Rolfe Commissiong *File photo
Rolfe Commissiong *File photo

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23: Parliamentary candidate Rolfe Commissiong was axed from a ballot by PLP branch bosses who claimed he was “unelectable”, leaked e-mails revealed yesterday.

But in an eleventh hour move on the day of the vote, PLP party chiefs insisted Mr Commissiong be put back on the ballot paper for the safe seat of Pembroke South East — which he went on to win over long-serving sitting MP Ashfield DeVent.

Branch chairman Dr Kyjuan Brown also wrote to Premier Paula Cox that all the voters in the Tuesday’s primary in Constituency 21 were people signed up by Mr Commissiong in the last few months.

Dr Brown told Ms Cox after the vote: “We allowed 21 members out of a branch of 119 and a constituency of thousands to decide the fate of our party.

Problem

“Despite announcing the results in very simplistic terms, the members decided to support an unelectable candidate.

“Each member that showed up tonight was one of the 56 individuals Mr Commissiong signed up in the last few months.

“The branch envisaged this as a potential problem, thus using the objective evidence from the polling results, we removed him from the ballot.

“When the branch executive who are voted by the branch members to act on their behalf are removed from the process, this is the results you get.”

Dr Brown added that Mr Commissiong won despite voters being told that, in party polling in the constituency, he came in behind the then-UBP candidate for the rock-solid PLP seat.

He told Ms Cox: “I trust that you and the party leaders would find a solution out of this problem as the branch executive would not support this candidate.”

Approved

Party rules on primary contests mean that no candidate is officially selected until approved by the PLP’s Central Committee.

Mr Commissiong, a Cabinet Office consultant with special responsibility for race relations, was put back on the ballot on the day of the vote after an e-mail to Dr Brown from Maynard Dill, the chairman of the Candidates Committee.

He joined Mr DeVent, Senator and former Police Commissioner Jonathan Smith and ex-Bermuda Housing Corporation general manager Vance Campbell on the ballot paper.

Fallout

Mr Dill told Dr Brown: “After considerable thought, the Candidates Committee wish that you include Mr Commissiong on the ballot tonight for Constituency 21.

“We can deal with any fallout after the vote, which will be far easier than the fallout this will cause with Mr Commissiong not included.

“We are in no way usurping the branch’s authority, but would ask for your cooperation in this.”

Mr Commissiong said last night: “I’m not going to speak to that – I don’t know anything about that.”

Mr Dill said last night: “Whatever is happening is to do with the branch and the party and I have no comment.”

Dr Brown declined to comment. Curtis Williams, public relations officer for the PLP, also declined comment.

Mr DeVent did not return calls from the Bermuda Sun yesterday.