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Bean: OBA elected Cannonier because he was black

Government MP Marc Bean accused the One Bermuda Alliance of “playing the racecard” in electing black MP Craig Cannonier as party leader.

Mr Bean, who is also black, made the remarks while lambasting the OBA for using what he described as “racial rhetoric” in Parliament.

Saying that Government used no such language, he added: “Let me up the ante. Talking about race and the racecard, it’s clear to all who have ears to hear and eyes to see that the only racecard in play today in Bermuda is manifested in living reality through the presence of the One Bermuda Alliance’s leader in the House today. That itself is the playing of the racecard.”

When his comments were met with gasps of “whoa!” and “let truth be your reality” and general exclamations of shock in the House, he continued: “Do I need to repeat it? And it’s something the people of this Country know. If the racecard weren’t an issue then how in God’s name did the One Bermuda Alliance, how did Mr ... how did he get here?”

He went on: “The same person the erudite Shadow Minister of Finance called a ‘colt;’ in order for him to have his presence we lost one of our greatest Parliamentarians ever, Mr John Barritt, so the Honourable Member Mr Cannonier could be here and it’s only based on one reason and that’s the racecard. We don’t have to play no racecard, the racecard is in front of us every Friday across the aisle from Madam Premier and that’s the truth. Don’t talk to me about racial rhetoric when you’re perpetrating a fraud.”

At this point, Government MP Glenn Blakeney called out from his seat: “He’s only holding until Dunkley gets here.”

Mr Cannonier was elected party leader last September, beating Shadow Minister of Finance Bob Richards, who is also black, in an election. Senator Michael Dunkley, who is white, was widely tipped to run in the contest too, but decided not to do so.

Interim OBA leader John Barritt stepped down from that role and his Devonshire South Central seat to pave the way for Mr Cannonier to take the helm.

During the leadership election campaign, Mr Cannonier said the OBA would not allow the Progressive Labour Party to paint it as a white party as it did the United Bermuda Party.

He said: “The PLP depends on the division of race to stay in power. We cannot allow the PLP to define us, to paint us as the white party or the New BP.”

At the last general election, the PLP depicted black United Bermuda Party candidate Wayne Scott as a puppet of the then UBP leader Mr Dunkley in a widely criticised TV advert.

Although Speaker Stanley Lowe did not interrupt Mr Bean’s speech about Mr Cannonier, he reminded him during a later portion of his speech that a standing order of the House of Assembly prevents members discussing matter irrelevant to the Budget debate at hand.

When OBA MP Pat Gordon-Pamplin indicated she was going to respond to what Mr Bean said, the Speaker reminded her of this standing order. She replied that she would leave the topic alone.

However, she described Mr Bean’s speech as “loud and bombastic” and said of his remarks about Mr Cannonier: “Suffice it to say that I disagree with the Member’s comments.”

Invited outside the House of Assembly chamber to share his views on Mr Bean’s speech, Mr Cannonier laughed before replying: “I don’t think there’s really much to say to that. I purposely didn’t respond to it. People are entitled to their personal opinions. All it was was his personal opinion and I haven’t taken it personally.

“If he had any questions he could certainly have asked John Barritt why he stepped down. It was not my decision and was not a party decision. And quite frankly, we had an election through the democratic process. I went up against Bob Richards in a strongly contested fight.”

He added: “These things draw attention away from what really are the issues of this country.”

Post-Budget Press Conference: Marc Bean, Minister of Environment Planning and Infrastructure Strategy MP. (Photo by Akil Simmons) February 24, 2012

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Published March 03, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 03, 2012 at 6:44 am)

Bean: OBA elected Cannonier because he was black

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