Sleeping MPs images prompts call for inquiry
An MP snapped apparently asleep in the House of Assembly has called for an inquiry into the use of cameras in Parliament.
Christopher Famous, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, was one of several politicians captured sleeping in the House of Assembly in pictures posted on the social-media site WhatsApp.
He said: “The Speaker [Dennis Lister] has to investigate this. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to speak on it.”
A video of Jeanne Atherden, Leader of the Opposition, was also posted and images taken from it appeared on Facebook.
She appears to be sleeping during a session that is thought to have been held this month.
Other pictures show MPs slumped in their chairs or with their heads falling forward, apparently with their eyes closed.
Among those captured “on candid camera” were Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, as well as PLP backbenchers Kim Swan and Dennis Lister III.
The images, which appeared to have been taken on smartphones, were met with a mixed reaction online — including criticism, amusement and empathy.
It is not known who took the pictures or when, but the camera angles of some suggested they were taken on the floor of the House, while others as though they were taken from the public gallery.
A notice to the public “by order of the Speaker” in the House makes clear a ban on the use of electronic devices.
It says: “Please turn off cellular phones and pagers while in the chamber.
“The use of cameras of all types, tape recording and the reading of newspapers is prohibited.”
The code of conduct for MPs also forbids the use of electronic devices.
Standing orders say: “Members shall not use laptop computers, electronic devices nor read newspapers, books, letters or other documents, except as they may be directly connected with parliamentary business and as provided for under these Standing Orders.”
Former Speaker Randy Horton said in 2015 that taking pictures in Parliament was “absolutely, totally unacceptable” after he saw an online photo taken from the public gallery.
An official photographer was recently asked to obtain permission from the Speaker to capture the Premier’s debut question time.
Ms Atherden said last night that concentration in recent days should have been on the murder of Taylor Grier, who was killed just blocks away from The Sessions House on Friday night, instead of the images.
She explained: “Our core focus this weekend should have been geared towards the senseless violence occurring in our community and those within our community that are affected by these actions, so it is unfortunate that the video which took over social media this weekend has become news.
“For government officials to engage in this level of politics, when a family is mourning the death of a son, really speaks to the core values of the governing party. This is a new low, we should expect better.”
A source close to the One Bermuda Alliance added: “I think everybody knows what happens in chambers and they think there’s nothing beneath the PLP when it comes to political tactics, so they always make sure they have something in their back pockets when these things happen.
“You see people sleeping all the time or just closing their eyes, they’re there for 12 hours sometimes.”
Owen Darrell, the PLP chairman, said the images of MPs and their use on social media was “regrettable and unfortunate”.
He continued: “Elected representatives from both parties work hard and sacrifice much to serve our country.
“House debates can last as late as until 3am.
“Many MPs must balance their parliamentary attendance with full-time jobs and responsibilities to their families and so often are operating on minimal sleep.
“This is not to excuse the behaviour, but to provide some context.
“The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party will remind all our members of the proper decorum required inside the House of Assembly and encourage the Opposition to do the same.”
Colonel Burch did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Mr Swan has contested that he is not asleep in the image that has been circulated, but is instead looking down into his phone.
Dennis Lister III could not be contacted and Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, was also unavailable.
• UPDATE: this article has been amended to include comment from Kim Swan suggesting that he was not alseep in the circulated image