WHILE Prime Minister Perry Christie attempted to extend a hand of cooperation to the many Bahamians who have lost faith in his government, his arrogant Foreign Affairs Minister, in an audio recording released on social media only hours before the organised demonstration was to begin, forbade his party’s supporters to attend. Despite this warning three Cabinet ministers did attend.
The “We March”, organised by two young Bahamian activists, both lawyers, gathered at Arawak Cay Friday night and marched to Rawson Square, filling the square with more than 1,000 protesters.
They had come in peace, but Mr Mitchell’s pre-march message that their efforts to reach their government was a waste of time, added several more arrows to the protestors’ quivers. These dissatisfied Bahamians had come to make their voices heard. However, many left fired up in anger to be told by Mr Mitchell that their march would not change one “diddly squat”.
If Mr Mitchell knew his history, he would have understood that lesser words have started revolutions. Remember, the oft quoted remark of France’s Queen Marie Antoinette, when told that her people were so hungry that they didn’t even have bread to eat, replied: “If they don’t have bread, give them cake!” The French revolution followed, and many, including the king and queen, losts their heads on the guillotine.
That, of course, will not happen in The Bahamas, but people like Mr Mitchell have to understand that idle words do carry consequences. And a man in his position should have more sense. From comments made yesterday by members of the public, PLP politicians have not heard the end of this. Mr Michell’s comments have fuelled their defiance.
Friday night’s campaign was launched on Facebook earlier this month.
“It’s really, truly a people’s movement to send a clear message to politicians about the expectations of Bahamians,” the organisers explained. Among their requests they wanted the immediate tabling of the revised Freedom of Information Bill. “The passage of a robust Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is essential to empower Bahamians and keep the government honest, and it is one of the campaigns for The Bahamas’ most pressing objectives,” said their press release. They also pointed out that they were exercising their “democratic right to take to the streets in protest. For our part we will be standing up for the Freedom of the Information Act to let our political leaders know that this is not something that can be forgotten or ignored.”
Mr Mitchell seems to have blotted out his own past. Has he forgotten December 20, 1989, when, under the spreading arms of the giant fig tree in front of the Supreme Court building, he gathered a small group of his People’s Democratic Force, burned a copy of the Constitution and sent its ashes to the late Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling? It was to protest the disciplinary action that the Bahamas Bar Council had proposed to take against him.
Does he remember his speech at the Pilot House Club’s tenth anniversary on May 3, 1989 when he said: “I say to the government, leave the Bahamian alone and let him flourish. You will see 1,000 businesses start up. You will see economic expansion, the likes of which the country has never seen before. Let’s get rid of as much government in the general sense as we can and make it easier for all of us to live.”
Commenting in June 1987 on a decision by the Baptist to suspend their constitution so that they could retain a popular Baptist leader, he disagreed with the decision, likening it to politicians who were reluctant to step down.
“We ought to thank our supporters for their support and move on.
But, no, we like the wealth and the power so we stay on, and on, and on, and we don’t know when to quit. This is what happened in the PLP,” he said.
Mr Mitchell has had a very colourful past, with one ambition — to become prime minister. He started with the PLP, became disenchanted, left and started his own small party. He flirted with the FNM for a time, hoping for a nomination, but when that failed he returned to the PLP where he saw his best opportunity for his star to rise. But with his growing dictatorial attitude, we see no chance of that ever happening.
Asked what he thought of Mr Mitchell telling his party supporters not to attend Friday’s march, adding that it will not change a “diddly squat”, Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcome, who believed the march demonstrated the strength of democracy, replied: “We have to appreciate that Fred Mitchell is Fred Mitchell and the prime minister spoke for the government, that is the position of the government. We may not all share in how he (Mr Mitchell) approaches things, but all of us appreciate that Fred will establish his positions. He was speaking as an individual member of Parliament.”
However, Mr Mitchell’s opinions cannot be brushed aside. We must remember that he is not only Foreign Affairs Minister, but he is also Minister of Immigration.
Mr Mitchell has tried to dismiss the importance of the march by claiming that it is an FNM propaganda exercise. “Once you see Janet Bostwick’s son in it, it’s an FNM propaganda exercise plain and simple and no PLP will be caught dead on it,” he said.
“The old saying if its walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a damn duck. This is nothing but an FNM in disguise with glasses. Pretending to be neutral, but they are FNM,” said Mr Mitchell.
Anyone who believes this will make a grave mistake. John Henry Bostwick, Jr, is the son of former FNM Attorney General Janet Bostwick, but he belongs to no political party. Mr Bostwick, Jr, 45, and his colleague Renard Henfield, 37 – both lawyers – are community activists, associated with no political organisation. Theirs is a people’s movement — something that Bahamians have never known before. They embrace all parties, including those persons not affiliated with any party. Their common goal is to gather in all those who want the best for their country and its people.
Mr Henfield was recently recognised by Rotary International in a ceremony in the ballroom of Government House for his community activities with Our Carmichael Movement.
The two young men even had the vision to assist with voter registration. The Parliamentary Registrar was invited to register as many Bahamians as possible. A tent was sent up in the square during the rally with ten registration booths. The effort was so successful that the department’s staff had to leave before the evening ended because they had run out of registration forms.
So to quote Mr Mitchell, it might walk and quack like a duck, but he had better put on his glasses again – he’s only deluding himself if he thinks it’s an FNM duck. He now has a new political duck to deal with and this young duck will not tolerate his arrogance.