Commissiong On Resignation, Letter & More

November 3, 2020 | 22 Comments

[Updated] Rolfe Commissiong said he has decided to come forward to provide his side, stating that he made a mistake in making an inappropriate comment, and also alleging that he did not write the resignation letter that was released publicly, and signed it “under duress”.

“I am not here to assert that my resignation was avoidable,” he said, adding that the “very negative interest around this story would have made it extremely difficult to carry out my duties as a minister of the government” and he is speaking to what he alleged was an “unethical manner and intent, surrounding the letters publication.”

Update: The Premier has responded, stating that “Rolfe’s letter was released with his full knowledge”, with the Premier saying he was “compelled to act” based on new information that had come to his attention, and the firm stance he took was a reflection of the “importance of the respectful treatment of women.”

Background

Rolfe Commissiong, a former MP, stepped down as a candidate in late August before the election saying, “I made a comment I shouldn’t have. I made a mistake, I apologized. For the good of the party, and Bermudians who deserve strong leadership in these trying times, I have chosen not to be a distraction. To that end, I will not be a candidate in the general election.”

He was then appointed as the Government Senate Leader and Minister of Community and Sports on October 8th, and his appointment was widely criticized. After serving for only 2 days, the Premier announced, on October 10th, that he advised “the Governor to revoke the appointment of Rolfe Commissiong as a Senator and have accepted his resignation as a Minister.”

A new Minister and Senator has not yet been appointed since Mr Commissiong was removed over three weeks ago, however as Parliament reconvenes this Friday [Nov 6] it is expected to occur within the near future.

Mr Commissiong’s resignation letter:

Ej_tEGaXcAExyzy

Mr Commissiong’s Statement:

Rolfe Commissiong 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.

“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,” he claimed.

He also suggested that “the Premier would have had to have known about this as it was unfolding in the House of Assembly” and said “these detractors all weaponized this disclosure for their own specific agendas.

“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.

“Finally, with respect to the matter of my resignation letter, like many I was shocked with its public release on social media initially. In the words of a close friend who has worked extensively in the corporate and government world, “who does that, and why?”- In reference of its release by the Premier and government into the public domain. These kind of comments were echoed throughout Bermuda and by some within the PLP party rank and file itself.

“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 letters publication.

“What many do not know is that the resignation letter itself was released without my consent by the Premier which as stated was unethical in my view.

The former MP alleged that he did not write the letter and “was refused the ability to offer a crucial amendment to provide much needed context to what amounts to his statement to himself” and also alleged that he ”signed that letter under extreme duress.”

He also alleged that it “was made crystal clear to me during our meeting that if I did not sign the letter in question I would receive no future consideration from the Premier or his government in any matter.”

He then questioned if “after having signed it under those conditions should that letter have been made public” in what he termed a “dishonorable” manner.

“Certainly, there is a lot more that I could say as it relates to the nature of my appointment and what factors went into my initial decision to not contest the nomination as the candidate for constituency 21.

“Indeed, there is much that could be said about the subsequent decision to appoint me to the Senate and Cabinet by the Premier, but I prefer to not speak to those matters at this time and in fact, may never do so. It might be that I will let “sleeping dogs lie”, in every sense of that phrase. We shall see.

“In closing, my adult life has been about redemption, courage and resiliency in the face of adversity. These are the lessons I have not forgotten.

“I have been a fighter by nature. I did not commit to this struggle for the sake of money, prestige, position or status. No, this struggle has been one for racial and economic justice for black Bermudians and this country’s working poor. While others have forsaken these values I have not.

“In order for us to create a more perfect union – to borrow a phrase – that must be its one indispensable and non-negotiable condition.

“In closing, I wish to thank from the bottom of my heart those of you, who have rallied around my wife and me during this very difficult time. But it’s precisely during times like this that one gets a real sense and appreciation of what true friendship is really all about. For that, and to them, I am eternally grateful.”

Premier’s Response

We have asked the Premier’s office for comment and will update as able.

Update 4.45pm: Saying that “Rolfe’s letter was released with his full knowledge”, the Premier said that he was “compelled to act” based on new information that had come to his attention, and the firm stance he took was a reflection of the “importance of the respectful treatment of women.”

The Premier said, “Let me be clear: 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,” the Premier concluded.

In a separate statement, the PLP 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 7th 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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Comments (22)

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  1. In Vino Veritas says:

    What I still do not get is that if Rolfe was deemed unfit to run as a candidate, how is that, however briefly, the Premier deemed him fit to for the Senate and as a Cabinet minister? Something does not add up here. It’s obvious that we the public are being told only a small part of what transpired.

    • Guy Carri says:

      You know the answer and Rolf beat on the bush in this letter. There was a trade (and its in the premier and PLP’s best interest that its not made public). Just that the public forced the premier to rescind his half of the deal. Starting to see dirt under all corners of the rug. The cracks are showing.

      Going by the above, my bet is the premier keeps his response very brief so Rolf doesn’t spill the real meat and potatoes of this underhanded arrangement.

    • JohnBoy says:

      Yup!!

    • wahoo says:

      You are not the only one. Something shady was going on and all that we can do is guess what they were thinking.

  2. sandgrownan says:

    Rolfegate!

    Said it first.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Naah , nothing will ever , ever be worse than the non event Jetgate.
      Oh , that and the fairy tale that someone in the evil OBA ordered the pepper spraying .. lol

      • Unbelievable says:

        That fairy tale is the BIGGEST fairy tale of all. If only an alternative to the airport deal was presented by the PLP naysayers.

  3. Boston Whaler Owner says:

    whenever RC’s name is brought to my attention I always think of
    The Lumberjack Song!.

  4. Unbelievable says:

    I’m gonna go out on limb here and say that somewhere in this entire situation….there seems to be, or there was, a power struggle. A struggle for what? I don’t know. But either Rolfe Commissiong or David Burt is not telling the truth.

  5. Move on says:

    The controversy died and Rolfe should have just moved on. There is more than enough to worry about and talk about in this country. He should have remained silent and moved on.

    • wahoo says:

      He is bitter and in typical school yard antics he needs to get in the last word. DB will not reply to this guaranteed he will let this go because there is something more going here on other than whether RC got a ministry through the back door. Transparency not!

    • Warrior says:

      Hey Move On, Rolfe is finally standing up as he has seen the PLP at its worse and now at its worser…biting him on the ankle, kicking in the butt and now, have dug his end. They did it to Premiers so who is Rolfe, another weak link in the efforts of the PLP to make room for another person they can use and embarrass. To the young senators, pray for wisdom, seek God daily and do not trust smiles and those handshakes, pats on backs.
      Yup, periphial vision is what is needed in Bermuda politics. Rolf, get a library card so you can go sit under a tree and read about Tree Frogs and Tings.

      • Imjustsaying says:

        I have heard many behind the scenes horror stories of the PLP from former members.

    • Barbara D Cooper says:

      I agree with ‘Move On’ , Rolf has a ‘past’ and needs to stay silent in his own best interests.

  6. Me says:

    Sometimes you gotta know when you are not wanted

  7. Acegurl says:

    He protesth too much. Guilty as charged. The Premier did what he needed to do. This man is demeaning to women. He needs to close his mouth and go do something to redeem himself. He got the outcome he deserved how dare he try to fool the public.

  8. Imjustsaying says:

    The Premier is smart but I wouldn’t trust him with a bucket of water if my knickers were on fire!

  9. Eyes wide open says:

    Rolfe you can always join the obaUBP at the rate their going you will be the smartest surrogate in the room.

  10. Kathy says:

    Rolfe, give it up and go home. You made your bed now lay in it!

  11. In Vino Veritas says:

    I sure hope the FDM tell him to go away too.

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