Angering the electorate at election time
We were surprised at a notice in the newspapers on Tuesday. The government has decided to inform the public that police, beginning on Monday, will strictly enforce the seatbelt laws enacted in March 2002.
We support the enforcement of the seatbelt laws. The laws protect drivers and passengers. They also help reduce health care costs by preventing more serious injuries.
However, the government must understand the culture it is a part of. Bahamians are not accustomed to wearing seatbelts in The Bahamas. Consequently, a more reasonable notice period is needed in order for motorists to become aware and more comfortable with the change in enforcement policy.
That notice period could have been a month to two months, including a robust public relations campaign focused on ensuring the seatbelt message is widely disseminated throughout the country.
If on Monday police start handing out$300 fines to motorists for not wearing seatbelts, the electorate will not be pleased.
Even if a member of the government mentioned that this would happen in some obscure speech, few Bahamians thus far are aware that this significant change is to take place.
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)sale is also leading to growing unease in the country.
The government is about to sell 51 percent of BTC to the British firm Cable and Wireless Communications.
This paper has gone on record stating that Bahamian assets should be sold to Bahamians this includes joint ventures between Bahamians and strategic partners.
Having a Bahamian owner, or a joint venture ownership structure between Bahamians and a strategic partner, would ensure more profits from the company stay in the country. Those profits that stay here would help create more jobs and prosperity in The Bahamas.
Both unions that represent workers at BTC have said they support Bahamians being owners of a privatized BTC.
Christian Council President Rev. Patrick Paul made comments yesterday that should concern the government.
“And so we stand with you this morning in agreement that(BTC)should belong to the Bahamians,”said Paul to those assembled during the union protest at BTC.
Paul assured the hundreds of BTC workers that the Christian church in The Bahamas supports their cause that is, standing in opposition to the BTC sale to foreigners.
Earlier this year, the Free National Movement administration considered legalizing gambling for Bahamians and legal residents. The opposition, led by the church, stopped the government from making the bold move. That same church movement the government backed down from is now standing in opposition to the BTC sale.
Governing parties must pursue policies considered right for the country. They have an electoral mandate to do so. This authority, however, must be exercised in conjunction with the current moods and sentiments of the people.
When a political party pursues a policy it thinks is right, but that policy angers the people, this decision by the party usually leads it to opposition.
For its sake, the FNM must be careful that it does not make a rudderless and reactionary opposition Progressive Liberal Party seem attractive to voters based on its decisions.