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Tweed wins challenge against Gordon-Pamplin

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The Reverend Nicholas Tweed makes his way to court (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Reverend Nicholas Tweed and the Council of AME Churches have won their legal battle against the decision of the Minister of Home Affairs to refuse to grant the pastor a work permit.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley quashed Patricia Gordon-Pamplin’s determination that Mr Tweed should settle his affairs and leave Bermuda, saying it “breached the rules of natural justice” because he was not given a chance to make representations before the final decision was made.

He ordered the matter be remitted to the minister “to be dealt with in accordance with the law”, although he stated it would be “desirable” for the minster to act on the advice of the Board of Immigration and “allow the board to make the substantive decision”.

The Chief Justice also imposed orders quashing Ms Gordon-Pamplin’s decision to refuse the AME Church an advertising waiver and a work permit to employ Mr Tweed. These matters will also be remitted back to the minister for consideration.

At trial, Mr Tweed’s legal team claimed that Ms Gordon-Pamplin’s denial of a work permit was influenced by a “visceral negative attitude” on the part of the minister, while Government lawyers maintained that the minister had acted fairly.

Yesterday morning, Mr Justice Kawaley ruled in favour of Mr Tweed and the AME Churches citing “procedural impropriety and unfairness”, although he said the applicant’s actual bias complaint against the minister was “not made out”.

Union leaders Chris Furbert and Jason Hayward — prominent members of the People’s Campaign along with Mr Tweed — and Opposition leader

David Burt were among a packed courtroom as the judgment was delivered.

The judgment states: “The minister’s involvement in the application process from the outset was not based on her own idiosyncratic desire to ‘interfere’, but because her predecessor had directed that any future work permit applications in relation to the second applicant (Mr Tweed) should be decided by the minister.

“Subsequently, the Council of AME Churches was expressly told that its application was going to be considered by the board.

“In fact, the board only acted in an advisory capacity and the minister made the substantive decisions.

“This legal and factual confusion infected the entire process which culminated in the minister refusing the applications for an advertising waiver and a work permit without the work permit application being considered on its merits.

“This institutional bug caused procedural irregularity and unfairness which obliges this court to grant an order quashing the minister’s decisions to refuse the advertising waiver and the work permit application and remitting the matter to the minister for reconsideration.”

Mr Justice Kawaley ordered that Government should pay the costs of the case given that “the applicants (Mr Tweed and the Council of the AME Churches) have clearly succeeded”.

The judgment also states: “The minister also decided that the second applicant (Mr Tweed) should settle his affairs and leave Bermuda.

“This decision ought not to have been made without first allowing him to make representations to the minister about his personal residential connections to Bermuda.

“Those connections are not insignificant as he is the father of a Bermudian child and the foreign husband of a Bermudian wife, albeit living apart from her.

“The decision that the second applicant must settle his affairs and leave must also be quashed and remitted for reconsideration on the same basis as the work permit decision.”

The non-renewal of Mr Tweed’s work permit sparked demonstrations last year: the pastor had his renewal turned down on October 21, with a subsequent decision on December 28 not to allow an appeal.

During last month’s judicial review trial at the Supreme Court, Delroy Duncan, representing Mr Tweed and the AME Church, told the Chief Justice that the minister should have withdrawn herself from the matter from the start, noting her earlier statements in the House of Assembly on Mr Tweed’s regular sermons, criticising the integrity of the Government.

Mr Duncan told the court that Ms Gordon-Pamplin appeared to have made her mind up on Mr Tweed’s permit renewal as early as July 29, ten days after his permit expired, when she insisted that his position had to be advertised.

He also argued that the minister had “trawled” Mr Tweed’s immigration files in an effort to impose “information hurdles” on his application.

After the hearing, Mr Tweed said he would not be making any comment.

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