TODAY we make no apology for returning once again to the burning political issue facing our country - the alarming prospect that, in the face of a warring and fractured Opposition, a Progressive Liberal Party government may be returned for another five years at the general election which has to be held no later than May.
Publication at last of the delayed Boundaries Commission report and of the Free National Movement’s manifesto has finally concentrated minds in the realisation that the election is barely three months away.
We believe that the prevailing public mood is one of despair, not just that the nation is at such a low ebb in so many ways because of the PLP’s calamitous and discredited performance since coming to power in 2012, but also in the knowledge that another term with the same people at the helm, including Prime Minister Perry Christie himself, will be disastrous for the Bahamas.
The examples under this government of alleged corruption, greed, dishonesty, scandal, victimisation, flawed decision-making and sheer mismanagement on a grand scale are too well known at this late stage of its period of governance to bear reiteration. But, sadly, Mr Christie and his ministerial colleagues seem to be in denial about what is happening as the country continues on a downward path and they do not even listen to people like the ‘We March’ protestors.
He and they appear to be unable or unwilling to face up to major problems like unemployment, the nation’s investment junk status and deteriorating GDP to debt ratio, to name just a few, while Mr Christie’s ‘Wild West’ comparison this week in reaction to the worsening crime situation was politically inept since it showed a government which has lost control. His much criticised mishandling of the Baha Mar debacle will also resonate in voters’ minds as evidence of incompetence while being bamboozled by the Chinese or, at worst, of collusion with them together with the disgraceful treatment of the original developer amidst continuing rumours of money changing hands.
Although he is an experienced politician with solid achievements to his name during the course of a long career and by reputation a decent and caring man, the Prime Minister is surrounded by flawed ministerial colleagues, including one whose self-important attempts at posturing on the international stage do little to enhance the fortunes or reputation of our nation and another who brings into disrepute his position as a member of the Cabinet by refusing to accept a court ruling against him. While the largely unsighted observations of his party chairman, who seems increasingly to be out of touch with reality, may influence him, we also fear that Mr Christie suffers from political hubris and, most recently, could have been lured into complacency by the numerous sycophants and grassroots supporters at the recent PLP convention where, shamefully, the one contender for his job was not even allowed to speak.
To make matters worse for him, not only was the report of the Boundaries Commission delayed and therefore tabled late but it is now being challenged in the courts because of blatant gerrymandering in the PLP’s favour. At the same time, the Interception of Communications Bill which has just been tabled has already been heavily and widely criticised as an assault on the citizenry’s right to privacy and for being rushed through at the last minute without adequate consultation. Then there is the Freedom of Information Bill currently being considered by the Senate which contains so many exemptions as to be largely toothless and not fit for its original purpose.
Despite all this, the PLP can always rely on the votes of its diehard supporters at a general election because their traditional loyalty remains unaffected by the government’s performance in office. So there is a danger that, if the Opposition remains divided between the FNM and the Democratic National Alliance, there could be a repeat of the 2012 election result when the DNA won no seats but did well enough to split the FNM vote which enabled the PLP to secure victory.
The low numbers registering to vote in this general election is surely one measure of the people’s dissatisfaction with the political class. We use this opportunity to appeal yet again to the FNM to put its house in order and re-establish internal party unity. We urge its leaders to seek an accommodation with their DNA counterparts in order to produce a united Opposition with a genuine chance of winning in May. They should all put aside their respective egos and understand that a failure to establish some sort of functioning unity will go down badly with an electorate which is desperate for change and for a new political leadership which can fix the many problems besetting this small nation.
We believe that it is not being unduly alarmist to say that another five years of a failed PLP government could even result in civil unrest - and clearly this is something which above all our traditionally tolerant and peaceful community must seek to avoid. It is not too late for those politicians concerned to take responsibility as patriotic Bahamians and do the right thing for their country.