By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
CENTRAL Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant called on Prime Minister Perry Christie to stop the “parading” of disadvantaged Bahamians on television as part of Urban Renewal coverage by the press, while Mr Christie argued the importance of the country having a “true perspective of what exists” to make certain that poverty is not “swept under the table”.
The two faced off in the House of Assembly yesterday morning after Mr Grant criticised Urban Renewal Deputy Director Michelle Reckley and said the “exploitation of suffering Bahamians” must be stopped by the government.
“Some of my constituents in Hunter’s, Lewis Yard, and Hepburn Town, as well as other constituencies and Grand Bahamians are being exploited,” he said. “What the Urban Renewal 2.0 deputy director or coordinator – because we don’t know what her proper position is — what she is doing is offensive. It’s inhumane, it’s degrading, and it’s distasteful.”
“It is not necessary to parade every case of hardship that is discovered before the television cameras,” said Mr Grant. “Children go to school, how do they face their classmates after the condition of their mother and siblings is exposed nationally.
“They become the laughing stock of their classmates, and will be teased and taunted all day long as many children by nature are forthright and at most times brutally honest, which results in unkind words.”
Bahamians nation-wide are angry over this “exploitation of the first order,” Mr Grant said, as some families are living in squalor and “should be humanely assisted” by the state.
“I am respectfully requesting that the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister – who through their utterances in this place on Wednesday, February 6, gave the deputy director/coordinator a license to continue to do nonsense – I want them to instruct her to discontinue the exploitation of suffering Bahamians,” Mr Grant said.
Prime Minister Perry Christie acknowledged that there may be “a disagreement in philosophy” over whether or not the public is entitled to know – what he called – “the level of deprivation and depravity” that exists in the country.
“I happen to have been taken in Grand Bahama, by the person (Mrs Reckley) of who you speak, to areas of poverty that I did not imagine existed... and I was accompanied by the media,” he said. “It is important that we do not sweep under the table what exists in this country and that the Bahamian people have a true perspective of what exists.
The prime minister said he personally discovered that “many places” around the country do not have indoor plumbing –nor did they have outside toilets — when the initiative originated during the PLP’s last term in office, and it is “important for the Bahamian people to know” the poverty level.
“They exist and the Bahamian people are entitled to know they exist,” Mr Christie said, adding that the country needs to “do something about it (poverty).”
Mr Grant said the deputy director is “not adhering” to the national co-chairman’s instructions. His reference was to former deputy Prime Minister Cynthia (Mother) Pratt’s instructions to Mrs Reckley that Urban Renewal staff should not wear gold shirts — the PLP colours — because Urban Renewal was designed to help all Bahamians, regardless of party affiliation. Mrs Reckley’s last “televised production had six to eight workers all dressed in their gold in defiance of the National Co-Chairman’s instructions not to wear those PLP colours,” he said. “Why six workers supporting one case? Sorry not case – a production.”