Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest in the House of Assembly. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
BAHAMAS Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander’s criticism of government over the value added tax increase during the Independence Day celebration was “unfortunate” and “premature”, Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest has said.
Mr Turnquest branded it as such because he is slated to discuss the 2018-2019 budget with the BCC today.
He also seemed to disapprove of the platform Bishop Fernander used to make the statements, saying “it’s not a day for negative talk”.
In remarks at the country’s 45th independence celebration at Clifford Park, Bishop Fernander called for the country to be led by “progressive innovation” as opposed to regressive policies such as tax increases.
He also urged the fight for a Bahamas “emancipated from segregation and colonial” precepts to continue.
Asked yesterday to respond to these comments on the sidelines of a Bahamas Chamber of Commerce event, Mr Turnquest said: “I think it’s unfortunate in the context of the discussion. We in fact have a meeting set up with the Christian Council to go through the budget I believe tomorrow, if not early next week, to go through the budget and why we are where we are.
“I think his comments may have been a bit premature in that regard because he may not necessarily have the full view of what we are faced with, but we will have those discussions with the council and hopefully at the end of the day come to a conclusion that we are on the right path in consideration of everything.”
He also said: “That’s the venue that he chose. I think, as I say to some of the groups that I am involved in, independence is a very special time when we celebrate what is good about this country and the advancements we have made that we should be rightfully proud of. It’s not the day for negative talk, but again I choose to celebrate what’s good about the Bahamas and certainly we are very proud of 45 years of solid democracy, solid advancement as a people, as a community and we honour those who led the way in the past, those named heroes as well as unsung heroes who continue to put their shoulder to the wheel every day advancing the country.”
The BCC president also called for the country to abandon colonial systems and hinted at the need to shift from the Westminster system, 45 years after independence. He was 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.
In this regard Mr Turnquest said: “No matter where you are in the world, when you talk about collective responsibility as a government, no matter the form of the government, that is a principal that is undisputed. While we all have a God-given right to speak our minds, at the end of the day when the government makes a decision it is incumbent of all those who are a part of it, particularly the decision-making body, to support it and to ensure that the opportunities and challenges are explained to the Bahamian people.
“We talk about this Westminster system as if it is some big animal out there disadvantaging people. That is not the case. Most countries around the world have a ‘Westminster system’ and it works effectively and some would say it works better than some of the republics we have around the world. We all have a right and opportunity to speak in the country and choose the kind of government we want. We respect that, paying due respect to the traditions that we have established and have worked well for us up to this point,” he said.