Commissiong attacks tap dancing’ Sir John
A Progressive Labour Party backbencher claimed yesterday that Bermuda’s longest-serving premier “tap danced” for the “most reactionary and racist elements” in society.
Rolfe Commissiong made the comments in the House of Assembly and cited two broadcast interviews with Sir John Swan, who lead the country from 1982 to 1995.
He said: “Sir John Swan, when asked about Black History Month, basically opined that white Bermudians were not like the whites in the southern part of the US, after all.
“He went on to say that they didn’t lynch black Bermudians, for example.”
Mr Commissiong added: “If you’re talking about an insult to black Bermudians, or particularly the black Bermudians of his generation, I don’t think you can do much worse than that.”
He told members that a few weeks ago Sir John was interviewed about immigration in the presence of two white, overseas journalists.
Mr Commissiong said he was paraphrasing the former United Bermuda Party premier who had suggested “we need to open up” and referred to “rich white people”.
The PLP MP added: “I mean, you’re 83 years old but you’re still doing the tap dance for the most reactionary, racist elements in Bermuda’s society.”
Mr Commissiong said David Burt, the Premier, had pointed out the island welcomed investment “from wherever it comes”.
He added: “Indian, Chinese, African — come on guys, Bermuda is open for business.”
But Mr Commissiong said there was a “positive” when interviews with up to nine members of the public, at least half of them white, were broadcast.
He said: “To their credit, each one of them repudiated what Sir John Swan said.
“Every white person they interviewed — no, I don’t think that should be a litmus test, in other words, like our Premier said, we should welcome investment from wherever.”
Michael Dunkley, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, later tweeted an extract from Mr Commissiong’s comments and said: “Bermuda’s revered national hero Sir John Swan should not be referred to like this.”