Friday, January 29, 2010

Bahamas: Elizabeth by-election candidates


FOR the next 19 days the FNM candidate in the Elizabeth by-election plans to canvas the constituency to convince voters that he is the best man for the job.

In the meantime, Dr Duane Sands told The Tribune, the FNM "has a lot more work to do" to weed out ineligible voters who may be able to vote in the by-election although they no longer live in the area.

On the campaign trail, Dr Sands said he has been surprised by how many Bahamians are barely making ends meet. He has also been put off by a small number of greedy voters who demand money or goods in return for their support.

Dr Sands said the topmost concern of constituents -- aside from crime and unemployment -- is fair and accountable representation.

He said his time in the area revealed that many constituents have low expectations from a representative, something he feels is due to the representation the constituency had over the past six years.

"We're going to go out and talk to every single registered voter that we can get to and hear what their concerns are," Dr Sands said, ahead of the FNM's rally last night and nomination day today.

"Our strategy is to demonstrate to people that the FNM and Duane Sands would be a much better alternative and that we could offer better governance."

"(Voters') expectations have been diminished in part because they've been let down. Many of the constituents are not demanding a pound of flesh. They have a reasonable expectation that their concerns are listened to, and want accountability, availability, and access to government," he said.

His party is also still focusing on limiting possible ballot tainting due to a loophole in the voter registry which may allow residents who no longer live in the Elizabeth constituency to vote.

"Even the Registrar General has alluded to the fact that this is a huge challenge even for them and we are obviously trying to make sure that there is a proper correlation between the register and what we find on the ground. I expect that as we get closer to February 16 we would have made some headway in identifying some of the people who ought not be eligible, but I doubt that it's going to be perfect," he said.

Campaigning in Elizabeth, Dr Sands, a noted heart surgeon, said he has been struck by how many Bahamians have to endure financial hardship.

"While I happen to see people at their worst in the hospital, Bahamians are really struggling, and as you enter their homes and see them as they are it (adds to) the immediate need of restoring hope," he said.

The Elizabeth seat was held by Malcolm Adderley, who resigned from Parliament and the PLP last month. Although the PLP won the constituency two terms in a row, their last win was a narrow one of only 45 votes over the FNM.

More than 4,000 voters are expected to cast their votes in the by-election on February 16.


Mr Pinder said the response to the "hectic and fast" campaign the PLP has so far mounted ahead of the February 16 by-election has been "extremely positive".

The tax attorney said he will move in a motorcade with PLP supporters and leaders from the party's Elizabeth Headquarters at around 9.30am tomorrow, making it to Thelma Gibson Primary School by around 10.30am to nominate.

"It's very encouraging. I'm in the area every day meeting with residents. I've certainly been able to speak with a lot of the constituents and the response has been very positive and encouraging," he said.

"We had a mass rally (Wednesday) night, thousands and thousands of people were there. At the opening of the Prince Charles (party) headquarters we had in excess of 1,000 people show up. The energy level in the area is very high."

He added: "Elizabeth's concerns revolve around the difficulty with the Bahamian economic situation, there's a high level of unemployment in Elizabeth just like throughout country. There's a real concern that there's not an opportunity to succeed in business and there's a real entrepreneurial spirit but many feel they don't have the right opportunities and programmes and platforms to succeed. They are also concerned about the crime rate in the country and particularly in the constituency," said the candidate.

With regards to the concerns that some people who were registered to vote in the constituency in the last election have since moved out of the area but still appear on the register - making it possible they could vote despite not living in the constituency - Mr Pinder said the party has been "on the ground meeting with constituents night after night seven days a week" and he is confident that by election day, February 16, the party will have a strong handle on who is and is not entitled to vote.


Mr Stuart said the BDM's effort to win over the Elizabeth constituency has "been going very well" but complained that the party encountered some "disturbing issues" as went around the constituency knocking on doors.

"These guys (FNM and PLP campaigners) have been playing extremely nasty. FNMs and PLPs have been telling constituents I dropped out of the race. What they are finding out is that more and more people are tired of the PLP and the FNM and so they are telling them I dropped out. I want to let people know I'm still in the race and I'll be nominating (today)," said Mr Stuart.

In speaking with the "hundreds" of residents he has thus far been able to encounter on the campaign trail, Mr Stuart said he's found that they are concerned primarily about crime.

Other issues raised include the two "shanty towns" within the constituency's borders and infrastructural problems such as a lack of speed bumps and street signs. Flooding and traffic congestion in the area are also concerns.

Mr Stuart called out the FNM for allegedly "using government resources to aid their candidate".

"If you go in Kool Acres Drive, the Ministry of Works has equipment out there now paving roads, so we want to make that known.

"It is very unfair, you're using power of government against other candidates," he claimed.


Despite recent professional tribulations (Pinder was suspended from practicing law by the Bahamas Bar Council earlier this month following a complaint from a former client, but has appealed the suspension), Mr Pinder said he is ready to "ask Lizzie to be my valentine" in the February 16 by-election.

The colourful candidate said that thus far his campaign, launched after he announced the formation of his Love Revolution Movement earlier this month, has been "going marvellously."

"Basically I'm love in action," said Mr Pinder, whose manifesto states his desire to set up "Love Universities."

The would-be candidate claims he plans to send a love poem to "the lady of every household" in the constituency in his bid to woo Elizabeth into his camp.

"I'm going to touch everyone in a very, very nice way," he stated.

Yesterday Parliamentary Registrar Errol Bethel said that "as far as he knows" Mr Pinder's recent professional issues should not affect his ability to nominate.


DESPITE meagre campaign funding, Workers' Party candidate Rodney Moncur thinks he will overcome the political heavyweights in next month's by-election in the Elizabeth constituency.

He launched his campaign on January 7, a day after former MP Malcolm Adderley resigned from Parliament.

Without the money to hold mass rallies, run ads or blanket the area with posters, Mr Moncur gets up before sunrise every day to knock on doors and lobby for precious votes.

His group of about a dozen supporters spends most of the day in people's living rooms and on porches getting to the core of residents' concerns.

Chief among these complaints are high unemployment levels, rising crime levels, while the government's recent suspension of its education loan programme came in third place on their list of concerns.

While he tries to sway voters with minimal resources, Mr Moncur accused operatives of the two major political parties of running dirty campaigns.

He charged that the PLP and FNM are "exploiting" constituents with money woes by offering them liquor and jobs.

"The PLP and FNM have resorted to some of the most unethical forms of campaigning that I have ever seen. They are keeping the men drunk, that kind of thing," said Mr Moncur.

"I think the FNM and PLP in a very ungodly manner are exploiting the poor -- they call it campaigning, I call it gangsterism."

Like FNM candidate Dr Duane Sands, Mr Moncur has also been moved by the disparity between the "haves and have-nots" in the Elizabeth constituency.

"As you move through certain areas of the constituency you can see the economic desperation and the hardship," he said.

"I went to a Haitian community off Joe Farrington Road and they are living in abject poverty. And these persons are supporters of the PLP and FNM but they are living in squalor."

If he wins, the activist is prepared to sacrifice his time to be a man for the people, working out of an office in Elizabeth every day and foregoing other employment.

"I will go to work at my office in Elizabeth every day, they would be my employers, as opposed to the other candidates who will return to their law practice, medical practice or other profession. The candidate who is elected as a representative should report to his constituency office every day and if the salary is not sufficient he should not seek office."

Up to press time, Mr Moncur said he had raised most of the nomination fee with a final donation of $80 expected to arrive last night.


THE newly formed National Development Party and its candidate Dr Andre Rollins are hoping to finally part the sea of red and yellow - colours of the FNM and PLP respectively - at the upcoming Elizabeth by-election.

The NDP hopes that voter frustration with the established parties will sweep Dr Rollins into the House of Assembly.

Although in its infancy, the NDP believes that its message and policy platform will sway many voters.

Dr Rollins was elected as the party's candidate in the Elizabeth by-election after a public political debate and primary election - trials which other political parties shied away from.

A newcomer to politics, the 34-year-old dentist feels Bahamians are ready for a change, starting with their political representatives.

His party's approach to the race has been to offer more accountability.

Without the money for rallies or other election gimmicks, Dr Rollins hopes that each candidate's message, not campaign funding, will be the deciding factor in the hotly contested race.

Whether he wins or loses, Dr Rollins plans to continue to hold both major parties to account, criticising them when appropriate.

"If you don't do the job that you were entrusted to do we are not going to show any fear or favour. We are going to go straight down the middle whether you are FNM or PLP," he told The Tribune recently.

Dr Rollins beat out NDP member C Rashad Amahad at Wednesday's event. Both men took blind questions from the audience and moderator Judy Hamilton.

At the primary, Dr Rollins urged supporters to be optimistic that the underdog can be victorious at the by-election polls.

Dr Rollins served as president of the Bahamas Dental Association from December, 2004 to December, 2009. He is a founding member of the NDP, formed in October 2008.

January 29, 2010