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Bermuda, U.S.A.: Guantanamo Controversy

Categories: Caribbean, North America, Bermuda, U.S.A., Digital Activism, Economics & Business, Governance, Ideas, International Relations, Law, Media & Journalism, Migration & Immigration, Politics

Bermudian [1] bloggers are up in arms [2] over the country's controversial decision [3] to grant permission for four detainees of Guantanamo Bay [4] to resettle in the tiny isle.

One bone of contention is how easily full Bermudian status was granted to the former detainees. Vexed Bermoothes [2] says:

That’s right. All you expats who contribute for years to Bermuda’s community and economy, term limits for you and don’t let the door hit you on the ass when you leave.

But come on down you Xinjiang Uigher suspected terrorists … you’ll fit right in!

Breeezeblog [5] echoes his sentiment:

On a purely selfish note, I’d like to know how come ‘the Uigur Four’ get given Bermuda status and yet someone like myself, who has lived and worked here for more than 26 years, is denied this privilege?

This is not to say that bloggers do not have some level of empathy for the former detainees. Catch a fire [6] notes that:

I am sympathetic to the cause of Uigur autonomy and rights. I worked and lived in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for about six months, living in Nanjing, just north of Shanghai. While there I became quite friendly with some of the Uighurs living there – they are not allowed to leave the PRC, but travel more or less freely within it.

I have also long opposed the US policy of Gitmo detainees which I see as contrary to international law and a de facto concentration camp. I have also opposed the US policy of rendition flights, and also put forward the fact that our airport has apparently been used to facilitate such renditions.

Breezeblog [5] adds:

The four have long been declared a non-threat to the West and imprisoned unfairly by a paranoid and over-zealous US system and clearly could face torture or worse if they were sent back to China.

But they're still not sold. Catch a fire [6] continues:

The thing is, the US government has assured Bermuda, in the form of Dr. Brown, that these four Uighurs are considered innocent. That's fine. I am not necessarily going to dispute that. But the detainee problem is a US problem. It is US made, and as a result there should be a US solution. Pawning the problem off to smaller countries is a load of bull. If these detainees are innocent, and if the US is not willing to repatriate them to the PRC for the legitimate reason of fearing their resulting persecution there, then the US should take care of them.

The blogger even dismisses the move [6] as a humanitarian action:

There are those who will defend this action as a humanitarian action. That is false. Under international law (caveat – I am not a lawyer) as I understand it, the detainees are a US problem and they are obligated to take them in if they are not secure in repatriating them to the PRC.

In fact, many bloggers [5] smell a rat:

But something clearly doesn’t smell right here, as it usually does around Premier Ewart Brown. The fact that the UK Government and the Governor knew nothing about this is disturbing and the Premier’s insistence that there was no quid pro quo just doesn’t ring true. The self-serving Dr. Brown doesn’t seem the type of politician to go out on a humanitarian limb without something in return. If not, why would the US ask tiny Bermuda to take them when there are bigger countries that could far more easily absorb the men? The Bermuda public have a right to know what deal, if any, was done.

Vexed Bermoothes [2] agrees:

The key question is: What did we trade for doing this? What deals were made? How does this fit in Bermuda’s national priorities?

Catch a fire [6] has his suspicions:

It's hard not to conclude that Bermuda was either threatened (perhaps as regards our ‘tax haven’ status) or ‘encouraged’ (which would mean bribed) to take these people. That’s not good enough.

Vexed Bermoothes [2] also speculates:

Did we get money to fill some of the big gaps in Bermuda’s coffers? (News reports say that Palau is getting $200 million for taking 17 of the Uighers).

Are we counting them as air arrivals for Tourism?

Does he think this is cheap PR – getting Bermuda’s name in the news worldwide? Americans, come to Bermuda for some Pop and Sizzle! And Boom!

Hey maybe the US will stop hassling us about all the piddly tax stuff? In which case, you can expect Cayman to adopt a bunch of Afghans any minute.

Then he gets serious [2], writing a series of follow-up posts about likely repercussions on the island's tourism industry [7], the link between the decision to take in the detainees and the island's poor governance [8] and the opposition party's reaction [9] to the news, addding:

The decision still must have sign off by the UK via the Bermuda Governor. They must be scratching their heads. Perhaps this is another stab by the Premier to create a constitutional crisis should the UK overrule the move. You see, the Doc is supposed to make decisions impacting foreign policy and security in concert with Government House. Technically, he had no right to do this without consultation.

Catch a fire [10], who posts a second entry after he “had some time to sit and think about the situation”, has the last word:

I think its increasingly clear that there is going to be a huge negative public reaction to this move. The full extent of it at this moment is hard to make out, and whether this will lead to a no-confidence motion in the House of Assembly are just add to a growing sense of resentment and simmering anger towards Dr. Brown I cannot tell.

Public anger should be vented at Dr. Brown and the US Consul, and even at Government House in as much as it represents the UK. The Uighurs should be offerred our compassion as the pawns they are. Save your anger for those who made the decisions, not those who are victims of it.

The thumbnail image used in this post, “Guantanamo graffiti” [11], is by burge 5000, used under a Creative Commons license [12]. Visit burge 5000's flickr photostream [13].