Bermuda, USA, UK: Fallout over Guantanamo

Bermudian bloggers still have not stopped talking about their government's agreement to have four detainees of Guantanamo Bay to resettle on the island. Most of their focus seems to be on the fallout that Premier Ewart Brown is facing following the controversial decision.

Breezeblog reports that “Bermudians are being urged to take to the streets on Tuesday in an unprecedented ‘people’s protest’ against Premier Dr Ewart Brown”:

The call, circulated by e-mail and social networking sites throughout the Island, states that a march on Parliament will take place on June 16 at 12.30pm. The organisers – who seem to be a mixed grassroots bunch led by an insurance clerk, Janice Battersbee – are calling for the Premier to resign and for the “Gitmo Four” to be returned immediately.

Realistically, they are unlikely to succeed on either count but the fact that this protest is taking place at all is an indication of the widespread anger and disgust people here have for Brown right now.

With the UBP having tabled a motion of no confidence in Brown – and no doubt he will try and stifle that debate next Friday if he lasts that long – its going to be an interesting week in Bermudian politics. A watershed even.

Bermudians are not the only ones unhappy with the Premier. Mainstream media sources are reporting that the U.K. is reviewing “the legal basis of its relations with Bermuda” following the debacle, questioning Brown's right to even negotiate the deal without Britain's input. According to the Guardian story, “under a 1968 understanding known as the general entrustment, Bermuda has the right to conduct external relations ‘on behalf of’ Britain, on condition that London is consulted before agreements with other states are entered.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times piece that shows some of the former detainees cavorting in the Bermudian ocean has done little to foster goodwill. Vexed Bermoothes, referring to a BBC report, actually wonders if the Premier “got played”:

You can read this in several ways – one view is that Dr. Brown was looking for an angle to push the independence agenda with the UK. Another view is that Dr. Brown got played way out of his league:

* The US knew they had an anti-UK zealot with a huge ego and hunger for attention and exploited it. They offload a few Uighurs, create plausible deniability for their real ally (the UK), and leave Ewart to deal with the mess he’s created.
* Or they really don’t give a rats ass and are just shoving Uighurs in any tin pot country that will take ‘em, screw the consequences.

Dr. Brown doesn’t come out looking very good. Even if you don’t believe that Dr. Brown was used, it is undeniable that his little games with the Constitution have badly undermined the Rule of Law in Bermuda.

The blogger also stresses that:

This fuss is not really about the uighurs. It’s about the consistently murky and inappropriate behaviour of our political leadership.

Dr. Brown's reaction to the public outcry has not helped. Vexed Bermoothes comments:

That sums up his philosophy. So far, he’s been able to count on Bermudians forgiving or forgetting every one of his transgressions without any consequence. By creating diversions, or going on the offensive, he’s been able to avoid accountability on so many issues.

So … are Bermudians going to ‘let things pass’ yet again with Dr. Brown? Each time he gets bolder, and the damage greater.

Catch a fire adds:

The issue is solely on how this fiasco came about, and what it implies. This decision has been made contrary to our Constitution, which makes it all the more ironic that not only a few weeks ago the Party Leadership was desperately clutching to the Party Constitution rules to fend off a Leadership challenge. What is more, there is growing evidence that could see the decision as being seen as an act of treason and an attempt by the USA to undermine the constitutional sovereignity of our island and, by extension, the UK.

The greatest irony of this is that out of this fiasco Dr. Brown may have actually finally given birth to a greater level of national consciousness and unity as a result. ‘This too shall pass’ says Dr. Brown. No doubt, in time, it will. There will be seething public anger over the immediate week or two, and then this anger will calm down, at least superficially. The Uighurs will face some unfortunate public backlash, but in time the vast majority of the people will accept that they are pawns and victims of this affair. But just as this fury shall pass, so shall Dr. Brown’s leadership and those opportunists that cling-on to his coat-tails.

Interestingly, after giving the situation some thought, Catch a fire decides that the “no confidence” vote in the Premier being put forward by the UBP is not worth supporting for two critical reasons:

If the No Confidence Vote is successful it would see, in short order, a move to send the Uighur detainees back to Guantanamo Bay, or, worse, the People’s Republic of China. While there may be some populist reactionary support for either of these actions, to do so would in my opinion be unethical and inhumane.

The main issue why I have changed my opinion on the No Confidence Vote however is because the more I think about this fiasco the more I become convinced that the US and UK have acted together in such a way as to benefit themselves at the expense of Dr. Brown. In short, I believe that part of this fiasco is a plot to see Dr. Brown scapegoated and his Premiership ended.

But 21 Square is not convinced by the conspiracy theories. Instead, he claims that “the blatantly obvious has been far too readily discounted”:

Premier Brown may be said to be many things but he is not an idiot when there is something to be gained. He has proven far too cunning to be caught up in a move of simple ignorance to the potential fallout of a so called ‘humanitarian’ act gone wrong. Is it really likely that Brown was so corrupt in his self belief in this being a good idea that he would not only disregard the biggest complaint that has ever been lodged against his leadership but also do so in such a grandiose fashion that turned this into an international incident? This to take such a massive gamble for something to which he negotiated no upside aside from ‘doing the right thing’? This simply doesn’t fit.

The controversy has even reached the attention of other regional bloggers. From Trinidad and Tobago, Mauvais Langue says:

The islanders of Bermuda are angry and outraged, and who could blame them.

I wonder how much it took for the Premier to sell his soul?

I only hope that this does not spread to other islands in the Caribbean, especially Trinidad. The last thing Trinidad & Tobago needs is this.

Breezeblog, on the other hand, is quite happy to post a video entitled “Time To Go – An Ode to Ewart Brown” as he tries to take a humourous look at the situation. And the comedy continues, courtesy the “fake” blog The Secret Blog of Patrick “Patos” Manning, which claims to be from the mind of Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister. The blogger inisists that he received a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama asking for cooperation in taking a few Guantanamo Bay detainees:

I originally consulted the Minister of National Security on the matter, but his most innovative idea had to do with sending the detainees to live in Sobo Village and hoping they die of smelter-related illnesses within a few years. So I’m opening this one to you, my dear friends. Participatory government is alive and well in Trinidad and Tobago! Help me choose a Gitmo detainee! Or four!

Should we grab some Chinese separatists, like Bermuda? Or would that get us into trouble with our Chinese friends and bring the local construction industry to its knees? And if any of you know any women we can fix these fellas up with, please leave a note in the comments section.

To Bermudians, of course, the entire affair is no laughing matter:

Bermudian reactions to this range from the bewildered to the outraged.

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


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