Statement by the FNM former Minister for Labour Dion Foulkes
The assertion that the FNM engaged in victimization while in office is not true and such an allegation cannot be substantiated by the record.
The Rt. Hon Hubert Ingraham and FNM Ministers made it a hallmark of successive administrations to serve for the betterment of all Bahamians including their political opponents. It is noteworthy that in Mr. Ingraham’s final farewell to Parliament, released to the media after he was denied the opportunity by the new PLP Government to deliver the address in the House of Assembly, he noted:
“Our system works best and is most vibrant when the minority accepts the electoral victory of the majority, and agrees to cooperate with, though not always agree with, the majority, in the service of the common good.
“Inherent in this acceptance of the right and responsibility of the majority to govern, is a necessary reciprocity. This reciprocal responsibility required of the majority, is that the minority will be treated fairly, and that their rights will be respected and not infringed upon.”(Emphasis added).
It must never be forgotten that Hubert Ingraham and the FNM were forced to broadcast their 1992 general election campaign message from Florida because the PLP-led Government refused to permit the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (ZNS) to freely cover the campaign.
Mr. Ingraham and other FNMssuffered tremendous victimization at the hands of the PLP because they stood up against the corruption that had infiltrated and severely compromised the leadership of that party. The FNM has always been and remainsinextricably bound to principles of good governance, accountability, transparency and fair playin Government. The FNM has always loathed victimization and finds its practice abhorrent.
Indeed, Mr. Ingraham’s refusal to disadvantage his political opponents or their supporters while he lead the Government during three non-consecutive terms in office brought him much grief from some.Some FNM party members and supporters wanted to repay PLPs in kind for the victimization sufferedby us during the PLP’smany years at the head of the Bahamian Government.
Some FNMs were also not pleased by the decision by Mr. Ingraham and successive FNM Cabinets to appoint known supporters of the PLP to any number of important public offices on the basis of the individual having met objective criteria and standards making such individuals the best candidates for those posts.
Political victimization by the PLP did not begin with the new Christie-led Government. This was standard practice for the Pindling-led PLP which doled out political favours to supporters and punished opponents. PLP policy required, indeed dictated, the intervention of politicians in virtually every facet of life including the securing of civil service jobs, obtaining business licences and transportation franchises and receiving government contracts which were liberally doled out.
They spitefully and cruelly separated families denying immigration status, and at times work permits, to foreign-born spouses and children of Bahamian women particularly where the Bahamian concerned was believed to be a political opponent.They even went so far as to deport the spouses of Bahamians suspected of being in opposition to them.
The first FNM Government led by Hubert Ingraham brought all those despicable practices to an end. Wherever possible and practicable the influence of politicians was removed from all applications to the Government for any service,permit or franchise.
Letters of reference from politicians for public service employment or for the award of government-sponsored scholarships were discouraged,and Ministers of Government were barred by law from serving as Chairmen of public corporations.
Further, by policy, sitting Members of Parliament were not appointed to Chair any major public corporations. Local Government was introduced in the Family Islands with delegated authority to award business licences.
The terrible family separations forced on countless Bahamian citizens was brought to an end when the first Ingraham Government commenced a sustained, organized effort to regularize all persons with legitimate claims to Bahamian immigration status under the Constitution and in conformity with our nationality law.
Because of Hubert Ingraham and the FNM, all communications in The Bahamas are today regulated by URCA, an independent agency. Anyone meeting the standards and criteria of URCA may be granted a licence to operate radio or television stations regardless of political affiliation. Indeed, politicians and political affiliations have nothing to do with the application process.
Today also,Bahamian students meeting established, publicly known criteria may attend the College of The Bahamas tuition-free, and the Scholarship Division of the Ministry of Education awards scholarships and tuition-aid grants without reference to the political affiliation of any applicant.
All FNM job-creation initiatives have always been open to participation by all citizens – Jump Start, Fresh Start, 52-week national skills and job training programmes etc.
Indeed, in the weeks leading up to the recent general elections all of us could be proud to watch scores of PLP supporters collecting pay cheques connected to their engagement in the 52-week FNMGovernment employment programme – dressed in PLP campaign paraphernalia – without any fear or suggestion that their political affiliation could impede their right as a Bahamian to be employed by the Government.
Sadly, since the general election the reverse is not true. Some of the terrible victimizing traits from the Pindling-era of the PLP were reintroduced during the first Christie-led PLP Government when political favoritism once again became fashionable, indeed prolific.
Now, Mr. Christie has returned to office seemingly more determined than ever to govern for the benefit of PLPs and PLPs alone.
The new Christie-led Government is terminating employment contracts without cause, discontinuing job-creation programmes and stopping and cancelling small public works contracts for required works being competently carried out by Bahamian companies especially in the Family Islands – all with a view to dispensing favours to the PLP faithful.
That some of those individuals being left unemployed by the new PLP Government are themselves PLP supporters engaged by a non-discriminating FNM Government appears to have eluded Mr. Christie.
The FNM is also reviewing reports of those with legally binding contracts with the Government who have reportedly not been paid for a number of months.
The Hubert Ingraham-led FNM Governments were committed to securing what was best for all Bahamians.Mr. Ingraham led FNM Governments which made The Bahamas a better place to live, a Bahamas in which human rights are recognized and respected, a Bahamas in which countless ordinary Bahamians became shareholders in an opportunity society undefined by political affiliation.
FNM Governments were respected around the world for their dedication to democracy and good governance. We should all be proud of what was accomplished between 1992 and 2002 and between 2007 and 2012.
During a rally in 2002 Perry Christie said that he abhorred victimization. In 2012, he has embarked on a course of victimization reminiscent of much of the Pindling era.