By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
PLP chairman, Senator Fred Mitchell yesterday fired back at claims the party was "race baiting" in its opposition to the Commercial Enterprises Bill (CEB), asserting that all race related remarks during debate on the bill has emanated from the governing side.
Mr Mitchell, who also serves as leader of opposition business in the Senate, was responding to comments by Attorney General Carl Bethel, who on Monday accused Official Opposition members of "stirring up xenophobic and irrational fears" through its campaign against the CEB.
Mr Bethel, in his presentation to the Senate, insisted the "snide comments" and the labelling of the CEB as "Brent's bill" by those in opposition was done so intentionally and insinuated racial undertones.
Brent Symonette's father, Sir Roland Symonette, was the Bahamas' first premier and leader of the United Bahamian Party - the last minority led government. Mr Symonette, a white Bahamian, is minister of financial services, trade and industry and immigration.
However, in response Tuesday, Senator Mitchell said the "spurious allegations" by Mr Bethel were "beneath contempt".
In a short statement, Senator Mitchell contended the only people who referred to race during Monday's debate in the Senate were Mr Bethel and his fellow FNMs.
"In fact, Senator Bethel had to withdraw one of the references to race when he falsely accused the leader of opposition business of referring to someone's colour," the statement noted.
"The FNM must get over their preoccupation with race but learn to live with the history of the country and their own history and the facts which they cannot change and how they now with the Commercial Enterprises Bill align themselves with the evil and dark forces of the country's past.
"In fact, no less a person than their now Leader Hubert Minnis, when he was threatened as leader of the FNM last year, said in his campaign that he would not allow Bay Street to take over the FNM party from the ordinary man."
Tuesday's statement concluded: "If history is good for the goose, it must also be good for the gander."
Debate on the CEB in the Senate got underway Monday, with the governing side presenting several arguments for viability of the legislation and the government's intent to transform the economy of the country.
The Minnis administration has stood firm in its bid to have the CEB legislated by Christmas, sustaining that the bill, along with several other economic policies being pushed, all stand as a launching point for the nation's overall economic reform.
In addition to the CEB, the government has made its intention to repeal and replace the Grand Bahama (Port Area) Investment Incentives Act 2016 and lay the ground work for its Over-the-Hill Rejuvenation Project. Legislation for the latter is set to be tabled next May.
The PLP opposed the CEB when it was voted on in the Senate Monday night. The party also voted against the bill when it was passed in the House of Assembly.