Campaign is democracy at its best letter writter says

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A “YES” vote a no-brainer

Elcott Coleby

Dear Editor
On Referendum Day I am voting “YES” for a number of reasons and I urge Bahamians to consider the following:

The issue of gambling in The Bahamas was settled more than 50 years ago. The issue of discrimination against Bahamians, which has implications for freedom of choice and civil rights, remain unresolved. This Referendum seeks to partly resolve these lingering issues by simply asking Bahamians if they believe that Bahamians and others, who have the desire, should be allowed to engage in a game (or games) of chance in a fully regulated environment.

It is not a confusing issue to me – I either believe in somebody’s right to choose or I do not. I do not gamble personally, but I believe in the rights of Bahamians to engage in a game of chance if they so desire. I do not need to know the details of the regulations for Web Shop gaming or a National Lottery to decide on such a fundamental philosophical question. I am a proponent and a defender of freedom and further Mr. Editor, a person’s decision to gamble does not infringe on my personal freedom and rights as a Bahamian citizen.

Some have expressed the concern of concentrated wealth in the hands of a few Bahamians. Mr. Editor, I was never concerned that a hand full of foreign casino owners earned and repatriated hundreds of millions of dollars in casino revenue out of The Bahamas for decades. I am therefore not concerned about a hand full of Bahamians earning millions in the very same industry. I say God bless them. If shares are made available to the general public in this profitable industry, I intend to invest and become an owner.

Regarding the argument of process, changing the law before the Referendum is held would nullify the government’s position of neutrality on this issue because of the mandatory vote in Parliament.

Further and in defense of the current Prime Minister, he is the only national political leader who remained consistent in his position. He agreed as far back as 2010 that the question should be put to the Bahamian people with the government remaining neutral and abiding by the results of the Referendum. To his credit, he has demonstrated extraordinary courage and discipline in holding true to those promises to the end. Unlike the leader of the opposition and the former Prime Minister, current Prime Minister Christie never told Bahamians how to vote.

There is no evidence as far as I can see that the Prime Minister engaged the machinery of his government or his party in promotion of the “YES” vote. His opponents have accused him of this because he publicly stated that a “NO” vote majority would increase unemployment and taxes and a “YES” vote would improve government revenue. If his opponents were totally honest, they would also admit that the Prime Minister invited the clergy to advise the government on formulating a treatment regime to combat chronic gambling addition. This is an admission of the drawback of gambling by the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has been extensively and unfairly vilified in the media by both his political opponents and Editorial Boards. I accept these expressions as part and parcel of the general nature of democratic politics, the inherent freedom and independence of the press and the price Prime Ministers often pay for being the man in charge.
This is democracy at its best.

At the end of the day Mr. Editor, beyond the smoke screens, the smoke and mirrors, the distractions, the hidden agendas, the pretexts and the political bluster – the Referendum boils down to a litmus test of tolerance for personal freedom and the freedom of choice, all fundamental tenets of a free, modern democratic society. If you believe in freedom of choice, then a “YES” vote is a no-brainer.

YOURS etc.;
ELCOTT COLEBY
27 January 2013