By Ava Turnquest
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie vowed that he will not be deterred by mounting criticism of the gaming referendum after The Nassau Guardian yesterday urged its readers to “vote no” in Monday’s referendum.
With only a few days left before voters go to the polls, Mr Christie criticised The Guardian for “unfair”
presentation of his past statements in its editorial, which accused the Progressive Liberal Party and his administration of undermining the democratic process.
“The same degree to which my objectivity was questioned and challenged,” he said, The Nassau Guardian “must also understand that there is an existing view that they are not objective and that they are looking for a desired result and so that’s just how it is in our country.
“They must expect me to have a view, I voted in this democratic country. What I have decided to do is not allow the people to hear me say whether I have voted yes or no because I would influence people who support me.”
While he acknowledged that the newspaper had a democratic right to publish its opinion, Mr Christie said the conclusions made were “dead wrong.”
He added that his administration will seek an explanation for the newspaper’s condemnation.
Mr Christie said: “[Critics] are not going to deter me, the same people believed that I wouldn’t win the general election, the same people who argued that they were not going to support me in the general election, they are the same people who tell me it’s unwise for me to negotiate 51 per cent in BTC and I’m undeterred by all of that.
“I will continue,” he said, “with the commitments I made to the Bahamian people and those commitments that were lawfully made, that were voted upon, that people have agreed to and I am resolute in my commitment to make it happen.”
In yesterday’s editorial, The Nassau Guardian encouraged its readers to vote “no” in Monday’s gaming referendum as an expression of no confidence in the government.
Pointing to statements made by PLP chairman Bradley Roberts, and Mr Christie, the newspaper concluded that the referendum “has descended into a political spectacle besieged by lies and pathetic explanations.”
“The Nassau Guardian will not surrender its integrity to the Progressive Liberal Party’s campaign to swindle yes votes from unsuspecting Bahamian voters,” said the editorial.
On Sunday, Mr Roberts released a press statement declaring that the PLP supported a “yes” vote; however, he later retracted the statement, saying that it was his own and not the party’s position.
The newspaper criticised Mr Christie’s public statements as “forward-leaning on the anticipation of web shops being made legal”, and added his comments “indicate that a Bahamian voter who votes no is responsible for this possibility of unemployment.”
Defending his statements concerning the consequences of a no vote, Mr Christie said unemployment was a reality and legitimate concern regardless of the context.
“As prime minister, there is no issue that ought to so blind me to any reality that will result. If the yes vote happens then we know the people will not be out of work, however many 200 or 2,000.
“If there is a no vote we have to find an alternative because I am serious in my commitment to reflect the no vote in new government policies to prevent what is happening in The Bahamas today.
Underscoring the fact that Mr Roberts was not a part of the government, Mr Christie said party members were free to choose sides and work for any campaign.
“One or two members of my government have said some things that I would have wished they would not have said, but the fact of the matter is it’s a reality in life that people have a view.
“Obie Wilchcombe for 20 years has been articulating a view that Bahamians ought to have the right to lawfully gamble in our country and that there is a contradiction between allowing foreigners to come in.”
The two questions for the January 28 referendum are: “Do you support the regulation and taxation of Web Shop gaming and Do you support the establishment of a National Lottery?”