By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
EFFORTS are underway by officials at the University of The Bahamas (UB) to secure representatives from every political party with a view to hosting a series of town hall meetings centred on national debate, political polling and scientific research.
Dr Christopher Curry, Chair of the School of Social Science at UB, said the concept is a step in the right direction for the country and its political climate, claiming that the inclusion of public and media at this level of the election process should translate into a more involved electorate.
Dr Curry added that, as a country, the Bahamas has never approached its electoral process from this standpoint, stressing that the move could lead to a systematic shift from a "party-like concept" of electoral discussions to one of "rational discourse".
The proposed series - which will start on Wednesday - is expected to run over the course of several weeks in the lead up to the election; featuring discussions on Small Island Sustainability; Economy and National Development; Local Government and the Family Islands; and Governance: Democracy or Dictatorship.
Organisers said they remain hopeful that the series could climax with a leadership debate featuring Prime Minister Perry Christie, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis and Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney among others.
However, Dr Curry said that the final elements of that "finale" is still "a ways off", with several elements still having to "come together".
"This is unprecedented for the Bahamas, but as I say that, I have to note that it is something that moves us in the right direction," Dr Curry said.
He added: "Never before have we had political procedures approached from this standpoint; debate, rational discourse or reasoning on how best to move the country forward. It has often been centred on a party like concept where rallies take on the form of celebrations.
"Now we are talking about scientific processes, data analysis, formatted questions that lend to a resolution in certain cases. We want to generate polling, statistics and community involvement."
According to Dr Curry, Wednesday's town meeting will be constructed around the topic, "Is the Justice System just?" and feature presentations for crime and justice spokespersons from respective parties.
Senator Keith Bell, Progressive Liberal Party candidate for Carmichael; Marvin Dames, FNM candidate for Mt Moriah; Stephen Greenslade, DNA candidate for Carmichael; Gregory Moss, leader of the United Democratic Party and MP for Marco City; Andrew Stewart, leader of the Bahamas National Coalition Party: Sharell Alli McIntosh, founder of the Bahamas Constitution Party; and Alex Morley, leader of the African Peoples Socialist Party are expected to participate.
Last year, in response to calls by some in the media for him to resign, Mr Christie challenged Dr Minnis and Mr McCartney to debate, stating: "Bring Minnis here, bring Branville here, Christie here and say ‘tell us what you believe in,’ and make your judgment. Ask questions, see who has a command of the country, who understands where the country ought to be going and who could speak to those issues.”
Subsequently, only Mr McCartney formally accepted the Prime Minister's invitation. The DNA leader went as far as to offer to cover all of the expenses associated with the event.
Dr Minnis for his part, brushed off the issue for several days, ultimately declining the opportunity on the grounds that he was more interested in unseating Mr Christie than in debating with him.
“My answer to that challenge remains the same; we have an ineffective CEO running our country. I am by far more interested in removing him than a debate,” said Dr Minnis.
Wednesday's forum will be hosted at 6pm at the university's Harry C Moore library.