COMMENTARY BY BRADLEY B. ROBERTS
FORMER CABINET MINISTER AND MP
15TH JULY 2018
Dr. Hubert Minnis, the Prime Minister, got it all wrong when he ignored the law and attendant regulations and conveniently dismissed the recommendations of the non-partisan National Heroes Commission and designated Sir Roland Symonette as a national hero of The Bahamas.
Why have laws and regulations if the same legislators who voted for the law are going to unceremoniously ignore and sacrifice the rule of law on the altar of political expedience and convenience?
This is exactly what Prime Minister Minnis did in selecting Sir Roland Symonette as a Bahamian national hero. Setting aside personal feelings, anecdotes about Symonette’s reported benevolence and political affiliations, the law and attendant regulations governing the selection process of our national heroes were designed to sanitize the process of the inherent pollution of personal bias, thus maintaining the integrity of the process. By polluting the process with politics, racism and the blame game, Dr. Minnis has effectively tarnished and called into question the integrity of the selection process and the local honours system generally.
THIS IS JUST THE LATEST REASON BAHAMIANS CANNOT TRUST DR. MINNIS AND THE FNM.
When questioned by the media, the Prime Minister was unable to offer an intelligent and well-reasoned explanation buttressed by a foundational philosophy or principle so he resorted the old, tired and worn out FNM refrain of calling the PLP racist and blaming them for his bad and unlawful decision. It is a classical and very typical FNM default political tactic when they cannot intelligently explain their policy position. He must be called out on this nonsensical behavior.
PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell was particularly harsh in his public criticism and chastisement of the Prime Minister’s behavior on such an important policy issue, accusing him of sinking to a new low – to the refuge of a scoundrel regarding his inexplicable, bad and unlawful decision. “You always know when the Prime Minister has lost the argument that he has to go there” said the Senator in a press statement last week.
On the Prime Minister’s charge of playing the “race card,” let me also remind him that Sir Roland Symonette was a man with African ancestry and therefore a member of the African Diaspora. Mitchell also used the argument and reasoning of Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest to condemn Minnis’ “race card” argument. Bahamians remember that when Turnquest was accused of discrimination against web shop operators in the assessment of gaming tax policy, he argued that since they were all black or of African descent, he could not be racist. Well, in using the same FNM argument and rationale, the PLP can’t be racist in voicing its objection to the selection of Sir Roland Symonette since we all share a common African ancestry.
Further, Symonette’s political philosophy, his ideology on governance and his legislative voting record that spans more than fifty years disqualified him.
As for his benevolence, some Bahamians have used this very same argument to sanitize Samuel “Ninety” Knowles.
The opposition to his designation is about numerous objective factors that are his actions alone. Namely, Symonette Majority Rule. He opposed the lowering of the voting franchise to those 18 years old. He opposed the voting franchise for women. He opposed the implementation of the labour and social security systems. He opposed the fair drawing of boundaries. He opposed independence and the creation of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. He opposed the resolution in the House to abolish institutional racism.
The record is clear. Sir Roland vehemently fought tooth and nail against the very public institutions that form this free, modern, democratic state called the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. The enabling law and the attendant regulations expressly opposed ultimately disqualified him, not the PLP.
How is the public interest and the interest of the state advanced and enhanced when provisions of the land law prohibited the lease and or sale of property to persons designated as Negroes or black? The property I bought and reside and the Cay Howard Hughes leased from Sir Roland contained this pernicious and evil but lawful provision. These are simply not the actions of a national hero.
“A National Hero is the hero of a nation. Sir Roland Symonette did not want this nation. He gave aid and comfort to a group that wanted to break up the nation. Now he is being rewarded as a hero of that nation” said Senator Mitchell. I agree. Sir Roland envisioned another type of nation built on very different and very undemocratic foundational principles and tenets.
Dr. Minnis must learn that we are a country of laws and not a country of men with their perverse biases and duplicitous views. If he can so easily ignore the rule of law on this account, then he can and will do so with any other law and regulation. He can mislead parliament as he did with Oban and sweep it under the carpet. He can oppose VAT one day then increase it the next day. He can lie and deceive the people and deflect when confronted.
Who would have thought that the blanket called The People’s Time neatly and deceitfully wrapped, cloaked and hid the pig of fascism and tyranny?