WELCOME REMARKS BY
BRADLEY B. ROBERTS
53RD NATIONAL GENERAL CONVENTION
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
MELIA NASSAU RESORT
23RD OCTOBER 2017
Party Leader the Hon. Philip Brave Davis and Mrs. Davis;
Convention Chairman Hon Michael Halkitis
Parliamentarians; Stalwart Councilors and convention delegates – a pleasant good morning.
Welcome to all of you to our 53rd National General Convention, a time when delegates from across the length and breadth of our Commonwealth gather in conference to deliberate and chart the way forward for our great party.
A special welcome to our special observer delegates from our sister party the Progressive Labour Party of Bermuda. I extend congratulations on your recent electoral victory and wish you well as you continue your national development efforts in Bermuda.
This meeting comes just five months after a crushing electoral defeat at the polls where the Bahamian people spoke loud and clear. This is not unchartered political waters fellow delegates. We made this journey between 1997 and 2007 with glorious electoral results so be not dismayed.
The wind of change is upon us and fellow delegates therefore our convention theme, A NEW PERSPECTIVE is timely and appropriate. I am confident that the exchange of ideas and policy proposals during the working day sessions would reflect the national mood of our people.
This convention takes on special meaning because our party is in a leadership transition for only the third time in our sixty-four-year history. This tells me that PLP delegates take the awesome task and responsibility of choosing their leaders very seriously. We understand that our election decisions have implications not only for the future of our party, but the policy direction of our country so delegates, this is indeed a sacred duty. I ask you to choose wisely as you exercise your unalienable and democratic rights under our constitution.
I offer the very same admonishment I offered just yesterday at the prayer breakfast because of its importance to our organization’s future, its continued growth, our resilience and our political objectives. As you campaign for and debate the merits of the various candidates of your choice, I beseech you…I repeat…I beseech you to do so in a spirit of mutual respect. Please be tolerant of opposing views and voices of dissent as these expressions are part and parcel of the democratic process and fully protected by the party’s constitution.
I am pleased to share the report of the standing Constitution Committee dated 16th Oct 2017 which I will read and place on the record. The Party will be guided by the new Leadership going forward on proposed major review of our Party’s constitution.
I wish to thank the Michael Halkitis and Samantha Rolle and the entire convention committee for a job well done with limited resources.
I turn my attention to the governing Free National Movement. It has been five months and twelve days since the FNM assumed the reins of government of this country and buyers’ remorse has already set in; the ground swell of discontent is already evident.
Crime and unemployment have increased and the consensus is that the FNM has no plan for this country. Dr. Minnis remains in denial as he continues to tell Bahamians that there is a sense of calm over the country while eight-month old babies and teenagers are being murdered on our streets and in the safety of their homes. Clearly this calm was the calm before the fury of category five Hurricane FNM.
The smug and pompous National Security Minister, Marvin Dames, is clueless as he clearly misread the minds of criminals. After assailing the crime policies of the PLP as abject failures, Mr. Dames shamelessly went to parliament and read almost verbatim the crime plan designed and proposed by former National Security Minister the late Dr. Bernard Nottage. I had to take a second look as I could not believe my ears.
After having much to say as a private citizen, D’Aguilar is proving to be an ineffective dud as Tourism Minister. He botched the hotel deal in Grand Bahama and was cavalier and dismissive about Grand Bahama losing critical cruise ship business. There are no heads in the beds and D’Aguilar is clueless about how to get them there. MP Rev Fredrick Alpine has become a lightning rod in the FNM and proclaim that he is “only a backbencher fighting for Bahamians”
The hapless Peter Turnquest is incapable of giving a straight story or answer on anything. First there was a resolution to borrow $400 million to cover the budget deficit. That figure quickly turned to $500 million. Later the Central Bank reported the deficit at $285 million. Turnquest then said it was $695 million and borrowed $722 million. He is more mixed up like conch salad than his colleague Frankie Campbell who refuses to answer the questions surrounding the affidavits on his questionable citizenship.
While all of this is going on Prime Minister Minnis is busy practicing PR and clowning instead of governing. His decision to allow Dr. Duane Sands to be fish and fowl – to be regulator and practitioner was an ill-advised decision as Duane Sands cannot be both. Dr. Sands cannot preside over or superintend the Public Hospital Authority (PHA) while practicing medicine at the PHA or any other hospital. Dr. Duane Sands claims he is saving lives for free, he should be aware that he is being watched like a hawk.
I am not surprised at the disclosure in this morning Tribune of The crisis in our hospitals. The former Public Hospital Authority Managing Director Herbert Brown warned Dr. Duane Sands and the Government of patients suffering due to major funding failure. Is the FNM attempting to right the fiscal affairs at the expense of human lives?
The decision to repeal the Investment Incentive Act effectively returns Grand Bahama to the status quo that initially contributed to that island’s current economic malaise. Minnis must get to work and fix Grand Bahama. While he is at it, the Prime Minister must clarify the citizenship status of his Minister of Transport, Frankie Campbell, in light of the affidavits that have made the rounds on social media.
The FNM’s rather thin and flimsy legislative agenda has resulted in less rights and freedom for Bahamians and a consolidation of power in the hands of a few politicians. Their tax policy is the consolidation of wealth in the hands of a few rich families and party donors.
This cannot be right as The Bahamas is clearly moving in wrong direction. It is the responsibility of the Progressive Liberal Party to be the moral conscience of this country in these serious times. We must make this case to the Bahamian people with alternative informed public policy proposals that appeal to the most basic sensibilities of the Bahamian people – those of respect, inclusion, fairness and empowerment.
Our gallant and fearless four members of Parliament and in the Senate is doing an outstanding job of keeping the FNM feet to the fire. We remember well the Biblical story of David and Goliath.
As you all know, I am retiring from frontline politics and will not offer for any position at this convention or nay other. I have ruffled many feathers during my forty years in frontline politics with twenty five as a Member of Parliament but overall I have no regrets fellow delegates. I made the decisions and said the statements I thought were correct and appropriate at the time given the circumstances. To my most ardent critics – the armchair politicians, political pundits and journalists – I am only stepping back, not bowing out. I fully intend to work behind the scenes as the PLP fulfills its constitutional duty of holding the government’s feet to the fire.
I thank all who have made this political journey a rewarding and fulfilling experience. To the great people of Grants and Bain Town, my cabinet and parliamentary colleagues and my family who have made great sacrifices over the years, I thank you all from the bottom of my heart as I say farewell with mixed emotions.
To my lifelong friend, Prime Minister, cabinet and parliamentary colleague the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, I thank you for your unwavering support, the opportunities you have afforded me and for your patient, measured and strong leadership, usually under very difficult circumstances and thank you Prime Minister for your vision for this country.
Notwithstanding the vitriolic invective from your political detractors, your legacy in Bahamian history is well secured. With major and tangible policy and institutional accomplishments such as UR2.0, UB, NTA, NHI, BAMSI, the FIR Airspace Agreement with the FAA and with a record 39,505 jobs being added to the local economy in just five short years, if Baha Mar had opened as scheduled the employment numbers would have gone through the roof. Who among your strongest critics can honestly and objectively deny you your rightful place? Get some much-deserved rest Mr. Prime Minister. Enjoy your retirement, your lovely wife, your children and grand-child my friend.
Let us seek God’s divine guidance in our vigorous debates and deliberations, our robust exchange of ideas and our innovative policy proposals during the course of this convention all for the betterment of our fair Commonwealth and improved quality of life for our people.
When we emerge from this convention fellow delegates, I am confident that we will be stronger and more united as a body politic, re-energized for the singular task ahead which is to return the great Progressive Liberal Party to the governance of this country as we fight for the soul of this great Commonwealth.
Once again, welcome to one and all and may Almighty God bless the Progressive Liberal Party and the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.