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DIANE PHILLIPS: The good, the bad and the unfinished of the current government

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Diane Phillips

I promised myself when I started writing this column four years ago that I would stay away from politics. In close to 200 columns since, I’ve held politics at arm’s length except on that rare occasion when discussion of policy trumped distance from party.

No one knows what is going to happen in the upcoming election. But I do know this. There are a few things that happened for the good and a few that were ignored over the last four and a half years and both of those categories deserve a brief mention.

The good: Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Michael Pintard took a strong stance to protect marine resources and whether you like the restrictive fishing policies or not, Pintard stood up for those resources that do not have a voice of their own. He understood we could go the way of the Florida Keys to the north or Turks and Caicos to the south and run out of conch before we ran out of a desire for conch salad. He also reintroduced farming and gave backyard farming a credibility, respectability and boost – and the seeds to go with it. Thumbs up for substantive policy.

The bad: Not one thing happened in the way of exploding tacky signage that instantly impacts the physical environment. This does not include political signage that is temporary. I’m talking about commercial crap all over utility poles, trees, snipe signs and on billboards in residential neighbourhoods now in front of Blair, along Eastern Road and Montagu where there never used to be signage. You don’t see that in Lyford Cay, Old Fort Bay or Ocean Club Estates, but I guess the rest of us don’t deserve the same respect.

The good: Romauld ‘Romi’ Ferreira took the environment and made it non-political. In school assemblies and on every radio show that would give him air time, Ferreira told his audience: “Successive governments even before we had political parties saw fit to preserve our environment.” He recalled legislation dating back to the Sea Gardens Act of 1898, but his main message was a frightening one and he repeated as often as he could. If we don’t curb our appetite for fossil fuels, we will lose the most important war we have ever faced, the battle against climate change. He wrote – yes, he wrote – a compendium of bills that together became a sweeping legislative agenda to establish an environmental protection agency and support it with strong regulations.

The good and bad: There were horrendous issues when the new environmental protection legislation was first implemented, hold-ups in development permits, a stranglehold on research projects and scientific exploration vessels. At one point, hundreds awaited a permit as the office with its newfound powers attempted to review each thoroughly. But that hiccup ended and many of the vessels that once said they were conducting research and were actually here for far more lucrative commercial purposes were subjected to the scrutiny they deserved.

The bad: Opportunity to create a fixed date for national elections slipped through the cracks one more time. That’s like putting a chicken in the oven, turning it on and hoping it will be done whenever you choose to take it out.

The good: A whittling away at the corruption at Customs & Immigration, started by Brent Symonette and aggressively pursued by Elsworth Johnson who as minister increased computerisation for tracking applications, moved more records to a secure location and had the courage to dismiss a few people.

The bad: The growing numbers of COVID-19 patients exposing the frailty of the health care system with still little understanding of where the PHA money goes.

The good: All the volunteers from Rotary, Kiwanis and other service clubs, the Governor General’s Volunteer Bahamas, nurses, medical technicians and individuals who gave thousands of hours organising and administering vaccines.

The bad: Obesity and poor lifestyle habits continued unabated. A nation of people who hold world records in diabetes and fast food consumption seems oblivious to the connection.

The bad: Still no passage of the Integrity Commission Bill, standard financial procurements procedures for all agencies, full funding, staffing and operations of FOIA, campaign finance legislation or full transparency.

The good: ORG, Organisation for Responsible Governance, is watching.

And the round of applause goes to: All those frontline workers in the battle against COVID and those in Abaco who are still rebuilding two years after Dorian.

REMEMBERING RODERICK WELLS

BY DAY, Roderick Wells was a plumber, the number one plumber for Resorts Int’l and the early days of Atlantis. No one knew the insides of the original hotels like he did or could fix anything like he could. He was a legend. But it was what he did when the work day was over that makes him worth remembering with gratitude and admiration. He was Michael Wells’ father, a job that never came with a punch card.

Michael was born with cerebral palsy, a quadriplegic with a brilliant mind trapped in a body that refused to function. He could control nothing beneath his neck, was not able to feed or dress himself, pull a cover up if he were cold or even ask someone to do it for him. He could hear, but not speak. Despite the odds, Michael just screwed up his determination and made a success of himself. He taught himself how to read and write, using first a unicorn stick on a band around his forehead, later a laser beam connecting to software moving a keyboard-like screen. He wrote book after book of short stories and continues to write them. He is the subject of the documentary by Kareem Mortimer “I am not a dummy”.

Roderick Wells’ job, his really important job, was being Michael’s father.

Several nights a week he would come home from work, lift Michael into the car, take him for a drive. He’d talk politics or whatever was on his mind and Michael would listen, and he knew that his father loved him more than life itself. On the weekends, he would drive him to Fish Fry, Gambier or Adelaide for their favourite conch fritters and more one-way conversation as Mr Wells chattered away and watched Michael’s face light up in a grin.

In the last several years, Mr Wells’ health deteriorated. He wandered in and out of Michael’s room as if he were searching for something in the past that could make him the centre of Michael’s universe again. Sometimes Michael would get upset or shed a tear just looking at the once robust, talkative full of life and vim and vinegar man who could be a bit rough on others but always treated Michael like a king on a throne that just happened to look like a wheelchair.

Mr Wells died August 20 from plain old age, tired of life and aches and pains, but never tired of being Michael’s father, the job he kept forever and from which only death signalled his retirement.

Comments

truetruebahamian 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Well done, you have said much and kept within the brackets of uninfringing propriety. I wonder how many actually understand the width and breadth of your unbiased writings and learn from your perspectives.RDS

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TalRussell 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Comrade "Sister" Diane, is secretly auditioning to encroach upon ‘NAUGHTY's ’ Comic View — as her — satellite column. — Yes?

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