Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

BOOT LICKERS

Back in 2015, then outspoken Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins told The Nassau Guardian that if receiving a PLP nomination for the 2017 election only goes to “boot lickers and butt kissers” then “you could keep your nomination”.

“…The country is not well served by boot lickers and butt kissers and that’s real talk,” Rollins told our Candia Dames that humid June day.

Rollins was known for calling out the PLP government and its many scandalous failures in office. While he sometimes went off the rails, Rollins’ criticism of the PLP was right on the money.

Some of the contributions to debate on the 2019/2020 budget have been a harrowing tale of boot licking and butt kissing.

It has been a narrative of PLP failure, incompetence, mismanagement and other terms that were either withdrawn or expunged from the record.

There was little talk of the Minnis administration’s plans for the way forward. Two years into office and it is unclear what the FNM has planned to grow the Bahamian economy, increase employment and help the “small man”.

One talk show caller put it best yesterday, “Everybody knows that the FNM is all about bettering the country. They don’t look out necessarily for the small man.”

And that caller said they were a supporter of the party.

The boot licking and butt kissing by some FNM MPs these last few days has been nauseating at times.

While there were bright spots, the clouds of lazy speech writing and “let’s dredge up the failures of the PLP” were prevalent.

If you were to tune in to the Parliamentary Channel at the right moment you may possibly hear a government MP lionize Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and the government.

There was, as most Bahamians would say, “plenty lotioning”.

It happens in every budget debate, regardless of which government is in power.

Perhaps the most noticeable MP to do so was Bains and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson.

The young MP praised the “strong and steady” leadership of Minnis, who he said had made the tough and unpopular decisions for the betterment of the country.

“Mr. Speaker, everything that you do, or a group or organization, you need good leadership, and, Mr. Speaker, I could not be even any more proud to be a part of an organization where leadership is not a challenge; to be a part of an organization, Mr. Speaker, where we have a captain of a ship with a vision,” he said.

“Mr. Speaker, we have a captain of a ship who have already envisioned where he wants this country to be, what we have to do to make steady strides to get there and exactly how we’re going to get there, Mr. Speaker.

“And so, the only way we could change this, Mr. Speaker, is when we have those individuals with the ingenious minds, leaders who are not afraid to make the tough decisions, even when people think that they are crazy for making it.

“Mr. Speaker, I am pleased because we have a prime minister of this country who has made the sacrifice to invest the kinds of resources into our inner-city community, to pull it out of the poverty that it is now in and bring it safe harbor. And so, Mr. Speaker, this captain in his infinite wisdom decided that Bains and Grants Town should not be left behind.”

He continued, “This government, despite what the critics and the naysayers may say, they stepped up to the plate.”

But about a year ago, Robinson was one of those critics.

He voted against the increase in value-added tax (VAT) from 7.5 percent to 12 percent.

The young MP said that his constituents told him not to support it.

He said the increase would hurt the poor and be too burdensome.

The move cost him his parliamentary secretary job.

Undeterred, Robinson took to the streets of Bain Town and Grants Town that day, live on Facebook. He went house to house, was patted on the back and was consoled by old women who told him to “hold his head up”.

He took a victory lap for “standing with the people”.

Last Thursday, he sang a different song.

With Minnis and Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar by his side, Robinson praised the government for making the “tough decisions”.

“That’s what leadership is about, making the tough decisions even when it’s not the popular one,” he said.

“That’s what the member for [East Grand Bahama] did, even when it wasn’t popular. That’s what the member for Killarney did, made tough decisions because it was in the best interest of the Bahamian people.”

Politics is a funny thing.

Robinson is a promising young Bahamian who has a bright future ahead of him. While it is important in life and in politics not to burn your bridges, it is equally important to show people that you stand for something.

Another promising FNM MP, St. Barnabas MP Shanendon Cartwright, sought to tread the middle ground during his speech.

He noted that the economic woes of the country are the result of successive governments and that it will take an enormous effort to tackle it.

“Government after government have been wrestling with these fiscal issues from one election cycle to the next,” Cartwright said.

“They have been fermenting for decades, submerged in political expediency and given a pass by all of us, every single one of us. Given a pass because we don’t have the answers? No.

“Given a pass by our parliamentary predecessors because we allowed the politics to become greater than the patriotism.

“While successive governments, FNM and PLP, have contributed to what we have today, this prime minister and this government and this minister of finance has been tasked to start to fix it and fix it in a real way once and for all.

“No more kicking the can down the road. No more pandering to our insatiable need to be re-elected.”

This was a good middle ground to take. But this speech, or a form of it, has been delivered in nearly every budget debate.

You can start a drinking game on how many times a politician has used the phrase “no more kicking the can down the road”.

He also did not speak directly to the 2019/2020 budget. Cartwright, like most during the debate, spoke about the last budget. He spoke about gains made by the government.

Cartwright criticized the opposition, which he said “won’t emphasize the gains made” but will instead look for “morsels of negativity”.

He had an hour to speak and spent too much of it going off on the PLP. It was disappointing.

The few Cabinet ministers who spoke detailed the work they have accomplished in their ministries.

But there was little originality in the budget. There were no exciting initiatives outlined by the government.

By and large, the debate has been a snooze fest.

Perhaps the biggest offender was Fort Charlotte MP Mark Humes, who spent most of his speech lambasting the PLP.

“This is about record compared to record,” he said.

Humes spoke about the PLP’s shoddy performance in government from 2002 to 2007 and from 2012 to 2017. He even referred to the Pindling years.

“The question is, can they be trusted as a voice of reason?” he asked.

Humes painted a picture of what he said was the PLP’s mismanagement of the Bahamian economy.

He spoke about the “Christie, Davis, Hanna-Martin group”. He spoke about scandals under the PLP.

He spoke of past budget debates.

But he didn’t speak much of the current budget or his constituency.

Minister of the Environment Romauld Ferreira started off his speech talking about the expulsion of pirates from The Bahamas, about the Marathon oil spill and the “shuffling and jiving” PLP.

“They can’t change,” he said.

During his contribution, Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine sought to flay the government.

When McAlpine rose in the House of Assembly last week, Minnis and several other Cabinet ministers quickly headed for the exit.

They knew what was coming.

“It’s now becoming obvious that the Bahamian people are heating the frying pan for our government before or for 2022,” McAlpine 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 avoided the boot licking and butt kissing.

He probably won’t receive an FNM nomination. His criticism was harsh. But was it wrong?

His outrage and utterances are reminiscent of Rollins and former Marco City MP Greg Moss.

But McAlpine should know that those two men have no political future.

He 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 didn’t talk much about the 2019/2020 budget either. He noted that the budget numbers don’t add up and questioned where the promised travel expense report of government MPs was hiding.

Minnis should take what McAlpine said and use it to better his government.

Rollins noted that “good leadership is about being able to bring divergent points of view and thinking into your decision-making team”.

Former Prime Minister Perry Christie was surrounded by boot lickers.

That didn’t work out so well for him.

Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Assistant Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018.
Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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