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'Bahamas Not Ready For A White Pm'

Brent Symonette

Brent Symonette

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

FORMER Cabinet minister Brent Symonette yesterday suggested the country was not ready for a white prime minister as he reiterated his call for a national discussion on race and wealth in politics.

“I think if I had run as leader of the FNM there would have been a barrier, if I tried to run as PM,” he told this newspaper. “But I’m Bahamian. You see the backlash against my resignation and all the comments, maybe The Bahamas isn’t ready for it yet.

When asked whether he wanted to prime minister, Mr Symonette said “absolutely not”, noting he had witnessed the toll it took on his father, the country’s first premier.

The St Anne’s MP also told The Tribune he did not consider wealth distribution to be an issue as the same disparity existed throughout the world.

“Any country in the world you can use the ratio that ten percent of the population controls 90 percent of the wealth,” he said. 

“The Progressive Liberal Party used this in 1967. They said ten percent of the population controlled 90 or 80 percent of the wealth. And ten percent of the population is white, and the two comments ran together and you see what happened.

“The wealth in the Bahamas is controlled by the people who control it. You’ve got me, you’ve got Franklyn Wilson, you’ve got Tiger Finlayson, some very successful lawyers and bankers and doctors, that’s what it is. So let’s have that discussion.”

Mr Symonette pointed to the backlash surrounding his resignation from Cabinet that took effect July 1, and legacy accusations of conflict of interest levelled by the Progressive Liberal Party, as evidence the country needed to reconcile whether there was a place for “people who might have a couple dollars” in public life.

He also underscored his intent to become a “very strong member of the back bench of the FNM”.

Mr Symonette referred to himself as one of the last “boogeyman” of Bay Street, a sarcastic knock at the moniker “Bay Street Boys” given to the ruling white elite of the United Bahamas Party, led by his father Sir Roland Symonette during the late ‘50s and ‘60s.

“We keep talking about the Bay Street Boys, let’s go down Bay Street and see who’s there. I’m the last one, there’s a D’Albenas around but he’s not… there’s some Kellys but they’re not in frontline business. 

“You walk down Bay Street and you see the many jewellery stores, see the number of non-Bahamians who are working in those stores but we don’t have a problem with that.”

When it was pointed out that the number of foreign labourers in the downtown area was predicated by the issuance of work permits, Mr Symonette countered “there are no Bahamians coming forward and registering for those jobs”.

“Some people try to say it’s a question of racism. This isn’t a question of racism, this is a question of race. You can see a backlash in some areas against the Haitian community, you see a backlash against the number of Indians you see on Bay St, you see a backlash about the number of Chinese that are here.”

Mr Symonette spoke to his personal experience in politics during an interview at his private office on East Bay Street. He said he did not feel he was treated unfairly in public life but did suggest there had been greater scrutiny of his personal finances than his colleagues.

However, he told reporters his issues were irrelevant as his time in Parliament, which began as a senator in 1987, was coming to an end. 

“I don’t want my feelings to dominate the conversation,” he continued. 

“My feelings are very clear that I’m a Bahamian. Once I declare my interest, once I’m not involved in it, there should be no reason why someone like myself couldn’t enter active politics. 

“If you’re saying I can’t, then at some point you’re precluding anyone else from doing that. I think that’s the discussion we have to have and that has other meanings to.”

Mr Symonette pointed out that frontline politics has largely been populated by lawyers, and questioned whether attorneys should be precluded based on their clientele.

“Matter of fact I can think of one who sits right in Parliament right now who had some very serious clients,” he added.

The accusations of conflict of interest largely concern his familial ties to Bahamas Hot Mix - his children’s trust holds around “nine percent or 10 percent” of the company, but also its significant shares in a number of prominent businesses and services like CIBC.

The company was formed in the early ‘80s, he said, when a young man came into his office with an idea and no capital. Mr Symonette said he and four other groups each put up $100,000 to form Bahamas Hot Mix because they had a need for its services. 

“If you look in the papers there is a list of shares in companies, I think there are ten or 20 of them,” he said. “I have shares in 80 percent of them. So does that mean the government can’t do business with CIBC because Brent Symonette children’s trust owns five shares?”

He pointed to an incident when the government opted not to lease a property from a public company because he was a two percent shareholder, and noted he was not included in Cabinet discussions over Lighthouse Point because he had financially backed plans to purchase the property and turn the area into an international preserve.

“So where does this end?” he said.

“If Franon Wilson wanted to come into politics, is that okay for him?” Mr Symonette said, “because he’s of a different race. He lives on Eastern Road, same place I used to. And Sebas (Bastian)? 

“At some point I think we need to have this discussion because what this message is sending to a lot of people is, are we saying the House of Assembly or service in government is not a place for people who might have a couple dollars, or who might be in business? So are we limiting to people who are not in business?”

He added: “Let’s say my son or my daughter want to enter politics, are they going to have the same legacy issues that I’m going to have?”

Comments

BahamaRed 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Did he say ready for it "yet", as if to imply we never had one before and not prepared for one in the future.

He must have forgotten history and all the WHITE premiers we had previous to Independence. GTFOH Brent...

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Gotoutintime 3 months, 2 weeks ago

"All the White Premiers we had previous to Independence"?? I only remember R T Symonette and L O Pindling prior to independence. As far as I'm concerned R T was mixed and P O was black. Please name the "White Premiers" for me!!

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BahamaRed 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I misspoke, I meant to include all the white MOP and all the white men who controlled this country prior to Independence.

Fact is we aren't ready for a white prime minister and I don't think it has anything to do with racism. I personally don't want a white prime minister because it isn't an accurate reflection of the Bahamian people. In a country where over 85% of the population is black, do you honestly see a white prime minister relating well to Bahamians.

And truthfully I think we have more to be concerned about that whether the prime minister is black or white. Because at this point many Bahamians still suffer from a colonial type mindset in thinking the white man is supreme. And if it had been any white man but Brent Symonette looking to be prime minister, I think Bahamians would vote for him.

IJS

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Dawes 3 months, 2 weeks ago

your whole statement has a number of contradictions. You say we aren't ready for a white prime minister and it has nothing to do with racism, and then go on to say can a white prime minister relate well to Bahamians. There are a number of white Bahamians so yes i am sure they can and the idea that if you are white you can't be Bahamian is racist. Then later on you go on to say that if it was anyone else rather then Brent Bahamians would vote for him (why not a woman by the way), but earlier on you said we weren't ready for one. So which is it? Finally On the 85% part i take it that you therefore disagreed with Obama in the US.

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joeblow 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Bahamians are not ready for a white prime minister JUST BECAUSE he is white and might think he deserves it!!

Bahamians generally will vote for anyone who is sensible, relatable and will buy them enough Kalik!

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proudloudandfnm 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Brent is 100% correck…..

If you aint black, don't step up.

Look how people carryin on over Hotmix….. Like Brent got any damned thing to do with Hotmix…..

This country will not even look at a white man for PM. DOn't matter who it is or how good they are. If ya white ya evil. Period....

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K4C 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Congratulations Bahamas you have taken a step back 46 years, it the Bahamas is not ready for a white PM they will never be ready for a FEMALE PM regardless of her ethnicity, welcome to securing your standing in the 3rd world

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sealice 3 months, 2 weeks ago

3rd world?? you giving us too much credit.....

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TalRussell 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Ironic or not, Comrade Brent's father never did want colony have independence from England, yet his and his children's wealth seems have skyrocketed in independent Colony of Out Islands, and yet he seems spot little faith outside '10 percent' colony's populaces, yes, no........ how fortunate the 80 percent are to now have history lesson on the privilege be living alongside the turned mixed colours rainbow's '10 percent,' yes, no.......... Just can't make these people up.........Besides, it's more like 'one percent' with the both the world's and we own colony's wealth holders, which is far stretch from Brent's arithmetic '10 percent,' yes, no........

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banker 3 months, 2 weeks ago

sigh. Sir Roland was a brown man from the Family Islands. Not white.

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TalRussell 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Comrade Banker, a more proper labeling 'Pop' Symonette as brown man's be's more like man's from Current with 'lick d brush' mixed he DNA - but it's stretch paint Pop's otherwise, yes, no........ I knew man's well what made "Pop" tick most................. I was Pop's first choice for senate appoint over Rudy Key, and also over Reg Lobosky as UPB's chairman's....... both man's were like brothers me....

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Greentea 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Well that means Brent ain't white either! lol

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Brent Symonette is behaving like a sniffling little school yard boy who has just lost all of his marbles against a much better marble shooter. He's certainly flying his true colours now for all to see, and it ain't a pretty picture.

Bent has served for years in government and cannot point to a single thing he has ever done of any great significance for the Bahamian people. Not one damn thing! He can't name one signature or landmark piece of government business that he is personally responsible for or championed for the betterment of the Bahamian people. Not one! Just ask anyone. Meanwhile he amassed great wealth by wielding (peddling) influence whenever and wherever he could as a member of the political elite - as has been done by others like Snake and his wife who have used their elitist political ties and personal cheque books to buy great political influence for the purpose of enabling them to create monopolistic financial empires.

Over the years many a business project of Brent and his cronies was rubber stamped with government department and agency approvals. He knew just how financially rewarding it was for him to be a cabinet member at every opportunity the door was opened for him to "buy" a safe political seat. And Minnis foolishly opened that door for Brent in the run up to the May 2017 general election.

There are stories of both Brent and his full-brother Craig jokingly remarking, at cocktail parties with close friends, that white Bahamians are well represented on the Bahamas national flag by the white strip down the side of it that holds it on to the flag pole. They would quip to much laughter that without that white strip the flag would blow away - meaning our country would blow away and be no more. Apparently their half-brother Robert (Bobby), long ago deceased, would cringe whenever he heard one of these stories. But he was cut from an entirely different cloth and was a class act as both a respected politician and businessman.

Don't let Brent fool you - he had great aspirations of one day becoming PM and courted the support of some very heavy financial backers in the Lyford Cay community who also would like to see him one day become PM. And to think Brent Symonette has the temerity to cry sour grapes now that his hopes of becoming PM sooner rather than later have been dashed. You would think that in demitting his cabinet post he would at least once again express his great gratitude to our incompetent and dimwitted Minnis for having bestowed national hero status on his father, Pop Symonette. What a joke!

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proudloudandfnm 3 months, 2 weeks ago

He assumed great wealth by inheriting great wealth. He aint make diddly while in government. 60 grand a year? He makes that in interest probably every 20 minutes....

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Just compare his financial statement disclosure filings from his early years in government to his most recent one. The explosive growth in Brent's wealth since he entered politics is nothing short of astonishing. He's now estimated to have amassed for himself and his family a financial empire worth well over $250 million. I don't expect you to connect the dots as you, sir, are truly an ignoramus.

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hrysippus 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Not for the first time what is posted here by hellMussatakesic is a product of his imagination. He was never invited to any cocktail parties where the Symonette brothers discussed the national flag. There is a well reported story of Norman Solomon quipping that the white thread was what held the flag together and this is probably what prompted this fake news.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months, 1 week ago

The Solomons, Symonettes, Pritchards, d'Albenas's, Kellys, Bethels, Thompsons, Pyfroms, etc., etc., were all closely knit Bahamian families in what many of them consider to have been their haydays during the late 1960s, 1970s and early part of the 1980s. Many of them still have close ties within the gated communities they were forced to crawl into a few decades ago because of uncontrollable crime. You and I have probably bumped into one other on numerous occasions at many an Eastern Road cocktail party. Nearly always a few darker Bahamians were invited. Not sure who's the darker of the two of us. LMAO

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jamani2 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Spoken with wonderful clarity! We need to have this discussion. Love the preacher.

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themessenger 3 months, 2 weeks ago

WOW!! And all this time I thought the color associated with envy was green.

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SP 3 months, 2 weeks ago

What an asinine statement from Brent! The fact is Bahamians are sick and tired of the Bay Street Boys and Sunshine Boys, old boys club of pirates!

Bahamians are ready for a new political party and culture void of the usual self serving deal pulling bunch of PLP's and FNM's, **regardless of an individuals color ,we are ready for ANYONE with character and the fortitude to root out decades of political collaborative corruption!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Amen brother, or sister as the case may be.

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