By INIGO 'NAUGHTY' ZENICAZELAYA
ON Sunday, while intransit to the US, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, paid a visit to PM Dr Hubert Minnis here in Nassau.
After the meeting, and hearing first hand of Dominica’s obliterated infrastructure, and despite not having an official plan of action in place, Dr Minnis announced the Bahamas would accommodate students from Dominica displaced by Hurricane Maria.
I agree with Dr Minnis, we should help our Dominican brothers and sisters in need. There but for the grace of God go you or I.
However, I also agree with my Bahamian brothers and sisters, that are asking for details on how this is all going to work.
AND THEN IT STARTED
The politicos, reporters, talk show hosts, bloggers, social media personalities and most of the Bahamian populace had an opinion on the matter. It seems that not everyone is ‘Rockin’ with Doc’ on this one.
The sentiments, both pro and con, spread like wildfire. So much so, that PM Minnis had to send in the ‘Bahamian Sean Spicer’ Press Secretary Anthony Newbold, to speak to the matter, reassure the general public.
“Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has been ‘surprised’ by the polarising responses Bahamians have had to his offer that Dominican students be allowed to attend school here.
The prime minister has also said the government will welcome other displaced Dominicans who have relatives here.” said Newbold.
Mr. Newbold further stated “The prime minister has been surprised that an offer that was made to accommodate students for their education received that kind of reaction.”
Hold up, wait a minute.
Wasn’t ‘accountability’ and ‘transparency’ a major portion of the good doctors election campaign?
So why be surprised, when the voting populace holds you to it Dr Minnis?
Yes, we elected you to make decisions, decisions to benefit all Bahamians, it didn’t mean we would remain silent and not ask pertinent questions regarding issues of national importance.
What I find ironic in all of this, while Mr Newbold’s press Conference was taking place, Cabinet Ministers were allegedly trying to work out all the particulars and final details.
The FNM appears to be eerily similar to the previous administration, whom they criticised vehemently for making knee jerk decisions that affected all Bahamians without having a proper plan in place nor consulting or informing the general public.
Dr Minnis has come under fire from some, for announcing his decision before finalising the details of the plan.
Mr Newbold tried to quell the mounting situation with these remarks:
“Some questions raised are with merit and people have reason to ask the questions if they don’t have the answers and that’s what he’ll attempt to provide.
“There are a lot of questions.”
“It was not an offer that necessarily needed details at the moment (when it was made). What is happening now is exactly how it should happen; you’re in trouble, we want to help you. We’ll let your students come go to school with us. There was never any intention not to let the Bahamian people know all of the details.”
I’m quite sure the Bahamian populace want those details, sooner rather than later.
CRY ME A RIVER
To satisfy the general public, Dr Minnis took to the HOA on Wednesday, delivering a compassionate contribution in Parliament.
Wiping tears from his eyes, Dr Minnis, made a passionate case for the Bahamas to assist Dominica, and gave a brief view of the plan in place, to facilitate his decision.
“My government proposes to temporarily relax the immigration rules for a number of school children from Dominica who wish to continue their education in The Bahamas,” Dr Minnis told Parliament yesterday.
“Permits to reside will be issued to students from Dominica, who, with the approval of parents, wish to study in The Bahamas.
“There are three categories of students who may apply: children who have relatives in The Bahamas, and who can find lodging and support from family members; college students who may wish to study at the University of The Bahamas, and who seek boarding at UB; children of parents employed in companies, banks, etc, which have offices in The Bahamas, temporary employment transfers can be arranged with these institutions.”
“The government will continue to apprise the general public on other details related to assisting children and young people from Dominica.
“I will lead a team to Dominica on Monday, October 2. The purpose of the visit is to survey the damage for myself, and for others to see the level of devastation,” Dr Minnis said .
I see a myriad of new questions coming out of this.
However I will give the PM the benefit of the doubt, let’s see what he has to offer us upon his return from Dominica.
What’s really piquing my interest is, did Dr Minnis cry for Acklins and Ragged Island? Did he cry for eight-year-old EJ killed by a stray bullet? It didn’t appear so on the video that’s circulating all over social media. Or what about the other eight children murdered this year, did he shed a tear for them? How about the 43,000 Bahamians living below the poverty level, and are hungry daily? Where are the tears for that ?
Charity begins at home, then extends outward. Yes, it is a good idea that the PM has agreed to help the innocent Dominicans. But as in everything from now on, Bahamians demand sensible plans, policies and answers to pertinent questions. So I support the PM’s efforts with the condition that details are forthcoming.
It is good that you have decided we will be our brother’s keeper. But please remember, The Bahamas is watching you Doc.
Big Brother is Watching You
The famous English novelist George Orwell was gifted with prescient insight on modern societies. His book ‘1984’ (which was written around 1948) foretold of the world to come.
As a child growing up in the time actually referenced in the book who was forced by strict English teachers to read and dissect every paragraph, even I doubted we would ever really come to such a dystopian nightmare where governments spy on their own citizens with impunity.
This week, however, the Minnis Administration tabled what is generally known as the ‘Spy Bill’ in the House of Assembly.
Many regular readers of this column know that I have written extensively (and voiced my objection strongly) when the previous Christie Administration attempted to introduce their version of this so-called Interception of Communication bill.
Fast forward a mere few months later and here we are with a tabled bill that I honestly cannot say is as bad as the Progressive Liberal Party’s proposal. Because that would be a lie. In truth, this new Free National Movement bill is worse!
I won’t belabour the point by listing the myriad of objections I have with this new ‘Spy Bill.’ Instead, I’ll just point out that it’s become painfully obvious that past and previous administrations seem resigned to legalise a programme that many, many Bahamians object to.
Never mind that once upon a time Prime Minister Minnis (then Opposition Leader) was one of the biggest critics of this Bill. Never mind that Bahamians far and wide, as well as civic organisations, constitutional lawyers, political pundits and social media ‘mavens’ voiced their opposition to that Bill. Never mind all of that.
I will just say that now that we are faced with swallowing this Interception of Communication Bill —as the elders would say ‘by hook or by crook’- it would be a bitter pill indeed if we had to take it in its current form.
The most significant change in language between this new bill and its previous incarnation is that it takes the power to authorize secret surveillance of citizens out of the hand of the judiciary and places it into the hands of the minister of national security.
So out of the frying pan and into the political fire then?
No matter how much Bahamians may ‘like’ or ‘trust’ the current holder of that office (or the Commissioner of Police, for that matter) it is a political appointment. And by removing judges from the process the FNM has done a complete about-face on this issue in a most contemptuous way. They have made it tens times worse than anything the former government tried to pull on us, and that’s really saying something.
Bottom line; this cannot and should not be.
As much as I detest even entertaining it, the government must amend the Interception of Communication Bill to have the judiciary play the role it does in other countries with similar laws. That should be the first step before we even begin to have conversations and debates about the proposed legislation.
Barring that (and I’m sorry to mix Orwellian metaphors), we have gone from “Four legs good, two legs bad” to “Four legs good, two legs better!” faster than even perceptive George could have predicted.