By ADRIAN GIBSON
DR HUBERT Minnis’s stance in the House of Assembly on Monday, indicates that he has adopted an outlook of no surrender, no retreat! Indeed, while Dr Minnis refused to heed Speaker Kendal Major’s demands to take his seat, there are many who believe that he was right to stand his ground, particularly as Bahamians are generally questioning the genesis of the recently promulgated stem cell legislation and any correlation between its drafting/passage and the governing party’s relations with political party donor, fashion mogul Peter Nygard. It has been suggested by the Opposition and others that stem cell legislation could be some kind of political payback for Nygard’s donation to the PLP.
Before Minnis could present a sworn affidavit to the House, the Speaker suspended proceedings until August 7 claiming the Chair was disrespected since Minnis didn’t obey his requests/demands to take his seat and had, therefore, contravened House rules.
While I believe that stem cell research ultimately has many socially and medically beneficial prospects, it must be effectively and suitably regulated. Moreover, any regulatory mechanism and/or body should be in place beforehand, to curb the wayward enthusiasm of any unethical, rogue physician or special interest grouping. Indeed, while stem cell research is progressive, calls for a stringent regulatory framework are meritorious and, frankly, even with such regulations, we would have challenges as today we continue to have problems regulating and overseeing our fisheries industry, even with all its fines, proposed penal sanctions, guidelines and the presence of the Defence Force.
One wonders if the government undertook a feasibility study to determine the economic and medical upsides of local stem cell research. Moreover, the establishment of any regulatory body should adopt many of the standards/measures employed by such groupings in countries such as the US and Great Britain, localising it to suit the Bahamas’ legal landscape while conforming to international protocols. There must certainly be no backroom, clandestine attempt at human cloning!
Under no circumstance should a stem cell research lab be built at anyone’s home.
I have nothing against Mr Nygard, in fact, I admire his positive contributions to the development of sports and wider society, but I do not believe that any respectable country should allow a stem cell lab to be built on an investor’s property (whether they be native or foreign).
Interestingly, in one of Minnis’s best Parliamentary showings, party supporters did not turn up to lend their support, though summoned via social media to do so.
Although a number of barricades were put up in Rawson Square, with police seemingly expecting a sizeable turnout, in the end, there were more police officers present than actual FNM supporters.
In the wake of his performance in the House on Monday, I’m told that Minnis was lauded and praised for his stance at Thursday night’s FNM council meeting. My source, who sent me text messages by phone while the meeting was on-going, said that the doctor’s detractors and most outspoken critics told him “this is what we wanted to see from you” and pledged support. On the face of it, even though she proclaimed her belief that stem cell research is progressive and seemingly was in disagreement with her leader, FNM deputy leader Loretta Butler-Turner has done an about-face, now voicing her objection to the legislation and the circumstances surrounding its drafting/passage.
In my view the eight-minute video featuring Peter Nygard exclaiming “Yes! We got our country back” and showing a number of Cabinet ministers meeting with him at Nygard Cay has been a windfall for Minnis. Prior to the video’s widespread dissemination, there were mixed views about Minnis’s objection to such legislation, with some in his own party publicly dissenting. Politics does make strange bedfellows as many of those who called Minnis “an outdated fool” among other things, are conveniently jumping on the political bandwagon, hoping to score a few political points.
In many of Mr Nygard’s videos that I’ve seen, he is surrounded by what I would term butt-kissing, sycophantic Bahamians.
The video of the fashion designer visiting Rev Dr CB Moss at his church in Bain Town, while accompanied by prominent pastors (Bishop Simeon Hall and Rev Dr Philip McPhee), takes the cake! Staff in hand, the walkabout in Bain Town conjured up to me an image of Moses, surrounded by clerical helpers, about to part the Red Sea.
There is just something peculiar about the perception the governing party is willing to project about its dealings with Peter Nygard, from the superfluous red carpet rollout and mini “Junkanoo fest” in Grand Bahama to Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries V. Alfred Gray arrogantly proclaiming that he thought “(Nygard) has given more to this country than any other Bahamian, including those who criticise him.”
I thought that Gray’s statement was daft, lacked thought and was phoney at best.
I have wondered whether many of the hangers-on surrounding Mr Nygard are genuine or are they in pursuit of something else?
As Rhianna sings in her song ‘Pour it up’, is it all because they have “money, money on (their) minds?”
Does anyone remember Mohammed Harajchi? Or, Anna Nicole Smith?
In my view, in politics, perception is reality and the former FNM administration’s perceived chumminess with the Aga Khan was an example of over-familiarity with big-moneyed investors!
So, as August 7 approaches, when the House is due to resume, will Dr Minnis continue to stand his ground, be named and possibility suspended?
I think that if he has proof of his assertions, he should attempt to lay them on the House’s table at all costs and, if found to be genuine and right in his charge, the Bahamian people at-large would support him.
Other than that, Dr Minnis could call a press conference in Rawson Square and present evidence of his claims to the media and the public.
When Glenys Hanna-Martin was suspended from the House a few years ago, I supported her noble efforts at getting to the bottom of the death of teenager Michael Knowles while in police custody. Then, I thought Speaker Alvin Smith was a bit heavy handed and the wider public came out in support of Mrs Hanna-Martin. Today, I think that Dr Major, while having some bright moments, is not exhibiting the independence that a truly impartial Speaker ought to.
He is said to have frustrated former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham in his attempt to give a final farewell speech in the House of Assembly.
If that is true, it would be recorded as one of the disreputable moments in our political history. Since Dr Minnis claims to have information to enter into the House record, the Speaker should allow him to do so and let the chips fall where they may.
Moreover, if there are words uttered that can be proven, then Dr Minnis should be put to strict proof on the House floor and, if he cannot support the same, then he should withdraw his comments. What’s more, if Minnis’s utterances have already been expunged from the record, he is right to say that they no longer exist and, therefore, the Speaker may be on a power trip to have him withdraw “air!”
On both sides of the political divide, we have much to do in our political development and maturation as a nation.
If small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy, the government should explore instituting legislative provisions that allow small companies to crowdfund, that is, to sell stock and other securities via the internet to the general public. The United States’ Jobs Act, enacted in April 2012, is according to US President Barack Obama, a “game changer” where “ordinary Americans can go online and invest in entrepreneurs that they believe in.” Certainly, if our legislators think outside of the box, we can do the same here in the Bahamas.
The US’s Title III of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, permits any business wishing to sell its stock to the public to make information available to investors and the Securities Exchange Commission and sell stock through an intermediary, that is, either a broker-dealer or crowd funding website/portal. This provision removes the elaborate expenses and encumbrances so many small businesses encounter when having to hire lawyers, accountants and investment bankers when seeking to offer shares. Instead, today small companies are now allowed to raise capital online, unimpeded... once they are seeking less than one million.
If the law makers limit how much local investors can invest per year (based on their range of income and networth) across all intermediaries and stock issuers and institute stringent investor protection measures, I think that such a form of financing would represent a new era for small businesses and serve as a desperately needed economic boost.
ON GAMBLING AND BPC
This Sunday (tomorrow) will mark six months since the ill-fated gambling referendum and yet we have heard no reports about web shops being closed down nor has there been a change in the landscape of the numbers business in the Bahamas. What was the point of the referendum and when will the Opposition (and the Bahamian people) demand a full and frank explanation?!?
I understand that BPC has had its drilling licences renewed and extended. So, if BPC is scheduled to drill soon, when will the issue be brought to us (the Bahamian people) via a properly constituted referendum?