REMARKS BY THE RT. HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE MP
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
23rd July 2011
“BELIEVE IN THE BAHAMAS”
Good evening, fellow delegates to this wonderful convocation.
Good evening, Progressive Young Liberals.
Good evening, my fellow Bahamians.
Isn’t it wonderful to be in convention and in fellowship one with one another?
Isn’t it wonderful to come together to talk about what kind of future we can build?
Isn’t it wonderful when you believe in the Bahamas?
Let me thank all of you who are here this evening. Let me thank all of you who are listening to the radio or watching on television. It is simply wonderful to be alive, to be PLP and to be Bahamian, ALL at the same time.
What a wonderful address we heard from Toni Ingraham, the voice of the Young Liberals in the Eastern Region. What an extraordinary call to action – I know a leader when I see one, and you are ready to lead, ready to bring your energy and passion to the cause of change.
My heartiest congratulations to the Progressive Young Liberals and the team headed by Chairman Keenan Johnson – they put together this wonderful evening, and they drafted an extraordinary list of policy priorities that show their commitment to building a better future and a better nation. What impresses me most is your focus on people and their development. This is in the finest tradition of the Progressive Liberal Party. I know you will be happy when you see our new platform, which will reflect these priorities — and offer innovative plans to fight crime, create jobs and so much more.
Let me thank Quinton Lightbourne for his kind introduction this evening, and our Master and Mistress of Ceremonies Devin Beneby and Adrianna Knowles for so ably plotting the evening’s proceedings.
This evening, we’ve showcased our young people. We have an extraordinary group of young supporters and activists coming up through the PLP, and we have a very talented, very accomplished, and very dynamic roster of new candidates. As the Deputy Leader said, they’re fired up and they’re firing everybody else up, too.
In fact, the PLP offers something unique to Bahamians – we’re a party with a very proud history, and we’re a party of new ideas. That’s what it’s going to take – old values and new ideas. We need to respect who we are and where we have come from, and we need to embrace the best new ideas the world has to offer.
As I have said before tonight, we have serious problems.
Too many Bahamians are in real pain right now. I’ve been travelling around this beautiful nation of ours, meeting with people from all walks of life. I have heard many many stories from many many people, and it is their dreams and their troubles which must occupy us all. I’m thinking of the 60-year old grandmother raising two small children on her own, after losing her daughter to drugs or violence. I’m thinking of the 14-year old who hears gunshots on his street every night. I’m thinking of the young man who lost his job and now may lose his home – I will never forget his frustration and helplessness. Can you imagine the blow to his pride as a young Bahamian man, who was the first in his family to own his own home? I’m thinking of the restaurant owner who is struggling with a poor economy, blackouts, road closures and now a change in Investment Policy. I’m thinking of all those Bahamians who are hotter than hot over the situation at Mackey Yard.
The current government has not put Bahamians first. But we will; you know we will.
Let’s start with the most urgent priority for the next government – the battle against crime. There is fear in our streets; no home feels safe. Nearly 80 murders this year already, and it’s still July. This is a tragedy, and it is a crisis. And yet the current government is paralyzed, worried about the politics of the issue, but in over their heads, unable to take action, unable to meet their first and most important responsibility to Bahamians.
Do you think it’s impossible to have drug-free and gun-free communities in The Bahamas? I say it’s not impossible. What would it take? First, and most importantly, a government that gives a damn – a government that shares YOUR priorities.
Everything follows from that: prevention, prosecution, punishment and rehabilitation. We need Urban Renewal 2.0 – to support at-risk-youth. We need robust police presence in our schools. We need to remove political interference in policing. We need to give the police the resources they need to do their jobs, including the smartest new technology. We need to focus with intensity on the most serious criminals and repeat offenders. We need to ensure coordination between police and prosecutors and all involved in the administration of justice – the current government eliminated the Swift Justice program; we will bring it back, stronger than before. Speedy trials and amendments to the Bail Act must be made – those accused of murder cannot be released from bail to commit another murder simply because their matters have not swiftly come on for trial. Some offences, like intimidation of witnesses, breaking into courts and threatening judges, must be tried within three months. We need to increase border patrols; our borders cannot be left wide open. And the law in relation to hanging WILL be carried out.
That’s where I would start.
But that’s not enough. That’s only a beginning.
No effort will be spared to restore the safety of our streets and homes.
Let me ask you a question – have you ever seen a classroom full of children entering school for the first time? Is there anything more wonderful? The excitement they have, each of them believing they will grow up to be something special. In just a few short years, though, too many will have lost their way. What happens to them? What happens to their dreams, and the dreams their parents have for them?
The answer shames us all. Too many of our children do not have the support they need to grow and learn and achieve and flourish. We are not keeping their streets and schools and playgrounds safe. We are acting as though their lives are expendable when really, they are everything.
The worst sin of this current government – and I am not choosing from a short list, my friends – is their failure to believe in you, to believe in what Bahamians can accomplish, to believe in all of our children.
They are stuck in the 20th century, this government, doling out projects and favors to special interests, focusing on petty feuds and insults, thinking that some new roads are all that’s needed.
They have not lifted their heads up and noticed it’s a new world.
They are operating on software that hasn’t been updated!
But the PLP knows what it means to be a small country in the 21st century. We know that if we sit still, we’re going to get run over. We agree with the former Prime Minister of Great Britain Tony Blair, who said, “Talent is the 21st century wealth.”
The Chairman of the our Party’s youth wing, Keenan Johnson, has suggested that the next government double the amount invested in education in real terms over the next five years. It’s ambitious, but it’s also necessary. Starting with more and better quality preschools, all the way to the top, we have to do better. And it doesn’t stop when you have your degree – the world is changing swiftly, and skills and knowledge must constantly keep pace.
Believing in the Bahamas means creating jobs now and planning for the jobs of the future. We need to create thousands of jobs – and not just any jobs, but the kinds of jobs that can raise living standards. We need to take a clear-eyed look at what it means to grow our economy in the 21st century. Bahamians must have access to the best ideas, the best practices, and the best technology. I want more Bahamians to be owners and innovators, and I don’t see any reason why they can’t be.
Because the PLP believes in Bahamians, we believe in supporting small business and entrepreneurs. We believe in keeping Bahamian industries in Bahamian hands. And we believe in helping Bahamians buy land, part of our national dream.
My fellow Bahamians, I believe in you. Where others see only problems, I see so much promise. I believe with all my heart we will successfully meet our challenges, even our most difficult ones. Nelson Mandela once said, “It always feels like it’s impossible and then it’s done.”
There is no problem we face that we cannot solve. But make no mistake, it’s not going to happen without you.
To our young leaders and activists, and to all young Bahamians, I paraphrase a great leader from another era:
Demand what you’re owed from your government, insist on it, but don’t stop there. Go further. Don’t focus only on what your government owes you, but on what you can do for your country. What are you going to do to make The Bahamas great? If you choose public life, as our exciting new generation of candidates have, I promise that your work will teach and humble and exhilarate you.
No matter what you do, find a way to serve. If you’re going to teach or preach or heal or build, do it with honor, tenacity, passion, empathy. Steel yourselves. Failure is not an option. The cause of justice is everlasting – make it your cause. Think big. Let your light shine brightly.
If you stumble, get back up. Then take one step, and another, and pretty soon, we’ll be running together, towards a very bright future.
To all candidates in the eastern region and around the country: This is the time to be in the homes of the people: to meet them where they are. You must address their concerns. You must share our ideas, and hear theirs. Tell them that the PLP is all about them: it is people focused, ready to put Bahamians first.
Tell them: our future will not be written for us but by us. Not by outsiders and special interests, but by hard-working Bahamians.
Tell them: the story of the hunt is very different when written by the lion rather than the hunter. We will write our future and build our Bahamas.
Tell them: we believe in The Bahamas.
Thank you my friends. God bless you! God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and a very good evening to you all.