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Time to Reset the Moral Compass of The Bahamas

Astoundingly, we refuse to deal with the root causes of many of our social and economic problems here in the Bahamas and, frankly, those root causes are poor parenting, waste, inefficiency, greed and corruption. We rarely address anything until it threatens the very survival of our country and even then it appears that we still don’t wish to deal with it, seeking to cover it up with other nonsensical manoeuvres, with economically-busting regressive taxes, passing legislation for the good of the ‘good ole boys’, empty rhetoric and press conferences to bamboozle a nation — all of which seemingly worsen the problems rather than making the national outlook better.

Since we clearly prefer to merely treat the symptoms of our national ailments, we only allow the rot to fester even more. At some point the life of the patient, our country, becomes threatened and someone else ends up making the tough decisions, as we now see in the case of the International Monetary Fund, the proclamations and forecasts of Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s.

Is the Bahamas still a nation for sale? One knows the historic significance of the drug era was the tipping point that led to the ruination of the viability and integrity of the Bahamas in the eyes of the world.

Only within the last two decades have we begun the recovery. However, that recovery is debased by what appears to be a mushrooming misgiving among thinking Bahamians about the veracity and honourableness of quite a number of our nation’s currently active political class.

Recently, I’ve been reading about the extradition, preliminary hearing and bail of former Turks and Caicos Premier Michael Misick. Mr Misick, who fled to Brazil following investigations into allegations laid against him and his former government by the British, was extradited, via US military plane, from Brazil to face charges on January 7.  Misick was questioned by police on his arrival and charged with conspiracy to receive bribes, conspiracy to defraud the government and money laundering which is alleged to have occurred during his time at the helm of the government. Though initially denied bail and temporarily remanded to prison, Misick was granted conditional bail by the Chief Justice of the Turks and Caicos Islands and is scheduled to appear for a hearing on March 7.  Misick joins 11 other high profile defendants who face corruption related charges, emanating from a scandal that led to the suspension of the Turks and Caicos’s democratically elected government in 2009 following a Commission of Inquiry.

I wonder if Bahamians would ever see a sitting or past politician arrested and charged with bribery or conspiracy to bribe or defraud the government?

While one of the fundamental principles of natural justice is the notion that one is innocent until proven guilty, the Commission of Inquiry and the comings and goings of Mr Misick during his time in office led many to believe that he lived a glamorous life. After all, Mr Misick even married a Hollywood actress in an elaborate wedding ceremony, walking the red carpets among movie stars and living what appears to have been a glitzy lifestyle.

FNM deputy chairman Dr Duane Sands told me: “It is difficult to imagine that there is no truth in anything negative that has been alleged about Michael Misick. He certainly lived a lifestyle of the rich and famous.”

Speaking about another Commission of Inquiry, the 1984 commission appointed to ‘inquire into the illegal use of the Bahamas for the transshipment of dangerous drugs destined for the US,’ and instances where Bahamian officials were accused of being corrupt, Dr Sands said: “It is lamentable that Perry Christie (Prime Minister) seemingly doesn’t recognise the extent of corruption in our country and that it appears that he hasn’t done more to address it since he was one of the leaders back then who stood against that stuff and was fired for it.”

To me it feels our local police officers are ‘afraid’ to investigate politicians. It’s going to take ordinary citizens, at great peril to one’s self, to speak out, to publicly reveal what’s going on behind the scenes and then, and only then, the government, politicians and civil society wouldn’t have a choice but to act on it. That said, history has demonstrated that most politicians with character flaws are aided, abetted and enabled by ordinary folk who gain monetarily and otherwise by participating in the deeds of these powerful but morally bankrupt individuals.

I find that Bahamian politicians love to tell the masses, some of whom are still not critically assessing these utterances, what they want to hear. It is critically important that we as a nation understand that just as in 1984, where we were forced to reset the moral and ethical compass of the Bahamas, the time has come, 30 years later, for us to once again acknowledge that we are somewhat lost, that we have deviated off of a steady course, that we must once again reset the compass, even if it means sacrificing some for the greater good.

According to Dr Duane Sands:

“If we take the approach of sacrificing the corrupt, we may find that as a country we don’t need 10 new courts, don’t need a thousand new police officers and certainly wouldn’t need a brand new jail. The idea is to cut off the head and the dragon will die. Unfortunately, as in TCI, it’s my personal belief that there are far too many Bahamians who are just too comfortable and unprepared to give up their place at the trough.

“It is rumoured that the government’s garbage collection services will be privatised. It would be very interesting to follow the paper trail of the recently imported garbage trucks. It raises the question to me as to whether we have conflicts of interest,” Dr Sands said.

Transitioning a bit, it appears that the government has “punked out” of making a controversial decision on gambling, first by attempting to pass the buck to the Bahamian people, seemingly wishing that the public would take the bitter pill and make a decision for them. Now, it appears the government will have to go against the vote of the people and the influence of the church, when, in the first instance, all that was needed was for one to simply have the balls to make a choice: regularise it or not, and let the chips fall where they may!

Dr Sands went on to say: “As politicians, we find ourselves constantly trying to pacify blocs, for example, in the matter of women’s rights we have shown a fear of bucking conventional thought. We dance around issues that are political hot potatoes, refusing to make a decision until it explodes!”

Is Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade on the way out?

Has Mr Greenslade lost the favour of the Prime Minister?

We all remember that after escorting Mr Christie on the campaign trail, Assistant Commissioner Stephen Seymour, purportedly a friend of the PM, was reinstated on the police force after having left nearly two years before.

If Mr Seymour is the Prime Minister’s man to be the next Commissioner, how do they jump over Mr Greenslade, Deputy Commissioner Quinn McCartney, and a senior Assistant Commissioner such as Bishop Hulan Hanna?

And, what about the other Assistant Commissioners, all of whom are senior, in terms of appointment, to Mr Seymour?

Recently, we heard Mr Christie pledge that his legacy will not be attached to the police force.

Like Mr Christie, Greenslade finds himself in a huge dilemma as to what is the right thing to do on gambling.

Although the Commissioner of Police is a post that is mentioned and enshrined in our constitution, there are ways that the executive branch of government can easily manoeuvre around those constitutional guarantees. Frankly, the easiest way to bounce Mr Greenslade, or any other commissioner that an administration may wish to dismiss, is to simply withhold funding, which means no new cars or bikes, no new recruits, no repairs and so on. The executive has full control of the tools, or means to access the tools, that the commissioner needs to effectively perform. Frankly, it appears to me that we seemingly have what amounts to a constitutional dictatorship, yes, I said that, where the powers delegated to the chief executive make a mockery of the entire notion of a separation of powers.

We can talk about an independent judiciary, but in reality the judiciary is beholden to the executive for everything, from toilets to court reporters to functioning air conditioning and so on.

The Caribbean Court of Justice has adopted a budgetary system where the court itself, by its own mechanisms, is in full control of its budget, a budget raised from the annual contributions of Caribbean states, including the Bahamas.

Indeed, it appears to some the relationship between Mr Greenslade and the PM is strained.

Quite honestly, if we look at the design of our democracy that would seem ideal and independent, i.e. for the Police Commissioner to not be chummy with the political establishment and therefore even investigate them if necessary, but the stark reality is that the seeming inability of these persons to work together, if that was the case, could result in a less than ideal outcome for our country.

Prime Minister Christie and the civil rights honour.

I know everyone is thinking it so I’ll be the one to say it. Why was Mr Christie given a Trumpet Award?

I was wondering what the Trumpet Awards committee was doing when they gave a civil rights award to the Prime Minister to acknowledge his contributions as an outstanding leader. And no, I’m not trying to be disrespectful or mean or partisan or any of those petty descriptions.

I am simply asking an honest question that many Bahamians want answered. What is the frame of reference that the Trumpet Awards committee used and, since Mr Christie has now received an award, will the same be awarded to former PM Hubert Ingraham who led the charge to reduce unemployment and raise the minimum wage, rebrand the Bahamas from being known and seen as a nation for sale, revamp the economy and restore foreign investor confidence, electrify the Family Islands and improve the infrastructure throughout the archipelago, opened the airwaves and introduce Cable TV/internet and further entrenched the hallmarks of democracy by doing so, among of plethora of other achievements? If any Bahamian wants to be honest, Mr Ingraham’s administrations did much to improve the welfare of Bahamians and more to better the life and times of the Bahamas than anyone else in recent time. That is just a fact.

Congratulations Mr Christie…..I truly like your spirit. But, the awards committee cannot be prejudiced in its choices and leave Ingraham off of its list (frankly, knowing the former PM, he probably doesn’t give two hoots anyway)! I think Ingraham’s contributions must be recognised and not just recognised on his passing. I’m just speaking the truth! And while the Trumpet Awards are honouring civil rights fighters and persons who have exemplified leadership, how about Sir Etienne Dupuch, Loftus Roker, Arthur Dion Hanna, Sir Arthur Foulkes and people of that ilk?

By: Adrian Gibson

Posted in Opinions

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