PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell.
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
IN the wake of Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest underscoring that reparations for black Bahamians are not a government priority, Opposition Chairman Fred Mitchell has described the Minnis administration’s position on the matter as “racist”.
Mr Mitchell also described Mr Turnquest’s comments that “looking backwards doesn’t help you win a race” as hypocritical – noting the Free National Movement is “always seeking” to denigrate Sir Lynden Pindling and the Progressive Liberal Party government from the 1980s.
In an interview with The Tribune on Monday, Mr Turnquest was asked his thoughts on calls for reparations.
To this, he said reparations are not at the top of the list of items the government is “concerned about”, adding the Minnis Administration is instead focused on developing the economy and “empowering people”.
In March 2014, the Christie Administration formed a National Reparations Committee to establish the moral, ethical, and legal case for the payment of repatriations by the former colonial European countries.
Mr Mitchell was Minister of Foreign Affairs in that administration.
“The Deputy Prime Minister is a hypocrite,” he told the Tribune yesterday. “They don't want to look backwards for something that will help black Bahamians but are happy to look backwards to the so-called drug era to denigrate black leadership …he should be reminded that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.”
“The latter point is the FNM is always seeking to denigrate Lynden Pindling with baseless innuendos from his government in the 1980s but that's ok because it suits their political purposes... but reparations to which all right-thinking and decent people think in principle is morally sound and restorative for black people in the diaspora we shouldn't look back...it is racist,” Mr Mitchell continued.
He added the PLP supports the CARICOM consensus on the matter.
There is currently a national discourse on the intersections of race and class in the Bahamas in the aftermath of comments made by former Cabinet minister Brent Symonette who suggested he faced political barriers and attacks due to his skin colour.
Mr Symonette, who resigned as Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Immigration last week, suggested the country was not ready for a white prime minister and reiterated his call for a national discussion on race and wealth in politics.
Last week, former Minister of State on Legal Affairs Damian Gomez said he believes that conversation should start with reparations.
Mr Turnquest, however, disagrees.
“So, I’ve heard this whole thing about reparations and while it is (an) interesting concept, I don’t think anybody around the world yet has figured out how that exactly works,” Mr Turnquest said on Monday.
“Who are you seeking reparations from, on what basis, what is enough, how do you value that… so, again, it’s not at the top of our list of items to be concerned about.
“We’re much more focused on trying to build an economy to move the country from where it is today. Again, this whole idea that somebody’s done us wrong…or somebody owes us something is a thought that we don’t want to necessarily encourage.”
“So again, for me, it’s about going forward and ensuring that we put in place the structures and the opportunity for Bahamians to be successful.”