Voters in the Elizabeth constituency in New Providence have two excellent choices from which to elect their new representative in the by-election that is due to be held on Tuesday, February 16.
Of course, three other candidates – Bahamas Democratic Movement leader Cassius Stuart, Workers Party leader Rodney Moncur and United Christian Love Revolution Movement leader Godfrey “Pro” Pinder – have confirmed that they will contest the seat, but neither one of them has a snowball’s chance in hell of getting their deposit back.
In reality, this is a two-man race between Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate Ryan Pinder and Free National Movement (FNM) candidate Dr. Duane Sands, both of whom are superbly qualified – educationally and otherwise – to represent the residents of the Elizabeth constituency in the House of Assembly.
Dr. Sands is a highly successful cardiologist, whose educational background includes receiving his early education at St. Anne’s primary and high schools, graduating at age 15 and subsequently going on to preparatory school at Cheshire Academy in Connecticut before entering Tufts University, from where he received a BSc degree in chemistry in 1982.
He continued his medical training at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, from where he graduated with a doctorate in medicine in 1986. He began his practice of medicine at Wayne State University Department of Surgery, where he finished his general surgery residency in 1991 and his cardiothoracic fellowship in 1994.
A very impressive educational background, to say the least, so it was to be expected that he would have had the tremendous success he has achieved in his profession.
Ryan Pinder can boast of an equally impressive background in his chosen profession. A certified United States tax attorney, who is licensed to practice law in both the United States and The Bahamas, he attended Queens College and St. Andrews School in Nassau, before attending high school in New York at The Stony Brook School.
He received his tertiary education at the University of Miami, where he earned a Bachelors of Business Ad-ministration in international finance and marketing; a Masters of Business Administration in finance; a Juris Doctor of Law degree; and a LLM in international taxation.
The Elizabeth constituency could not have asked for two better candidates to choose from, and on the surface it would seem as if this will indeed be a very close race, given the fact that Malcolm Adderley, a PLP Member of Parliament who resigned a couple weeks ago, only won the seat by a narrow margin.
But will it be? In a by-election, the governing party generally is considered to be odds-on favourite to win because of all of the governmental resources available to it to influence voters who place a materialistic value on their vote. It is extremely difficult to estimate just how many voters there are in Elizabeth who fit into this category, for unscrupulous politicians generally are extremely good at finding inventive ways to “buy votes.”
There are a lot of indications, however, that the up-coming election in the Elizabeth constituency may turn out to be a referendum on leadership of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, whose political decisions in recent times have generated a great deal of concern among the Bahamian people in general.
His most recent seemingly unilateral decision to release more than 100 Haitian mi-grants who had entered the country illegally and grant them temporary residential status in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Haiti two weeks ago has sparked a hailstorm of criticism from Bahamians on both sides of the political divide.
Every Bahamian unquestionably was horrified by the tremendous loss of life in Haiti and the mind-numbing television broadcasts of dead bodies left unattended in the streets in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.
The international response was certainly heartening, and there is no question that The Bahamas should do all that it possibly can do to help the distressed Haitian people, who have endured so much suffering throughout their more than 200 years as a independent black nation because of political upheavals that stagnated economic growth and stability.
Releasing the Haitian detainees from Carmichael Road Detention Centre, however, was not one of the choices that a leader who was acting in the best interest of The Bahamas should have considered. All of the arguments in support of this decision by Mr. Ingraham are weak, including the suggestion that as a Christian nation, this was the Christian thing for The Bahamas to do.
It is not a xenophobic suggestion to say that these were individuals who came into this country illegally, and they now have “temporary residential status,” which means that they can now legally compete with Bahamians for jobs in a job market that reflects a high double-digit unemployment rate. What if they can’t find jobs, although supporters of this decision by Mr. Ingraham are quick to say that the kinds of jobs they are inclined to do, Bahamians will not do. The truth of the matter is that this is no longer the case in the current job market.
Certainly, compassion for these illegal migrants would have been better reflected in a decision to keep them at the detention centre, where they would have continued to receive, presumably, three meals a day, and not have to hustle to survive on the “outside.” Even in the case of those who were fortunate enough to be reunited with family members already living in The Bahamas, Ingra-ham and his government must have considered the possibility that these “family members” are responsible, to some extent, for exacerbating the ongoing problem that The Bahamas has had for decades in controlling the flood of illegal Haitian migrants who come to this country.
Now, more than likely, when some degree of normalcy returns to Haiti, The Bahamas will most certainly be the destination of first choice for illegal migrants from that country. Considering this possibility, the solution that Ingraham has suggested for dealing with new illegal migrants may make sense as far as being able to legally keep them detained, but to haul them before the courts to be charged most certainly is an impractical proposition, given the fact that our court system cannot keep up with the current domestic cases it has to deal with; hence the heavy backlog of cases waiting to come to trial.
What Ingraham needs to do is admit that he made a terrible mistake and promise not to in the future make hasty, unilateral decisions of this nature without the necessary consultation. Certainly, what makes this decision all the more disturbing to many Bahamians is that it was reportedly made without the knowledge of Ingraham’s very capable minister with responsibility for immigration, Branville McCartney, who is considered to be one of the most effective ministers in the Ingraham cabinet.
Reportedly, this is not the first time that Ingraham has made immigration decisions without the knowledge of McCartney. Shortly before he left for Copenhagen, Den-mark, last month for the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, Ingraham announced at an airport press conference that the work permit of Hannes Babak, chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, would not be renewed at the end of December. There are reports that McCartney found out about that decision when he heard it on the radio.
This is certainly no way for the leader of a democratic country to be acting. There are those, however, who insist that this is the way Ingraham has conducted Government business all along.
Former Minister of Education Carl Bethel, no matter what he says to the contrary, may have learned this the hard way when he was humiliated and literally fired on national television at the FNM’s convention in November.
There is every reason to believe that he only found out that he was to become chairman of the FNM shortly after Ingraham made that decision, given the fact that the incumbent chairman, Johnley Ferguson, who was seeking re-election, publicly stated the day before the elections were held that he would still be chairman after the convention. Instead, Ferguson seconded the nomination for Bethel to become chairman, and anyone who believes he did so of his own free will should have their head examined.
When voters in Elizabeth reflect on these matters as well as the manner in which Ingraham has been courting communist China – clearly an action that is antagonistic towards The Bahamas’ long-time friend and neighbourly benefactor, the United States – the by-election in that constituency may indeed be a referendum on Ingraham’s leadership, since the voters do have two exceptional candidates from which to choose.
Oswald T. Brown is managing editor of The Freeport News. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org