Bishop Delton Fernander, President of the Christian Council. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
BAHAMAS Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander is calling for the country to be led by “progressive innovation”, as opposed to regressive policies such as tax increases.
In his remarks during the country’s 45th independence celebrations at Clifford Park on Monday night, Bishop Fernander implored for the fight for a Bahamas “emancipated from segregation and colonial” precepts to continue, even referring to the controversial firing of three Free National Movement members of Parliament from their government appointments for voting against the value added tax increase.
“Past leaders of our Commonwealth were men and women who walked by faith and not by sight,” Mr Fernander said, listing a number of Bahamian patriots, ranging from Dame Doris Johnson to Sir Lynden Pindling to Arthur Hanna.
“They sought to be innovative and progressive depending on the ingenuity of the Bahamian people rather than being degrading and regressive. We cannot tax our way into a better tomorrow; we must innovate and elevate our natural resources and people.”
Mr Fernander has previously criticised the value added tax hike. The increase from 7.5 percent VAT to 12 percent was announced on May 30 and went into effect on July 1.
On June 5, Mr Fernander specifically called for Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to remember his own critiques of the tax while in opposition and to reconsider the increase.
“We might get the desired result in terms of reduced deficits but we might have a frustrated citizenry,” Mr Fernander said at the time.
“You must keep the economy growing and expanding in a way that makes life palatable for those of us in our society. If you wipe out all your debt and people can’t eat today, it doesn’t accomplish what you intended.”
Mr Fernander echoed these sentiments on Monday night, saying, “We must innovate in ways that are progressive and not oppressive to the poor and middle class who can ill afford it.
“These are the very people that are needed to build this country. We cannot destroy the middle class and expect for our country to thrive.”
Instead, Mr Fernander said creative, technological based solutions should be found.
Forty-five years after independence, the BCC president called for the country to abandon colonial systems and hinted at the need to shift from the Westminster system.
“We should have left in the water the colonial system that causes our elected members of Parliament to be fired for representing the very people that sent them there,” he said.
The relevance of the Westminster system in the country has been a source of debate in recent weeks, after Dr Minnis revoked the government appointments of three Free National Movement members of Parliament who voted no to the VAT increase.
When asked by reporters about the firings on June 20, Dr Minnis said: “As prime minister I have a responsibility, we are a democratic society and we practice the Westminster system of Parliament procedure, and I have certain obligations and I will ensure that I adhere to my obligation.”
In his remarks, Mr Fernander also called for more national unity and a return to God. While applauding how much the country has accomplished in the last 45 years, Mr Fernander also reminded the nation not to get too comfortable.
“Though we have come a mighty long way do not for a moment think that we have arrived.
“There are many rivers left to cross and many mountains left to climb in the development of this archipelagic nation. The faith that has brought us this far is the same faith that we need right now.”