National Review

Rotting from the head 

Under Minnis, FNM has become much of what it claimed to despise

After assuming office in 2017 on a powerful wave that swept the Christie-led Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) from office and banished most of those in the party to the political wilderness, the Free National Movement (FNM) administration used the ensuing budget debate to support its PLP corruption narrative and further demonize the former administration.

It was an obvious attempt to temper the expectations of the electorate by explaining that it was due to corruption that the cupboard was bare.

As previous administrations had done upon coming to power, we were told things are even worse than we thought. That meant the pie-in-the sky pledges made to sway voters were not likely to be met.

We were told that the former administration had left hundreds of millions of dollars in unmet commitments, and that through wheeling and dealing, it had raided the treasury and further burdened Bahamian taxpayers and generations of Bahamians yet unborn.

In chilling contributions to the 2017/2018 budget debate that laid the foundation for a plan announced a year later to raise value-added tax, minister after minister spoke of PLP corruption, conflicts of interest, misdeeds and mismanagement.

“The Bahamian people were sensible enough to vote them out, and when their deeds are revealed, the Bahamian people will keep them out,” vowed Desmond Bannister, minister of public works.

In dramatic fashion, Bannister declared that PLP ministers were guilty of misfeasance.

“Mr. Speaker, they are guilty and by their acts they have caused untold damage,” he said.

“… The attorney general will have to determine whether they will have to pay; and they should not expect the government to waste the people’s money to represent them in court as they did when they deliberately and maliciously disclosed the private information of others to the public.”

The energy with which FNM ministers were determined to expose what they characterized as shady contracts entered into by the previous administration, and their commitment to be “distinctly different” and transparent in their own dealings, have come squarely into focus as they seek to convince the Bahamian people that they should be the first party in nearly 25 years to be re-elected for a second term.

Bannister does not have the same level of zeal about revealing PLP “deeds” as he had during that first budget debate.

Likewise, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis himself has been shamefully silent and has shown disdain for the Bahamian people by ignoring critical questions in the public domain relating to the award of contracts this term.

While pledging transparency and to hold those in his administration to high standards, Minnis has refused to address information that has been in the public domain for nearly two weeks that shows the questionable award of Water and Sewerage Corporation contracts to a company whose director was the reported fiancee of the WSC Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson, the FNM’s incumbent in Long Island.

DISTRACTION

Speaking at a drive-in rally on Grand Bahama on Friday, Minnis instead continued efforts to malign the PLP leader, Philip Brave Davis.

While making no direct reference to the contracts awarded by the WSC and other questionable contracts, the prime minister claimed, “… There is plenty of foolishness the PLP and their people are putting out, especially on social media. They are trying to distract you from the truth of who Brave is and who they are. 

“Do not mind the noise. They are very, very desperate. They are very hungry and need to get back at the cookie jar. They are scared and they are going to lose and lose big. So, they are getting even more desperate, but your FNM is going to continue our campaign for your future with our heads held high. We have accomplished much for you and we are going to do even more.”

But it seems the one doing the distracting, and the one increasingly desperate is Minnis as he continues to avoid the elephant in the room, and refuses to make himself available for any serious questioning by the media – a telling sign that he as prime minister is not confident enough to sit and defend his administration’s record.

Following the lead of the prime minister and deputy prime minister in ignoring demands for transparency, and instead blaming the PLP, Gibson, while on Long Island last week, tried to drum up sympathy, arrogantly claiming he is the victim of a “smear campaign” because he put water in Davis’ constituency of Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador.

“This is silly season, political season. You will see all kinds of foolishness. This is the season of lies, half-truths, innuendos, doctored documents, and fabrications,” Gibson said.

But he glaringly refused to address directly the questionable contract awards and to say whether his then fiancee benefited from such contracts.

The prime minister, in a stunning display of hypocrisy and strongly demonstrating a lack of conviction, has decided to turn a blind eye as opposed to provide full transparency on this matter, which we addressed last week and do so again given its impact on the credibility of a party that is asking the Bahamian people to once again trust it to govern.

Minnis and the FNM, day by day, continue to give voters all the reasons why they ought not be trusted with our affairs.

In Long Island on Monday, the prime minister said, as Gibson did earlier, that Davis is “mad” with the Long Island MP because he put good quality water in Davis’ constituency.

Minnis said Gibson has been good for Long Island and good for The Bahamas and predicted that once again he will win the seat. 

Minnis’ reaction to the matter at hand reminds us of the way former Prime Minister Perry Christie and DPM Davis behaved when revelations were made that one of their ministers – Jerome Fitzgerald – had abused his power when he sought contracts from the Baha Mar developer to benefit his family’s business.

In 2017, Prime Minister Christie backed Fitzgerald. So Did Deputy Prime Minister Davis, who infamously said, “He’s our candidate for Marathon and we expect him to win his seat.”

Fitzgerald, as we all know, did not win his seat.

We know of no one who doubts that Long Island will once again be in the FNM’s column, but the shameful behavior of the prime minister, the deputy prime minister and others in this administration puts in doubt their chances of winning the government next week.

We suppose Minnis’ consultants have told him that the perceived weakness of Davis as leader must be hammered at every opportunity, but efforts to demonize Davis only make Minnis look like a desperate and delusional leader with no strong record to run on.

Equally as disgraceful on the issue of transparency has been Bannister, the now deputy prime minister, whose statement in response to a contract award in his own ministry showed contemptible disrespect toward the Bahamian people and a disregard for the principles he and his colleagues committed to upholding when they assumed office.

Desmond Bannister. FILE

After ducking reporters seeking to ask relevant and pointed questions regarding contract awards, Bannister released a statement in which he said nothing of sense or substance, choosing instead to obfuscate, and attack the PLP, calling it “a vicious, nasty and desperate organization”.

Again, like Minnis, Bannister in accusing the PLP of distraction, tried to distract from the matter at hand.

“This week in their failing attempts to distract the Bahamian public from their record of incompetence in office, they launched a misleading and defamatory attack on me and on honest, decent, hardworking Bahamians,” he claimed.

“Whilst I am tempted to respond, and to disclose the tens of millions in corrupt contracts that were issued by the failed PLP administration and their shady and unscrupulous dealings, I am guided by the high ideals and principled approach that the Bahamian people expect from me.”

The DPM said he would “not dignify the PLP’s deceitful attacks by responding to their scurrilous allegations and permitting them to distract me from the campaign. On 16th September the Bahamian people will see the last of the corrupt PLP.”

Interestingly, there had been no statement from the PLP that he could have been responding to directly.

Bannister’s statement demonstrated his own disregard for his solemn and fiduciary duty to the Bahamian people and showed contempt for his oath and to the electorate.

He seems to miss entirely the point that he is duty bound to disclose the so-called tens of millions in corrupt contracts issued by the former administration.

If this indeed is the case, then why is it that the Minnis administration is sitting on such evidence that would be relevant in judicial proceedings?

Further, has Bannister forgotten his 2017 budget debate statement that when PLP deeds are revealed the Bahamian people will keep that party out of office? Why not reveal now the “corrupt” contracts he claims existed?

It is not Bannister’s money, but the Bahamian people’s money that was expended in those contract awards. That he so arrogantly declares he is keeping the information from us is the strongest possible demonstration of his unfitness for high office.

FOLLOW THE LEADER

It is absolutely repulsive to watch the FNM in office repeatedly demonstrate that they are what they claimed to have so despised — secret government, disrespect for the Bahamian people and tolerance for conflicts and questionable conduct. 

Their continued narrative of PLP corruption and their fear-mongering over the kind of prime minister they claim Davis would be does not appear to be gaining widespread traction.

What does seem to be widespread is the angst so many Bahamians are feeling toward the current administration. Many voters with good reason feel they were sold a bag of goods in 2017.

It is true that many have their misgivings about Davis and the PLP, and it is still true that the Christie administration deserved to be rejected in 2017, but many cannot stomach the thought of another term of an administration that took power promising it would be the people’s time, but who on so many occasions has shown such contempt toward the same people.

Many voters understandably feel the governing party is again trying to dupe them by claiming we would have a better future if we re-elect them to office.

The FNM under Minnis is a party of double standards. One standard for the PLP, another for the FNM.

FNMs are following their leader – following his contemptuous disrespect for the Bahamian people, following his delusion, following his disregard for good governance principles.

It is appearing more and more likely as we near another election that they will also follow him off to the political wilderness. 

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Candia Dames

Candia Dames is the executive editor of The Nassau Guardian.

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