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OBA condemns Commissiong appointment as tone deaf

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The appointment of a Cabinet minister under fire for making “a comment I shouldn't have” has been blasted by the Opposition.

The decision to make Rolfe Commissiong the Government Senate Leader as well as the Minister of Community Affairs and Sport, was said by the One Bermuda Alliance to be “tone deaf” on the part of David Burt, the Premier.

It came in the wake of a social-media post by Jamahl Simmons, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, who tweeted on Thursday night that misogyny had “no place anywhere”.

Mr Simmons added that it should “be even more intolerable in the House that Dame Lois and so many other women sacrificed to build” — in reference to Dame Lois Browne-Evans, a pioneering former leader of the party.

Mr Commissiong, who was MP for Pembroke South East, stepped out of the running for the October 1 General Election after acknowledging the incident from two years ago, which he said had been settled in “a legally binding confidentiality agreement”, and had become a “distraction”.

The OBA statement said his appointment on Thursday had “retraumatised Bermuda's victims and their families”.

It added: “The PLP in its election platform professed to advocate for the vulnerable. However, the Premier in his very first act as the newly elected government has been tone deaf and in denial about the impact his decision has had.

“The Premier, the Speaker of the House, and the party Whip were all aware of this matter and have not responded responsibly to this issue.”

Mr Burt said in August that he had only recently been informed of the complaint, which was said to have been passed on to Dennis Lister, the Speaker, in the last Parliament.

The Premier also said he took the matter “very seriously” — and in a statement on Thursday night stated that “my goal is to ensure there is a work environment where women are respected and treated fairly and professionally”.

The OBA claimed that Mr Commissiong had admitted guilt over the unspecified complaint by signing a letter of apology for his actions.

The Opposition said his appointment was “an affront to the humans rights of the alleged victim”, calling it “a horrendous and irresponsible decision”.

The statement said that the selection of Mr Commissiong, when the party had 30 newly elected candidates to consider instead, was “indicative of a pattern of poor judgment, questionable integrity and ethics”.

On Thursday night, the activist group Social Justice Bermuda, an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter movement, called for Mr Commissiong's appointment to be revoked.

In response, Mr Burt said: “I will judge senator Commissiong by his work going forward.

“Like other ministers, he will have to adhere to the standards of office and any breaches of such will be enforced without fear or favour.”

The OBA statement continued: “How are the women in the Upper and Lower House, on both sides, meant to feel by this egregious blunder? Do they have a voice?

“If the Premier's mistake is going to be overturned, the women must exercise their voice — all Bermudians must exercise their voice.”

The Opposition called on Mr Burt to “do the right thing — make that change”.

Mr Commissiong could not be contacted for comment.

Under fire: Rolfe Commissiong, of the Progressive Labour Party (File photograph)

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Published October 10, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated October 10, 2020 at 1:39 pm)

OBA condemns Commissiong appointment as tone deaf

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