SO the pretence is done – the countdown to the 2022 election has begun.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis sounded the rallying cry for FNMs last night. His platform so far is a decline in murders, free tuition for students and policies that “uplift the poor”. That latter one will likely see dissenting voices ask whether extra VAT and a new charge on your BPL bill really uplifts anyone – but one way or another, the battle for votes has begun.
Already, Opposition leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis has taken potshots at Dr Minnis’ claims – but then that’s what Mr Davis does.
There’s a depressing predictability about the PLP leader’s regular criticisms.
Any time that Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis does something or puts forward a suggestion or recommendation, you can be sure that Mr Davis will pop up the next day to attack him for it.
As a newspaper, we could write the next day’s headline before it even happens – Davis blasts this or Davis condemns that.
It seldom comes with an actual proposal of how to do things better or how the PLP would approach any given subject. It never comes with any acknowledgement that the PLP could have done better on the issue back when Davis was Deputy Prime Minister. Perish the thought – he seems to exist in a world where nothing he was involved in could have been done better and everything that was bad was something he wasn’t involved in. Not that he seemed to raise his voice against former Prime Minister Perry Christie too much.
The latest subject to draw Mr Davis’ ire is marijuana – and Dr Minnis’ goal of decriminalising the drug and releasing those jailed for possessing small amounts of marijuana.
With Dr Minnis saying the PLP did nothing on marijuana, Mr Davis rushes to say that they sent Bishop Simeon Hall to the CARICOM commission on marijuana – not that it seemed to produce a lot of action – and amended the law to reduce the time before a criminal record is expunged. This latter was not specifically for marijuana but included cases of small amounts of possession. Mr Davis therefore concludes that it was the PLP who started the process of marijuana reform. A tenuous claim, to say the least, but more than that – which is it, Mr Davis? Are you in favour of this reform and claiming credit for it or declaring that it’s of no worth?
He also goes on to criticise the FNM for raising the rate of VAT – without noting that it was under his watch that VAT was introduced in the first place.
Every time Dr Minnis says one thing, Mr Davis will say the opposite – they’re like the Push Me Pull You from Dr Doolittle, the two-headed llama always pulling against itself. With this tug-of-war of I’m right, he’s wrong going on, is it any wonder Bahamian politics never seems to take the country as far forward as it needs to go?
Worse, in his comments on marijuana, Mr Davis shrugs off those affected by the marijuana laws saying that most of those accused get discharges or non-custodial sentences. Most? What about those remaining? “Most” sounds like it leaves some people behind – and a man who is indifferent to the plight of the few probably shouldn’t be trusted to lead the many.
The frustration is that there are times when Mr Davis gets it right – when he calls the government to account for its failure to follow through on election pledges of recall for non-performing MPs or on campaign finance reform, or over the lack of clarity over the plans of BPL. Even pushing for clear information over the post office deal is the kind of thing a responsible opposition does. Too often though he falls back into sniping, and if the election countdown has started then the electorate will need more – policies not potshots.
Imagine, though, if instead of this constant knee jerk reaction, our political leaders of every stripe could pull together on issues to find an outcome that benefits the nation as a whole.
Imagine if aspiring to high office wasn’t just a game of cutting your opponent down but instead offering the best ideas to build the nation up, even if it doesn’t happen under your watch but under someone else’s.
We’re not sure there is such a thing as being bi-partisan in Bahamian politics these days, but there ought to be some common ground where leaders can meet. Whether we see such a thing with an election now on the horizon, we’ll leave to you to imagine.