THE HON. PHILIP BRAVE DAVIS MP
LEADER, PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
MONTHLY MEETING OF THE PLP’S YAMACRAW BRANCH
24TH JULY 2017
Thank you for your kind words of introduction. It is a pleasure to be here in Yamacraw tonight as we continue the transitioning and rebuilding efforts for our great organisation.
We formally thanked Mrs. Melanie Griffin, the former member for Yamacraw, in Fox Hill several weeks ago. I now personally thank all of you for your support for the work of Melanie and her team and for your continued commitment to and belief in the ideals of the Progressive Liberal Party.
Melanie, I also extend personal thanks for your hard work. Your representation and leadership manifests itself with the establishment of programmes that positively impact your community. In Yamacraw, we find an active crime watch, an innovative jobs programme, and an inclusive church attendance programme.
Few are constituencies today with so many activities to bind its various communities – community parties, fairs and family fun days. The result? You have strengthened Yamacraw into the close-knit and proud community that it is today.
Your faithfulness, dedication, and commitment to the people in the eastern district of New Providence will not be forgotten.
PLP’s, we are down, but not out; chastised, but not rejected as this election loss is not unchartered waters for the PLP. We will return to the governance of this country. That much is certain. During the darkest time of his political life, Michael Manley said in Jamaica, “We routed them before; we can rout them again.”
How do we win again? How do we regain the support of public officers, our major Labour Unions, our millennials, and the next generation?
How do we identify and engage positive like-minded individuals within these sectors and give them reason to proudly wear the brand of the PLP? Who will take our Party’s positive message into the highways and byways to regain what has been eroded over time?
Chester has gotten some criticism for his dissection of the General Elections’ aftermath. For my part, I call it a “newbie’s assessment”. Do any of you have children who, no matter how well you think you are doing, they tell you the truth? They give it to you straight. You may be upset in the first instance, but when you look at circumstances with their optics, you see it – even if the light is painfully bright.
Notwithstanding that light, Chester’s chief summation is true. “Despite our shortcomings, history will judge us fairly… we helped many, we tackled key issues, we left The Bahamas, as a whole, better than it was in 2012.”
Still, our work must start from the foundation and now. This is the age of social media. Whoever gets the best message, the best alternatives for good governance out fastest and clearest will win in 2022.
The road ahead is not an easy one. That is why our leadership team will embark on a listening tour. In the coming months, we will constructively engage our Bahamians from Abaco in the north to Inagua in the south. We hear your demand to be fully engaged every step of the way. As such, we go back to the basics, carrying out this exercise that is critical to servant leadership.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Tonight, I speak to you as a citizen of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas – a “born, bred, ga dead” citizen of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I speak to you as one whose devotion to law and to the rule of law, and to those who nurture and respect it, is aggrieved by the arbitrary abuse of official power.
We who are privileged to call these beautiful islands of democracy “home”, too often take for granted the central importance of the rule of law, and the principal of equal justice.
Romans 13:1-4, in very direct language, provides for us what should obtain for citizens of good governance.
It says “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behaviour, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”
Do no wrong or evil and there will be no need to fear authority. The authority though should not exercise fear in its people as it will not be good for peace.
This is a model for good governance. The PLP has no challenge to judicious and even-handed conduct of the business of the State. It is very necessary to foster peace.
Where is peace? Right now, our nation is so deeply divided on so many issues. Words like “unifier”, “forbearance”, and “freedom from spite” are fast disappearing from our political vocabulary. The size of our challenge was fully displayed to the world at the poorly attended Commonwealth Games.
Bahamians are not in the mood for unity. We have not heard much about unity from our leaders. In fact, the “New Sheriff” has gone to great lengths to foster division, painting our Bahamas as a corrupt nation in the international arena, with no thought as to the consequences.
Many of you, like many other Bahamians, must be deeply concerned and personally offended by what many Bahamians view as political persecution, political intimidation and victor’s justice being meted out against the PLP and played out in the media under the guise of “cleaning up corruption” by this FNM administration.
This should come as no surprise though. This is a typical action in the FNM’s playbook. They like to demonise, scandalise, and villainise. Look back to how the 1992 Commission of Inquiry produced nothing. To how, in 2007, they hounded a minister, charged civilians, but all for nought.
They have not learnt, but hard head bird makes bad soup.
I received many calls from citizens who have expressed deep concern that our system of democracy, undergirded by the prevalence of the rule of law, is under vicious attack. They dislike the methods they liken to the ones used by dictators, despots and tyrants, who eventually destroyed their countries. Tactics like jailing opposition members, and firing or casting aside perceived opposition supporters.
The destruction comes because people lose confidence in state institutions that are designed to provide for the good order and stability of society through justice and fair play.
Justice and fair play is all we require of our Government. BUT, when you come to power on the basis of lies, what we see now is no surprise. The FNM’s campaign told the world that we were selling 500 Bahamian citizenships, selling tens of thousands of acres of land in Andros, and selling out the country to the Chinese in some secret deal. They went as far as to say that we stole the VAT money, that we illegally gave away Bahamian assets and the Bahamian patrimony with no evidence to support these false and deceitful claims.
The reckless and dangerous claims that were all bold faced lies hurt the international reputation of The Bahamas and intentionally deceived thousands of Bahamians.
Today, our Prime Minister, who loves to speak of transparency and accountability, has yet to admit this gross error and to offer a contrite apology. Instead, he instead directed Attorney General Carl Bethel to make the declaration. To top it off, he is busy ducking the Press, ducking Sarkis, and ducking the very people who voted them in.
Transparent, my foot! Let’s see how they deal with those issues that compromise sitting members of the Cabinet. That will be proof that the FNM truly wants to deal with corruption.
I wonder if the contract that Minnis gave himself has been surrendered. What about the other issues in PHA? Will the Prime Minister call for an investigation into the PHA inventory management and make himself available to answer questions about what he knew, what he did and did not do during the time he served as Minister of Health? What about Physicians Alliance?
By the way, two years on, we are still awaiting a plausible answer to questions regarding the signing of an unauthorised letter of intent. Perhaps, should be investigated.
Perhaps, an investigation should be launched into the issue of contracts in North Andros during the last election.
Perhaps, there should be an investigation into the issue of education contracts and scholarships ahead of 2012.
What about that huge party that was thrown by a contractor
for a former Minister?
Remember a Minister who gave himself a contract for road repair? Remember?
Should the anti-corruption unit not look at these circumstances as well? That will at least lend the appearance of impartiality.
While we are at it, what led to the withdrawal of an indemnity in respect of Fred Mitchell and Save the Bays?
These are questions that should be investigated. Level the field.
As I said before, we cannot support corruption. Equally, though, we condemn any abuse of power. I reiterated this in a letter to the Prime Minister last week, which I note has been released to the public.
In that letter, I registered the party’s concerns about events surrounding the arrest and incarceration of our members, raising four points germane to this situation.
Firstly, we advocated the thorough and rigorous investigation of misconduct where there is reasonable suspicion of crime.
At investigation, explanations may reveal that what was originally suspected to be criminal is, in fact, not.
I use the example of perfectly lawful political donations made in the middle of a general election campaign being suspected and interpreted as bribes, extortions and abuse of one’s public office.
I also warned against the cultivation of a culture of political retribution or “victor’s justice”. Where such abuses of power occur, whether police officers or politicians, the offending parties need to understand that there will come a day of reckoning for them as well. What goes around, comes around.
The second critical point I raised was the need for police investigations into the alleged misconduct of former Ministers or MPs to be conducted in a manner that is completely free of political contamination.
The manner in which the cases involving Dion Smith, Ken Dorsett and Frank Smith were handled has disturbing indications of politically motivated interference.
It was disturbing to hear and see at least two Cabinet ministers speaking out publicly about these matters. One of them went so far as to inform – I daresay gloat – that the public should stay tuned because there are more to come.
Who told him that? And what was he told that gave him the confidence to publicly declare that the investigations will result in criminal prosecutions? Has the Minister in question been in touch with the Police on these matters? Has he received information from the Police as to the quality and weight of the evidence they have, and the number of persons who are under investigation?
If so, the Minister has committed an egregious abuse of power for which he is accountable, especially in light of the fact that Commissioner Greenslade said that the police had received no formal complaint in relation to corruption allegations.
It begs the question of what the police is acting on. If it is in fact direct instructions from the political directorate, then the entire process has lost all credibility.
Thirdly, I strongly protested in the strongest terms the treatment of Dion Smith and Ken Dorsett, both members of the bar – officers of the court – in good standing. I add Frank Smith, a member of BICA.
There were no reasonable grounds for delaying Ken’s court appearance to prevent him from securing bail. To add insult to injury, he was taken to Supreme Court in manacles to the dismay of Justice Carolita Bethel, who reprimanded the police officers and ordered the manacles removed.
Handcuffing, as our colleagues were and thus taking them publicly through the streets appears ‘abusive as the entire circumstances did not justify handcuffing particularly, where each voluntarily went to the police at their invitation.
This insulting practice is akin to “slave shaming”. There are many rulings to support the view that, unless there is good reason to believe that the person will abscond, it is not necessary.
Further, I was shocked to come across an alert, purportedly from the Anti-Corruption Branch, which announced the time of arraignment of “a former Senator” and invited press coverage.
This supported the last point in my letter to the Prime Minister.
I called on him to cause for a speedy resolution of this obvious abuse of state power, lest wayward police officers and offended political personalities involved continue to engage in these dangerous, unconstitutional and criminal abuses visited upon both Smith and Dorsett.
Damian Gomez made the point and I agree that the Minnis Administration’s directives for the Royal Bahamas Police Force to pursue corruption cases before legislation is passed to effectively establish an independent anti-corruption agency has exposed the system to abuse, bias and political interference from the governing party.
Damian also quoted an anonymous and senior source in the RBPF, who claimed government officials have given specific directions to the police to “go after” certain investigations. The officer said, “It’s not us, it’s them.”
As more police officers begin to speak out against this rank abuse of power – and we encourage more of them to do so – more troubling questions are coming to the fore. The criteria of the United Nations’ convention on corruption calls for the establishment of specialised independent anti-corruption agencies to conduct such probes. This is specifically to avoid such disgraceful abuse of state power through political contamination.
These protocols were obviously ignored by the FNM government in their rush to judgment and mete out “victor’s justice” and political vengeance against PLP personalities.
We must be strong and standing our principled ground. We must not become week-kneed in the face of a purely political exercise designed to demonise our party, demoralise us, and weaken our political resolve.
This exercise has absolutely nothing to do with weeding out corruption in government. It has everything to do with political persecution and intimidation.
That is pure and simple. We must speak out against this nefarious and dangerous practice in the strongest terms.
On Saturday past, the country had suffered six homicides in six days. A seventh person was shot multiple times early Sunday morning with a high powered rifle and is in hospital fighting for his life.
Scores of workers are being terminated, joining the unemployment line while over five thousand students in June joined the labour market in search of jobs.
Electricity rates have gone up and there is still not a plan for energy sector reform to drive down the cost of electricity but the FNM government as a priority has given their rich friends and donors huge tax breaks.
Seeking political retribution is another high priority item on their political to do list.
There are many serious issues facing this country that we must continue to highlight. The PLP has always been the people’s champion and a voice for the poor, the weak and the voiceless; that cause continues to this day.
As Melanie continues her outreach in this community, I ask that you give of your time and talents in support of her important work. I am encouraged that you continue to meet regularly to discuss the affairs of the party, your community and by extension the country. I am confident that Yamacraw will continue to grow from strength to strength in our march to 2022.
Thank you again for your kind invitation and I am happy to entertain questions you may have at this time.