Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019
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Written commentary that missed the mark

Dear Editor,

A friend called on Wednesday and said I should read the National Review article in The Nassau Guardian titled “Boot Lickers” by Travis Cartwright-Carroll. She said the writer went totally off in the wrong direction in his analysis of the budget debate.

I read it. She understated how far off the writer was.

He started by quoting Dr. Andre Rollins, one of the great flameouts and disappointments in modern Bahamian politics.

“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’,” wrote Cartwright-Carroll.

Later in his piece the writer wrote: “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“It has been a narrative of PLP failure, incompetence, mismanagement and other terms that were either withdrawn or expunged from the record.”

Firstly, Rollins is smart but in his brief time in politics he displayed mental indiscipline, erratic behavior and political disloyalty. He bounced from party to party. He wanted to be in Cabinet and eventually the prime minister. Having not gotten his way he threw petty tantrums until both parties were tired of him. Rollins is now permanently out of Bahamian politics. Why would Cartwright-Carroll think Rollins is a wise thinker he should quote from or structure his piece around?

Secondly, by describing members of a party as “boot lickers” for supporting their party, Cartwright-Carroll demonstrated a fundamental misunderstanding of our parliamentary democracy.

In The Bahamas, parties are elected to govern. This is why the party that wins the election is called the governing party. Candidates are put forward by major parties and the party that wins the majority of seats becomes the government. In our two-party system the losing party is the opposition.

The leader of the party with the majority of seats in the elected chamber of parliament becomes the prime minister.

Governing-side backbenchers are part of the governing party. They meet in caucus with the other elected and appointed members of the legislature and work together to make policy and laws for the direction of the country. These backbenchers are not one-man or one-woman parties.

The same concept is true with the opposition. Philip Davis, Glenys Hanna-Martin, Chester Cooper and Picewell Forbes are part of a team. They should coordinate and advocate a common theme in critique of the governing party from the perspective of the opposition.

That’s why they sat next to each other as Cooper gave the opposition a response to the budget.

Cartwright-Carroll fundamentally misunderstands how this works. He seems to think in our system you should come to Parliament and rant about whatever comes to mind, like Rollins did.

Our system is orderly and properly functioning when our parties work in unison on their respective sides.

Government backbenchers do dissent often with their frontbench colleagues and lobby hard to get what they need for their constituents – just not that often in the immature way Cartwright-Carroll seems to like.

Here is an example that is very common. There is a major road in a constituency that needs paving. Constituents are complaining. The backbench MP goes to his colleagues the minister of works, the minister of finance and the prime minster asking, begging and pleading for assistance. The MP keeps calling, and asking, and begging, and lobbying. It takes time but he gets his road paved.

In that case the MP used influence to get the job done behind the scenes. This happens all the time with all types of projects and issues in constituencies.

Cartwright-Carroll’s column was also critical that not much has been said about the way forward for the government. I am an older Bahamian. We can throw jabs at our politicians for many things. One thing we can’t criticize them for is lack of detail in the budget – be they PLP or FNM.

In every budget I can remember in my lifetime, ministers and MPs who are board chairman give long, long speeches about their areas. They tell you what happened last year. They tell you what is happening next year. That is the structure of budget debates. They talk for so long that you might fall asleep listening to them give so much detail.

The key is analyzing over the course of the year if the money actually gets spent on what they promised and if the projects and initiatives are finished. It is totally misguided to criticize any of our parties in government – PLP or FNM – for lack of detail in the budget. Some of the ministers and chairmen give contributions that are over 100 pages.

Since this budget started I have read numerous stories in The Nassau Guardian from members of the governing side discussing what is happening in their areas. I assume Cartwright-Carroll read them too. How then could one say there is little in the budget debate discussing the way forward for the country?

Cartwright-Carroll is a new editor at the newspaper. I think he is new to writing commentary. He missed badly with this article. He should think deeper when he writes his next column. Educated Bahamians see the obvious inadequacies of this assessment he offered.

The young writer’s star will quickly dim in journalism if this is what he thinks analysis should be.

– Darwin R. Luther

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