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Insight: Opening Pandora’S Box

Former Environment and Housing Minister, Kenred Dorsett was brought to Magistrate’s Court yesterday to be formally charged with bribery.

Former Environment and Housing Minister, Kenred Dorsett was brought to Magistrate’s Court yesterday to be formally charged with bribery.

By MALCOLM J STRACHAN

ON the campaign trail, the mantra, “they gern’ to jail” reverberated throughout the islands. While some may have seen this as empty campaign rhetoric, the newly elected prime minister’s pledge on election night removed all doubt from the minds of the electorate. He indicated that anyone in government who was found to have been misusing or abusing their office would have something to fear from a Free National Movement Government. Bahamians sat back and waited with bated breath for what would come.

Since the election, there have been numerous revelations of millions of dollars going missing from one Ministry or the other, or the misappropriation of public funds from one department after the next. Combined, they paint a ghastly portrait of a PLP administration that was completely out of control, drunk on power, and on a wild spending spree that appeared to have no end.

Revelation after revelation, the public was left gasping in disbelief as the state of the nation’s finances were laid bare for the world to see. And throughout it all, the threat from the Prime Minister could be heard ringing in the background, reminding us that consequences could, and quite possibly would, be coming.

By now our readers are well aware of the recent police activities, and the charges that have followed with respect to two members of the Progressive Liberal Party who have been arrested and charged before the courts. As these matters are before the courts we cannot and will not discuss the merits of these cases but we will analyze the impact they will, and have had thus far.

Legal minds close to the recent arrests have purported that the government may be setting a “dangerous precedent”. The new sheriff in town, Prime Minister, the Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis made it clear that the “old way” of conducting government is over with, as he is poising himself, along with his government to usher in a new wave of governance that promises to make a better Bahamas for the future.

These are quite lofty goals considering the culture of our politics. It seems everyone knows how the system works, but much fewer have been prepared to overhaul the system to give our country a fighting chance. The unspoken, but known goings-on of how contracts are issued by ministers to friends who shave a few dollars off the top in return for favours have been cutting off the country’s circulation for years. This myopia has increasingly soured the country’s prospects, as we have been unable to evolve as a result.

There is still a large group of us, on both sides of the partisan divide that do not believe the government is seriously going to pursue hardcore justice. This only promotes the widely held belief that politics, for the most part, is a fraternity whereby those within protect one another – particularly in a community as small as ours.

There are still some much bigger dominoes we’ve yet to see fall in the midst of the government’s sweep of audits, which leaves many people wondering if this is all for show. Is the government only pursuing the “low hanging fruit” or small fish, while the whales continue to swim free?

This will hardly garner true justice for the segment of the electorate that desire to see the entire house of cards come tumbling down.

Once Pandora’s box is opened, there is no telling what will come out, or how damaging that would be to either side of the political divide. The prime minister must certainly be aware of those implications. This begs the question – Is Prime Minister Minnis ready for what may come out of pursuing small and big fish alike? Or is this just to garner confidence from the public that the government is keeping its campaign promises? If the latter, this will hardly be well-thought out, as some in the public are salivating for more and will not settle for a few slaps on the wrist of some little guys, when there are widely held opinions on certain individuals that have been living “high off the hog.”

No doubt, there are politicians on both sides waiting to spill the dirt on the next if Minnis’ crusade dared to expand to their doorsteps. It’s a dangerous proposition that could unravel many Bahamians’ preconceived notions of their current, and former elected officials.

The prime minister will surely have to choose between continuing to pull at threads that may eventually unravel an entire system that has given him a platform, or effectively losing the confidence of the people so early on in this term. Will he find it worth the risk to chance it all?

The reality is that something must be done to change the trajectory of The Bahamas for the better. We can no longer exist in the same manner, where members of government are accused and counter accuse each other of emptying the proverbial cookie jar of the treasury every five years.

A change to the culture is necessary for the viability of the country, and the prime minister must be prepared to push forward full throttle with the government’s promise of justice - for better or worse. It is for the good of the people, whom he swore that it’s their time.

Any wavering or flippancy on the part of the government to pursue justice will surely relinquish any goodwill the prime minister has left with the people that voted for his government.

Time will tell.

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