By ADRIAN GIBSON
OF late, political chicanery seems to be pervasive within our local political framework. Last Wednesday’s showdown in the House of Assembly left an entire nation without any contributions to the Budget debate from our country’s leader, Prime Minister Perry Christie, Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis and Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage. The entire episode – where we saw these men expressing a preference to shut down all debate rather than allow then Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) backbencher Andre Rollins to speak – was a complete farrago!
Frankly, if one listens to the talk shows, follows social media and reads the Letters to the Editor pages in the newspapers, it is clear that the public has come to see Rollins’ contribution in the House last Wednesday night as being representative of a breath of fresh air, in that he went against the grain of group think and, in so doing, inspired others to rise up. What’s more, this seemingly inspired even Speaker Kendal Major to defy the powers that be in his own political tribe, when they attempted to shut Rollins down.
Considering that it was the Budget debate and that both Greg Moss and Andre Rollins resigned from the PLP, this was the most important debate of the year.
I am sometimes critical of the Speaker for some of his decisions. However, I again applaud him for having the “cojones” to not only follow the rules but, more notably, follow his conscience. It seems the Speaker has indeed become his own man. His rulings are not universally acceptable but it seems that he now recognises the importance of careful, deliberate decision-making and impartial judgment.
Gaping holes have been left in the wake of this year’s incomplete Budget debate.
With crime skyrocketing, an increasing murder rate and Bahamians living in fear, we heard nothing from the Minister of National Security and we still have many unanswered questions. Crime is the most troubling issue for our country, yet Dr Nottage did not seem to have received the memo.
Considering the Auditor General’s report berating officials at Urban Renewal and the rendering of a frightening synopsis of the wastage and state of affairs in the government-run programme, the fiasco with BAMSI, the Renew Bahamas and the letter of intent controversy, the purported challenges with no-bid contracts, the fiasco at Baha Mar and the fact that the government has yet settled its end of monies to be repaid for the road works and the likelihood that that may have contributed to some of the purported job losses and alleged issues Baha Mar has with making payroll ... why did we not hear from the Deputy Prime Minister?
And oh no, we have a Prime Minister who leads our country and who is at the helm of the Ministry of Finance that oversees government expenditure and owes us a report on the recently implemented Value Added Tax, its collection, challenges with the tax and the Central Revenue Agency. And, yes, they will say that we heard from Minister of State for Finance, Michael Halkitis.
But let’s be real. We wanted to hear from you, Mr Prime Minister!
Mr Christie was supposed to wrap it all up, to bring it on home, to give the public some hope, some explanation, some idea of just what the heck is going on. We got nothing!
What we got was fancy talk, lots of hot air and bloviating – all in a fanciful attempt to silence Andre Rollins.
It seems that they were all afraid that a backbencher would speak some truth and embarrass them. Shutting him up was more important to them.
As a young person, I am extremely disappointed in our country’s leadership. The abrupt termination of the Budget debate – and the apparent reason why – offends me. It should offend all Bahamians.
How is it that three people in charge of the most important ministries in this country not speak?
We know that they wanted to ... after all, the Deputy Prime Minister issued his speech to the media and the Prime Minister boasted about wrapping up the debate.
The challenges The Bahamas faces relate to the Einsteinian view of doing the same thing over and over. We know what that amounts to...
Rather than solving our problems as a country, we always seem to resort to the same tired, political playbook. Their priorities seem to be less about accounting to the Bahamian public and using the platform of the Budget debate to give insight into the workings of government and more about playing politics.
Rollins – and to a lesser degree, Greg Moss – are exciting examples of what could happen in the Bahamas, that there are still folks who could follow their conscience, though it may be at great loss to themselves, that all is not lost.
Last week had nothing to do with the Official Opposition. It had to do with ensuring the ability of a dissenting minority to be heard, even if that dissenting minority is a part of the government. The machinations of the PLP on that day will haunt them.
When the story is told of a modern Bahamas and historians highlight the history of our Parliament, the positive recollections of the 1960s – particularly when the mace and hour glass were thrown out – will be contrasted with the cowardly attempts of those three gentlemen to suppress free speech.
Is there any wonder why Bahamians are so afraid of being victimised, especially when one could watch a Member of Parliament suffering such a fate?
Quite honestly, it appears that the Speaker – to any reasonable observer – has moved past the point of caring about whether he’s liked by anyone in the House. He has expressed his disgust at the petulant, juvenile behaviour and has threatened on more than one occasion to let them take their job and shove it. When he gave his ruling and explanation last week, he said that the House can do what it wishes, delicately telling members of his own party that if they feel so slighted by his ruling, they could move for a vote of no confidence in the Speaker.
The governing party certainly, even with the resignations of Moss and Rollins, have the numbers to successfully move such a motion.
The resignations mean quite a bit, notwithstanding the behind the scenes – and as of this week, very public – clamour for power within the governing party and the alignment of various forces as the hostile grab for the top post takes shape. The implosion of the governing party is becoming obvious and, if Renward Wells and/or Kendal Major and/or Damien Gomez were to resign, one would view this as a mass exodus.
It is not such a stretch of the imagination to believe that the Speaker, Wells and others may exit the PLP itself and/or the political stage. It certainly suggests that, for the most part, only the remnants of a time past would remain – and that will not bode well for the PLP’s marketability in 2017.
Today is not the time to look at succession in the PLP, as I continue to await the announcements of other possible contenders for the leadership. Frankly, I believe that Alfred Sears is returning to the frontline and will be a serious contender in the contest to succeed Mr Christie as PLP leader. In the coming months, I will take a look at each possible candidate and discuss the likely person who I believe, and who others believe, would be the best leader to take the PLP forward.
The last time I saw the PLP so jumpy in Parliament about a particular person speaking was when former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was a member of the House. Last week’s events in the House of Assembly have made Andre Rollins a political martyr, his standing has now been elevated and he has become one of the most important voices in local politics. Whenever he speaks, we will all be watching and waiting for the fireworks.
Bahamas Bar Association elections
Tomorrow sees the Bahamas Bar Association’s election of new officers to serve on its Council.
I have taken note of the persons challenging for a post, some of whom I know and others I don’t.
As it stands, I see Elsworth Johnson retaining his post as president for another term.
Further, persons such as my good friend Denise Lewis-Johnson, Domek Rolle and Damarra Dillett are deserving attorneys who bring charisma, diligence and an honest deportment to serving members of the Bar.
All four of these individuals have my utmost support and I have already cast my vote, by proxy, for them.
There’s at least one sitting member of the Council, whose name I shall not call, who I cannot in good conscience vote for.
I find her to be abrasive, offensive, egocentric and off-putting.
In my opinion, service is much more than merely holding a position. It is about seeking to improve the position and the standing of those whom you seek to serve.
Being elected to the Bar Council has nothing to do with ramming seniority down the throats of attorneys or viewing it as merely another feather in one’s cap.
As Bob Marley sings, “who the cap fits, let them wear it.”
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