PLP Fred Mitchell Slams Government on Bahamas House

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Hon. Fred Mitchell raising to his feet in House of Assembly as he placed a question to the FNM Government whilst opposition parliamentary colleagues look on.

Nassau Bahamas – The debate of the former PLP government’s commitment to Bahamas House in New York continued following the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham’s response to questions pose by the opposition MP for Fox Hill. The Hon. Fred Mitchell continued today – as the shadow minister of Foreign Affair – and published a release to the public today calling the move ‘politically dishonest’. Below is a full text of the opposition’s release.

STATEMENT BY THE PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
IN RESPONSE TO THE INGRAHAM COMMUNCATION
ON BAHAMAS HOUSE, NEW YORK By Fred Mitchell MP

The statement read by the Prime Minister to the House of Assembly on the development of Bahamas House in New York is politically dishonest. It seeks as usual to cast the blame for matters entirely within the power of the FNM and the Prime Minister on the PLP. The responsibility for the failure to support the Bahamians in New York with the development of this valuable and valued asset at 137th St. in Harlem is squarely that of the Prime Minister and the FNM.

The decision of the FNM Government must be revisited and the Bahamian community in New York should be supported. Otherwise, the sweat and the tears of generations of patriotic Bahamians in New York who fought to maintain our culture identity there will have counted for nothing.

Nothing in the statement by the Prime Minister contradicts what the PLP said on the last occasion when this matter was brought to the attention of the public. In fact, his statement confirms that the PLP administration in January 2007 by Cabinet conclusion agreed, and quoting from the Prime Minister’s statement as follows: “that the Committee [Cabinet Committee of Sears, Mitchell, Wilchcombe, Smith and Roberts] work with the Ministry of Finance to settle financial arrangement by way of lease to support the project”.

That conclusion still stood until the Ingraham administration summarily cancelled and revoked the conclusion by way of its shocking announcement in the House of Assembly on 3rd October 2007. By this decision, Mr. Ingraham and his administration have confirmed the anti Bahamian character of the FNM government. By his statement to the House of Assembly, he has confirmed the FNM government’s cowardly refusal to take responsibility for its own decisions.

The elements of the PLP’s cabinet conclusion were that the Ministry of Finance was to settle those arrangements to support Bahamas House by way of lease. That means that the Ministry of Finance had no remit or authority to comment or revoke the Cabinet’s conclusion on the matter. They were simply to settle the terms. Now the record reveals that either the officials of the Ministries of Finance and Foreign Affairs did not understand their instructions or they refused to carry them out.

The PLP was also clear that this was a matter of fundamental cultural importance to Bahamians abroad and to the Bahamian nation at home. The PLP believed and still believes that the cultural heritage, integrity and history of The Bahamas were and are intimately intertwined in a successful restoration of this building with the full resources of an independent Bahamian state behind the project. Other nationalities in New York from the Caribbean were being supported by their governments in similar projects as well. The Bahamas should be no exception.

As usual the Prime Minister in his statement to the House sought to slander the good name of the PLP by suggesting that the PLP was not serious about this endeavour. Nothing could be further from the truth, and his own statement reveals the lengths to which the PLP Cabinet went to ensure that this project would succeed. The project has now been sabotaged by the FNM administration.

The comments from the Ministry of Finance included in the Prime Minister’s statement on the various proposals were clearly in pursuance of the directive to settle the arrangements. The fact that a general election intervened does not change the character or nature of the conclusion given by the Government. We have pointed out to Mr. Ingraham before something which his administration does not seem to understand. Governments commit to agreements of this nature, not political parties. In failing to understand this basic point, the result is the Bahamians in New York have been let down by their government under the FNM at home. History will condemn the Ingraham administration for this folly.

The Prime Minister raises the matter of discussions with the U.S. government on the question of the ownership of land by the Government, which is a matter of detail. In any case it is also a red herring, since the stage at which matters stood at the time of the election did not then require any approach to the U.S. Department of State. When government departments get an order from the cabinet, they know what to do to ensure that it is carried out rather than sabotaged. So it was the remit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that all the necessary legal requirements were followed. But that could only have happened if the arrangements were settled.