Oswald Brown Writes…
By OSWALD T. BROWN
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was blunt and to the point in his interview with reporters outside the House of Assembly today (Wednesday, Dec. 7) when he commented on reports that two FNM House members had decided to resign from the FNM.
He did not mince words when he forcefully stated that the FNM “does not expect that every single person who is now a member of the House of Assembly for the FNM will be nominated again,” adding that “no job is permanent, whether it is mine or anyone else’s.”
This is certainly bad news for High Rock MP Kenneth Russell and Lucaya MP Neko Grant if they intend to challenge Ingraham’s resolve to force them into retirement. Trust me, Ingraham would not have made such a bold statement outside the House if he thought there was a remote possibility that he would not get to nominate the candidates he has decided to nominate for the five seats in Grand Bahama.
My understanding is that Russell, more so than Grant, has launched a campaign to retain his seat. The problem facing Russell, however, is that his natural base in the newly established East Grand Bahama constituency is in the actual settlement of High Rock and the surrounding settlements in that area and there are not enough votes numerically among those settlements to assist Russell in making a strong enough case to force Ingraham to change his mind. In fact, reliable sources say that Ingraham coldly make this point at the very contentious meeting held in Grand Bahama last Saturday night when Russell supporters openly challenged him.
So it is almost a foregone conclusion that whenever Ingraham meets with the FNM Council here in Grand Bahama, his choices as candidates will be ratified. Among those that are said to be high on his list are Senator Michael Pintard, Senator Frederick McAlpine, educator Norris Bain, and Kay Forbes Smith, who has long been one of his “favourite people.” There is also talk about ZNS news anchor Pakeisha Parker being encouraged to enter the political arena and run against PLP incumbent Obie Wilchcombe in West Grand Bahama and Bimini, but I’ll be surprised if Pakeisha gives in to the pressure that obviously is being applied for her to enter politics.
What this strongly indicates is that Ingraham has succeeded in virtually transforming the FNM, founded in 1972 by former dissident members of the PLP and remnants of the defeated United Bahamian Party (UBP), into the failed Third Force Party that he started when he was put out of the PLP in 1984.
Original FNMs have only themselves to blame for allowing Ingraham to hijack the leadership of the FNM in 1990 and become a total dictator, who now has the power to crush any dissenting voice in the FNM. It is now clear that in the process of transforming the FNM into his Third Force Party, Ingraham has crushed the hopes of Tommy Turnquest of possibly becoming Prime Minister, given the fact that he has skillfully positioned his protégé Zhivargo Laing to be in a strong position to replace him as leader.
The major problem with this plan, however, is that Laing does not possess the capability to be leader of the FNM, and he has demonstrated this fact by his totally inept and incompetent performance at Minister of State for Finance. In fact, there is a strong body of opinion that the mismanagement of The Bahamas’ economy by Ingraham, as Minister of Finance, and Laing as his Minister of State for Finance, is the main reason why The Bahamas’ economy is in such poor condition.
What’s more, Laing has some very weighty baggage related to alleged nepotism. Take the Mona Vie scandal, for example, that was a hot topic in early 2008. The scandal centered around a decision made by the then Comptroller of Customs John Rolle to properly change the duty on the importation of Mona Vie, a nutritional drink, from 10 percent to 45 percent and the alleged involvement of Laing in reportedly seeking to have that decision reversed.
According to information that surfaced at the time, Laing’s sister-in-law, who was one of the importers of Mona Vie, complained to him about the change in duty, and Laing reportedly requested that the Secretary of the Revenue look into the matter. Subsequently, the Comptroller of Customs allowed the lower rate of 10 percent to remain in place until the new budget process.
Then just this past weekend, a press release revealed that Bahamas Customs officers reportedly were up in arms over a report that Laing’s brother-in-law Milo Stubbs is due to be promoted to Assistant Comptroller of Customs. The fact that Laing’s portfolio includes responsibility for Bahamas Customs surely raises questions with regard to this promotion, especially when there are reports that there are a number of more senior customs officers who are more qualified for the appointment.
Fortunately, the Bahamian people will soon have an opportunity to decide whether they want to give Ingraham and the FNM another five years to mismanage the affairs of The Bahamas. I suspect that they will make it known beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have had enough of Ingraham and his dictatorial leadership.