By PHILIP C. GALANIS
The past week in Great Britain will long be remembered for the shocking disclosure that the print media in that country sank to an all-time low with the revelations concerning the nefarious and illegal lengths to which the members of the media there would go to get a story. Many of that country’s citizens sat in amazement, revulsion and shame, listening to both the hearings of the British Parliamentary Select Committee that investigated the behavior of the English press, as well as to the penetrating questions that the beleaguered Prime Minister, David Cameron, was compelled to answer in Parliament regarding those developments.
Just when some of us felt that this low and criminal type of journalism would never rear its ugly head in our Commonwealth, in walks Mr. John Marquis who, during his tenure as managing editor of The Tribune, oversaw the transformation of that newspaper from a somewhat respected newspaper engaged in the dissemination of news, to one with tabloid status. Therefore this week, we would like to consider this – does the return of John Marquis as a regular contributing columnist to The Tribune signal the return of a person possessed of journalistic integrity or has he been drafted as a political assassin with one singular objective in mind, namely, doing everything he can to dissuade the Bahamian people from returning the PLP to office when the general election is called next year? Moreover, is he the embodiment of the questionable type of journalistic integrity demonstrated by his fellow Brits and is he bringing that back to infect our young journalists?
The answer to the first question can readily be found in Marquis’ own narrative. He began his column last Wednesday with the following words: “Soon after the 2007 general election, when the PLP were unceremoniously dumped into what we all hoped would be the garbage bin of history… the (PLP) couldn’t possibly seek the public’s support again with Perry Christie at the helm.” This is unadulterated dishonesty by Mr. Marquis and at the outset should clearly signal what his motives are. Just who is he referring to when he says “we all hoped (the PLP) would be dumped into the garbage bin of history”? Mr. Marquis’ assertions are deliberately dishonest and intentionally incorrect.
Why does he choose to completely ignore the fact that in the general election of 2007, not only did the PLP win 18 of the 41 seats in Parliament but did so with a very large percentage of votes? Has he completely dismissed the fact that of the nearly 137,000 votes cast in that election, 64,637 or 46.98 percent of the voters supported the PLP, compared to 68,547 or 49.82 percent for the FNM? In case he lacks the capacity to do the math, there was a difference of only 3,910 votes or less than three percent between the winners and the losers. So deceitful and dishonest is his characterization of “we all” – arrogantly dismissing nearly half the Bahamian voters – that he lacks any credibility for whatever follows in his inaugural incursion into Bahamian politics after a two-year hiatus.
PLP politics is none of John Marquis’ business, but as a political assassin, his obvious objective is to do all that he can to present twisted untruths and nonsensical non-sequiturs about the PLP and why Mr. Christie remains the leader of that party. He laments that because Mr. Christie remains at the helm of the PLP, “doesn’t say much for the PLP…” and by his own assertion, Marquis admits that he is “judging from afar — and I confess four thousand miles of ocean do blur one’s perspective.” It seems that his “blurred perspective” and his clouded and fogged up mind cannot fathom the fact that Mr. Christie has legitimately fended off all challenges to his leadership in democratic exercises within the PLP, surviving as the duly elected leader. That is the process by which we govern ourselves. Sorry, Mr. Marquis, if you cannot understand or accept that.
But it gets worse. Mr. Marquis continues his gratuitous and condescending comments about some of the other leaders of the PLP. He denigrates Mr. Philip “Brave” Davis, the properly elected deputy leader, although he concedes that he sees Davis as “the only possible leader-in-waiting, the sole heir apparent to Pindling’s tarnished crown.” Marquis cannot refrain from writing anything about the PLP without deriding Sir Lynden and his historic political legacy. Then he offers a backhanded compliment to Dr. Bernard Nottage for his “comparative commonsense and rationality.” Dr. Nottage is unquestionably and consistently the best prepared, best researched and most methodical debater in Parliament on the PLP’s team. It is unmistakable that Marquis really hates the PLP and shows it in every poison and patronizing word that he pens.
But he reserves his most caustic and critical comments for Mr. Fred Mitchell who he describes in a feeble and failed attempt at a classical witticism as “Marley’s Ghost of Bahamian politics.” He devotes nearly half of his entire column to castigating an individual who is perhaps one of the brightest minds in the PLP and one of the hardest workers and most visible member of Parliament in his constituency. It is clear that Marquis is really afraid of “Dred Fred” and sinks to a new low by deriding Mitchell for his “five disastrous years as minister of foreign affairs.” It is Marquis’ disdainfully dishonest and derisive depiction of Fred Mitchell that should be relegated to the dust bin. History will probably record that Fred Mitchell was one of the most active, best informed, Caribbean-centric and worldly foreign ministers of modern Bahamian politics.
Mr. Marquis, you are a foreigner and your brand of “journalism” in Bahamian politics will result in your becoming even more persona non grata than you were when you lived among us. Our politics, sir, especially PLP politics, are none of your business. We resent your incursions into our domestic affairs and we regard your methods as highly suspect, just like your compatriots whose underhanded work has been exposed as the unlawful practice that it is.
We got rid of British colonialists of your ilk on July 10, 1973, thirty-eight years ago, and your brand of “journalism” is not welcome here. We suggest that you keep your thoughts about Bahamian politics to yourself. However, if you cannot restrain yourself for whatever reason from trying to play the role of an expert, at least confine yourself to the local arena and cease to represent yourself as the authoritative voice on all things Bahamian for international news media, circling the globe on the worldwide web with your vicious verbiage that no more represents a balanced and fair picture of The Bahamas as does the local newspaper where your column appears.
But Bahamians are onto you now. We have seen what it is you are trying to do and this time we won’t stand for it. We will not swallow the gutter journalism you call truth. This time, one thing is certain: If you persist in such pernicious political polemics, parading as jingoist journalism, your vitriolic and venomous invectives against the PLP will have the unintended consequences of encouraging Bahamians to register to vote and to cast that vote to return the PLP to office in next year’s general election.
In so many ways, you remind me and other Bahamians who remember, of another foreigner who sought to influence our domestic politics. Paul Knaur, a far smoother, tactful, rabid racist relic of yesteryear, sought in the late 1950s to coach the United Bahamian Party (UBP) as to what they needed to do to retain political power, despite the inevitable and jubilant march toward Majority Rule. Of course, we know what eventually resulted from his efforts. It was the UBP, unlike the PLP, in your words, that was relegated to the garbage bin of history.