Pintard must stay focused
The last election presented a semblance of hope that there would be a cleansing of the political landscape of sorts.
Former Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis was justifiably removed from office and fringe political organizations playing on the disenchantment of Bahamians while selling dreams failed to gain a single seat in the House of Assembly.
Minnis went any which way the political winds blew.
He was a leader with no center, who stood resolutely on no issue that generated negative sentiment without blaming his decided course of action on someone else.
We hoped Michael Pintard would reinvigorate a more thoughtful and resolute approach for the Free National Movement (FNM).
But a year after the last election, the party seems more interested in scoring what possible quick political points it can against the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) while not taking the time to clearly understand what is in front of it.
Yesterday in Parliament Square, activist Lincoln Bain protested with a sizable group of Bahamians as members of the House of Assembly returned from their summer break.
We were told Bain and his group demonstrated against the government’s plan to bring a citizenship bill, which is expected to legislate that every child born to a Bahamian, whether that Bahamian is male or female, has an automatic right to citizenship no matter where the child is born.
Bain said the move to bring citizenship legislation would amount to the government’s rejection of the will of the people as expressed in two referenda.
To be clear, Bain, and any other person in The Bahamas, has the right to protest the government.
And one could believe that the protest was simply about a legitimate difference of philosophy about how citizenship should be transferred.
But it is very difficult to believe that was the intent when he was recorded with a megaphone barking, “Philip Brave Davis, you are going to be the last Haitian prime minister. Going forward, we will have only Bahamian prime ministers.”
The prime minister is, of course, a Bahamian.
And while he has been welcoming of Haitians and their descendants as “my people”, he has never claimed to be anything else.
Outside Parliament, Pintard met with the protesters.
Pintard’s office then released a statement.
“The FNM leader made it clear that the Free National Movement does not support the draft bill in the form that is in circulation,” the statement read.
It continued, “Mr. Pintard has previously indicated to the media that he and his colleagues support the right of Bahamian men and women being able to pass citizenship onto their unborn children.
“The only issue at stake is the importance of consultation with the Bahamian people (who must have their say) and being careful to address this issue as a stand-alone matter.”
The thing is, there is no legitimate draft bill in circulation.
The last draft citizenship legislation released for public consultation was the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, 2018.
It was never tabled in the House of Assembly and the current administration said it will be broken up and the asylum provisions will be radically changed.
This administration, just like the last administration in whose Cabinet Pintard served, decided it would make changes to the passage of citizenship through ordinary legislation, which is perfectly legal.
And the current administration has released no such draft legislation related to citizenship for public consultation but has pledged to do so.
The protestors might or might not have known this, which is understandable given the lack of depth of investigation and the proclivity to opine on rumor and myth that proliferates on social media.
However, Pintard either does not know what is going on with the legislation or is simply pandering.
Frankly, either scenario is disconcerting.
The FNM has already had a leader who pandered to disastrous results in its last term in office.
Pintard must not be so easily distracted, or appear sympathetic to fringe notions of nationality that are fueling xenophobia in our country.
To his credit, the statement noted that Pintard said it is possible to put Bahamians first without hating on any other group.
We would argue that not only is it possible, but necessary.
Pintard must stay focused and stand on what he believes.
He must seek to return the FNM to a more thoughtful, intentional place that presents legitimate opposition, while busying itself with crafting a sensible agenda the Bahamian people can buy into.