Sunday, February 28, 2010

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie Defends Ryan Pinder’s Citizenship


Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate, Ryan Pinder has been shrouded in controversy over his US citizenship, which he admits he recently renounced, as well as questions over his allegiance to The Bahamas.

But PLP Leader Perry Christie said yesterday that he is quite satisfied that his candidate is "Bahamian-made."

"I am satisfied that Mr. Pinder today, is satisfied that everything he did was done correctly, on time and we wait for those who assert to make their assertions," Mr. Christie said. "He who asserts must prove."

Since announcing his decision to run on the PLP ticket in the February 16 by-election, numerous questions about his citizenship and loyalty to the country have loomed.

In the weeks leading up to the by-election, members of the Free National Movement (FNM) questioned Mr. Pinder’s qualifications as a lawful candidate in the by-election, pointing out that the PLP candidate had dual citizenship.

With mounting criticisms about his allegiance to the country, Mr. Pinder announced just days before the by-election that he had renounced his United States citizenship.

Mr. Pinder, who is the son of former PLP MP Marvin Pinder, and an American woman, had dual citizenship with The Bahamas and the United States.

But Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said on Sunday that he wants Mr. Pinder to prove that he in fact renounced his citizenship before the by-election.

Mr. Ingraham added that if the matter is in fact heard in Election Court, the party will call on the PLP to present Mr. Pinder’s American passport before the court.

"When we go to court we will have Dr. Duane Sands’ passport and we will say that he is a Bahamian. We will say that he has never held any other citizenship at any other time. We will call upon them [the PLP] to show Mr. Pinder’s American passport to show where it was marked cancelled by the Americans before nomination day.

"It is very important for the court to know upfront that each person who is before it is qualified to be there."

The prime minister argued that there is nothing wrong with Mr. Pinder or anyone else being an American citizen and running for office.

He said "just being a citizen is not an offence by itself."

The FNM even used the citizenship issue as a platform to criticise Mr. Pinder during its campaign trail.

National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest even announced during his party’s rallies that Mr. Pinder had never even voted in The Bahamas.

February 23rd, 2010


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ryan Pinder's lack of voting record called into question

Tribune Staff Reporter

Candidate's lack of voting record called into question

TO A SOCIETY that often finds itself at odds at one point or the other with the decisions of its government, a citizen's right to vote is his or her ultimate political weapon in truly effecting the change that they wish to see on the political landscape of their country.

In short, many feel that it is their right, and some would say their responsibility, to participate in a process that many of our forefathers were denied.

In the constituency of Elizabeth, the people have spoken, and their voices are being heard -- however faintly -- by the two major political parties. They showed us, quite rightly, that Bahamians not only have the right to vote, but they also have the right not to vote, as was seen by the nearly 1,700 persons who opted not to show up at the polls on February 16th.

The reasons for their decision are theirs alone, and quite frankly, too numerous to speculate on at this time.

On February 15th, however, the Bahamian people were enlightened by the little known fact that one of the candidates in the Elizabeth by-election has never voted in an election in the Bahamas before. In fact, according to the Minister of National Security, Tommy Turnquest, Mr Pinder had only recently registered in the Bahamas in October 2008.

"He has never voted in the Bahamas before!" Mr Turnquest exclaimed.

"Not in 1997 when he was 22 years old, not in 2002, nor in 2007. He is now 35 years old and he has never voted in the Bahamas."

Having voted up until March of last year in the United States, Mr Turnquest said that Mr Pinder has only ever voted where he was a citizen and where he was "interested" in the affairs of that country.

While the PLP has cried shame on the FNM for seeking to raise this matter, it is not out of the realm of mature political dialogue that this matter be debated.

How can residents of Elizabeth truly believe in a candidate whose voting record in the Bahamas cannot be verified? I can recall having conversations with PLPs who were measuring their loyalty and devotion to the party not only by the number of times they voted for the PLP, but in how many elections they had continued to toe the party line.

As it was explained, if you did not stand by the party in 1992, and 1997, you were a "Johnny-come-lately." Voting for the PLP in 2002 was simply "going with the tide", and if you didn't vote for the party in 2007 it was almost certainly considered a betrayal of the highest order.


Grown men and women sit and argue for hours about why they have gone through the oftentimes long and tedious process of casting their ballot for the PLP. Many of them truly believe that their individual votes make a difference and can change the tide of any given election; every vote can help "out the torch". This idea of being a Bahamian, especially a PLP, and simply choosing not to vote, does not register in the minds of many.

How then can the young Mr Pinder explain to these party foot soldiers that he could not be bothered to take the 45-minute flight from Florida to cast his ballot in one very important election in the Bahamas?

For the record, Mr Pinder has renounced his US citizenship and explained that as he was not residing in the Bahamas, he could not vote in this country. He is currently a registered voter for the constituency of Clifton where it is understood he initially planned to run.

However, Mr Pinder's defence has not gone over well with many Bahamians who feel that it was "presumptuous" of the candidate to come to the Bahamas only a short while ago, and seek to represent a constituency right away.

Perhaps Erin Ferguson, who hosts a widely successful new political television programme on JCN TV, put it best on his last show on Thursday night.

He asked the question that has been on the minds of many Bahamians: How is it that Mr Pinder has never voted in the Bahamas?

"Now you tell me, (because) something wrong about this one. You tell me, you eligible to vote from you 18 -- Mr Pinder is 35. That means he could have voted when he was 22 in 1997. He could have voted when he was 27 in 2002. He could have voted when he was 32 in 2007; and the FNM and the PLP does pay for you to come home to vote!


"And further to that, you can't tell me your that your daddy is Marvin Pinder and you can't figure out how to get home for an election? And Mr (Fred) Mitchell said ... he (Mr Pinder) spent most of his time in the Bahamas. And you used your father's name to legitimize yourself as a candidate in the election ... but you can't then say you aren't invested enough to come home and vote or if you are home, to vote."

"And if you tell me that you was in America and was voting in America because that's where you were living and invested at the time, then don't come here and in a couple of years want to run for MP. At least vote once. Just once. That's all I ask. See how it feels. Test this Bahamian thing out."

"I have to tell you, sir, we have the right to ask, if you can't find yourself in the Bahamas to participate in the Bahamian electoral process, we have the right to ask what is it that you have to gain?" he asked.

However blunt and painful his words may have been, Mr Ferguson has a point and his argument holds water.

And while it has not been widely commented on, some FNM's at Thelma Gibson during the recount fiasco questioned the notion of "entitlement" that has permeated both the PLP and the FNM.

There is no greater "turn off" for voters than to feel that a surname will determine who will be their representative and that a particular family will continue to lead them for the rest of their existence.

While those FNM's at Thelma Gibson were seeking to denigrate Mr Pinder, the fact is both parties are guilty of this, and by hook or by crook, it must be stopped.

Representatives should be elected based on their merit and their genuine interest in the people of this country. The rest of the world has shown us many examples where the children of elected leaders have proven to be less than capable of filling their parent's shoes.

When asked for a general response on Mr Pinder's voting record some PLPs brushed the matter aside saying that it was of little consequence and the issue is nothing more than a "red herring" - an "evil scheme" concocted by the FNM to distract voters.

But is this response enough?


In fact, there is another way to look at this matter. Many would go so far as to say that if it were the FNM who were running Mr Pinder, the issue of him having never voted in the Bahamas would have been a major issue of contention.

We all can imagine the superfluity of rhetoric that would have spewed forth. Many PLP's would have said, 'Does the FNM think we are that gullible? How could they think that we would be satisfied with a man who ain't ever vote in this country to come here and running our affairs?'

From all accounts it appears that even if the PLP are not victorious in their election court challenge, Mr Pinder will still be their candidate of choice for the Elizabeth constituency in the 2012 general election.

If this is the case, it would be wise for Mr Pinder to respond to the criticism that has come his way in regards to this issue. Burying his head in the sand will not do.

If any lesson can be learned from this by-election, it is that voters in the Bahamas seem to expect more from their would-be representatives.

Whether these representatives are listening is another matter; but as with all things, time will tell.

What do you think?

February 22, 2010


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Letter says Ryan Pinder renounced US citizenship before he nominated for the Elizabeth constituency by-election

By BRENT DEAN ~ Guardian Senior Reporter ~

Progressive Liberal Party Elizabeth candidate Ryan Pinder renounced his United States citizenship on January 20 — more than a week before he nominated for the constituency by-election — according to a letter from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau obtained by The Nassau Guardian.

The letter, which was not provided by the embassy, said Pinder acquired his U.S. citizenship under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act by virtue of birth to a citizen parent on September 13, 1974 in Nassau.

The letter reveals that Pinder renounced his U.S. citizenship at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau.

"The government of the United States no longer considers Mr. Pinder to be a U.S. citizen," the letter reveals. "His U.S. passport is no longer valid and has been forwarded to the issuing agency within the U.S. government."

At a news conference on Sunday at the Free National Movement Headquarters, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham indicated that the governing party would challenge Pinder's eligibility to run in the Elizabeth by-election on the citizenship issue.

"When we go to court we will have Duane Sands' passport; we'll say he's a Bahamian," Ingraham said. "We'll say he has never held any other citizenship at any other time. And we will call upon them to show Mr. Ryan Pinder's American passport, to show us where it was marked canceled by the Americans before the nomination day."

The Bahamian constitution sets out eligibility to sit as a member of the House of Assembly.

It states that no person shall be qualified to be elected as a member of the House who is a citizen of a country other than The Bahamas, having become such a citizen voluntarily.

The constitution also states that a candidate would be unable to sit in the House if the individual, by virtue of his own act, is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state.

The PLP had argued that since Pinder obtained the U.S. citizenship as a result of his mother's American citizenship, it was not a voluntary act, making Pinder eligible to run as a candidate with dual citizenship.

In spite of this position, Pinder renounced the status before the January 29 nomination day.

Pinder had previously revealed that he renounced his U.S. citizenship. However, he had not provided any details about the move.

Pinder received 1,499 regular votes to the 1,501 regular votes FNM candidate Dr. Duane Sands received in the by-election. Five protest votes were cast in favor of Pinder. If at least three are allowed, he would be the next Elizabeth MP.

If two are allowed a tie would result.

Pinder has petitioned the Election Court to consider the protest votes cast.

The Parliamentary Elections Act states that if a tie results after all votes are considered — including protest votes — the returning officer shall declare a void election between those candidates.

A new election would then be ordered 14 days after such a declaration.

February 25, 2010


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Some PLPs have short memories

tribune242 Editorial:

CALLING FOR electoral reform, Opposition Leader Perry Christie described the weeks leading up to the Elizabeth by-election as "the worst" he'd seen in terms of allegations that FNM members were using their government clout to sway voters. "Up to Monday (the day before the election)," he said, "government was giving people jobs with a clear intention of influencing the vote. That's not proper, ethical or fair."

And this is what Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham had to say about the May 2, 2007 election in which Mr Christie, then the prime minister, lost the government to Mr Ingraham, who was Opposition leader.

On becoming prime minister, Mr Ingraham told his supporters that the 2007 election was the most interfered with election in Bahamian history.

"I am ashamed that on Perry Christie's watch there was more political interference in the electoral process than at any time, even under Pindling," said Mr Ingraham.

It was claimed that $80 million was awarded to contractors "a few months ago and days leading up to the 2007 election."

However, in our opinion the June 19, 1987 general election in the Crooked Island constituency, followed by the November 24, 1989 by-election -- called after the MP elected in the 1987 election was sent to prison for offering a drug court magistrate $10,000 to drop a case before her -- were two of the worst elections that we recall. The late Basil Kelly, who had been MP for the Crooked Island constituency for about 20 years, offered as the FNM candidate in both elections. He lost both.

In last week's Elizabeth by-election the PLP protested the presence of National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest -- who is the minister responsible for Parliamentary Elections -- in the recount room at Thelma Gibson Primary School. However, they forget that in the Crooked Island by-election in 1989, Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling at the end of a Cabinet meeting flew to Crooked Island, ordering all of his Cabinet ministers to get themselves to the island to fight the by-election and watch over the stations. Sir Lynden himself gave all of the Long Cay school children a gift of a hand held video camera with a $400,000 contract going to a PLP council member in the constituency to construct an administrative building. During that by-election Yamacraw MP Janet Bostwick said that the by-election reminded her of 1982 when the PLP took tankers of asphalt to the district and told voters that if they wanted the roads repaired they had to vote for Wilbert Moss. The people voted for Mr Moss and a week after the elections, the equipment was taken away. In the 1989 by-election the people were again told that if they wanted the roads repaired, electricity installed and running water into their homes they had to "walk with Walkine." This, said Mrs Bostwick, was just another PLP ploy to fool voters of that impoverished district. She rightly predicted that after the election the flurry of jobs handed out during the campaign would come to an end.

As Mr Kelly pointed out in his report on the 1987 election one must understand that at the time there were no job opportunities in the entire Crooked Island district except for government employment and one small tourist facility that employed no more than 10 people at any one time. During the 1987 election, he said, these people were given jobs off and on from nomination day until election day weeding the road, as assistant janitresses, assisting in the polls on election day, nurses assistants and "whatever could be dreamt up and paid for out of the Treasury."

Campaigning were two civil servants, school teachers, and the returning officer, who did not openly campaign, but who was "directed by PLP generals throughout the campaign."

The helicopter, ostensibly at the island for the PLP candidates, was "also used to ferry government presiding officers, the returning officer, the mailboat captain, and in fact, picked up the ballot boxes after polling on election day. It was openly admitted by the pilot of the helicopter that this was government's helicopter," wrote Mr Kelly. What everyone wanted to know was whether the Treasury paid for the helicopter.

"There was a new trick that I had never seen before in the form of intimidation," Mr Kelly wrote of the 1987 election. "Voters were told during the campaign by leading PLP generals and civil servants that when a particular voter voted, the presiding officer was instructed to write his signature on the back of his ballot differently to others so that his ballot would be easily identifiable. This way he could tell how that particular voter voted when the ballots were counted, and if the voter did not vote right (in other words, for the PLP) his daughter or whoever was working for government would lose their job."

Throughout that campaign civil servants acted as PLP generals, and the few civil servants who were known FNM supporters were ordered not to vote. Whatever the FNM might have done during the Elizabeth by-election, which Mr Christie claims was "not proper, ethical or fair" cannot be condoned.

But when the PLP held the helm of state, they were absolutely ruthless, particularly in some of these impoverished Family Islands. Now maybe some of them will know what it is like to be on the receiving end. Retribution has come full circle.

February 23, 2010


Elizabeth by-election: Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie claims 30 supporters of the Free National Movement (FNM) voted illegally

By Brent Dean ~ Guardian Senior Reporter ~

Progressive Liberal Party Leader Perry Christie said yesterday he is aware of about 30 supporters of the Free National Movement who voted illegally in the Elizabeth by-election. Christie also warned the prime minister about making comments he claimed were intimidating to the five people who voted on protest ballots in favor of the PLP's candidate Ryan Pinder last Tuesday.

"When the prime minister (Hubert Ingraham) speaks about having a list of people who voted illegally, listen, my list is probably 30 right now, without my having made an effort, of FNMs who voted illegally in there," said Christie at a news conference yesterday at PLP headquarters.

Christie acknowledged that it is necessary for the leaders of both major parties to come together to work on improving the rules that govern elections in The Bahamas.

The Elizabeth by-election was the first major test for the Parliamentary Registration Department since the justices of the Election Court said in a ruling that the Pinewood case had exposed "the most egregious failures in the parliamentary system."

That ruling was handed down nearly two years ago by Senior Justice Anita Allen and now Senior Justice Jon Isaacs.

At the time of the controversial Pinewood matter, the judges said, "The parliamentary commissioner failed, for whatever reason, to ensure the integrity of the registration process in Pinewood."

In their 2008 ruling, Allen and Isaacs said it was startling that Senator Allyson Maynard-Gibson (the petitioner) and Pinewood MP Byran Woodside were forced to concede that 85 of 183 votes challenged were unlawful votes.

"Perhaps the time is appropriate for the parliamentary commissioner to comprehensively examine the practices and procedures of the Parliamentary Registration Department with a view to ensuring that what we saw in Pinewood does not re-occur because it threatens to undermine the fundamental basis of our parliamentary democracy," the ruling said.

Despite the ruling, there have been no amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act, and no major reforms of the election process in the country.

Consequently, both parties have alleged serious improprieties concerning the Elizabeth by-election.

Pinder received 1,499 regular votes to the 1,501 votes FNM candidate Dr. Duane Sands received. However, Pinder would have a total of 1,504 votes, as compared to Sands' 1,501 votes, if the five protest votes for Pinder are allowed.

At a news conference at FNM Headquarters on Sunday, the prime minister said those protest votes would be seriously scrutinized in the Election Court.

"At the end of the day, the court will make a decision. If these persons turn out to be persons that committed perjury or who lied, then there are laws to deal with that. So each of these persons will have to make their own decision on what they want to do. Let go, let be or expose yourself to the other place," said Ingraham, making a clear reference to Her Majesty's Prison.

"In the other place, you go there by yourself, no one goes with you. It's a very lonely place to be."

Christie perceived those comments as a form of voter intimidation by the prime minister.

"The prime minister should not seek to intimidate these people and suggest that because they spoke up for their rights that somehow they are breaking the law. We are concerned about this because it is a continuation of a pattern of intimidation by the Free National Movement and the prime minister," he said.

"I warned about his intimidation during the campaign. I am seriously concerned about the identification of the FNM with a thug culture that appears to dominate what they do in politics. There is no respect for the most basic and elemental aspects of the law and fair play."

While Ingraham said he has hard evidence that four out of the five protest voters were not eligible to vote in the by-election, Christie was confident that the PLP would receive enough protest votes for Pinder to become the Elizabeth MP.

Pinder needs at least three protest votes declared valid to win the seat. If he secures two, a tie would result and a reelection would take place.

"...Going to the Election Court in the circumstances that have now arisen is all about making sure that the way the people of Elizabeth did in fact vote on February 16th is reflected in the final declared result," Christie said.

The PLP leader said that in most instances, the protested voters lived in the constituency for long periods.

"They also say they had been duly registered to vote in Elizabeth," he said. "In fact, they had proper voter's cards."

Their names had been left off the Register of Voters, claimed Christie.

February 23, 2010


Perry Christie - Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader satisfied Ryan Pinder was qualified to run in the Elizabeth by-election

By Krystel Rolle ~ Guardian Staff Reporter ~

Progressive Liberal Party Leader Perry Christie said yesterday he is satisfied that Ryan Pinder did what he needed to do in order to be qualified to offer himself in the Elizabeth by-election last Tuesday and challenged the Free National Movement to prove otherwise in court.

Christie was responding to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's announcement that the Free National Movement will raise the question of whether Pinder was in fact qualified in the first place to run as a candidate in the recent poll.

"For the prime minister to raise that issue tells me that he knows that we are going to win that Election Court case," said Christie during a news conference at the PLP's headquarters.

"I'm comforted by the fact that by raising that question, Ingraham knows that. At all material times the prime minister must be aware of the fact that not only he has intelligence; that we understand the issues that affect our candidate and we accept the assurance that [he is a] Bahamian citizen and otherwise fully qualified to offer himself for the by-election for Elizabeth. So when Ryan Pinder went forth, we were satisfied on the basis of all assurances that he was qualified — a qualified candidate to be elected and serve in the Elizabeth constituency."

Christie added: "Now since the prime minister wants to raise it, I just want to go on the principle of law: He who asserts must prove and we leave it to him to make his application and to present his proof."

The Progressive Liberal Party has announced its intention to go to court for the court to decide on five protest votes cast in Pinder's favor during last week's by-election in Elizabeth. The two-day recounted ended with Pinder receiving 1,499 votes to the 1,501 votes that FNM candidate Dr. Duane Sands received.

No winner has been certified, however, as the five PLP protest votes could still impact the outcome of the race, should the court rule them to be valid.

During his party's news conference on Sunday, Ingraham said the FNM would raise the issue of Pinder's qualifications as a preliminary matter.

"When we go to court we will have Duane Sands' passport; we'll say he's a Bahamian," Ingraham said. "We'll say he has never held any other citizenship at any other time. And we will call upon them to show Mr. Ryan Pinder's American passport, to show us where it was marked canceled by the Americans before the nomination day."

Ingraham noted that there is nothing wrong with Bahamian citizens who possess citizenship of another country to run for office in The Bahamas. However, the prime minister added that someone who takes advantage of his citizenship of another country — by voting, working and benefiting from special university rates — is a different story altogether.

"If you've done that, then you need to get rid of that citizenship before you nominate and certainly before you are elected," he said.

February 23, 2010


Monday, February 22, 2010

Need for election reform editorial:

PLP Leader Perry Christie has called for election reform, accusing FNM operatives of conducting an unethical by-election in the Elizabeth campaign. He said it was a campaign filled with promises of jobs and offering incentives to voters in exchange for their support.

A seasoned parliamentarian of 30 years, Mr Christie condemned the by-election as "the worst" he had "ever seen it" in terms of allegations that members of the FNM were using their government clout to sway voters. He claimed that on the eve of the by-election, a PLP supporter told him that her daughter had been offered a job by an FNM member, presumably to influence her vote.

Up to Monday, said Mr Christie --the election was on Tuesday-- "government was giving people jobs with a clear intention of influencing the vote. That's not proper, ethical or fair."

At present he said too much was happening "below the radar", elections had to be more transparent. What goes on now is just "not fair," he said.

It would seem that the Opposition leader believes his party has patented election practices that are "below the radar" and that at no election should they be imitated, particularly if it means a defeat for the PLP.

This observation does not mean that we condone unfair electoral practices or that there should not be electoral reform. It is just that it seems ironic that such a complaint should come from the leader of the PLP, a party that in the past 43 years has honed unfair election practices into a fine art.

Let's go back three years to 2007.

Mr Christie, PLP leader, was then the Prime Minister. His first -- and only -- five-year term ended that year and an election was called for May 2, 2007.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was then the leader of the FNM and headed the official Opposition.

During the 2007 election campaign the FNM also accused the PLP of many unfair practices.

For example, police, Defence Force officers and public administrators always vote before the general public. The day they voted in the 2007 election was government pay day. One police officer told The Tribune that before voting he checked his bank account. He discovered that an extra $150 had been added to his salary. This extra was his pension that had been suspended. He said senior officers also received a lump sum as their pension payment.

It was understood at the time that retired officers on pension, who had returned to the force could not receive both salary and pension while they continued to serve. Their pensions were, therefore, suspended during this working period. However, two weeks before they were to vote they were told that the pension suspension had been lifted. They were paid both their salaries and their pensions on the day they voted.

It was also rumoured that certain government contracts were being hurriedly signed for five-year periods to secure jobs for PLP favourites should the Christie government lose the 2007 election.

About a month before the election it was reported that hundreds of temporary workers had been added to government's payroll.

Civil servants are banned from campaigning for either side during an election, but during the 2007 election -- as in most elections before it --reports were coming into The Tribune from Eleuthera that not only were civil servants campaigning, but they were using government vehicles to do so. The FNM candidate for North Eleuthera complained to the Parliamentary Registrar General Errol Bethel that the North Eleuthera administrator, who was also the assistant returning officer for the 2007 election, was openly campaigning for the PLP candidate.

In the three weeks leading up to the 2007 election, Bahamians were talking about vote buying, intimidation, threats of loss of jobs, pensions and even government housing if they failed to vote PLP.

And where was Mr Christie in the June 19, 1987 Crooked Island by-election that he can honestly say today that the Elizabeth by-election was the worst he had ever seen in terms of allegations that members of the FNM were using their government clout to sway voters? What was the late Sir Lynden Pindling doing when he ordered his whole Cabinet to descend on that isolated constituency, backed up by a Defence Force boat circling the island as further intimidation in the late Basil Kelly's 1987 by-election?

In a four-and-a-half page type written report of that by-election, Mr Kelly said that in one small settlement the mailboat landed an estimated $2,000 to $3,000 worth of groceries. The groceries were issued before the election, $50 worth to every voter. The voters were told that if the PLP got 30 votes or more out of that settlement, they would not have to pay the grocery bill.

Mr Kelly said that this particular settlement was the most isolated in the whole district. They were also told that if the PLP did not get their 30 votes the people's mail boat service would be taken away. The settlement was expected to go 50-50 -- half FNM, half PLP. In the end the district voted 16 FNM, 30 PLP.

If Mr Christie in fact believes that Elizabeth was the worst he has seen then maybe we should continue this discussion in this column tomorrow with quotes from Mr Kelly's report. Surely we can't let our Opposition leader remain uninformed.

February 22, 2010


Ryan Pinder faces challenge on citizenship issue

By Candia Dames ~ Guardian News Editor ~

As far as Ryan Pinder sees it, the matter of his U.S. citizenship — which he announced he has renounced — is a non-issue.

But when the Elizabeth Election Court challenge commences, the Free National Movement plans to raise the question of whether he was in fact qualified in the first place to run as a candidate in the recent poll.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who leads the FNM, confirmed this intention at a press conference at the party's headquarters yesterday.

"When we go to court we will have Duane Sands' passport; we'll say he's a Bahamian," Ingraham said. "We'll say he has never held any other citizenship at any other time. And we will call upon them to show Mr. Ryan Pinder's American passport, to show us where it was marked canceled by the Americans before the nomination day."

The Progressive Liberal Party has announced its intention to go to court for the court to decide on five protest votes cast in Pinder's favor during last week's by-election in Elizabeth. At the end of the recount early Friday, Sands was ahead by two votes and during yesterday's press conference was repeatedly referred to as the member of Parliament-elect for Elizabeth.

No winner has been certified, however, as the protest votes could still impact the outcome of the race, should the court rule them to be valid.

The prime minister said yesterday it is very important for the process for the court to know upfront that each person who is before it is qualified to be there.

"There's nothing wrong with him (Pinder) or anybody else being a citizen and running for office," Ingraham explained. "Just being a citizen is not an offense by itself because any of our children could be born in America and grow up in The Bahamas, and live here and never take advantage of their American citizenship. That would not disqualify them from running for office."

But the prime minister said someone who takes advantage of his American citizenship — by voting, working and benefiting from special university rates — is a different story altogether.

"If you've done that, then you need to get rid of that citizenship before you nominate and certainly before you are elected," he said.

"But if you didn't do that before you nominated then your nomination is a nullity, null and void, of no use. And that certainly will be a preliminary point that the FNM side will put forward to Mr. Ryan Pinder."

During the campaign for Elizabeth, Pinder repeatedly faced questions about his dual citizenship. One week before the election, he announced that he renounced his U.S. citizenship, but insisted it had nothing to do with politics.

At a Free National Movement rally the night before the election, the issue was again raised, this time by Mount Moriah MP and National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest, who pointed out to the nation that Pinder never voted in an election in The Bahamas.

"In fact, Leo Ryan Pinder only registered in The Bahamas for the very first time in his life in October 2008," Turnquest said.

"He has never voted in The Bahamas before; not in 1997 when he was 22 years old; not in 2002, nor in 2007. He is now 35 years old and he has never voted in The Bahamas. He has only voted where he is a citizen and where he was interested in the affairs of that country. He has only voted in the USA and never in The Bahamas. Is this someone you want to try Elizabeth?"

Pinder told The Nassau Guardian last week Monday that the reason why his name still appears on the U.S. voter register is that that register is only updated during election time.

"My U.S. citizenship is not an issue and renunciation is not an issue in this campaign," Pinder said. "I am focused on the good people of Elizabeth, addressing their issues and concerns as the representative and I will not be brought down into the personal attacks that the Free National Movement has found themselves involved in."

Februray 22, 2010


Elizabeth by-election: FNM wants PLP to put up security for Election Court costs

By Candia Dames ~ Guardian News Editor ~

The Free National Movement will seek the agreement of the Election Court for the Progressive Liberal Party to be required to put up security for costs, so that if the PLP loses the pending Elizabeth challenge, there would be money to meet its obligation to pay, FNM leader Hubert Ingraham announced yesterday at his first news conference after the hotly-contested by-election.

Ingraham stressed that the FNM fully expects the PLP to lose in court.

"The elites in the PLP seem to prefer court cases over the expressed will of the people," he said.

"It is not enough to talk about the ideals of democracy. A responsible and democratic government is charged with putting in place the measures which help to protect these ideals."

The PLP is preparing to mount an Election Court challenge after a grueling two-day recount resulted in its candidate, Ryan Pinder, receiving 1,499 votes to the 1,501 votes secured by Dr. Duane Sands, the FNM's candidate.

Pinder also got five protest votes that could still impact the outcome of the election, but Ingraham said the FNM has evidence that at least four of the people who voted on colored ballots had no entitlement to vote.

According to Ingraham, the PLP has long found it difficult to accept the will of the people expressed on election day.

"They like to go to court; but they are only satisfied when the court finds in their favor," he told the media and FNM supporters gathered at the party's headquarters on Mackey Street.

He noted that following the 2007 general election the PLP mounted a series of challenges in Election Court that proved unsuccessful.

"All were unnecessary — in Pinewood, in Marco City, and in Blue Hills," Ingraham said. "In none of those cases have the PLP paid the Election Court costs. Not one. This is par for the course.

"It is also part of an entitlement mentality by the PLP that the standards of fair play, common decency and abiding by the rules apply to everyone but themselves. In their minds the decisions of our national institutions may be circumvented or ignored if they are not in keeping with the self-interests of the PLP."

Ingraham reminded that the PLP owes ZNS $236,000.

He said had The Nassau Guardian not exposed this information recently, he would not have discussed it publicly.

"I would have sought to cajole to persuade them to pay, but now it looks like we've got to shame them to pay," Ingraham said.

This amount was incurred by the PLP over two and a half years ago at the last general election, he said.

"Ironically, the money still owed to ZNS is mostly a result of the television broadcast of rallies, which ignored longstanding broadcast rules which the PLP ignored and unilaterally broke," Ingraham charged.

"Further, despite not paying their general election bill they felt they were entitled to more time on ZNS during the Elizabeth by-election. With the extraordinary amount of funds the PLP spent in Elizabeth, they had more than enough funds to pay their other legal debts inclusive of sums owed Bahamasair. That they refused to do so is indicative of their mindset.

"Not paying their court costs and failing to pay ZNS and Bahamasair is a clear abuse of our national institutions. It sends the wrong example on many levels. The PLP are happy to take advantage of these institutions. But they refuse to abide by their decisions as and when it suits their purposes."

Ingraham claimed that the PLP had much more money than the FNM to spend during the Elizabeth by-election campaign and did so.

Ingraham also said when he became leader of the FNM in 1990, one of the early matters that he had to address was the settlement of costs for Election Court challenges mounted by the FNM following the 1987 general election.

"We raised the money and paid the $750,000 costs awarded against us by the court. We did so before the 1992 elections. We paid the monies to Nottage, Miller & Co., their legal representatives," Ingraham said.

"When the courts found in the government's favor on matters involving Sir Lynden Pindling (the now deceased former prime minister), Darrell Rolle and Philip Bethel (former PLP ministers) we, in the FNM government did not hound them to pay because we did not believe that the government should pursue people into bankruptcy."

Ingraham added, "When Sir Lynden Pindling was sued by Sir Kendal Isaacs (former FNM leader) on a matter concerning public disclosure, Sir Lynden insisted that he pay the $100,000 assessed by the courts. I never tire of saying that we are different from them; distinctly different."

He noted that in 2007 the FNM mounted a challenge against the PLP's victory in MICAL and lost.

"We paid costs of almost $225,000 to Davis & Co., the PLP's legal representatives. As a party, we take ownership and responsibility for our Election Court cases," Ingraham said.

"The PLP takes ownership and responsibility for nothing. When they lose an election case, they claim that the individual took the case to Election Court, not the party, and they pay nothing; ignore the debt.

In their world they never lose, cannot lose: The voters make mistakes, the parliamentary commissioner is inefficient, the FNM steals elections and the courts are in error."

Ingraham pointed out that in the case of the 2007 Marco City challenge, the Election Court assessed costs at $1 million.

"They have not paid a red nickel. We have not yet assessed the costs for Pinewood and Blue Hills; be assured however, we will do so," Ingraham said.

"They have a new mantra now. When they lose, they declare victory, tell their supporters that the election isn't over yet; send their operatives to all the radio stations to spill their vile mistruths and half-truths. They drag their matters on for as long as possible, hoping that somehow they will be able to reverse the decision made by the people on election day.

"They did this in 2007 and for more than a year held out to their supporters that victory was just around the corner. They did this cynically because they knew they had lost the 2007 general election fair and square. They knew they were wasting the Election Court's time when attention ought to have been given to serving the people."

Ingraham said the PLP appears now to be on the verge of "this same self-serving, delaying tactic" following the Elizabeth by-election.

"This is not the behavior of democrats," he said.

"Instead, it is the behavior of a PLP elite who manipulate our political system for their own self-aggrandizement and personal benefit. In other words, rather than serving our democratic institutions, the PLP mostly seek to have these institutions serve their personal needs and agendas."

Februray 22, 2010


Elizabeth by-election: Many illegal votes cast says Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham

By Krystel Rolle ~ Guardian Staff Reporter ~

Many people voted illegally in the Elizabeth by-election last Tuesday, according to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who indicated yesterday that the Free National Movement would wage an all-out war to secure victory, and fully expects to win the looming Election Court challenge.

"...We were also surprised by a number of persons who voted who shouldn't have voted," said Ingraham during a press conference yesterday at the FNM headquarters on Mackey Street.

"We didn't have sufficient information on that day (by-election day) to challenge them. We challenged many of them, however; and should the matter go to the Election Court, we believe that there are large numbers of persons whose votes would be liable to be declared void."

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is preparing to mount an Election Court challenge after a two-day recount ended with its candidate, Ryan Pinder, receiving 1,499 votes to the 1,501 votes that FNM candidate Dr. Duane Sands received.

Pinder also got five protest votes that could still impact the outcome of the election.

Protest votes are those votes that were cast on a colored ballot paper because the presiding officer was not satisfied as to the identity of the voter or as to his entitlement to vote because of a defect in the voter's card; an incorrect entry in the register; or the voter had a voter's card but his name did not appear in the register for the constituency or the particular polling division.

Although the person is still allowed to vote, it is not counted, but if the protest votes could materially affect the outcome of an election, a court may make a final determination.

PLP trustee and attorney Valentine Grimes pointed out last week that if the protest votes are added to Pinder's tally after the election challenge, Pinder would have a total of 1,504 votes as compared to Sands' 1,501 votes, and therefore would be declared the winner.

However, Ingraham said the FNM is not worried about those protest votes.

He also claimed that corruption and voter fraud were high in the Elizabeth constituency.

"I wouldn't dare burden my supporters with what I know," he said.

Ingraham hinted that the FNM has developed a three-pronged plan to ensure that it secures a victory.

"The FNM expects to win what the PLP is taking to court so we don't need to consider any further steps. We challenged those five voters. In the case of four of them, we have very good evidence that they had no entitlement whatsoever to vote," said Ingraham, who is also the leader of the FNM.

He later added, "The PLP can't go to court and succeed unless those five persons also show up to court. They have to come themselves and we call upon them to come and take that Bible in their hand and swear an oath [indicating] their qualifications to vote in Elizabeth, then be cross-examined by the FNM team of lawyers."

Ingraham added that each of the five candidates in the election would also have the option to question each one of the protested voters and cross-examine them.

"At the end of the day, the court will make a decision. If these persons turn out to be persons that committed perjury or who lied, then there are laws to deal with that," he warned.

"So each of these persons will have to make their own decision on what they want to do. Let go, let be or expose yourself to the other place," said Ingraham, making a clear reference to Her Majesty's Prison.

"In the other place, you go there by yourself, no one goes with you. It's a very lonely place to be."

In addition to protesting five of the votes, the FNM also challenged a number of votes for various reasons. The votes of people who were challenged were counted in the final tally. The PLP also challenged a number of votes.

Asked yesterday how many votes the FNM challenged, Ingraham said that would be revealed in "phase three" of the Election Court challenge.

"Quite a few people were challenged — many people voted who do not live in Elizabeth. We never believed that there were [nearly] 5,000 people eligible to vote in Elizabeth," Ingraham said.

"The register said 4,943. We never believed that. In the last election [nearly 4,000] persons voted. We don't believe that the constituency has many more than that today."

He said the FNM found numerous empty apartments where no one lives.

Given that, Ingraham said voter turnout was probably around 75 percent.

Throughout the news conference, Sands was referred to as the member of Parliament-elect for the Elizabeth constituency. He also referred to himself that way.

"The results from the February 16th poll declared Dr. Duane Sands of the FNM the winner of the poll and hence the Elizabeth constituency MP-elect," said Ingraham.

"We are confident that once that process (if it is in fact undertaken) is completed that Dr. Duane Sands will once again be declared the winner of the February 16th poll. We will ensure that the intentions of the majority of those eligible to vote in the Elizabeth by-election are honored and upheld."

Ingraham added that the people of Elizabeth are entitled to and deserve full representation in the House of Assembly.

Unnecessary delays in the certification processes fail to honor both the spirit and the rules of our democratic traditions. The voice of Elizabeth must and will be fully heard in Parliament as soon as possible.

"In short, it is only a matter of time before Dr. Sands is certified as the member of Parliament for Elizabeth," Ingraham said. "He and the FNM won the election fair and square."

Sands, who briefly addressed supporters, said he is proud to be the member-elect for Elizabeth.

He thanked his supporters yesterday, and pledged to serve all the people in the constituency with the same passion that he brought to the campaign.

Sands said after the election results are certified, he would look forward for other opportunities to thank the people of Elizabeth.

Ingraham urged all FNM supporters to remain patient and calm. He told them to conduct themselves with dignity and good cheer as the rule of law is followed.

"Do not be provoked," he cautioned, adding that the FNM will remain focused throughout the next stages of this process.

"Finally, I urge all of those in political office and those engaged in party politics to refrain from any actions or irresponsible and intemperate language which may inflame passions," said the FNM leader.

"Our democracy has the procedures, rules and laws necessary to properly adjudicate the electoral matter at hand."

Februray 22, 2010


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dr. Duane Sands Dissatisfied With Elizabeth by-election Results


He was declared the unofficial winner of the much anticipated and hotly contested Elizabeth by-election, but Free National Movement (FNM) candidate Dr. Duane Sands only won the election by one point – almost 300 votes less than Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham had previously predicted.

Dr. Sands admitted last night that he was not too happy with the way things went at the polls.

Slightly disappointed with the close finish at the polls, the FNM candidate said the results have left him with a bit of uncertainty.

"It is not the type of feeling that I would have hoped to have had at this point. I imagine that [Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate] Ryan Pinder is feeling similarly and that is almost unsure of what [Wednesday] is going to bring," Dr. Sands said.

While uncertainty looms about who the official winner is up to this point, Dr. Sands said he feels that he is more or less in a better position that Mr. Pinder.

"I prefer, however, to be in a position where I am one point up as opposed to one point down. But to be quite honest with you this is not going to be the jubilant night that we all expected," he said.

The exhausting campaign trail took the FNM candidate from door-to-door in the Elizabeth constituency and even to the houses of those that did not support him.

Even with that, Dr. Sands said he never doubted his success at the polls.

"I never doubted that I would win this election, but, we always gave the voters the respect that they deserved and you can see that one vote made all the difference," he said.

The ballots are scheduled to be recounted today and there is a possibility that Mr. Pinder might be declared the official winner.

If he loses, Dr. Sands said he would focus his energy on running in the 2012 General Election.

"If I do not win it’ll be over at this point, but now we [will have to] get on with the business of taking care of the people’s needs in Elizabeth," he said.

"If I don’t win I will be back practicing medicine and will return to seek the seat in Elizabeth in the 2012 election."

Dr. Sands could not say whether he would reapply for the many government and private positions he resigned from in order to pursue a political career.

Meanwhile National Development Party (NDP) candidate Dr. Andre Rollins – whose performance at the polls rivaled the performance of the other third parties – pointed out that while the PLP and FNM may have been successful at the polls, there was a poor voter turnout.

That is something Dr. Rollins said shows how fed-up the people of Elizabeth and around the country really are with both parties’ performance.

"I think that the poor voter turnout is evidence that many Bahamians are displeased with what is in fact the state of the nation. I think that many persons stayed home despite the excitement that we feel was being generated on a national level," he said.

"By virtue of the poor voter turnout, I believe it implies that persons were not sufficiently motivated or stimulated enough by either of the mainstream political parties."

Dr. Rollins said a look at the votes garnered by the third parties would reveal that all three of the parties made an impact on this election.

February 17th, 2010


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Elizabeth by-election: Recount ends - No winner confirmed

By Candia Dames ~ Guardian News Editor ~

Forty-one hours after the recount of the three thousand plus ballots cast in the Elizabeth by-election got underway, the candidates in the hotly-contested race emerged with no clear winner being certified although the Free National Movement's Dr. Duane Sands was up by two votes.

The recount ended at 1 a.m. today.

Progressive Liberal Party officials indicated that they will invoke their entitlement under Section 69 of the Parliamentary Elections Act.

That provision provides for the Election Court to decide on protest votes if one candidate does not secure a margin of victory that exceeds his opponent's number of protest votes.

Sands' two vote margin is less than the five protest votes of PLP candidate Ryan Pinder. If the court approves Pinder's protest votes as regular votes, he could win the election.

The law states that in the event of any candidate wishing to avail himself of this provision, either he or his election agent shall notify the returning officer in writing immediately following the re-count, and in such case no such declaration of a winner shall be made.

The law requires that such an application be made within 10 days of the re-count.

"The procedure and practice of the Election Court on the hearing of such applications shall be regulated by rules which shall be made by the Rules Committee under section 75 of the Supreme Court Act, such rules making due provision for the preservation of the secrecy of the name or names of the candidate or candidates for whom each such protest ballot was cast; and at the hearing of any application all candidates for the relevant constituency shall be entitled to appear personally or by counsel, to call, examine or cross-examine any witnesses; and generally to be heard by the Election Court," the act states.

The law requires that the Election Court make a determination on the protest votes. In the event that the Court approves any such votes as legally cast, the protest votes shall be deemed to be regular votes and taken into account and added to the regular votes cast in favor of each candidate, and the returning officer shall declare the final result of the poll.

This morning's results were anti-climactic for hundreds of PLP and FNM supporters who waited off and on since before 8 a.m. Wednesday for the recount to end.

Except for a break between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. yesterday, the counting was non-stop for the 12 polling divisions.

Since early yesterday morning, Progressive Liberal Party leader Perry Christie, who was present nonstop throughout the recount, told The Nassau Guardian that it appeared likely the matter will end up in Election Court.

"We know that after the ballots are counted we have five protest votes, which means really that if Dr. Sands does not have a majority of over four or five votes the protest votes must be and will be counted," Christie said early yesterday.

"If my candidate loses by fewer votes than five, and we then indicate our preparedness to go to the Election Court to have the protest ballots examined, yes, it would automatically go to the Election Court for that adjudication because when you add the protest votes [that our candidate got] it would give him the majority. So it would be a question of whether those votes will in fact be agreed to by the courts, so I think we are headed really as it looks now, to the Election Court."

Christie, who has been in politics for more than 30 years, said he has never seen anything like what played out before, during and after Tuesday's by-election.

"I've said publicly already that there has been an extraordinary amount of intimidation, perceived or otherwise. People felt it and I spoke publicly to it," he said. "There have been...inducements to get people to vote and there are people who have been given jobs and infrastructure improvements and we decried that. But on top of that the voting process itself was really much to be desired. And look how long we've been trying to arrive at a determination where people are very, very tired, and so we have to examine this with a view to trying to improve it.

"And I think, quite frankly, that this is time for the political parties — most certainly Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie who've been in elected politics for 32 consecutive years — we have an obligation before we demit office to try to improve the electoral rules in our country so that we can avoid the kinds of problems we now face and we've seen enough signs to know that our system is headed toward being very corrupt and that in itself should be a tremendous warning to us that it is something that we should not accept and we should do something about."

Since 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sands had either been tied with Pinder in the race or up by one, two or three votes in what shaped up to be an extremely grueling and tedious exercise.

When the counting ended at 1 a.m., the unofficial results for polling division 12 remained unchanged. Pinder had 123 votes and Sands had 108.

Both the PLP and FNM had lawyers on hand during the recount, arguing over the last two days.

Sands has no protest votes. But the Bahamas Democratic Movement's Cassius Stuart has one.

February 19, 2010


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Elizabeth by-election: Message sent by high number of absent Elizabeth voters

By Brent Dean ~ Guardian Senior Reporter ~

The decision by more than 1,700 registered voters not to participate in the Elizabeth by-election may indicate that a significant block of Bahamians either rejected, or are not interested in, the message being offered by either the Free National Movement or the Progressive Liberal Party.

When the recount is over, the winner of the by-election would have received just over 30 percent of the registered votes in the area.

With the PLP and the FNM having national base support somewhere between 30 and 40 percent each, it appears that not even all of the faithful showed up to vote on Tuesday.

The Bahamas is going through one of its worse economic periods since Independence. As a result of the global recession thousands of Bahamians are out of work. The level of violent crime in the country has also hit record levels.

In this context, an opposition party should be able to defeat the governing party in a by-election, in a classic swing seat.

The Christie-led PLP could not do this.

Conversely, it could be argued that the FNM should have done better. The PLP has moved from controversy to controversy since the last general election.

One PLP member of Parliament (Kenyatta Gibson) crossed the floor of the House of Assembly and joined the FNM; another (Malcolm Adderley) resigned, criticizing Christie; and former party senator (Pleasant Bridgewater) is about to face retrial on attempted extortion charges.

Neither party could use the strong negatives against the other to distance itself in this race. The voters in this swing seat have perceived little to no difference between the major parties.

The Elizabeth vote should force both leaders back to the drawing board to find new messages, policies and platforms if they are serious about running in 2012.

The results show that the Elizabeth campaign did not inspire.

However, what the results also show is that no matter how dissatisfied Bahamians may be with the PLP and the FNM, they will not support a third party.

The youthful enthusiasm of Cassius Stuart and Dr. Andre Rollins should be applauded. But if either man wants to ever sit in the House, he must put on either a yellow or red shirt.

This deep conservatism - Bahamians not being willing to try a third force - has a consequence. If Bahamians will not vote for others, then there is no pressure on either the PLP or FNM to reform their message; and there is also no pressure on the major parties to change the faces that lead the organization.

In this equation the major parties only need to defeat each other rather than seek to court voters.

Some observers argue that the number of voters who did not show up on Tuesday is likely less that 1,700. It is true that some people on the 2007 register may have moved or died since then.

This, though, would only reduce the number of non-voters by a few hundred.

The PLP and FNM must now face the reality that the degree of voter apathy in Elizabeth may exist in swing seats across the country.

The parties must determine if their message (or messengers) no longer appeal to voters.

Now, a saving grace for the major parties may be that many Elizabeth voters stayed at home waiting for the next general election, as they know that Tuesday's result will not change the overall balance of power in Parliament.

February 18, 2010


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Elizabeth by-election: FNM ahead by one vote


ONE vote decided the winner of the hotly contested Elizabeth by-election, unofficially leaving the FNM's Duane Sands as the representative for the area vacated by the PLP's Malcolm Adderley last month.

Nevertheless, Prime Minister and leader of the FNM Hubert Ingraham said that the governing party would not be declaring victory just yet, admitting that things can go "either way" following today's recount.

As The Tribune predicted, the election came right down to the wire as Dr Sands unofficially won the contest with a total of 1,501, beating his closest contender PLP Ryan Pinder, who obtained 1,500 votes.

In the end third party candidates and low turn out made a huge difference in this election.

While typically for a general election the voter turn out is in the 90 per cent range, approximately 64 per cent of voters turned out on Tuesday.

Altogether third party candidates gathered a total of 141 votes. Literally had any of these votes cast for the NDP, BDM or Workers' Party gone to the PLP or FNM it could have been a game changer.

However, yesterday's "official unofficial results" left FNM's cautiously optimistic and PLPs saying they were not willing to give up as yet.

Returning officer Jack Thompson told The Tribune yesterday that there would be no official recount until today.

There were a lot of factors at play in the Elizabeth by-election, among which is the issue of contested and protest ballots. While the challenged votes were included in the tally, the protested votes were not.

According to Mr Thompson, voters whose names were on the register, but were disputed by party agents, were challenged and required to swear an oath.

Voters whose names were not on the register or had questionable voter cards were protested and required to vote on coloured ballots.

Mr Thompson did not have the official numbers of challenged or protested votes up to press time.

Weeks ago, members of each contending party in the by-election raised an alarm over irregularities with the voting register published by the Parliamentary Registration Department.

Party members claimed they were unable to find hundreds of people on the register during house-to-house visitations. They were not satisfied everyone on the list had lived in the constituency for three months.

One of the biggest side stories of this election was Tommy Turnquest's revelation at an FNM rally the night before that 35-year-old Ryan Pinder had never voted in the Bahamas but had deemed it important to vote in two US elections.

This fact left Mr Pinder vulnerable to open mocking by his opponents.

FNM Chairman Carl Bethel said when Ryan Pinder arrived at Thelma Gibson yesterday morning, the FNM supporters gathered outside sang the US national anthem.

When their candidate Dr Duane Sands arrived, the group sang the Bahamian national anthem.

NDP candidate Dr Andre Rollins said that he was embarrassed for Mr Pinder.

Dr Rollins said that had the FNM come out with this information sooner, the PLP candidate would have never been able to overcome it.

PLP candidate Ryan Pinder called Tommy Turnquest's revelation about his voting history "gutter politics" and said he was not going to respond.

However, PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts said this was nothing but FNM "propaganda" that was being used as a "red herring" to distract PLPs.

Roberts said it was "not a big deal" and that Turnquest's comments were not a matter of any substance. He further suggested that Pinder had renounced his US citizenship before he nominated and that the FNM was aware of this all along.

PLP Deputy Leader Philip "Brave" Davis chiming in on his candidate's voting history said he thought it was disingenuous of the FNM to reveal this information at the last minute giving Ryan Pinder no chance to respond.

He pointed out that during the time in question, Pinder was living and working in the United States and so would not have had the residency required to vote in a Bahamian election.

There were no major disturbances yesterday but police had to be called to quiet rowdy FNM and PLP supporters who gathered outside the polling station at Faith Temple, where the votes were tallied.

Tensions were mounting with supporters of both parties shouting at each other and becoming increasingly aggressive.

The man who was the catalyst for all the excitement on Tuesday, former PLP MP for Elizabeth, Malcolm Adderley, was suspiciously quiet and spent the day away from the spotlight.

When contacted by The Tribune he refused to comment on the election proceedings, saying, "I'm not speaking today."

The election was plagued by low voter turnout and throughout the day swing voters said they were still unsure of who they were throwing their support behind.

The low voter turn out concerned both parties with leader of the opposition, Perry Christie, saying he and his members were getting anxious because voter turnout has been so low.

BDM candidate Cassius Stewart suspects the voter turnout was low because many of the people who appeared on the register weren't actually eligible to vote.

He said if a better analysis of the registry could be done, it may reveal that turnout among eligible voters could be closer to 70 per cent.

Meanwhile, supporters of both major parties are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this morning's recount.

February 17, 2010


Elizabeth by-election: 1,700 voters a no-show

By Krystel Rolle ~ Guardian Staff Reporter ~

More than 1,700 people registered to vote in yesterday's historic by-election were a no-show.

There are 4,943 people on the register. However, according to the unofficial figures only 3,210 people cast their votes yesterday.

In addition to the Progressive Liberal Party's Ryan Pinder and the Free National Movement's Dr. Duane Sands, candidates in the by-election included Bahamas Democratic Movement leader Cassius Stuart, Workers Party leader Rodney Moncur and National Development Party chairman Dr. Andre Rollins.

The unofficial results show that Sands received 1,501 votes, Pinder got 1,500 votes, Stuart got 115 votes, Rollins received 73 votes and Moncur got 21 votes.

The Elizabeth seat became vacant last month when former PLP MP Malcolm Adderley resigned from the House of Assembly. He also resigned from the party.

In polling division number one, Sands received 108 votes; Pinder got 91 votes; Stuart got nine votes; Rollins received four votes and Moncur got two votes.

In polling division number two, Pinder received 145 votes; Sands got 111 votes; Stuart received five votes; Rollins got three votes while Moncur did not get any votes.

In polling division number three, Pinder got 141 votes; Sands received 134 votes; Stuart got 14 votes; Rollins got eight votes and Moncur got three votes.

In polling division number four, Sands received 188 votes; Pinder got 164 votes; Rollins got nine votes; Stuart got six votes, and Moncur received three votes.

In polling division number five, Sands got 106 votes; Pinder received 62 votes; Stuart received 16 votes; Rollins received six votes and Moncur got one vote.

In polling division number six, Sands got 157 votes; Pinder received 121 votes; Rollins got 11 votes; Stuart got nine votes and Moncur received one vote.

In polling division number seven, Pinder received 129 votes; Sands got 123 votes; Stuart and Rollins got two votes each, and Moncur got one vote.

In polling division number eight, Sands got 129 votes; Pinder received 106 votes; Stuart got nine votes; Rollins got five votes and Moncur got three votes.

In polling division number nine, Pinder got 86 votes; Sands got 85 votes; Stuart received 11 votes; Rollins received six votes and Moncur got two votes.

In polling division number 10, Pinder got 168 votes; Sands got 130 votes; Rollins got 12 votes; Stuart received 10 votes and Moncur got four votes.

In polling division number 11, Pinder got 164 votes; Sands received 122 votes; Stuart got 13 votes; Rollins got six votes while Moncur didn't get any votes.

In polling division number 12, Pinder received 123 votes; Sands got 108 votes; Stuart got 11 votes and Moncur and Rollins got one vote each.

Returning Officer Jack Thompson said five of Pinder's votes were challenged and were not counted last night.

Thompson added that one of Stuart's votes was also challenged.

Election officials will recount the ballots today.

February 17, 2010


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ryan Pinder lashed on citizenship issue

By Candia Dames ~ Guardian News Editor ~

Although Progressive Liberal Party candidate for Elizabeth Ryan Pinder has announced that he has renounced his citizenship in the United States, a search of Florida voters yesterday still lists him as eligible to vote in that country.

Pinder is listed as a resident of Plantation, Florida.

Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest raised the issue of Pinder's citizenship last night, when he addressed the final Free National Movement rally ahead of today's by-election in Elizabeth.

"Now that the heat is on, Mr. Pinder is saying that he has renounced his U.S. citizenship," Turnquest said.

"...I have nothing against Americans; I just don't want them to run The Bahamas."

Turnquest said Pinder's mother, wife and children are all still American citizens.

Pinder voted in Broward County, Florida, by absentee ballot in the November 4, 2008 general election and municipal elections, he said.

Turnquest noted that Pinder requested an absentee ballot on August 26, 2008; the ballot was mailed to him at 11841 Tara Drive, Plantation, Fla, 33325 on September 26, 2008, and he returned the completed ballot on October 30, 2008.

For the March 10, 2009 municipal general elections in Broward County, less than one year ago, Pinder requested an absentee ballot on February 13, 2009 and the ballot was mailed to him at his Plantation address on February 24, 2009, Turnquest told the crowd.

"If he was interested only in The Bahamas why is he voting in the United States of America?" Turnquest asked.

"In fact, Leo Ryan Pinder only registered in The Bahamas for the very first time in his life in October 2008.

He has never voted in The Bahamas before; not in 1997 when he was 22 years old; not in 2002, nor in 2007. He is now 35 years old and he has never voted in The Bahamas. He has only voted where he is a citizen and where he was interested in the affairs of that country. He has only voted in the USA and never in The Bahamas. Is this someone you want to try Elizabeth?"

Last night, Pinder told The Nassau Guardian that the reason why his name still appears on the U.S. voter register is that that register is only updated during election time.

"My U.S. citizenship is not an issue and renunciation is not an issue in this campaign," Pinder said. "I am focused on the good people of Elizabeth, addressing their issues and concerns as the representative and I will not be brought down into the personal attacks that the Free National Movement has found themselves involved in."

Asked whether it is true that he has never voted in an election in The Bahamas, Pinder said, "I am a registered voter in the Clifton constituency."

Pressed repeatedly on the matter, the PLP candidate said, "I did not reside in The Bahamas and it would have been illegal for me to vote in The Bahamas having not resided in The Bahamas."

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham also raised the citizenship issue when he addressed the FNM rally last night.

He said that in electing the FNM's candidate Dr. Duane Sands to Parliament, voters need not have any concern that he is not qualified to be an MP.

"An essential qualification to be an MP is that you must be a citizen of The Bahamas, and you must be that on the day you nominate for a seat, and on the day of your election to Parliament," Ingraham said.

Pinder told The Guardian that he renounced his U.S. citizenship prior to nominating, but he insisted it was not done for political reasons.

"It was completely voluntary," he said.

Asked whether the PLP asked Pinder to give up his U.S. citizenship, one senior PLP official told The Guardian that the party's candidate's committee asked Pinder to do "certain things" but he did not go further, saying the party's hierarchy had committed to keeping its discussions private.

Last night Ingraham told supporters, "Dr. Sands is a Bahamian citizen. Since the day of Independence he has been a citizen of The Bahamas. He is not now and has never been a citizen of any other country. He has no citizenship to renounce. He has only one loyalty. That is to our flag. He registered and votes in Bahamian elections, been doing so since he was 20 years old."

The prime minister said Elizabeth voters will decide today whether they want an MP who will be a part of the decision-making apparatus and structure of the FNM government or have an MP who would be in opposition.

"The choice for tomorrow is clear," he said. "I await your judgment."

February 16, 2010


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dr. Duane Sands always supported a health plan for all Bahamians

Tribune242 Editorial:

DURING THE Elizabeth by-election campaign over the past few weeks, the PLP has tried to make the voters of that constituency believe that Dr Duane Sands -- the FNM's candidate for the vacant seat -- is not interested in the poor because he was against National Health Insurance.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As a matter of fact we do not know of any doctor who publicly admitted to being against insurance for general health care. (The National Health Insurance Act 2006 was tabled in parliament by the Christie government on November 15, 2006).

However, there were many doctors, some of them quite vocal, who expressed the belief that the scheme as then proposed would not solve the Bahamas' healthcare problems. On the contrary it would never be able to deliver the standard of care promised by the PLP government's Blue Ribbon Commission.

In various statements, one before the Rotary Club of Nassau on March 16, 2006, Dr Sands made it clear that he believed every Bahamian was entitled to health care as of right.

"The goal of the Blue Ribbon Commission and the National Health Insurance plan are admirable and universally held," Dr Sands told Rotary. However, "they will not be achieved with this plan as currently outlined and will likely cause far more damage than ever anticipated."

Dr Robin Roberts, chairman of the National Coalition for Health Care Reform -- the brother of PLP chairman Bradley Roberts -- was of the same opinion.

In Dr Roberts' view the plan advanced by the PLP's Blue Ribbon Commission raised many unanswered questions. "We believe it to be our responsibility and the responsibility of all right-minded thinking Bahamians to raise those questions and to engage in true and meaningful consultation with Government in seeking answers," he said.

In expressing his concern, Dr Sands gave the analogy of a flight to London. "In the economy class," he said, "sit the majority of travellers. Space is limited but comfortable and the food is palatable. Up from there is business class, with larger seats, more space and sumptuous fare ... exceeded only by the plush and posh environment of first class. Same plane, same pilot no difference in destination or safety. One size does not fit all. Everyone cannot afford Atlantis or Ocean Club -- but they certainly should continue to exist."

It was because of his concern for those in economy class -- the poor of this country-- that he disagreed with the national health plan as then designed. He saw the plan as a "frightenly retrogressive step that will lead to less accountability, longer waiting times and reduced quality (of health care)." It was a plan that offered first class seats that could not be delivered to the poor.

"For the sake of all Bahamians," said Dr Robin Roberts, "let's take the time to get it right!"

But an election was around the corner. It was more important for the PLP to win that election rather than to get it right.

Tribune files are filled with public statements by Dr Sands, saying 'yes we need public health,' but let's get it right or the people's lot will be worse than what they now have.

And so how Dr Bernard Nottage -- who as Minister of Health on rejoining the PLP was given the task of taking the PLP's health plan to the people -- could say with a straight face that his "impression" was that Dr Sands did not support National Health Insurance, is beyond comprehension. No wonder the general public do not trust most politicians.

Dr Sands said it many times over that he supported national health insurance, but not the plan devised as an election-gimmick by the PLP government. He believed the Bahamian people -- especially the poor -- deserved better.

Now we invite Dr Nottage to recall one of the consultative meetings that Dr Marcus Bethel -- at the time the PLP government's Minister of Health -- held with a group of physicians at the School of Nursing. The meeting was to discuss government's national health insurance plan.

According to our records, Dr Nottage, who then headed his own party, the CDR -- he had not yet returned to the fold of his old party the PLP -- sat quietly throughout the discussion -- that is until towards the end. It was then that it is claimed he dropped his verbal "bomb." We understand that the gist of his angry remarks was that the Blue Ribbon Commission hadn't a clue what it was doing. It was basing its conclusions on faulty information, and as such the plan was not sustainable.

We certainly got the impression at the time that Dr Sands and Dr Nottage were singing from the same hymn sheet. But, one must remember that when Dr Nottage was singing his song, he headed his own political party in Opposition to the PLP. However, in the interim he rejoined his old government, became its Minister of Health and took the PLP's health scheme to the public. Today, he is in Elizabeth trying to get his party's candidate elected, and in the bargain misrepresenting the position of the opposition candidate -- Dr Duane Sands.

Really the PLP are just too much. This misrepresentation alone should make voters think twice before casting their ballots for the PLP candidate on Tuesday. Not that there's anything wrong with the candidate -- it's the party that's the problem.

February 12, 2010


Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham apologizes for non-disclosure of his finances in accordance with the Public Disclosures Act

By Juan Mccartney ~ Guardian Senior Reporter ~

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham last night apologized to the nation for failing to disclose his finances in accordance with the Public Disclosures Act for the past several years.

"This morning The Nassau Guardian's editorial called for me to apologize to the Bahamian people for my omission," Ingraham said at a rally last night. "I do so now. I offer no excuse. I blame no one for my not having done so. I'm sorry and I will correct this situation forthwith."

Ingraham's apology came as a result of his admission in a Guardian article published two days ago, in which he candidly admitted that he had failed to follow the disclosure.

"I said that I would do so as quickly as possible," said the prime minister. "I said that knowing that one of these disclosure statements has already been prepared for me and I have only to do a final check and sign and submit it. I regret that I have permitted my schedule to distract me from completing this obligation."

The Guardian has published several articles pointing out that outside of the electoral process, public disclosure has become a thing of the past.

Last week, Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants President Reece Chipman had called for greater public disclosure among elected and publicly appointed officials, and also suggested that certified accountants verify the veracity of disclosure statements.

Ingraham claimed his apology was issued in order to demonstrate the difference between the Free National Movement (FNM) and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

The PM further claimed that the PLP took "neither responsibility nor blame for anything."

During last night's rally, the prime minister also alleged that the PLP has been consistently distorting reality and playing the 'blame game'.

"When under a competent and trustful FNM government, our economy was booming and we had the lowest rate of unemployment ever and the highest household incomes ever - they claimed it was because the U.S. economy was doing well," he said. "When we began experiencing a downturn in our economy two years ago, they claimed it had nothing to do with the recession and high unemployment in the U.S. economy; they claimed it was my fault."

Ingraham also said that in the past few weeks - much like the past two years - the PLP has told the people of Elizabeth that the country's economic woes were all his fault.

"They say we have a high level of unemployment, people's lights have been turned off, many mortgage payments are behind, times are hard for many and many people are hurting. And they say government revenue is down and borrowing is up," he said. "This is true; true for The Bahamas, true for America; true for Europe and true for the Caribbean. But according to them this is my fault and the FNM's fault. We caused the global economic tsunami that has affected all countries in our part of the world. Next thing they'll be blaming me for the weather. But, you notice that now as the world economy is showing signs of improving, I'm not getting the blame for the improvement."

The prime minister said that unlike the PLP, he deals in "facts and reality, not fiction and delusion."

"They claim we're fixing your roads because of the by-election," he said. "You know that road paving began long before we knew there was gonna be a by-election. In fact we are paving and repairing and upgrading roads all over New Providence, including in the following constituencies represented in Parliament by members of the opposition: Bain and Grants Town, Farm Road and Centreville, Fort Charlotte, Fox Hill, Golden Gates, St. Thomas More and St Cecilia. Ain't no by-elections being held in any of them, eh?"

Ingraham claimed the FNM always works in the interest of all people.

"That's why roads are being paved all over Bahamaland," he said.

Mocking the PLP's slogan for its candidate Ryan Pinder, Ingraham said, "This ain't no time for 'Trying Ryan'."

"This is no time for a rookie," he said. "These are hard times. These are difficult times. These are tough times. This is the time for a tested hand, a proven hand, a familiar hand, a trusted hand. This is the time for [FNM candidate] Dr. Duane Sands."

Ingraham said Sands - a heart surgeon - is needed in the House of Assembly.

"We need you to send Duane Sands to the House so he can help your FNM team to create jobs and business opportunities," he said. "We need Duane Sands to help us to pursue the strategies needed to combat crime here in Elizabeth and across the country. We need Duane Sands to help us create an affordable national health insurance program. Duane Sands will not only be a fine representative for Elizabeth, he will also be a key figure on an FNM team that is delivering for you."

The Elizabeth by-election takes place on Tuesday.

February 12, 2010


Friday, February 12, 2010

Ryan Pinder Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Elizabeth by-election candidate renounces his United States citizenship

By Krystel Rolle ~ Guardian Staff Reporter ~

Progressive Liberal Party by-election candidate for Elizabeth Ryan Pinder yesterday announced that he surrendered his United States citizenship. The decision comes after weeks of criticism in the political arena. However, yesterday he denied that his decision had anything to do with politics.

Pinder, who is the son of former politician Marvin Pinder, had dual citizenship in The Bahamas and the United States - his mother is an American.

"It happened a while back," he told The Nassau Guardian, referring to his decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship.

"It's not a political decision for me. I'm a man that discusses the issues. The issues are important to the constituents of Elizabeth and it's a shame that this insignificant issue has caused a state of confusion."

"I love the country that I'm a part of. I love The Bahamas. I'm a Bahamian and that's where I stand," he stated.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham recently took an indirect swipe at Pinder.

"In Duane Sands you have a patriotic Bahamian," Ingraham said speaking about the Free National Movement's candidate in the by-election.

"He is a full-blooded Bahamian, loyal to The Bahamas, he is only a Bahamian - not dual, single," Ingraham said.

While some political observers believe that Pinder was pressured in making the decision, Pinder said that the choice to give up his U.S. citizen was his alone.

Asked whether the PLP asked him to renounce his citizenship, he said, "no, absolutely not."

Pinder, who has worked in the United States for several years as a tax attorney and returned to The Bahamas about three years ago, said he has no regrets about his decision.

"I work in Nassau, The Bahamas. This is my permanent place of work and permanent place of living. So I work in Nassau and this has no bearing on that."

In July 2008, Becker & Poliakoff, P.A., the U.S. company that employed Pinder, named him to head the firm's new office in New Providence.

According to its website, Becker and Poliakoff is a diversified commercial law firm whose core areas of practice include real estate, condominium and homeowners association law, construction, international business and trade, government law and lobbying, civil and commercial litigation, and corporate securities and tax law. The Elizabeth seat became available last month when former Progressive Liberal Party MP Malcolm Adderley resigned from the House of Assembly. He also resigned from the party.

His resignation came at the halfway mark of the Ingraham administration's third, non-consecutive term in office.

In addition to Sands and Pinder, other candidates in the election are Bahamas Democratic Movement leader Cassius Stuart, Workers Party leader Rodney Moncur and National Development Party chairman Dr. Andre Rollins.

February 12, 2010


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader Perry Christie alleges unfair electoral practices in Elizabeth by-election

By CANDIA DAMES ~ Guardian News Editor ~

Progressive Liberal Party leader Perry Christie last night alleged that there were unfair electoral practices in Elizabeth ahead of Tuesday's by-election.

"The people of Elizabeth are witnessing and experiencing offers of temporary jobs, paving of roads and even track roads, installation of street lights, fancy promises about taking care of them, all to get them to vote against Ryan Pinder and the PLP," Christie alleged at a rally in the constituency last night.

"There is no doubt that the people of Elizabeth deserve everything that they can get and we support their receiving such entitlements. But the question must be asked, why wait until now?"

Christie said he found it interesting that after all this time in office, the FNM government "is only now just showing its face in Elizabeth."

"Santa Claus is coming to town in February," he said. "Imagine that."

In the weeks since attorney Malcolm Adderley resigned his Parliamentary seat, the national spotlight has been focused on Elizabeth, with constituents' needs being highlighted by the five candidates in the race.

Matching the articulation of those needs have been a slew of promises on how they will be addressed.

Christie urged residents last night not to be fooled by the election.

"The only party in this race that really cares about you is the same party that has always cared about struggling Bahamians - the Progressive Liberal Party," he said.

Christie also encouraged Elizabeth constituents to show the Free National Movement just how smart they are.

"Let them know that you don't want to go just a little way with a few handouts," he said. "Tell them that you want to go all the way to freedom and dignity with the PLP. Tell them that this is politics at its most cynical level and that you reject it thoroughly."

Christie said Elizabeth voters have every right to ask the FNM government and the FNM's candidate Dr. Duane Sands where they have been over the past two years.

He again expressed confidence in the outcome of the approaching election.

"I feel confident that at the end of the five days that remain, a new day for the people of Elizabeth will come to life; a new day will dawn; a new day that will bring in a new era of caring and compassionate representation; a new era of imaginative and innovative representation...," Christie said.

But the PLP leader told supporters, "We are almost there, but we're not there yet. Let's not lose sight of that fact. We've come a long way over the last couple of weeks but we still have some ways to go. There is still ground to be covered. There are still five days left and these last five days will be the hardest ground of all to cover."

He also said Pinder would play an important role in the next government.

"If you're looking for a stand-up political fighter who is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with his opponents and to debate them in public on the issues, then Ryan is your man," said Christie in a clear swipe at Sands for not participating in Jones Communications' candidates debate on Tuesday night.

Heaping more praise on Pinder, the PLP leader called the candidate "someone with bright, new, clearly-thought-out ideas for fixing the social and economic problems" that Elizabeth constituents face.

He also characterized Pinder as someone who feels deeply about the plight of disaffected youth, the unemployed and residents fearful of escalating crime.

Pinder told supporters last night that he is not the kind of candidate will would be reachable only when he needs votes.

"So Elizabeth, on this short march to victory, on which I hope you will partner with me, you can be sure of a PLP candidate who has your welfare and your future as priority, and who will offer sensible and realistic solutions to everyday problems," he said.

February 11, 2010


Dr. Duane Sands: I support National Health Insurance (NHI)

By Candia Dames ~ Guardian News Editor ~

In 2006 when the debate over National Health Insurance (NHI) was raging, Dr. Duane Sands emerged as a key opposition voice to the plan as presented by the Christie administration.

Today, as the Free National Movement's candidate in the approaching by-election, Sands is making headlines for other reasons, but his opponents are quick to remind voters that four years ago he fought the battle against the highly touted program.

"My impression was he did not support National Health Insurance," said Dr. Bernard Nottage, who was minister of health in 2006 and is now the Progressive Liberal Party's coordinator for its Elizabeth by-election campaign.

"Indeed, my impression was he did not support universal health insurance. Dr. Sands is an influential physician who has worked in our system in both the private and public [sectors] for many years. And he knows the weaknesses and the faults of the system. He knows that there are people in this country who when they fall ill are denied care because they do not have the money to pay."

Sands on the other hand suggested that because he has worked in the system for such a long time, he has a good idea of what is realistic and what is not. And what the PLP was proposing in 2006, he said, was just not realistic.

"It's interesting that much of what is being said about me now is that I opposed National Health Insurance (NHI)," Sands said yesterday. "There's nothing further from the truth. I did not oppose National Health Insurance. I didn't then and I don't oppose it now.

"What I did oppose was something that was poorly conceived and likely to be poorly executed, and I thought that we were trying to sell the Bahamian public a bill of goods for political mileage. I say that without fear of contradiction. At the time, when I was a technical person in the Ministry [of Health], I said this cannot work, this will not accomplish what it is setting out to do."

In 2006, Sands was part of the National Coalition for Health Care Reform.

Back then he said, "I have absolutely no problem with a National Health Insurance Plan.

"I think it should happen now. I think we need to make dramatic changes in the way health care is delivered. We need to improve access for our Bahamian people, but I've gone on record, and I go on record today, as saying this plan as currently touted will not do what it's intended to do, and more importantly, I believe that we're not terribly far off from the proponents of the current [proposed] National Health Insurance Plan.

"I believe that there's enough talent in this country that if we sit down together and hash out the differences we can all develop a National Health Insurance Plan which we can be proud of, which would be sustainable and which would achieve the noble goals set out by the Blue Ribbon Commission [on National Health Insurance]. We're not terribly far off."

When the National Health Insurance Bill came to Parliament in 2006, Free National Movement members supported it, although they repeatedly pointed to what they called flaws in the Christie government's NHI plan.

In his contribution to the debate on December 6, 2002, then leader of the opposition Hubert Ingraham pointed out that the bill would not have created NHI.

"If, according to them (the PLP) people are dying because there is no National Health Insurance, then people will continue to die because this bill is most certainly not delivering National Health Insurance," Ingraham said.

The bill was passed, but had a short shelf life as it came mere months before the Christie administration's one term in government ended. Under the Ingraham administration, talk of NHI has taken on new form.

The government has said its national drug prescription plan is the first step to NHI and that there will be other steps in its planned phased approach, although no timelines have been given.

But Nottage is doubtful that any meaningful National Health Insurance Scheme will ever develop under the current administration.

"If poor people can't afford it now, how are they going to be able afford it in the future unless there is a national system which we were trying to implement, a system by the way which requires every person who is employed to make a contribution toward health care in the country, pooling the resources so that everybody pays and when one of us becomes ill [we] would not have to worry about having the cash to pay," he said yesterday.

The former health minister said some members of the medical profession are ambivalent about National Health Insurance.

"They want people to have good health care but they don't want to make the sacrifices that are required for them to have good care," he said. "And some of those sacrifices include having to forgo many of the benefits that health professionals have, and so I think it is that ambivalence that has created this opposition."

Sands said in 2006 that he is prepared to work with anyone to come up with a plan that will be sustainable and realistic.

Yesterday he said, "Let's not offer people something that it isn't. National Health Insurance, universal health care, health care reform are emotionally charged buzz words because health care is so critical in a personal way and in a national way. You've got to be very careful that you don't take people's emotions and run with them in a way that you hold out something that is not real. That's lying to people.

"What you need to be able to do is say 'here's where we are, here's where we'd like to go and we think this is where we can get to'. You've got to be honest. I think people understand and appreciate honesty."

February 11, 2010