The new appointment of Rolfe Commissiong as the new Cabinet Minister of Community Affairs and Sports and Government Leader in the Senate has come in for scathing criticism by the six-member One Bermuda Alliance Opposition.
In a statement released by the OBA this afternoon, a spokesperson for the Opposition said the move by Premier David Burt announced on Thursday (October 8) was “tone deaf”, when it comes down to the court of public opinion.
This after a post on the local social media circuit by Progressive Labour Paryt backbencher Jamahl Simmons, who tweeted last night that misogyny had “no place anywhere”.
Mr Simmons also stated that it should “be even more intolerable in the House that Dame Lois and so many other women sacrificed to build”.
In follow up to that statement, the OBA said Mr Commissiong’s appointment essentially “retraumatised Bermuda’s victims and their families”.
“The PLP in its election platform professed to advocate for the vulnerable. However, the Premier in his very first act as the newly elected government has been tone deaf and in denial about the impact his decision has had.
“The Premier, the Speaker of the House, and the party Whip were all aware of this matter and have not responded responsibly to this issue.”
The statement went on to say that the PLP MPs admission of guilt over the complaint that has yet to be specified in the public domain was further substantiated by the fact that he signed a letter of apology for his actions.
His appointment was “an affront to the human rights of the alleged victim”, said the OBA.
Ultimately the party said it was “a horrendous and irresponsible decision” on the part of Bermuda’s Premier to appoint him to his current frontline position; especially when there were 30 newly elected candidates to consider.
Instead, the Premier’s decision was “indicative of a pattern of poor judgment, questionable integrity and ethics,” said the Opposition’s spokesman.
“How are the women in the Upper and Lower House, on both sides, meant to feel by this egregious blunder? Do they have a voice?
“If the Premier’s mistake is going to be overturned, the women must exercise their voice — all Bermudians must exercise their voice,” the statement continued.
And the Opposition called on the Premier to “do the right thing” and “make that change” moving forward.
Meanwhile, in response to the call by Social Justice Bermuda for Mr Commissiong’s appointment to be rescinded, Premier David Burt said: “I will judge Senator Commissiong by his work going forward.
“Like other Minister, he will have to adhere to the standards of office and any breaches of such will be enforced without fear or favour.”
The Full Statement:
Our hearts go out to the victims of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault and specifically the person impacted by the actions of recently appointed Cabinet Minister of Community Affairs & Sport and Senate Leader Rolfe Commissioning.
It is extremely unfortunate that the Premier’s recent appointment of Mr Commissiong has retraumatized Bermuda’s victims and their families.
The PLP in its election platform professed to advocate for the vulnerable. However, the Premier in his very first act as the newly elected government has been tone deaf and in denial about the impact his decision has had.
The Premier, the Speaker of the House, and the Party Whip were all aware of this matter and have not responded responsibly to this issue.
The Premier’s has shown total disregard for the feelings and wellbeing of the people he promised to protect. Prior to the election the Premier stated that this issue “is something that I take very seriously” leading to Mr Commissiong stepping down and giving up his seat not to distract from the 2020 General Election.
Mr Commissiong is guilty of the allegations by his own admission. His verification of guilt was supported by a signed letter of apology for his actions. The Premier’s action is an afront to the humans rights of the alleged victim and the Human Rights Act itself – Section 9. Sexual Harassment Prohibited.
In addition, given all the advancement made in this space by the MeToo Movement, Me Too Bermuda Movement, #Bermudatoo, it is unbelievable he could even consider making such a horrendous and irresponsible decision.
This poor sense of judgement is on the back of the $800,000 loan which has yet to be resolved and is indicative of a pattern of poor judgement, questionable integrity, and ethics.
In the end, the outcome will be Bermudians will have to pay for these judgement lapses and only continues to erode an already fragile economy.
The Premier has 30 MPs to choose from; Mr Commissiong’s appointment is an insult to the intelligence and ability of the elected members. Most organisation have a policy to protect against sexual harassment, but it would appear that more than just the Premier was complicit in this cover-up.
Premier Burt has ignored the work, information and recommendations provided by the Joint Select Committee on Women’s Issues, BPSU’s 2018 report, ‘Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, The Joint Select Committee on Child Protection/ Sex Offenders’ Report and other recommendations from the Speaker.
How are the women in the Upper and Lower House, on both sides, meant to feel by this egregious blunder? Do they have a voice?
If the Premier’s mistake is going to be overturned, the women must exercise their voice – all Bermudians must exercise their voice.
All the fathers, self-respecting men, mothers, daughter, brothers, cousins, friends, and the community at large must join with women to speak about the travesty of the Premiers decision. Premier David Burt do the right thing – make that change.