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2005-09-13 15:29:50

Bahamas Newspaper Sticks To Its Guns

Concerns over whether the Prime Minister would not be fit enough to undertake a gruelling election campaign.

In its most recent newsletter posting, the ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) chairman Raynard Rigby demanded an apology from The Nassau Guardian.

On Sunday August 28 the chairman appeared on a local radio talk show, Parliament Street. For the first 50 minutes of the one-hour show Mr. Rigby stuck doggedly to the party line. Sensing the show might very well be boring, the hosts, Fayne Thompson and Anthony Delaney, fellow attorneys, decided to raise the spectre of Prime Minister Perry Christie's health.  

Earlier this year the Prime Minister had suffered a stroke. His medical team said it was a close call but that his recovery was “miraculous'. Not wishing to be subject to the possibility that his medical team might be overstating the case and also to establish the soundness of their prognosis, the Prime Minister was encouraged to seek a second opinion, hence to a medical team at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore where the medical experts there confirmed the Prime Minister's Bahamian medical team's prognosis.  

Pundits have been questioning whether the Prime Minister who has been placed on a shortened workday while he grows toward full recovery, a day for that happy event having been left unnamed. Since his return the Prime Minister has not undertaken any engagements outside the country, preferring to have himself represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell.  

The official party line has been that the Prime Minister's initial recovery was miraculous and that he continues to go about his duties and that he is expected to and indeed will be leading the party into the next general election in 2007.  

It was during that fateful final ten minutes that Mr. Rigby blinked and finally buckled under the blistering cross examination and proceeded to state that he as well as other persons within the party were “concerned about the prime minister's health'.  

The Guardian led on Monday morning with “Fears over PM's health: PLP Chairman is concerned about Christie'. It was reasonable to infer from Mr. Rigby's statement that he, along with others within the party were concerned, that despite the party line, the Prime Minister would not be fit enough to undertake a gruelling election campaign.  

Once the enormity of his faux pas struck home Mr. Rigby went on the offensive. He fired off a missive in which he re-stated every complimentary comment he had made about the Prime Minister but omitted the statements he had in fact stated and which anyone who had listened to the interview had heard.

Instead he described the Guardian's headline as “pure political wickedness' and a “craven and calculated attempt to sell newspapers at the expense of the truth'.

Mr. Rigby then went on to compound his faux pas by stating that it was “patently misleading, false and wicked for the Nassau Guardian to spread such a malicious untruth and to attribute the headline to statements purportedly made by me on Parliament Street'.

He capped his outrage by demanding “an immediate apology from the Nassau Guardian for its tacky journalism and for its mischief'.

The Rigby outrage was widely broadcast but to its credit The Nassau Guardian stood by its story and refused to give Mr. Rigby his hoped-for apology.

Interestingly enough Mr. Rigby, himself an attorney, did not threaten legal action, given the gravity of his accusations against a newspaper that has earned a reputation both inside and outside the media for its retractions, apologies and or financial settlements.

Persons familiar with the PLP indicate that both within and without the party, people are concerned that the Prime Minister, despite his miraculous recovery, will not be able to undertake the gruelling schedule demanded of a leader in an election campaign.  

Indeed names of “possible potential' replacements, notably Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, have surfaced but he has been quick to quell such dangerous ideas but reaffirming his allegiance to the Prime Minister and his leadership.  

Mr. Rigby despite his outrage and perhaps despite himself did in fact indulge in what he termed “pure political madness' when he stepped from the straight and safe path of the party line and entertained politically heretical ideas about the security and soundness of the party's leadership.

C. E. Huggins, Caribbean Net News Bahamas Correspondent

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