By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
REVEREND Laish Boyd, bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, has denounced the “gutter politics and venom” associated with the upcoming general election, charging that the practice could hinder upstanding persons seeking to offer themselves for public office in the future.
Bishop Boyd, in a pastoral letter to his parishioners and the nation over the current election cycle, said he is “personally horrified” at the “terrible practice of denigrating and maligning others” by “unscrupulous opponents” in the political realm, which he said ultimately discourages “some decent people” from wanting to serve.
Bishop Boyd particularly lamented the gutter politics being “spewed around” in both mainstream and social media, further bemoaning how “fake news is propagated as facts” and how “so many of us are gullible to believe whatever we see that is negative or degrading about others”.
Rather than “demonise” political candidates, Bishop Boyd called on voters to “discuss the issues,” adding: “We cannot allow our children to believe that the vast majority of persons serving or desirous of serving in political office do not have integrity or good character.”
Bishop Boyd’s letter, released yesterday, comes amid an election cycle that has already been marred by verbal jousting between political parties, and at least one confirmed physical altercation between supporters of two of the country’s major political parties, the PLP and the FNM.
There has also been name-calling. In March, FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis dubbed Prime Minister Perry Christie “Cotton Candy Christie” while insinuating that Mr Christie’s soft policies have contributed to Grand Bahama’s economic hardships. He has repeated the nickname over the past few weeks.
In January, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts criticised Dr Minnis’ and the FNM’s new slate of candidates to contest the upcoming election, charging that Dr Minnis’ selection of “hapless, perennial losers and visionless personalities” gave the impression that he rummaged through former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s “political junkyard or graveyard” to salvage what he termed a “political scrap gang.”
Despite also calling those FNM candidates “bad and unfit” to run in the impending election, Mr Roberts later called for “peace and calm” during this election season, adding that “we can disagree without being disagreeable or insulting.”
“I am personally horrified at the level of ‘gutter’ politics and venom that I see and hear being spewed around even in conventional media,” Bishop Boyd said in his letter. “In social media it is even worse, and so often there is little regard for truth. ‘Fake news’ is propagated as fact and so many of us are gullible to believe whatever we see that is negative or degrading about others.
“This must stop. Let us discuss the issues and not demonise the candidates.
“Unfortunately,” Bishop Boyd continued, “this terrible practice of denigrating and maligning others has the result of discouraging some decent people from wanting to serve in public life; too much is at stake, and a good name that one might have built up over the years is suddenly dragged through the mud by unscrupulous opponents.
“We cannot build a country like this, and we definitely cannot allow our children to believe that the vast majority of persons serving or desirous of serving in political office do not have integrity or good character.”
Bishop Boyd also called on voters to “be informed” and “take an interest in the national landscape,” adding that voters should attempt to get “a wide sampling of what is going on” in the country in the lead up to May 10.
“Do not follow conventional media only: read online and read social media where possible,” he said. “We want to get as total a picture as possible. Often, there is one conversation in the conventional media, and another, broader, more representative discussion can be seen in social media. This is the modern reality.”
He added: “Obviously, some persons will have difficulty with reading for a variety of reasons, and we understand their circumstances. However, too many of us who have ability and opportunity do not read because we are lazy or undisciplined. It is far easier for us to look at a screen or to listen to something.
“This is a bad thing. It hurts us. It weakens the country. We have to do better.”
In March, Bishop Simeon Hall, pastor emeritus of New Covenant Baptist Church, renewed calls for “level-headed” political behaviour.
At the time, Bishop Hall cautioned major political parties over the tense nature of ongoing campaigns, insisting that violence of any kind - verbal or physical - would only offset the years of peaceful political process enjoyed in the Bahamas.
Bishop Hall said it is incumbent on all major political parties to set the tone of level-headed political behaviour during their campaigning activities, as their actions would direct their respective bases.