Why PM is wrong on boundary cuts
I wish to say that a general election is upon us. You know that the seats in the House of Assembly have been reduced. You know that I oppose the reduction in the seats or any changes at all in the number of seats. The prime minister in a most unfortunate statement claimed inter alia, that the ideas on the issue of not reducing the seats were nonsensical and spread in his words by “one Fred Mitchell”. How easy it is to seek to denigrate your opponent by dehumanizing him. It says so much about what is wrong with us today. But I’m a big boy, so no problem.
What was patently offensive was the suggestion that the ideas that I advanced were to protect lazy MPs, some people thought he might even have been saying that about me. If so, he is not serious.
Let me say it this way. When you lead a country, you have to learn to listen to what people say – even your enemies. I make it a point to know what even my enemies are saying about me. Who knows, it may just be true? And if it is true then perhaps it is something I can do to improve and help myself.
I have argued to the younger politicians that they must make it an axiom of their lives to approach politics as a neutral activity: you serve all people. Not to be judgmental, but to serve.
One thing that I believe you have to do is you have to listen, not react with blind rage and prejudice because you happen not to like someone. The prime minister says the ideas are nonsensical. What he really means is that he does not agree with them. He has no idea whether they are nonsensical because he does not listen.
You be the judge. My point is this: in the absence of local government in New Providence, where the roads, cemeteries, sidewalks, overgrown lots, water and power issues are dealt with by someone else, then you should leave the seats as they are. There is no compelling growth in New Providence which would cause there to be any change in the number of seats either up or down. Just leave them as they are with slight changes to account from small shifts in populations in the southwest and southeast of New Providence.
The only reason the seats are being changed is for partisan political reasons. The law allows this. I do not agree with it but it may be lawful. However, let’s not dress it up and call it something which it isn’t. It is a naked exercise of power to gerrymander districts in favor of the ruling party. There is no objective reason for doing so. The facts do not support the case being made by the prime minister.
I give you these examples. Long Island had 1,450 electors up to last week. Exuma had 2,376 electors up to last week. Why then would the commission take the voters from Ragged Island (a maximum of 50 or so) who have been with Long island for 10 years and move them to Exuma? I give you one guess. The feeling is that most voters in Ragged Island are Free National Movement (FNM) voters and since the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won the Exuma seat by just over 60 votes in the last election, the Ragged Island FNM votes will defeat the PLP, or so the majority party thinks. However, my point is that the objective evidence does not support the move.
Second example. My seat in Fox Hill had 3,947 electors up to last week. North Abaco, the seat of the prime minister, had 3,437 electors. But he also has town committees, district councils, which deal with local government issues from Crown Haven to Dundas and Murphy Towns. He does not have to deal with any local government issue. Only policy matters. That is the MPs principal job: policy matters. Why then does it mean by his logic that the New Providence MP is lazy when it is suggested that in the absence of additional support, you should leave the seats at the same number – not add, not subtract, just leave them the same.
I leave it there. You decide for yourself. My point is the prime minister should simply admit that his is a power play – not try to dress it up in cost savings and other nonsense.
I thank you all for coming out tonight.
It is an enormous privilege for me and an honor.
God bless you. God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Mitchell delivered this response to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham on the boundary cuts Tuesday night at a forum at Chef Chea’s organized by the group, Friends Of Fred Mitchell.