Oswald Brown Writes
By OSWALD T. BROWN
Many Grand Bahamians are appalled by the widespread reports of the shameful manner in which Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is using his government’s Jobs Program to persuade unemployed voters to support Free National Movement (FNM) candidates in the upcoming general election.
This disgraceful act of subterfuge reportedly is being supervised by the Rev. Lindy Russell, a former FNM Member of the House of Assembly, who was recently appointed by the Ministry of Labour to administer the Jobs Program in Grand Bahama.
Working out of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) in the Government Complex on the Mall, Rev. Russell reportedly makes it clear to persons being hired that there are political strings attached to the jobs they are receiving and leaves no doubt as to whom they should vote for. What’s more, he reportedly has been personally campaigning for and with former ZNS-13 news anchor Pakeisha Edgecombe, the FNM’s candidate for West Grand Bahama and Bimini.
“When these claims were made by Bahamas Press in an article last week, I did not believe them because when Lindy retired from front-line politics he said he was doing so to commit his efforts towards serving God,” a knowledgeable source who wished to remain anonymous said. “However, after hearing several persons make these same claims here in Grand Bahama, I decided to do some investigation on my own and found out that they are entirely true. This can’t be right. Using people who are desperate for work in this manner can’t be the action of a man who claims to serve God.”
Additionally, our source was also concerned about reports that Rev. Russell, as a JP, has also signed a number of affidavits for birth certificates to assist persons wanting to register to vote.
“As a Man of God, I would hope that Rev. Russell is doing the necessary background checks to ensure that the persons he is signing affidavits for were indeed born in The Bahamas,” the source said.
There are, of course, very valid reasons why these reports are of such concern to some Grand Bahamians. Having totally neglected Grand Bahama for the past four-plus years, now that an election is imminent, Prime Minister Ingraham has been on a public relations crusade to try and erase the pain and suffering Grand Bahamians have had to endure as a result of an outrageously high unemployment rate in excess of 20 percent.
To make matters worse, Ingraham virtually admitted during a press conference two weeks ago that he intentionally did nothing to help revive Grand Bahama’s stagnant economy because of his dislike for one man, Hannes Babak, the former chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA). In December of 2009, Ingraham personally announced that Babak’s work permit would not be renewed, which triggered a major feud with Sir Jack Hayward, one of the principal owners of the GBPA.
However, at his press conference, Ingraham announced that Babak was no longer an issue and he and Sir Jack were now speaking, adding that the GBPA had several projects on the drawing board that his government would support to help revive Grand Bahama’s economy.
Although Grand Bahamians welcomed the prospect of something being done to revitalize the island’s economy, many questions were raised about why Ingraham vindictively used residents of Grand Bahama as pawns in his personal dispute with the GBPA.
But using the Jobs Program as part of his public relations campaign to lull Grand Bahamians into a state of forgetfulness with regard to just how bad a government the FNM has been over the past four-plus years is absolutely despicable.
What the FNM will discover, however, is that although some people are being forced to bury their pride and accept the conditions accompanying the jobs being offered because they have been out of work for far too long, they will not forget that it is the FNM that is responsible for Grand Bahama’s moribund economy; they will not forget their inability to make mortgage payments and the anguish of losing their homes; they will not forget having to move their children out of private schools as a result of the decimation of Grand Bahama’s once vibrant middle class sector; they will not forget that the FNM has five Grand Bahama MPs, three of whom were cabinet ministers, who remained totally silent while Ingraham neglected Grand Bahama; they will not forget that the country’s economy overall would not be in the poor shape it is in if it were not for the mismanagement of The Bahamas’ finances by Ingraham, as Minister of Finance, and his incompetent Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing; and they will not forget the irresponsible and reckless borrowing by the FNM that skyrocketed the country’s national debt to $4.6 billion.
When they go to the polls to vote they will remember all of these things as well as the other stress-inducing problems created for them by this hopelessly inept FNM government and they will vote for Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidates who will assist incoming Prime Minister Perry Christie in implementing the PLP’s well-thought out, innovative plans to restore good governance to The Bahamas.
Nonetheless, if it is indeed true that the Jobs Program is being manipulated to “win” votes for the FNM, those responsible should hang their heads in shame.