By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party deputy leader Chester Cooper is firing back at Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ recent taunts against him, calling for the prime minister to “resist the temptation to be petty”.
Mr Cooper, who is also the Exuma member of parliament, addressed Dr Minnis’ recent spate of Family Island town hall meetings as well. He accused the prime minister of “campaigning using the people’s money”. However, Free National Movement chairman Carl Culmer defended Dr Minnis against these claims, saying Dr Minnis’ trips are more than a campaign tool.
Mr Culmer also addressed the opposition’s criticism of the closed-door signing between the government and Disney Island Development Ltd for a multi-million dollar project in Eleuthera.
Last week, PLP Leader Philip “Brave” Davis said the deal appeared to be shrouded in secrecy.
To this, Mr Culmer said the signing was “done in the open”, adding striking deals is for the Progressive Liberal Party.
Mr Culmer made these comments yesterday following an event at the Thomas A Robinson Stadium.
Over the weekend, Dr Minnis held a town hall meeting in Exuma to announce major capital works projects for the island. Earlier this month he held town hall meetings in Eleuthera and several parts of Andros.
During his Exuma address, Dr Minnis taunted Mr Cooper, saying every time he mentions Mr Cooper’s name, the Exuma MP announces that “he is going to a lawyer to consult to sue”.
Yesterday, Mr Cooper fired back at these comments, criticising Dr Minnis for introducing politics to this event.
“I had hoped, beyond all reasonable expectation, that when the prime minister visited Exuma over the weekend he would speak to the community about beneficial developments for Exuma and leave politics out of it,” Mr Cooper said in a statement. “I was mistaken.”
“Not only is it comical that the prime minister seeks credit for capital works that have been developed over successive administrations, it is offensive that he is campaigning using the people’s money.
“If he would only resist the temptation to be petty and realise he should be the prime minister of all the people of the Bahamas, not just FNMs, we would all be better off for it.”
Mr Cooper also accused Dr Minnis of “trying to turn public sentiment against the PLP” because the PLP did not support the government’s decision to secure a $100m credit facility from the Inter-American Development Bank.
Dr Minnis criticised both Mr Cooper and Mr Davis for voting against the matter while speaking in Exuma last week and in Eleuthera previously.
“As if this administration has not already borrowed and taxed enough in two years with very little to show for it,” Mr Cooper continued.
“It appears the prime minister either does not know or is seeking to hide the fact that the contingency loan cannot be used to fund the rebuilding of permanent infrastructure.
“It is a badly negotiated loan that even some government ministers clearly did not examine carefully.”
Mr Cooper also said “there is no issue” regarding the country’s capacity to borrow in the event of a disaster.
He also noted the people of Ragged Island, who he also represents, are still “left to fend for themselves” in the aftermath of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Irma in 2017, while Dr Minnis “shamelessly touts how much he covets” a second term.
Yesterday, Mr Culmer was adamant that Dr Minnis is not campaigning.
“He’s going out there and giving the message to the Bahamians, to let them know exactly what is happening in the Bahamas,” Mr Culmer said.
“The Bahamas is not New Providence,” he continued. “The Bahamas is all the islands…(Dr Minnis is) going out there, sharing the vision of his government to the islands.
“There’s a lot of projects you’re going to be hearing about in New Providence and you’re going to hear a lot projects coming in for the rest of the Family Islands. We are addressing the islands together. We are not just looking at New Providence.”
He also stressed the importance of Dr Minnis initially making announcements to the people of the islands, saying it is fair to “give the recipients the news first”.
Regarding the opposition’s critiques of the Disney project signing, Mr Culmer said: “This government do not sign nothing in the dead of night. This was done in the open and will be discussed and signed (in) the House of Assembly.
“This government don’t strike deals. We leave deals for the PLP government. This government looks for improvements, ways to improve Bahamian society and move us forward. So when you talk about deals, refer to the PLP, not the FNM.
“You can rest assured that there’s no deals going to be strike. The deals are for the PLP. We look for moving Bahamians forward.”