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Political Leaders Have To Be More Responsible

THE predictions are that this is going to be an "ugly" election. This need not be so if the leaders of the various political parties would in fact lead by example, not just talk about avoiding clashes, but doing everything to prevent them.

Mr Ingraham, the prime minister of this country, gave plenty of notice that he had planned to walk through Bain and Grants Town yesterday with John Bostwick, the FNM's proposed candidate for the area. This area should not be off limits to anyone, particularly the Prime Minister.

Bain and Grant's Town is popularly referred to as "PLP territory" -- why this is so after so many years of neglect by PLP MPs is anybody's guess, but it's the nature of people to resist change from what they have grown accustomed to, even though it might be abject neglect.

We recall many years ago reporting on an old person - we believe it was in the Fox Hill area - whose only home was an outside toilet. A social group, horrified by his condition, prepared a clean new home for him. The press arrived on the scene because of the resistance he was putting up when moving day arrived. He did not want to leave the outside toilet -- after all for years it was the only home he had known. It was his surroundings and he felt secure. Dirt was his constant companion.

Each person has his or her own security blanket and it is not for us to question their decisions. For many in the Bain and Grants Town area, the PLP is what they have grown accustomed to. However, among them are those who want to move forward. At least they have a right to hear what is being offered before making up their minds.

But because a few politicians, or political hopefuls, feel that the FNM has no right to move into "their" area, does not give them a licence to try to create a public disturbance.

On Tuesday, Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Bethel said that during this election period police officers will continue to enforce their zero tolerance position on crime, but will conduct themselves in such a manner as not to inflame unnecessary confrontation.

Therefore, while Bain Town MP Dr Bernard Nottage's argument with National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest that PLP supporters had a democratic right to demonstrate and occupy the community while the prime minister and FNM supporters moved through, might have been valid, it lacked wisdom. If clashes are to be avoided, then each side has to be in control of their supporters, and, if they can't control them then encourage them to stay at home.

We recall the late Sir Kendal Isaac's aversion to leading demonstrations. His position was that no one can control a crowd. He did not want to lead a group that might get out of control despite his best efforts. He would have been responsible if any of his group created a disturbance or if someone were injured. Sir Kendal, a man of sound mind, was not prepared to take on that responsibility. It is a shame that others do not possess his wisdom.

To stage a PLP demonstration at the same time that the FNM was moving through was to deliberately invite confrontation. It wasn't as though the Prime Minister and his red shirts were sneaking through unannounced. The community was given plenty of notice that the march was on. If this was Dr Nottage's stronghold, then he should have defended it by demonstrating responsibility and common sense. We couldn't help thinking of his late father, a senior police officer, after whom he was named, and how he would have advised his son. Mr Nottage, Sr, was excellent at controlling unruly crowds. Watching him in many sticky situations, we are certain he would have encouraged his son to avoid what happened in the Bain Town area yesterday.

We are surprised that Opposition Leader Perry Christie, who has generally advocated a peaceful election campaign, was not the first to condemn the symbolic killing of an FNM supporter on nomination day in Golden Gates on Tuesday.

"They plastered the effigy of an FNM supporter being rolled over by PLP adorned vehicles in Golden Gates. Now that is an invitation to violence; not a call for peace and respect of the law," said Mr Ingraham yesterday. And yet Mr Christie, who leads the Opposition, avoids the opportunity to publicly reprimand those responsible for this irresponsible act.

This is the same party that is now asking the Bahamian people to put their trust in them to defeat crime.

Shortly after the FNM motorcade left the Southern Recreation Grounds yesterday, the police reported that a large crowd of unruly PLP supporters had gathered at the Sarah Robinson Park on Meadow Street. To avoid a possible clash, police advised that Mr Ingraham's route be redirected.

Did these people have a right to organise a crowd in their area? Obviously the answer is yes. But with this right was a corresponding duty to show responsibility. For politicians who hope to win the government, it is our opinion that they abandoned their duty yesterday to keep the peace. It appeared that the stage was deliberately set for confrontation.

We advise these leaders to pull up their socks. Too much pressure is being put on the police to protect Bahamians from their selfish foolishness.

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