Log In

Reset Password

Ben Smith denies election video was xenophobic

One Bermuda Alliance by-election candidate Ben Smith has denied claims that he made xenophobic remarks (File photograph)

Ben Smith, the One Bermuda Alliance candidate for the upcoming by-election in Smith’s South, has denied allegations that he has ever made xenophobic comments.

Mr Smith, said that the remarks, made ahead of the 2020 General Election and filmed as part of an OBA political campaign, were taken out of context.

In the video, which was posted on the OBA’s Facebook page at the time, Mr Smith had a discussion with former party deputy leader Leah Scott in which the heritage of David Burt was raised.

During the discussion it was suggested that Mr Burt had Jamaican ancestry — which caused Ms Scott to ask: “Where is his loyalty?”

The Progressive Labour Party condemned the video when it was released, and repeated its criticisms of Mr Smith last week after it was announced that he will be the OBA candidate in October’s by-election.

The PLP said that he had made “xenophobic attacks” and did not represent “all of Bermuda”.

But in an opinion in today’s Royal Gazette, Mr Smith said the video was made to highlight the different attitudes that the two parties had towards foreigners and immigration reform.

The OBA has maintained that long-term residents should be eligible for Bermudian status, and launched a Pathways to Status drive when it was in office between 2012 and 2017.

The PLP opposed that plan and, although it has since shifted to offering permanent residency to foreign nationals, it has drawn a line in the sand on the question of status.

In his article, Mr Smith said that the Government’s existing plan would only “build up walls and make new arrivals second-class citizens for generations”.

Mr Smith said that in 2020, the OBA was frustrated with the lack of progress that the Government was making on immigration reform.

He said: “The purpose of the video I recorded was to question why a government — many of whose close family members are one generation from outside of Bermuda — would be so against immigration.”

Acknowledging that the video “did not give context or provide the clear message that was intended”, Mr Smith went on: “Sadly, they [the PLP] painted us as being against a segment of our population and the message was that we were xenophobic.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth. Bermuda has a great history of people who have come to our shores and have become a part of the Bermuda story.

“They have had children here and risen to the heights of leadership and world champions.

“We must grow our population if we are to have growth in our economy, in our ideas and our understanding. This will be done by opening our doors and letting in new people.

“We should be embracing those who want to help Bermuda and want to build the future with us.

“The Government would like to build up walls and make new arrivals second-class citizens for generations.

“I want Bermuda to welcome people from all over if they are interested in returning Bermuda to the destination of promise.

“The OBA has built a new party that is open to all because ideas for making Bermuda better should come from all of Bermuda. That could be multiple generations of Bermudians or someone new to the island.

“Let’s allow minds to be opened and not fall for the same political tricks the PLP used in 2020.”

In an interview with ZBM News this week, the Premier confirmed that the two parties were divided on the question of status.

Mr Burt said: “The One Bermuda Alliance’s playbook is that they want to grant status to everyone who has been here. That’s their playbook. It’s a difference of position between the two parties.

“But the point is a very clear one. Anyone who comes and works in this country and has been here for a while, has the opportunity — after they’ve contributed — to stay here as permanent residents. That works for many countries around the world.”

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published August 30, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated August 31, 2023 at 7:44 am)

Ben Smith denies election video was xenophobic

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon