By ADRIAN GIBSON
Of late, I have heard many Bahamians begin to talk about an exit strategy, about looking in other jurisdictions for employment and a better way of life and about feeling totally disenchanted with the same ole, same ole political and economic processes.
We are living in times when our leaders have become pros at feigning sincerity. We are watching an unfunny political comedy. We are daily witnessing the weak-hearted attempts of some in the political class – on both sides of the divide – to use us as pawns in their desperate attempts to hold on to or attain power.
Within the Christie Cabinet, we see ministers speaking out of turn and showing absolute disregard for Cabinet protocols and procedures. The manual that governs the conduct of Cabinet ministers and the Cabinet itself has clearly been torn to pieces and cast into a dustbin. What’s worse, Prime Minister Perry Christie – without any deference to the Manual of Cabinet and Ministry Procedure – has now chosen to give a creative definition to the notion of collective responsibility and Cabinet decorum, a definition that excuses his rogue ministers and one that meets no convention or rule book that exists.
Meanwhile, the body count in our country mounts and we are coming ever so close to shattering an all-time record for murders in a year. We have lost our way. I am saddened by that.
We find ourselves now glossing over comments about the Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival. And yes, whilst I expect there to be a full report on all that transpired, the significance of that fiasco pales next to all else.
Our BJC and BGCSE results are again lamentable and, once again, there are those within the political sphere who celebrate Ds and Es.
The labour/employment numbers recently released are questionable and seem to have been arrived at by a faulty, laughable methodology. But we do not yet know what the employment rate will look like now, particularly when stacked against the recent graduation and school leaving exercises.
Energy reform is a no-no. We have yet to see a concerted thrust towards solar power and embracing other forms of alternative energy.
The government has foolishly banned drones rather than implementing legislation that could regulate and set down firm laws on their operation. Drones have become useful in police operations, immigration apprehensions, for photography and recreation and any number of exciting, community-oriented exercises. I find it dictatorial that the government would ban drones simply because they clearly don’t understand or know much about them. We must begin to grow with the times.
We are at a crossroads. This is a sombre moment in the history of The Bahamas.
Last week, I invited Mr Christie to shuffle certain members of his Cabinet and, specifically, to remove Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage. Today, I go a step further: Mr Christie needs to shuffle his entire Cabinet. Bahamians need a shift in the direction of things and, until an election is called, this is perhaps the best life that the PM could breathe into his government.
There are certain PLP ministers who are sufferers of windbaggery and fictitious disease syndrome and, frankly, some of their performances in various ministries amount to substantive negative outcome. Unquestionably, those found to be deadbeats in the present Cabinet must be selectively separated or, in layman’s terms, “rolled out”.
There certainly seems to be a dearth of options and ideas and so Mr Christie and his cabal appear recently to have chosen to shuffle and dance and live in merriment until the electoral bell tolls.
There are many in the Cabinet who are underperforming. This Cabinet is generally a lacklustre bunch, with a few bright sparks. I understand that Mr Christie has to work with what he has and so, Sir, I would advise you to do the following:
• Remove Dr Bernard Nottage as substantive minister at the Ministry of National Security and turn the reins over to Keith Bell. Admittedly, he is a former lecturer of mine and a true and genuine friend to me and my family. Before and after he entered politics we had many conversations about the state of affairs in the Bahamas and crime. He is a former senior police officer who I believe has been stymied by senior politicians in his party due to the fact that he is a senator whose appointment could be revoked and due to the notion that he must toe the line.
Yes, he has got in hot water in the past because of his outspoken nature. But, in all of my conversations with Mr Bell, it is clear that he has an approach to crime that is not being wholly embraced. He is obviously hamstrung by the fact that he is not an MP and, even more, a junior minister whose ideas and initiatives could be easily shot down by his senior.
He has enough institutional knowledge to do a much better job than his senior.
If the PM believes that Keith Bell ought not to head the Ministry of National Security, then the best option remaining is Executive Chairman at BEC, Leslie Miller. Mr Miller’s “take no prisoners” style and his honesty with the Bahamian people is welcome and a breath of fresh air. Many have stated their faith in Mr Miller as having the persona needed to fight the crime wave head-on. What’s more, Mr Miller has himself been a victim of crimes and lost a son in a gruesome murder and so, therefore, he is in touch with the reality of the effect of crime first-hand. He would do everything that needs to be done.
• Fire Dr Danny Johnson. Send him to the backbenches and replace him with anyone who has inkling of how to run a Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture. Dr Johnson should be dismissed due to a slew of disastrous productions and mishandling of his ministry of late – from the delays at Junkanoo to the disastrous challenges at CARIFTA to challenges with the sporting agencies, etc.
• Whilst many have criticised Fred Mitchell’s travelling, I think he should remain as Minister of Foreign Affairs. However, the Prime Minister could remove immigration from his portfolio and perhaps make it a ministry unto itself, considering the challenges we’ve been having with illegal immigrants, work permit disputes, regularising and naturalising the children of immigrants who have been victims of injustice and so on.
• Please remove Hope Strachan from the Ministry of Financial Services and either appoint her to the new Ministry of Immigration, or make her State Minister for Social Services or Family Affairs. At Financial Services, she is clearly out of her depth.
• Dr Perry Gomez should be moved from the Ministry of Health and re-appointed at Social Services. As it stands, the Ministry of Health is too hands-off and appears directionless. Unlike Goldilocks’ porridge in the Story of the Three Bears, Dr Gomez doesn’t appear to be hot or cold as it seems that he’s not there at all!
By the way, when are the new nurses and doctors going to be paid their full salaries, Dr Gomez?
• Deputy Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis should be re-appointed at the Ministry of Transport and Aviation.
• Dr Nottage should be appointed as Minister of Works and Urban Development.
• Allyson Maynard-Gibson should be removed from the Attorney General’s Office. She should return to private practice.
• Appoint Michael Halkitis or Khaalis Rolle as the substantive Minister of Financial Services. If one is appointed substantive minister, the other could be junior.
• Appoint Glenys Hanna-Martin as Minister of Local Government (local government needs to be established in Nassau and therefore needs its own ministry). She is well respected and could also be the new AG.
• Although it appears that not much peas and guinea corn has been produced during his tenure, Alfred Gray should be appointed Minister of Rowing and Talking Affairs, whose seat is located squarely on the backbenches.
• Mr Christie should give a young Turk in his party an opportunity to become Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources. So, perhaps a Renward Wells (that would sure quiet him down more) or maybe an Arnold Forbes, or maybe ... Mr Christie has lost so many of his young Turks that it’s hard to list one who I would think deserves such a ministry. I think the best option for this post would be Clay Sweeting.
• Fire Kenred Dorsett. His place is on the backbenches. He has done a poor job at the Ministry of the Environment and Housing. The Prime Minister needs to separate the Environment from Housing. How in the world did he combine those two ministries anyhow? Taken as a whole, the environment alone would be representative of a major ministry. He should appoint Mortgage Corporation chairman, Senator Alex Storr, as the Minister of Housing.
• What about Exuma MP Anthony Moss? There’s not much he has done. The same applies for North Abaco MP Renardo Curry. Their tenures have been a “dud!”
• As for State Minister for Legal Affairs Damien Gomez, I’m told that he has purportedly entered into partnership with Elliot Lockhart, QC, and will soon be returning to private practice. I cannot fault him for that.
• Shane Gibson could remain in his current post. He’s been a reasonably good Labour Minister and certainly one of Mr Christie’s better ministers.
• The Ministry for Grand Bahama should fold. It is a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money and has proven useless. Dr Michael Darville should be re-appointed as the Minister of Health.
• The Ministry of the Environment should be given to Melanie Griffin or she could remain at the Ministry of Social Services. But, whichever ministry she ends up deciding on - and she has done well enough to have two offers and render a decision - Dr Perry Gomez should be given the remaining ministry.
• Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald could remain in his post.
• The PM must ensure that Mr Halkitis, one of the most intelligent, down-to-earth chaps around the Cabinet table, is promoted to a substantive post. The Prime Minister could simply be a PM without a portfolio and appoint Mr Halkitis as substantive Minister of Finance and, if not that, Minister of Financial Services as noted earlier. Former PM Hubert Ingraham did the same with Sir William Allen.
• The Prime Minister - who really is the premier minister and the minister of all ministries - should not retain a specific portfolio, with the exception of perhaps also becoming the Minister of Junkanoo.
• What the heck does Cleola Hamilton know about Foreign Affairs? And isn’t Picewell Forbes also there serving as non-resident Ambassador to CARICOM?
She should be reappointed as the Parliamentary Secretary in Social Services and, since the government has expanded that portfolio with the onset of VAT and a predicted increase in poverty, she could greatly assist current minister Melanie Griffin or new minister Dr Perry Gomez.
The change movement
I have to throw my support behind fellow attorney Ranard Henfield’s generous and seemingly sincere thrust to foster an environment where we return to being our brother’s keepers and where the change that we wish to see begins with us. Ranard is not just talking: he is putting his money where his mouth is and I respect that. I believe that he is genuine, he has no axe to grind and he is not agenda driven.
Ranard posted on his Facebook page: “So my objective with this Change Movement is for ordinary residents like you and I to be the change we complain is needed. Hopefully, my team will inspire at least 100 people to do more than complain every day on the airwaves and social media about the problems in our communities and by extension the country. Hopefully, someone will be inspired to call us in to help organise their community initiatives like what we are doing in the communities from Carmichael and Blue Hill to Coral Harbour.”
“We need to be more proactive and responsible for ourselves, our communities and our nation. I had this idea last year, on my birthday to be exact, that a movement to get ordinary citizens to do extraordinary things would make a big and positive impact in the daily lives of Bahamians. So on October 3, 2014, I launched The Change Movement ... This may not be a big deal to many, but trust me - this is the beginning of a revolution. This is the start of a movement that will return constituencies to villages. More than just a voting block for governments. A true community where people care for each other again and sweep in front of their door steps rather than complain that the neighbourhood needs to be cleaned up by the government.”
This is change that we all can believe in. I am on-board and our very own community organisation will be meeting to spread that notion of change, of progress and our brotherly and sisterly love.