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‘It’s wrong, it’s vile and it shouldn’t be allowed’

Senator Jonathan Smith hits out at online commenting

By Sirkka Huish

Government Senator Jonathan Smith fears “vile” online comments are giving people across the globe the wrong impression of him.

Sen Smith says he has been “called names” on news websites since being announced as a PLP election candidate for Warwick West last week.

He said it wasn’t fair that people anonymously posted comments as he recognised the “racial undertones” of what they were saying.

Sen Smith raised his concerns in the Senate as he talked about “a sizeable portion” of the Reply to the Throne Speech being about race.

The One Bermuda Alliance stated that there are “black people and white people of goodwill who see racism as the evil that it is and who seek to dismantle it wherever they find it”.

Sen Smith said although he recognised OBA leader Craig Cannonier as a “honourable, reputable and responsible man” his message about race “just wasn’t trickling down”.

He said: “People get on their laptops and iPads and use anonymous names in the safety of their living rooms to put their hate onto news websites.

“I know all the racial undertones of what I’m being called.

“This is what is happening on news sites around the Country and now that’s what people around the world probably think about me … it’s not true but people who don’t know me don’t know that.”

Sen Smith did not go into specifics about what had been said about him, but he did say people had suggested he was “the white guy put up to save them [the PLP]”.

He also told the Senate that Premier Paula Cox had been called “a rat” and the Government had been called “monkeys” in online comments.

Sen Smith did not name the news website but explained that the comments had not been removed even though he had phoned the establishment to complain.

He said: “It’s wrong. It’s vile and it shouldn’t be allowed.”

The Royal Gazette printed the story about Sen Smith being named as a general election PLP candidate on November 18 and the story received 50 online comments.

Sen Smith told the Alaska Hall press conference that he would not shy away from his responsibilities and he was excited to serve his people and Country.

One online comment said Sen Smith was “being used” as the PLP “wants him to bring white votes to their side and that’s it”.

Another comment wished Sen Smith the best of luck, adding: “We’ll never get over the black/white … UBP (OBA)/PLP issues without change; Jonathan is a man of the people and is a likely candidate for a labour party. Move forwards not backwards.”

Sen Smith, who is a former Police Commissioner, told the Senate on Wednesday that anyone who knew him knew he couldn’t be told what to say.

He added: “I don’t mind tackling tough issues, I did it for 27 years so I’m not about to stop now.

“When I stepped forward I was making myself available to serve the people of my Country. I said to the Premier ‘You decide where you want me to run and I will be there for you’.”

Sen Smith’s comments come only about five weeks after former Accountant General Anthony Richardson also voiced concerns about negative online comments.

Mr Richardson, who was the PLP candidate in the Devonshire South Central by-election, said “Bermuda needs healing” as website comments were not setting a good example to future generations.

He said he supported freedom of expression, but urged people to “be mindful” of their “very, very negative” comments.

Jonathan Smith

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Published November 25, 2011 at 1:00 am (Updated November 25, 2011 at 7:17 am)

‘It’s wrong, it’s vile and it shouldn’t be allowed’

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