By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
HITTING back at recent assertions by Free National Movement (FNM) officials that a vote for the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is a vote for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), DNA Leader Branville McCartney on Friday claimed that the FNM’s attempts at alienating the third party is because the FNM wants either itself or the PLP to win “because they work together”.
Addressing a modest crowd of supporters at the DNA’s first campaign rally at Windsor Park on Friday night, Mr McCartney employed the ‘two sides of the same coin’ argument to characterise the alleged symbiotic relationship that exists between the FNM and the PLP, as he charged that both parties “have businesses together” and “lend money to each other”.
In particular, Mr McCartney said FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis “must stop his foolishness” in making such insinuations about the DNA, further suggesting that such assertions are hypocritical because “he knows at the end of the day how close he is with the PLP”.
Mr McCartney also said Dr Minnis “can’t talk” about wanting Mr Christie to fire Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald for allegedly “corruptly” using his position of power as a Cabinet minister, claiming that both the PLP and the FNM “do the same thing” and are “the same people”.
On Thursday, former FNM leader Tommy Turnquest, who unsuccessfully lead the FNM into the 2002 general election, warned undecided voters not to be swayed by both the PLP and the DNA in the weeks leading up to the general election on May 10, stating that the FNM cannot allow the DNA to “take our voters from us” a second time.
At the time, Mr Turnquest said the FNM underestimated the DNA before the last general election, a move he insisted “was a major reason for our defeat in 2012”.
“As our leader told you, if you go to bed with the DNA, you are going to wake up with (Prime Minister) Perry Christie and the PLP,” Mr Turnquest said at Thursday’s rally, likely referring to Dr Minnis’ statements in March when he stressed that the election would be between the FNM and the PLP only.
In response, Mr McCartney seemingly hit out at Dr Minnis' hypocrisy for calling on Mr Christie to fire Mr Fitzgerald, along with Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, for allegedly failing to separate their private affairs from their public duties in negotiating the Baha Mar remobilisation deal.
He then went on to deride the allegedly collusive relationship between the FNM and the PLP.
“I hear one leader of one of them parties want another minister to resign for conflict of interest and all that stuff,” Mr McCartney said on Friday night. “But he can’t talk. They do the same thing. They’re the same people. They work together. They got businesses together.
“And when they talk about a vote for the DNA is a vote for the PLP, well they want either the PLP or the FNM to win, because they work together. They have businesses together. They lend money to each other. They know what I’m talking about."
He added: “Dr Minnis must stop his foolishness about a vote for the DNA is a vote for the PLP. Because he knows at the end of the day how close he is with the PLP. He knows how close the FNM is with the PLP. You would recall the last leader of the FNM (Hubert Ingraham) said if he couldn’t have it the PLP will have it. I find it amazing.”
Mr McCartney encouraged DNA supporters to end the “status quo” and break away from the FNM-PLP cycle that has come to define Bahamian general elections, as he said “times are far too serious for it to be business as usual”.
“Business as usual is the PLP and the FNM,” he said. “Times are too serious for the status quo to remain. We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result. This was proven in the last general election. The 2012. We cannot continue down the same road and find a different destination.
“You been down the road before with the PLP and the FNM. Over 25 years you’ve had 15 years of the FNM and 10 years of the PLP. How you think we get in this mess? It wasn’t the DNA.”
The night saw speeches from a number of other DNA candidates, such as Englerston candidate Stephanie Lightbourne, who urged Bahamians not to be distracted by the novelty and fanfare of political rallies, as well as Bain and Grants Town candidate Brenda Harris, who highlighted the DNA’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $250 per week.
Mr McCartney ended the night by promising that, if elected to office, the DNA would enforce the death penalty, as well as decriminalise marijuana. Mr McCartney also said the DNA would seek to introduce anti-corruption legislation and an amendment to the Constitution by way of referendum to allow the creation of a recall system for “non-performing members of Parliament”.
“The Bahamian economy is at an all-time low, highlighted by non existent growth, high levels of public and private debt, high unemployment, and gross asymmetry of wealth,” he said of the country’s state of affairs. “The middle class has been destroyed, and the poor have been disseminated. We are quickly becoming the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have not’s’.”
“The Bahamian dream has now become a Bahamian nightmare,” he added.