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2005-05-12 22:30:47

CSME: A Done Deal

The Progressive Liberal Party secretly agreed last December to join the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) in July without making it public.

Addressing hundreds of Free National Movement supporters at its "report card" rally Tuesday night at the Prince Charles Shopping Centre, former Attorney General Carl Bethel alleged that this secret decision by the Progressive Liberal party (PLP) Cabinet has never been announced to the public, but was done in the dark and in the "dead of night."

"By secretly agreeing to join the CSME without telling you about it, or consulting you before they agreed to do so, the PLP government is backstabbing the Bahamian people. This is almost an act of political treachery of the highest order towards the Bahamian people," Mr Bethel charged.

Mr Bethel stressed that no elected government, be it PLP or FNM, has the right to sell out or give away the sovereignty of the Bahamian people. He added that the plan to copy the European Union and create a "Caribbean Union" is more far reaching upon the national sovereignty of The Bahamas than the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas] or WTO [World Trade Organization], as these trading blocs not wish to set up any regional government, or allow for the free movement of labour.

Mr Bethel also refuted recent remarks made by Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell who was quoted in a local daily as stating that the CSME was not a trading bloc. Mr Bethel said such a statement is "blatantly untrue" and the PLP is "deliberately deceiving the people."

Mr Bethel asserted that if The Bahamas is to obtain any exemption from the provisions of the CSME, which call for the free movement of people, it could only be decided by a special committee of Caribbean Prime Ministers and not by the sovereign government and Parliament of The Bahamas.

The former Attorney General also called on the government to stage a referendum to decide whether or not to join the CSME. He expressed that it is the height of "arrogance" for the PLP to act as if they know better than the Bahamian people, so much so that they will not even be allowed to have a say in the matter.

"They just ga jump up in July, go south and sign away the national sovereignty of The Bahamas. They gatta be joking.

"There must be a national referendum on this question before the PLP government of Fred Mitchell sells out our national sovereignty by signing on to the CSME. The FNM demands a national referendum on this issue of fundamental importance. The Bahamian people, not Fred Mitchell should decide," Mr Bethel suggested.

The former Holy Cross MP also highlighted that even though the PLP says the law as it stands only allows for "constitutional referendums," that deal directly with proposed changes to the Constitution, Parliament can pass a new Act to allow a Consultative Referendum to be held.

Mr Bethel also dashed those claims of a referendum being an "expensive" exercise. He pointed out that it would be infinitely more expensive to The Bahamas, to allow the Bahamian people to be dragged "kicking and screaming" into the CSME by a "wicked, unresponsive and unpatriotic" government.

According to Mr Bethel, it has always been the position of the FNM that the CSME was initially realistic. He also added that it has always been the position of the FNM that no decision would be made on the CSME before there was proper consultation and the Bahamian people consented. He also advised that the CSME was a "real concern" and was not a "political football."

Also focusing on a segment of the CSME known as the Right of Establishment, Mr Bethel warned that from the moment The Bahamas signs onto the CSME, the Right of Establishment becomes automatic. He said citizens of CSME counties will have a human right to enter The Bahamas and "set up shop" and vice versa. He added, however, that most of the traffic would flow into The Bahamas.

Mr Bethel said Bahamians might welcome large numbers of Caribbean lawyers, doctors, architects, accountants and dentists, but the Bahamian people should make this decision and not the government.

"No government has a right to do so without the expressed mandate from the people. There must be a referendum before the PLP puts pen to paper and, once again, sells out or gives away the Bahamas to foreigners," Mr Bethel concluded.

By: TAMARA McKENZIE, The Nassau Guardian

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