By ADRIAN GIBSON
“Vox populi, vox Dei” – Latin for “The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Years ago, I remember hearing that Sir Lynden Pindling, the country’s first prime minister, was known for espousing the view that “the voice of the people” was that of God’s.
Indeed, whilst I do support the regularisation and taxation of the webshops, I can see the merit in the arguments of opponents which is that the government must be careful in its disregard of the outcome of the referendum, particularly as it could be seen as a violation of democratic principles and lessen the credence of any future referendum (notably, a constitutional referendum is slated to be held this year).
Yes, I wholeheartedly support the regularisation of the webshops. Yes, I appreciate both sides of the issue. And yes, I think Prime Minister Perry Christie and his administration must immediately commence town hall meetings and a public relations blitz to explain to the citizenry the reason for the policy shift. Moreover, because the prime minister stated that they would be bound by the referendum’s results, he has now put himself in a bit of a quandary. I think he should first apologise to the Bahamian people and then explain his revised approach, particularly since it appears to be one in the national interest.
Indeed, the webshop issue is a complex one. One could look at the process by which the referendum was held and say that it was inappropriate and deceitful - and yet the same person could see that illegal gaming/numbers is a fixture of Bahamian society that needed to be brought into the mainstream and regulated pursuant to established standards in gaming and the financial sector. Indeed, the people were moved to the polls by perceptions of the PM’s sincerity before and after the January 28, 2013, poll and believed that the matter would be settled fairly by an up or down vote.
Indeed, the entire campaign was conducted as an all-out affair, with jingles/songs being made, thousands of shirts beings printed, banners, fliers and all sorts of paraphernalia. The Vote No campaign was horribly outfunded, yet the majority of voters who did participate in the poll cast their votes with them. On the evening of the returns, the glib and assured responses of the Vote Yes campaign were strong until the returns came in and the PM, in a moment of sanctimonious piety, announced that he would close the webshops down. A year later, Mr Christie has spoken of his regret concerning the referendum.
Whilst I understand how difficult the situation must be for him to explain — even in the midst of my critical assessment of the entire gambling debacle — I can say that Christie and his administration made the right decision.
I do want to know one thing, though - how many members, if any, of the current administration accepted inducements from the head honchos in local gambling houses, whether on the campaign trail or otherwise? And, how much was it? I’m just curious!
FIRE AT THE DUMP!
Anyone who resides (or even works) in the central, mid-west or western parts of New Providence would have had their nostrils recently abused by the toxic, billowing smoke emanating from the city dump. Any sufferer from asthma or some other bronchial issue would have certainly had an even harder time dealing with smoke and the government’s disastrous handling of the situation at the dump.
In the Bahamas, waste management does not seem to take priority. In fact, in the 21st century, we’re still digging pits to dump solid waste into or creating makeshift dumps at the end of a dirt road (I know this to still be the case in Long Island). In Long Island, one of the dumps is situated in O’Neils and every now and again, a large D8 tractor would be called in to compact the garbage. In other islands, this same thing happens and residents — in some instances — are left to deal with the possible contamination/poisoning of the water table.
It is high time that the government embraces the notion of waste to energy. If waste-to-energy plants are established, tons of waste could be processed per day and converted to electricity. Indeed, with the exception of entities such as Commonwealth Brewery — which accepts cases of recycled bottles used by the brewery — there is a need for a greater recycling effort as well. The attempt by the prison to use composting toilets appears to have failed, however that is yet another means by which we could reduce the amount of waste in the Bahamas.
There is a need for an extensive educational campaign not only on the value of cleanliness and the maintenance of our environment and the drawbacks of littering, but also on how to separate garbage and dispose of them in a more orderly manner (eg in Europe, bottles are separated from other forms of garbage, etc).
Clearly, the local landfill has been poorly managed by the Department of Environmental Health. Why hasn’t Minister for the Environment Ken Dorsett sought to have a waterbomb plane come in to assist local firefighters with putting out the dump fire? Clearly, since I don’t believe that we have one, it would be best to seek outside help before the fire spreads or causes more health issues.
And, since Mr Dorsett is now talking about emissions testing, I wonder how that will be done in a country where many of the cars are Japanese direct cars that may not have been inspected or up to certain standards.
I’ll await the full roll-out of the plan before further comment; however, I can say with near certainty that if emissions standards are imposed (which I would welcome), nearly all of the jitney operators would fail. I am one of many Bahamians who is tired of jitneys recklessly driving around town, spewing toxic fumes and using the roads as their personal race tracks.
We need to disabuse ourselves of these primitive methods of waste management that we currently practice and, as a result, all the attendant challenges and complications thereof.
As we progress as a country, we must explore the different alternative energy and the different models that could be most applicable locally.
The fact that electricity has been reduced to 35 cents per kilowatt hour is nothing to brag about, especially when compared to other countries where the rate is somewhere between six to eight cents per kilowatt hour. I think the high rate of electricity is due in large part because we have failed to embrace renewable energy. Going forward, it should become a pre-requisite for all new construction to embrace renewable energy — particularly solar energy.
MY APPEARANCE ON THE TALK SHOW JEFFREY
In an appearance on the Guardian Radio show “Jeffrey” last week Friday I misspoke relative to some information I had reliably been informed of, that was being contemplated by some among the Opposition - that is, resigning their seats with the hope of forcing a general election. In a bit of excitement at the thought, I stated such a proposition on-air and noted that the Constitution provided for an Opposition.
The Constitution does not require an Opposition, though it speaks to an Opposition Leader at Article 82.
However, consider some of the behind-the-scene talks that had been brought to my attention that some FNM MPs had been advised to resign en masse following the decision by the government to regulate the gaming industry, I misspoke and suggested that if the Opposition resigned, that could possibly lead to another general election. In all truth, that arose as I had not only heard the idea bandied around before but also because I was a bit eager at the thought, particularly in the wake of the commentary of many influential Bahamians who felt that the government’s dismissal amounted to an egregious dismissal of the people’s view at the polls on January 28, 2013.
We have seen that in Jamaica - in 1983 - one party won all 60 seats when the main Opposition force boycotted those elections. This is presently the case in Grenada. Clearly, considering the fact that Jamaica has a similar Constitution, one can presume that if a particular party wins or controls all of the seats in the Bahamas, the same would hold. I do believe though, that if any Opposition resigns in “the interest of the people” (as they say), the governing party would simply hold eight by-elections or engineer a Parliamentary solution whilst painting these MPs as zealous idealists. One doubts that if such a thing was to ever happen in the Bahamas, that such resignations in protest would be met with political introspection.
I do recognise my error and, whilst I meant well, I misspoke as to the Constitutional ramifications of such resignations and for that I do apologise.
That said, what was most disturbing to me was the way the situation was handled.
At 8.05am, on Monday morning, I called host Jeff Lloyd and told him that in my opinion — and with further advice — I had misspoken. I then proceeded to explain what I said and to then state my interest in clarifying it for the public’s edification. We spoke for three minutes.
Mr Lloyd began to chat with someone and indicated to me that he would promptly return a call to me, at which point I told him I would be attending a lecture at 9am. Following this, I further sent Mr Lloyd a few texts relative to what I had said, my subsequent observations about the constitution and the Jamaican elections of 1983. As the clock approached 9am, I attempted to contact Mr Lloyd again, but I assume he was still having his discussions as he did not pick up but instead sent me a text stating that he would be “calling in a minute”. Mr Lloyd returned my call at 9.09am, at which time I stepped out to speak to him and we talked for nine minutes, seven seconds.
At that time, I expressed my anguish about that aspect of my commentary and even asked him to clear it up, at which point he invited me to call the show “at the top of the hour (meaning start of his show)” to bring clarification to the misstatement myself.
Upon conclusion of our conversation, there was an understanding that I would call in.
At around 4.20pm, I happened to be on the telephone with Dr Duane Sands, telling him of the boo-boo and what I intended to state once on-air.
He offered non-partisan encouragement and I told him that I believed that such a clarification lends to one’s credibility and integrity. I thereafter talked with More 94 producer Rudy Grant and expressed to him similar thoughts.
At 4.22pm, I also texted Mr Lloyd’s phone, asking him for the station’s number prior to the start of the show, so that I could call in as agreed. I got no response.
So, since I had called the numbers in the phonebook that are listed for Guardian Radio and couldn’t reach the operator, I called a senior reporter/editor.
Though I was not able to speak with him by phone, I texted him and asked for the number to the switchboard and he subsequently texted it to me. Whilst I was on the phone — attempting to track down the number — my cell phones were ringing non-stop by persons calling to tell me to tune into Jeffrey, with a friend describing it in ways I wouldn’t repeat. I tuned in.
As I listened to the show, I was a bit surprised and taken aback by the approach taken, particularly since I was of the impression that we had an understanding that I would call in and clarify. I also intended to offer the public an apology. During the first break, I called again and finally got through. The show’s producer answered the phone and I told him that I was calling in to speak with Mr Lloyd as had been agreed earlier that morning. I requested that he pass me through to Mr Lloyd. I could hear the producer shouting to him — “Jeff, this is Adrian Gibson. Do you want to speak to him?” — to which the producer told me that “he said no, said he’s finished with that!” I thanked him and came off of the phone.
If there’s one thing I know about the audi alteram partem principle — which Mr Lloyd would also know — is that one should grant the other side a chance to be heard and to respond. I have no axe to grind with Jeff Lloyd, but I believe in sincerity and fair play.
The fact that there was an understanding that I would call in and be heard, only to subsequently be treated in the manner that I was, is nothing short of distasteful. Over the years, I’ve always had the greatest respect for Mr Lloyd and demonstrated the same to him. However, this entire, most unfortunate episode — from my initial comments on the earlier show last week Friday or Monday’s show — I will take as a learning experience.