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Insight: A Referendum On Christie's Leadership

Former Prime Minister Perry Christie.

Former Prime Minister Perry Christie.

The rejection of the PLP was all about Perry Christie’s leadership, Malcolm J Strachan says . . .

This past week may have given way to a paradigm shift in the country.

The long-suffering people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, in a resounding fashion, voted the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) out of office.

While disdain grew for a few members of the former Prime Minister’s cabinet, the manner in which the PLP were obliterated at the polls perhaps was a referendum on Perry Christie’s leadership.

The Bahamian people are said ‘not to vote for you’ but to ‘vote against you’, and this election certainly proved that sentiment to be plausible. During Mr Christie’s terms in office, his reputation to allow scandals, corruption and all manner of impropriety to take place in his cabinet may have been what delivered the final crushing blow to the outgoing Prime Minister.

People have dubbed this his ‘retirement party’, as we expect that the coming days will be met with him offering his resignation. While the Bahamian people have spoken and fired the vast majority of the PLP, the new government, led by Dr Hubert A Minnis, will have pressing matters to attend to.

In his victory speech, the nation’s fourth Prime Minister said that those that are discovered abusing their former positions “have something to fear”. The dust has settled on the campaign, and people are now expecting to see the fruits of election promises - perhaps none can ripen faster than the promise to prosecute those who abused their power to promote their own selfish gain.

For the promise of change by our new Prime Minister to be viable, the ‘old way’ must swiftly and completely be eradicated. Many people don’t expect Prime Minister Minnis to hold up his end of the bargain, but by doing so, he will stun the nation and send a very clear message that things have, in fact, changed.

The Bahamian people need the evidence of that change after having been abused by the system for such a long time. We saw it as our Bahamian brothers and sisters, forced to live under the same and - in many cases - the absolute worst conditions in the country, blindly supported the former government. We became creatures of habit in an abusive, corrupted system.

The Bahamas has never lived up to its potential and has been steadily declining as a consequence of that system. Prime Minister Minnis told us it was the people’s time. At the top of the list of the people’s demands of the new government is a call to tell us exactly how every penny of the VAT money has been spent.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, K Peter Turnquest, confirmed that this would be his first order of business and understands that there should be no secret kept from the Bahamian people with regard to our money.

Second, in a timely fashion, the Baha Mar deal must be unsealed by Attorney General Carl Bethel so the Bahamian people can be fully aware of what the Christie Administration negotiated on our behalf. Nine months removed, we have little confidence that this deal had our best interest at heart. Former member of Christie’s cabinet Jerome Fitzgerald’s emails to Sarkis Izmirlian created an uproar in the country in the weeks leading up to the election. Christie’s silence on that matter was a lethal blow to his political legacy. It also gave the Bahamian people insight into how commonplace solicitation and abuse of power may have been during the Christie years.

The people demanded change and showed that we were serious at the polls on May 10, 2017. Prime Minister Minnis now must uphold his end of the bargain. Aside from the disastrous performance by the PLP, the promise of change is probably what secured this victory for the Free National Movement.

There will not be much of a honeymoon. The Bahamian people want quick results and any delay on the part of the Prime Minister may not be received well. Our history of having lawyers as Prime Ministers has loaned itself to a storyline of the populace being led by talkers and not doers - particularly in the case of Mr Christie.

Prime Minister Minnis has a golden opportunity to further set himself apart from his predecessors by putting the campaign talk into action swiftly, and if necessary, harshly. The people will not be kind to the Prime Minister if continued inaction occurs in his term or if there is only a proverbial ‘slap on the wrist’ given to individuals found to be in abuse of their positions of power.

Additionally, the fashion in which the PLP was embarrassed at the polls should also send a clear message to the new government that the Bahamian people will not entertain the same politicking of yesteryear. Prime Minister Minnis has to run a tight ship, and at all costs, avoid making the mistakes that the former holder of the position made. If anyone on his ‘change team’ picks up any old habits, he must not linger, but act quickly - or else in 2022, he may suffer a similar fate.

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