Leader of the opposition Philip Brave Davis, who found the prime minister’s January 2 response to queries on campaign finance reform hypocritical, found nothing hypocritical in the revision of his and his party’s position on the ban of the use of single-use plastics which is being transitioned into full effect over the next six months.
The proliferation of the use of single-use plastic bags, water bottles, other food-ware and utensils has been established as a major contributor to the degradation of our environment.
Their presence mars our streets, our beaches and our seas where they pose special hazards to our marine life.
In November 2019, Davis and other opposition members joined with the government to enact the Environmental Protection (Control of Plastic Pollution) Act.
That act prohibits the use of single-use plastic food-ware and non-biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable and biodegradable single-use plastic bags; prohibits the release of balloons; and regulates the use of compostable single-use plastic bags.
In January 2020, presumably with a finger in the air to determine which way the wind was blowing and whether a swift change of position might win some political brownie points, Davis declared that his party no longer supports the plastic ban which he claimed was “poorly planned” and “poorly rolled out”.
He then accused businesses “of taking more money from ordinary Bahamians” because they act in accordance with the law for which he voted. And that law requires that businesses charge and retain a legislated fee of “no less than 25 cents and no greater than one dollar per bag excluding VAT”.
This flip in position is nothing new for the PLP. They have made it a habit to portray ordinary Bahamians as dim and unable to understand very basic concepts.
Having voted in support of constitutional amendments in the House of Assembly in 2001, the PLP in 2002 declared that Bahamians did not understand the questions, vigorously campaigned and convinced the majority to reject the amendments. That retarded our constitutional advance and modernization.
Then in 2013, notwithstanding the referendum rejection by the Bahamian electorate of proposals to legalize web shops, the government, in which Davis served as deputy prime minister, legalized the numbers houses and granted licences solely to persons who were in the business prior to its legalization, professing to know best what the public actually wanted.
Davis may benefit from a reminder that a number of civic organizations including Kiwanis and The Bahamas National Trust began a campaign against single-use plastics more than seven years ago, gifting and or selling at minimum costs “reusable green bags”.
The FNM joined the initiative in 2012, distributing “reusable red bags” as election paraphernalia.
In more recent times, the present government announced a special environmental clean-up aimed at safeguarding our forests and oceans and removing plastics and other pollutants from the country and began a “Be a Hero” campaign last year.
In April 2019, the Ministry for the Environment began “round table” discussions on the environment and the proposed ban of single-use plastics and styrofoam.
And, the ministry established a task force comprising representatives from relevant ministries, the customs department, University of The Bahamas, The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Federation (BCCEC) and major hotel resort properties to strategize and advance the national campaign to phase out single-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws, food utensils and styrofoam containers by 2020.
In recent times, several stores distributed reusable bags to their clientele, notably Lowe’s Pharmacy.
And, some restaurants and take-away food outlets began substituting environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic and styrofoam containers, cups, utensils and straws.
Having supported the plastics ban and having voted for businesses to keep the 25 cents to one-dollar fee on the sale of plastic bags during the next six months, the leader of the opposition’s about-face is shameless.
What is more, as the world struggles to overcome challenges posed by those who deny threats to our environment, it is not the brave thing to do.