By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
SENIOR members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) spent much of last week swimming against the tide so to speak, acknowledging that the country is in a mess, that the party had made many lofty promises that it could not keep in order to win the 2012 general election and that many government MPs are poor performers who should be cut like dead weight.
Fervent supporters may balk at this kind of candour and question why anyone who is a PLP would publicly voice these shortcomings. But not to acknowledge these faults is to live in a state of denial that does nothing to help propel the Bahamas out of the doldrums.
As Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle put it last week, this country is in “a mess by many measures”.
While some other members of the Christie administration may have their heads ducked in the sand and continue to pretend that all is well in our little country, it was refreshing to hear someone in government give an honest assessment of what is going on.
Homicides are on the increase and violent crime continues unabated despite the best efforts of police and tough talk from politicians. Our young men are being slaughtered on the streets of New Providence on an almost daily basis while armed robberies and gunpoint car-jackings are being reported frequently. Three years into the five-year term of this Christie administration, we have a murder count that is on track to smash the 2011 record of 127 murders.
When the Department of Statistics carries out its next labour force study in November, unemployment figures will have likely increased since the previous survey.
Baha Mar, which was billed as the saviour to the Bahamas’ economy and the panacea to unemployment, has stalled with no endgame in sight.
The government has failed to meet many of its election promises and yet Prime Minister Perry Christie is angling for a third term in office because he feels he has not yet cemented his legacy.
Most thinking Bahamians would agree that new policies and a new direction are needed for this country. Yet we have leaders who have not delivered on their grandiose promises and who refuse to give up the seat of power.
We need radical thinking and action to reverse the trend of deterioration and depression that has gripped New Providence and find a way to pump life into our sleepy Family Islands.
At a PLP Women’s Branch meeting last Sunday, Mr Christie whipped his supporters into a frenzy when he declared no one would put a “proverbial gun” to his head and tell him when it is time to leave office.
“Perry Gladstone Christie will be the leader of the Progressive Liberal Party,” the nation’s leader chanted to screams from the energetic crowd. “I do not yet want to believe that I am in a campaign. I do not want to believe that given the trials and tribulations that grip this country, that a Progressive Liberal Party, which after some years of a promise of a convention, that instead we are going to subject ourselves to a major divisive race.”
Mr Christie later told reporters that his Cabinet ministers, in particular Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, should not run against him at the party’s November convention. Mr Christie knows that the country is in a precarious situation but believes that he is the best person to steer the Bahamas out of this quagmire.
He has been leader of this country for the past three years and does not seem to realise, as former PLP MP Philip Galanis put it last week, that things have got worse under his tenure.
The prime minister is a gifted speaker and charismatic politician who knows how to charm crowds and sway voters. He has been in the game for more than 40 years and knows how to play it better than many others sitting in Parliament.
Can he be faulted for doing what he seemingly knows how to do best?
Maybe not, but the Bahamian people must not continue to support blindly a leader who cannot make good on his promises and appears to flounder while in office if we care about moving this country forward.
Some 20,000 new voters are expected to register to vote in the next election. They will mostly be young, first-time voters who are having a hard time finding work after graduating from high school or college and are frustrated with crime and lack of opportunity in this country. Added to this crop of new voters will be the disenfranchised members of the electorate who remember the elaborate song and dance of the 2012 cycle and can contrast that with the realities of today.
The prime minister’s sweet talk and chest thumping that he is the leader of the PLP will likely not satiate these voters, who hopefully will demand more of politicians this time around.
Recently, a veteran PLP MP told me that many sitting MPs will have to ask themselves if they can retain their seats with Mr Christie at the helm of the party.
I wonder how they can legitimately go to voters and stump for a candidate who could not deliver a workable mortgage relief plan, who did not have the answers to crime although his party campaigned heavily that it did, who has seemingly abandoned his administration’s pledge to hold a gender equality referendum ... and the list goes on.
Mr Christie will more than likely emerge from the PLP’s convention as leader, even if he is challenged, because the party feels he is the only shot at staying in government.
Whether that rabid support translates into votes from the majority of the electorate in 2017 remains to be seen, but the current general sense of malaise and unhappiness that many people have with the state of this country tells me it will not.
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