Haitians will punish the PLP

EDITOR, The Tribune.

IF YOU would have asked me a month ago who I thought would win the general election, I would have told you the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Perry G Christie and his so-called new PLP looked poised to topple Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his newly revamped Free National Movement (FNM) party at the polls.

Based on the mood of the Bahamian electorate in New Providence and Grand Bahama, many political analysts had already predicted a landslide victory for the official opposition party.

I was thinking that the PLP was poised to win at least 25 constituencies.

But the recent turn of events surrounding the granting of citizenship status to hundreds of Haitian Bahamians and the surprising visit of Haitian President Michel Martelly to New Providence have all of a sudden changed the political landscape. All of a sudden now it doesn't appear as if victory for Christie is all that certain.

I say that because of the powerful Haitian vote in New Providence, Grand Bahama and in Abaco. Estimates vary, but according to some Bahamian analysts, there are between 30,000 to 60,000 illegal Haitian immigrants living in The Bahamas.

As to exactly how many Haitian Bahamians living in this country is anyone's guess. To be sure, there are perhaps thousands of Haitians who were born here to illegal Haitian immigrants. Many of these Haitians are classified as stateless. They have no nationality. They have no birth certificate, driver's license, National Insurance card or passport, and they know absolutely nothing about their parents' homeland.

Many Bahamians are all up in arms over the recent revelations about hundreds of Haitians receiving citizenship status by the FNM government between 2007 and 2011 and the recent irresponsible comments by Haitian President Michel Martelly.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister Brent Symonette, about 2,600 legal immigrants were regularised by the Ingraham administration.

Critics of the FNM believe that the Ingraham administration is trying to booster its chances of winning the election by giving these Haitians citizenship status. No one, however, can honestly accuse the FNM of any wrongdoing. Ingraham has done nothing illegal. As the government of The Bahamas, the FNM is well within its right to grant citizenship status to those it deems to be eligible to receive it.

We are all aware that there are thousands of stateless Haitians living in this country. The Bahamas is the only country they know. Critics are charging that giving away citizenship status to so many Haitians will only endear the Ingraham administration to this powerful voting bloc. I think they are right.

But this is not the first government to regularise hundreds of Haitians. Former PLP administrations have done the same thing. As it stands right now, without the overwhelming support of the Haitian bloc, it would be extremely difficult to win an election in this country.

As a master political strategist, Ingraham is well aware of this. Christie should know this also.

We have allowed the illegal Haitian immigration problem to reach crisis proportions. Now all of a sudden, the Haitian community is in the position to flex its political muscle. I spoke to a 34-year-old Haitian Bahamian male recently and he told me that he will never support the PLP.

He told me that he received his Bahamian citizenship under the FNM. He said that the PLP isn't for Haitians, the FNM is. A friend of mine told me the other day that her Haitian Bahamian co-worker told their boss that her people will all support the FNM in the upcoming election. Like the 34-year-old Haitian Bahamian man, the co-worker believes that the PLP is against Haitians.

Many Bahamians don't realise that these people (Haitian Bahamians) listens to the various radio talk shows like them. By listening to these radio talk shows, they are given the impression that some Bahamians, especially critics of the Ingraham administration, are xenophobic or outright racists. While I appreciate the fact that we must protect our national sovereignty and borders, we must be very careful not to treat Haitians as sub-humans. We must be careful not to create an atmosphere of us versus them. We should not seek to create an atmosphere that is similar to South Africa's District nine.

President Martelly told his people at the Church of God Auditorium to form a voting bloc and support the party that looks out for their best interests. Personally, I believe Martelly was wrong to tell Haitian Bahamians to support the party that looks out for their interests. He should have told them to vote for the party that looks out for the interests of all Bahamians, not just Bahamians of Haitian descent. Martelly has taken a lot of flack over those comments. The Haitian Embassy in Nassau and a group called United Haitian Association of The Bahamas have defended the Haitian president by saying that his comments were misunderstood. However, I don't believe his comments were misconstrued by those who heard them.

He explicitly admonished his people to support the party that best serves their interests. You cannot get any clearer than that. Also, critics of the FNM government should not blame Ingraham for the controversial comments of the Haitian president. The prime minister did not write his speech, nor did he encouraged the president to make those comments.

In the final analysis, I believe Ingraham loves The Bahamas. I don't believe any of the silly conspiracies and unfounded rumours circulating throughout New Providence about the FNM government selling out the country to Haitians in order to win the election. Such foolish, irresponsible statements are just as offensive as Martelly's comments and will only drive many more Haitians into the fold of the FNM. I believe the Haitian Bahamian community will punish the PLP at the polls for the comments that are being made by its supporters in the press.



Grand Bahama,

February 18, 2012.


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