By RUPERT MISSICK
BAHAMIANS are not adequately critical of authority. We are subservient to it. We fear it. We are awed by title, wealth, social station, pomp and circumstance.
We have transferred our fearful reverence of a white, foreign colonial master to a black power elite who rely on the same tools as our former masters to keep us docile and submissive.
Grandiose titles, exhaustive public ceremonies and a disgraceful, divisive, unhealthy tribalism – today brought on by partisan politics instead of the segregation that plagued the Bahamas before 1956 and the lack of power before majority rule – are the same tools used today by a few of our own people who were employed years before by Colonial Britain.
We are still slaves, no longer unwilling, but now we are happy to say, “Don’t say that about him. He is an MP, he used to be prime minister, he is prime minister, that’s a senator, he is a big PLP, he is a big FNM.”
Essentially what we say is, “That’s massa.”
Those who view the criticism of persons who hold “high public office,” as disrespecting the institutions of the country or even the country itself, are traitors to the Bahamian people and are not friends of democracy.
Those who dare say this to a Bahamian public – who find it increasingly difficult to cope with rising prices, crime and a decaying education system – are apologists for a bourgeois sect that would use those of lower socio-economic positions to advance their lives, their interests and their cause.
The governor general, prime minister, the leader of the opposition, the members of parliament, senators, ministers and the rest, they do not legitimise the Bahamas. They are legitimised by the Bahamas and its people.
They have no power greater than what the public affords them. They are worth nothing more than what the public so chooses. They are here to serve. They are here to be elevated or dismissed, as the public thinks fit. They are here to work, not to be revered.
The dignity democracy affords the Bahamian people demands that they know this every day those elected sit in office. It demands that the opposition knows that if elected they will be held to the same standards and that the walk of leadership will not be a gold-paved promenade, but a rocky road strewn with broken glass.
If the economic state of the country is improving, if education is getting better and if crime is down, those who hold public office have done Bahamians no favours. They have merely done their job.
But these things are not improving and our politicians are not good at their job.
So it was perplexing as to why Prime Minister Perry Christie said that even in these tough economic times, when the Bahamas is trying to dig itself out of the chasm of high unemployment, that the country needed a new House of Assembly complex.
Mr Christie said it was an appropriate time to consider the matter especially regarding locations for both facilities as New Providence currently sees a spark in new developments.
In the infant stages of the plan and amid considerable fiscal constraints, Mr Christie said it was also his intention to ensure that the new complex allowed for each elected official to have an office. The new complex will also house the Senate among other things, Mr Christie said.
It is not yet known how much the new buildings could cost taxpayers. But amidst the government’s recent inelegant attempt to collect more revenue by way of VAT or the tax of webshops whatever it is, at this time it will be too much.
But obviously the facility wouldn’t be for politicians, oh no it’s for us, the general Bahamian public. Said Mr Christie: “When we entertain guests on behalf of the country, we have to go, in the case of the former Prime Minister and myself either in a dining room or a hotel or a private room in a hotel. Or in the case of actual travelling, borrowing Sol Kerzner’s suite in this hotel to entertain on behalf of the Bahamian people.
“Therefore, I would like to propose before a committee of the House of Assembly as the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance in as near in the future as can be constitutionally arranged, meaning that if the committee is still standing that is listed in the House (of Assembly) to look into conditions and benefits for Members of Parliament.
“If that committee is still standing then I would like to appear before the committee with a view to presenting specific recommendations about the establishment of a new Parliament that would house both the House of Assembly and the Senate that would embrace the possibility of all of the modern conveniences of the House of Assembly, inclusive of offices for Members of Parliament.”
Mr Christie said Opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis should also be in support of the move, as, if he is successful in becoming Prime Minister at some point, he would benefit from the new facilities.
“If you become Prime Minister one day it will affect you. You would be the beneficiary of it, not so much me because I am in the twilight of my political career. But these things are so serious that somehow we have allowed the political will to be lacking. We have caused there to be a feeling that the institution of Parliament must be a budgetary concern. It’s like having a cathedral.” Bahamians should demand more from all those in “high public office” or those seeking public office. They should be cynical, critical, an informed mass that knows before a politician opens his or her mouth, what will come out of it. They should be armed with knowledge and the eyes of a sceptic ready to cut through the fluff, the propaganda and the spin.
New House of Assembly or not politics and politicians will change nothing in the Bahamas. But a critical mass of Bahamians can.