PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts said that former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has “zero credibility” when it comes to the gambling referendum and any remarks made by him should be viewed only as “political rancour and sour grapes”.
“Ingraham obviously bit his tongue when he said, ‘the blatant disrespect and disregard of the laws of our land (by web shop operators and workers) is intolerable to (him),” Mr Roberts said.
“This cannot be the same man who invited the Web Shop owners to make their financial statements available to the then FNM government in an effort to formulate an equitable taxation regime for that industry that he fully intended to legalize and regulate.”
Mr Roberts said that observations made by Mr Ingraham’s government in a recently released Cabinet document CO2246 on the minutes of a Cabinet meeting that took place on the 21st May 2010 reads: “…the Law Enforcement Agencies have been ineffective in enforcing the laws against illegal gambling.” Now Mr Roberts said Mr Ingraham conveniently says, “to excuse illegal behaviour because it is supposedly too expensive to counter is unconscionable.”
“The document further said, ‘the observation was made that most of the numbers houses have duly applied for and obtained Business Licenses.’ Further, ‘…the state itself has added legitimacy to these operations by accepting Business License submissions and issuing duly approved licenses.’ He now conveniently says ‘I cannot now remain a silent observer as once again, perpetrators of illegal enterprises seek to further erode our democracy, disrespect our laws, and denigrate those who promote decency.’
“The communication revealed that the FNM government intended to ‘take the steps to regularize these operators which have escaped national accounts for years.’ He now conveniently says, to excuse illegal behaviour because some believe that it will bring additional revenue to the Public Treasury is similarly inexcusable. It is clear that Ingraham wanted to legalize Web Shop Gaming to improve government revenue performance.
“The document further revealed that the FNM ‘Government might hold a Referendum with the government not taking a position on gambling but undertaking to abide by the decision of the citizenry in such a process.’ Ingraham has totally and fully repudiated every single policy position he advanced and promoted as Prime Minister and expects for the Bahamian people to listen to him? This is unprecedented in the history of Bahamian politics. This has never been done before. Ingraham has no credibility whatsoever,” he said.
Mr Roberts added that Mr Ingraham now sits on the sidelines with “no responsibility for governance” and makes “utterly outrageous and ridiculous statements” about the industry when his government was responsible for issuing the lion’s share of Web Shop licenses and did not see its way to shut down these operations for “their illegal behaviour.”
“This is absolutely incredible. If Hubert Ingraham wants to settle a political score with the PLP over the failed 2002 Referendum, then he should be a man and say so. If he is opposing the Referendum because he is not driving it then he should show some backbone and say so. This attempt to cowardly demonize the Web Shop owners and workers and use them as scapegoats is unseemly, petty and hypocritical. I urge all Bahamians to firstly ignore Ingraham because you cannot trust anything he says. Secondly, I urge all Bahamians to exercise their rights and go out and vote their conscience on Referendum Day,” he said.