Brown responds to Laing

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Oswald Brown

Oswald Brown Writes

By OSWALD T. BROWN

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — I’ve just read Zhivargo Laing’s vitriolic response to my repeated criticism of his performance as Minister of State for Finance and his poor representation of the residents of the Marco City constituency of Grand Bahama in the House of Assembly. One of the things that his response proved is that in addition to being a totally inept Minister of State for Finance, he also has difficulty with telling the truth.

At no time did I ever ask Laing to assist me in being appointed to an ambassadorial position abroad. This is an outright lie. I had easy access to the Prime Minister, personally and as a journalist, so why would I ask Mr. Laing to approach the Prime Minister on my behalf? I’ve concluded that he must have been referring something he was told by his boss, Hubert “THE DICTATOR” Ingraham.

Shortly after the FNM won the 2007, I did approach Mr. Ingraham about the possibility of being The Bahamas’ ambassador to the United States. Given my background and experience, I considered this to be a reasonable request. I lived in Washington, D.C., for 20 years. During the first five years of my stay there, I was publications editor at the Institute for Services to Education (ISE), a think tank established by the late President Lynden Johnson to help upgrade the standard of education in historically Black colleges and universities. When Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, he drastically reduced funding for ISE and the publications division was disbanded. I subsequently was employed as news editor of The Washington Informer, where I remained for 12 years. As a working journalist in D.C., I covered some events on Capitol Hill and gained a good understanding of congressional proceedings, which in my way of thinking would have been very helpful to me if I had been appointed ambassador.

One of the main reasons, however, why I decided to pursue the ambassador’s job in D.C. was because I have two marvelous grandchildren who live in the Washington, D.C., area and I thought it would be nice to spend a couple years with them nearby. Anyone with grandchildren can attest to the fact that they are a blessing to have around you, especially during your “senior” years.

Zhivargo 'MONAVIE' Laing

When I approached Ingraham about the ambassador’s position, he told me that he would consider it. I asked him whether I should mention my interest in it to Foreign Minister Brent Symonette, but he told me that this would not be necessary because he would be the one who would eventually make the decision.

Some time went by, during which it was well known in Freeport that I was seeking the position and so was C.A. Smith. One day Mr. Smith called me at The Freeport News and informed me that he had been appointed ambassador to the United States. He even suggested that when I ran the story, I use the headline, “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,” which I did.

I placed several calls to Mr. Ingraham to confirm what I had been told, but my calls were not returned. I subsequently called Kay Forbes Smith, who was then head of the Prime Minister’s Office in Freeport, and requested that she arrange for me to meet with Mr. Ingraham on his next visit to Freeport. She did and during my meeting with Mr. Ingraham, he told me that he could not have appointed me as ambassador to the United States because I was an American citizen.

It crossed my mind that this may not have been a valid reason, given the fact that Sidney Poitier was Bahamian ambassador to Japan for many years, and although he is recognized as being a Bahamian, he was actually born in Miami and is an American citizen. I became a naturalized American citizen in 1982, and I still consider this to be one of the best decisions that I made in my life. I love the United States, but this in no way has diminished my love for The Bahamas.

Nonetheless, I accepted Mr. Ingraham’s explanation as to why I was not appointed ambassador to the United States, given the perception that if there was ever a conflict between the United States and The Bahamas, my loyalty to The Bahamas might be questioned, although if such a conflict were to develop, the decision on how it is handled would not be made by the ambassador but by the Foreign Affairs Minister.

Be that as it may, in my meeting with Mr. Ingraham, I told him that I would then be interested in the consul general’s position in Atlanta, a position that does not involve dealing with “sensitive” diplomatic matters. He told me that he could not fill all of the foreign jobs with political appointments. Yet, when he did appoint a consul general for Atlanta, he appointed Kay Forbes Smith, who had to resign as an FNM senator to accept the appointment. I suppose if I wore a skirt I would have been more qualified for that position. It was at this point that I lost all respect for Ingraham; obviously his word means nothing and his often repeated declaration that he “means what he says and says what he means” is simply hogwash.

With regard to Mr. Laing’s suggestion that my mind is “jaundiced” because I believe that he and the Prime Minister were responsible for me being fired from The Freeport News, the chain of events that led to me being “forced” to retire without a day’s notice strongly suggest that they were. When Archdeacon Cornell Moss, rector of the Anglican Church of the Ascension, was installed as Bishop of Guyana in November of 2009, I wrote an editorial in The Freeport News criticizing the government for not sending someone to officially represent The Bahamas at that event.

When you consider that many of the parishioners of the Church of the Ascension are from constituencies represented by four FNM members of Parliament (Laing in Marco City, Neko Grant in Lucaya, Kwasi Thompson in Pineridge and Kenneth Russell in High Rock) I still think it is a disgrace that not one of these FNM MPs had the good sense to suggest to Mr. Ingraham that The Bahamas should have been officially represented at this historic event. In that editorial, I particularly mentioned that if Mr. Laing was not too busy globe hopping at the public’s expense to financial conferences, some of which it was not necessary for him to attend, he would have found the time to inform Mr. Ingraham that The Bahamas should be represented at the installation of Bishop Moss in Guyana.
Several days later Mr. Laing called me and took issue with my criticism and asked whether I had something personal against him. I told him that I did not, but I did disagree with Prime Minister Ingraham’s strong-arm tactics in trying to force Sir Jack Hayward to sell the Grand Bahama Port Authority to the Chinese. No doubt Laing could not wait to go and report this to Mr. Ingraham.

Several weeks later I wrote in my column, OSWALD BROWN WRITES, that the pending by-election in the Elizabeth constituency would be a referendum on Ingraham’s leadership. My column generally appeared in both The Freeport News and The Nassau Guardian on Fridays, but The Guardian refused to publish it. That Friday afternoon, I received a call from Wanda Gomez, human resources director for The Guardian, which owns The Freeport News, that she and Sandra Knowles would be down on Monday morning to meet with me. I was not aware of the fact that Ms. Knowles had been appointed general manager of The Guardian several weeks earlier, but I knew that like Laing, she was a strong supporter of Ingraham’s. In fact, someone once said that she would jump out of an airplane travelling at 40,000 feet without a parachute to please Ingraham and everyone who knows them both know why.

After some small talk, Sandra told me that the decision was made that it was time for me to retire, effective immediately. What really bothered me was not so much the unprofessional manner in which I was “forced” into retirement without a day’s notice, but I had some existing medical problems and my medical insurance was stopped immediately. Freeport News and Guardian employees are insured by Colina Insurance, which is a member of the AF Holdings group of companies (the AF representing the last names of Manny Alexiou and Anthony Ferguson).

Since I know both of these gentlemen very well, I refuse to believe that they were actively involved in the conspiracy to force me to retire, but I strongly believe that Laing and Ms. Knowles along with several other devotees of Ingraham’s, including a very close relative of mine, were involved. I have very reliable information that supports by suspicion.

Initially I was very bitter, but I would like to assure Mr. Laing that this is no longer the case. My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is in the driver’s seat of my life and he has convinced me that it is unchristian to harbor bitterness in one’s mind; therefore, I decided to leave whatever retribution is due to these evil individuals up to the Lord.

However, I would like to assure Mr. Laing that my criticism of him has nothing to do with my belief that he was involved in my forced retirement. I simply think that he is not qualified to hold down the important position of Minister of State for Finance, and this is one of the reasons why this country’s economy is in such poor shape.

  • I CANT STAND PETTY INDIVIDUALS…BOTH PARTIES NEED PRAYERS

  • Now that Bran ‘and’ his quality colleagues have ‘their’ DNA party about ready to expand across our Bahamas they are bond to make the membership of the PLP and FNM to take inventory and maybe realize that neither Christie or Ingraham are any longer quality ‘retail’ consumer attractive leaders?

  • mr. laing’s drivel is just a smokescreen. He is incompetent and insecure and knows that we have a right to question his competence as Jr. minister of Finance. Obviously, he has been able to impress hubert ingraham by quoting definitions and the utterances of other financial professionals. Of course, hubert is also financially unaccomplished and does not understand business nor economics, hence the throw-away of BTC. By why are we surprised? hubert was unable to run his own finances. He should be forever grateful to Alphonso Boogaloo Elliott who rescued hubert’s house from the selling block when he defaulted on his mortgage.
    @ prattie & al jackson: be careful how you throw stones and while you’re delving in stone-throwing you just might want to ask hubert who Ann Turnquest was and what happened to her….We have sown to the flesh and are reaping corruption!!!!!!!

  • I am not quite sure if Ossie or minister Laing is the least popular one in Grand Bahama? While minister Laing was asking Pindling what he thought about Ossie maybe he should have also asked him what he really thought about your own boss? Rumor has it that your man was a snitch? Minister please tell Bahamians you’re only joking about really asking the sitting prime minister to appoint Ossie to anything, much less as a diplomat? Ossie has switched political parties even more than your boss. Just maybe the minister should have been addressing the needs of Grand Bahamians rather than why they may have fired their Editor? It’s hard to defend either of the two men but the last time I checked Ossie is a private citizen and his former employers should not have been speaking negative about him to anyone, much less a minister of the government? I am shocked to learn that any minister of the government is posting anything on their Facebook page, or any other social network page, certainly not to write about what Ossie’s bosses had to say about why he was fired?

    • It just demonstrate the lack of professionalism of Ossie’s former employer and the despicable level that Laing is always willing to sink to.

  • Mr Laing is by far the worst member of Parliament Marco City has ever had. David Thompason was far better than him and not to mention Pleasant Bridgewater. To give a history of Laing. He never had a successful venture in business. if you can recall, he was unemployed because all of his business ventures failed. he wrote books and traveled on speaking engagements but that was it. he didnt do much of that either. When he became MP for Marco City, he maid many promises. None was fulfilled infact when you approach him with issues, he gets annoyed. Mr. Laing can attest to this. He hates it thats why he is hardly in Grand Bahama. Marco City is use to being represented well. We have been neglected for 4 years. We are now in the category of Lucaya. All we know is the MP name and face via television. This has to change. I do hope he will not return as the MP as i know many will reject him in Marco City. I know I will

  • yes Ossie, How cold was the water that morning ?

  • The article by Oswald Brown only goes to show the level of personal savagery to which our polity has descended to. There is no longer any place for dissent or constructive advice. It is telling that Brown, an original member of the FNM and linked in so many intricate and personal ways to the group, is only now discovering that which many people knew and was saying for a long time.It must be very painful for him to have the shoe on the other foot, now. As for Laing,it is sad to see how a young man of supposedly christian beliefs and values (Born Again Christian) would allow a black car with a blue plate and a seat around the cabinet table to make him lose his entire perspective. He is trying too much to emulate his leader and it brings out his own insecurities and it is painfully sad; he will be a footnote in the pages of the political history of The Bahamas. Laing personifies all that is wrong with our political leadership at this pivotal moment in our development.

  • Karl

    Mr. Laing’s immaturity speaks for itself. When one has to engage in public arguments using social media like Facebook then you really don’t deserve to be a representative of the people. Laing rants and raves and takes every comment to heart. And I really don’t know what qualifies him to be the State Minister of Finance. I mean what experience does he really have? At least
    Mr. Brown laid it all out on the table. It is a bit presumptuous to ask to become ambassador. But hey at least he was honest enough to say that he did in fact want the position. This article really makes Laing look like a jack#$@.

  • this man confirm how cold ing-rum is he mussy get cool aid running tru he vein. i ain’t surprise he promise not to sell btc and we see how that went. i just hope we bahamians see how important it is not to vote for this man. or alot of people will pay big time. when the fnm win. a black cloud come over us i think it was a warning that perry was not the perfect pm at the time but we would of been better of than we are now.we hurting crime romping people light of shops close down all the lil project perry left ing-rum stop . now he taxing us like never before i pray the lord answer my pray and let perry or bran win the next general election. i can’t take another five yrs of this don’t care government. i was told alot of money will be spend by the fnm to regain power.

  • Another page turner Mr. Brown, I thoroughly enjoyed this article. With regard to the Min. of State, (I’m laughing as I respond), you are a decent man, at least you have a ligitimate reasons as to why you should and did harbour strong feelings of disregard for the Minister. I, on the other hand, (like my Mother said about the young man who I was engaged to be married to) “My spirit just don’t take to him”. Keep writing!

  • I try my endeavour best to refrain from writing, and just reading but I do agree with the sentiments of Mr. Brown when he says that…plain and simple, if you take personal feelings out of the equation….Mr. Laing is not the best person to be Minister of State for Finance.
    What is so distrubing about his behaviour (similar to that of the PM), is his inability to accept criticism without taking things so personally. He is a public figure and persons have the right to express their displeasure or to question him without him having to blow a fuse. Im only 22, and Im often disappointed when watching Mr. laing in the HOA when he has to respond to an inquiry by an opposition member. I wonder if him and the PM ever stop and think how their impulsive and often times irrational behaviour and public comments affect the happenings in wider society. They wonder why persons cant resolve disputes or disagreements peacefully, without fussing and ‘carryin-on”….we are only emulating the behaviours of our leaders…..
    Another point a lecturer at the College of The Bahamas pointed out to me about Mr. Laing is that in most of his public statements he simply states the defination of various terms without ever saying anything of innovative or of use. I took the liberty to observe this for myself, and to my surprise the lecturer was right. Constantly repeating what GDP means, or how a figure is calculated (say the value of BTC), or what the IMF or the World Bank report says may very well bedazzle the avg. man, but when you have educated people out there more is expected of the Minister.
    Also, I’m of the view (and others may disagree which is fine with me) that the Minister of State for Finance should be someone who has accomplished alot in the Private Sector, maybe taught at the University level for a number of years, and has published MANY (more than 10) journal articles, along with BOOKS, etc. and should have years of educational experience under his/her belt. If one were to compare the credentials of Finance Ministers in the region with that of Mr. Laing, they would see my point. Look up the Trini Finance Minister, Guyana, Shaw in Jamaica if you wish.

    Finally, I’ve noticed that Mr. Laing has a tendency to justify the government’s position on a particular matter by stating what other countries around the world has done or are doing. This is okay to an extent, but it always leaves us in the position where we are trying to ‘catch up’, as oppose to us being proactive and having other Politicians in different countries saying, “Well in the Bahamas the Government has done XYZ”..We should be using our brains, developing new ways of doing things, being innovators and striving to be ahead of the curve….as oppose to always relying on copying what others are doing.

    We dont have to always copy what the people in Singapore are doing….lets aspire to one day SOON have them travelling here to learn how we do things, so that upon their return they can go on their National Television station and say…”The Bahamian Government has come up with a new plan that is unique, one that is successful, and one we wish to implement here” Lets stop waiting on others to develop solutions so that we can solve our problems.

    For those reasons….I dont think Mr. Laing is the best person to be Minister of state for Finance………again, its nothing personal on my end, hope he doesnt take it that way either!!!

  • a very good read,keep yheir feet to the fire,you will get your reward in the end.

  • I agree that the treatment of Oswald Brown was very cold. No wonder why Bran called them “lacking compassion.” If they can treat Oswald Brown like that, someone who supported them, went against Pindling for Ingraham, who struggled for civil rights in The Bahamas and the USA, who wrote editorials in favour of the FNM; who is in fact married to Sir Orville Turnquest’s sister — if they can do this to him, what do you think about the normal, ordinary grass root Bahamian? They would kill you and I.

  • Oh Lord help me to continue to trust in you and your servants but Laing oh no.Behavior like this as displayed by Ingrum is regarded by misinformed as decisive but to the educated its dictatorship.There is too much power in the hands of the PM and a key component of the policies of any Govt must be to take away most from any individual who becomes PM.

  • That’s cold, do not be surprised if Alexiou and Ferguson were in on it too. Everyone that you mentioned in this peice, would cut your throat without a moment notice. What a bunch of snakes!!!

    • What ever happened to the lady on the bay Ossie??