Consider This | Disgraceful, Mr. Prime Minister
At a service last week at Cousin McPhee Cathedral AME Church, while celebrating his administration’s second anniversary in office, the prime minister used the opportunity to characterize the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) as “a party of mass corruption”.
He painted the PLP as a corrupt group that believes it “owns” this country and that “for a quarter century, ruled under a cult of personality, a sense of entitlement and mass corruption and widespread victimization”.
While many Bahamians might agree with the prime minister’s characterization of the PLP, this week we would like to Consider this… was the church the appropriate venue for such blatantly and politically divisive comments to be made by the prime minister?
What the prime minister said
During the church service, the prime minister outlined his government’s achievements since the May 2017 general election and plans for the country’s further improvement. He also attempted to draw distinctions between the Free National Movement (FNM) and the opposition PLP.
In addition to the prime minister’s aforementioned remarks, he went even further during his tirade in Cousin McPhee Cathedral AME Church.
He said, “They (the PLP) kept rigid control of the broadcast media so they could spew their propaganda and limit our freedom of expression. Then, as now, they believe that the rule of law does not apply to them. They believe they can engage in corruption without consequences. They turn a blind eye to reports of the auditor general, they demonize the Royal Bahamas Police Force when it serves their interests.
“The PLP believes it owns this country and they are entitled to steal and plunder with zeal. The FNM, we are different. We cherish the name ‘free’ because we are committed to the cause of expanding and protecting freedom in the nation. We are guided by the values of equality, the rule of law, social justice and opportunity for all.”
He added: “The people’s turnaround has begun. We put a stop to rampant corruption. We put a stop to waste and stealing of the people’s money. We put a stop to the descent into economic collapse. We put a stop to the never-ending downgrades; our economy is growing and getting stronger and healthier.”
The opposition’s response
In his response to the prime minister’s comments, Philip Brave Davis, PLP leader, described the prime minister’s comments as “inappropriate”. He said, “Political parties should not use the church as a venue to attack other parties.”
Davis said, “I mean the church is the church and when we are in a church, the secular issues are only addressed in the context of our biblical teachings and it is not to use to promote one’s party or to diminish another party in the context of the spiritual realm.”
PLP Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell, said that Minnis’ behavior is the reason why some churches do not allow politicians in their pulpits at all. He appealed to the Bahamas Christian Council “to rein in this kind of outrageous use of church pulpits”.
Mitchell said the PLP was “totally offended” that the church’s pastor allowed the prime minister to “use his church to spew out total propaganda. The speech in that church on Sunday was totally out of the norm”.
Mitchell continued, “They simply do not know what is appropriate to say and what is not. Had he been in certain churches, the prime minister would’ve been stopped dead in his tracks for violating the terms of reference of appearance in church.
“There [are] certain protocols and norms which obtain when you speak in a church and one of them is, while you can thank God for what he’s done for you, you do not use it for direct political speeches.”
Disgraceful, Mr. Prime Minister
That Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis chose to utter those comments from a church pulpit is disgraceful and he should hang his head in shame and apologize to the nation for his blatantly boorish and politically pugnacious pronouncements from the pulpit.
Over the past two years, the prime minister has missed several golden opportunities to provide real leadership to heal a deeply divided and politically polarized nation. A real leader uses every opportunity to be a peacemaker, not a purveyor of propaganda that further polarizes us.
He missed a golden opportunity to thank Almighty God for giving him and his party the opportunity to resolve the enormous challenges that confront us. He could have humbly petitioned the church to pray that he and his government would take advantage of the privilege to lead the nation at this time. He could even have asked the church and all churches in the country to pray that we are safeguarded from the ravages of hurricanes in the season that will begin next month.
However, in his characteristically inept manner, the prime minister chose to transform the church pulpit into a political platform. His remarks in that venue were completely reprehensible, inexcusably indefensible, inappropriate and totally beyond the pale.
To add insult to injury, not one single church leader demonstrated an ounce of courage to condemn the prime minister’s comments that emanated from that pulpit. Not one. Is it any wonder that so many Bahamians have become so apathetic and so insensitively immunized to the credibility of the sole institution, which heretofore has historically represented the conscience of the nation?
On the island of Patmos, the Apostle John prophesied precisely about this type of development. At Revelation 17:2, he foreshadowed the relationship that would develop between the beast (governments) and the harlot (corrupt and politically compromised churches). John foretold that governments would commit adultery with the churches and that the inhabitants of the earth would become intoxicated with the wine of the harlot’s adulteries. Are we witnessing the fulfilment of this prophecy here?
In the age of Trump, where a world political leader can say anything that flashes into his mind with impunity, we must not lose sight of the relevance of the prophecy that was written 2,000 years ago.
Many Bahamians throughout the archipelago were offended, not so much by the prime minister’s utterances, because it is natural for politicians to take every advantage of his adversaries’ perceived weaknesses. What was superlatively and inexcusably offensive about the prime minister’s utterances on his administration’s second anniversary was the venue that he chose to make those declarations.
Equally, if not even more offensive is the thunderous silence of those whose primary responsibility is to represent the conscience of the nation. The churches, all of the churches in the nation, and the Bahamas Christian Council failed the Bahamian society all this week. Their deeply deafening silence spoke volumes.
In a nation that has witnessed a relentless spate of senseless murders in recent days, it is very plain that there is a deadly deficit in the kind of leadership we need to guide us to a more peaceful, less bloody society.
If the church allows its sacred space to be used for political purposes and the politicians are bent upon defiling that holy ground by using it for unending, vicious attacks on opponents, who is left to help us all navigate these turbulent and terrible times?
If there can be any hope of restoring a peaceful equilibrium to The Bahamas, our church community must refuse to entertain this kind of political vitriol – from anyone – and, once again, become the rock upon which we can rebuild our society.
And the politicians? They must all learn that our religious institutions are inappropriate places for political rallies. If they continue to demonstrate this kind of disrespect, it will be a certainty that our community will be infected with that disrespect, which will unquestionably encourage the perpetuation of the kind of violence we are now seeing everywhere.
Surely, this is not what any right-thinking government and truly conscientious community of spiritual leaders should want for this nation. Both our government and our church need to understand that the harlot’s wine is not going to help us build our nation. Both of these important institutions must accept that we deserve a government that respects our sacred places and a church that is mindful of its vital, non-political place in our society. When that happens, we can build this country into a place of safety and success for us all.
Later this month, we will address the myth that the PLP is the only political party with a history of corruption and detail specific instances where the FNM was guilty of corruption, despite its leader’s misrepresentations to the contrary.
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.