Reverend Al Sharpton addresses the media on Monday.
Reverend Al Sharpton addresses the media on Monday.
Veteran civil rights campaigner Reverend Al Sharpton was in Bermuda today to lend some words of support for the island's embattled Premier Dr Ewart Brown.

Reverend Sharpton praised Bermuda's 'moral leadership' saying they had 'taken the risk to be right' by inviting four freed Guantanamo Bay prisoners to live here.

Dr Brown convincingly survived a vote of no confidence in his Government this weekend after a 14-hour debate in the island's House of Assembly, that lasted until just after 5am on Saturday morning.

But with his approval rating plummeting to 24 per cent, according to one poll today, the visit from such a high profile black leader was a timely reminder of the almost unanimous approval the move has received overseas.

Local politicians and protesters have condemned the Premier for failing to consult the Governor, parliament or even his own cabinet before making the decision.

But Reverend Sharpton said morality should trump politics.

"If you come out of the ghetto, like I did, you worry afterwards whose mess it was and how it was cleaned up. The main thing is to get the mess cleaned up," he added.

Reverend Sharpton said the decision to accept the four men, ethnic Uighurs from northwest China who spent more than seven years at Gitmo despite being declared innocent, had positive repercussions around the world.

"We must have a world where people rise above politics and give priority to the preservation of human life and dignity.

"In that spirit we have other nations that are extending the same conduct. Italy and others are following the tone set in this nation."

Reverend Sharpton, who has visited Bermuda on many occasions and broadcast his radio show from the island on New Year's Eve, also met with religious leaders, telling them they should be proud of Bermuda's moral action.

He said he had called the Premier last week but had wanted to thank him in person for what he had done.

"I was never more proud than to see them (Bermuda) take the risk to be right and that should be encouraged by all nations.

"We must raise the morality of our actions above and beyond the politics."

The reverend refused to publically condemn the U.S. for its refusal to allow the Uighurs - 13 of whom are still languishing in Guantanamo - to settle in America.

He insisted he was here to salute the 'moral leadership' of Bermuda and not to condemn the lack of it in the U.S.

Dr Brown, who has condemned some of his critics as racially motivated in a speech on Saturday morning, now appears to have more support from overseas than he does in his own country.

"I'm not a popular guy right now," he admitted, "but I'm more concerned with the correctness of the gesture."

He added that with 'time and understanding' the community would come to respect his decision and his approval ratings would take a turn for the better.

Reverend Bishop Vernon Lambe of the First Church of God, speaking on behalf of the Bermuda clergy, urged Bermudians to treat the Uighurs with compassion despite the political and legal concerns they may have over how the decision was taken.

"I am sure that those who have sought refuge here will be blessed to come into contact with a spirit of hospitality and community that Bermudians have innate. We have always been a compassionate community and we will not stop now."