MP apologises for ‘monkey’ comment during House debate
A Government backbencher has apologised for comments he made in the House of Assembly that included “monkey” references.
Christopher Famous added that he accepted a different phrase should have been used to make his point.
The Progressive Labour Party MP said: “On Friday I spoke briefly during the motion to adjourn.
“After over two years, there is now an agreement to redevelop the Fairmont Southampton hotel providing nearly 650 construction jobs in Bermuda and 800 jobs when the property reopens next year.
“This is welcome news for the people of Bermuda and must be celebrated.
“During my presentation, I used a phrase that the Speaker and many others took offence to.
“I fully accept that a different term should have been used to convey my point.
“Apologies for the use of that term.
“Essentially, my point was that all entities are finally on board with this project that will bring much needed employment to Bermudians and boost Bermuda’s economic recovery.
“That has always been the focus of our work as a Government.”
Mr Famous was rebuked for making the “monkey” references, which were believed to be about another Member of Parliament.
Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, said that he expected an apology to the House as well as “to the person in reference to the comment that was made”.
David Burt, the Premier, was asked about the incident by The Royal Gazette.
In a statement he said: "In the course of debates in the House of Assembly, Members often express themselves in terms which, upon reflection, are not best-placed to convey the point being made.
"This is not unique to one political party, and I have discussed with the MP and my colleagues generally the need to elevate debates and communicate effectively on the good work we are doing on behalf of the people of Bermuda to advance the island's economic recovery.
"An agreement to redevelop and reopen Bermuda's largest hotel, providing 650 construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs after reopening, is a vital step in that direction, and I'm pleased that the Government, Opposition and the Bermuda Industrial Union are all in support of advancing this project recognising the benefit to Bermuda's economic and tourism future."
Mr Famous’s comments last Friday came when he talked about the agreement announced earlier between the Government and Westend Properties for the hotel redevelopment.
The backbencher said: “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.”
Mr Famous 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.”
He 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 taken to be about 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.
Earlier, Cole Simons, the Opposition leader, appealed to the Premier to “raise the bar” of his team’s behaviour.
He said: “The Premier and his party should demonstrate principled leadership.
“As leaders and representatives of the people of this country there is a standard of performance and behaviour that is expected.
“All of our leaders must lead by example and be beyond reproach.
“What standards of behaviour has this premier set for his parliamentary team?”
Mr Simons said: “If MP Christopher Famous’s behaviour is the standard and indicative for the Government of Bermuda, the people can truly understand some of the reasons why MP Curtis Dickinson retired as the finance minister.
“Premier Burt, the people of Bermuda deserve better. We yearn for principled leadership. It is up to you to raise the bar of your team’s leadership behaviour.
“The people of Bermuda are beginning to see a shift in our island's moral compass because of a number of recent events.”
• UPDATE: this story has been amended to include comments from Christopher Famous and David Burt, the Premier