AVOIDING their annual party convention for the past eight years, and after much to-ing and fro-ing as to whether one should be held at all, the PLP settled on a well-orchestrated, fun-filled event just four months before the deadline for the general election.
Prime Minister Christie, who got thumbs down on all sides — not only from the general public, but from within his own party — at any suggestion that he should continue as party leader, certainly not as prime minister – turned the tables on the final night. That was the night that he did his victory walk to the platform, only hampered by hands held out to touch and congratulate him. His expert handlers had managed to keep the naysayers at bay, silencing all support for former Attorney General Alfred Sears, his only challenger for the position of party leader. Persons, who over the years had opposed him, were quick to get on the bandwagon of victory and sing his praises.
It reminded us of way back in UBP days when just before an election it was often joked that there was nothing to worry about once you gave the people a big bash they would go happily to the polls and vote the right way. The big bash was always a colourful parade on Fort Charlotte with the police marching band and the various police contingents with motorcycle stunts, all putting on a good show on a fun-filled balmy night. Of course one must never forget the ubiquitous four shilling note and the ever present bottle of rum. We are supposed to have become more politically sophisticated since then. But have we?
After five years of unfulfilled promises — 10,000 jobs were promised in the first year if the PLP were elected in 2012 — Mr Christie is now saying that his administration has created nearly 32,000 jobs. Sounds good, but we are being bombarded with questions as to where these jobs are being hidden. We got a moan over the telephone last week from Freeport –“Man, ’tings tough, taint no jobs.” We have no answers, nor have many disillusioned Bahamians. But the PLP are asking Bahamians to give them five more years to prove that Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, has misjudged their government by announcing that it is spending more than it earns. As a result, The Bahamas’ credit deserves to be written off as junk. “T’aint fair,” cries the PLP, “we just need another year for a turn-around to prove that Standard & Poor’s timing is wrong.”
As for VAT, Bahamians were told that VAT was the tax they would have to pay to reduce the national debt. Finance Minister Michael Halkitis, in a masterful attempt to explain how our VAT money is being spent, rattled off a list of projects for which it was being used. Research will probably show that parliament has already borrowed for many of these undertakings. Why not put the VAT taxes into the Consolidated Fund so that auditors can tell Bahamians exactly how their money is being spent? As it now stands, VAT is being collected, but there are no signs that the national debt is being reduced.
And as for National Security Minister Bernard Nottage’s declaration that The Bahamas has been made safer under the PLP despite the rising murders is just so much nonsense. As for this month, hardly a day has gone by that there has not been a murder or attempted murder.
On the very day that Dr Nottage was trying to convince Bahamians that their lives were in safer hands under his government, gun shots were heard in the Camperdown area – the area in which Dr Nottage lives. A raid was taking place at a home in nearby San Souci where a workman was shot twice in his stomach by two robbers. And this in broad daylight – not even under the cover of darkness.
As we write this, a police bulletin has just crossed our screen. Police are appealing for information to assist them in two separate shootings on Saturday — a man shot in front of his home on East Street, another shot from a passing car as he stood on Grant Street off Bernard Road. Both in hospital. These bulletins are now so frequent that the real news is when there are no shootings to report.
No, Dr Nottage, the PLP does not have the answer to crime, nor did it ever have the answer. We are not even getting a true picture of what our crime level is. For example, we are receiving no reports on the rapes, stabbings and gunshot wounds taken to hospital. These crimes are never included on the crime sheet.
According to the InterAmerican Development Bank “although there were 119 murders in 2013, there were 4.5 times as many stabbings and shootings treated at the hospital (539). Stabbings and shootings appear to be increasing at an even higher rate than murder.” That was 2013. The situation is far worse today. In the first 26 days of this month there have already been 14 murders. The figures of victims taken to hospital are even higher, but they are not available to the press.
A lot of hope for the future was expressed at the PLP convention, but what politicians lose sight of is that the ordinary Bahamian, living in the various communities without special police protection, know the truth about what goes on in their areas, and they also know that they have to take a politician’s promise with a grain of salt – so far this government has not delivered. Bahamians know they are being blown pipe dreams.
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An interesting case is now before the courts involving a Supreme Court justice, nearing retirement age, who has been asked to recuse herself from a land case involving Peter Nygard. At the opening of the legal year, the Chief Justice announced that the judge, who was appointed on August 14, 2009, had applied for an extension as a Supreme Court Justice of The Bahamas.
It was pointed out that pay and benefits to a serving and sitting Supreme Court judge is higher than that paid by the public purse to a retired Supreme Court judge. A Supreme Court justice may serve up until the age of 64 or 67 if agreed. Age 70 is the mandatory age of retirement.
Our question is very simple. It requires a simple answer: If her ladyship refuses to recuse herself from this particular case, will she be denied her request to have her term of office extended? Yes, or no.