Photo above is of demonstrators blocking entrance to the Bermuda Parliament building. Photo credit: The Bermuda Sun.
By Ivan Clifford
HAMILTON, Bermuda, Mar 14, (CMC) — Bermuda’s legislators were locked out by protesters, who formed a human ring around the House of Assembly, today, in a continuing protest against the government’s proposed Pathways to Status initiative.
Politicians were due to debate the controversial bill but, at 1 p.m. (local time) the entrance to the House remained blocked.
There was no immediate comment from the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) government on whether the parliamentary session would take place later in the day.
Opposition Progressive Labour Party (PLP) MP, Michael Weeks, said, as far as he knew, no MP made it inside, telling reporters, “I think right now, it is just a waiting game, because the people are standing firm and now, the next move is going to be on the government — are they going to come and listen to the people and address the people?”
Government warned citizens, on Sunday night, to expect further disruption to public services on Monday.
Garbage continues to pile up at the roadside in parts of the island.
On Monday, schools reported low student turn-out due to the lack of public transportation, with no buses running, but teachers are said to have arrived for duty as usual.
Protesters began gathering at Union Square before marching to the House, where they linked arms to surround the building. Several hundred, including many schoolchildren, were in place by mid-morning, as the late Jamaican Bob Marley’s, songs were played. At first it was “One Love” but later, it was “War”.
Bermuda Industrial Union president, Chris Furbert, told the crowd, “this is not a labour issue this is a national issue.
“All we are asking for is what is just and fair. The country needs to see the bigger picture.”
Government wants to usher in the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Amendment Act 2016 that would open the door for long-term guest workers to gain permanent residency after 15 years, and Bermuda status (citizenship) after 20 years, but the plan has split the country.
The protesters are calling on the government to withdraw legislation providing new pathways to status for long-term residents.
Home Affairs Minister, Michael Fahy, has said, amending the 1956 Immigration Act would bring Bermuda in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, generate revenue and help to address the decreasing work population.
Even though Bermuda has emerged from six years of recession, the island is struggling to improve its fragile economy.
Finance Minister, Bob Richards, said, in last month’s annual Budget, that the national debt — which stood at US$1.4 billion when the OBA ousted the PLP in the December 2012 general election — would rise to US$2.44 billion by the end of March next year.
Unemployment is running at seven per cent.
Meanwhile, Premier Michael Dunkley has revealed that civil servants took almost 38,665 sick days in the 2015/16 fiscal year at a cost of US$10.6 million to the government.