By Walton Brown Jr.
The OBA government revealed a new position on Bermuda status grants in Parliament last Friday, which could allow thousands of status grants to be made within the next year.
Walton Brown Jr. is a political scientist and well known social commentator and analyst. He is the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) Shadow Minister for Immigration and External Affairs
Prior to the 2007 general election, UBP leader Michael Dunkley made a campaign promise to offer Bermudian status to 8,000 PRC holders.
In the run up to the 2012 general election:
-- MP Richards stated: “Lie Number 1: The PLP say the OBA’s policy is to end term limits. The OBA policy…. is to suspend term limits for a period of two years.” Bernews June 22, 2012
-- OBA deputy leader Michael Dunkley denied that the OBA would offer status to PRC holders
After winning the 2012 election, OBA Minister Fahy, a former UBP senator, undertook the following:
• Abolished term limits, which were put in to protect Bermuda from non-Bermudians attempting to gain status
• Attempted to give the children of PRC holders the right to gain employment
• Introduced the pathways to citizenship for children of PRC holders
• Proposed commercial immigration
In July 2013 OBA Ministers Dr. Grant Gibbons and Trevor Moniz both denied that the OBA would ever grant Bermudian Status to PRC holders.
In May 2014, the ruling by Chief Justice Kawaley presented a legal loophole for PRCs to obtain Bermuda status.
Understanding that this ruling could potentially allow for thousands of non-Bermudians gaining status, the PLP immediately presented a bill to plug this loophole, and ensure the law was aligned with what had been government policy for 25 years.
Going back on their word
On June 6, 2014, every OBA MP voted against this bill. Among the comments made during the debate:
MP Sylvan Richards: “We await further advice from the Queen’s Counsel and government advisors.”
Minister Shawn Crockwell: “The government is looking at this with a strategy.”
AG Trevor Moniz: “This economy needs more people… we are examining the possibility of commercial immigration.”
Minister Bob Richards: “We have to enact every strategy we can think of … commercial immigration… we need to increase demand for Bermuda property… our job isn’t to fix the Opposition’s glitch.”
MP Suzanne Houlshouser: “This is purely about who can vote.”
Notably silent was Premier Dunkley, who failed to speak on this vital national issue.
Here are the number of residents who fall under PRC category:
1,237 spouses of PRCs
2,960 Children of PRC
We have no doubt that the OBA have shifted their policy with politics, elections and the vote clearly in their mind.
We call on the OBA government to suspend all applications for Bermuda status that fall under section 20B of the Bermuda Immigration and Protection and Amendment Act 1956, hold to the policy that has been in place for 25 years and then work to produce a comprehensive immigration reform law and policy that takes into consideration the needs and wishes of Bermudians and those of our long term residents.