Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MPs Dion Smith (Nassau Village), Dr. Andre Rollins (Fort Charlotte) and Gregory Moss (Marco City) all committed the unpardonable sin when they openly expressed disagreement with several PLP initiatives in the House of Assembly during the 2014/2015 budget debate. All three violated the 11th commandment of the PLP, which bans criticizing the party and its agendas.
For many dyed-in-the-wool, rabid PLPs, criticizing the PLP is completely off-limits, for they treat their party much like a devout Hindu treats a sacred cow. To them, the PLP is an infallible political institution. I believe both Moss and Rollins are already the black sheep of the 30-member parliamentary caucus of the PLP.
Moss has repeatedly voiced concerns over valued-added tax (VAT) and its expected negative impact on the poor, which, according to him, goes against the principles of the PLP. Smith followed the example of Moss by accusing his party of being out of touch with the grassroots. Rollins took issue with his party for its criticism of Moss for voicing an opposing view towards VAT.
Rollins, I believe, erred by stating that the PLP is setting a dangerous precedent with respect to how it responded to Moss for simply exercising his democratic right in expressing an honest opinion. There is nothing new about the PLP dealing harshly with its own who dare not to toe the party line.
Had Rollins done his homework, he would know that Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Sir Arthur Foulkes, Warren J. Levarity, Maurice Moore, Dr. Curtis McMillan, Jimmy Shepherd, Dr. Elwood Donaldson, George Thompson, Edmund Moxey, Sir Randol Fawkes, Carlton Francis, Perry G. Christie and Hubert Ingraham all felt the unmitigated wrath of the PLP for transgressing the 11th commandment. The party’s manner in dealing with dissenters probably is as old as Moss and even older than Rollins.
Rollins has also taken issue with Prime Minister Perry Christie’s projection in his budget communication that the government will receive a paltry $12 million or less annually from the web shops, once they have been regulated. In the lead up to the referendum or opinion poll in January 2013, I recall hearing that the government would rake in $30-40 million, seeing that it was rumored that the numbers boys were collectively earning in excess of $400 million annually. Now we are hearing only $12 million?
Any objective PLP would readily appreciate Rollins’ apprehension. All things considered, the country would benefit more from a national lottery, but somehow this government thinks that the benefits of web shop gaming far outweigh the benefits of a national lottery. Even Dr. Myles Munroe expressed similar sentiments — sentiments he was roundly criticized for by Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell. In Munroe’s defense, I think he sees a national lottery as opposed to web shop gaming as the lesser of two evils. The fancy ”one cannot be half-pregnant” argument of Mitchell is hardly an apt analogy.
For what it’s worth, Rollins, Moss and Smith are PLP nonconformists, who obviously have minds of their own. They call a spade a spade. They will not toe the party line of the PLP if that party’s agenda will hurt their constituents. These men are fierce nationalists who put country ahead of politics. To them, The Bahamas is more important than the PLP.
This bold stand by the three makes plenty of sense. After all, when all is said and done, it is the people who will ultimately determine who will sit in the House of Assembly, not their party convention delegates. The constituents of Nassau Village, Marco City and Fort Charlotte voted for these men to represent their interests in Parliament, not the PLP. They obviously are feeling the pulse of the grassroots.
All three have been criticized by high-ranking PLP officials. Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald and PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts have both criticized Moss for his stance on VAT. And former PLP MP George Smith has taken Dion Smith to task for his criticism of the PLP. I think this is a harbinger of things to come for the three rookie MPs. I think PLP council stalwarts will punish Moss and Rollins for not toeing the party line. I think both will be denied a renomination in 2017.
The two have consistently locked horns with their party. If my political prognostications are spot on and the two are dumped by the party, whoever replaces them as the PLP’s standard bearers in Fort Charlotte and Marco City will be run out of dodge by an angry electorate who would have already experienced two years of VAT and the financial hardship it will bring. Such an election outcome will be a tacit approval of Moss and Rollins by the voters for representing them and not the PLP in the House of Assembly.
I think we are fast-approaching an era in which Bahamian voters will follow the example of their American counterparts. There is a strong tidal wave of anti-political establishment sweeping across America since the formation of the Tea Party. Just recently Congressman and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his Republican primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District to an unknown Tea Party candidate named David Brat. Whereas Cantor placed the Republican Party ahead of his constituents, Brat campaigned on putting the people ahead of the party.
Moss, Dion Smith and Rollins remind me of the Tea Party and David Brat. Mitchell, Fitzgerald and George Smith remind me of Eric Cantor and the old political establishment.
By: Kevin Evans