DEPUTY Prime Minister Peter Turnquest.
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
“LOOKING backwards doesn’t help you win a race,” Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest said yesterday when asked his thoughts on calls for reparations for black Bahamians.
In an interview with The Tribune, Mr Turnquest said reparations are not at the top of the list items the government is “concerned about”, adding the Minnis administration is instead focused on developing the economy and “empowering people”.
Mr Turnquest’s remarks add to the current 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. According to former Minister of State on Legal Affairs Damian Gomez 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.
“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.
“We have the ability, we have invested in education in this country, invested in opportunities for Bahamians to be able to stand on their own two feet and to go forward and to be successful.
“And we much rather, at least I would much rather, put our efforts towards that, to empowering people, to improve their circumstance. Despite what the start may have been, it’s how you finish.
“And I believe that we have the tools to move ourselves forward on our own without looking backward…as any athlete would tell you: looking backwards doesn’t help you win a race.
“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.”
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.
When asked if this current government has any plans to revamp this committee, Mr Turnquest said that’s a question for the prime minister.
During Friday’s National Pride Day ceremony, Governor General Cornelius A Smith called for Bahamians to “reject” the things that stir up division if they want to “preserve” the country’s legacy of hospitality.
Mr Smith said Bahamians should strive to be on one accord and reject “divisiveness” that stems from “race, culture (and) creed”.