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Permit decision final, insists Premier

Premier Michael Dunkley (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The decision to refuse the Reverend Nicholas Tweed’s work permit is final, Michael Dunkley said last night as he welcomed the end of three days of industrial action and unrest.

Meanwhile, Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Home Affairs, categorically denied making the decision for personal reasons and dismissed suggestions by Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert that she should have recused herself from the process.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin told The Royal Gazette that she held no animosity towards the AME pastor, and maintained that she went “above and beyond” in considering Mr Tweed’s work permit application, which she concluded was not advertised or complete and contained inaccuracies.

“The [Bermuda Immigration and Protection] Act does not permit appeals for work permit renewals, but I was willing to look again at it, and went above and beyond because I wanted to make sure proper deference was given to every single fact.”

The minister added: “Reverend Tweed conducted my mother’s home-going service three years ago,” she said. “I could not have wanted a better service for my mother, and I am deeply appreciative of the job he did.

“When his sermons began to turn political, I decided not to stay and listen. I don’t see that as a conflict because two years ago I decided to go to another church.

“What I said in the House was, I do politics six days and 22 hours a week — two hours of the week, I did not wish to do politics.”

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Furbert announced the BIU would “pause” its industrial action, but said that the threat to derail the America’s Cup was “still on the table”.

Reacting to the news, the Premier praised the public-sector employees who continued to work during the work stoppage and residents who helped children to get to school, but he said it would be “very disappointing” if the island’s progress was disrupted further.

He also welcomed strands of a Jekyll and Hyde Progressive Labour Party statement released last night that pledged support for the America’s Cup before descending into full-scale attack on the One Bermuda Alliance.

“Last year was a year of progress in tourism arrivals, hotel investment, international business and other areas, and 2017 is going to be even better, so it would be very disappointing and a shame if we did anything to disrupt that growth,” Mr Dunkley said.

“That growth means more career opportunities and more jobs for Bermudians; whether that is the America’s Cup, hotels or the airport. We know there are Bermudians that are still hurting and we will not rest until more and more of them can take advantage of that progress

“Comments like Mr Furbert’s are concerning, but I am still open to talk to him about the airport, which I feel very strongly is a good deal for Bermuda.

“The country was in a diabolical mess in 2012 and we have had to make difficult decisions that have been scrutinised, but they have been done to benefit all Bermudians.”

He added: “I don’t see this as a victory; this was a work permit issue that should have been between the Church and the Government. But now we need to move forward.

“I am not going to take a victory on anything; these are difficult times and, although significant progress has been made, no way can we afford to pat ourselves on the back. There is still too much division — we must stay calm, composed and measured, so we can continue that progress.”

Meanwhile, Senator Michael Fahy condemned the actions of a “minority of the Bermuda Industrial Union” for pushing an agenda designed to stop Bermuda’s economic recovery.

The Minister of Tourism, Transport and the Municipalities accused Mr Furbert of holding the island hostage by keeping his threat to derail the America’s Cup on the table.

“It is extremely disappointing that the withdrawal of labour occurred even in the absence of a labour issue,” Mr Fahy said last night. “This really defies common sense.

“It means that union members and their households suffer a loss in pay over a matter unrelated to their own situation.

“There appears to be an agenda here, on the part of a minority in the BIU, to stop Bermuda’s economic recovery.

“It is troubling that the BIU president stated at today’s press conference that the ‘threat to the America’s Cup’ is still on the table. This, in effect, seems designed to hold Bermuda hostage. It cannot be the way forward for the island.”