0

Insight: Why Vilify Symonette? The White Oligarchs Were Replaced By Black Ones Who Have Failed Us

Brent Symonette

Brent Symonette

By Malcolm Strachan

This past week potentially marked former Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette’s last time in the Cabinet - and if we are brave enough to look ourselves in the mirror, it may be an instructive moment in our history.

Symonette’s decision to resign - though inconceivable when looking through the prism of political biases - was no doubt tough. This isn’t to suggest he is enamoured with the pomp of being a Cabinet Minister. Rather, because anyone that nets the kind of bottom line Symonette does in private life has to have a true dedication to service to put up with how brutal Bahamian politics can be.

There will be many who offer a more sinister motive for Symonette’s decision to re-enter frontline politics after falling back from the scene in 2012 when the PLP dethroned the FNM. But one has to wonder why anyone would subject themselves to such abuse, if not for a passion to see the country move forward.

Symonette, to his credit, has had to shoulder a huge burden being the son of the nation’s first premier, Sir Roland Symonette – a figurehead still to this day, symbolic of the disenfranchisement of black Bahamians.

However, the question which still looms is: how long are we going to use this excuse for successive governments’ failings to expand the distribution of wealth in the country?

Has it not been 52 years of the government being composed by an emphatic majority of black Bahamians? Hasn’t a black Bahamian dethroned the Bay Street Boys as the majority owner of businesses on Bay Street? Aren’t the oil barons in the country black?

Yet, Brent Symonette’s existence in the political arena is still somehow a sign the ‘white boogeyman’ is coming to take over and send us back into an era of segregation.

It’s absolutely preposterous thinking.

Have we stopped to think how the average standard of living has plummeted in the last half-century? We would be fooling ourselves if we believe Symonette is solely to blame. Rather, we should all replace the political kool-aid with some truth serum and realise we were duped by many of our black leaders. While the Pindling-led government that defeated the UBP executed a memorable feat, how has life changed for common Bahamians?

They promised us every black Bahamian would be wealthy and live abundantly. However, we can look around us today and see that was a farce.

The white oligarchs were simply supplanted by black ones. And as for the common Bahamian, we know their story too well.

Incessant murders. Record unemployment. Record cost of living.

Every time another murder occurs in the inner cities, it is a young black man dying. The excruciating screams we hear are those of the black mother staring down at the blood-soaked body. And each election cycle, it is usually a black man who walks up to their front porch and asks for their vote.

Who’s to blame?

Certainly, the times have not been kind to the average Bahamian. The power company is an abysmal laughing stock – which is led by majority blacks within the portfolio of a Cabinet Minister who is also black. Yet, rather than performance, race too often becomes the topic of discussion.

That, friends, is the bigger problem. Brent Symonette, on paper, is exactly the kind of person we want to see offer themselves for service in public life. His resume speaks for itself. In addition to him being a shrewd businessman, he has also been recognised as a hardworking minister in each Cabinet he’s served in - rising to the rank of deputy prime minister in the Ingraham administration.

It’s unfortunate his skin colour overshadows what should otherwise be a decorated career in politics. Moreover, if we were to lose sight of the larger picture and only focus on Symonette’s race or the wealth he’s amassed, we would be missing the forest for the trees.

“I think if I had run as leader of the FNM there would have been a barrier, if I tried to run as PM, but I’m Bahamian. You see the backlash against my resignation and all the comments, maybe The Bahamas isn’t ready for it,” Symonette said in a recent interview.

It’s sad to say it, but he may be right.

The reality is we live in an overwhelming majority black country, and the likelihood we will have a white prime minister in the near future is minimal at best. Some may even say it is more likely we will have a female prime minister before one that is white and male. Certainly, this is the case with so many backward mindsets around the country - many of whom are members and supporters of the PLP that are responsible for promoting such divisive thinking.

It is a crying shame what one would do for a vote – infecting the minds of impressionable voters just for the pendulum to swing on election day – with total disregard for how all of the hate that is spread leaves us.

Can we honestly say our black leaders have done such a great job that it is okay for Brent Symonette to become the poster child for pre-independence and UBP rulership?

Sadly, the inaugural PLP government were responsible for transforming the culture of Bahamian politics into another kind of ugly – one where friends, family and lovers would benefit. Such a system is what has proliferated Bahamian society today and has been the most injurious to our existence as a people.

While many would point to the poor optics of self-dealing in government as the reason Symonette is vilified, he alone cannot award himself a contract. The Cabinet made the decision to select the Town Centre Mall to house the new post office. Bahamas Hot Mix was judged the most qualified bidder for the water improvement projects on the Family Islands and extensions for the runway at Linden Pindling airport. The facts are these were decisions made by Cabinet, yet somehow Symonette walks away being the evil villain. That says a lot about where we are as a society.

Whether we agree with Cabinet’s decision or not is a matter for another debate. Today, we must have an honest conversation and no longer ignore the elephant in the room.

The truth is there is a huge issue with race in the country that we must confront. By exhibiting attitudes that say to white Bahamians they’re not allowed – we limit what we could become by alienating diverse thinking in the political directorate.

Subsequently, as the country grows a year older, our politics still fails to mature. And this is perhaps the greatest impediment to our evolution as a society.

It’s been 52 years and we’re still carrying the baggage of unresolved race-related issues. It’s time for us to grow up.

Comments

Islangal1 2 months, 1 week ago

"Have we stopped to think how the average standard of living has plummeted in the last half-century? We would be fooling ourselves if we believe Symonette is solely to blame. Rather, we should all replace the political kool-aid with some truth serum and realise we were duped by many of our black leaders. While the Pindling-led government that defeated the UBP executed a memorable feat, how has life changed for common Bahamians?"

The stood out to me and spoke volumes. As a black Bahamian I've said time and time again we have become like our American counterparts in blaming everyone for their misfortune but themselves. We have traded the white masters for black masters and still blaming the white masters for all that's wrong with the country. Let's not forget that the "Conchy Joes" landed in The Bahamas before slaves were brought over, however, Pindling has ingrained in the Bahamian people that white peopler are opressors and blacks (majority) rule.

2

realfreethinker 2 months, 1 week ago

Excellent article. It's unfortunate that the people who needs to read this won't see it.

3

DDK 2 months, 1 week ago

WELL DONE Malcolm Strachan!

2

geostorm 2 months, 1 week ago

Malcolm Strachan,this is an honest assessment of the situation that we have here in our country. Thank you for expressing it so clearly. I agree with every single word that you have written! We really need a change in our mindset. How can we possible grow as a nation if we continue to limit ourselves with these issues.

Unfortunately, as @realfreethinker has expressed, the people who should read this article, will not but will continue to spread silly narratives.

1

Well_mudda_take_sic 2 months, 1 week ago

Brent Symonette, on paper, is exactly the kind of person we want to see offer themselves for service in public life. His resume speaks for itself. In addition to him being a shrewd businessman, he has also been recognised as a hardworking minister in each Cabinet he’s served in - rising to the rank of deputy prime minister in the Ingraham administration.

LMAO. Good riddance Brent!

0

Porcupine 2 months, 1 week ago

Best editorial of 2019 so far, in The Bahamas

1

JohnDoe 2 months, 1 week ago

This must be turn back the clock revisionist season. I do agree that there is certainly enough blame to go around with respect to the culpability of our politicians, particularly with respect to the degrading of our political Independence and political legacy with their misguided and unrealistic political promises to the Bahamian people of entitlement, automatic empowerment and riches to be achieved without personal responsibility, sacrifice and hard work. I do also agree that more than anything else these misguided expectations, promises, political duplicity and abuse of power corruption have negatively shaped our collective societal values and beliefs eco-system and have been the cause of significant socio-economic failings and problems in our country.

This is a legitimate and entirely different discussion than the discussion about race in this country. Therefore, to paint the picture of Brent Symonette as a victim of racial profiling is absolutely absurd. Brent is as much a victim of racial profiling as Rodney King is an American civil rights leader. Both may have been physically present at an important historical inflection point, but to put them forth as symbols of racial injustice is just not that simple.

Your article states, “Sadly, the inaugural PLP government were responsible for transforming the culture of Bahamian politics into another kind of ugly – one where friends, family and lovers would benefit. Such a system is what has proliferated Bahamian society today and has been the most injurious to our existence as a people”. If this is what abuse of power looks like when done by the PLP, is this not the exact and identical charge of abuse of power that has been laid to the feet of Mr. Symonette and this FNM government? If we want to start an honest discussion, we should at least start by being honest, fair and objective. The fact that the Cabinet approved these contracts, that by Mr. Symonette’s own admission at least one of them was pre-approved by his business partner the PM before going to Cabinet, only demonstrates that the entire FNM Cabinet is complicit in this sordid affair which your article rightly describes as “the most injurious to our existence as a people”.

Mr. Symonette’s legacy may not be as bad as his critics are claiming but it is also certainly not as pure as your article is claiming. The fact is that Mr. Symonette is among the politicians, black and white, that your article has noted above who have normalized the kind of ugly politics of rent seeking and abuse of political power to benefit himself, friends and family. That my friend has nothing to do with race.

1

One 2 months, 1 week ago

What a shame. This talk of race is foolish; we aren't USA. A Bahamian is a Bahamian we shouldn't let this propaganda divide our small community. Our population is less than half a million in a world of 7.5 billion. We need to be united. Remember the One Bahamas initiative.

2

jus2cents 2 months, 1 week ago

Until we ALL recognize that each of us has a predisposed prejudice, NOTHING will change.

However, this article gives me hope that some people are waking up. It is going to take people from All races and All walks of life (rich & poor) to make this nation better.

1

birdiestrachan 2 months ago

perhaps one-day Malcom Strachan will have the fortitude to give the PLP Credit for having done many things RIGHT,

0

DWW 2 months ago

ya loss ya gubmint contract i c

0

moncurcool 2 months ago

Excellent article. Paints our picture well. Hopefully others will wake up to the reality and we an seek to move our country forward, upward, onward and TOGETHER.

0

birdiestrachan 2 months ago

Strachan should be ashamed of himself for vilifying the PLP and praising Brent Symonette. who after all these FNM Government Contracts he has received. Talks about race to shift the attention.

When poor people can not feed their children or pay their bills they do not care about race. what they do see is the rich getting richer and the poor who cares.

Mr. Brent Symonette is nobody that anyone should look up to regardless of his hue Perhaps Strachan can look into why so many poor people have lost their property from quieting. and who calls their pain SMALL THINGS. Strachan, you are displaying the qualities of an "UNCLE TOM'

0

DWW 2 months ago

birdie lost his sweet govt job i think! :)

0

Sign in to comment