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‘Vote No To Budget And Lose Your Govt Post’

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

Attorney General Carl Bethel.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel has warned senators and elected officials who have been appointed to government posts that they must vote for the 2018-2019 budget in its entirety or resign their positions.

His comments, made on Friday during the Senate debate on the Interception of Communications Bill, came as several Free National Movement parliamentarians have announced their opposition to the 60 percent increase in value added tax.

“Let me be pellucidly clear,” Mr Bethel said, “if this was a budget bill, then conscience or not every government senator would be expected to vote for it and for every bill making up the packet of budget measures. I hear some members of the other place (House of Assembly) seeking freedom to do as they wish in respect of certain controversial parts of the current budget being debated there.

“I would take this early opportunity to openly remind senators that every budget measure voted upon is a vote of confidence in the government. It is not open to any member appointed as part of the government team to vote against a budget measure.”

“If your conscience or your base is giving you problems, you may, of course, speak freely, but the whip is on. If you cannot support every measure in the budget by voting for it, you may as well tender your resignation at the same time that you vote with the opposition.”

Although his comments were clearly directed at Free National Movement senators, Mr Bethel later told The Tribune they apply generally to people who have been appointed to government posts.

Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller, Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson, Centreville MP Reece Chipman and Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine have all suggested they will vote against the VAT increase.

Of these, only Mr Chipman, fired by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis as chairman of the Antiquities Monuments and Museum Corporation (AMMC) in March, does not have a government post. Mr Robinson is the parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Tourism, Mr Miller is the parliamentary secretary for the Ministry of Social Services and Mr McAlpine is chairman of the Hotel Corporation.

The Manuel of Cabinet and Ministry Procedure makes it clear that parliamentary secretaries in particular are expected to give their “full support in public” to any course of action a government takes.

Mr Bethel told The Tribune yesterday: “According to every parliamentary authority and principle, a budget vote is automatically a vote of confidence in the government.

“Governments in the Westminster system fall when they can’t pass a budget. In America, President Obama could go for more than five years without Congress passing a budget. Not under our system. The Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clarke lost a budget vote within weeks of being sworn in. He had to call immediate elections which he then lost to Trudeau, hence the reality is that the whip is always on for a budget vote. So important is the passage of a ‘money bill’ that under the Constitution Article 60, if the Senate does not pass a money bill within one month after passage in the House, without amendment, they simply send the House Bill to the Governor General for assent prior to enactment.”

Mr Bethel’s comments place immediate pressure on officials who cite the concerns of their constituents as reason to oppose VAT’s increase but who might be reluctant to relinquish the perks of their posts.

Mr Robinson said last week the people of his constituency are concerned about their “livelihood, well-being and purchasing power” after a VAT hike.

“Should the VAT increase do pass, 12 percent of almost every purchase is not going to be easy,” he said. “I am directed by the people of Bain and Grants Town not to support in its entirety, the 2018-2019 budget communication bill.”

Mr Miller said last week: “Golden Isles cannot support this increase in VAT from 7.5 percent to 12 percent. It is too aggressive, it is too much, it is too soon.”

For his part, Mr McAlpine said the VAT increase is “void of transparency and compassion” and is “highly disrespectful to Bahamians.”

Comments

proudloudandfnm 1 month ago

Carl can bite it. MPs are elected by US! They are to be loyal to US!

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realfreethinker 1 month ago

Well if you are paid by the government and vote against the budget,how do you expect to be paid?

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mandela 1 month ago

Well if you are paid by the gaming houses and not protest against the proposed sliding scale, how do you expect to be paid?

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Millennial242 1 month ago

Bahamians need to know their rights. Employee could call in sick and still be paid. Employee could consider a march of more than 1 mile as hard labour and something that isn't required as a part of their job description if not initially agreed. If there is specific and factual evidence that an employee will receive a pay-cut for not participating in a road march; let them take that complaint to the labour board. The department of labour would more than likely side with the employee.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month ago

Carl Bethel has been in active politics for far too long. He's an old flea ridden toothless dog steeped in the very partisan politics of yesterday. Bethel is a throw back to the era of elitist politicians, whether FNM or PLP, who only looked after themselves and their equally corrupt business cronies. As such, he is incapable of accepting that it is the people's time. And unlike Minnis, Symonette, D'Aguilar and other cabinet ministers who enjoy very secure seats in the HOA because they represent constituencies loaded with plenty of wealthier "Have Voters", most FNM MPs are representing a great majority of seriously aggrieved and very angry "Have NOT Voters" in the much less wealthy constituencies.

Bethel knows full well that if enough FNM MPs vote the voice of their constituents, i.e. the "Have Not" Bahamian people, then both Minnis as PM and Turnquest as DPM will have to deal with the shame of a de facto vote of no confidence in the HOA. Most FNM MPs in the "Have Not" constituencies will not be re-elected by their base if they are foolish enough to support the currently proposed 2019/20 budget with its outrageous 60% hike in VAT. And most struggling "Have Not Voters" know that their cost of living is going to go through the roof no matter how many essentially meaningless but very very foolish VAT exemption candies are thrown their way.

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DDK 1 month ago

Like your take on the constituencies, constituents and their MP's. A bit cynical (and now for something completely different) but likely astutely right on! One wonders, therefore, why Mr. Bethel felt compelled to launch his little tirade!

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joeblow 1 month ago

Vote yes to the budget and incur the wrath of the Bahamian people! Tuff choice!

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Millennial242 1 month ago

Well...couple thoughts on this:

  1. Carl Bethel isn't PM, so whom can he fire? All talk.
  2. In the same token though, he's referring to government posts (and not the elected position of the individual). Those with posts were appointed by the PM. Based on this logic, then I see the validity to suggesting that they resign from a paid government post if they do not have confidence of the government. They would still remain Ministers of Parliament however (since we the people voted them in).
  3. I was hoping for more substance from Minister Robinson in particular on why he isn't supporting the VAT increase.
  4. None of this is a win-win situation.
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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

The Budget is in the best interest of the PEOPLE .......... so Vote YES!!!!!!!!!

The FNM is always cleaning up the PLP mess ......... since 1992.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month ago

You're only deceiving yourself if you believe Ingraham had no role to play in creating the financial mess we are in today. Pindling, Christie and Ingraham alike did nothing to stop (but rather encouraged) illegal immigration, borrowed willy nilly, and only looked after their political friends and their business cronies. And now we have Minnis determined to put the icing on the cake of our misery through his incompetence.

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DDK 1 month ago

Mr. Bethel's directive smacks of lack of government by the people. Is this stance even legal in The Bahamas? What actually occurs if a budget is not passed? Is there not an opportunity to amend a proposed budget? Does an election have to be called immediately as Mr. Bethel suggests?

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tell_it_like_it_is 1 month ago

To me, it's pretty silly. The majority of FNMs support the budget, so there's little chance of it not passing. It's about 5 of them that don't. It seems more to me like a bid to try to CONTROL everyone. This fish stinks.

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tell_it_like_it_is 1 month ago

This is the stupidest story I have heard in a long time. Is Carl Bethel trying to run a DICTATORSHIP? How can you try to FORCE people how to vote. Have y'all MPs been watching Donald Trump too long. When senator McCain chose to vote against something the rest of the Republicans were doing they COLDLY said "who cares, he's dying anyway". But even they didn't threaten jobs. No job should be under threat because of how a member votes. If you get away with this, then whatever nonsense the government wants to do it will proceed unopposed to the detriment of the everyday, average Bahamian person.

In a democratic society people should vote as their conscience decides. Just because you're a member of a particular party doesn't mean you should be a "yes man" to everything the government does. Did it take the youngest member in Bain Town to remind all of you that you work for the people?

This is truly a sad day in politics and an embarrassment. I'm ashamed of you Carl Bethel.

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TheMadHatter 1 month ago

This threat oughta separate the men from the boys.

Interesting choice of words though, by Carl, "...you may, of course, speak freely, but the whip is on." Of course, i understand that this is a term used in our House and also in U.S. Congress, but it just sounds bad in a country with a not too distant history of slavery.

Regardless, ALL of these antics could have been avoided LONG TIME if K.P. did not utter the same nonsense after election that the PLP spoke before the election. That is, that the VAT money is not "missing" but is in the consolidated fund.

People are way past tired of hearing that nonsense. I AGREE WITH THE BUDGET and i agree that we need 12% VAT, but a new law should be inacted that half of the VAT money should go directly to paying down foreign debt with WIRE RECEIPTS printed in the newspaper every 3 months AND no more foreign borrowing nor even local borrowing in foreign currency except in cases of disaster relief approved by 90% of Senators, and the GG.

Somehow once persons enter into government, the question "Where the VAT money gone?" can no longer be interpreted by their brains.

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John 1 month ago

Did tThe Tribune intentionally post this story and the one with the web shops employees next to each other so that the readers can see the parallels? One the one hand the web shops were closed during the recent protest march and their employees were told if they wanted to be paid for those hou, they would have to participate in the march. The claim is they were being mistreated. On the other hand, elected MP’s are being told they cannot vote their conscience or even vote to represent the people who elected them and can only vote in favor of the government sponsored budget. The consequences is otherwise they will be fires. No questions. Which is the worser

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sealice 1 month ago

why can't we seem to ever find 1 decent politician out of all of them? why do we have to cringe everytime one of our elected leaders opens their mouths? Why after close to 50 years of independance can't any of these purported politicians (read dumbarssess) do anything without a bribe or a threat? If the politicians can't do it without threats it's no wonder crime is where it's at today - you can't live well in our country unless you are ready to kill or be killed....

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TalRussell 1 month ago

Comrade Tal's UPDATE TO 91,409 voting 35 red shirts candidates Thursday, 8th May, 2017....including 2647 voting Marvin be their MP. Somebody needs pass this on to Comrade "Non elected" AG Carl Wilshire's authoritarian threats MP's speaking out and standing up in House for the very constituents that elected them, and yes it must also includes 2647 voting for Marvin, not kiss Carl Wilshire's "Non elected" ass.

“You know (so said then aspiring red shirts 2017 general election candidate Marvin) people are driven to politics for any number of reasons (including) their own selfish gain, the power (and) the prestige of it. But I would say this, if or whenever that day comes and I decide to run in front line politics it’s going to be for all the right reasons. Principle among those reasons would be to give all that I can give to ensure that this country gets on the right track and that’s all I have to say.

“It’s about making the Bahamaland a nation for all Bahamalanders. It’s not about PLPs or FNMs. It’s all about what you bring to the table. Not what colour you wear or who you are associated with. Too often you hear people say ‘the PLP is in power so I am not going to get a job’ (or) ‘the FNM is in power so I am not going to get a job.’ This whole business of jobs being seasonal based on one’s political leanings, it has to be a thing of the past. -

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John 1 month ago

They can’t get the budget right, they cannot get crime under control. Bahamians are paying more taxes and their standard of living is deteriorating. They are quick to demolish the shantytowns because they represent the failures of the government and the country.

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proudloudandfnm 1 month ago

Bahamians need to start calling, emailing or texting their MPs and demand what we want. Time to let these people know they work for us. Not a damned party.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

But that is not true!!!!!!! ............ Allegiance must be given to the one who appoints the Cabinet ...... The PM ............... or else

We do not seem to understand that this Bahamian Constitutional system is one of loyalty and patrimony, not independence and free-wheeling

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bogart 1 month ago

SOMETHING SEEMS TO BE VERY WRONG HERE..

Why is the ATTORNEY GENERAL making such a statement....?

Why is not the OFFICIAL POLITICAL PARTY WHIP not the person to be urging his members to be taking the course of action his party desireds????

Why would the ATTORNEY GENERAL who is a very smart man be making these strong statements in public. Was inpressed wiith his last public presentation on the Bill removing the powers of the Nollle persequoi to not ever again to be in position of AG being suspect....

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CatIslandBoy 1 month ago

The silliness and ignorance on these pages is deafening. I truly understand why we are considered a "D" average country, when grown men and women can read a story and come away their own comprehension that is so far removed from what the writer/speaker intended to convey.

The Attorney General was simply reminding those holding Parliamentary Secretary positions that they are duty-bound by established policy to support the government's position on the budget vote. This is a requirement for any MP who holds one of these positions. A very simple matter. It would make no sense to be a part of the budget making process, and then say you can't support that same budget in public because it may not be politically expedient. Either you suffer the agony of rejection together, or reap the rewards of success together; they just can't have it both ways.

We the people only voted them into the House of Assembly as MP's, not as Parliamentary Secretaries, or Ministers. Thus we have no say in whether a the Prime Minister demands a resignation from a position to which he has appointed. Like the Reece Chipman example, still an MP, but no Chairman of any board.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

So true ........... If the MPs wanted to remain with an independent voice and free to vote NO against the FNM Government, they should not have taken any Cabinet post from the PM ....... Cannot have their cake and eat it too .......... That is what "collective responsibility" means

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month ago

Most Bahamian voters have woken up to the fact that their elected official, i.e. the MP whom they cast their vote for, is not expected to be loyal to the wishes of the vast majority of voters in their constituency. Voters are understandably not at all happy to hear that even in major instances of disagreement on the most serious of matters, their MP's loyalty to the leader of the party and/or the party itself trumps loyalty to the MP's voting base. In other words, some posting here would have us believe an MP can only ever talk but never vote the mind of his or her constituents on the floor of the HOA whenever such a disagreement arises. But this is the quintessential reason why our system of government and our two-party political system have failed our country's voters time and time again. In our country, parliamentary procedures for a vote of no confidence in the government are essentially meaningless. And cabinet ministers can expect to have their cushy salaries and benefits withdrawn by the PM if they choose to be more loyal to the interests of the voters in their constituency than the interests of the PM himself. Yes indeed, it's collective responsibility aimed at always silencing even the loudest dissenting voices of the vast majority of voters. The voices of voters only count on election day which is why we should never cast our vote lightly or ever forget the transgressions of our sitting MP against us.

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TalRussell 1 month ago

Ma Comrades, same exact political party F-----g in-serenity. REMEMBER WHEN red shirts were heaping praise PLP MP's Renward and Dr. Andre, for their display courage of Independence on behalf their Constituents.... something Carl Wilshire never got experience on 10th May, 2017......Constituents... now the non-elected AG Carl Wilshire is telling the elected to shut the F___ up.... and how does it work now that Renward is responsible disciplining House MP's. { Why bother make up such red shirts backtracking? }

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bogart 1 month ago

Yes and no....all persons selected would have had good qualities and accepted the job based on certain qualities for that particular position.....not for them tobe fired if they disagree with any and everything some in the party says and major challenges within their constituencies........disputes should be resolved at the party internal meetings differences would have been ironed out...now it progresses and they would have known they can be called to resign or be fired....but it is up to their free will to still.....challemge...it is a right that they must have.........former plps did so, now fnms.... What if they are the only ones who are right?? History is ..... many instnces of the dissenting minority being right..... What if instead of four dissenting,....ten .fourteen....more now decide to support them??? It obvious they can be all fired... dey can be do right in.....its their democratic choice.....and must be respected.!!! Tip my hat to them for standing up for their principles.....which ..... the lead person should be titled the Party Whip whose job it is to be doing this to musyer party support

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Franklyn 1 month ago

What the hell is this! ...sounding like we need to go back to the polls, I did not put my time and efforts into this form of governance.

"Back to da polls "

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BONEFISH 1 month ago

In the westminister system of government,cabinet ministers resign if they are opposed to a policy of their government.The late Carlton Francis did that over the question of casino gambling.These parliament secretaries are junior cabinet ministers.

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bogart 1 month ago

If the Wesrminister system worked in that particular aspect we would be better off decades ago. We actually need to look into another system of governance...where fair play and balance and checks can be basic. We need to do more for family islamds to develop and utilize resources create opportunities not handouts, no depopulations. Politicians swear to serve Her Majesty Heirs an Successors, politicians must serve dere political parties who nominate them, follow their party policies but yet must get 5000 voters constituents to vote for their constituency very different from very wealthy...to Acklins...not all the same some still dont have reliable water supplies .... ....over heard conversation at the supermarket dat Bahamians keeps gettin goosied cause all dese politicians knows each other...an one would say to the other... this week I gon talk dead bad about you...and next week you gan talk dead bad about me....an no freedon of information so people can find out whst really happemin...so da people gon see we fighting real hard fer dem...

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SP 1 month ago

What is the point of having a vote if everyone "must" vote in favor? That's not how a democracy works!

Minnis and his handful of minions have gone power mad. Those that vote no should form their own party now to begin the process of the 3rd option in 2022!

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pablojay 1 month ago

Help me with this please. either all of you or ,myself have not read the article,but it seems to me that he is talking about senators and other appointed officials, not elected ones. If you are appointed by any government,it is on the basis that you would support its agenda. If you do not, then your appointment would or could be rescinded , simple as that.

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sheeprunner12 1 month ago

Doesn't matter ......... Allegiance to the "King" is paramount in our political culture ......... MPs should speak for their constituents ......... but that only counts when you are in the Legislature with NO strings attached ...... whether to your Leader or your lobbyist boosters ......... Its a tough spot for most MPs.

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