A threat or quip by an Australian executive chef to poison the food of Bermudian Premier Ewart Brown over the Christmas holidays has sparked mass debate on the trendy tourist island where racial tension between Blacks and Whites has always lingered just below the surface. Anthony Reynolds, 48, was forced off the mid-Atlantic island of 62,000 immediately after it became clear that he had talked openly about putting arsenic in the premier's food at a dinner party Brown was hosting for cabinet ministers and other high functionaries at the high end Elbow Beach resort.

Kitchen and other local staff who heard the comment told local media they were incensed by the comment and reported the threat to management and even police. immigration Minister Derrick Burges said he moved with speed after receiving the complaints, calling the actions of Reynolds "undesirable by any civic evaluation or standard." He then ordered the expulsion of the chef from the island. "Mr. Reynold s's comment was " tantamount to an act of terrorism, a criminal act of a most heinous nature," the minister said in a statement, noting that his work permit and right to remain on the island with his Ethiopian wife was "no longer valid or legally tenable. The man was removed from the country forthwith."

Local media reported that when a waiter asked which plate was to be served to the premier Reynolds pointed to the " one there with the arsenic in it." Brown became premier just over six weeks ago after defeating Alex Scott as leader of the Afro-dominated Progressive Labor party (PLP). The PLP is in the second consecutive term after winning general elections and control of the cabinet for the first time in 400 years of island occupation.

Whites make up about 35 percent of the population. Most support the United Bermudan Party (UBP) now occupying opposition benches. Polls show that PLP could win a third term under Brown, seen as a more assertive leader and black rights defender than Scott and Jennifer Smith who broke the years of White rule in the 90s before deposed in a cabinet coup by Scott.

The leading island daily, the Royal Gazette, reported that chefs at other hotels were not that pleased with the expulsion, saying it was a regular joke among kitchen staff to make comments about food and beverages. The hotel is owned by a Saudi group. Reynolds had been on the island since 2005. For his part, Brown issued his own statement saying that he was deeply saddened by the incident.

" I deem this hospitality property to be one of the premier resorts in the country. I consider this an isolated situation and this incident will not diminish my support for that hotel, "he said. Blacks and Whites sometimes share an uncomfortable existence with resentment linked to the fact that whites and other expatriates even of color get to top jobs at the expense of blacks in the British dependency, two hours by air from New York. A debate about the island becoming independent has been encouraged by all three PLP leaders with support ebbing to and fro for the move.

Wonder if those same chefs would appreciate someone saying they poisoned the food they're about to eat?.