By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A NEW political party promising to ensure equality, justice and labour rights for all Bahamians has formed with the intention of contesting all but one seat in the 2022 general election.
The party says the only seat it will not challenge is that of Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin.
The Justice Labour Party is being led by Ricardo Smith, who said he intends to offer himself for the Pinewood constituency.
Last year, Mr Smith told The Tribune he was gearing up to challenge Progressive Liberal Party deputy leader Chester Cooper yet again for the opposition party’s second in command spot.
While Mr Smith did not disclose yesterday why he decided to leave the PLP to form his own party, he said his organisation is one that believes in a free market economy.
The party, he said, intends to implement a new system of government that is “philosophically different” from the Free National Movement and PLP.
“The people of this nation have been searching for positive change, for a long time now, so much so that in the past 20 years or four election cycles we have not given any of the two parties a second term,” he said at yesterday’s launch.
“But every time we voted one of the two parties in the hope that the one we voted in, would bring something new to the table to change our decaying circumstances, they failed us and gave us more of the same. I say enough now. This time I invite my fellow Bahamians to come with labour.”
The only current MP who will not be challenged is Mrs Hanna-Martin.
“It is our view that Mrs Hanna-Martin has demonstrated over the years that she is a true champion for the people of her community and we see no reason why she should not continue in office,” said Mr Smith.
He went on to claim his party is engaged in discussions with a sitting Member of Parliament to join the new JLP’s ranks.
Key areas of focus for the party includes tackling immigration, transforming local government and creating justice and equality for all.
Mr Smith also said the party will aim to ensure that the country’s labour force is lawfully protected from unfair treatment.
He continued: “On the matter of our economy, we are cognizant of the fact that the pandemic and poor financial decisions, some very questionable, by successive governments have left the economy in a dire state.”
“We are quite aware that our economy will need new innovative ideas to rebound. With this in mind when we present our overall economic platform at the JLP Conference 2021 we will unveil the prosperity agenda for all Bahamians and the passport to the good life.”
The JLP is also in support of a term limit being imposed for the prime minister.
“We are satisfied that two terms or ten years is more than enough time to complete any agenda,” Mr Smith said.
Meanwhile, as it relates to the party’s candidacy, Mr Smith said there will be a mixture of young and older, more “mature” candidates.
When asked what makes the JLP stand out from other political parties, he told reporters: “This is a labour party, our focus and our policies are far different from the regular run of the mill party. We will be focused on laws that ensure that the focus of the country are protected.”
“You may not appreciate this but in our country today, we have in these Chinese establishments – these sweatshops. That is unacceptable. It’s unfair, the competition is absolutely unfair and it cannot be allowed and we will fix that. So, you will see a different form of government.”
“At our conference 2021… the entire platform of this party will be laid out for you to see and you will see that our administration will be better suited for the commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
Asked to respond to the government’s current handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the JLP leader said he did not want to criticise the government’s response to the health crisis.
However, Mr Smith did not mince words while expressing his disappointment with House Speaker Halson Moultrie, calling his behaviour “deplorable” and “unacceptable”.
“I’ve seen the conduct and the behaviour of the House Speaker of Assembly. It is deplorable. It’s unacceptable and it must be condemned on every front. A Speaker must remain impartial, he must appear to be impartial, but the Speaker appears now to be advocating for or asking for things for himself.”
“I’m not saying that these are things he may not be entitled to, but it is improper for the Speaker of the House to be engaging in such behaviour and it is incumbent of the governing party to remove him forthwith.”