By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest said the new “Stronger Bahamas” government initiative is propaganda, adding yesterday that the Christie administration is “insulting” Bahamians by suggesting in an advertisement for the plan that the country has become safer.
Mr Turnquest said it appears that public funds are being used to launch the Progressive Liberal Party’s upcoming election campaign, an issue he plans to raise when he makes his budget contribution in the House of Assembly.
Prime Minister Perry Christie launched the “Stronger Bahamas” initiative during his budget communication last week, presenting it as a “new, non-partisan national policy development, public engagement and communications initiative.”
At the time, he said the government had “consolidated the roughly $4m per year” that is normally spent on public engagement,
research and communication to facilitate a “national conversation.”
The Bahamian public relations firm Sidda Communications Group has worked with the Ministry of Finance to produce the first round of promotional material for the campaign, the firm’s Facebook page says.
In addition to being the focus of a mass media push that involves an official website, a Twitter account and a Facebook page, the initiative is being promoted through a minute-long commercial that has received heavy rotation on ZNS, JCN and cable television.
That advertisement – which is narrated by a young boy – appears to speak to the government’s vision and hope for the country as opposed to its current state.
The reaction to the video has been mixed. Some have praised it while others have said it seems like an election campaign advertisement.
In particular, some have criticised the commercial’s positive message about crime and safety in the country at a time when the murder rate for the year is outpacing last year’s count.
“My Bahamas is a place where anyone will walk safely in the streets and feel secure at home too, where we don’t have to live in fear,” the video’s narrator says as a woman, just returned home from an evening jog, rests her keys on a table next to what appears to be a mock Bahama Journal newspaper with the headline “Bahamians feeling safer than ever.”
When contacted about the campaign and the newspaper headline featured in the video, Mr Turnquest said: “The fact is that there are inconsistencies in the commercial that are concerning. If they are starting here, where is this going to end up? It’s not only disingenuous, but also insulting. They are being very disrespectful to the Bahamian public, but in particular to those members of the public who have lost their loved ones. It’s like what they are saying is that these things happen but it’s not significant, as though those lives lost don’t matter when in fact one person dying is too much.”
Mr Turnquest dismissed the entire initiative as propaganda, adding that he is concerned about how it is being financed.
“I will talk about the commercial (during my budget communication),” he said. “It is obvious that this is a campaign slogan and I am very concerned that they are using the Public Treasury to effect this.”
Mr Turnquest conceded that the government will insist that the initiative is not politically motivated.
However, he said if public funds have been used for it, this would constitute abuse.
PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts dismissed the FNM’s concerns yesterday. “I got no comment on nonsense,” he said. “I thought the FNM would be congratulating the government for getting the country out of the mess they left the country in. That’s what I thought they would be doing if their heads were screwed on right. It’s like putting the boat in the rough water, causing it to start sinking and when someone comes and rescues the boat you don’t thank them for it? That’s sad.”
A public launch for “Stronger Bahamas” featuring live entertainment, food and beverages will take place at 6 o’clock tonight at the Melia hotel with a question and answer period with government officials.