*Montage by Gary Foster Skelton
*Montage by Gary Foster Skelton

“It is the right decision and it should not be used as a reason to jeopardize our future.”

This from Premier Michael Dunkley on Government’s decision not to challenge a Supreme Court ruling giving Bermudian status to 1,455
Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) holders.

The move sparked stinging criticism from the Opposition, with leader Marc Bean suggesting islanders boycott OBA businesses to protest against the Government’s policy.

Today the People’s Campaign will march on Cabinet to protest against the OBA’s handling of the issue.

But Mr Dunkley says dialogue between the two sides, rather than “arguing amongst ourselves” would help clarify many of the concerns that have been misrepresented.

And he hit back at boycott suggestions made by Mr Bean, saying: “That is just immature politics.

“As leader of the country, if I said that they would be asking for my resignation. We can do better than that. When you call for boycotting a business it really hurts the workers. It does not make any sense to me.”

The Premier told the Bermuda Sun: “The world watches Bermuda because we are a leader in a number of different fields.

“We are considered by many as a paradise to visit and we have international business from all over the globe heavily invested.

“Without the outside world and investment from overseas we are nothing.

“Our disagreements should be conducted in an appropriate and respectful manner and not to jeopardize our future.

“Business and people invest because of confidence in something and we have worked hard to build confidence.‎

“But money is chased by all sectors around the world and it can move much faster than Usain Bolt.

“Once it is gone it is very difficult to attract back and if people believe otherwise they might as well just whistle Dixie.”

On Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy told the Senate Government would not press ahead with a challenge to a legal ruling allowing PRCs who had lived in Bermuda since before July 1, 1989, to obtain status.

‘It’s the right decision’

Asked if the controversial issue could have been handled differently, Mr Dunkley said: “I’m comfortable in the process we have undertaken.

“The Minister and his team have done a tremendous amount of work.

“We reached this point after a lot of digging to understand this topic and it is the right decision.

“But I fully appreciate that when we get to issues like immigration, there are very fervent opinions.

“We knew it would be this way and that’s why we have taken time and exhausted all avenues.”

Acknowledging there were “loud voices” against the Government’s decision, Mr Dunkley added: “Unfortunately, even though we believe we have made the right decision there are still people that are going to be against us.

“I will listen to those people and take on board what they are saying.

“But being in Government is difficult and we were elected to lead and that is what we are doing.

“We believe we have made the best decision and it will be supported by the majority of Bermudians.

“I support democracy no matter what people’s views are and I have great confidence in the people of Bermuda.

“I have spoken with the People’s Movement twice in the last 24 hours and I have a great deal of respect for them.

“I think they appreciate that our democracy will get stronger if things are done in a respectful manner and I have no problem with that.

“I look forward to greeting them on the steps of Cabinet. 

Divisive rhetoric

The Premier said more conversation between the sides rather than divisive rhetoric and personal attacks could help clarify concerns.

And he told the Sun it was wrong to assume that a PRC holder would vote a certain way.

He said: “I have seen a number of things said that are simply not accurate.

“People have spoken of upwards of 3,000 people being able to claim status.

“That number is not correct, it is 1,455, and that number can increase or decrease depending how many apply.

“Spouses have to wait 10 years from when the PRC has his or her status.

“And children must apply before age 22. Many PRC holders’ children are well over 22.

“We have to give a better understanding to people of the reality.”

Mr Dunkley added: “You should never assume how people will vote. People vote on performance. 

“A large section of the population has moved past that.

“If Bermuda wants to move forward and I am confident we will, then we have to have a broader scope of things. We cannot get stuck in the challenges and the mentalities of the past because we live and learn.”