Our current prime minister is starting to remind us more and more of former Prime Minister Perry Christie in terms of the many weightless and meaningless pronouncements he makes.
There is a lot of talk from Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, but much of it is fluff, and some is simply hot air.
With the trust deficit widening over the months since the Minnis administration came to office, Minnis and his ministers struggle to inspire confidence.
The prime minister often speaks as if it is someone else who is in charge of policy formation and not him and his government. He is sometimes confusing to listen to, but that of course is nothing new.
Take for instance Minnis’ recent comments on capital punishment after the horrific murder of aide-de-camp to the governor general, Inspector Carlis Blatch.
“When it comes to things like murder, I am at the extreme end [and] when it comes to criminality, I am at the extreme end,” Minnis told reporters.
“What I would want to say I want to do with murderers and criminals, I can’t say.
“But what I can say is that countries like Saudi Arabia and those, sometimes they may be on the right track — sometimes — but I am not saying I support it.”
The prime minister also advised us, “I hate criminals, full stop.
“I am at the extreme right. I do not tolerate.
“I must work within the framework of the law, but if you allow me to work outside the law and that is legal, believe me, you will see a changed man.”
As is typical, the prime minister seems to be placing the ball in the public’s court, as if there is no action he and his government can take to address the death penalty issue once and for all.
He raises a new level of confusion.
Operating outside the law can never be legal. That is just plain nonsensical.
In opposition, Minnis, of course, had a clearer view of what he felt needed to happen on this issue.
“The murderous scumbags must be hung as that is on our laws. Hang, hung, whatever…pop their necks,” he said in Parliament in 2016, back when the level of angst toward the Christie administration was so high that the opposition could say just about anything it needed to say to score political points.
He also said the PLP government was a failure on crime.
“Why should everyone else be blamed for the PLP’s failed leadership to fix the record-setting murder rates in the past four years?” Minnis asked.
Now in government, Minnis is doing what prime ministers tend to do. He is highlighting crime and the need to address the national scourge in the context of what each Bahamian ought to be doing. The focus is not on any government failures.
During his rambling on Monday, Minnis talked about “overt” murders and “hidden” murders and called on the public to become involved in the crime fight. He declared a war on crime, as if we had not heard such a war declared 100 times before.
“We’re not looking and concentrating on the closed murder that we don’t see in society, until 10-20 years later. That is the psychological impact on society.
“So you can imagine what has happened to H.O. Nash school and the family members. You can imagine when someone is raped in their home or robbed in their home, the psychological impact.
“We are just looking at capturing the criminals but we’re not looking at what it has done psychologically, not only to that family but to the nation. And then we see the impact, 10-20 years later and then we wonder why individuals are disturbed, why they are disturbed psychologically, why they are behaving this way,” he said.
Murders throughout the country are down 31 percent, compared to last year. That is for sure a good sign.
But murders like the one that happened last Wednesday afternoon outside H. O. Nash Junior High School contribute to a high fear of crime.
We are less fearful when we hear about murders involving people police identify as prolific offenders or gang members fighting for turf. The murder of a police officer picking up his son from school hits home for many people as many are able to relate to being in the same situation – sitting in their vehicles at 3 p.m. waiting to collect their children from school.
When these kinds of murders of innocent people happen, the call for the resumption of capital punishment rings loud.
Minnis’ call in 2016 for the popping of the necks of murderous scumbags came after church minister Ivan Cleare was shot dead at an ATM machine. Again, it was the kind of murder that raised public alarm and heightened fears among Bahamians.
It was the murder of an innocent man, much like the murder of Inspector Blatch last week.
In 2016, Minnis also said one of the ways a Minnis administration would “attempt to stop” crime is through ensuring that hangings resume.
Christie too had a tendency to pander on the issue.
In 2006 after prison officer Dion Bowles was murdered during a prison break, Christie declared his support for capital punishment.
“Prime ministers don’t go around saying things like that, but I want to tell you all that, and plenty people do not agree. That is what I believe, and as long as I’m prime minister, the brothers and sisters who don’t believe it, I will fight with them,” he said.
There were no hangings during any of Christie’s terms and no bold moves taken by the government to cause the resumption of capital punishment.
In opposition, Minnis had committed to holding a referendum on capital punishment if elected.
“I want to amend the constitution so murder cases will only go as far as the Court of Appeal right here and would no longer go to the Privy Council,” he said in 2016.
“I will do everything to carry out the law, and the law says hang, so that is what I will do.
“This issue will be discussed and debated in the House of Assembly and then taken to the people. We will have this referendum, because I am a strong advocate and believer of hanging. The crime has to stop and this is just one way we will attempt to stop it.”
Now in government, Minnis is no longer talking about a referendum on the death penalty, but he wants us to know that he hates criminals.
Decent, law-abiding Bahamians everywhere abhor the actions of criminals.
Another issue on which we have heard a whole lot of hot air is the issue of immigration.
On Monday, the prime minister warned about illegal hiring of migrants. Minnis said Bahamians doing so would be prosecuted and permanent residents would have their residency revoked.
There is nothing wrong with the prime minister reminding people who violate the Immigration Act that their actions will not be tolerated, but we have heard about the illegal immigration crackdown many times before.
We are not aware of violators being taken to court in significant numbers for hiring undocumented workers. How serious have the authorities been in targeting such individuals?
Will we continue to just get more talk or are we to assume that the problem is not as widespread as suggested by the authorities and as such there is no need to take more than a few violators to court?
And how is this crackdown announced on Monday different from the immigration crackdown the prime minister announced a year ago?
Last October, Minnis declared in the House of Assembly that all migrants in The Bahamas illegally had until December 31, 2017 to leave, after which they would be aggressively pursued and deported.
“Those Bahamians who employ illegal migrants have until December 31, 2017 to regularize these individuals or stop employing them,” he warned.
“We must be a country of law and order.”
In some circles, the prime minister was applauded last year for taking a tough approach to illegal immigration – an issue that has been a long-standing national concern.
As the December 31 deadline neared, illegal immigrants were repeatedly warned to get out.
But what really happened after the deadline passed?
There is no evidence of any heightened action beyond what we have seen by authorities over the years.
There were a couple immigration raids for PR purposes, but there is no evidence of any sustained aggressive pursuit and deportation of immigrants as a result of that crackdown announced by Minnis nearly a year ago.
We don’t expect to see any aggressive action this time around either as a result of his declaration at the symposium on Monday.
We are likely to hear more announcements this term about an illegal immigration crackdown, but we await the promised aggressive action.
In the House of Assembly nearly a year ago, the prime minister also announced that major reforms were coming on the question of citizenship.
“My government will make changes to the Immigration Act to ensure that all children born to Bahamian women, single or married, out of The Bahamas are automatically [given citizenship],” Minnis announced.
Presumably, the prime minister was referring to the Bahamas Nationality Act, but no proposed changes have yet been brought to the public almost a year later.
Another major announcement Minnis made a year ago is that the hurricane-battered Ragged Island will be transformed into the first fully green island in the region.
He also promised to immediately introduce a mandatory evacuations bill.
“I think it is essential that we have a mandatory evacuation [law],” Minnis said after Hurricane Irma.
The bill never came.
Last week, Attorney General Carl Bethel said such a law would have “constitutional considerations”. There is no indication when or if this will ever become reality.
We know that it takes time to do big things and governments must prioritize what they will do and what they can afford to do, but we would be surprised if this goal for Ragged Island is achieved before the Minnis administration leaves office. Ragged Island has not been the government’s focus in the last year.
We suspect the so-called green island won’t be on the radar anytime soon.
We doubt there was ever really a plan to make that a reality, but it sounded good to say at the time it was said.
It has only been in office for just under a year and a half, but the Minnis administration does not have an indefinite amount of time to preserve the confidence some voters still have in it.
Confusing remarks, unfulfilled promises and continued pandering do nothing to motivate people to trust their government, to believe that it will indeed do what it continues to promise.
Many have grown weary of all the talk.