Premier met with AG following controversial House remarks
Premier Craig Cannonier defended embattled Attorney General Mark Pettingill, who he said had met privately with clergy in the wake of remarks branded offensive by the Opposition.
Progressive Labour Party MPs kept up the pressure on Mr Pettingill during last night’s Motion to Adjourn in the House of Assembly — insisting that the AG broke with collective responsibility by speaking his mind during the debate in the House over amendments to the Human Rights Act.
Mr Pettingill was quoted as suggesting that for every person who returned to the Island, “I hope one homophobe leaves”.
Mr Cannonier responded: “Everyone has the right to speak their personal views — he supported the Bill. That was his collective responsibility, in supporting the Bill.”
Over calls from the Opposition to give his view on the AG’s remarks, the Premier replied: “I’m not offended when someone speaks his own mind, and my faith will not be deterred by someone else’s comments.”
Opposition MPs castigated Mr Pettingill as the House prepared to break for a week.
Shadow AG Kim Wilson told the House: “How can one make a statement on a piece of legislation that, collectively, Government is bringing — and then turn around and say you’re speaking from your own personal position? It doesn’t go like that.”
Pembroke South East MP Rolfe Commissiong said he doubted the community would “unquestioningly accept” Mr Pettingill’s apology for his remarks.
He said the Premier needed to understand that “a series of questionable judgments” by the AG had undermined Mr Pettingill’s credibility.
Furthermore, Mr Commissiong told the House, some anti-religious comments posted under articles on the debate “can be viewed as hate speech”.
Since the AG hadn’t retracted his comments, he concluded: “I believe the Premier himself still has to apply some attention to this issue.”
And PLP MP Walter Roban said the “intolerable” remarks had tainted the debate over human rights.
Meanwhile, Opposition MP David Burt said he couldn’t understand why it had taken the AG so long to apologise for his remarks.
In closing, Mr Cannonier told the House: “I believe in the integrity of the apology given by the Attorney General — and I have full trust in that apology”.
The Premier agreed that “many were offended” but added: “I will allow this Honourable Member to continue his dialogue with clergy to ensure that this type of thing does not happen again.”