PLP backs off from Haitian view?

EDITOR, The Tribune. I WAS taken aback after reading a very short article in the February 24 edition of The Tribune. The article is entitled "PLP seeks Haitian vote," and it was about a meeting that was reportedly held between Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry G Christie and a Haitian-Bahamian organisation called United Haitian Association in The Bahamas (UHAB) at the Church of the Nazarene on Minnie Street. According to the article, the purpose of the meeting was for the opposition to "drum up support'" for its campaign. The article went on to say that the meeting was "staged to mend relations with the Haitian community over party statements criticising Haitian President Michel Martelly." Let me state from the outset that I am shocked that the PLP is now seeking votes from the Haitian community. The way the opposition and its supporters were carrying on several weeks ago, I thought they were against Haitians. Now the PLP wants their vote? It looks like the PLP is trying to play on both sides of the fence with this issue. Had that been Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham at that meeting with UHAB representatives, the radio talk shows would have been bombarded with calls from angry natural born Bahamian PLP supporters accusing the prime minister of some sinister plot to regularise more Haitians in order to win the election. But Christie is allowed to meet with these people and nothing is said by his supporters who were all over the airwaves lambasting the prime minister. Some of these people talk as if illegal Haitian immigrants started coming to the Bahamas after August 19,1992. I am not saying that the opposition is wrong for seeking to get the support of the Haitian community. When one considers the sheer number of legal Haitians living in the Bahamas, it would be political suicide for any party not to court their vote. Successive governments since the era of the United Bahamian Party (UBP) administration have allowed the Haitian situation to mushroom into what it has become today. Therefore, political parties have to now campaign in Haitian communities like The Mud and Pigeon Pea if they want to be successful at the polls. Christie understands this very well. PM Ingraham and Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette have both taken a lot of criticism from the PLP for the sudden visit of Martelly in early February. Martelly's political speech to thousands of Haitian-Bahamians at the Church of God Auditorium on Joe Farrington Road caused quite an uproar among many natural born Bahamians. As the reader should know by now, Martelly told his people to vote for the party that looks out for their best interests. There were allegations by the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and the PLP that the Ingraham administration had orchestrated the whole event in order to win the Haitian vote. In fact, immediately following the departure of Martelly from the Bahamas, the radio talk shows were bombarded with calls from angry Bahamians who were calling for the resignations of Ingraham and Symonette. Many of these callers were PLPs. In addition to Martelly's visit, there have been persistent accusations by a popular PLP radio talk show host and an internet daily that the FNM had granted citizenship status to thousands of Haitians in order to boost its chances of winning the general election. The PLP has shrewdly used the Haitian issue to score political brownie points among xenophobic Bahamians. In fact one can rightly argue that the political base of the PLP has been galvanized over this controversial issue. Many Bahamians are upset over the fact that this country seems to be overrun by Haitians. What makes the Haitian issue even more acute is the lingering recession. With very limited jobs available, many natural born Bahamians, particularly those who are either unemployed or under-employed, are venting out their frustrations on the Haitian community and on the Ingraham administration on the radio talk shows and in the dailies. I think the PLP's mantra for this year's general election is either "Putting Bahamians First" or "We Believe in Bahamians". By saying that it believes in Bahamians, the PLP has portrayed the Free National Movement (FNM) as a pro-foreigner/anti-Bahamian government. Now that the opposition has successfully conditioned many Bahamians to believe that the Ingraham administration is pro-Haitian and anti-Bahamian, it is attempting to win the support of the Haitian community - the very people it has pitted its natural born Bahamian supporters against. I think the PLP is now backtracking from its earlier anti-Haitian rhetoric because reality has finally set in. Christie knows full well that it would be outright difficult for any political party to win an election in this country without the help of the powerful Haitian bloc. That is why the opposition is now trying to mend relations with these people. It remains to be seen, though, how his xenophobic supporters will react to this latest development. There are thousands of Haitian Bahamians in this country and I can tell you that the overwhelming majority of them now view the PLP and the DNA as anti-Haitian. I know of at least three Haitian-Bahamians in Grand Bahama who have vowed to vote against the PLP. Whatever was said in that meeting between Christie and representatives of the UHAB won't be enough to endear the opposition to the thousands of Haitian Bahamians in this country. Unfortunately for Christie, the damage has already been done. His supporters have dug too deep a hole for him and his campaign machinery to get out. After all the hateful things that were said about Haitian Bahamians over the airwaves by his PLP supporters, I cannot see how Christie can persuade them to vote for his party. KEVIN EVANS Freeport, Grand Bahama February 26, 2012.


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