By Inigo Zenicazelaya
This past week we witnessed an MP flub her budget contribution magnificently, got a look at Minnis’ legacy projects and were treated to the...um...low hanging fruit that is parliamentary humour.
During her budget contribution in parliament, MICAL MP Miriam Emmanuel went to war with numbers, and, not surprisingly, the numbers won.
For some reason, Mrs. Emmanuel had the hardest of hard times trying to enunciate a figure somewhere in the seven millions (the full figure never managed to make it out of her mouth) and the nation watched in shock and then humour as she struggled for a full twenty seconds trying to say a figure that obviously didn’t want to be said.
As expected, once the video of her faux pas made the rounds on social media, the public had a field day at her expense.
At first, I honestly didn’t think much of it.
Besides those of us (I’m one of the lucky ones) who have a talent for and actually make a living off public speaking, I find that most people have a hard time with speeches in front of live audiences.
Initially, this fact of life didn’t seem like a big deal.
It wasn’t until our Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands decided, in a Facebook post, to label the jokes and criticisms that hit social media in rapid fire as “bullying” that I decided to take a closer look.
And boy were the comments brutal!
‘She’s not smart’, some suggested.
‘She ‘cyan talk,’ others said.
After reading through a good hundred comments on Emmanuel’s big blunder, I thought, ‘Yep, Bahamians are visceral.’
But I also thought, ‘This definitely is not bullying.’
How can it be bullying to simply expect a higher, better standard of our elected representatives?
How can it be bullying when Emmanuel was the one who seemed unprepared (and unrehearsed) for a major budget presentation?
How is it bullying to point out (however crass some may have been) that her lack of preparedness brought what we would call ‘shame” to herself, her constituents and the country?
For too long, there have been persons who have put themselves up for high office and the support of ‘the People’ by claiming competence and proficiency, only to show us better.
Which is, technically, by showing us ‘wussa.’
In this age of social media, the bill has come due.
Curiously, as an excuse, Sands offered that Emmanuel was suffering from “stage fright.”
Really? A pastor suffering from stage fright? That truly would be a first around here.
More likely, Miriam Emanuel was suffering from a lack of preparedness, which is a really bad trait for someone in charge of the Education Loan Authority.
And those Facebook and WhatsApp posts making fun of her were actually (in most cases) an ineloquent way for some Bahamians to express a nagging feeling many had while watching those painful twenty seconds; she doesn’t really know what she’s talking about and good Lord she’s in charge.
That may be cold. It may even be premature. But until the MICAL MP manages to show that she is truly on top of the numbers (or al least has the discernment to recognize when she is not) all criticisms are fair game.
On a side note, all of MICAL’s fellow MP’s who sat in the House in silence as she was bodied by the numbers for twenty whole seconds before Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield belatedly (and, judging by his face, grudgingly) rescued her are the ones who should be ashamed.
‘Yinna’ were the ones who sat in silence as the numbers bullied and beat up on Mrs. Emmanuel and you mean to tell me ‘none a yinna’ could have jumped in the fight sooner?
A skybridge to heaven – or somewhere else?
Every Prime Minister tries it. They try to get their hands (and our money) on that one project that will cement their legacy.
I guess we can thank the heavens that our Prime Minster, Dr. Hubert Minnis, seems to be staking his claim on the revamping of Arawak Cay and Junkanoo Beach as opposed to the seeming disaster-in-waiting whose name rhymes with ‘NOBAN.’
The PM’s vanity...er...legacy project includes a sky bridge, an entertainment zone, a tax free zone, and lions, and tigers and bears! (Oh my!)
According to Doc, the government will invest...
Actually , the good doctor didn’t put a price on how much this overhaul of Arawak Cay and Junkanoo Beach will cost taxpayers.
I will venture a guess and say the number is in the tens (if not hundreds) of millions but (just like Doc, apparently) I’m not quite sure.
All I know know is, according to our PM, “number one needs number two and number two needs number three, and the three needs the four...so what’s the big deal?”
The big deal, if past is prologue, is that our politicians (ahem...with a few noted exceptions) have the proficiency to count very high when it comes to spending ‘the People’s’ hard earned money.
Don’t get me wrong, I quite like the idea of ‘fixing up’ Arawak Cay and that unsightly space that we call a top beach.
I mean, who can argue against the fact that Junkanoo Beach does indeed put the junk in beaches?
But I will never wholeheartedly endorse a project when I have no idea about its cost.
The Free National Movement really does have a numbers problem, doesn’t it?
But I digress.
The idea of a beautiful Arawak Cay (which no one will ever call the Nassau Entertainment District, so stop trying to make that happen) is actually a good idea.
But many good ideas are strangled then slaughtered by poor planning and ineptitude.
So carry on smartly, PM, but before 100 million needs 200 million and 300 million needs 4, show us the money.
Otherwise, you’ll burn your own bridge with Bahamians before your legacy project is even off the ground.
Time to leave the locker talk in the locker room
We know that parliamentarians, covered in a blanket of privilege while on the House floor, get to say just about any old thing that comes to mind.
This week, my good friend and MP for Long Island, who is also chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation. Adrian Gibson, used his budget contribution to brag about how the current administration finally brought some ‘big pipes’ to Cat Island.
Admittedly, I had no idea Cat Islanders were lacking pipes.
And, as Gibson pointed out, the absence of piping was even more egregious in light of the fact that their representative during the last administration was none other than Mr. Philip “Brave” Davis who was both Deputy Prime Minister and Minster of Works.
Oh the shame Davis, who is now the Opposition Leader, must have felt listening to Gibson wax ironic about how the Progressive Liberal Party sold ‘pipe dreams’ while the Free National Movement is actually ‘laying pipe.’
I know. I know.
I must admit, since I hate hypocrisy, that the comedian in me laughed at the not-so-subtle sexual double entendre.
But (but!) the responsible husband in me recognized the look of discomfort on Fox Hill MP Shonel Ferguson’s face as she struggled to decide whether to laugh along with her colleagues at the crass joke, or remain stoic as she initially had while Gibson tread the wide and treacherous shoal of impropriety.
In the end, she gave way to the ...er...peer pressure and a faint but uneasy laugh was soon visible.
Though they weren’t caught on tape, I wonder what the other female parliamentarians did during this quasi ‘Me Too’ moment?
Listen, I get it.
It was ‘just lil joking’ to the men in the room who pounded their desks and belly-laughed during the ‘pipe and inches’ pontification.
That doesn’t make it appropriate in that particular venue.
My advice to Gibson would be to keep the monologues and dialogues to a level where it acknowledges and respects your fellow female colleagues and all women who are listening.
I know this will shock many Bahamian men but it is 2019 and we can’t just spew ‘locker room’ talk outside the locker room. Or the sacred Barber Shop.
That being said, carry on smartly Long Island. I’m actually proud you’ve finally and decidedly put this problem in Cat Island to bed.