Fred Mitchell Questions Prime Minister Decision to Legalize Gambling

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Nassau, Bahamas – The MP for Fox Hill charged that the on the final night of the PLP convention at the Wyndham Crystal Palace in a question to the delegates, why the Prime Minister is thinking of legalizing gambling.

“Could it be that the group that he [Hubert Ingraham] now serves wants to get into that business? Could that be the real reason to run the over-the-hill fellows out of the business and give the business to the Bay Street boys?” The former Minister of Foreign Affairs said.

FULL TEXT OF FRED MITCHELL MP

Mister Leader and Mrs. Christie, Deputy Leader and Mr. Pratt, fellow delegates…

I wish to acknowledge the help and support of the delegation from the Fox Hill constituency. I ask them to stand. I thank the people who supported the PLP in the Fox Hill constituency in the last General Election.

Tonight I dedicate this brief statement to the children of the Sandilands Primary School, the L.W. Young Junior High School and Dame Doris Johnson High and to the Progressive Liberal Action Network (the PLAN) and to the National Progressive Institute and the Progressive Young Liberals. They are the future.

I often wondered as a child why my Aunts who had no children of their own wanted me and my brothers and sisters around them.

They were pretty strict on us while we were with them and we children thought they were overly strict and we were often miserable.

But today when I see how young people and children can lighten up the lives of adults by their energy, and enthusiasm, I realize now why they liked to have us around, even for all the trouble we gave them. It lightened up their lives. It gave them a sense of hope and reaffirmed the future.

Tonight, all PLPs everywhere must think about the future. Michael Manley used to say “not a backward glance”. Patrice Lumumba immortalized the words “Forward Ever! Backward Never!”

So this convention for me is an invitation to all the young Bahamians to join the PLP. The water is fine. The weather is fine and this is the place to be.

And the young need not be apologetic or afraid. One thing you know is that younger will always replace older. That is the natural order of things. But you also know that power does not concede itself. It must be fought for and taken. When I hear the commentary of our future leaders, there is often the complaint that the older people don’t want to give up, give in.

I say to them imagine the year 1953 when Lynden Pindling came back to The Bahamas and joined the fledging PLP. Whose permission did he ask to lead? A famous line from ‘The Lion In Winter’ says, “show me a prince that plots and schemes and it’s the kind of Prince I like. I’ve plotted and schemed all my life. It is the only way to be alive, 50 and king all at once.”

This evening, though, as we meet in this long overdue convocation, I am sure that we are all happy to be here. We must do this again and do it every year. Let’s make a commitment to stop postponing our constitutionally mandated annual gatherings. When was last time that you heard the Anglican Church cancel its Synod? What about the annual Church of God of Prophecy’s Convention?

Each October the Lord sends, the Archbishop holds his synod. Each March the Lord sends, the Church of God of Prophecy is in convention. So it should be with the PLP. Every October the Lord sends we must meet in convention.

Tonight, those Bahamians who are not watching us this evening are probably watching U.S. Senator Obama. Mr. Obama holds the weight of the African world, the non Caucasian world upon his shoulders. The African Diaspora including the sons and daughters of Africa are proud of him and his success. His mantra for change crosses party, ethnic and ideological lines. It is of course not the usual business of a foreign parliamentary party who ends up being the president of a friendly state. But what rides on this election result in the United States argues for an exception to the general rule.

It is important for the Bahamian people to let our neighbour friends know what is riding on this upcoming election. We will work with whomsoever is elected president as we must and draw no adverse conclusion if he loses, but if Mr. Obama wins, our friends should know that his victory will fulfil the prophetical injunction in that famous exhortation by the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that one day America will live out its creed, “we hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal.”

And so we watch with some dread and at the same time utter fascination to see if America can indeed elect a man of African decent to run its country.

Next door to us, Fidel Castro has bid his people farewell from a post he has held for 49 years. Your party is not ideologically aligned to his, but it is important to know that nations pursue their best and common interests. Cuba is a friend to the region and to this country in health care, in education, in the arts and in science. We hope that in the new era, our region will remain peaceful; that the Cuban people will continue to progress and that our two friends and neighbours who are enemies of each other will be able to resolve their differences peacefully with respect for sovereignty and for the human, civil and political rights duly expected for all of their citizens. This will inure to the greater stability of our region and country.

Now, let me say that here in The Bahamas, the Minister of Foreign Affairs should also get to work. Fellow delegates don’t you find it curious that every time there is a trip that requires the Foreign Minister to travel to Africa to look after our interests, he stays at home and sends another minister, but when it comes to travel to the United States he is freely available? He must get to work, representing all our interests.

The PLP left in place a decision by the European Union to grant visa free access for Bahamians into Europe. This is subject to a visa abolition agreement between the EU and The Bahamas and the other Caricom countries granted the access. The last time this matter was raised. The Minister at first said he was not going to pursue it. He clearly misunderstood what the problem was. In December 2007, he told the Honorary Consular Corps luncheon that he expected to sign such an agreement, changing their minds when the facts caught up with their brains.

Today, the FNM has done nothing further. The issue is about to get more complicated because at least now you can get a visa for Europe without actually going to the consulates which are not in Nassau to get the visa but soon Schengen countries will require biometrics in the visa, like fingerprints and eye scans. If the FNM does not act to complete the job we started, each person will have to physically go to another country to get the visa. Imagine the nightmare this will cause.

Switzerland reportedly has the most Bahamian visitors because of our mutual banking industry. Switzerland will soon join Schengen and require the visas for Bahamians. It is imperative that the Minister put a person to work on this issue full time in Brussels and to get it resolved.

As I leave this area I pay tribute tonight to four of our fine diplomats with whom I had the honour to work and who are here this evening but whose services are now lost to the country: Alma Adams our former Consul General in Miami, Philip Smith, our former High Commissioner to Canada, Ed Bethel our former Consul General in New York and Dr. Eugene Newry our former ambassador to Haiti. Thank you gentlemen and lady for your fine work on behalf of this country.

Fellow delegates sometimes in this FNM world, I think that I must be living in cloud cuckoo land. This is a dispensation that wants the PLP to shut up, be quiet and go away. Not while we have breath in our bodies.

Recently you must have been as shocked as I to see the report that said that a judge of the courts attacked the leader of our party by name.

The courts themselves now seem to make the extraordinary and outrageous proposition that courts cannot be criticized by the public that pays their salaries through their taxes and on whose lives the courts make public policy every day.

It appears that even the preacher is not safe at least in relation to the courts to say, “thus said the Lord”: with one minister of religion being threatened, it appears, with contempt because he dared to criticize.

Some have already been intimidated into silence. As you know, I have been down this road before and I have no hesitation in travelling it again for the sake of freedom of speech.

In talking to some lawyers recently, I told them how much I lament and regret the general lack of articulation by lawyers, to whom much is given, about the ills of the courts, their profession and the state of laws in the country. This is not to encourage any disrespect for the courts but the jurisprudence was long ago settled that “justice is not a cloistered virtue”.

In fact, a vigorous democracy demands the rigorous scrutiny of each case decided by the courts and the public is free to comment on these cases.

Like anything else, no one should seek to libel or impugn a judge, but their decisions are subject to public commentary and scrutiny and no special immunity required for it.

Recently one decision of the courts indicated that a government minister under the PLP had broken the law. This is quite a serious allegation and comment. Suffice it to say on this occasion that I beg to differ and I disagree.

I also want you the public to note in passing the number of times within the last two years that cases decided by the Court of Appeal in The Bahamas have been overturned by the Privy Council.

What is required of all leaders of the country is mutual respect and restraint. I blame one person for this disrespect. He used the word ‘worthless’ to describe the actions of our leader. Of course, my response to him is when he uses the word ‘worthless’ he should take a good look in the mirror when he wakes up in the morning.

A parting thought. The Prime Minister says that he is going to legalize the numbers business in The Bahamas. On the face of it a reasonable proposition, perhaps, but you know with him, there is always a catch.

Could it be that the group that he now serves wants to get into that business? Could that be the real reason to run the over-the-hill fellows out of the business and give the business to the Bay Street boys? Things that make you go, hmmmm.

Thank you fellow delegates. This has been a fun week. God bless you all!

PLP ALL THE WAY!

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