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Marcus Jones quits as Opposition senator

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OBA senator Marcus Jones (File Photograph)

The One Bermuda Alliance’s acting Senate leader has quit after comments he made that teenagers were inviting abuse sparked uproar on social media.

Senator Marcus Jones provoked widespread outrage over his intervention in an Upper House discussion of Teen Dating Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month.

In response to the controversy, OBA leader Cole Simons said: “Today has been a whirlwind of a day. As the island waits to learn of its fiscal future, I have been dealing with a serious issue that needs immediate attention – the comment made by Senator Marcus Jones in the Upper House during Wednesday’s Senate session.

“To say I am saddened by the comments made by Senator Jones is an understatement. While it was not his intent to offend anyone, his words were perceived by some as hurtful towards young people, females, and victims of assault.

“As previously stated, I do not believe that he intended to be offensive, but as public servants, we are all accountable for the words we speak, whether they were well-intended, they are not always received as such.

“In the past, the One Bermuda Alliance has levied criticism against public servants who have used inappropriate language and our position has not changed.

“As a result, for the sake of Bermuda, Senator Jones has offered me his resignation and, with regret, I have accepted it.

“I have found him to be a man of principle and at this time, I would like to thank him for his time and commitment to the country and for the good work he has done in the Upper House.”

The remarks come after Mr Jones clashed with Lindsay Simmons, the junior social development minister, over the highly emotive issue.

The senators engaged in a heated debate about the hazards of social media and inappropriate images of young people leading to abuse.

Mr Jones said there was imagery featuring teenagers online that would “absolutely make your hair stand on end” and asked about guidance given to mitigate the risks from social media.

Saying no one would call abuse deserved, he added: “I do believe our young people are inviting this type of behaviour because they are ignorantly getting on social media and putting themselves in harm’s way.”

Mr Jones said young people were constantly on their phones which “appears to be the smoking gun”.

Ms Simmons responded: “First of all, I would like to disagree with you.

“I don’t think that anybody – you said they’re inviting by how they’re dressed is inviting this behaviour. No matter what, nobody deserves this abuse, whether it’s on social media or in person.”

She added that parents needed to educate and monitor their children better and said the ministry was working on introducing courses to help people to learn more about the online risks, as well as a media campaign.

Mischa Fubler on Twitter said: "’I’m not saying they’re asking for it …’ is totally on brand for the “god appointed Trump as president” Senator. The six seriously can’t find an alternate? Are they going to try saying this opinion doesn’t affect the politics either?"

Mr Jones said: “If I put a $20 bill on the sidewalk, I am inviting someone to steal it.

“I am not wishing it, but because of my actions I have invited a thief to steal $20 that belongs to me.

“I do not want the public to think that because of the careless behaviour or uneducated behaviour of our young people by putting certain images on the social media platform, I am not saying they are intentionally trying to be abused.

“I am saying their actions have unintended consequences.”

Senator Lindsay Simmons (Photograph supplied)

Ms Simmons said she was “appalled” by the comment.

“I do not care if a child was lying on the street naked.

“We need to teach our children that it does not matter what somebody wears or says.

“I don’t even know what to say – that statement actually hurts me as a mother.”

Mr Jones responded there had been “a suggestion my motive was not above board – I want to express very strongly that’s not my intent”.

Mr Simons added: “I will appoint his replacement in the near future so that our work for the betterment of this country can continue.

“At this critical point in time, it is vital that we focus on tomorrow’s Budget without distraction.“