Nassau, Bahamas — Last week it was reported in one of the dailies that Perry Christie, leader of the Progressive Liberal Party, will lead the party into the next general election. This front page story sent internet blogs into overdrive. Of particular interest to me was a commentary posted on Bahamas Press and the many responses it received. The bloggers believed that Prime Minister Ingraham had more control over his cabinet and parliamentary colleagues than former Prime Minister Christie had over his. Further, it was felt that PM Ingraham would be more decisive in resolving conflicts and scandals within his government. That might be a general impression, but do the facts support such an assertion? It is this general impression that I wish to discuss in this edition of Coleby Sounds Off.
Bahamas Press reported that “it is amazing to see that PLPs in his (meaning Christie) organization cannot see the playbook here. Christie says very little about Ingraham. He fails to attack the FNM on national matters. He has allowed scandals to go unchallenged.”
I agree with the editor that the PLP is too silent on and not critical enough of the FNM on national issues. When the PLP attacks the FNM, they are not tenacious enough in their pursuit. I, however, disagree with the editor’s assertion that Christie “has allowed scandals to go unchallenged.” Whether the scandal existed in his party or in the FNM, the record will show that Christie challenged all of them. The question is, can the same be said for Prime Minister Ingraham concerning the handling of scandals and crises within his party and government?
I can recall that to date, Brent Symonnette, Anthony Miller, Gregory Williams, and Sidney Collie were the only persons the current PM asked to resign when they were caught in scandals, but all the PLP’s found wanting were asked to resign under Christie. That is simply a fact.
When his former DPM Frank Watson was implicated in scandals involving bounced checks (signed by Watson) written to the public treasury, the transfer of huge sums of money to secure a Bahamasair B737 that never materialized, and tabling of a dossier in the House of a covert DEA operations, the PM took no action against DPM Watson. He accused a member of the Pindling family of writing bounced checks to the treasury to deflect from the real issue facing his government.
When charges were leveled at Dion Foulkes about improprieties and abuses of power in awarding contracts for school repairs, the PM admitted that the contracted amounts were large for the scope of work and ordered an investigation, but took no action against Foulkes and never revealed the results of the investigation.
When charges were made against Tommy Turnquest in the House about allowing an unauthorized contractor to pay for his leader-elect victory party, the PM said he asked Mr. Turnquest to pay for his own party, but there is no record of him doing so and no punitive actions taken by the PM against Turnquest for this apparent conflict of interest.
ALL OF THESE MEN RETURNED IN 2007 AS CABINET MINISTERS, MP’s, SENATORS AND BOARD CHAIRMAN.
In the present term, the PM lashed out at the PLP, calling them “FOOLS” when the Hon. Frank Smith, MP raised a conflict of interest issue in the House surrounding State Minister Laing and a drink called Mona Vie. The claim was that Minister Laing used his position as a public official to allow an unreasonable benefit to a member of his family.
When Earl Deveaux bypassed the duly authorized board and ignored the moratorium by personally approving a taxi plate to one of his FNM cronies, the PM could be seen in the House defending Earl Deveaux by saying that there was no taxi plate out there. Again he took no action against Mr. Deveaux.
When DPM Brent Symonette chaired a meeting about relocating the container port, this was raised in the House as a conflict of interest as Symonette owned property on which the container port sits and stands to benefit from the relocation and the redevelopment of the city of Nassau. The PM said that Symonette would continue to serve on the committee. There was a clear conflict between DPM Symonette’s public duty and private business interests. No actions were taken by the current Prime Minister.
Concerning Sidney Collie and the local government elections, I continue to point out that the Supreme Court dealt with Mr. Collie and NOT THE PM. All indications are that the entire FNM cabinet conspired to break the law concerning certain provisions of the amended local government act. The PM received a letter from the Chair of the PLP about certain procedural breeches taking place in the local elections process, but this warning went unheeded. After the issue became a crisis, the PM threw Collie under the proverbial bus and the FNM propaganda machinery went into overdrive to control the damage already done to the reputation of the FNM. The PM clearly was late in taking action against his minister. Where would the FNM government have gotten the moral authority to continue to govern in the face of the Supreme Court ruling if no action was taken? Again, the Supreme Court forced the PM to act.
The PM is yet to comment on the current abuse of power and breech of public trust charges being leveled at Works minister Neko Grant in the award of a $300,000 contract for landscaping in Abaco.
I don’t see how the current PM “CONTROLS HIS HOUSE” or “DEALS WITH HIS MINISTERS.” I see and hear the propaganda, but I do not see how it is based in facts. He seems to run a pretty slack house and a case can be made that the PM defends wrongdoing and political misconduct. He does have one advantage though: The media is sympathetic to the FNM and are not critical of them in terms of their policy decisions. Their general feelings are that the FNM should NOT be criticized and certain columnists and editors are quick to criticize and attack anybody who dare criticize the policies of the FNM government.
I have said it before and I will say it again: this is unprecedented in a free, modern, democratic state. The unconditional support for and defense of the FNM that is apparently entrenched in certain media quarters might be good for the FNM, but what is good for the FNM might not necessarily be good for the country.