Last updated: 01:30 PM ET, Thu March 17 2016

Crockwell Resigns As Bermuda Tourism Minister Amid Civil Unrest

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | March 17, 2016

Crockwell Resigns As Bermuda Tourism Minister Amid Civil Unrest

Photo: Shawn Crockwell, seated far right, has resigned his post as Bermuda's tourism minister. (Photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority).

Shawn Crockwell, Bermuda’s high-profile tourism minister, resigned Wednesday, saying he has “lost confidence” in the territory’s government following a week of public protests against proposed changes to a law governing immigration into the country.

A member of Bermuda’s parliament and the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) political party, Crockwell was named tourism minister in 2013. He acted quickly to address the country’s declining visitor arrivals, launching initiatives that included the formation of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, a law permitting casino gaming in the territory, and the imminent development of a St. Regis hotel in St. George’s, the country’s first new major hotel in decades.  

Yet Crockwell said Wednesday the government has not acted on warnings he and other issued with regards to public “frustration” with the immigration law change and other policies.

“We have not done a good job in navigating some of the difficult issues,” said Crockwell in a Bermuda Royal Gazette interview.  “I felt that I could no longer serve under Premier [Michael] Dunkley and the direction in which he is taking this country.” Although he has resigned his cabinet post, Crockwell remains parliament member and added he will continue as an OBA party official.

Five days of public protests have followed the announcement in Bermuda of the “Pathway to Status” initiative, which under Bermuda’s  Immigration and Protection Amendment Act of 2016 would allow people not born in the country but working there for at least 15 years to gain permanent residency, followed by citizenship after 20 years.

The protests have “crippled” public transportation, garbage collection and seaport work in Bermuda throughout this week, according to news reports. The protesters include members of Bermuda’s industrial union and political “pressure group” People’s Campaign. A Monday rally at Bermuda’s Parliament blocked legislators from entering the building.

On Thursday Dunkley named Grant Gibbons acting tourism minister.Gibbons, who is also Bermuda's minister of economic development, will add the tourism responsibilities until the Premier “appoints a full-time minister in short order,” the governor said in a statement.

“I am disappointed with this development as Shawn was an effective minister who progressed the government’s agenda to restore workplace jobs and opportunity for Bermudians across the Island, from the formation of the Bermuda Tourism Authority, the Gaming Commission and the imminent development of a new hotel in St. George’s.”

Dunkley said he would contact George Fergusson, Bermuda’s’ governor, “for a new appointment to the Cabinet so that we can continue the work to restore opportunity and prosperity to Bermuda.”

While he cited the government for doing “a fantastic job in turning around the economy,” Crockwell outlined his opposition to other actions in stark terms Wednesday, blaming the civil unrest on divisive policies enacted under Dunkley’s administration.

“This issue is reflective of the inability of the government to listen and to appropriately gauge the temperature of the community, to understand the frustration and lack of trust that has been created,” said Crockwell in the Royal Gazette interview.

He assailed the government’s “inability to communicate appropriately with the black community in particular, to bring them along and get them to understand what we have to do.” Crockwell described Bermuda as “on the brink of civil unrest because of the management style of this government.”

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