The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco in September, 2019.
(AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)
By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
LOW voter turnout and the “poor” handling of Hurricane Dorian were chief among the reasons why the Free National Movement was rejected at the polls by Abaco residents, who are now calling for the Davis-led administration to live up to its promises where the previous administration had failed.
In a crushing defeat of the FNM last week, the Progressive Liberal Party secured an impressive 32 out of 39 seats in the House of Assembly, including both seats on Abaco which were previously held by FNM candidates.
It was also the first time in years that the FNM had not won any seats on the island. Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham represented the people of North Abaco for more than 30 years before his resignation in 2012. For most of those years, he represented the constituency under the FNM. However, the seat was later returned to the PLP after then candidate Renardo Curry won the by-election in 2012.
As for the Central and South Abaco constituency, former parliamentarian Edison Key was elected to the seat under the FNM in the 2007 and 2012 general elections, but later broke ranks with the party before his retirement in 2017.
But, despite securing two Abaco seats in the 2017 general election, the FNM will now have no representation on the island after its candidates Darren Henfield and Vandea Stuart were unable to secure victory at last week’s polls.
The loss of both Abaco constituencies was attributed yesterday to residents’ frustration and increasing dissatisfaction with the former government’s response to Hurricane Dorian among other things.
In an interview with The Tribune yesterday, Roscoe Thompson, head of the Marsh Harbour/Spring City Township in Abaco, said these factors played a major role in the party’s downfall.
He said the Abaco people had simply become fed up with the Minnis administration for their blatant disregard of their concerns.
“In Abaco, we were fed up with (Dr) Minnis. End of story. Anyone who ran under the FNM was going to take the brunt with Minnis,” he said.” “It was him not showing up to the (Hurricane Dorian) memorial. The lack of respect shown to Bahamians here, not just in Central and South, but here in North Abaco.
“The (Disaster Reconstruction Authority) DRA had big failures over here in Abaco not reaching the people who most needed supplies. There were rumours of supplies being held in Freeport that were earmarked for Abaco so it’s not a shock that they lost.”
Another resident, Crystal Williams, also lamented the former government’s failure to live up to their promises as one of the many reasons that led to their defeat at the polls.
However, she noted low voter turnout and voter disenfranchisement also did not work in the party’s favour. Overall voter turnout in the country was around 65 percent. In 2017 it was 88 percent. In previous election cycles, voter turnout was around 90 percent.
Also displaced storm residents who temporarily moved to other islands were not allowed to vote in their original constituencies, which some think contributed to the low turnout.
“Well, to be honest with you a lot of people didn’t turn up to vote,” she told The Tribune yesterday. “They were on other islands so they were basically disenfranchised from being able to vote and unable to transfer their votes so that played a major part of it and then the fact that in the immediate Marsh Harbour area, which would’ve been their stronghold, those people were neglected. People were unable to get building materials that were donated as well as not being able to qualify for the DRA’s relief efforts. I mean if you lose your entire home, why are you not qualified?”
As for what residents would like to see under this new administration, Mr Thompson said he hopes Prime Minister Phillip “Brave” Davis can turn the nation’s ailing economy around and also help Abaco residents get back on their feet. He said a continuation of Dorian tax breaks on building materials and additional housing assistance initiatives are needed to further assist recovery efforts on the island.
“I hope ‘Brave’ Davis will realise that they need to remove duty off of buildings, vehicles, heavy equipment, people that are trying to just get started,” Mr Thompson told this newspaper. “I would love to see that dropped. I would like to see what Minnis promised us that the PLP would continue to do and maybe even improve by dropping some of the restrictions they put on us with school supplies and art supplies and all the stuff that went back up and put duty on.
“I know some things are still duty free but go back to what you promised and said you will do for the Bahamian people here. Let us build back and get going and then you can start raising the duties and taxes, but right now people are still suffering and you still have people living in damn tents.
“I would also like to see more communication between the local government minister and local government over here on what we can do to assist whoever needs help,” the community leader also said.
Ms Williams echoed similar sentiments, agreeing that more needs to be done to help hurting residents on the storm impacted island.
She also called for officials to tackle the island’s longstanding immigration problem.
“I think the immigration needs to be on the ground and let’s get our Abaco back up. There’s too many (migrants) and they over number us. I want to say fifteen to one right now,” she said.