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Young Man’s View: More ‘Lettergate’ Questions

adrian-gibsonThe Renward Wells/Letter of Intent fiasco took another turn this week when the Cabinet office, late on Tuesday evening, released a statement that simply said that “the office of Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Urban Development (had) become vacant.” However, this terse statement could only be likened to a wonderfully choreographed piece of high-stakes politics at its sordid worst.

What a weasel-like statement!

Prima facie, Renward Wells appears to be a pawn in this entire episode. What is clear is that Prime Minister Perry Christie’s actions – or lack thereof – has muddied the waters even more. Frankly, nothing came from the PM to say, specifically, that Mr Wells was fired.

In employment law, a redundancy is described as occurring when an employer terminates a person due to their position no longer being required. A redundancy generally relates to the position that an employee serves in and may affect the employee’s position since they could simply be reassigned.

So, was Mr Wells’ position made redundant and could it be that he has been or will merely be reassigned to another post?

It does not appear that there has been any contemplation of a replacement of Mr Wells as Parliamentary Secretary and the Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis – who is the Minister of Works and Urban Development – has not indicated that such a replacement is forthcoming. Let’s bear in mind that the communication issued by the Cabinet Office only said that the position that Mr Wells held had become “vacant” – a vacancy which in my opinion may not be, and frankly need not be, filled.

At no time did either the PM or the DPM say that Mr Wells was fired. Both gentlemen have been cautious with their choice of words and no one can accuse either of saying that Renward Wells was relieved of his salary and benefits, though everyone seems to have interpreted the memo as meaning just that.

If a Freedom of Information Act was enacted, we could request the documentation to show how much – on a monthly basis – Mr Wells still receives from the public purse.

We are all owed a sincere and honest explanation from the Prime Minister for this lengthy ordeal.

I find it hard to disbelieve that Renward Wells wasn’t instructed to sign that letter of intent in July with Stellar Waste-to-Energy proposing a $650m deal. It appears that there’s a possibility that he’s now having to make the Faustian choice – that is, either he shuts his mouth, takes one for the team and is cared for or he opens his mouth, vents his spleen and risks the same type of treatment that was meted out to the late Carlton Francis and Edmund Moxey, who recently passed away. No doubt, quite like the PLP of old, such disloyalty could be met with much pain and personal suffering.

So, was a deal done to keep Mr Wells quiet?

There is no way that Renward Wells should have signed the letter of intent, particularly since such a signing was beyond his pay grade. What’s more, the document had Wells’ name typed on it, meaning that it was clearly prepared by technocrats within his ministry or another ministry and so therefore the implications of this go far and wide. This was an official government document – I highly doubt that Mr Wells sat at his laptop, typed it up himself, ran it off on an HP printer and said “come, let’s sign.”

There appears to be different views – even within the Cabinet – as it relates to this LOI debacle and these waste management deals. Are there factions of folks who support Renew Bahamas and another faction who support Stellar Waste-to-Energy?

Of late, Renew Bahamas has taken control of the New Providence landfill. Since the dump has been overseen by the Ministry of the Environment and – to some extent – the Ministry of Works, one would assume that there’s a Cabinet paper authorising the transfer and control of the dump to Renew Bahamas. That transaction was never revealed beyond a few words to the public, but we have yet to see the details.

What’s more, Stellar is ostensibly proposing to do the same task as Renew Bahamas in an environment where there’s a limited amount of static (garbage already at the dump) and dynamic waste. The co-existence of both entities appears to be fiscally implausible. Dynamic waste – which is that which is collected daily – has now gone from being publicly controlled to privately controlled and, quite honestly, is a fairly lucrative industry, particularly since whoever controls the garbage controls the money and no waste-to-energy company can produce energy without the waste. All of this has happened by sleight of hand.

The Stellar Waste-to-Energy project – as well as Renew Bahamas – has to be discussed and revealed to the Bahamian public and the only person who the Bahamian people would want to hear from is the Prime Minister.

Who owns Stellar? Was Stellar being brought in through the back door?

Who were the other people who instructed Renward to sign the letter of intent, as was seemingly alluded to by Blue Hills MP Leslie Miller and Fort Charlotte MP Andre Rollins?

Has Renward Wells been seconded or transferred elsewhere?

What is the total dollar value of Mr Wells’ salary and benefits and does he continue to enjoy it at this time? Has Mr Wells now been employed by any other agency, corporation or organisation within the government of the Bahamas?

If Mr Wells is no longer receiving a salary from the government, is he receiving it from either the PLP itself or high net worth supporters?

One of the most important questions concerning Mr Wells is: if we are to believe that Wells was fired, why was he fired? And, if he wasn’t fired, then why is this convoluted scenario being played out?

Did Wells do something wrong and, if so, did he do so by himself or was it in collusion with some other person?

Wells needs to step up and clear his name or, at the very least, level with the public.

Amazingly, the PM/Cabinet seemingly waited for the House to recess and for the FNM to become preoccupied with internal power struggles before issuing two lines in the hope that this matter would simply go away. To use the words of a friend: “What shoddy handling!”

The communication from the Cabinet Office this week was highly orchestrated and choreographed all in a lame attempt to solve this public relations nightmare. Clearly, it is taking forever to be addressed but is that due to alleged scrambling behind the scenes to figure out a solution to this highly sensitive, politically explosive matter?

I call on the Prime Minister to address the country as this letter of intent affair has gripped the attention of the voting public and has become a matter of much importance.

Ebola: a time to demonstrate leadership in a crisis

Unfortunately, our country is clearly not prepared for Ebola.

How do you right size the response to Ebola? Frankly, when we consider the fact that tourism is our number one industry, any muted response to this emergent worldwide crisis will result in disaster.

The government’s approach to this quickly spreading and most frightening epidemic will determine the welfare of the people they serve and their own legacy.

Shortly after coming to office in 1992, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham demonstrated leadership in response to the devastating hurricane – Andrew – and set the template for how to respond to such national disasters.

I am told by seasoned physicians that our country’s initial response to HIV/AIDS – in the early days when the disease first emerged – was also slow and cumbersome, resulting in far too many deaths, inadequate public education and quite a number of people being infected before it was right-sized. Ebola is a crisis that allows us to look at our national preparedness for an emergency, to educate our people and involve the public in a way that brings us all together. This is an opportunity for statesmanship and the government must get on with engaging the media, school children, civil society and the public at large.

Preparation and proactivity needs to be felt and seen. At present, it is not.

We are particularly vulnerable, though the threat at this time is considered to be low. That said, we are keenly aware that that status could change in a day.

The powers that be need to move beyond the political bickering and ensure that all precautionary steps necessary to equip ourselves to effectively respond to this epidemic. All hands need to be on deck – to designate one as FNM, PLP or DNA is irrelevant.

Adrian Gibson

Posted in Opinions

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