Tempers flared at Bermuda’s House of Assembly last night in a bizarre incident which saw two MPs in a tense standoff before being separated by fellow legislators.
Ruling party backbencher Sylvan Richards and his wife Yahaira Richards said that Opposition Leader Marc Bean made an offensive comment about her as the MPs filed out of the chamber.
“The bottom line is he’s disrespectful to me and my woman. So I let [Opposition Leader] Marc Bean know if he has a problem with me he can speak to me, but leave my wife out of it,” Richards told Politica.
“He’s out of control and he crosses the line.”
Several MPs, including Bean and Zane DeSilva made a trip to Hamilton Police station following the incident.
Contradictory accounts emerged from those at the scene.
Opposition figures said that Mrs Richards rushed at Bean unprovoked as they exited the chamber.
This reporter heard a commotion at the door and followed the MPs outside. Yahaira Richards could be heard exclaiming “I can defend myself” inside before her husband rushed out to confront Bean.
Bean, Zane DeSilva, Jamahl Simmons and his wife Sherri Simmons were among the first to exit the chamber. Yahaira Richards had been in attendance in the public gallery for most of the afternoon until the very end when House Speaker Randolph Horton called an abrupt end to the session at around 10 p.m. because MPs were being unruly.
Precisely what happened as they filed out is unclear. Simmons told us he was directly behind DeSilva and Bean who were chatting when Mrs Richards rushed at them unprovoked. He said he then hurriedly escorted Bean out the door to the elevator.
Moments after the first MPs exited the chamber, we witnessed an angry Sylvan Richards rushing out to confront Bean and the pair were in a tense standoff surrounded by about 15 MPs.
Backbencher Craig Cannonier also came out and attempted to calm things down urging MPs not to push each other.
“All I was concerned about was there being a big brawl out there so I said don’t be pushing nobody. Don’t push anybody,” Cannonier said later.
The bizarre scene ended when Bean and Richards were separated by their colleagues.
According to Mrs Richards, who is from the Dominican Republic, Zane DeSilva made a throat slitting gesture at her as he walked out, then she heard Bean say “you should ask her how much”.
She explained that although her English was not that good, she understood the comment as an insult. She said she was not bothered by DeSilva’s gesture and indicated that the two were familiar with each other as she is a bartender at Belmont Hills Golf Club frequented by DeSilva.
“It was something like a joke,” she said. “Because I know him, I didn’t take it personally.” She said she did return the gesture but “Marc Bean took it to another level. He looked at me and said ‘you should ask her how much?’ In my language I know what it means. And I’m sure in English it means the same thing.”
Simmons said he did not hear what was said between the two MPs.
Premier Michael Dunkley said he did not witness the incident. “All I know is what I was told by my colleague – that the Opposition Leader said something very derogatory about one of our members’ wife,” he said.
“If people are going to say anything derogatory to people’s wives, or women, my colleagues are not going to put up with it. That’s been made very clear.”
He said he had spoken to House Speaker Randolph Horton about the issue.
A number of Opposition MPs remained on parliament grounds for more than an hour after the incident. They were reluctant to comment but suggested that Bean had been “set up”, that Yahaira Richards had never attended parliament before and that she had been making gestures during the debate.
One, Lawrence Scott, told Politica immediately after the incident that Bean had gone to Hamilton Police station because he had been pushed.
We caught up with Bean and several Opposition MPs two hours later when we learned from DeSilva that he had in fact filed a complaint with the police.
DeSilva said Yahaira Richards had made a throat slitting gesture earlier in the evening – something that had been reported to the Speaker, he said.
Mrs Richards said this morning the only gestures she made during the session was at Nandi Outerbridge who had asked her where her husband was.
“I said to her ‘he’s in the kitchen’ – with my hands.”
She said it was the first time she had attended parliament all day. “I wanted to enjoy the day with my husband, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m learning,” she said.
“I was enjoying my day there and so was my husband because he was happy to see me there. There’s nothing about anything else.”
DeSilva had yet another version of the parliamentary session’s bizarre ending. “Sylvan’s wife started shouting and screaming ‘leave my husband alone’. Sylvan pulled her back and went up in Marc’s face,” he said.
“Marc never spoke to her. Sylvan said something like ‘its you and me’. Marc said ‘what’s your beef?’ He got right up in his face and that’s when I pulled him away.”
Bean declared that he had been “set up” but was then cautioned from speaking to the media by Progressive Labour Party whip Lovitta Foggo.
This morning Sylvan Richards told us: “The Opposition are excellent at fabricating stories to try and cover their nonsense and misdeeds. So I’m not even concerned about what anybody else on that side is saying. We’ve told you what happened last night. My wife is a woman of integrity and I believe her.
“Marc Bean has a history of doing this stuff and my biggest disappointment is that, as far as I know, only two of his parliamentary colleagues have tried to hold him to account – Walton Brown and Kim Wilson. And the rest have just been sitting there in silence. And their silence is a big omission because they need to hold their leader to account.”
This incident comes a month after Bean was accused of subjecting Toni Daniels, an official of the ruling One Bermuda Alliance, and OBA MP Nandi Outerbridge to misogynistic comments outside a polling station. That matter was referred to the police. Bean denied the allegations.
But Richards said a number of people heard what Bean had said at the polling station and were protecting him. “They said nothing and they support this man. Well I told him last night if he ever insults my wife again, he’s going to have a real problem with me, because I’m not putting up with his nonsense. He’s a misogynist and its disgusting,” he said.
“The great defenders are going to try and paint my wife and I in this negative light but the truth is the truth and the truth will prevail.”
This article belongs to Politica ! The original article can be found here: Lawmakers come close to blows at Bermuda’s House of Assembly
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