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Parliamentarians learn not to tweet like Trump

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MPs and senators were told they were on “a public platform” and should behave accordingly as part of talks in a two-day seminar with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Appropriate use of social media and conduct in the House of Assembly were among the topics covered in sessions lead by both Bermudian politicians and visiting experts.

The final session was on Parliament and Social Media: Is it a menace or benefit for democracy and parliament?

Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, explained: “We have to make sure that as elected officials there are standards we conduct ourselves under, whether that's just simple interaction with people or whether that's using social media.

“We have to remember that our life is no longer just a personal life, we're on a public platform and everything that we do should recognise that and be respectful of the fact that we're on a public platform.”

He added: “It was not an attempt to limit their use of it, it was an attempt to make sure they know how to use it correctly and in a positive way because it can easily be used negatively and it won't only just harm that individual.

“In a sense, it harms all of us as a body, in that we all get tainted by any negativity that goes around in our circle as leaders.

“So all of us have a responsibility to protect the sanctity of Parliament and the Senate.”

The Speaker said all the island's parliamentarians were invited to the seminar and most attended, although some were off-island on government business or were unable to be there for personal reasons.

Mr Lister added after the seminar closed yesterday: “I'm the old man in the room of Parliament and in my 30 years in Parliament we have never done such a session to help show ways for us to improve how we function in Parliament, what's the business of Parliament and what we should be benchmarking ourselves against.

“That was a key element for me.

“The other piece of it was to make sure that we get members to understand the relationship between our Parliament and the CPA”

The CPA was invited to the island to help increase understanding of the concepts and standards that help to create parliamentary democracies.

Akbar Khan, the secretary-general of the CPA, explained that the organisation, founded in 1911, aimed to “promote, develop and connect parliamentarians and their staff” to help them recognise good practice benchmarks and encourage parliamentary democracy.

He said: “We're a community of learning and parliamentarians are no different than any other professionals who are seeking to make a difference in public life.

“The public often forget, in my experience, that parliamentarians come into parliament without any particular qualification or experience about parliamentary life.”

Mr Khan added: “We expect our parliamentarians to deliver to the highest standards serving their constituents, serving their community, serving their nation, but we don't provide any form of training for that beforehand. That's where the CPA comes in.”

Shirley Osborne, the Speaker of the Montserrat Legislative Assembly and a CPA vice-chairwoman, said although politicians all over the world can become “excited” during debates, it was often because they were driven to make a change.

She said: “Parliaments are filled with people who are passionate about something, who have a cause, who have a policy or something that they're really intent on achieving for their constituents, so that comes out sometimes.

“One of the older speakers from my jurisdiction warned me ‘Parliament is not Sunday school' and I think we need to remember that.

“Parliament is a place where there are adults who are trying to get something done and how they manage themselves in there is managed by standing orders and by the rules of civil conversation, civil society.”

Mr Lister said his role was not to stifle debate, but to set boundaries for it.

He added: “As long as members stay within those parameters I'll sit back and be quiet but the moment you step over, I'm going to deal with that individual and bring them back into line.”

Public platform: parliamentarians at the seminar at Rosewood Bermuda (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Parliamentary Strengthening Seminar at Rosewood Tuckers Point (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Parliamentary Strengthening Seminar at Rosewood Tuckers Point (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Parliamentary Strengthening Seminar at Rosewood Tuckers Point (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Parliamentary Strengthening Seminar at Rosewood Tuckers Point (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Parliamentary Strengthening Seminar at Rosewood Tuckers Point (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Parliamentary Strengthening Seminar at Rosewood Tuckers Point (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Parliamentary Strengthening Seminar at Rosewood Tuckers Point (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Parliamentary Strengthening Seminar at Rosewood Tuckers Point (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published May 03, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated May 03, 2019 at 8:40 am)

Parliamentarians learn not to tweet like Trump

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