Insight: A Simmering Constitutional Crisis Ready To Erupt
Frederick Smith QC says the separation of powers between executive and judiciary is being threatened by ‘capricious’ parliamentarians over the Save The Bays email row . . .
|Wendy Craigg, Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas, addresses the Information Session. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)|
In the estimation of a veteran political observer, echoing a chorus of public outrage, “The country is going to hell.” To many, if not most, the Christie administration is a basket case of wheeling and dealing and questionable contracts; gross incompetence, woeful neglect of basic issues; massive borrowing and spending with little tangible to show for it; and a plethora of nausea-inducing misdeeds aside inaction, delay and outright failure.
The sticker shock of VAT continues to trouble consumers and businesses, with growing alarm that the government will go on a spending spree rather than seriously address matters of debt and deficit.
The government has failed to reduce the murder rate despite having repeatedly promised to do so. There is dissension in the police force and the minister of national security is blaming the force for the government’s failures.
There is chronic unemployment, with unemployment having risen again under the PLP and the unemployment rate higher now than in May 2012 when the PLP returned to office.
From BAMSI to the BEC bidding process to all manner of untendered contracts, there are questions of how, where and why certain public funds are being spent, alongside an arrogant disregard for transparency and accountability. Various ministers have mastered the arts of cupidity and conflicts of interest.
Meanwhile much of the state is poorly or non-functioning with many public amenities unkempt; abysmal service from various agencies because of a lack of oversight; and a general malaise in much of the public sector. Things are going from very bad to much worse. The ill-conceived Junkanoo Carnival festival seems in disarray, haunted by all manner of pitfalls, a potentially expensive fete of dubious cultural or economic value.
Atop all this is an out-of-control Cabinet, giving new meaning to the “all for me baby” philosophy of misrule, farcically led by a globe-trotting prime minister too weak to control his Cabinet but who sees himself, incredibly, as “a defining prime minister”.
It is so bad that some audiences are mocking the prime minister, snickering when he speaks, unable to contain their contempt for and incredulity at his empty and stagnant rhetoric full of bluster and boisterousness signifying precious little to nothing.
It should be a field day for the official opposition. It is not. The opposition should have gained tremendous traction. It has not. This should be a banner year for the FNM. It likely will not.
Perry Christie is the most incompetent and incapable prime minister since the advent of Cabinet government. His saving grace: Hubert Minnis is the most incompetent and incapable opposition leader.
In his bid to be elected FNM leader last November, Minnis and his forces spun a self-serving narrative that served him well. It was the whining narrative of the victim, a plea of self-pity that he hadn’t really been given a chance despite the obvious fact that he had been handed the leadership without a contest.
Despite the goodwill and help of many FNMs when he was chosen in 2012, a deeply insecure Minnis systematically alienated many who came to his aid. He had a convenient bogeyman, Hubert Ingraham, and bogeywoman, Loretta Butler-Turner, both of whom he demonized and conveniently used as excuses for his litany of failures which primarily account for the failure of the FNM to gain traction.
Though he was the major cause of disunity because of his secretiveness, insecurity bordering on paranoia, autocratic nature and non-collegial form of leadership, he convinced many that the source of disunity lay elsewhere. He excels at the politics of victimhood.
In order to seize greater control of the party he called a snap convention, ignoring certain constitutional procedures. Having won a convincing victory and with much of his slate in place, Minnis now had no more excuses. Curiously, soon after the convention one of his reputed supporters, veteran FNM Frank Watson, said something that surprised many. Watson warned that Minnis had six months to perform or there would be consequences.
After the November victory and the December lull has come the January disaster, with Minnis seemingly making a major blunder each week. If he’s this bad at the beginning of the year, the party will be in desperate straits as the months march on.
If many delegates believed that they elected a winner, they have been gravely disappointed. Some said that Minnis’ New Year’s address was one of his best. If that is the case, no wonder the party is in deep trouble.
During the convention campaign Minnis sought to make a virtue of his inability to master even the basics of the English language and grammar and to speak with some fluency.
We are being asked to believe that one of the basic requirements of political leadership, to be nominally articulate and to speak coherently, are irrelevant. Dr. Minnis is not merely a disaster in terms of speaking. He is also clearly incompetent when it comes to thinking through the most basic policy ideas. Speaking is not his only problem. He’s not much of a thinker.
The New Year’s address was painful for many Bahamians to watch. It was clumsy, lacklustre and devoid of passion. It failed to inspire, an essential task for leaders.
To quote one senior media figure, “Not only did he seem incapable of reading much of the text, there were also questions of how much he understood what he was reading.” His bumbling address was the least of his problems.
Next came the disastrous march on the Bank of the Bahamas (BOB) and Christie’s subsequent assault on Minnis in the House of Assembly, both of which have been painful for FNMs.
Any view that an inarticulate leader who can’t think on his feet will easily be elected because of supposed other qualities was dismantled as Minnis sat helplessly and haplessly glued to his seat.
Minnis was warned not to have the ill-advised march, the failure of which, given his modus operandi, he might try to blame on others. The rationale for the march was questionable, especially given the more pressing issues over which the FNM may have marched including crime and the cost of living.
The numbers looked awful and FNMs were embarrassed. The new leadership of the party failed to organize a healthy crowd. What is, and should have been projected as, an effective issue against the government turned into a colossal blunder. Then came Christie’s withering assault on the opposition.
FNMs were embarrassed and horrified as Minnis sat shell-shocked and deflated, absolutely incapable of mounting a defense or countering Christie.
What makes this even more egregious is the reality that Minnis does not now nor will he ever have what it takes to be effective in the House of Assembly. No matter how many cue cards a leader is given, that leader has to be able to think on his feet in parliamentary debates. Minnis is barely able to get through a prepared text much less perform in debate.
With several pieces of legislation having been debated in the House recently Minnis has been absent or has not spoken. If the idea is to avoid his risking exposure in terms of poor speaking ability, the opposition is courting disaster, as the necessity of his speaking on various matters is unavoidable. If he cannot speak without making a major blunder, there will be multiple disasters.
It is no wonder that a highly vulnerable Christie continues to deride Minnis, thanking his lucky charms that the latter is his main opponent, continually distracting from the PLP’s blunders.
Still in January Minnis created another seemingly monumental blunder in asking the politically attractive Heather Hunt to resign from the Senate. It may be a part of a brilliant move of which others are unaware, though, at the moment, this seems not to be the case, especially as Hunt is a rising star in the FNM and a high-profile female in the party.
Did Minnis inform all of his House colleagues about Hunt’s departure or were most of them blindsided, learning about the matter from other reports? Given his rationale for Hunt’s departure why was Senator Kwasi Thompson not also asked to resign? Was it a vindictive move and payback to Hunt who reportedly supported Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner in the leadership race?
Given his resounding victory in November and with his team in place, Minnis had an extraordinary opportunity to unify and reinvigorate the FNM going into a new year, especially given the state of the country and the depressing record of the PLP.
In the event, he called a conclave, an extraordinary meeting of the party, with a rich history in Bahamian politics. The party was to meet in special session to discuss critical issues relevant to the extraordinary times in which we are living.
After the Friday night opening session, Minnis arrogantly and dismissively absented himself from the conclave for all of Saturday, heading instead to Eleuthera to don a pharaoh’s crown and rush in a Junior Junkanoo evening parade leaving behind many in shock, including many who unwisely gave him a second chance to make even worse blunders. And we are only in January.
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January 29, 2015