permit. The African Methodist Episcopal pastor has commenced a second term at St Paul AME Church, but also leads the activist group the People’s Campaign along with Mr Furbert and Jason Hayward, the Bermuda Public Services Union president.

Mr Furbert alleged that the clergyman’s permit was being blocked as a reprisal for his outspoken stance against several government projects.

The minister apologised for failing to address the BIU president by his title, which she said had “clearly offended him”, following remarks on Wednesday in which Mr Furbert said he should be called by his office.

“He is still missing information with respect to chronology, which has caused him to continually give incorrect information,” Ms Gordon-Pamplin added. She said she could not agree with the assertion that the Government was intent at the Cabinet level on blocking anyone’s permit, but that the president was entitled to his opinion.

On the contention that she should not have dealt with the matter because she had stopped attending Mr Tweed’s church, Ms Gordon-Pamplin responded: “It is known that I have attended St Paul AME for some 60 years.

“However, unlike some people, I have the ability to separate my personal life from my public responsibility, so if I ever felt at all conflicted, I would recuse myself. Such is the peace with which I live and which has been the hallmark of my lifelong teaching. I also handle my own ministerial responsibilities unless I am off island, which I was from July 30 till August 18, when an acting minister is responsible for issues that arise in the ministry.”

She did not name Mr Tweed, noting that she had not been given authorisation by either the applicant or permit holder to publicly discuss details.

“Until I am in possession of such, I will not make any specific statement respecting this file, and I will certainly not engage in the level of vulgarity to which the president saw fit to descend.”

Wednesday’s remarks at the BIU headquarters included a heated condemnation of persons implying that Mr Tweed, who has close family ties to Bermuda, ought not to be able to stay on the island. On that occasion Mr Furbert acknowledged that he had used sharp language, but said he had taken offence at people going “too far” on the issue.

He also denounced the weeks of delay, telling the press that Mr Tweed’s renewal application had been provided on July 18, the day before the permit expired.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin said that applications were forwarded to the board “when all information is complete”.

“If information is missing, it is requested,” she said.

“Once applications are complete, they are sent for deliberation. The time taken to process applications is determined by the workload, completeness of the application, and the board’s schedule, and while the department makes every effort to process applications on a timely basis, some take longer than others.”