Concerns About Christie’s Ability To Govern

Sunday 27th, January 2013 / 09:50 Published by

On January 22, 2012, almost one year after its victory at the polls, Prime Minister Perry Christie and his administration are seeking to push through their single largest initiative since coming to office – the gaming referendum.

Regardless of the outcome of this referendum, the Bahamian people are getting great insight into the modus operandi of the Chrisitie administration and to say the least, they have many concerns about what they are observing.

In short, they are concerned about the Prime Minister’s ability to provide good governance and oversee the fair administration of law and order in our country.

As Bahamians who care about our nation and who want only what is best for it, we feel duty bound to speak to our concerns in this regard.

Government Priorities

The Christie administration promised voters that they would focus on the primary issues facing Bahamians if elected.

Nevertheless, the administration has narrowly focused on addressing the concerns of a small special interest group – web cafe operators – who many believe substantially financed its election campaign.

The zeal with which the government has pushed this issue has left even some PLP supporters speculating about what is driving this agenda.

“Is the PLP repaying one of its main groups of financiers?” is the question many are asking.

It is clear that the government’s priorities are wrong. It should have been focusing on the primary issues impacting the majority of Bahamians such as:

• Job creation and growing the economy;

• Ensuring law and order, inclusive of addressing underlying causes of crime, lowering crime and the fear of crime;

• Improving our education system and in turn our effectiveness in addressing domestic matters and our competitiveness as a jurisdiction;

• Improving the accessibility, affordability and effective delivery of health services to Bahamians throughout the country;

• Tackling the vexing immigration issues that affect every aspect of national life.

While many battle life and death issues, the government has become and forced the nation to become preoccupied with a matter that, while important, is not even among the top five issues that confront us; yet it has consumed at least one of the five possible years of this administration.

Authorities aiding and ?abetting, then making ?others complicit

The executive branch of government and the law enforcement agencies are contributing to the erosion of law and order by being selective in what laws they enforce.

Both the Prime Minister and Commissioner of Police admitted as much.

While hundreds of thousands of residents are required to obey the rule of law, a select group is permitted to violate the law openly and nevertheless get assistance from the government in having its agenda pushed.

The authorities are leading the charge to legalise operations/practices without first stopping the same illegal operations/practices while it determines the next course of action.

As former PLP chairman Raynard Rigby puts it: “By putting this referendum to the Bahamian people, the government is making the population complicit in its illegal actions.”

People elect governments to lead

The role of government is to lead. Courageous and thoughtful leaders take well-considered positions and then own them, along with the responsibilities and consequences that accompany such decisions.

Mr Christie on the other hand privately holds one position but publicly denies he holds a firm position.

So as not to be blamed in case the process or outcomes go badly, the Prime Minister, rather than lead, devises a referendum so that the public can decide on the issue.

However, several glaring problems exist with this approach by Mr Christie:

• He shows himself, as Greg Moss pointed out on another matter, to be misleading about the fact that he has no horse in the race. Such duplicity fuels cynicism and mistrust in leaders generally;

• While he has called the vote a referendum, PM Christie has made it an opinion poll and has in fact said it is “not binding” – a departure from his earlier pronouncement that “the people will decide.” Well, since the referendum is not binding it begs the question, “Are there less expensive ways of scientifically gauging public opinion?”‘

• Because the PLP did not do their research on the full implications of the referendum option, his team discovered that there was no legal framework for them to do what they publicly vowed to do, so they had to return to Parliament to amend the law.

The cart before the horse

The PLP was late in devising the referendum questions, even though the Vote Yes Campaign had commenced and the government was readying itself for the vote.

And even when the questions were formulated they were too general, open ended and skewed toward a “yes” outcome.

Furthermore, the public outcry clearly forced the national lottery on the agenda alongside the web cafes.

Public education promise broken

The PLP has no commitment to public education on this issue. Although Prime Minister Christie promised an education campaign so that people can competently decide, no such initiative has emerged.

For this, he blamed the Minister of National Security.

The public would recall that this “lack of public education” was his central criticism of the former FNM administration ahead of the 2002 referendum, which the PLP first supported and then opposed.

Even in delaying the poll from December 3, 2012, to January 28, 2013, no education campaign has been organised by the Christie-led government.

Instead, it seems that the PLP spearheads the Vote Yes Campaign through the back door while the government messages it through the front door. In the meantime, many unanswered questions persist, such as:

• What will be the regulatory regime for the web cafes and the national lottery?

• How will the National Lottery be configured and managed?

• Who will be eligible for a web cafe licence?

• Will it be open to new participants?

• Will those who operated illegally previously be excluded?

• Can foreigners participate?

• Will there be an age restriction on who can play?

• What happens to funds on client’s accounts in the event that a web cafe becomes insolvent?

• Are those financial institutions and others holding funds today for web cafe operators considered to be holding funds derived from illegal activities?

Buying public officials – and renting others

This issue is no crusade for us, as there are far more pressing matters to be addressed.

There are some vices far more damaging than gambling no doubt. And truth be told, many who support the “No Vote” have purchased more than their fair share of raffle tickets.

So surely we should be careful not to demonise those whose favourite gospel hymn is “My soul says yes.”

However, we do find it sad that there are likely public officials who took monies from the lottery folks before and after the election and who seem now to continue to do their bidding.

It is unfortunate that the owners of such businesses are able to mount a formidable campaign for the “Yes vote” without relying on their own reputations and credibility.

Instead, they rely on the long and hard earned reputation of financial advisors, hoteliers, educators, lawyers, ministers of the gospel and politicians.

This reminded me of the last time we as a country saw such a wholesale purchase of the services of those who walked (worked) in the light by those who chose to live (work) in the shadows.

Who is in charge of the government?

The Christie Administration clearly demonstrates that having the ability to win does not automatically translate into having the ability to effectively govern.

On a matter of such public controversy and to many, import, how is it possible that a minister responsible for parliamentary elections can hold a nationally televised address without the Prime Minister being fully apprised and in agreement?

How is it possible that a deputy leader can forecast 10,000 jobs to be created within the first year without clearing such pronouncements with the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister?

Incidentally, almost one year later the Prime Minister finds himself relying on illegal businesses to provide jobs he admits he and his colleagues are unable to provide.

Is he likely to tell the graduating class of 2013 that if no legitimate jobs are available take whatever becomes available, even if illegal, because hungry mouth have to feed?!

Apparently, those hungry mouths were not important when thousands were allowed to go home from the 52-week Job Readiness Pogramme.

A few lessons learnt

In all of this, there are a few value lessons on display, namely:

• A criminal in some other culturally accepted but legally unacceptable vocation may conclude that if he or she worked hard enough, long enough, be patient enough, contribute enough, employ enough (Too Big To Fail) then one day government, civil society and even the church will surrender. And may even join them;

• Hearts and minds set on achievement through chance (a gamble, one run with a load of drugs or one big robbery) very seldom apply themselves to daily toil and incremental earning to achieve their goals;

• In our society sensibilities have changed drastically. It is common to hear such phrases as: “Yeah some people will get addicted but that’s with anything. You gat to do it in moderation”; “People should have a choice even if it kills them”; “Man all a us have sin, mine is just gambling”; “Every politician get money from somewhere they shame of, so why criticise those who get a few dollars from the numbers fellas?”;

• A nation can be bought from without and from within;

• Politicians, no matter the colour of their shirt, who lack the will to enforce the law and refuse to properly (legally) change the law, are unfit to govern;

• So close are our ties to each other in the Bahamas and so numerous are our individual sins that we often prefer silence on these issues lest we offend some we know or lest one of our sins be revealed in response.

As for us and our households, we are voting No!

By Michael Pintard and Zhivargo Laing

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