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MP Famous blasted by Speaker after ‘monkey’ reference in House of Assembly

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Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House of Assembly (File photograph)

A government backbencher was told last night he would have to apologise after he made a “monkey” reference believed to be about another MP.

PLP backbencher Christopher Famous

Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, appealed to parliamentarians to think about how they represented voters.

He told them: “We set the tone for the country”.

Mr Lister was speaking at the end of the motion to adjourn after Christopher Famous, a Progressive Labour Party MP, discussed the earlier announcement that the Government had reached an agreement with Westend Properties for the redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton hotel.

Mr Famous praised PLP colleagues Wayne Caines and Neville Tyrrell, who spoke in the motion to adjourn just before he rose to add his comments.

But Mr Famous added: “There’s a saying – one monkey don’t stop the circus.

“I’ve sat down for the past year and watched endless questions be asked: ‘What’s up with Fairmont Southampton? When is this deal going to close?’

“We know it’s important to the economy, but it’s civic groups, business groups, have all made it crystal clear just how important it is to the economy.

“Not just the economy as a Black group, but it’s important to get our people, our Black Bermudian men, back to work.”

He added: “I also understand there’s almost 1,000 people out of work.

“Us keeping telling them we’re waiting for some more due diligence, that doesn’t put food on the table.

“So I say to all those on the sidelines chirping, one monkey does not stop the circus.”

Mr Famous told the House: “Thank you for supporting the Southampton Princess because 800 workers are going to be employed and one monkey cannot stop the show.”

Mr Famous did not say outright if he was discussing another parliamentarian and neither he nor Mr Lister identified a specific MP.

But it was thought that the reference was to Curtis Dickinson, who quit as finance minister last month in a dispute over the “quantum of and form of the Government’s support” to the Fairmont Southampton revamp.

Mr Lister said: “Tonight’s motion to adjourn started off with Members talking about the violence in the community and calling for a better way for people to handle differences.

“The first two speakers spoke to that – and then the third speaker gave an example of how not to handle differences.

“When we refer to a Member in this House in an animal tone, monkey tones, it’s not accepted.

“Had anyone else from the other side of the House referred to a Member in that way, we would have had uproar in this place tonight.

“So just because a Member sits on the same side as another Member does not give that Member the right to use tones and language that would not be accepted if it came from the other side.

“That’s unacceptable, unacceptable and I expect that Member, when we come back to this House, to come with an apology to the House and I think I would also expect that Member to be big enough to apologise to the person in reference to the comment that was made.”

Mr Lister said that he was saddened that he had to take action.

He told MPs as the House prepared to break for several weeks: “The issue that drew comments from most people this evening was an issue that has two sides, two opinions, two viewpoints and everybody in this House has the right to express their viewpoint for or against any issue that’s brought to this House.”

Mr Lister added: “We have to show that as leaders we can do better because we set the tone for the country.

“You talk about the violence out there, if they want to see us deteriorate, attacking each other in that way, how are we going to ask them to diminish their violence?”

Mr Lister said: “I want all Members to walk away from here tonight thinking about how we are supposed to represent those who sent us in this House, how we are supposed to set tones for this country, how we, as leaders, will and must do better.”

Mr Famous did not respond to a request for comment.

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Published March 26, 2022 at 7:24 am (Updated March 26, 2022 at 10:56 am)

MP Famous blasted by Speaker after ‘monkey’ reference in House of Assembly

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