In a recent Facebook post, prominent Abaco businessman Roscoe Thompson III announced his intentions to run as an independent candidate for the Central and South Abaco constituency, an area currently represented by the Free National Movement’s (FNM) James Albury, who is only 27 years old.
When Albury recently announced that he will not be seeking a renomination for that area, due to personal matters, mischief-makers began spreading propaganda on Facebook and other social media platforms that the Central and South Abaco incumbent was being dumped by the FNM.
Critics have alleged that Albury has been ineffective as an MP. I think this is a highly emotive and unfair assessment, considering the unusual circumstances Abaco has undergone over the past two years with that northern island being flattened by Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 and the insurmountable challenges to rebuilding, due to the complete standstill to the Bahamian economy subsequent to the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.
Abaco probably needs upwards of $1 billion to rebuild — funds the central government obviously lacks.
Judging from the many anti-FNM comments on Mr. Thompson’s Facebook page, I am beginning to sense that the FNM has no clear path to victory in Central and South Abaco.
Unfortunately for North Abaco MP Darren Henfield, the same can be said for his constituency as well, judging by the heckling he received by irate Abaconians in May 2020 while attending the funeral of the 55 Hurricane Dorian victims in Central Pines, Abaco.
Albury obviously sees the handwriting on the wall for the FNM in Abaco, and made the wise decision to remove himself from an untenable situation.
Thompson and many Abaconians are displeased with the current pace of reconstruction in Abaco, taking aim at the Disaster Reconstruction Authority (DRA) and the Hurricane Dorian Small Homes Repair Programme.
In late 2020, there were rumors of DRA vouchers being rejected by vendors.
According to the (now former) Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis, the delays in payments were due to an influx of applicants to the DRA program, which was approaching 5,000.
With Bahamians who were impacted by Hurricane Dorian being allowed to access up to $10,000 in government assistance, the government could easily be saddled with a $50 million bill, which is only a drop in the bucket.
According to a January 18 article posted on Eyewitness News’ webpage, over 1,000 homeowners have successfully received 100 percent of the assistance they had applied for through the DRA, which is good news in an otherwise stressful situation.
Still, Thompson views the DRA as a complete waste of taxpayers’ money, arguing that the $4 million to $6 million used to fund it should instead be given to Abaconians who are struggling to rebuild.
Thompson and his commenters also took aim at the Minnis administration’s apparent lack of urgency in addressing the matter of chronic looting on Abaco last year, in addition to the current state of the Leonard M. Thompson International Airport.
Both Thompson and Albury are descendants of the British who fled the United States following the American Revolution to settle in the Abaco islands, not wanting to lose their British citizenship.
With the push for independence by the Pindling government in 1973, Abaconians formed the so-called Abaco Independence Movement, which was aimed at ensuring that Abaco remained a colony of Great Britain, while severing ties with The Bahamas.
Subsequent to this failed rebellion, Abaconians, through sheer hard work and determination, built a vibrant economy that overtook the economy in Freeport.
Decades of hard work were completely undone by Hurricane Dorian in a mere matter of hours.
One can then appreciate the frustration of Mr. Thompson, who in a fit of emotion in his Facebook page, accused Dr. Hubert Minnis of being the “worst PM The Bahamas has ever seen.”
With this anti-FNM mood being as strong as it is in Abaco, Albury’s decision makes practical sense.
Thompson rightly stated that no matter who the FNM fields in Central and South Abaco, they will lose. And I agree.
However, in the event Thompson wins the Central and South Abaco seat in the upcoming election, he would be hit hard by the reality of the budgetary constraints the current government has had to face.
It would then be interesting to see if the independent MP would tone down his rhetoric in the halls of Parliament.
I am not making any excuses for the current Central and South Abaco MP, but I do believe that James Albury is simply overwhelmed by the unprecedented challenges facing his constituency.
— Kevin Evans