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Commentary: Bermuda is at a pivotal political and social crossroad
Published on August 23, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Senator Marc G. Daniels

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Minister Michael Fahy, without any consultation or open dialogue, made an announcement that the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) would drop the Permanent Resident’s Certificate (PRC) appeal.

marc_daniels.jpg
Senator Marc Daniels is a well known Bermudian lawyer, educated in Bermuda, Canada and the United Kingdom. mdaniels@charterchambers.bm
Having read MP Sylvan Richards’ recent opinion piece dated July 29, 2014, it seems as if we are now truly witnessing a game of Masterpiece Theatre.

Contrary to previous OBA statements, parliament could have closed this loophole via an amendment. The Hon. Walton Brown Jr., JP, MP, led the charge in the Lower House of Assembly when the Chief Justice’s decision came to public attention.

When an attempt was made at bipartisan collaboration on this issue, the concerns of Bermudians were greeted with sheer contempt by the OBA.

Legal judgments are merely an interpretation of the law juxtaposed with particular facts, but it is Parliament that makes the law. Whenever Parliament considers the law to be insufficient, it may repeal the law or make amendments.

This demonstrates leadership that falls within our legal parameters and, most importantly, reflects the will of the people of Bermuda.

For Junior Minister Richards to suggest that we cannot make laws retroactively is ironic. Junior Minister Sylvan Richards is responsible for the OBA rescinding the Waterfront contract and risking our country incurring legal fees in arbitration and potentially a costs award in excess of $150 million.

Yes, you read correctly. The OBA has made Bermudian taxpayers liable for up to $150 million. Junior Minister Richards again fails to speak to this truth.

There is an immigration hierarchy policy that clearly lists Bermudians above PRC holders.

Minister Fahy is avoiding stating that there is such a policy produced by his Ministry of Home Affairs (Department of Immigration) in April 2013.

“it is expected that employers will fill jobs in Bermuda in the following order:

• Bermudian
• non-Bermudian spouse (including the widow or widower) of a Bermudian
• divorced parent of a Bermudian
• Permanent Resident’s Certificate holder
• non-Bermudian with a qualifying Bermudian connection
• other non-Bermudians”

PRCs also have restrictions regarding the acquisition of property. Removing these restrictions further places them in direct competition with all Bermudians.

In the Senate, we have repeatedly raised the question: “What is Bermuda’s optimal number for residency?” The answer to this question is crucial in protecting future generations of Bermudians.

Despite some trying to advance a certain argument, this is not a human rights issue. The right to vote is intrinsically linked to the right of the people of a given country to determine the politics and vision for their country.

While some hate to acknowledge our horrid racial past, we must do so if we are ever to truly progress. The UBP strategically used racial polarization to further the divide; as race was paramount to why so many English persons were given status 40 years ago.

The OBA is well aware of these voting habits and the race dynamics that play in elections. Yet they are repeating historical wrongs on the gamble that PRC holders will increase their voter base.

It was the PLP who made it possible for long-term residents to remain in Bermuda indefinitely. However, with that privilege came an understanding that such a gift was not to be extended to their offspring.

Since our current predicament arises from a loophole that was challenged in court, what would stop thousands of other PRC holders from making further legal challenges and possibly being successful?

What argument or lobbying will be made for those who were born or arrived after July 31, 1989?

If more applications become successful in the future, do we risk marginalizing our society even further? Especially against the backdrop of a government that has had near zero public consultation on the issues that concern us most.

The truth is that the ‘sleeping provision’ was never the intention of Parliament or the Bermudian people. Against this backdrop, how can any right thinking member of society not see this for what it is: an opportunity to increase the voter base as was alluded to in last year’s OBA Throne Speech.

If anything, the OBA has changed its focus from bringing amendments “to provide pathways to Bermuda status to persons born in Bermuda, or persons who have been adopted by Bermudian parents”, to an immediate advantage to those who are not Bermudian born.

Bermuda is at a pivotal political and social crossroad. At this rate, we now risk permanent social and economic division. It is important that we all take the required time to come to mutual agreements.
 
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