Christie: “WE BELIEVE IN BAHAMIANS”

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Christie delivering his address at the 2012 PLP Candidates Launch.

REMARKS BY THE RT. HON. PERRY GLADSTONE CHRISTIE
LEADER PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY

10 February 2012
“WE BELIEVE IN BAHAMIANS”

How do you feel out there?

Are you fired up?

I’m fired up too!

Everywhere I go, people are fired up.

All over the country, everywhere I go, the message is clear : the people of The Bahamas are ready for change:

Ready for a new direction!

Ready for a new beginning!

Ready for a new day!

And tonight, you see this energy for change rippling throughout this hall, and outside in the corridors and all along the Cable Beach strip, and all over the land. It’s standing room only in here tonight.

Look at all of you!

You’ve come to the right place tonight, my Bahamian brothers and sisters.

You’re here to support us because we’re here to fight for you!

Speaking of which — there’s something I think we all need to get off our chests tonight, so let me say it as clearly as I can. When it comes to voting in The Bahamas, there is no such thing as an American-Bahamian or a Jamaican-Bahamian or a British-Bahamian or a Haitian-Bahamian. There are only Bahamians full stop, period, end of story. Only Bahamian citizens can vote.

That’s the first point. The second point is this : when you vote, there’s only one set of interests you’re supposed to be looking at, and only one question you should be asking yourself : what is best for my country, The Bahamas, and what is best for me as a Bahamian. No other country comes into it. It’s all about The Bahamas, and all about Bahamians, full stop, period, end of story.

PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis

And the third and final point I need to make is this: the only people who are entitled to have any say in who to vote for – or why you should vote — or what you should be thinking about when you vote in elections in The Bahamas — are the Bahamian people themselves. I wouldn’t go into someone else’s country and tell the people there how to vote and I don’t want anyone from any other country coming here and telling me or my people how to vote either.

So let’s be clear about that!

I’ll tell you what, though – I know what voters of all stripes are thinking about this year – they’re asking themselves – which party is going to wage a real battle against crime?  Which party will put Bahamians first? Which party will invest in people?

Which party combines a spectacular new generation with seasoned veterans?

As you have been seeing all night, as one new candidate after another has taken to the podium, we have put together the best and the brightest group of men and women ever assembled by any political party in the history of our country.

I’m so proud that our future as a people is going to be shaped over the next five years by such a smart, decent, progressive-minded, energetic, and patriotic group of individuals.

We’re a party with a proud history, and we’re the party of new ideas.

The smart, accomplished new generation of leaders you’ve heard from tonight join the ranks of a party already loaded with talent and expertise.

Our PLP candidates are business leaders, leaders in their church communities, champions of education, pioneers in the fields of law and medicine and engineering, successful entrepreneurs.  It’s a world-class team!

We may all bring different areas of expertise to the table, but we share a commitment to core Bahamian values, and we believe – deeply, profoundly – in our nation and its people. This belief binds our team together and fills us with common purpose.

I see myself as a bridge between Sir Lynden Pindling and this new generation.

When our party’s new candidates ask me what it was like to work with Sir Lynden, I tell them that the most important thing to know about him was that he treated the humblest citizens the same way he treated the most powerful dignitaries. Bahamians from all walks of life would find their way into his office, and he would hear them out, hear their hopes, their fears, their troubles, their ideas.  His greatness lay not only in his long list of accomplishments but in his ability to listen, and his willingness to help.

And of course, the other important thing about Sir Lynden was his vision.

When Sir Lynden and his brothers and sisters in arms began their journey almost 60 years ago, there was nothing inevitable about majority rule and independence. Instead, it took courage and tenacity and vision to create a brand, new nation.

It’s going to take the same kind of courage and tenacity and vision to continue to build upon the Bahamian Dream. And continue we must for there is still a nation for Bahamians whose building is unfinished.

Back in Sir Lynden’s day, back in the Honourable A.D. Hanna’s day, they called it Bahamianization. Today we call it “Bahamians First!” but essentially it still comes down to the same thing: we believe it is the government’s job to remove, in very determined fashion, one by one, any and all obstacles which stand in the way of Bahamian success, Bahamian progress, Bahamian ownership and Bahamian greatness.

Let’s talk about one of the greatest obstacles we face as a nation.

In fact, it’s not just an obstacle, it’s a crisis. I’m talking about crime, of course.

Record levels of violence, one tragedy after another! I have spent time with the families of murder victims, and I will tell you this: to lose a loved one to violence is to stare into the abyss. You see the pain on their faces and you can feel it ripping up their hearts.

Murders have doubled – doubled – under the FNM, but statistics only tell part of the story.  They don’t show how families and friends and communities struggle in the aftermath, heartsick, devastated and afraid they too will be caught up in a vicious cycle of violence.

We know we cannot accomplish great things as a nation and as a people if Bahamians don’t feel safe in their homes and on our streets.

And it doesn’t have to be this way!

But to turn things around, we need a government that cares about crime all the time, not just at election time.

This government has failed — fundamentally failed — to keep Bahamians safe!

We’re going to bring back Urban Renewal because when I left office, it was working – you hear me? – it was working to reduce crime and to break the cycle of violence in inner-city communities.

The FNM dismantled Urban Renewal. Not for any good reason, but simply because of their stupid and spiteful determination to get rid of everything that had the stamp of PLP authorship. It’s only one way in which they show their contempt for Bahamians, their willingness to always put politics first.  They cancelled an anti-crime programme that was working because it was pioneered by my government, won awards under my government, and was being copied in other nations.

Ingraham and the FNM also put politics first when they cancelled “Swift Justice”.  As a result, hundreds of murder cases still have not been brought to trial. They put politics first when they dismantled the PLP’s Witness Protection programme. If you want to understand what that means, consider that no fewer than twenty Bahamians have since lost their lives for their willingness to testify against accused persons in our courts. That’s a tragedy!  That’s the equivalent of taking an axe and chopping at the very roots of the Rule of Law that holds our civilization together.

Hubert Ingraham and the FNM don’t have a clue about how to keep Bahamians safe, not a clue! That’s why he hardly ever talks about crime.  He doesn’t know what to say. He has no idea what to do about it. If you had a dollar for every time he spoke meaningfully about crime, you would not have enough money to buy breakfast.

He speaks for 50 minutes to the nation the other day and spends just one minute talking about crime. What does he do with most of the 50 minutes?  He gets down in the gutter to throw lowness. Imagine that!

But that’s not what I am in public life for. I want to make my beloved country safe and secure. That’s why my fellow candidates and I are committed to PROJECT SAFE BAHAMAS.  This is the PLP’s tough, comprehensive plan to reduce violence, to enact tougher sentences for illegal weapons possession, to return police to the schools where they’re needed.

We are calling for Saturation Patrols in crime hotspots. The areas experiencing the worst crime should be flooded with well-trained police. And we need Swift Justice, so fewer people are out on bail, and we need increased surveillance of those who are out on bail, and we need trials to be brought on and disposed of much more quickly. Our plan also calls for Operation Cease Fire. We’ll recruit and train outreach workers in conflict mediation, so disputes don’t turn deadly.

Those are only some of the many proposals in our innovative, comprehensive plan – please, read more at myplp.org.

We’re ready to get this done.

Let’s do it together, Bahamas.

Let’s get rid of this cold, clueless, disconnected FNM government.

How arrogant and out of touch do you have to be to tell a nation reeling from violence that you deliver on what you promise?

How arrogant and out of touch do you have to be to tell Bahamians who are losing their jobs and their homes that you can be trusted, that you are providing leadership?

Under my government, we added 22,000 jobs to the economy – that’s 22,000 jobs for Bahamians. 1.5 billion dollars was added to the economy on my watch, and we did not raise your taxes. We built 1400 homes. In fact, we built more homes in four years than the FNM built in the entire ten years of FNM Government that preceded my administration. We invested $25 million in Bahamian entrepreneurs. And contrary to the FNM’s lying propaganda, we built a record number of classrooms – far more than they did!

And let us not forget that when we left office, The Bahamas was a regional leader in employment. But look what’s happened in just 4 plus years under Hubert Ingraham and the FNM : The Bahamas is down at the bottom, among the worst-performing economies in the entire region.

So, what happened?  What caused a booming economy with 7.6 % unemployment to turn into a depressed economy with so many thousands of Bahamians out of work?

Two things happened: the global recession. And the FNM.

Of course The Bahamas is affected by the global economy.

But the truth is, it didn’t have to be this bad for The Bahamas!

World conditions made it bad but this government made it so much worse.

Let me tell you how they made the economy worse:

The FNM has not fought for Bahamians and they have not put Bahamians first.  How many millions have gone to foreign contractors and foreign workers when Bahamians needed the work?

Let me tell you how they made the economy worse:

The FNM delayed PLP projects for spiteful political reasons.  Standard and Poor’s said that the FNM decision to delay PLP projects directly contributed to the economic downturn in The Bahamas!

Let me tell you how they made the economy worse:

They failed to protect Bahamian fishermen from foreign poachers….just like they always fail to put Bahamians first.  You heard Clay Sweeting – he told it true – this government has not looked out for Bahamian fishermen — when they most needed an effective government, they were left in the lurch!

Let me tell you how else they made the economy worse:

The Prime Minister subjected Grand Bahama to years of unthinkable neglect, stewing in his private feuds and vendettas while the middle class there has been decimated. You heard him.  He admitted to the whole nation that just because of one man – Hannes Babek – he didn’t have any dialogue with the Port Authority for years.  One man allows an entire city to crumble because of his vendetta against one man.  Imagine that!

Let me tell you how else they made the economy worse:

They failed to reduce energy costs, which are swallowing businesses up, reducing the ability of even our best-run companies to compete.

Let me tell you how else they made the economy worse:

They failed to invest in people, with millions cut from the education budget, with job readiness programmes that are terribly underfunded, thousands turned away, much too little, much too late.

Let me tell you how else they made the economy worse:

By failing so terribly on crime – high crime imposes great costs along with great tragedy – in stolen goods, security spending, pain and suffering, lost lives. High crime acts like another tax on our economy.

Let me tell you how else they made the economy worse:

The FNM has acted with such gross incompetence that the roads in New Providence have been dug up again and again – the same roads – no planning, no intelligence, no consultation – leading to business closures all along the way – most of them small, struggling businesses to begin with.  And it happened at a time when our economy could least afford to lose these businesses and those jobs.

Let me tell you how else they made the economy worse:

By failing to have a plan to diversify and expand our economy. By failing to believe in Bahamians.

Tonight, too many Bahamians are staring at a pile of bills they can’t pay, wondering if their home will be next on the long list of mortgaged properties for sale in the newspapers, a list that is miles long already.

Families that had worked so hard to achieve a little security now find out they aren’t secure after all, that after months, in some cases even years, without work, they’re falling farther and farther behind, not sure how to keep their heads above water.

I’m thinking of a young man I met recently, struggling with his wife to raise some small children, but his hours kept getting cut.  If they get cut anymore…he’s going to be in real trouble. This is someone who wants to work.  Who knows he can do better than a low-wage job he can’t count on, if only someone would believe in him, give him an opportunity and a way forward.

We need a government that will fight for people like that young man who’s trying to do good, trying to do the right thing, trying to be a model father for his children.  But he’s getting dragged down by a Government that simply doesn’t get it.  That’s why it’s time for them to go!  Your time is up Hubert Ingraham.  It’s time for you to pack your bags and go!

Now, more than ever, we need a government that knows what it takes to create jobs in the 21st century.

The FNM doesn’t have a plan.  They don’t have a plan and they don’t have a clue.

Their plan has been to blame the global recession, hope you won’t notice all the ways they made that recession worse, keep their fingers crossed, pay some foreign contractors or local cronies to build Bahamian roads, ignore crime, and wait!

That’s not a plan!  That’s a recipe for disaster.

They don’t have a plan to create jobs, but we do.

Our Job Creation & Empowerment Agenda starts with putting Bahamians first…by increasing work permit fees for jobs Bahamians are qualified to fill.

We’re going to double the nation’s investment in education and training, because it’s time to invest in people.

We’re going to create a public-private partnership and build 21st century classrooms – updating the technology and energy sources of today’s schools will create a lot of jobs right away, and having modern schools with the best technology will give our children the opportunity to succeed later on.

For too many Bahamians, there is a severe disconnect between the skills they have and the skills they need to compete for good, secure jobs. Our Worker Retraining Program will retrain 5,000 Bahamians every year, and our Career Path Academies will provide 15,000 students annually with vocational and technical training, and apprenticeship opportunities in fields like financial services, tourism and information technology.

I don’t have time to share all of our innovative proposals tonight – but I have to tell you about one close to my heart: we call it “Coming Home”.  Too many young, highly trained Bahamians are living and working abroad, contributing their expertise to foreign companies and foreign nations.  Right now we are experiencing the greatest brain drain we have ever known.  But I want to reverse that. I want to bring these Bahamians home!  I want to bring them home, and I know that many of them want to come home.  So many have told me first-hand that their heart is here in The Bahamas but that they feel like second-class citizens in their own country.  They are educated and trained to first-world standards but when they come here, they feel that the deck is stacked against them. They see professional opportunities being denied to them and given to foreigners instead.

We have to change that.  And we will change it under the next PLP Government.  We’ll strengthen financial services, bring back the Ministry that brought focus to expanding that industry, a Ministry cut by the FNM – another short-sighted decision that put politics first instead of Bahamians.

We’ll turn The Bahamas into a world-renowned center for commercial and maritime arbitration.  Let’s support new Bahamian businesses that are ready to innovate, with access to affordable start-up capital and credit, and with technical support and training.  Let’s expand Bahamian ownership within tourism.  And above all, let’s make sure that our Bahamian engineers and IT specialists and entrepreneurs and managers are able to compete on an even playing field with their foreign competitors for contracts that are being awarded in The Bahamas for Bahamian projects and Bahamian jobs.

And don’t forget about opportunities in government and education.  As you can see, the PLP has big plans – to fight crime, to reinvent education and training, to expand the Bahamian economy.  We’re going to bring educated Bahamians back home to fill crucial roles in our government, by offering them competitive compensation, and of course, something no one else can offer them: the ability to make a difference in their country.

Bahamas, we can be so much better than this.

Sir Lynden fought for a government of The Bahamas that would be on the side of Bahamians.

Today, the Progressive Liberal Party is wiser and stronger than ever, and ready to be that government once again.

And the people of The Bahamas are ready, too – their eyes are open, they see what’s in front of them, they know we need a new direction and a new beginning.  They know that beneath the big show the FNM is putting on, there’s a party that doesn’t have a clue about how to keep people safe or create jobs.

My fellow Bahamians, we believe in you.

We believe a Bahamian government ought to create jobs for Bahamians.

We believe telling Bahamians they “need not apply” is a betrayal.

We believe there is nothing Bahamians cannot accomplish.

I am so proud of this new generation of candidates, and about the leaders they join – we’re ready to build a better nation, one which honors God by honoring the best in each of us.

And I say to all of you tonight – nothing’s going to stop us now!

Nothing’s going to get in our way!

Bahamians: we believe in you!

Let your light shine brightly, Bahamians!

If you fall, get back up!  Take one step, and another, and another…until we’re running together towards a very bright future!

Can you see it now?  A new day!  A new direction!  A new beginning!

PLP!

PLP!