By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FORMER PLP MP Philip Galanis yesterday praised the leadership platform presented by former Attorney General Alfred Sears as a welcome respite from the status quo of visionless political leadership, and a return to the core values of the Progressive Liberal Party.
Mr Galanis threw his support behind a number of reforms outlined in the
26-page manifesto, entitled “A Vision For Our Revolution: Transforming the Bahamas for the 21st Century,” rolled out by Mr Sears last month - namely on immigration and economic empowerment.
While he noted that his support for many of the reforms did not signal his endorsement of Mr Sears for PLP leader, Mr Galanis commended the political hopeful on his courage and tenacity in penning a manifesto in his campaign for leadership of the governing party.
“I’m impressed that he has a platform,” Mr Galanis said, “the first noteworthy one in a long time. He’s taken the time to commit his vision for the development of the country to paper, and articulated a number of key areas that’s helpful in explaining what he would wish to do if elected.
“This document is so well-written it could serve as a party platform, I would not be surprised if the party adopts a lot of the things in this.”
Mr Galanis said: “For far too long too many of our political leaders, many people in politics, don’t seem to have any kind of vision. They can’t articulate one, and there is no planned approach to governance. They don’t seem to have any well-thought out roadmap, this [platform] does that in a very succinct and meaningful way.”
Mr Sears’ leadership platform details the leader-hopeful’s plan to revolutionise the country’s economic, cultural and social status quo through transformative initiatives that draw on core values of stewardship and accountability in governance.
Initiatives target reforms for economic expansion and diversification; technology and innovation; public transportation; social; energy and environmental; culture industries and cultural development; youth development; Grand Bahama and Family Island development; local government and community empowerment; and to restore, rebrand, and rebuild the PLP.
The policies and initiatives outlined therein are intended to be adopted within the context of the country’s national development plan – Vision 2040.
“I think his entire position shows courage that he will challenge the leader,” said Mr Galanis.
“It’s a good thing to challenge, it’s important for us to be compliant with our constitution and for the leader to offer every year because that makes us stronger and that tests the metal of a leader. It’s far bigger than any individual having regards to that fact that he [Prime Minister Perry Christie] has been there for more than 20 years now.”
He said: “I think there are a number of valuable points in this, this is something that the PLP could adopt, not necessarily in mass.”
Mr Sears’ first proposed initiative, under the sub-heading Governance, is to appoint a bipartisan commission to conduct public consultation on the establishment of the Commonwealth Republic of The Bahamas. Such a republic, Mr Sears envisioned, would have a Bahamian executive president and a mixed member system of proportional representation.
Other governance reforms include: impose two-term limits on the Office of the Prime Minister and reduce the size of the Cabinet to a maximum of 16 portfolios; and to include the right to vote and freedom of the press as fundamental rights under the Constitution.
Mr Galanis disagreed with Mr Sears’ call for term limits, stating that it was an American idea that was a bastardisation of the Westminster system. However, he agreed that limits should be placed on the Cabinet and the powers of the Office of the Prime Minister.
“This is a very good beginning point for the PLP to look at adopting as part of our platform,” he said, “or in consideration of our platform. It addresses many of the issues that need urgent attention. I applaud him for his courage, his vision, his foresight and having the tenacity to commit to paper his plan.”
Mr Sears also zeroed in on the hot-button issue of immigration as part of his multi-faceted plan for social reform.
The platform calls for an amnesty period for undocumented migrants that have a “genuine link” to the country, and the regularisation of those living and working in the Bahamas for more than 15 years.
Mr Sears’ stance on immigration could prove unpopular with the party’s base, which celebrated the PLP-led administration’s hardline policy implemented in November 2014. The government introduced a stricter immigration policy that, among other things, requires every non-Bahamian to have a passport of their nationality.
Admitting that Mr Sears’ immigration policy was a departure from the popular attitudes held by many in the party, and the country, Mr Galanis said: “Sometimes you have to lead the base and do the right things.”
“It may not always be popular. I like the humanistic approach to legalization, a path to regularisation. That again is something that the PLP should be speaking out on, we’re not speaking to it, not addressing it. There are a lot of people that are stateless, without a sense of belonging, even though this is the only place they’ve been.
Mr Galanis said: “While we may have addressed it in the past, we have perhaps spoken about it, but a lot of people still remain stateless and it’s not being addressed. Even though it’s going to be a politically sensitive issue, I believe it’s the right thing to do.”
Mr Galanis pointed out that Mr Sears’ compassionate response to immigration was in line with the party’s primary mandate: to be a voice and vehicle for the downtrodden and oppressed.
Speaking generally on public controversy government MPs faced this term, Mr Galanis said: “Too many PLP politicians don’t have appreciation of the core values of the PLP, that’s a real serious problem. If they did they wouldn’t have gotten themselves into the trouble they have over the last few years.”
“The ownership of land by a foreign state, outside of residences and embassies, has never been allowed,” he said, “that is a non-negotiable position. The PLP at its highest level have deviated from the position by allowing foreign governments to own land.
Mr Galanis said: “To have allowed Baha Mar to fall into the hands of a China state-owned entity is a tremendously deplorable travesty visited upon our people. The Chinese government has a lot to say in our most important industry, tourism, and that’s very dangerous.”