By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Chairman Sidney Collie yesterday labelled reports that Labour and National Insurance Minister Shane Gibson received payments totalling $94,131.10 over an 18-month period from fashion mogul Peter Nygard as another “inexcusable” scandal from an amoral administration.
In a statement released Monday, Mr Collie said the ongoing “protection of corruption” displayed by the Progressive Liberal party should alarm voters, lamenting that every day the Christie administration has proven just how much they have pillaged the trust of the Bahamian people for personal gain.
Referring to media reports in which the incumbent Golden Gates MP claimed the funds received were being directed to be used as a contribution to his 2012 election campaign and for community initiatives in his constituency, Mr Collie said the revelation was just the latest in a long list of wrongdoing on behalf of the PLP.
He also referred to Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald’s admission that he solicited lucrative contracts from Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian while a Cabinet minister and Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson’s family connections to businesses at the resort as matters of concern.
“While Bahamians struggle to put food on the table, Shane Gibson is receiving payments from an eccentric foreign billionaire,” Mr Collie said, adding that Prime Minister Perry Christie should fire his whole Cabinet.
He added: “Although the prime minister will do anything to shelter himself and his fraudulent Cabinet members from scrutiny, corruption remains on the ballot. If Christie does not act at once, this is the final straw for his leadership.”
Documents obtained by The Tribune and published Monday appeared to be records belonging to Mr Nygard, a Canadian fashion mogul who resides in the affluent community of Lyford Cay, or to his associates.
The documents show that deposits were made once per month in $5,000 tranches between August 4, 2011, when Mr Gibson was an opposition parliamentarian, to January 8, 2013, when Mr Gibson was a substantive Cabinet minister.
Eighteen of Mr Nygard’s payments to Mr Gibson were listed as being for “professional services,” though one of $4,131.10 was listed as being for “travel” from Nassau to Miami.
In a statement Sunday night, Mr Gibson explained that the “contributions” made by Mr Nygard enabled him to pay off debt incurred during the campaign season and was also used for scholarships and community initiatives.
In the absence of campaign finance legislation or regulations for money donated to constituencies, Mr Gibson is not prohibited from receiving any amount of money from a person.
Last week, both PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts and Mr Collie remained vague on how their parties were spending and raising money for this election.
Mr Roberts, for his part, said his party was expected to spend millions. This figure, he added, would cover political items, media content, rallies and other “necessary line items.”
Mr Collie was more tight-lipped when asked about his party’s campaign spending, leaning on the lack of campaign finance laws as the reason he did not have to present details.
“There is no such law to prohibit what we do, how we do it and/or why we do; so we will continue on doing what we deem necessary to place us in the best position,” Mr Collie said last week in response to questions from The Tribune.
Citizens for a Better Bahamas (CBB), a civic organisation advocating for, among other things, campaign finance laws, has appealed to the Christie administration to start bipartisan talks with the Free National Movement for some time now.
CBB’s lead representative Lemarque Campbell, a lawyer, has argued that neither party is “truly serious” about addressing the matter because they have benefited from the present manner of campaign financing.