As he lambasted the Minnis administration during his contribution to the budget, Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine said since he voted against the value-added tax (VAT) hike in 2018 he has been victimized by his party and has been excluded from all Free National Movement (FNM) meetings on Grand Bahama.
The outspoken Pineridge MP had to fend off numerous bouts of heckling and points of order from his FNM colleagues.
As McAlpine stood to speak in the House last Thursday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Immigration Minister Brent Symonette, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield and Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar exited the chamber.
McAlpine noted that he came to speak to the people.
“…From the day I voted against VAT in this place I have not been invited to one Grand Bahama parliamentary caucus, and they have had several,” McAlpine said.
“But we are the government of transparency and accountability. Now if they do this to their own people, what do you think they would do to you, the people who they claim it’s the people’s time? Don’t get mad with me, all I’m doing is being transparent and accountable to the people of Pineridge. I think the word here is victimization.
“There’s more that I could say but this is just chapter one I’m dealing with; another time and another place, God spares life. I’ve got to keep moving.”
McAlpine was one of four FNM MPs who voted against the government’s decision to increase VAT last year.
The government increased VAT from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.
McAlpine noted that several UK MPs voted against British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal but were not fired.
“She wasn’t firing anybody,” he said.
“One or two resigned prior to the vote but she didn’t go on a rampage. She found it necessary as a leader to bring people together in her caucus.
“She was conciliatory in her demeanor and in her quest to bring stability to her government and country.
“The prime minister of The Bahamas was less merciful when firing us for voting against VAT even though we supported and voted for the other aspects of the then budget.
“Mr. Deputy, through you, when you are powerful you should be merciful. Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.
“Mr. Prime Minister, respectfully sir, mercy. You’re going to need mercy one day as we all do.
“The Westminster system only seems to be used when it’s convenient to bully those they think are weak amongst them, but they’re stronger than they think and they’ll be surprised to know who’s in the corner of these people they seem to dismiss in this place.”
Last year, Minnis fired McAlpine from his post as chairman of the hotel corporation and he fired Travis Robinson and Vaughn Miller from their posts as parliamentary secretaries after the three FNM MPs voted against the government’s plan to raise VAT.
The prime minister said he fired them in line with principles of the Westminster system.
Stew fish government
McAlpine noted that the government claimed “it’s the people’s time” but “only for a select few, a resurrected oligarchy, special interest and elitist with foreign influence”.
“It’s now becoming obvious that the Bahamian people are heating the frying pan for our government before or for 2022,” he said.
“They’re preparing to fry our government like snapper, while stewing us like grouper.
“The people of The Bahamas, and unfortunately the region, facetiously refer to us as the stew fish government. What a travesty.”
McAlpine was referring to Minnis’ now infamous 2018 response to a question about when he planned to deal with the issue of a substantive chief justice. Minnis said then that he wasn’t worried about that but with getting home and eating some stew fish.
McAlpine continued, “What’s even more disheartening, preceding the general election, many of the people in here sounded like the people out there.
“They spoke like them, they dressed like them and they suffered like them.
“Now that the people gave most of them a chance to make more money than they’ve ever made in their lifetime some seemingly have lost the people’s touch, taste, look and feel in my opinion and many others.”
McAlpine also clashed with Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest.
Regarding the VAT hike last year, McAlpine said, “This transparent government did not have the decency to inform or discuss with the parliamentary caucus its intent as it relates to the increase in VAT.”
But Turnquest, on a point of order, said, “Mr. Deputy, I think you already warned the member or cautioned the member I should say, about the choice of words that he uses. He says decency. What does he mean by that? Did not have the decency to consult. Is he suggesting that the minister of finance is not decent? I’m just trying to get clarity. I want to know if I should be offended or not.”
McAlpine continued, “When we were in opposition, we spoke about how VAT was a tax that would inflict suffering, hardship; it would make life hard for the Bahamian people, especially the poor and the middle class.
“We called it lazy and promised to repeal it if and when we came to Office. Jesus Christ of Nazareth have mercy on all of us in this place.”
McAlpine later clashed with Symonette, who returned to the chamber, and Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.
As he wrapped up, McAlpine noted, “I will always choose the Bahamian people over party.
“History has taught me when you stand with the people, the people tend to stand with you.”
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