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‘Fighting’ words spark row in House of Assembly

Robert King victorious shortly after winning the May 22 by-election (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The newest member of the House of Assembly found himself involved in an exchange over comments regarding a threatened “fight” with another Member of Parliament

Delivering his maiden speech in the House, Robert King said that politicians have a duty to serve their people and do what is in the best interest of the country, not what is best for themselves.

“It’s not about personal enrichment,” he said. “It’s about meeting the needs of the people that we serve.

“This position requires us to make difficult decisions for the betterment of others and the benefit of others, not for our own personal aims.”

He added that the Opposition played an important role in the political process, but that the present administration would have the public believe there was no place for opposition.

Mr King said: “Does a pilot want a co-pilot that is just going to tell him everything is great when warning lights are on and buzzing, showing this plane might very well fall from the sky?

“This House and the current administration would have you say don’t worry about the co-pilot, we don’t need him, all we need is blind allegiance, to the detriment of those who are not able to fend for themselves.”

In the midst of the speech, Mr King said that while MPs swore an oath and prayed to work for the benefit of the community, he had been “threatened to a fight” by another MP.

“When we are talking about Honourable members in this Honourable House, how does one then explain that on my first day I’m getting threatened to a fight because of a transgression that I did not do and be mindful of the fact that it is my first day and we are going to make mistakes,” he said.

“Was I afraid? No I was not afraid. Was I disappointed? Yes.”

Dennis Lister, the Speaker of the House, said at the close of the speech that any complaints about the behaviour of parliamentarians should come to him rather than be ventilated in the House and no complaints had been raised.

However, later in the session on Friday, Neville Tyrrell, a government backbencher, said he had been told that an MP was “going to direct comments on the floor today towards me or something that he imagined happened”.

Mr King rose on a point of order, saying: “He was the person who made the threat towards me, challenging me to a fight.”

He said Mr Tyrrell told him: “You and me are going to fight.”

Mr Lister interjected and said both MPs would see him in his office after the session.

He told Mr Tyrrell to ignore the comments, and told Mr King: “You are new — I warned you earlier to learn your place before you jump to your feet.”

Mr Tyrrell closed his remarks by saying: “In art, religion and politics, the respect must be mutual, no matter how violent the disagreement.”

Zane DeSilva mentioned the exchange in his comments to the House. He said: “When we talk about fighting, we are talking verbally.”

Mr DeSilva also asked who Mr King had meant with his remarks about “blind allegiance”, calling the comments “distasteful and disrespectful”.

He said: “Maybe Members of Parliament that follow our leader? Is the blind allegiance to which he spoke talking about the thousands of Bermudians who voted in 30 PLP MPs?”

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Published June 18, 2024 at 7:53 am (Updated June 18, 2024 at 7:53 am)

‘Fighting’ words spark row in House of Assembly

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