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19°/17.22°Scattered Clouds

2020-11-04 - 01:43:06  POLITICS | 


In what appears to have turned into an ‘unholy break-up’ between former Cabinet Minister, Member of Parliament and Senator Rolfe Commissiong and the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) today heard accusations of unethical behavior and spoken mistruths thrown at Premier David Burt by the departed member surrounding the instance of his recent departures from the public office.

During a press conference Mr. Commissiong asserted that he had been forcibly made to give signatory to a letter of resignation from his position as Senate Leader and Minister of Community Affairs, a letter he claimed not to have penned, but rather to have been presented him by the Premier.

And while being of the understanding that his position within the Senate was an untenable one based on his own actions of the past and the public uproar caused by his appointment, the public release of the details went against his knowledge or wishes.

“… with respect to the matter of my resignation letter, like many I was shocked with its public release on social media initially,” said Mr. Commissiong. “In the words of a close friend who has worked extensively in the corporate and government world, “who does that, and why?”.

“To be clear, I am not here to assert that my resignation was avoidable. The white hot and very negative interest around this story would have made it extremely difficult to carry out my duties as a minister of the government. No. That is not my intent here. I am speaking at this point solely to the unethical manner and intent, surrounding the letter’s publication.”

The former member more than hinted how the Premier had known of the incident involving his comrade well before letting on to the public, saying: “…the Premier would have had to have known about this as it was unfolding in the House of Assembly”.

In response to this assertion and under questioning from TNN’s Trevor Lindsay at Tuesday’s Covid press conference the Premier countered by painting Mr. Commissiong as the bearer of falsehoods and that of having concealed the full extent of his prior transgressions that had led to the latter’s initial withdrawal from candidacy for the recently concluded general election.

“Given that Mr. Commissiong is no longer a minister given the matters that were stated so clearly in his letter about not providing full and truthful answers I’ll just leave that there,” said the Premier.

He added that he would not continue to entertain questions regarding the Commissiong affair for the fact that each time the matter surfaced wounds were opened among the victims and families connected with the past instances of malfeasance by the former MP.

Still, Mr. Commissiong further suggested how his situation was made into a political weapon by detractors “for their own specific agendas” while also serving to damage his political and personal reputation as well as debilitate his ability to adequately service the country in any prominent, public capacity, which were part of the reasoning for him coming forth with his version of events.

He said: “After withstanding countless attacks on my person, mostly by people anonymously I have decided to come forward to provide my side of the case as to the allegations and claims that have been made about me,” he stated. “In my case social media was weaponized to promote half-truths, innuendos, outright lies, woeful mischaracterization’s and just plain run of the mill gossip which in Bermuda has become our real national sport.

“How many defamatory posts during this feeding frenzy over the last few weeks were able to migrate from the poisoned pen or keyboard by persons both anonymously and those who posted under their own names – who were seeking to demonize me and harm those close to me?

“I can only surmise based upon my experience in the caucus and party that he did so with the full approval of the Premier as a means of providing added fuel to justify the growing calls in some quarters for my resignation.

“Firstly, let me say once more that I made a woeful mistake. I did so by exercising bad judgment in making an inappropriate comment to a female staffer in a professional environment roughly two years ago on the phone, who in retrospect did not deserve to be put in such a position by me or anyone else. As previously noted, this matter was amicably resolved between the two adult parties through mediation, culminating with a full written apology from me.

“Unfortunately, this private and highly confidential matter that was handled properly as to policy, code and procedure, was deliberately leaked to the general public by those who sought, on both sides of the political divide, to use it for purely political and selfish purposes.

“I remained and my family remained silent through it all, until today.

“But what I will say is that this ordeal has been a learning experience that I am keen to continue. I have been able already to get a better understanding of issues related to gender sensitivity and sexism. I was born in 1957 and I grew up in an environment pre 1980’s where a very different set of rules applied. This journey which I intend to continue with all humility, is one that I must continue not only for the sake of my own personal development but for the sake of, my daughter and my two very young granddaughters.

Meanwhile, in response the Premier was largely dismissive of Mr. Commissiong’s comments and assertions, inferring many of the said statements to be false.

“Let me be clear,” began the Premier. “Rolfe’s letter was released with his full knowledge.

“We met that day for a considerable time to deal with what were incredibly difficult circumstances. One of the reasons for the extended time for our meeting was because of prolonged discussions on the precise language of his letter, which would be released publicly.

“There is nothing to be gained by rehashing these issues. My position, which I made clear at the time, is that I was compelled to act based on new information that had come to my attention. The firm stance I took on these matters is a reflection of the seriousness with which I personally and the Government, in particular, view the importance of the respectful treatment of women.

“I wish Mr. Commissiong and his family the very best while the Government will remain focused on delivering economic recovery, education reform, a living wage and working to protect Bermuda from a second wave of the Coronavirus.”

Meanwhile, a statement from the party said: “It is unfortunate that this matter is being rehashed, particularly for the victims involved in this very serious matter.

“The PLP is focused on delivering on our promises to phase out middle schools, implement a living wage, grow our economy and protect Bermuda from the Coronavirus. We invite persons to tune in on Friday, Nov 6th for our throne speech where we will outline our roadmap to rebuild Bermuda with Bermudians at Heart.

“We thank Mr. Commissiong for his service, spirited debates & ideas that have contributed to the PLP’s legacy and respect his decision to resign from politics.”
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