A week after he was fired as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Bains and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson declared in Parliament yesterday that while he understood why Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis fired him over his opposition to the government increasing value-added tax (VAT), he has no regrets about his stance and insisted his vote nor integrity can be bought.
Robinson said his decision to vote against the tax increase was solely based on his constituents.
He said despite a certain narrative in some quarters, he supports Minnis and the FNM.
“Many questions were raised and assumptions made, often shared as facts, so today, I break my silence and offer clarification,” Robinson said.
“It was not on a whim or on the basis of misinformation, but after much consideration that I voted as I did on the budget and the bill to increase value-added tax; my reasoning, explicitly stated in my contribution to the budget communication in the week prior.
“When I said to my constituents on the campaign trail, ‘I will fight for you. I will go to bat for you. I will stand up and speak out for you’, I meant what I said and I said what I meant, even if it caused me my livelihood.
“No system of governance, no position or money enough will cause for me to yield my personal belief or conviction, especially when my people need me the most.”
Robinson indicated that he understands the hardship of those in the inner-city, having grown up going to school in torn tennis shoes, oversized pants and dingy shirts, eating lunch on the school welfare program and packing groceries as a teenager before getting a job as a gas pump attendant.
He said his ‘no’ vote was in “alignment with [my] low and meek rise from the dust of poverty”.
Robinson also said he recognizes the need for the government to increase revenue in order to pay down debt, but also knows the negative effects the increase will bring for the poor, many of whom live in his constituency.
He said he owes those people his “ultimate trust and allegiance”.
“They are my livelihood,” Robinson insisted.
“Contrary to what some may say, my vote in this honorable House of Assembly is mortgaged to the people of Bains and Grants Town and to them alone.
“My integrity is not for sale. My conviction is not for sale. My one vote is not for sale.”
Minnis also fired Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller as parliamentary secretary and Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine as chairman of the Hotel Corporation after their ‘no’ vote.
Centreville MP Reece Chipman also voted no.
In relation to the firings of the parliamentary secretaries, the Cabinet Office cited the Manual of Cabinet and Ministry Procedure, which says parliamentary secretaries are bound to support government decisions in public.
Robinson said he understood the consequences of his decisions and stands proud, having fulfilled his promise to his constituents – “to be their voice, to be their hope [and] to be their servant whatever the cost”.
He said while difficult decisions are part of the job, acting with honesty and integrity often appear to result in personal disadvantage.
Despite this, Robinson said his personal and professional ambitions are aligned with the FNM.
He stressed that he wants to build a Bahamas where Bahamians can be proud, a Bahamas where democracy thrives and respect, principles and morals are the order of the day.
He said, “I want to do it with clean hands, a clear conscience and consideration for and collaboration with my community, Bains and Grants Town.”
Noting that Bahamians are angry for various reasons, Robinson said it is not the FNM’s job to quiet or discount those voices, but to recognize there is a difficult and painful process ahead.
“Yes, the people are angry and the source of that anger is fear, [but] let us be determined to transform that anger into burgeoning hope,” the MP said.
Robinson said as a result of the firings, the Bahamian people learned more about the Westminster system in the last week than they had “seemingly every known”.
He noted that the system is viewed by many as “archaic and unsuitable”.
Robinson gave notice that he intends to call for the establishment of a select committee of the House to review and evaluate the relevance, effectiveness and continuance of the Westminster system, Robinson said it is his belief that no members should “be placed in a position to choose between their party/government and the people they represent in this honorable place”.
“Such a position is to put a stranglehold around the neck of democracy, choking the life out of it,” he said.
Additionally, Robinson said one proposed system of governance could include the best aspects of the Westminster system and parts of a Republic system to form a hybrid, tailored for The Bahamas to “shatter the glass ceiling and reach the height of true democracy”.
“A hybrid system of governance where no member in this House of Assembly will ever be fired again for choosing between a fundamental belief and the direction of his party,” Robinson said.
“Let my termination and that of my other colleagues be the last of its kind.”
According to Robinson, who received a hero’s welcome when he visited his constituency after his firing, the support and encouragement for his stand has been overwhelming.
He said he received 244 letters of encouragement; 308 phone calls; 905 WhatsApp messages; 1,204 emails; 3,429 tags,countless messages and posts on Facebook and 113,000 views and hits during his community walkabout.
Robinson said with the VAT increase pending, Bahamians must make difficult adjustments.
He called on residents to work together and practice inter-dependent living.