Cannonier says PLP is practising ‘Black privilege’
An ex-premier has accused the PLP of using “Black privilege” and double standards in the wake of an MP controversially making a “monkey” reference in Parliament, which was widely seen as an attack on former finance minister Curtis Dickinson.
Former One Bermuda Alliance leader Craig Cannonier made the remarks as he claimed PLP backbencher Chris Famous had not personally apologised to Mr Dickinson for the comment.
Mr Famous provoked controversy last month when he made what was widely viewed as a reference to Mr Dickinson quitting as finance minister following a bust-up with David Burt, the Premier, over financing for the Fairmont Southampton Princess revamp.
Mr Famous told fellow MPs on March 25: “I say to all those on the sidelines chirping, one monkey does not stop the circus.”
Mr Cannonier said that the House of Assembly would have been “on fire” if an OBA MP made such a reference.
He told The Royal Gazette: “There have been numerous occasions where OBA members have been raked over the coals for trying to use an example of what they were trying to say and it has been seen as racist, and the likes.
“The House would have been in an uproar had Craig Cannonier, or any of my colleagues used the exact same example.
“Had we said that the place would have been on fire.
“Mr Famous can’t hide behind ‘oh, well, I wasn’t really trying to say that’.
“It was totally out of order to use any form of the term of monkey.”
Mr Cannonier accused the PLP of being “duplicitous” over the matter.
He said: “So, the PLP cannot be duplicitous here. And that’s exactly what is going on.
“They are exercising what I call Black privilege.
“When you feel like you can say whatever you want, whenever you want, that is privilege.
“We have got to move beyond the point of believing that we can say or do whatever we want just because we are Black.
“It is a complete double standard, and the best way I can describe it is black privilege.
“He was asked to apologise in the House of Assembly, he hasn’t done so.
“The Speaker said that ‘you need to apologise’ - we did meet in the House just to table the Fairmont Southampton Bill.”
Mr Cannonier also criticised the Premier for not intervening in the matter when it erupted on the floor of the House.
The OBA shadow tourism minister said: “Immediately after Famous said what he said, our Premier never once called him into check.
“After Famous said what he said the Premier spoke, but the Premier said nothing.
“When you can demean one of the most qualified and established members in the House of Assembly - Curtis Dickinson - and the likes of Mr Famous can make a comment like that - you know you have got a problem.
“He didn’t apologise, that ‘apology’ to The Royal Gazette wasn’t an apology, he was merely justifying what he said.
“If you are going to make a public statement, you need to publicly apologise.
“He did it on purpose - and he didn’t believe he was going to get the backlash that he got.”
At the end of the March 25 session, Dennis Lister, the Speaker, said that he expected an apology to the House of Assembly as well as “to the person in reference to the comment that was made”.
In the days following the controversy, Mr Famous told The Royal Gazette: “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.”
Mr Famous did not say outright if he was discussing another parliamentarian and neither he nor Mr Lister identified a specific MP.
At the time, Mr Burt said in a statement: "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.“
The PLP criticised Mr Cannonier’s stance.
A party spokesperson said: “Chris Famous is a man of the community. It does not matter your colour, religion or gender, he canvasses your home, talks to you about the issues facing our island, relates to you and treats you with respect.
“Anyone who says that there is ‘Black privilege’ does not understand Bermuda's history or Bermuda's reality today.
“Drive around the island and it's plain to see who has benefited from historical injustices and who has not.
“While we have taken action to build a fairer Bermuda through reforms to the tax system to ensure that working people pay less and those with more sacrifice a bit more, there is more work to do to make Bermuda a fairer place.
“Claiming that it's Blacks that have privilege in our society is tone deaf and shows that the OBA has not yet shed its UBP roots.”
Mr Famous and the Premier were also contacted for comment, but did not respond.