‘Rally talk’

The heat of the campaign trail can become feverish as the day of the election draws nigh.

On the rally stage, politicians paint their opponents as essentially enemies of the state – bad actors who should be removed from office or not allowed in.

They play on people’s fears and flirt with the fringes of truth – suggesting the VAT money was stolen, for example.

And they throw insults – like then-Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis referring to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham as “Papa Clown”.

This is usually chalked up to “rally talk”.

Then there is the darker side; the unofficial campaign.

In the age of social media, political supporters push out messages at lightning speed, often with claims that are entirely false, defamatory or filled with perverse tidbits of carnal gossip that feed the seedier nature of far too many Bahamians.

While this is sadly not to be unexpected, we are concerned that some of what should never be official party positions has bled into the “rally talk”.

And we are disturbed at the ease with which certain members of the Free National Movement (FNM) have taken to saying outrageous, inappropriate things.

We are aware that there are those who cling tightly to their blind political agendas who wish to push the notion that The Nassau Guardian is biased in its analysis and opinions of the current administration and the prime minister in particular.

They are divorced from reality.

We hold no bias for or against the FNM.

We have a job to do.

Part of that job is to hold those in power to account and assess their words and actions without fear or favor.

Our reporting is neutral and balanced and our analysis and opinions are informed by facts and institutional knowledge of what good and bad governance looks like.

If you examine editorial positions and opinion pieces we frequently carried during the last administration, you would see we were just as critical of former Prime Minister Christie and his colleagues.

That this administration is dealing with the pandemic and the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian – two unprecedented events in most of our lifetimes – actually warrants even greater scrutiny than ever before.

There is no question that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis’ leadership has been found wanting.

That FNMs do not enjoy hearing that is their problem.

It is not within the realm of reason to ask a newspaper of record to be dishonest with itself and an entire nation to protect the ego of one man, prime minister or not.

But whatever his other shortcomings, we are concerned that the prime minister has allowed “rally talk” to transmute into anybody saying anything no matter how outlandish.

On the rally stage over the weekend, Yamacraw MP and Minister of Immigration Elsworth Johnson essentially accused numerous unnamed PLP candidates of molesting women and children.

Johnson, an attorney for many years, appears to be losing his tether on what is and is not appropriate.

It is not appropriate to publicly smear an entire political party with such serious allegations in the absence of criminal charges.

It is appropriate and legally incumbent on Johnson to report any credible allegations of sexual abuse to the police; there is no statute of limitations on sexual offenses.

Perhaps in an effort not to be outdone, on the same rally stage Johnson spoke from on Friday, the prime minister said he had been reliably informed that the FNM won last Thursday’s advanced poll.

Does he truly not understand what such remarks convey about the fairness of the electoral process he is constitutionally bound to protect?

He knows full well that the ballots are not counted until the polls close on Election Day.

It is incredibly irresponsible for the prime minister of the nation to cast such uncertainty on our most sacred democratic process.

The prime minister further claimed the PLP is trying to steal the election, suggesting his supporters trail certain PLP supporters, even to the bathroom and even if they are reported to the police, in order to secure a fair election.

We have had mostly peaceful elections for the past six decades; now is not the time for us to physically pit poll workers against each other and foment distrust.

The prime minister should know better.

That no one around does not have the sense to tell him better is much to our detriment.

Mercifully, the campaign will conclude tomorrow and there will be an end to all the “rally talk”.

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