MLA Suckoo denies 'hate speech,' apologizes

Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo said Friday that he “was not attacking anyone for their sexuality” during a two-hour Legislative Assembly debate earlier this month in which members discussed the definition of marriage. 

“I do not condone discrimination of any kind, including against homosexuals, and [Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission Chairman James] Austin-Smith needs to stop sensationalizing the issue … as he seems to have a political agenda in my opinion,” Mr. Suckoo said in an emailed response to Cayman Compass questions. “I apologize to anyone who may have been offended by my remarks. It was not my intention, nor will it ever be, to use language which some may find offensive.” 

Contacted for further comment about his remarks in the House debate on a private members’ motion which sought to confirm the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, Bodden Town MLA Anthony Eden said he would not respond “at this time.” 

The two Bodden Town representatives, in particular, came under fire following the Aug. 13 debate on the members’ motion filed by Mr. Eden and seconded by Mr. Suckoo. The response to the MLAs’ comments intensified late last week when the Human Rights Commission issued a press release denouncing certain statements made in the debate as “hate speech” and “threatening” to the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. 

The statements that so enraged Mr. Austin-Smith and commission members were mostly attributed to Mr. Eden – one of the longest-serving and most respected members of the Legislative Assembly. The statements included equating homosexuality with bestiality; equating homosexuality with pedophilia; claims that homosexual behavior was “wicked and immoral” and a “social and moral evil”; making personal threats of violence toward homosexuals; and suggesting that “crushing a baby’s skull and sucking their brains out had become a human right,” Mr. Austin-Smith alleged. 

In addition to the press release, Mr. Austin-Smith sent a two-page letter to Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin demanding that Mr. McLaughlin reject the comments made by backbench members of his own Progressives political party and that the government enact laws creating civil unions for the benefit of same-sex couples. The Human Rights Commission chairman gave Mr. McLaughlin a deadline of seven days within which to do so. 

Neither Mr. McLaughlin nor representatives of his office responded to repeated requests to comment on the issue sent by the Compass on Thursday and Friday. 

Mr. Suckoo, a first-term MLA, said his comments clarifying his stance in the debate were not an attempt to “distance himself” from his Bodden Town colleagues. 

“Mr. Eden made his points and I support and defend his right to do so on the floor of the house,” Mr. Suckoo said. “I also support and respect the Hon. Wayne Panton for his position and subsequent comments.” 

Mr. Panton, who did not participate in the House debate on Aug. 13, later made press statements indicating he did not support bullying and discrimination against members of Cayman’s homosexual community. Mr. Austin-Smith congratulated Mr. Panton for his “bold and brave” comments. 

Mr. Suckoo also took issue with the Human Rights Commission’s “broad accusations” concerning the Legislative Assembly debate and noted that the commission appeared to be quite selective regarding the human rights causes it sought to champion. 

“Perhaps he can also write a letter about the growing issue of families losing their homes due to … the inability to secure employment because of the unscrupulous and illegal hiring practices of persons in the same industry that Mr. Austin-Smith has made his fortune,” Mr. Suckoo said. “Perhaps he can write a letter about the growing concerns that migrant workers and Caymanians are now living in substandard, unhealthy and inadequate housing …. Why doesn’t he write a letter about the high incidence of spousal abuse suffered by our women, or how foreign dead-beat fathers here as permanent residents have abandoned their Caymanian wives and children and left them to the mercy of the world after getting residency? 

“It is a bit suspicious that Mr. Austin-Smith now feels compelled to attack my parliamentary privilege and is using this issue to do so when he has been quite silent on the much larger issues.” 

Mr. Austin-Smith said it was the commission’s objective to encourage Cayman to change certain laws that may run it afoul of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The letter sent to the premier last week recommended that the government introduce legislation recognizing same-sex unions. Local laws currently forbid gay marriage but are silent regarding the formation of civil unions. The government was also urged to introduce laws to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. 

Mr. Suckoo

Mr. Suckoo
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  1. It is good to see that Mr. Suckoo has taken the time to clarify his position on this matter. He is also 100% correct to point out what he sees as the failings of the Human Rights Commission itself. I would hate to think that we have an HRC that is only interested in the human rights of selected groups or individuals within our society.

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  2. This is a subject, as some would say "I won’t touch with a ten foot pole" However based on your own personal belief and your belief in what the bible has to say, it should be touched on.
    I have many friends whom are homosexuals but I cannot hate them because I have found them to be good honest friends. In fact I find them to be more caring an honest than heterosexuals. So I would say unless you get to know them you cannot judge them. Yes I also agree they may carry on a lifestyle which is different from yours, but if we are going to call it sin, referring to bible words; my thoughts are that fornicating, committing adultery, stealing telling lies, bearing false witness against your neighbors, deceitful and the list goes on, are all sins being committed by mankind. Then we ask ourselves do we have the power to stop any of this or to be judge and jury? Well the answer is we do not. So then what is the solution? Leave all of those things to a Higher Power. We can teach and educate that smoking cigarettes will give you cancer, but does that stop people from smoking? To refer on Mr. Edens spoken words, I would go as far as to say this, Mr Eden is not a person to expel hate words on anyone, neither is Mr AL Suckoo, I believe both men are God fearing, but of course it is the God fearing people which are most attacked by the devil. For one moment must we not believe that evil did not have a hand in this to maneuver, switch around, trick and make the picture look really ugly. So before we rattle the table of these two men I would say spend some quality thinking about how we can rebuke the sins but love the sinners.

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  3. I long for the good old days of MLAs just physically assaulting people and driving under the influence.

    Since nobody ever resigns, let’s just look forward to the next election.

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  4. I think that this issue says a lot about the Human Rights Commission, and Mr. Smith, to only have one issue on their agenda, with all the other human rights violations that’s going on in Cayman Islands and the world, but could only ask the premier to address only one. I think this says a lot about the Human Rights Commission, why?

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  5. The world see us (Cayman) via the internet now. Everything we say or do is on the global scale.

    What happens when a US cruise ship company stops coming to Cayman because we violate some US Equal Rights law? We need to very careful with our personal opinions.

    "Loose lips sink ships" is what they used to say, lets hope the cruise ship industry doesnt think we are an unfriendly destination.

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  6. Suckoo speaks out of both sides of his mouth. His ”apology” is nothing more than mollification, denying that he said anything objectively evil, instead putting the blame on others for being ”offended”.

    And while he is correct to bring attention to various societal ills, the attempt to discredit the HRC by bringing up what are fundamentally social issues which requires work in many spheres of society, and compare them with what were fundamentally government actions to denigrate and persecute a minority is nothing more than base cynicism and an attempt to deflect from his failings in that legislative session.

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  7. It’s worrying that Mr Suckoo appears not to understand either what human rights are, or the constitutional functions of the Human Rights Commission.

    None of the other issues which he suggests Mr Austen-Smith and the HRC should address fall under their remit. They are in fact symptoms of the general failure over successive administrations of Cayman’s elected legislature and civil service.

    Of course Mr Suckoo realises this – he is just engaging in the time-honoured practice of playing the man rather than the ball. His weasel tactics do him no favours.

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