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Albury: Race not a significant factor in Bahamian politics

Central and South Abaco MP James Albury said he does not believe race plays a significant role in politics in The Bahamas, despite recent comments from St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette on the matter.

Symonette, who resigned from Cabinet last week, called for a national discussion on race, wealth and politics, and said that The Bahamas is not ready for a white prime minister.

“I’ve always felt that race relations in our country have been more relaxed than what you might observe around the world or even amongst our own neighboring countries,” Albury said when contacted for comment.

“I’m sure there are those who would say I’m not qualified to comment on such things, but that has been my experience as an MP and as a Bahamian.

“I think it’s more important to remember that for myself, and thousands of other young Bahamians, there is no living memory of the UBP (United Bahamian Party), the struggle for Majority Rule and independence, the 25 years of PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) administration, etc.

“It’s important to remember our history and our progress, but it will get more and more difficult to evoke and exploit that feeling of separation amongst the public as newer generations come up and assert themselves.

“As for Brent, I think no matter what the ultimate reason for or time of his departure, there would have been controversy. This is the case for anyone who has been in the public eye and frontline politics for so long. But the specter of the UBP, and the inseparable role the Symonette family played in the formation of the modern Bahamas, means the lens is magnified that much more.

“There may someday be a white prime minister. There may never be one.

“Both outcomes, in my eyes, are fine. The merits of a prime minister’s character should matter more than their melanin content.”

Symonette resigned from his post as minister of financial services, trade and industry and immigration amid controversy surrounding the award of government contracts to companies affiliated with his family. However, he insisted that his resignation was unrelated to those contracts.

Speaking to The Nassau Guardian last week, he strongly dismissed the perception some Bahamians have that he was in Cabinet to facilitate the further enrichment of himself and his wealthy friends.

Symonette, who is the youngest son of Sir Roland Symonette, the first premier of The Bahamas, declared a net worth of $156 million ahead of the most recent election.

These facts, along with his color, make him a lightning rod for attacks, he said, adding that there needs to be an honest national conversation about race, wealth and politics.

“Unfortunately for me, if you want to throw in the Bay Street Boys and whatever else, rolled up in me is the epitome of everything people hate, despise, whatever word,” he said.

“So I’ve already received a hate call. A person calls up and says, ‘I hate you.’ I told them, ‘Ma’am, I don’t hate you. I don’t hate anyone.’ So that’s a non-issue.”

Bahamas Hot Mix, which is owned in part by his children’s trust, was awarded a $20 million contract to carry out rehabilitation work on a runway and taxiway at Lynden Pindling International Airport.

The company was also awarded three contracts for water improvement projects on Long Island and Crooked Island.

Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister defended the decision last week, saying the other bids were disqualified for not meeting the requirements of the Caribbean Development Bank — a determination that was made by an independent firm out of Jamaica.

Rachel Knowles

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish
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