Commissiong denies using abusive term

Rolfe Commissiong yesterday denied calling a member of Bermuda Democratic Alliance a "house nigger" but said he did describe the new party as having minimal support from black Bermudians.

The $104,000-a-year Government race relations consultant was accused by Dueane Dill of using the insult during a "tirade" in a Hamilton gym on February 20, as reported in The Royal Gazette yesterday.

Mr. Dill, 47, said he had suffered similar slurs from Mr. Commissiong before but spoke out this time having joined the BDA, a party he described as inclusive and embracing diversity.

  • Rolfe Commissiong

    Rolfe Commissiong


Rolfe Commissiong yesterday denied calling a member of Bermuda Democratic Alliance a "house nigger" but said he did describe the new party as having minimal support from black Bermudians.

The $104,000-a-year Government race relations consultant was accused by Dueane Dill of using the insult during a "tirade" in a Hamilton gym on February 20, as reported in The Royal Gazette yesterday.

Mr. Dill, 47, said he had suffered similar slurs from Mr. Commissiong before but spoke out this time having joined the BDA, a party he described as inclusive and embracing diversity.

Another member of the Olympic Club on Dundonald Street, who would not be named, said he heard the former PLP election candidate use the term.

Meanwhile, UBP member Joshua Richardson claimed yesterday that Mr. Commissioning previously called him an "Uncle Tom, ass kisser and UBP lackey".

Mr. Richardson, 57, said: "This is nothing new. This is a guy who is being paid taxpayers' money to bring the races together and, in my opinion, he is creating more disharmony than any individual I can think of."

Mr. Commissiong was given the opportunity to respond to Mr. Dill's allegation earlier this week but refused, saying his remarks were "private between him and me".

Yesterday, he e-mailed a lengthy reply in which he wrote that politics was a "full contact sport" for grown-ups and those engaged in it should act with integrity.

He denied calling Mr. Dill a "house nigger" and said Mr. Richardson's claim was "not true". "Both have political axes to grind," he said.

Mr. Commissiong wrote "What I did say to Mr. Dill and what was my core argument which he took extreme issue with was not that I had called him a name, which I didn't, but that a recent poll published by The Royal Gazette indicated that all that the Bermuda Democratic Alliance has achieved thus far has been to divide the United Bermuda Party's white support between the two political entities.

"It further illustrated that its support from the black Bermudian electorate was minimal. In this regard I suspect, as my own experience with Mr. Dill illustrates, that soon he will be taking The Gazette to task as well, for breaking down the electorate in its polls racially (black, white, other).

"For in Mr. Dill's rose-coloured world, race and how it relates to Bermuda politically, has no bearing and should never be mentioned in any circumstances."

He said he told Mr. Dill who approached this newspaper about the gym incident on February 24 that many of the black Bermudians at the forefront of the BDA had little credibility politically within the broader black community.

He added: "I repeat not all, but many. This is just my view, but the poll in question may be a reflection of that. Black Bermudians, contrary to many reports, are not stupid.

"This is a distinct vulnerability for the BDA, as it remains for the UBP, in a country which counts black Bermudians as slightly over two-thirds of the electorate."

He claimed the incident in the gym would confirm for many that the BDA was intent on the same tactics as "its parent, the UBP". Mr. Commissiong said the "racial polarisation" that was a feature of Bermuda's political landscape was largely driven by whites voting overwhelmingly for the UBP.

"Hopefully, that may be about to change as symbolised by the public support of the PLP given by Jonathan Smith, the former Police Commissioner, Minister Zane DeSilva and a growing number of white Bermudians behind the scenes, who are determined to break that historical legacy."

BDA leader Craig Cannonier said yesterday of Mr. Commissiong "People should be outraged at his garbage."

He said "Mr. Commissiong's comments to Mr. Dill have been corroborated so the public has to ask who is telling the truth and can make up their own mind.

"Political ideologies have no bearing on this. The fact remains that Mr. Commissiong called another person a house nigger, which is offensive, especially given Mr. Commissiong's publicly-funded role as a race relations consultant."

He said politics was not a game or "full contact sport" but was about respect.

"The time for divisive language and abusive tactics is over," said Mr. Cannonier. "Mr. Dill and Mr. Commissiong have both had their say Bermuda has far more pressing issues to deal with."

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