Bermuda: Guantanamo Protest

“Brown Protest”, photo by Max Kehrli.

As Bermudians continue to react – unfavourably for the most part – to their government's acceptance of former Guantanamo Bay detainees as full citizens of the tiny island, bloggers comment on yesterday's protest and what the public outcry could mean for the nation's Premier.

The Devil Island, known for being a cartoon blog, says:

Didn’t have anything written, but I wanted to doodle SO bad. There’s tonnes of blogs talking about it. I’ve spent the afternoon and evening bitching about it and talking about it and reading about it. I’m going to wait for the next step.

I HOPE that he [the Premier] doesn’t wriggle out of this, but I’m not holding my breath. I can’t find it in myself to put anything past him. One of his “supporters” actually compared this to Dr. King. Sickening.

I WOULD however like to welcome these Uighur gentlemen to my home. If the vetting turns out copacetic and you guys are cool, we’re cool.

Breezeblog actually posts a video of the protest, which features “the moment Janice Battersbee told Premier Dr. Ewart Brown what many Bermudians think of him.” While the racial divide in the island's politics was evident, the blogger writes:

It took great courage as a PLP supporter to stand in front of her country’s leader and deliver that – and credit to Brown, he stood there and took it with dignity, even if he must have been seething and humiliated inside.

There’s been a lot of internet and radio chatter about how the crowd was overwhelmingly and depressingly white – no surprise there – and sadly Hott 107 almost seemed to dismiss the protest because of the racial imbalance. But the pro-Brown support was noticeable by its absence.

It was encouraging to see Bermudians willing to stand up and be counted and as such it was a good day for democracy. The people told their elected Premier in no uncertain terms what they thought of him without fear of arrest or police brutality. If nothing else, it will have impressed the four Uighurs who can only dream of such freedoms back home.

Photo courtesy Max Kehrli.

Catch a fire takes notice of “a counter-demonstration” that was carded for the same time of the original protest action:

This demonstration is being billed as supporting the decision to bring the Uighurs here.

This blog takes the position that it encourages active and critical participation in Bermuda’s politics, and to that degree I hope that there is a good turn-out for today’s demonstrations, as such activity is to the credit of our democracy.

This blog is, without hesitation, in the support of those who are critical of how this decision was made. I feel that the decision was made not on humanitarian grounds and that describing it as such is a red herring and emotionally manipulative deflection. I believe that the way this was done was contrary to the Constitution, and unnecessarily so.

Now that the Uighurs are here they should stay, but the way the decision was done needs protested. Either way, everyone have fun, be careful, confront ignorance and generally exercise your democratic rights, either for or against the decision.

Meanwhile, the Premier's reaction to the protest does not sit well with Vexed Bermoothes:

Don’t expect much from Dr. Brown. His comment on the protest: ‘As some of you might know, I grew up in the protest era. This is nothing new to me. I have seen them larger and longer.’ Be careful what you ask for Dr. Brown.

Know we know why the Sally Bassett statue was placed in front of the Cabinet building: so the Premier can stand in front of it whenever he is in hot water to try and shift the dialogue to one of racial martyrdom. Nice try.

“Between the Signs”, photo by Max Kehrli.

Vexed Bermoothes is also focused on the irony of the entire deal…

On the day that the PLP seeks to wrap itself in laurels of humanitarianism, their Government admits that there are still no funds to replace the decrepit and wholly inadequate homeless shelter in Bermuda.

I encourage all those international groups who are puffing up Dr. Brown for solving their problem, to feel free to encourage and assist the Bermuda Government in finally fulfilling its obligations to its own people.

…not to mention the safety issue:

Premier Ewart Brown stated in the House of Assembly on Friday that Police Commissioner Jackson had done a thorough security check on the Uighurs.

Well, maybe not. As it turns out – like everyone else in Bermuda, the Police only learned about the uighurs on the radio news on Thursday morning.

Is it not a crime to ‘bend the truth’ in a statement to the House of Assembly?

The crowds at Parliament at lunch today – which spilled onto the surrounding streets – were noisy and fed up particularly compared to the meagre team of Brown supporters that gathered in his stage-managed appearance. It will be untenable for the PLP to retain support for the Premier in the face of such public displeasure. The constant circus surrounding him has become a debilitating distraction for Bermuda.

This leads the blogger to turn his attention to the opposition party‘s call for a vote of “No Confidence” in Premier Brown:

Typically a motion such as this would be voted upon two weeks after being tabled. Understandably, the Premier’s team are pursuing all options to keep that from happening.

It is clear that there is considerable public discontent regarding the leadership of Dr. Ewart Brown. The Speaker (although currently drawn from the PLP ranks) has a strong responsibility to be impartial in conducting the affairs of the House. He must facilitate the debate of this motion as soon as possible, so that Bermuda can clear the air and get our Government back to work.

Photo by Max Kehrli.

Finally, he has a few words of wisdom for “international groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch [that] are freely tossing around humanitarian plaudits driven by their deep concerns about Guantanamo Bay and everything that it represents”:

They are incorrect if they assume that the backlash towards Dr. Brown is based on the Uighurs alone. It is not. The backlash is based on the accumulation of ‘unethical but not necessarily illegal’ acts under his tenure. If there is no respect amongst our top leadership for the Constitution, then there is no Rule of Law. And if there is no consistent rule of law, then there are degrading and unreliable human rights for Bermudians.

In short, it is fundamentally wrong to undermine the Bermudian Constitution so that the American Constitution can retain its lustre.

The images used in this post are by Max Kehrli, used with permission. Visit Max's website and flickr photostream.

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