A crisis of public respect
That the government lacks effective public relations is without question. But over the last nine months and most recently with the now infamous Oban deal, the vice grip choking the collective hope and blocking the tide of promised good governance and critically needed national reform is not the absence of public relations, but the absence of public respect.
When a heads of agreement is signed, it is not a deal between the FNM and a developer or the PLP and a developer. That heads of agreement is a legally binding agreement between the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and a developer. This means all of us, you and I, are bound to that developer. That is why everything to do with that agreement is our business. We should know up front and fully what we are giving and getting, and should be widely and properly consulted before such agreements are made – particularly when projects are as environmentally sensitive as is the proposed Oban refinery. This, after all, is what this administration promised it would do. In its first heads of agreement since coming to office it has already broken that promise. Summarily violating this promise to the nation is public disrespect.
Negotiating this agreement without our formal voice at the table (which comes by way of the EIA process), and with no environmental protection framework in law to safeguard our people and our environment is public disrespect.
Threatening our reputation and that of the government and public service by welcoming, shaking hands and signing announced heads of agreement documents before the nation and world with a fraud convict televised as having signed an apparently fake signature, is public disrespect.
Throwing up a wall of silence and flatly refusing to immediately address the press and the nation on all controversies and concerns related to this agreement, its signing, Oban’s principals and their whereabouts, Oban’s owners and/or shareholders, its proof of funding, land ownership agreements and government due diligence is public disrespect.
Agreeing to “speedily” change our laws so that this developer can enjoy extended tax concessions while making no such pledge to change or enact necessary environmental laws whose benefits we can enjoy is public disrespect.
Boasting about the millions of oil barrels Oban might produce while not agreeing to throughput fees so that the public treasury might receive so much as a cent per barrel is public disrespect.
Taking a “when I ready I’ll talk” attitude with a nation thrust into the throws of infuriating and for many disappointing governmental distrust, after all the nation endured during the last term, is the height and depth of public disrespect, and reeks of contempt for the public.
When citizens lose trust in their government and the political process, they either withdraw from that process in their democracy altogether, or they lose hope to the point of leaving, wanting to leave or simply joining in with destructive attitudes and actions that make governance daunting, and nation-building a quicksand proposition and reality for many.
If you do not respect the citizenry you will not serve its best interests. You will not advance, improve or uplift what you do not respect. You will not protect what you do not respect. You cannot get from advisors the one thing you either have or don’t have – respect for the public and the public office it gave to you.
The nation gave this administration a super-majority of sorts. But the real super-majority is still us, the Bahamian people – who by and large are sick and tired of being treated like incidental doormats on the way to our Houses of power.
No. We do not need maverick public relations that would seek to deceive us into believing that what is bad is actually good. What we need in all matters of national importance is the kind of respect for the Bahamian public that would cause our government to truly do what is good, and to be immediately, fully and frankly honest and transparent with us whenever it falls short of that ideal.
– Sharon Turner