Roberts Lands Blows on Government as he addressed the People of Abaco Last Night

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Remarks By

Bradley B Roberts/ National Chairman/ Progressive Liberal Party

Joint Meeting of the Progressive Liberal Party Branches North & South Abaco July 1st 2010

ROBERTS: Branch Chairs

Officer and Members

Stalwart Councilors

Party Supporters

Ladies and Gentlemen

A pleasant good evening

It is always a pleasure to be here in Abaco the birth place of my paternal Grand Father Rupert Anthony Roberts (1891-1938) who was born in Green Turtle Cay. His wife Winfred Pauline Roberts Nee Bowen (1895-1949) whose Dad was also my Grand Father Ernest Lenkard Bowen (1864-1927) who was a Member of the House of Assembly for the Southern District in New Providence from 1910-1925. I provide this brief back ground on my family’s long connection with Abaco and with the political life of our Bahamas as evidence that I am one of you.

You are all very much aware of my decision to retire from front line politics back in 2007 after working very hard with Perry Christie’s PLP Government to rebuild the Bahamas from the terrible shape we found the Country in back in 2002. The record is there for all to see; even PM Hubert Ingraham applauded the very strong economy he and the FNM government inherited when they were returned to power in 2007, but let’s pause and review what has happened to our Bahamaland in just over three years of governances of Hubert Ingraham and the FNM.

Hubert Ingraham and the FNM

After watching with absolute horror the many terrible decisions of the FNM and the adverse effects they had on the economy and on lower and middle income families, I was encouraged by many friends – PLP’s and Independents – to once again seek the Chairmanship of our Party. It was not a very easy decision and with the strong support of my friends here in Abaco, I with some reluctance, stepped forward at the last minute and was elected for the second time as Chairman of your Progressive Liberal Party.

My mission for returning is simple and my mandate is very clear: to send Hubert Ingraham to permanent retirement. Simply put Ladies and Gentlemen, Hubert Ingraham and the FNM have been bad for Abaco and the rest of the Bahamas. Hubert Ingraham and the FNM have taken us terribly backwards and he continues to grin and talk down to Bahamians. My brothers and sisters, are your futures secured? I can assure you that Hubert’s future is secure as a big fat monthly pension of $10,000 awaits him until he dies.

The record will show that Hubert Ingraham told Bahamians that he would only serve two terms and did not want to go. The voter’s strongly rejected the FNM in 2002 with only one FNM being elected for a New Providence seat. We all should know well how Hubert Ingraham manipulated the process in his party claiming that many were begging for his return. Hubert Ingraham and the FNM with the slogans “tried and proven leader”, “Trusted Leadership” and “Simply the Best” were returned to office in May 2007.

Dear brothers and sister of Abaco, I invite you to seriously consider what Hubert Ingraham has achieved for Abaco since his return?

Marsh Harbour International Airport, Admin Bldg, & Mini Hospital

The Perry Christie Government executed a contract in 2006 to extend the runway at Marsh Harbour International Airport and a taxi runway. The works were placed on hold without any explanation; I am compelled to ask, “has the contract been completed after almost four years?”

Glenys Hanna-Martin, the former Minister of Transport, led the charge for a new modern International Terminal Building and Control Tower which were designed by an Architect Firm that specializes in designing Aerodromes. I approved a long list of Construction Companies to bid on the construction. This was stopped and cancelled by Hubert Ingraham who decided that Abaco’s most urgent need was an Administration Building rather that a badly long overdue Terminal Building and Control Tower.

Hubert Ingraham singlehanded also decided that an Administration Building was a priority, which I am told is being built, is a sink hole with National Insurance funds. Hubert’s vision led him to conclude that the construction of an administration building was more important than building a badly needed Mini Hospital. Yes my dear Brothers and sisters of Abaco, Hubert Ingraham is the man who he claims was begged to return. Abaco I am surprised that you continue to embrace this man Hubert Ingraham who makes decisions for Abaco without consultation and some here in Abaco would still say that Hubert is simply the best. It’s absolutely incredible and I am obliged to remind you that where there is no vision, the people perish. Abaco, you deserve better and I say to you tonight that it is time to show Hubert the door. I remember Hubert Ingraham’s 2007 campaign promise to hold regular meetings with his constituents at the Constituency Office. Consider how many times such meetings were held. The bottom line Ladies and Gentlemen is that Hubert Ingraham’s promises are as useless as used toilet paper.

Bahamas Electricity Corporation

My brothers and sisters of Abaco I am very much aware of the suffering you have been enduring for the past two years or more with the constant power outages. Those who have private generators are fortunate. I say to you tonight beyond any doubt that the blame must be placed squarely in the lap of Hubert Ingraham, Earl Deveaux, Phenton Neymour and MP Edison Key, the Black Out quartet who have inflicted much pain and suffering on you the people of Abaco and its visitors. Former BEC Chairman Fred Gottlieb, if he can muster the courage that he is well known, can shed a great deal of light on this now that he clearly sees the unnecessary pain inflicted upon Abaco and its people.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I recently stated in a recent press statement that you the good people of Abaco are also terrible victims of the Stop, Review, and Cancel Policy by Hubert Ingraham and his FNM Government. Under the Christie Administration and after careful review by the experts, a site at Snake Cay was selected for Abaco’s New Power Plant.

In my farewell address to the House of Assembly on March 28th 2007 I reminded Parliament and the people of Abaco that Four 12 MV Diesel Generators and a New Power Plant were ordered. The first two units were scheduled to be in operations by October 2008. I also disclosed that in anticipation of the summer peak in 2008, all of the generators in Abaco would be overhauled and one or two interim units installed. The project cost was some $66 million dollars, not including the transmission and distribution works.

Hubert Ingraham and Earl Deveaux directed that the order for the new plant and new generators be put on hold and the site selected by the experts was changed without prior consultation and without public disclosure. In an interview with the Bahama Journal on August 7th 2007, Phenton Neymour told the press the following:

“The government has recognized that that there is a need to expand the BEC facilities in North Abaco and I plan to visit North Abaco in short order with a team from BEC to review potential locations for an added facility in North & Central Abaco”.

Neymour also said various factors are involved in finding a location for the new facilities in Abaco, which include dockage, locating a place for a fuel line and also finding crown land to use.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the unvarnished truth is that the Christie administration approved the transfer of Crown Land at Snake Cay to BEC. At the behest of special interest here in Abaco, a new site at Wilson City was selected instead which is located in a very environmentally sensitive area. The fuel will be transported over land further adding to operational cost. The PLP government approved the use of diesel fuel for environmental reasons and it was the FNM who changed the fuel to bunker C which caused considerable protest here in Abaco. The government acted very badly in handling the protest and was not honest and transparent in the process. The FNM were very deceitful in this matter.

I am told that South Abaco MP Edison Key and Earl Deveaux played significant roles in accommodating the request of the special interest group. (Can anyone tell me who owns the restaurant Mangoes here in Marsh Harbour and his interest in land in Snake Cay?). Two of the four new Generators that were scheduled to be installed in October 2008 are not yet operational and will be some sixteen months behind schedule as we now understand that the new Power Plant is scheduled for operation in early 2011. In the meantime, the residences of Marsh Harbour will continue to suffer from black outs as the Government has acknowledged that BEC is broke. So broke that many of its suppliers no longer provided credit. I am told that BEC suppliers of ink cartridges have cut them off and purchase of ink cartridges are being paid out of petty cash.

The people of Abaco and visitors have suffered during the summer of 2009 and continue to suffer greatly from power outages on a daily basis, thanks to a visionless and heartless FNM Government. Stories of visitors cutting short their visit to Abaco can be seen on the World Wide Web.

I wish to share with you a message I received on face book from a concerned Abaco Resident which reads as follows:

“We are without power at least 3 to 4 times a day and sometimes for hours at a time. The new power plant

I am not sure about. We were told April, then June, and now they say maybe August, who knows? It just really bothers me that most of Abaco has treated PM Hubert Ingraham like a king for years now and he could care less about what goes on here.
We now have tourist cutting their vacations short and going home or somewhere else and as you know, the internet is like a gossip channel and people who haven’t come yet are now thinking twice before planning their vacation to Abaco.
I really don’t know what is to be done but whatever it is, it needs to be done quickly. I remember back when we (the PLP) were in Government, the people of Abaco would cry if any little thing happened but now they are just so quite, but not me, I am going to go down fighting to see something happen in this matter. Please help us put the fire to this tired Government and show the rest of the Country what we are dealing with”.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I issued an important press statement on June 29th on the current state of the Bahamas Electricity Corporation under the heading:

FNM destructive policies have crippled the Bahamas Electricity Corporation

On September 17th 2003 the then Minister of Works & Utilities Bradley B Roberts announced in the Hon. House of Assembly an unprecedented reduction in the Bahamas Electricity Corporation Basic Rates across the board which became effective October 1st of 2003. The announcement was well received around the Bahamas. The FNM party welcomed the newly announced rates but was quick to claim that this dividend was made possible only by the stewardship provided to the Corporation during the FNM’s two consecutive terms in office. Since the FNM return to office, the Jr Minister Phenton Neymour and MP for South Beach with the support of Minister Earl Deveaux have over and repeatedly blamed BEC financial deterioration on the 2003 rate reduction. The PLP have on numerous occasions provided factual evidence to deny this bogus claim.

The FNM, who in September 2003 then boldly endorsed the rate reduction as being possible only by their stewardship during their term in office, now unashamedly blames the PLP. This is a classical case of double mindedness. The plain and simple truth is that Phenton Neymour and Earl Deveaux were both sound asleep at the wheel during the record oil price crisis (when Oil was at $147 per barrel) and allowed the Corporation to fully absorb Custom Duty & Stamp Tax on BEC Oil Imports which the Corp. was unable to bear as a result of the sharp spike in oil and is the major reason BEC finds itself with one foot on the banana peel and the other in the proverbial grave.

The Public will recall that BEC’s former Chairman Frederick Gottlieb disclosed to the press in February 2009 that BEC was aiming to come “within $1 to $2 Million of breaking even” by the end of its financial year September 2009″. Jr. Minister Phenton Neymour has disclosed that the actual loss for the year ending September 2009 was placed at $20 Million. Could this be the reason why Frederick Gottlieb resigned and washed his hands off this terrible and dismal mismanagement of the Corporation as a result of political interference? The Ministers had failed to provide an explanation as to why BEC’s actual performance was so drastically different when compared with the then able Chairman’s forecast? Will any member of the press ask Fred Gottlieb for an explanation?

The FNM now seeks to find a way out of the very grave state BEC finds itself in as a result of political interference by Ministers whose policies caused the Corporation to hit an all time low? This much was acknowledged by the GM when he said “We are unable to procure various parts and equipment and this has affected our ability to adhere to some of the maintenance schedules”. This very simple and straight forward statement is in direct and blatant contrast to the disclosure made by Jr. Minister Phenton Neymourduring a recent contribution in the House of Assembly. During his contribution the Jr. Minister boldly assured New Providence and Paradise Island residences that the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) had made the necessary preparations for the summer months and that power outages were not foreseeable.

Contrary to the misleading assurances given by the of Jr Minister Neymour, our sources have informed us that BEC power plants in New Providence and several family Islands will not be able to meet the summer power demands and the Generators have not been properly maintained.

Farmers Cay in the Exuma chain is an example: One of its two Generators was recently completely destroyed by fire and the remaining engine is in need of maintenance. A promise to provide a rented generator is likely to be conditional on BEC being able to obtain credit.

Taxes and Crime

Ladies and Gentlemen, the bottom line is the FNM have gravely mismanaged the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, virtually crippling that Corporation. One of the bitter pills to be swallowed as a result of the disgraceful mismanagement of BEC is the pending increase in electricity rates ranging from 5.5% for consumers with monthly bills not exceeding $30:00, to 11.67% for those of $30:00 or more.

Hubert Ingraham and the FNM have badly managed the economy of the Bahamas and have imposed some very hellish taxes on the backs of struggling Bahamians. Vehicles and Beers have been hit heavily, but taxes on hard liquor remain unchanged. This policy decision sends a clear message to those who consume alcoholic beverage that the FNM would prefer drinkers to consume hard liquor as it is now considerably cheaper than beers which contain considerably lower alcohol content.

You are in for a big surprise when you go to license your vehicles which began today. Those who own trucks and buses will be in for an ever bigger surprise. Hubert Ingraham and the FNM are making ordinary Bahamians pay for their gross mismanagement. Home garbage collection will be taxed and foreigners will be brought in to manage the Tonique Williams-Darling Landfill site and who knows maybe the landfill sites here in Abaco.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2007 Manifesto of Free National Movement listed as its Key Objectives and commitments:

A. To ensure Domestic Security and Tranquility

B. To improve Public Security

C. To Alleviate Poverty

In the same 2007 Manifesto the FNM under the important heading of CRIME declared:

The Free National Movement has a comprehensive plan to reduce crime and better protect Bahamian Families. I say to you tonight that whatever plan the FNM had, it is abundantly clear that it has failed miserably. They have failed Big Time.

Crime statistics since their return to power in May 2007 confirm that serious crimes have escalated to record levels with murders for the year showing an embarrassing 34% increase. The murder count now sadly stands at 47 with some cases still to be classified and should this trend continue we are clearly on track to achieve the highest murder rate in the history of the Bahamas.

During the 2007 General Election the then Leader of the Opposition and now Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham boasted that Crime was out of control and that the Progressive Liberal Party Government was paralyzed to do anything about it. What excuse does the Prime Minister have for the monstrous growth in crime under his watch? It is indeed a very serious indictment of the so called tried and proven leadership which has been promoted as being simply the best.

The Bahama Journal in a recent editorial said that ‘Crime and Criminals are running amok” in our Bahama land. Hubert Ingraham and the FNM have no solutions.

Wastage of the Country resources

Ladies and Gentlemen, Hubert Ingraham and the FNM have been on a binge in its indecent wastage of Public Recourses. Perry Christie’s PLP government approved the sale of 49% of BTC for $260 million and the FNM has agreed to sell 51% of BTC for $200 to $300 million. The bids received and prices offered at the end of 2009 were extremely disappointing. We now read in the local newspapers that the government will enter into talks with Cable & Wireless. This is the same company that the Prime Minister is on record as saying that he would never sell BTC to, a view that I observed is shared by BTC Union.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to consider the amount of monies the so called tried and proven leadership and the FNM has expended on two failed attempts to privatize BTC which now totals more than BTC is worth. It is a wickedly disgraceful and a nasty slap in the face to all Bahamians. Hubert Ingraham says he is not in a hurry to sell BTC, and has extracted over $120 million dollars in dividends from BTC to help prop up his failed leadership. The Government on one hand like drunken sailors recklessly spends scarce resources of BTC and then imposes burdensome taxes on ordinary working Bahamians and reduces benefits to charitable organizations like the Ranfurly Home and the Bahamas Red Cross Society.

Water & Sewerage Corp…. Portable Water for Green Turtle Cay (GTC)

I cite the urgency of potable water for Green Turtle Cay (GTC) as another glaring example of neglect by this FNM government. On the advice of the experts at the Water and Sewerage Corporation, tenders were invited to build, own, and operate a Reverse Osmosis Plant to supply portable water to the people of GTC. A contract was entered into with the lowest bidder and the installation of the Plant, Tank and Equipment began on the site on GTC. Water was scheduled to commenced flowing thru the pipes in August 2008.

When the FNM came to power in May 2007 they canceled the contract and paid a penalty of some $300,000 to buy out the contract. The FNM government then entered into a contract to install an under water pipeline to connect GTC to the mainland of Abaco. Here we are some three years later and the pipeline is not yet operational. The contractors I am told experienced a great deal of problems installing the pipeline and it is bumbling up to the surface of the water. The government never disclosed the cost of the under water pipeline, but sources place the cost between $4 million to $5 million dollars. Here we are over three years later and the people of GTC still do not have a reliable supply of portable water because Hubert Ingraham has messed up big time.

The Progressive Liberal Party’s track record for 2002 to 2007 was very successful and the economy of the Bahamas showed strong growth. The Christie Administration attracted the significant foreign investments to Abaco including the Abaco Club Resort and the Bakers Bay Development. Despite the terrible shape in which we found the economy, we resisted strong recommendations to increase taxes but instead decided to grow the economy and during our five years in office did not increase any taxes. We created thousands of new jobs and unemployment was down to an irreducible level. I invite thinking Bahamians to consider if they are better off now under Hubert Ingraham and the FNM than they were under Perry Christie and the PLP.