THE Cabinet of the Bahamas and Las Vegas have a lot in common.
Just as in Las Vegas, what happens in the Bahamas Cabinet stays there. And that may be a very dangerous thing.
Unlike Las Vegas, the work of the Cabinet of The Bahamas is not about fun and games. It is about the people’s business. Not the government’s. The people’s. We believe that politicians get so used to thinking of themselves as the government, which they are not, that they forget the business they are conducting is the people’s business.
Look at recent issues that have been secretly negotiated and approved by Cabinet or worse yet, hushed up like the Rubis oil spill because revealing it could have cost a Cabinet minister his standing in the secret society. Matter after matter have been treated like they were the property of the Cabinet rather than the business of the people.
Count them. The Baha Mar deal. The Letter of Intent for Stellar Energy. The contract for management of the New Providence dump. The management contract for BPL. A BPL business plan that was allegedly prepared but never revealed.
There is hardly a person in the nation who is not affected by one or more of those decisions, yet there was never a public hearing nor even a debate on the floor of the House of Assembly. These were all-important national decisions made in secret by a handful of elected officials who no longer feel a need to consult with or seek and listen to the opinions of the people who elected them and are going to be impacted by the decisions they make.
Those are issues of a national scale - power supply, waste management, the largest resort development in the region.
Other decisions made at the Cabinet level have the power to turn communities upside down and forever alter life as it was. It happened in Bimini and now is threatening to happen again in Little Harbour, Abaco. It has been reported that every one of the 70 or so homeowners signed a petition rejecting the plan for developers at nearby Winding Bay to use the harbour that is an integral part of their daily lives and adjacent land to build a large marina and put in retail shops and restaurants. No one knows why approval was given for a large sophisticated money-making development when there is total resistance by the people on whom it is being imposed, many of whom will now sell their homes if they can and seek a simpler, quieter life elsewhere, displaced from their dreams by a handful of politicians making decisions for them rather than with them.
What happens in Cabinet stays in Cabinet and the lives of those who sought peace and quiet and tranquility on a little bay in Abaco could forever be uprooted.
At the root of what binds the Bahamas Cabinet and Las Vegas in principle is secrecy.
In Vegas, secrecy may cover for an illicit affair, a little too much to drink, a night that the partygoer may regret in the morning. But in Cabinet, it carries far more weight and can impact national interests, the economy, the environment and The Bahamas future generations will inherit.
It is said that secrets get heavier as you carry them around, that enough secrets can weigh you down whether they are your own or secrets you are holding for others. While that is allegorical, there is recent scientific evidence that keeping secrets is actually harmful to your health and can slow down learning and performance. The cingulate cortex in the brain is wired to do the expected, telling the truth and acting in a predictable manner. When this pre-frontal cortex, also known as the logical lobe, is clogged by lying and secrecy it slows down, affecting learning and performance.
That simple explanation sheds light on why any of us who has ever kept a secret, whether ours or a friend’s, acts and reacts differently when that secret comes to mind.
What happens in Vegas can stay right there. But the people of The Bahamas have a right to expect better when it comes to what happens in Cabinet. The time for transparency was yesterday. It can no longer be delayed. It is time to have public debate on issues affecting the public, to send notices when zoning or town planning changes are going to be considered and to have open hearings.
We don’t much care what happens in Vegas. But we do care very much what happens in The Bahamas and it is time for the people to have a say in what happens to them.