IN THE House of Assembly Wednesday, Prime Minister Christie complained that the PLP were held to a different standard of behaviour. He pointed out that fashion designer Peter Nygard had been in the Bahamas many years and in that time had been friends with the UBP and the FNM. But when it came to his friendship with the PLP, eyebrows were raised.
When Nygard was with members of the UBP, said Mr Christie, there were no problems. Likewise with the FNM, but the PLP… well that is now a different story. Mr Christie obviously resents the difference.
The difference does not seem to be as obvious to Mr Christie as it is to the rest of us. If Nygard were indeed friends with the UBP, he must have known his place as a non-Bahamian resident. If he behaved then as if he were Master of all he surveyed as he is now doing with the PLP, The Tribune would have certainly known of his presence in the country. But until the FNM election of 1992 when we were invited under false pretences to attend a victory party at Nygard Cay, we had never even heard the Nygard name before. That was when we received an official-looking invitation to attend a party in honour of the new prime minister — Hubert Ingraham — hosted by a Peter Nygard of Lyford Cay. On arrival, we immediately knew that there was something wrong — we only saw one couple we knew. There was no Prime Minister Ingraham, there was not even one member of his cabinet. We walked around the off-beat looking structure that was obviously his home, and quickly left without even meeting him.
When one of our nephews learned the next day where we had been the night before, he laughed himself almost sick at the thought that we had been tricked into such a place. He then filled us in on the man who is said to “march to his own tune”. To say that we were greatly annoyed was putting it mildly.
Mr Nygard’s reputation must have preceded him, because for his full ten years in office, Prime Minister Ingraham refused to meet him, and warned his cabinet to be careful of unsolicited gifts. So during all of those years, Peter Nygard was not yet an issue.
Meanwhile, Nygard was obviously getting more agitated about his personal property issues at Nygard Cay and the fact that Prime Minister Ingraham’s government had noted that the Nygard shoreline had altered substantially — Nygard explained it away as the result of nature’s accretion over the years. However, government held that he had deliberately altered the shoreline and extended his property without its permission. He was ordered to return the Crown land – owned by the Bahamian people — to its previous state.
Obviously, he was getting desperate and even more agitated with his verbal sparring partner, neighbour Louis Bacon. Nygard, needed a sympathetic government. An election was nearing.
As we moved around the various districts on election day in May last year, particularly in the Elizabeth Estates area, we kept hearing whispers of the Nygard money. There were a few persons — even before the polls closed — who were claiming that there were three entities that were underwriting the PLP election — the Nygard name was consistently mentioned.
Since the election in a case brought by Nygard in the magistrate’s court, an affidavit sworn by Mr Nygard on April 2, 2012 — a month before the PLP victory at the polls — he confirmed that he was one of the “major backers of opposition leader Perry Christie and his PLP party”. He referred to the election and admitted that he was “a major PLP financial contributor”. After the election, he openly confirmed that he had donated $5 million to party funds. He later denied this claiming that he had really spent the $5 million on stem cell research — this is what muddied the waters for the stem cell debate in the House this week. However, it would be interesting to know how one could possibly spend $5 million on mere research. But that was Nygard’s story. We have since discovered with many of his stories that they change when the wind changes direction.
Since the election — unlike the UBP and FNM years — Mr Nygard has projected himself and his problem on the public stage. At a recent function at his Nyard Cay home, he made a generous donation to a regatta, but spent much of his time seeking the sympathy of the recipients and those present about his own problems. Members of the Christie government were also present. One couldn’t leave without appreciating that he was a generous donor, who expected much in return – Bacon and the ownership of his “accreted property” had to be solved. It was obviously a “quid pro quo” situation – in other words a “this for that”.
After the election, the strutting around of Mr Nygard, his king’s welcome to Freeport, his self-made video in which he declares that it was he who took the Bahamas back, caused grave offence. No wonder we were getting e-mails from Canada, the main theme of which was to tease that Nygard was now our new prime minister.
No wonder the Opposition, although in support of the creation of a regulated stem cell research centre in the Bahamas, backed off when they learned of the Nygard involvement.
No wonder the Opposition Leader refused to withdraw his stated belief that the Nygard-PLP situation was too cosy. For this insubordination, he was suspended from the House for two sittings.
“Our parliamentary democracy precludes personal insults being exchanged between members,” said Opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis after his suspension, “but does permit members to express reservations and concerns when they believe that others may, in their action, inaction or association, cause harm or insult to our democracy, or bring disrepute to our country.”
The Rev CB Moss said it all when with a wooden Moses staff in hand Mr Nygard visited the reverend to exchange the kiss of peace and try to explain his position about his disputed land.
Rev Moss told Mr Nygard that he had no quarrel with him, but he believed that “Mr Nygard is having too much to say in the business of the Bahamian people. If he made a request to lease the land, he should wait and see what the government will do, but it seems as though he is badgering the government”.
It is this cosy badgering, in which it appears that Peter Nygard has the upper hand, that – despite his generosity – many Bahamians resent.
And so, Mr Christie, that is the difference between the UBP, FNM and PLP. As Dr Minnis has rightly said the Nygard-PLP friendship appears to be “too cosy” for the national good of this country.