Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rodney Moncur's Worker's Party dissolved... to join the newly formed Branville McCartney's Democratic National Alliance (DNA)

The Worker's Party dissolves to join DNA


By NOELLE NICOLLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
nnicolls@tribunemedia.net



THE Worker's Party dissolved its organisation yesterday after 35 years in politics, to join the newly formed Democratic National Alliance (DNA).

Leader Rodney Moncur said the party's membership is collectively migrating to the DNA "to respond to the call of the people of Elizabeth and, indeed, to the cry of voters elsewhere throughout the country for a single, united alternative to this FNM-PLP partnership.".

He said members of the party are ready to go to work.

"We have been in the field for over 30 years. We are mature men and women. There are no egos or hang ups. We are prepared to submit to a leader who will lead based on principle, based on the best interests of the nation. We are now ready to work and lock down," said Mr Moncur.

While campaigning in the Elizabeth bye-election, Mr Moncur said the party got the message from constituents that it would be good "if all the small parties could form a united group."

"We started hearing this joint dismissal of the FNM and PLP clearly in the Elizabeth bye-election in February 2010, when, for the first time in Bahamian history, a frightening percentage of the voters failed to show up at the polls leaving the hapless and embarrassed PLP and FNM to engage in a virtual dogfight, right down to the last vote," said Mr Moncur.

Mr Moncur said the nation was at a critical point in its political history, where for the first time, the Bahamian electorate are in a position to make a fair comparison between the FNM and PLP.

"Up until 1992, the FNM, in an independent Bahamas, had never been tried and tested in Government by the Bahamian people; and the PLP enjoyed overwhelming public support. So it was naturally impossible for any third party that would have been formed during those years to attract the support and build the capacity to challenge both the PLP and the FNM.

"By 2002, the Bahamian people had tried the PLP in Government for 25 years and in opposition for 10 years; and similarly the people had experienced the FNM in some form or other in opposition for 25 years and in Government for 10 years," said Mr Moncur.

"It was at that point that the serious evaluation of the two parties began to develop; it was at this point that voters for the first time could easily compare the two parties and their styles of governance," he said.

Mr Moncur said Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie are "equally balanced", because they represent "the two sides of the Pindling coin."

"Christie is hopelessly indecisive, Ingraham is dangerously rash and impetuous. While Christie claims to be people-oriented and compassionate, Ingraham painfully demonstrates abrasiveness and an utter lack of compassion. Whereas Christie is prone to become bogged down in endless counsels and analyses, Ingraham crawls up high on the rock of stubborn pig-headedness," said Mr Moncur.

"Whereas Christie's Ministers were a wild and uncontrolled bunch, having little respect for him, Ingraham's Ministers are said to be cowering in fear as he shouts them down and makes them submit to his one-man, iron-hand rule," he said.

Mr Moncur lamented the decision of the Bahamas Democratic Movement and members of the National Development Party (NDP) for allowing themselves to be "wooed and swallowed up by the old guard, the hapless and hopeless FNM-PLP, instead of joining forces with the DNA".

The country has never seen such an "upheaval" and "deep-seated rupture in the electorate" since 1971, when the Free PLP was formed, according to Mr Moncur. This climate has allowed Branville McCartney to emerge as "a credible and capable alternative," said Mr Moncur. He said Mr McCartney is the "medicine that will cure the country of both Ingraham and Christie".

Mr Moncur lamented the fact that both the Bahamas Democratic Movement (BDM) and the National Development Party (NDP) allowed themselves to be "wooed and swallowed up by the old guard, the hapless and hopeless FNM-PLP," instead of joining forces with the DNA.

May 31, 2011

tribune242

[WikiLeaks] John Rood - United States Ambassador to The Bahamas: ...there seemed at times to be “two Fred Mitchells” — the polite and polished public Fred Mitchell and the more private, but more revealing Fred Mitchell

The Mitchell Files: What the Americans really thought


By CANDIA DAMES
NG News Editor
thenassauguardian
candia@nasguard.com


THE NATIONAL REVIEW


In 2005, United States Ambassador to The Bahamas John Rood remarked that there seemed at times to be “two Fred Mitchells” — the polite and polished public Mitchell and the more private, but more revealing Mitchell, according to one of the cables in The Nassau Guardian’s treasure trove of diplomatic documents secured through WikiLeaks.

Because of his position as foreign minister for most of the years covered by the cables, Mitchell is mentioned in the documents more than any other person.

The view of Mitchell is a mixed bag.

One U.S. diplomat wrote of Mitchell, “He is one of the government’s sharpest and most active ministers.”

The cables expose fascinating, behind the scenes insights into how country-to-country diplomacy works, and in unpolished details, how the Americans truly viewed Fred Mitchell.

Their assessment was amazingly candid.

One embassy official wrote in one of the cables: “In public, FM Mitchell studiously avoids commenting on scandals and making overly-provocative speeches.

“A pretentious and intellectual man, he prefers to remain above the fray in these situations.”

Mitchell has a desire to be seen and heard in the international arena, wrote a diplomat in another cable.

In yet another cable, a U.S. embassy official claimed businessman Franklyn Wilson had “pleaded with us” to engage constructively with The Bahamas and support Foreign Minister Mitchell’s desire to play a more prominent role on the world stage.”

A U.S. diplomat observed in a 2004 cable: “Despite a life-long career as a politician in a country where politics is personalized to the extreme, neither kissing babies nor making small talk comes naturally to Mitchell.

“He prefers to deal with agendas expeditiously and then engage in philosophical discussions or reviews of international relations drawing on his seminars at Harvard’s Kennedy School.”

It is clear from the cables — and perhaps a surprise to no one — that Fred Mitchell almost single-handedly drove the country’s foreign policy during the Christie years.

His knowledge of world issues and events, his intelligence, ambition and trademark discipline have made him well respected in both regional and international circles.

He is at home on the world stage.

Today, as opposition spokesman on foreign affairs and the public service, Mitchell shows more interest and persistence as a shadow minister than any other colleague in the Progressive Liberal Party’s parliamentary caucus.

The Americans recognized these qualities in Fred Mitchell, although they seemed deeply concerned about the foreign policy stance on a number of issues, which he drove. In some ways, the Americans viewed Mitchell as unhelpful.

“His intelligence, work ethic, and undisguised ambition have made Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell one of the three or four most powerful members of the Perry Christie government and a person of growing influence in the Caribbean,” observed a U.S. official in 2005.

“…Fred Mitchell is a Bahamian and a black nationalist.

“The public Fred Mitchell is polished, sophisticated, and smooth and with a skilled attorney’s ability to make commitments that commit to nothing.

“Mitchell’s ‘personalistic’, close to the vest operating style frequently leaves his own ministry in the dark about his motives, policies and actions.”

The cable said the foreign minister accepted that The Bahamas is located next to the world’s superpower while constantly seeking, in small ways, to play a mini-balance of power game to try to expand The Bahamas’ foreign policy options.

The embassy official wrote that Mitchell had been particularly unhelpful on certain issues, including Haiti and a wide variety of U.N. General Assembly votes.

“Mitchell sees CARICOM as a means to an end,” the official wrote.

“The Bahamas would have little to no influence in the internal sphere if it did not band with ‘its Caribbean brothers and sisters’.

“…Minister Mitchell believes that the only time the U.S. pays attention to CARICOM countries is when Washington needs something from the region.”

A diplomat also wrote: “Mitchell has developed a persona of an aloof and humorless, but highly intellectual and respected politician.

“Oftentimes, Mitchell appears to be in agreement with officials at meetings, and then expresses opposite opinions to the media or in Cabinet. He has aspirations of being an international player and future prime minister.”

But the diplomat predicted that Mitchell’s political assent would be hampered.

The official continued: “Mitchell is respected for his intellect, but not particularly well-liked — (not) even by the current prime minister (Christie).

“PM Christie has made snide remarks with reference to the dress and manner of the foreign minister in front of embassy personnel.

“Nevertheless, Christie trusts Mitchell, defers to him on all foreign policy matters, and often chooses him to represent The Bahamas at CARICOM heads of government meetings.”

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

The Americans’ observation of Mitchell went past his role as foreign minister.

For instance, two days before the May 2, 2007 general election, Mitchell walked his constituency with a U.S. Embassy official at his side, a cable reveals.

Mitchell talked about local politics and the rigors of campaigning in what was shaping up to be a hot race.

According to the cable, Mitchell invited the embassy official to observe his campaign. To avoid any claim of favoritism, the diplomat also observed an unnamed FNM candidate campaign in a neighboring constituency, the cable said.

When he visited Fox Hill with Mitchell, the diplomat sat in living room after living room observing Mitchell’s interaction with voters, many of whom placed their many needs before the MP, the cable said.

“As we entered each voter’s formal salon, they proceeded to regale Mitchell with their problems,” wrote the embassy official.

“A few wanted to talk issues, but most were eager to petition Mitchell for help as a serf may have done when granted access to his feudal lord.”

The diplomat said in the cable that the voters clearly had the upper hand and knew it.

While it is unclear what Mitchell’s motive was when he extended the invitation, the constituency visit provided an opportunity for that official to conduct an extensive analysis of Mitchell the politician, and the American diplomat goes into remarkable details in his writings that followed the Fox Hill visit.

The diplomat documented what he perceived to be Mitchell’s frustrations on the campaign trail. He provides direct quotes attributed to the then foreign minister.

“This is Bahamian politics,” Mitchell is quoted as saying. “You want to talk about issues and they (voters) want to take whatever they can get.

“You want to help, you want to ease pain, and you must show that you care to get elected. But there is a line they want you to cross.”

The cable said a campaign worker acknowledged that the line is sometimes crossed: “People get bills paid, appliances are bought, cash changes hands. It happens, but we don’t do it.”

According to the diplomat, Mitchell openly complained that his role as minister of foreign affairs and public service put him in a particularly bad position during the campaign.

“Everyone wants a government job,” Mitchell is quoted as saying. “I wish I didn’t have the public service portfolio and I could tell them nothing could be done.”

The cable said: “Mitchell also acknowledged, however, that his public service portfolio was busiest during the campaign — taking him away from the road for hours a day as he signs for new perks and jobs.”

That cable — which was classified by then Charge d’Affaires Brent Hardt — says: “Mitchell is ill at ease with the personal interaction of grass-roots politics, but he balances this with cunning strategic planning, making his reelection uncertain and, as confirmed by his own maps, too close to call.”

The diplomat also observed: “Mitchell, not warm and sympathetic by nature, was obviously uncomfortable with deeply personal interactions with the voters. Outside their homes, however, he shined, engaging in detailed strategic discussions, planning neighborhood events and deftly directing campaign activities with staff.”

The embassy official wrote that the focus on the individual in campaigning carries over to broader Bahamian politics.

Mitchell, according to the cable, remarked to the diplomat: “Now you know why we can’t get to international agreements in Cabinet.

“We are too busy working on benches.”

He reportedly made the comment after a voter complained about the state of repair of public benches on her street.

On an earlier occasion, the Americans wrote about Mitchell’s frustrations with the level of efficiency of the Christie cabinet.

According to that particular cable, at a luncheon on March 29, 2004, Mitchell was asked by a U.S. diplomat about the status of ratification of the comprehensive maritime agreement. Mitchell reportedly indicated that the matter had to go to cabinet.

“Mitchell again wistfully mused about how the Bahamian cabinet decision-making process might be improved,” the cable said.

“He related that he had learned as a result of his CARICOM attendance that in other Commonwealth countries, debate and intervention on issues in the cabinet is restricted to their ministers whose portfolios are directly impacted by the issue, or ministers that assert fundamental issues of principle.

“In contrast, Mitchell intimated, the Christie cabinet of the Bahamas operates much less efficiently since any minister can intervene and express a view on any issue before the government.”

At a meeting with Ambassador Rood in March 2007, Mitchell expressed his frustration at the indecision in his own government stemming from the pending elections.”

“Mitchell cited the delay in signing the airport management contract and the delay in moving ahead with discussions on the Flight Information Region as two examples,” the cable said.

“He noted that if the elections had been called in November and held in December, the government would either be out of power already or be finished with the elections and able to govern effectively.”

A diplomat wrote in the 2007 cable that followed the Fox Hill visit: “Indeed, the Bahamian cabinet is notoriously overburdened, unable to ratify important international agreements or national policy items as it considers road paving, speed bumps (a voter favorite), stop lights and other issues important to the local population and vital for re-election.”

Mitchell claimed to have the race in Fox Hill locked up, but the cable said the embassy official’s glance at Mitchell’s shaded maps counting support home by home told the story of a very close race.

“Mitchell’s unease with personal politics cannot be helpful to him in The Bahamian system, but is likely balanced by his strategic planning and assistance of a dedicated campaign staff,” the cable said.

“In such a close race — common in The Bahamas because of the small constituencies and important role of swing voters — every vote counts.”

A separate cable said FNM Leader Hubert Ingraham had privately pledged to devote whatever resources it takes to defeat Mitchell.

“The fact that Mitchell now appears to be a target of his own senior staff — even staff that supports his party’s re-election — adds more credibility to the view that Mitchell may not keep his foreign affairs portfolio even if he and the PLP are able to win re-election,” an official wrote.

Commenting generally on the Bahamian election system, the diplomat wrote, “A well-meaning politician could easily be confused between legal attempts to assist those in need and illegal vote buying.

“A dishonest politician, of which there are more than a few in The Bahamas, has ample opportunity for corruption.”

The diplomat highlighted what he suggested was the need for national anti-corruption and good governance legislation.

The embassy official also noted that with small constituencies of only about 4,000 people, candidates know voters by name, and are expected to visit with each voter personally.

“The result is a democratic system that affords everyday Bahamians incredible access to government, and gives representatives intimate knowledge of the concerns and needs of the people they represent. In one sense, it is the classic model of Athenian democracy.

“However, the system creates sometimes irresistible temptations for corruption as needy residents base their votes not on national policy or constituency leadership, but who can put the most in their pockets.

“It also focuses politicians away from larger policy issues towards local minutia, which helps explain the sometimes frustrating lack of action within the Bahamas Cabinet on issues of concern to the U.S. and often to foreign investors.”

DIPLOMATIC BLUNDER

As part of their extensive analysis of Mitchell the foreign minister, the Americans in a 2005 cable reveal an alleged diplomatic blunder on Mitchell’s part.

According to the cable, visiting Israeli Ambassador David Dadonn — who was stationed in Mexico City — expressed dismay to the American ambassador and another embassy official during a private meeting that he had been unable to see Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie during his visit to the Bahamas.

“A clearly frustrated Dadonn complained to the ambassador that his meeting with the prime minister had been repeatedly re-scheduled and then cancelled,” the cable said.

“Dadonn’s problems are similar to those encountered by former Salvadoran President Francisco Flores in scheduling his February 14-15 visit to Nassau to promote his candidacy for the OAS Secretary Generalship.

“Flores first encountered difficulty obtaining a meeting time with the prime minister. Then, while he was airborne on his way to Nassau from El Salvador, the meeting was arbitrarily moved up to start prior to his scheduled landing time. In Flores’ case, however, the meeting eventually occurred and lasted about 45 minutes.”

The focus of Ambassador Dadonn’s unease, however, was his report of his February 14 meeting with Mitchell, the cable said.

“According to Dadonn, his Monday meeting with Mitchell was tense and abrupt,” the diplomat wrote.

“A ‘curt’ FM Mitchell, related Dadonn, entered the Foreign Ministry reception room for the meeting and proceeded to equate Israeli ‘oppression’ of the Palestinian people in the Gaza with ‘white South Africans oppression of the country’s black majority’ prior to majority rule.

“Dadonn told the [U.S.] ambassador that he felt, at this point, no option except to abruptly end the meeting and walk out after only about five minutes.”

The cable continued: “Apparently realizing what he had done, Ambassador Dadonn said FM Mitchell passed a message through the ministry’s number two official, Permanent Secretary Dr. Patricia Rogers, to the Israeli Consul in the Bahamas, Ralph Seligman, that any offense that he might have conveyed was ‘unintended’ and ‘regretful’.

“Dadonn said [Rogers] scheduled a meeting for the following day — one that lasted 50 minutes — during which the permanent secretary said that the minister’s views had been ‘personal’ and ‘did not reflect (Bahamian) government policy’.”

According to the cable, Ambassador Rood made the remark of the “two Fred Mitchells” when he was asked by Dadonn for his analysis of Mitchell’s behavior.

“The [U.S.] ambassador agreed with Dadonn that the Bahamas had not been helpful to the U.S. in several [United Nations General Assembly] votes this past year, citing the Sudan and anti-Israel UNGA resolutions.

“The [U.S.] ambassador also noted that the Bahamas continued to not be as helpful on Haiti as they could be considering the massive U.S. assistance provided to the Bahamas in illegal drug and migrant interdiction.”

The cable said: “The Israeli ambassador was clearly taken aback by FM Mitchell’s comments equating Israel with racist South African policies.

“He stated that such rhetoric isn’t even heard in the Arab world anymore…Mitchell’s candid outburst to the visiting Israeli ambassador probably reflects the ‘real’ Fred Mitchell much more than his deliberately calculated, polished ‘foreign minister’ image.”

BEIJING AND HAVANA

It their scrutiny and observations of Bahamian foreign policy, the Americans viewed closely the Bahamas government’s decision to establish an embassy in Beijing and to upgrade diplomatic relations with Cuba by establishing a resident Bahamian diplomatic presence in Havana.

When Mitchell sat down with a U.S. embassy official in 2003, he was asked about a recent extensive trip he had taken to China.

The official observed that Mitchell remained “closemouthed and uncommunicative”.

As rumors swirled in diplomatic circles that Prime Minister Christie was planning to travel to China as well, the British High commissioner to The Bahamas called a U.S. embassy official to report “that he found it strange that the trip had still not been announced”.

In the cable — which concludes with the last name of then Charge d’Affaires Robert Witajewks — an embassy official said the openings to Beijing and Havana were coming at a time of considerable budget constraints in The Bahamas.

“The government that is delaying salary increases and promotions for civil servants, and cutting back on public projects, apparently has decided that upgrading relations with Cuba and China is worth the expense,” the cable said.

“Certain members of the Christie government support FM Mitchells initiative out of either ideological sympathy, or pure balance of power reasons. Mitchell is doing this for both reasons.”

The embassy official wrote that it is difficult to imagine any concrete benefits to The Bahamas from establishing a closer relationship to Cuba.

“Ideologically, FM Mitchell and others in the Bahamian cabinet will also get psychological gratification from proving that they can conduct an independent foreign policy at odds with (their) superpower neighbor.”

The Americans noted that Mitchell is extremely knowledgeable about the Untied States, at ease in the United States, a frequent visitor to the United States, and accepts the reality of the United States.

“But he probably doesn’t ‘love’ the United States,” the cable said.

“...Like many colleagues in the PLP, he is most comfortable with, and has the most contact with liberals.

“He seeks to differentiate the Bahamas from what he sees as a neo-conservative militaristic tilt in U.S. foreign policy.

“China, Cuba, CARICOM, even the British Commonwealth are all, in Mitchell’s eyes, vehicles that could serve to somehow increase Bahamian freedom of action otherwise constrained by the geographical reality of being located less than 50 miles from the United States.”

The diplomat wrote that Mitchell thinks of himself as a policy intellectual and strategist on par with players of larger countries in the global arena.

“In his role as foreign minister, Fred Mitchell has been criticized for his excessive travel by the Bahamian public,” an embassy official wrote.

Today, Mitchell is again seeking re-election in a constituency he won marginally in 2007. A week ago, he formally launched his campaign.

As opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, he has sought to keep a close relationship with the Americans.

Whether he would see a return as foreign minister should the PLP be re-elected, remains unclear, especially in light of the views U.S. diplomats have expressed about his “unhelpfulness” in certain foreign policy areas.

5/30/2011

thenassauguardian

Monday, May 30, 2011

WikiLeaks, former Acting Commissioner of Police Reginald Ferguson, Politics and the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF)

Ferguson wanted top cops dismissed

By BRENT DEAN
NG Deputy News Editor
thenassauguardian
brentldean@nasguard.com


Cable reveals power struggle in police force


Then Acting Commissioner of Police Reginald Ferguson in early 2009 told United States Embassy officials that he had recommended to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham as early as November 2007 that all but one of the then assistant commissioners of police be dismissed, including now Commissioner Ellison Greenslade, according to a U.S. embassy diplomatic cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian from WikiLeaks.

The February 2009 confidential cable revealed that the only assistant commissioner Ferguson thought should remain was Marvin Dames. Dames, who was subsequently made deputy commissioner in January 2010, is now leaving the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) to reportedly head the security division at Baha Mar.

According to the cable, Ferguson told embassy officials at that time that he flatly refused to work with Greenslade, “admitting that he had caused Greenslade to be sent to Canada for training.

“Ferguson bluntly stated that he does not favor Greenslade to become the next police commissioner, and said he wished to retain only Dames, whom he clearly favors as a future successor.”

When contacted about the cable, Ferguson said he had no comment.

“The acting commissioner is apparently against Greenslade for supporting an attempt late in the previous Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration to sideline Ferguson through a dead-end appointment to a position at the Police College,” said the cable.

“Ferguson's career prospects improved, however, after the Free National Movement (FNM) won the May 2007 elections (Ferguson’s brother, Johnley, is a high-ranking FNM party official).”

The allegation that Greenslade supported the PLP’s move of Ferguson was not substantiated.

Dames and Ferguson worked closely together for many years when Ferguson was the assistant commissioner with responsibility for crime and Dames was his number two as head of the Central Detective Unit (CDU).

Politics and the force

The constitution of The Bahamas politicizes the appointment of the executive command of the force. The prime minister, through various consultations, essentially appoints all assistant commissioners, the deputy commissioner and the commissioner of police.

In March 2007, shortly before the general election, the Perry Christie administration appointed a large number of new executives in the force.

Greenslade, Ruben Smith, Reginald Ferguson and Allan Gibson were named senior assistant commissioners.

Marvin Dames, Chris McCoy, James Carey, Kirkland Hutchinson, Eugene Cartwright and Juanita Colebrooke were each promoted to the post of assistant commissioner of police. At the time, John Rolle was deputy commissioner and Paul Farquharson was commissioner.

There was controversy when the Christie administration named the large number of assistant commissioners. Traditionally, there were around four to five assistant commissioners. Adding to the controversy was the decision to relegate Ferguson, one of the most senior officers in the force, to head the Police College. This command was usually held by a more junior officer.

There was tension between Reginald Ferguson and the then PLP government. It perceived him as an antagonist and a supporter of the FNM.

Reshaping the force

It is unclear if the moves made in the force were solely or partially made based on Ferguson’s recommendations or not, but nearly all of the assistant commissioners Ferguson reportedly recommended to be replaced were ‘retired’ from the force.

In January 2009, McCoy, Colebrook, Hutchinson, Cartwright and Carey all left the force, along with a group of other senior officers below the rank of assistant commissioner. Gibson and Smith had previously retired as senior assistant commissioners.

Dames and Greenslade, the two main candidates to be the next commissioner of police, had spent much of 2008 training in Canada.

“By sending Greenslade and Dames abroad, the new GCOB (Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas) avoided a potentially divisive succession struggle while developing the leadership capacity of two young up-and-coming officers in line with its drive to modernize the force,” said the embassy in the cable.

“It also avoided an untimely squabble with the new acting commissioner, who desired a free hand in making top appointments and made no secret of his preference for Dames over Greenslade.”

Despite Ferguson’s preference, he was not able to stop the ascent of Greenslade.

In January 2009, when the group of assistant commissioners was retired, Greenslade became the acting deputy commissioner and Dames the senior assistant commissioner responsible for Grand Bahama.

“Ferguson hoped to remain as acting commissioner for several years longer, which would also help him see his favorite, Dames, succeed him. He appeared resigned that it was politically impossible for Greenslade to be removed now,” said the February 2009 cable.

“Ferguson said the reason he was not officially named commissioner while serving for over a year was his refusals to back down from his view that all RBPF assistant commissioners serving when the FNM took office, with the exception of Dames, should be dismissed.

“He added that he doubted that Greenslade would be equally resistant to political pressure. In the end, the GCOB appears to have implemented one of the compromise outcomes floated by Ferguson (including to embassy officials): retaining the current police chief but positioning two possible successors in the next most responsible positions, giving both the opportunity to earn the trust of the force and the public before any successor is named.“

In March, one month after the cable was written, Ferguson was confirmed as commissioner of police. He held the confirmed post for less than a year, however. Greenslade was named commissioner and Ferguson retired in January 2010.

Ferguson was named director of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU)after his retirement from the force.

Despite the rivalry in the force during this period, the Americans were pleased with Ferguson, Greenslade and Dames, according to the cable.

“Both Greenslade and Dames are regarded as forward-looking and capable officers with the potential to assume overall command of the police force in the future, despite differing personal styles,” the embassy said.

“Greenslade may have the edge in practical experience and rank-and-file support, having risen through the police ranks, as well as public support due to his success in Grand Bahama during a time when hurricanes ravaged the island. For his part, Ferguson is a respected, no-nonsense official who puts a premium on integrity and often speaks out against corruption ­– accusations of which do not taint him but may stick to others under his command.

“He also has a good relationship and solid track record of professional cooperation with U.S. law enforcement agencies.”

5/30/2011

thenassauguardian

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fred Mitchell, opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) spokesman on Foreign Affairs criticized The Nassau Guardian for reporting on the [WikiLeaks] United States Embassy in Nassau confidential cables

U.S. was unimpressed with new opposition


By BRENT DEAN
NG Deputy News Editor
thenassauguardian
brentldean@nasguard.com



Cable says PLP was concerned by claim U.S. favored FNM


The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) sought to project the image of an energized opposition in a meeting with senior officials of the United States Embassy in Nassau shortly after it lost the 2007 general election, but the American description of the party after the sit down indicated that those officials were not impressed with the PLP.

The confidential cable, with the surname of then Chargé d'affaires Brent Hardt at the end of it, said the September 2007 working lunch was hosted by PLP leader Perry Christie and former Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell.

“The lunch, which emerged from a discussion Hardt had with Christie in the weeks after the elections, itself reflected the shortcomings of the PLP's governing style. The date and format was repeatedly changed at the PLP's request as they could not agree internally on a suitable date,” said the cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian from the whistleblower WikiLeaks.

“Characteristic of the PLP, half of the 12 participants arrived late. And, while there was some substance in the discussions, the PLP seemed more interested in photographs and a press release of the meeting to signal their continuing good relations with the U.S.

“The party as a whole continues to have difficulty accepting their surprise electoral defeat, and the divisions that plagued the party during elections have become worse in the wake of the defeat, with blame for the loss usually being directed at Christie for his indecisive leadership style or at those ministers with scandals that tainted the party.”

According to the cable, Christie emphasized his party's commitment throughout its tenure in office to maintaining close relations with the U.S. and his desire that the U.S. continues to view the PLP as a trusted partner.

The cable said the PLP was concerned about a suggestion by the Free National Movement (FNM) after the election that relations with the U.S. were better under that party than they were under the PLP.

Referring to Christie, the cable said, “He noted that many PLP supporters felt that the U.S. had been ‘unhappy’ with the PLP prior to elections, and that this had had an impact on the campaign.
“The chargĂ© d'affaires pointed out that whenever he had been asked publicly about the foreign minister's statement, (Brent Symonette) he had stated that we enjoyed outstanding relations with the current government and outstanding relations with the previous government.”

The Americans, according to this cable, emphasized that it was fortunate that in The Bahamas the major political parties both wanted “to have and be seen to have close relations with the U.S.”

After reviewing the highlights in bilateral relations during Christie's tenure, including agreement on mega-ports and container security initiatives and mutual support for the new Haitian government, “the charge reiterated U.S. appreciation for Christie's support for the close partnership we enjoyed,” said the cable.

Despite the assurance given to Christie and the PLP, in a confidential April 2007 cable, the embassy remarked that “the FNM would likely be a stronger supporter of U.S. international goals” while affirming that both parties were friendly bilateral partners.

PLP on policy issues

The September 2007 cable also said that the PLP was concerned that the U.S. was unhappy with the Christie administration because of perceived closer ties with Cuba.

“He (Hardt) explained that the U.S. understood The Bahamas’ need to work with Cuba to resolve migration matters and look after Bahamians who travel to or study in Cuba,” said the cable.
“At the same time, we sought to encourage democratic countries, such as The Bahamas, to use their relationship with Cuba to encourage Cuban government respect for the same values and rights that people in The Bahamas demand.”

PLP officials, according to the cable, also queried embassy staff on the incoming ambassador, Ned Siegel, the status of Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Haiti and visa issues, “even including some specific visa concerns on behalf of constituents,” said the cable of the meeting.

With the PLP having raised relevant questions about these numerous policy issues, it is unclear why the Americans concluded the meeting with such a mediocre view of the party’s performance.

PLP decries commentary on cables

Fred Mitchell, opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, issued a statement yesterday criticizing The Nassau Guardian for reporting on the cables.

Major international news organizations such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel have made the same decision as The Nassau Guardian to publish the cables.
In Jamaica, The Gleaner started publishing cables on that country one day before The Nassau Guardian.

“(Yesterday) morning in a drop box on its front page May 26, The Nassau Guardian is promoting the continued release of the gossip papers that they have obtained by WikiLeaks,” said Mitchell.
“In it they attack the PLP, repeating untested, unproven and hearsay statements about a meeting which allegedly took place with the PLP and the United States Embassy officials in Nassau in 2007.

“The information which they are promoting is certainly prejudicial and uninformed. In addition, it is incredible that a national newspaper of record in the face of the major issues of crime and unemployment would be engaging in the promotion of tattle tale gossip as if it were fact.”

Mitchell argued that the information contained in the “so called cables is almost certainly biased and skewed to reflect the current FNM propaganda of the day.”

He added: “The PLP remains focused on returning to government and seeking to put people back to work and to lessen crime. We urge The Guardian to get focused on what is actually happening in the country and not seeking to rehash untested gossip about what happened four years ago.

“The PLP is not the government today. The FNM is the government and they bear responsibility for the foreign affairs of this country and the state of this economy and the level of crime.”
The Nassau Guardian’s coverage of the cables has provided to The Bahamas historic coverage of the behind-the-scenes decision-making process between the U.S. and The Bahamas.

The cables cover the period from 2003 to 2010, mostly pertaining to the PLP’s period in power from 2002 to 2007. Stories published thus far have revealed opinions, held by both sides, of the bilateral relationship never before revealed to the Bahamian public.

The cables detail meetings the Americans had with PLPs, FNMs, fringe politicians, church leaders, businessmen, journalists, law enforcement officials, civil servants and many others.

5/27/2011

thenassauguardian

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Branville McCartney - the self-appointed leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) credibility seems to erode the more he speaks

Branville McCartney's vanity party

By SIMON


FRONT PORCH

The press pass many journalists have generally given Branville McCartney is best understood with regard to the media’s perpetual hunt for ratings and sales, boredom and hunger for headlines, as well as its own ignorance of Bahamian history and often incurious nature.

But there is only so much of a pass the public can give the press in terms of the latter’s disregard for some of the basics of competent let alone good journalism. One story in particular from last week showcased the media’s laziness when it comes to providing the public with greater context.

In an interview for the NB 12 newscast, the self-appointed leader of the Democratic National Alliance claimed that his party started the same way as the PLP and FNM. Not only did the reporter fail to query such a bold claim during the interview, but there was also no post-interview fact-check of Mr. McCartney’s bogus claim.

There are various conclusions one may draw from Mr. McCartney’s bold and bogus claim. Either he was purposefully misleading the public or is stunningly ignorant of Bahamian political history — or both! Whatever the case, they all speak to the question of Mr. McCartney’s credibility, which seemingly erodes the more he speaks.

It may be the case that, stung by questions of the democratic pedigree of his DNA, Mr. McCartney is retroactively seeking to baptize his self-creation as legitimate in the eyes of voters.

TROUBLING

His response to the NB 12 reporter once again reveals troubling character traits of someone selling himself as a future prime minister. If Mr. McCartney knowingly was untruthful, this may suggest a cavalier approach to the truth and the facts, which he may not want to get in the way of the story he is trying to weave about himself as change agent and savior of The Bahamas.

If the man who has narcissistically and alternatively cast himself as Barack Obama, a young Lynden Pindling and a young Hubert Ingraham, simply got his history wrong, his comparisons with these leaders is laughable at best.

The self-portrait Mr. McCartney has painted of himself through his lacklustre contributions to debates in the House of Assembly, glib remarks generally and his maiden speech at the launch of his DNA is not a pretty one. They show him to be incurious and shallow both intellectually and in terms of basic history.

The other compelling problem for the man who purports to be a committed democrat is that he has already exhibited the tendencies of the maximum leader of a party being created in his own image and likeness.

One should always watch how things begin. Having launched his vanity party the way he has, one can only imagine how Mr. McCartney might react in the unlikely event he should gain real power. Instead of endless public relations exercises and stunts, Mr. McCartney might want to open and finish a history book, not to mention a basic civics class.

Queried about the genesis of the DNA, Mr. McCartney says that 13 people got together and made him leader. If one closes one’s eyes, one can almost imagine the scene in an upper room somewhere. With a little more imagination one might imagine a beam of light from the heavens, green of course, descending on Mr. McCartney as the chosen one.

NO WAY

The manner and circumstances in which the DNA was formed can in no way be compared with the manner and circumstances in which the PLP and the FNM were formed. Branville McCartney broke with the FNM with the principal motivation being that he wanted to be leader and prime minister.

Neither the PLP nor the FNM was a vanity party founded by someone who wanted to be a leader or prime minister, who then decided to create a vehicle to achieve that objective, as has been the case with the DNA and most of the so-called third parties that have come and gone over the years.

The PLP came into being following discussions among a number of persons who felt that the time had come for the introduction of party politics to the country as a means of expressing the collective will of the Bahamian people.

Two founders of the PLP, Cyril Stevenson and William Cartwright, travelled to the United Kingdom and Jamaica to consult with officials of political parties in those countries about the structure of modern political parties.

When the party was formed in 1953, Henry M. Taylor, who was then a member of the House of Assembly, was elected chairman by the founders and in 1954 Mr. Taylor and other officers were ratified by the convention. The PLP did not have a party leader until after the 1956 general election.

In that election Sir Henry lost his seat but stayed on as chairman. Lynden O. Pindling was among six PLP members elected in 1956 and he was at that time chosen to be leader. Later on, Sir Lynden for a while held both positions of chairman and leader.

In the case of the FNM, the Dissident Eight in 1970 expressed in a parliamentary vote their loss of confidence in the Leader of the PLP Sir Lynden. They were, however, reluctant to make a final break with the party to which all of them had given so much. In fact, at first they called themselves the Free PLP.

It was only after they were suspended from the PLP that they set about the task of bringing all the opposition forces together under the umbrella of a new entity — the FNM. That process took months and when it was finalized Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield, who was recognized as leader of the Dissidents, was elected leader by the FNM’s Central Council and later by the Convention.

PANDERING

Mr. McCartney is shaping up to be a demagogue pandering to the fears, anxieties and frustrations of voters, more of which in a subsequent column. Demagogues are often the antithesis of the things for which they claim to be fighting. Despite having named his vanity party democratic, the democratic legitimacy and credibility of the DNA is dubious.

The PLP and the FNM emerged much differently than the DNA. They also successfully came to office, an outcome that is highly unlikely to be the case for Mr. McCartney’s vanity affair.
Mr. McCartney should be chary of those who are now boosting him out of temporary grievances, or long-term dubious theories about the great rise of independents and third parties. While there are increasingly nonaligned voters, the idea that they will help a strong third party emerge as a powerbroker is wearisome and has proved consistently wrong.

In that year’s general election, there was talk by some that 1997 would be the year of the independents. Not only was 1997 not the year of the independents, but that year the FNM got its largest popular vote ever.

There is a stark difference between educated analysis based on history, and wishful thinking as a substitute for analysis. Mr. McCartney would do well to quickly learn some basic historical facts, which are essential in proffering reasonable historical analysis.

frontporchguardian@gmail.com

bahamapundit.com

5/24/2011

thenassauguardian

Whitney Bastian will run on the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) ticket for the South Andros constituency in the next general election

Whitney Bastian Joins DNA


BY KENDENO N. P. KNOWLES
jonesbahamas

A former independent candidate has announced that he will now join with the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) in its attempt to secure the government in the next general election.


Whitney Bastian told the Bahama Journal Tuesday that he will run on the party’s ticket for the South Andros constituency.

"I feel that the DNA and leader Branville McCartney are the best organisation I could align myself with this time around," Mr. Bastian said.

The political hopeful is no stranger to politics and served in the House of Assembly before as an independent Member of Parliament for South Andros.

However in 2007, Mr. Bastian lost his seat to Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidate Picewell Forbes.

When he was asked whether he would join any political party following his loss back in 2007, he insisted that he would run again as an independent.

But yesterday that seemed to have all changed with Mr. Bastian’s announcement that he will join the newly formed Democratic National Alliance.

Before DNA Leader Branville McCartney resigned from the Free National Movement (FNM), Mr. Bastian told the Journal that he was still prepared to run as an independent candidate in the upcoming general election.

Recently, Mr. Bastian expressed interest in running on the PLP’s ticket; however, he said, constant back and forth has created a strain in the relationship between him and the PLP.

According to Mr. Bastian, PLP Leader Perry Christie promised him the nomination for the South Andros constituency during the last PLP convention.

While that seat is currently held by Mr. Forbes, Mr. Bastian insists that Mr. Christie was willing to give him the nomination.

It was an offer, he said, he could not accept right away. Instead, Mr. Bastian said he offered to help assist the PLP in reorganising the branches to get them up and running. This he said has happened in the space of the last year.

The branch elections have taken place and the new officers have vowed to support Mr. Bastian.

However, it’s been 10 months and the PLP National General Council has yet to announce elections for the South Andros nomination.

In fact, Mr. Bastian said a senior PLP official has since called and asked him to recommend a candidate and support the candidate the PLP chooses.

Mr. Bastian said he questioned the PLP as to why he was not good enough. He said the PLP informed him that there was still a lot of talk about him in the public domain.

This, he said, is what pushed him away from the PLP and closer to the DNA.

May 25th, 2011

jonesbahamas

Thursday, May 26, 2011

...no end is in sight to high crime rates in The Bahamas, said a United States Embassy in Nassau February 2009 confidential cable titled “Bahamas: Crime concerns simmer as economy softens”

'National anxiety' over crime travel advisory


By BRENT DEAN
Deputy News Editor
thenassauguardian
brentldean@nasguard.com


The United States Embassy in Nassau closely monitors the crime situation in The Bahamas, noting the potential for a “high-profile violent crime tragedy” and resultant media disaster as a result of the high rate of crime in the country. It is also very aware of the immense fear many Bahamians have of the issuance of a travel advisory by the U.S. government, according to several cables in the WikiLeaks cache obtained by The Nassau Guardian.

“Against the background of economic crisis, the crime numbers, trends, and daily headlines, as well as the expressions of concern about the state of society, all indicate that no end is in sight to high crime rates in The Bahamas,” said the February 2009 confidential cable titled, “Bahamas: Crime concerns simmer as economy softens”.

There have been three homicide records in The Bahamas the last four years, and in 2011 the country is on pace for a fourth such record in five years.

Over the last five years, armed robberies have trended up towards the highs of the mid-1990s. In the property crime category the 2010 police report reveals other disturbing trends. The 3,120 housebreakings recorded were the most in the country since 1998 (3,165).

The Free National Movement (FNM) administration has done much to try to fix the crime problem. Along with refurbishing the courts, there have been three commissioners of police, two chief justices, four attorneys general and two directors of public prosecutions during this term.

The government has also spent millions of dollars buying new equipment for police; it has introduced a plea bargaining system; it has amended the Juries Act reducing the number of jurors from 12 to nine in non-capital cases; and it has put in place an electronic monitoring system for accused offenders.

Despite all of these measures, the crime problem has not improved.

In the December 2007 unclassified/for official use only cable, ‘Bahamas grapples with sharp rise in violent crime’, the embassy noted that that Juries Act amendment alone, which was implemented before the other measures mentioned, would not fix the Bahamian crime problem.

“No recent initiative, including the Juries Act amendment, is likely to make an immediate impact on the crime rate as long as the criminal justice system effectively puts indicted criminals back on the street to commit more crimes,” said the cable.

“Without introducing specific measures to monitor suspected offenders out on bail, break the logjam in the courts, or increase or optimize space in the prison to keep violent offenders in and others out, the GCOB (Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas) is unlikely to make much progress in addressing the underlying causes of the latest ‘crime wave’ to shake The Bahamas.”

The government has increasingly made statements indicating that it is working to improve the prosecution system.

Recently, Attorney General John Delaney and Director of Public Prosecutions Vinette-Graham Allen held a news conference explaining that the establishment of a case management unit at their office is expected to result in significant improvements in the administration of justice.

Recent public focus on the crime problem in The Bahamas has shifted to the quality of cases being produced by police and the quality of prosecution by the AG’s Office.

In his new book, “Reducing Murders in The Bahamas: A strategic plan based on empirical research,” police researcher Sergeant Chaswell Hanna reveals that from 2005 to 2009 there were 349 murders recorded and only 10 murder convictions and eight manslaughter convictions.

The Americans realized, based on the cable, that as long as The Bahamas is unable to prosecute and convict those it suspects of committing crimes, the crime problem in the country will continue to worsen.

Effects of the crime problem

The cables reveal that the U.S. does not think The Bahamas is that safe a place.

In a February 2006 unclassified cable, “Country Clearance: For consular management assistance team (CMAT) visit,” the embassy advised its visiting team to be careful in this country.

“Threat analysis: The threat against Americans from political activity is considered low. The threat from criminal elements is high. Incidents of violent crime have risen significantly in The Bahamas during the past few years,” said the cable.

“Travelers should use caution and common sense when moving about the island of New Providence. Visitors should travel in pairs, avoid areas prone to higher crime such as the Over-the-Hill area, and avoid isolated, deserted and/or poorly illuminated areas.”

In a January 2006 unclassified/for official use only cable, the embassy again expressed concern for the safety of its citizens in The Bahamas.

“During Spring Break, sexual assaults against American tourists are extremely high,” said the cable, which added that its Regional Security Office has also stressed the growing pattern of violence to embassy personnel, reminding employees to always be vigilant about their surroundings.

The fear of the American response

There have been several high profile criminal acts in New Providence in recent years, in tourism areas, which have alarmed Bahamians.

The November 2009 robbery of a group of tourists on tour at Earth Village; Sunday’s armed robbery at John Bull in the middle of Downtown Nassau; and the January 2008 murder of teenager Deangelo Cargill at a bus stop, also in Downtown Nassau, are some of the events in such areas that attracted national attention.

Referring to the 2008 Cargill murder, the embassy said in a cable that January, “How the government meets the crime challenge will play an increasingly decisive role in how the public perceives its overall effectiveness.

“This event has brought home to the Cabinet that it has no higher priority than beating back the surge in crime before the violence begins to impact The Bahamas' tourism-dependent economy.”

In these cables on crime the Americans do not seem to be near to taking a decision to publicly intervene and apply full pressure on the Bahamian government to accelerate worthwhile reforms to the local criminal justice system.

The U.S. already assists The Bahamas in significant ways regarding law enforcement — most noticeably through funding and manpower via Operation Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands.

The U.S. does understand, however, that Bahamians have an extreme fear of the issuance of a travel advisory informing Americans that The Bahamas is not a place they should travel to.

In that same 2008 cable after the murder of Cargill, listed as unclassified/for official use only, the embassy described the fear of such an advisory as a “national anxiety.”

“The downtown killing at the peak of the afternoon rush hour prompted renewed concern in the public and press about the potential issuance of a travel advisory or warning by the U.S. Embassy — an almost compulsive anxiety within the tourist-dependent island,” said the cable.

“In fact, the media have speculated for months, as the murder tally rose, over such an announcement and its potential negative effects on the all-important tourism sector, which forms the backbone of the economy in Nassau and The Bahamas.”

The embassy noted that officials had to make public statements indicating that no such advisory was imminent. Public consular information is already available for Americans advising them of safety issues in The Bahamas.

The realization by the Americans of this Bahamian fear likely means that if The Bahamas was to become uncooperative, as it was during the ‘drug days’ of the 1970s and 1980s, the use of this punishment would at the least get the attention of the leaders of the country.

5/25/2011

thenassauguardian

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cassius Stuart likened Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe and former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide - when he met with a U.S. Embassy official in Nassau - according to diplomatic cables

Stuart compared PM to dictator

By CANDIA DAMES
NG News Editor
thenassauguardian
candia@nasguard.com



Cables reveal former BDM leader's statements to Americans


When Cassius Stuart met with a U.S. Embassy official before the Elizabeth by-election last year, he claimed he had been approached by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leader Perry Christie “who said he was looking for someone to mold to eventually take over the leadership of the PLP.” Stuart also likened Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, according to one of the diplomatic cables The Nassau Guardian obtained through the whistle-blowing non-profit organization WikiLeaks.

Now a member of the Free National Movement (FNM), Stuart was leader of the Bahamas Democratic Movement (BDM) at the time.

The cable said Stuart also likened Ingraham to former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and said the PM was “letting the country go to hell and allowing it to be bought by China”.

But a lot has changed since the by-election and Stuart’s meetings with the American diplomats.

He joined the FNM in April this year, acknowledging at the time that the move was a good one for the members of the BDM because the FNM’s ideals matched theirs.

“My message over the past decade has been adding value to the lives of every Bahamian,” Stuart said at a press conference to announce the BDM members’ decision to join the FNM.

“Moving forward, the prime minister has assured us that the next years will be just that, building lives.”

According to the cable, Stuart had been highly critical of FNM policies, which he said caused the country to be in such a position that it could “easily become another Haiti”.

He told the embassy official that the United States had a stake in not allowing this to happen because “you don’t want boat loads of Bahamians to begin arriving on your shores.”

He also raised what he characterized as “significant concerns” about the Government of The Bahamas being courted by the People’s Republic of China.

According to the cable, Stuart told the American diplomat the country’s education system was “randomly drifting…We’re stuck on a treadmill and we’re moving backwards.”

Regarding the purported offer by Christie, Stuart said he told the PLP leader he could not align himself with either of the major parties because of the endemic corruption in both, according to the cable.

Stuart said the only defining line in the February 2010 Elizabeth by-election between the BDM and the other two major political parties was resources, the cable said.

He said if he could raise $250,000 he would win the election, noting that he needed to get free T-shirts out into the community.

The Nassau Guardian contacted Stuart yesterday about the information contained in the diplomatic documents. He seemed surprised when told what was attributed to him, but did not deny the comments.

Asked whether it is still his view that corruption is endemic in the FNM, he explained that he had not referred specifically to the party, but was suggesting that because corruption is widespread in certain agencies of the country, as the government the FNM needed to take the blame.

Stuart was also asked about his comment, which suggested that Christie wanted to groom him to take over the leadership of the PLP.

“I think they (the Americans) took it a little out of context. He (Christie) said he wanted to court someone to take over the party,” the former BDM leader explained.

“It wasn’t necessarily me.”

Regarding his reported Mugabe comment, Stuart said, “I can’t definitively remember the conversation, but I do remember we were talking about leaders who served a long time and at that time Mugabe was headline news as a leader of his country for a long time and in that context we were talking.”

Asked about his overall impressions of what the Americans recorded from their conversations with him, Stuart said, “It’s interesting. I think they have a responsibility to communicate their findings within a society to their government. This whole leaking of secret cable information, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

“It’s interesting that everything that comes out of your mouth is recorded. You have to be very careful what you say. We had casual conversations on many occasions…I didn’t realize that this information was being highly documented for the president of the United States.”

ELIZABETH BY-ELECTION

The Elizabeth by-election cable noted that the election could very well be a bellwether for the next general election.

The cable also details the resignation of Malcolm Adderley (former Elizabeth MP) from the PLP and the House of Assembly.

It noted that Christie accused the FNM government of undermining democracy by offering Adderley a Supreme Court position, which he thinks necessitated Adderley’s resignation.

But there was never any evidence of this.

The cable pointed out that PLP chairman Bradley Roberts remarked that both Adderley and former PLP Kenyatta Gibson (MP for Kennedy) were trying to destabilize the party.

Stuart ended up receiving fewer than 100 votes in the election, which was won by the PLP’s Ryan Pinder.

The cable points out that Pinder at the time had “strong ties to the U.S.”.

“Pinder was a dual Bahamian-U.S. citizen but renounced his citizenship on January 19 (2010) after bowing to pressure from his own party,” the cable said.

At the time, the U.S. embassy official wrote: “Pinder is noticeably one of the few white members of his party and the role that his race will play in garnering grassroots PLP support for him as a candidate remains to be seen.”

The embassy official also wrote that despite the fact that Pinder is a white member of an overwhelmingly black party, one contact said the constituency is so heavily rooted in the PLP the party “could nominate a puppy and it would be elected”.

In the cable, the diplomat reports in detail about what speakers at a PLP rally had to say on January 19, 2010.

The cable noted that the focus of many of the speakers was Ingraham’s decision to grant temporary protective status to illegal Haitian detainees in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.

“While not directly criticizing the decision, the PLP said they were not consulted and argued that the move was designed to ‘cause strife and separation’,” noted the cable.

In referring to the FNM’s candidate, Dr. Duane Sands, the diplomat noted that he is a cousin of National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest and a prominent heart surgeon.

The diplomat wrote, “Sands has been difficult for the PLP to criticize because he is well-respected in the community. Therefore, the focus has been on aligning him with the policies of PM Ingraham.”

The American diplomat wrote that while media reports were generally predicting a PLP victory, many articles indicated that Elizabeth residents were open to a third party candidate and were “sick of both parties”.

“Some of the third party candidates have called for campaign finance reform in the run up to the election, an acknowledgement of the view that whoever spends the most will win,” noted the cable.

The diplomat also wrote: “The opposition party PLP is likely to win what promises to be a close election, which would boost their chances in the national elections.

“Despite favorable media attention for third party candidates, this race is strictly a PLP and FNM affair. A poor economy and increasing crime play favorably for the PLP.

“However, bolstering the position of the FNM was the poor performance and lack of resources that the previous PLP candidate (Malcolm Adderley) was able to bring to the constituency.

“Although no one has publicly questioned Pinder’s race, privately, contacts admit it could be a significant factor. The key will be the amount of resources each party is able to spend on the election.”

Several weeks after the election, the Election Court declared Pinder the winner of the race after allowing his challenged votes.

5/25/2011

thenassauguardian

There are no campaign finance laws in The Bahamas, so Bahamian political parties do not have to disclose who finances their operations

Cables reveal discussions of money in elections




By BRENT DEAN
NG Deputy News Editor
thenassauguardian
brentldean@nasguard.com



A senior member of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) disclosed that his party spent around $7 million on the 2002 general election campaign, and a senior member of the Free National Movement (FNM) revealed that his party would need to spend between $150,000 and $250,000 on a potential by-election in the then Holy Cross constituency, according to diplomatic cables obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.

There are no campaign finance laws in The Bahamas and the two main political parties do not disclose who finances their operations.

According to a 2003 confidential cable by the United States Embassy in Nassau, former PLP MP and businessman Frankie Wilson told embassy officials that the PLP spent approximately $7 million on the 2002 campaign. In a note in the cable, the embassy said the FNM claims to have spent about $4 million on that campaign.

The embassy did not cite its source for the FNM figure. However, the embassy did note that, “neither (party) is required to provide any accounting for campaign contributions or expenditures, so both figures are suspect.”

The U.S. said that though Wilson disclosed the figure during the meeting in May 2003, “he did not elaborate on where all this money came from.”

Because money donated in The Bahamas to political parties is donated with the understanding that the donors’ identities will not be publicly disclosed, political parties are under an ‘unofficial obligation’ to keep the sources of party financing secret.

The PLP has historically lingered behind the FNM when it comes to party financing. The party has admitted this publicly.

The FNM was formed from an amalgamation of disaffected PLPs in the late 1960s and early 1970s and the remnants of the old United Bahamian Party, including many of the old white merchant elite. The consistency of support from the old white merchant class has provided the FNM a base of financial stability the PLP has not really had.

Coming out of the 2002 general election when the PLP won 29 seats and the FNM won 7 seats – four independents were elected – the PLP was confident that it would win the next general election.

“Wilson confidently predicted the PLP would win the election again in 2007, and dismissed the FNM as disorganized and poorly led,” he said of the FNM under the leadership of then Senator Tommy Turnquest according to the cable.

“He also said that for the first time in 2002, the PLP was competitive in terms of campaign financing.”

The potential Holy Cross by-election

In a confidential May 2004 cable, Turnquest talked party financing during a meeting with U.S. officials.

This meeting took place in the wake of the bankruptcy order issued by then Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Thompson in March 2004 against the then PLP MP for Holy Cross, Sidney Stubbs.

Bankrupt individuals are not eligible to sit in Parliament. If the court order had stood, Stubbs would have had to vacate the seat and a by-election would have been called.

“Turnquest estimated that the FNM would spend between $150,000 – $250,000 on the election, should it take place,” according to the cable.

The Americans said they asked Turnquest how he could possibly spend that much money on so few voters and, according to the cable, he replied that Bahamians like free paraphernalia.

If the $150,000 to $250,000 figure is multiplied out through 40 constituencies – the number of constituencies in the 2002 general election – the FNM would spend between $6 million and $10 million on a campaign.

Turnquest offered further insight into the thinking of the FNM around the potential by-election. The cable depicts a FNM leader who was not confident that his party could win the seat against the sitting government.

“Turnquest indicated that he has no plans to run for this seat, but fully supports ‘his close friend’, Carl Bethel, to represent the FNM. Turnquest estimated the FNM's chances of winning the seat at 50/50,” according to the embassy in the cable.

“Claiming that the sitting government had tremendous resources – public works projects and jobs – to bring to bear in the campaign, Turnquest sniped that were the PLP government not so weak its odds of retaining the seat would be 70 to 30.”

The cable also revealed that Turnquest thought that such a by-election would have been a war.

“The election, predicted Turnquest, would be costly for both parties as each would pour resources into it, his FNM to embarrass the government, the PLP to avoid an embarrassing defeat,” the embassy said in the cable.

“Each of the voters in the constituency would be personally contacted and both parties would hold almost nightly (and expensive) rallies. As many as 40 to 80 campaign workers would be brought in by each party for the campaign.”

A politically savvy Turnquest, however, realized that it should not be assumed that a by-election would happen.

“Turnquest expressed some doubt that the election would even be called, pointing out that Stubbs could avoid resignation if his attorneys succeed in overturning the court's bankruptcy finding,” according to the cable.

Turnquest assumed correctly. In May 2005, Her Majesty’s Privy Council ruled that the Court of Appeal erred when it determined that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal of Stubbs against his bankruptcy order issued by the Supreme Court.

The order of bankruptcy was set aside allowing Stubbs to take his seat in Parliament.

Turnquest also discussed with the Americans the potential of a by-election in the PLP stronghold of St. Cecilia, which was and still is held by Cynthia Pratt, according to the cable.

Pratt stepped down as PLP deputy leader in 2009, but there was speculation long before she made the move that she would leave front-line politics. In 2004, Turnquest understood that St. Cecilia was a lost cause for the FNM.

“Turnquest hinted that the odds of FNM victory in the PLP stronghold of St. Cecilia were so slim that his party might not even contest the election,” said the embassy if such a by-election were to take place.

The Americans attempted to decipher what the issues of relevance would be in a potential Holy Cross by-election.

“Asked about the issues likely to dominate the campaign, Turnquest acknowledged that the FNM had hired a marketing company to conduct polls during the general election – although the results were closely held within the party leadership – and that he had lately been commissioning focus groups to probe public opinion,” according to the cable.

“Turnquest said that he had personally attended quite a few of these focus groups.”

Looking at the Bahamian election process in 2004, the Americans remarked in the cable, “As expensive as Bahamian elections have become, they remain relatively unsophisticated.”

They said that Turnquest's belief that he can sit in on focus groups probing his character and image without biasing the results reflects the relative naivety with which Bahamian politicians in general approach survey research.

5/24/2011

thenassauguardian

Tommy Turnquest was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” and was “uninspiring”, but had a “reputation for honesty”, says U.S. Embassy officials in Nassau

Turnquest examined in cables

By CANDIA DAMES
NG News Editor
thenassauguardian
candia@nasguard.com


Former FNM leader viewed as uninspiring


As someone who went head to head with Perry Christie, a formidable opponent in 2002, Tommy Turnquest was closely analyzed by the Americans, who met with him more than once to discuss various issues of a political and national nature, reveals several cables obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.

U.S. Embassy officials wrote that Turnquest was “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” and was “uninspiring”, but had a “reputation for honesty”.

The meetings those officials had with Turnquest occurred while he was in the political wilderness — a senator as he had not won the Mount Moriah constituency race.

An embassy official wrote that Turnquest’s failure to win the seat in May 2002 was “a humiliation”, given that he had become FNM leader only two months earlier.

In 2004, Turnquest spoke to those officials in his capacity as leader of the Free National Movement (FNM).

An embassy official recorded that he was born to the wealthy family of Sir Orville and Lady Edith Turnquest (now deceased).

The cable said Turnquest admitted that he comes from "privilege".

He subsequently married into a wealthy Bahamian family as well, it said.

“As a shareholder of Focol, a Freeport-based oil company, the Turnquests have a steady stream of income,” the cable noted.

“Many Bahamians see this as a barrier to his political career. Whereas his father was a self-made man, Tommy is seen by some Bahamians as a spoiled brat.

“His three children are all attending/have attended exclusive prep schools in the United States and all are bound for similarly-expensive Ivy League universities.”

Further analyzing Turnquest’s personality, an embassy official wrote that in The Bahamas — “a small country where the ‘Cheers’ phrase ‘everyone knows your name’ really is true — charisma and dynamism, both personally and publicly, are prerequisites for a politician.

“Bahamians expect their political leaders to ‘perform’ when giving speeches. As the son of the former Governor General Sir Orville, Tommy's opportunities to date have come because of his family lineage,” the cable said.

“Privately Turnquest does not project the ‘gravitas’ expected of a leader, nor publicly the rivalist oratorical skills expected of a politician.”

According to a 2004 cable, during a meeting with embassy officials — one of them being Charge d’Affaires Robert Witajewski —Turnquest maintained fierce loyalty to the FNM and queried repetitively the U.S. view of the performance of the Christie administration.

“He ranted that Prime Minister (Perry) Christie's slow decision-making has wasted valuable Bahamian resources, lost many contracts and put the Bahamian people at a disadvantage. On the FNM website, Turnquest gives the PLP an ‘F’ for effectiveness,” the cable said.

In 2005, in a move that Turnquest said took him completely by surprise, Hubert Ingraham effortlessly snatched back the leadership of the Free National Movement, saying he had come back after so many FNMs asked for his return.

While many pundits agreed that the move left Turnquest further humiliated, he assured Ingraham that he would never have to watch his back and that he fully supported the former prime minister as party leader.

An embassy official wrote that Turnquest had to “step down” to “make way” for Ingraham’s return.
“Turnquest assumed leadership of the FNM from Ingraham in 2002 in the face of near-certain electoral defeat and gracefully relinquished his leadership to Ingraham in time for 2007 elections,” the cable said.

In November 2005, members of the FNM voted almost two to one to reject Turnquest, opting instead to replace him with Ingraham.

Not long after he regained full power of the party, Ingraham was asked by reporters to respond to a statement Turnquest had made that he had gone back on his word.

Ingraham explained that he did not decide to run until the morning after he spoke with Turnquest, advising him that he would not seek the leadership again.

Ingraham said “the calls were incessant, the demands were great by party supporters and others throughout the country and I decided the following morning that I will allow my name to go forward”.

In 2007 when Ingraham became prime minister again, he appointed Turnquest minister of national security, a key position during any period of national development, but particularly at that time when there were growing worries about crime and the fear of crime.

One of the cables said Ingraham’s decision to appoint Turnquest to that post “will strengthen party unity”.

According to the cable, “Turnquest's loyalty and self-sacrifice for the party has clearly kept him in Ingraham's inner circle.”

It said, “Turnquest does not have a strong national security background, although his experience as immigration minister will serve him well.

“With a reputation for honesty and a good relationship with the embassy, Turnquest should be an effective partner in ensuring continued close law enforcement and military partnerships. This portfolio has traditionally been the purview of the Deputy Prime Minister, and gives Turnquest an opportunity to demonstrate his ability to lead the party in a post-Ingraham era.”

5/24/2011

thenassauguardian

Branville McCartney says: ...the PLP and FNM are working together, and they will try to work together to try and stop the DNA from becoming the next government of The Bahamas

Bran: Documents show 'true democracy' denied to Bahamians for years



By PAUL G TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
tribune242
pturnquest@tribunemedia.net


CITING the close working relationship between the leaders of the PLP and FNM in recently revealed Wikileaks documents, DNA leader Branville McCartney said it should now be painfully obvious that "true democracy" has been denied to the Bahamian people for many years.

"There is no doubt that both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition have been friends for many, many years. They have been business partners and nothing has changed. They contact each other on a regular basis and they seem to want to ensure that each one of them will be successful in their own right. When people now speak about a two party system, it is indeed a two party system now; you have on one side the PLP and the FNM together, and on the other you have the DNA. There is no doubt about that," Mr McCartney declared.

Pointing to a US Embassy cable from 2003 released by Wikileaks, in which Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is quoted by a US official as saying that he speaks to and offers advice to PLP leader Perry Christie a few times a week, Mr McCartney said there is no surprise why both political parties want to make the upcoming election purely about both the PLP and the FNM.

"This is exactly what they want. If it's not Mr Ingraham, then it is going to be Mr Christie and vice versa. That's how it is and that is how it has been. They are playing yo-yo with the Bahamian people," he said.

This tactic, Mr McCartney said, denies the Bahamian people a true democratic process because as long as both leaders of the PLP and the FNM are working together, the Bahamian people never really have an option.

"They are working together, and they will try to work together to try and stop the DNA from becoming the next government of the Bahamas. That has been said to me personally. You would recall when Mr Christie was ill as prime minister, he called Hubert Ingraham to ask for his advice. What does that tell you? The Bahamian people ought to really see beyond that and go for an entity that will give true change for the country.

"If these guys were truly serious about change and serious about moving forward, both of them would have stepped down and allowed some of the other persons in the FNM and the PLP to take the reins."

The DNA is expected to travel to Grand Bahama next week and introduce the island to three of the six candidates they expect to name there for the upcoming general election.

The party has said it hopes to have a full slate of 41 candidates to challenge both the PLP and the FNM in every constituency.

Mr McCartney is the current independent MP for the Bamboo Town constituency.

May 24, 2011

tribune242

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hubert Ingraham is still the FNM’s most popular politician...

Bahamas WikiLeaks cables revealed

By CANDIA DAMES
NG News Editor
thenassauguardian
candia@nasgaurd.com


Inside the mind of Hubert Ingraham


When he sat down with a U.S. Embassy official at his law office on April 8, 2003, Hubert Ingraham outlined who he thought would make up the new FNM leadership team, and dismissed any chance of Brent Symonette being a part of it due to his “personality and lack of appeal” outside the bounds of his wealthy constituency, according to an embassy cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.

While he dismissed Symonette’s chance at a successful leadership bid, Ingraham denied that his race had anything to do with it.

According to the cable — which was classified by the embassy’s political/economic chief at the time, Brian Bachman — Ingraham said the best thing that could happen would be for Symonette to challenge for the leadership, because he “would be beaten so soundly that it would shatter all his illusions.”

But at the FNM convention more than two years later, Symonette did not challenge for the leadership. He went for deputy leader and won. He was made deputy prime minister when the party won at the polls in 2007.

The 2003 cable said Ingraham quickly and confidently rattled off who he believed the new FNM leadership team would be after the next party election: Turnquest as leader; former Minister of Economic Development Zhivargo Laing as deputy leader; former Attorney General Carl Bethel as party chairman, and former legislators Johnley Ferguson and Darron Cash to round out the leadership slate.

Ingraham characterized that group as “young, energetic and talented.”

According to that 2003 cable, Ingraham confidently predicted that the FNM would win the next election, saying Christie’s PLP “already had the markings of a one-term government.”

He was spot on in his assessment.

The cable also revealed that Ingraham said that he had already become convinced by January 2002 that the FNM would lose the May 2002 general election.

He scheduled the February referendum on citizenship and other issues “because he was confident that it would pass and would give the FNM momentum going into the election.”

The referendum failed.

When asked if he had any regrets from his 10 years in office, or if he would do anything differently if given the opportunity, Ingraham, according to the cable, quickly responded “Absolutely not!”

He said he was a contented man, and that he had accomplished virtually everything he set out to do.

On further reflection, he admitted that he wished that the FNM leadership transition had been better handled, but he deflected blame for that, saying that it should have been done earlier and smoother, but he was delayed by FNMs who kept urging him to put it off and trying to get him to run again, the cable said.

With regard to the failed constitutional referendum, which many point to as a key factor in the FNM’s electoral loss, Ingraham denied that it was a factor.

“He admitted to being shocked when the PLP came out against the referendum, since they had all voted for the various amendments in Parliament, but refused to characterize it as a political miscalculation,” the cable said.

“Ingraham showed a glint of anger at the suggestion that some in the FNM blamed him for the electoral loss, and fired back.

“He strongly defended his record and claimed that he was still the FNM’s most popular politician.

“He pointed out that he won in 1992 and 1997 by strong margins, and that it was only after he left the leadership that the FNM lost.”

According to Ingraham, the FNM asked him to step away from the campaign not because he was unpopular, but because his popularity left Turnquest in his shadow.

“Finally, he did grudgingly admit that he might have to share some of the blame for the FNM loss,” the cable said.

It quoted Ingraham as saying, “I guess if I take credit for the victories I also have to take credit for the losses.

“And no one can deny that I was responsible for the victories in 1992 and 1997!”

Ingraham said that he was not surprised the FNM lost in May, but only reluctantly agreed that he might share some of the blame for the loss, the cable said.

“He said he was fully confident of his continued popularity and consistently dodged questions about his own political future.”

The cable described Ingraham’s law office as “relatively small but nicely appointed.”

Ingraham at the time worked there alone with just a part-time receptionist who left before the meeting concluded.

The cable said, “Ingraham freely admitted that he was not very active in Parliament and didn’t anticipate that he would become more active any time soon.

He said he still considers himself an FNM, and will vote with the FNM parliamentarians, but is taking no role in ongoing party politics.

“When asked if he would complete his term or retire completely from politics, Ingraham said he hadn’t given it much thought.”

The embassy official wrote: “Ingraham quickly warmed to the political discussion however, and his love for the game sparkled in his eyes” as he discussed a broad range of topics.

'AMBITIOUS INCOMPETENTS'

Addressing the management style of then Prime Minister Perry Christie, Ingraham said he has always been weak and indecisive and lacks vision, but is a good man.

Ingraham, according to the cable, also said however that Christie is the only one in the PLP with broad enough appeal to bring in swing voters, largely because he, unlike many other PLP politicians, is viewed as “trustworthy” and “solid”.

Ingraham said even FNMs don’t fear for the country with Christie in charge, as he is unlikely to do anything rash, the cable said.

Ingraham described the Christie cabinet as “a collection of ambitious incompetents”.

He termed the PLP government’s legislative agenda non-existent, and vigorously defended his record during his 10 years in office, claiming to have no regrets.

Ingraham told the embassy official that he and Christie remained good friends and talked by phone a couple times a week.

“Ingraham said that they didn’t always talk politics, but didn’t avoid the topic either, and said he offered advice to Christie regularly.

“He said that he believes Christie is a good man, and well-intentioned, but criticized his leadership style.”

Ingraham said, “Perry has always been indecisive, and will always be indecisive. It’s just the way he is. He can’t change.”

He also alleged that Christie had no real vision other than a general desire to improve social programs, and nothing he really wanted to accomplish, the cable said.

Ingraham contrasted Christie with himself, saying he had come in with a definite agenda and moved decisively to accomplish it, whereas Christie “enjoys being prime minister” but doesn’t really feel any urgency to get things done.

The cable said: “Combined with the fact that he loves his job, Ingraham sees Christie as firmly implanted in the PLP leadership and consequently, the PM’s office.”

“It would take dynamite to get him out of that seat,” said Ingraham, when asked if he thought Christie would run for another term.

The cable reveals that Ingraham had nothing good to say about the cabinet of his friend Perry Christie, although he was generally complimentary about Christie.

“Once you get past Perry, what have you got?” he was quoted as saying.

Ingraham described the Christie cabinet as “inexperienced, incompetent and politically unschooled.”

He also said many of them harbor political ambitions and have their own agendas, and shook his head at Christie’s seeming inability to control them, the cable said.

Ingraham said he “never would have tolerated such behavior” in his own cabinet.

He sympathized with Christie, however, noting how, under the Westminster system, it is difficult to just remove a cabinet minister or discipline him effectively, as all it may do is create a political enemy who retains his seat in Parliament.

The cable said: “Ingraham acknowledged that this had never stopped him, but claimed, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, that that was ‘because I was always confident — confident that I had the support of the people. Perry doesn’t have that confidence’.”

In fact, Ingraham said he believed the PLP had squandered its mandate almost immediately and no longer enjoyed the support of the people, because of its inaction and political stumbles.

THOUGHTS ON THE FNM

But in 2003 Ingraham was not only critical of the PLP, a read of the cable shows.

He acknowledged that just because the PLP was losing support that didn’t mean that people were ready to turn back to the FNM.

He said that the FNM had a lot of work to do before it would be competitive politically again.

What was most needed, he said, was unity.

According to Ingraham, many of the FNM’s wounds were self-inflicted, and he had harsh criticism for former ministers Algernon Allen and Tennyson Wells, who attacked the leadership process that saw them unsuccessfully challenge Turnquest, Ingraham’s handpicked successor, and then complained bitterly in public about Ingraham’s stacking the deck, the cable said.

It added that Ingraham “vehemently but unconvincingly” denied influencing the leadership process and defended Turnquest as “the best man for the job at the time.”

The cable said Ingraham did criticize Turnquest’s decision to accept a celebratory party financed by a contractor doing business with his ministry, saying it gave the PLP and Allen and Wells a convenient target.

Ingraham said it was an “unfortunate decision”. According to the cable, he thought it was very damaging to Turnquest’s chances in the next leadership election.

“Nonetheless,” the cable continued, “Ingraham predicted that Tommy would survive any leadership challenge in the upcoming May FNM convention.

“In fact, he predicted that no serious challenge would emerge at this convention.

“According to Ingraham, those most likely to challenge Tommy Turnquest would lay low at this convention, since they don’t really have any desire to be the leader of an opposition party for the next four years, and would bring out their serious challenge at the next convention, which he predicted would be in another 18 months, by which time the next election would already be in sight on the horizon.”

In 2005, Ingraham entered the leadership race, and again emerged as the leader of the FNM.

He took the party into the 2007 election, promoting his trust agenda, and wrested power from Christie and the PLP.

Today, Ingraham is seeking a fourth non-consecutive term in office.

5/23/2011

thenassauguardian

Hubert Ingraham: “Supremely self-confident, unapologetic and, dare we say, arrogant as ever...", says a United States Embassy official in Nassau

The Ingraham logs: An analysis


By ERICA WELLS
NG Managing Editor
thenassauguardian
erica@nasguard.com


As a sitting opposition member of Parliament (MP) in April 2003, more than a year after he had stepped aside as leader of the Free National Movement, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham bragged with apparent delight to a U.S. Embassy official that he was still the FNM’s most popular politician.

That some within the country and in the FNM laid the blame of the party’s embarrassing 2002 election defeat squarely at his feet only seemed to fuel his widely perceived arrogance.

That his critics pointed to the disastrous constitutional referendum and the poor handling of the FNM’s leadership transition as major contributors to the FNM’s defeat only seemed to cement Ingraham’s conviction that “it was only after he left the leadership that the FNM lost”.

“According to Ingraham, the FNM asked him to step away from the campaign not because he was unpopular, but because his popularity left Tommy Turnquest in his shadow,” the official wrote in a confidential U.S. Embassy cable obtained exclusively by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.

“Finally, he did grudgingly admit that he might have to share some of the blame for the FNM’s loss. ‘I guess if I take credit for the victories I also have to take credit for the losses,’ Ingraham said, but added with fire in his voice, ‘And no one can deny that I was responsible for the victories in 1992 and 1997’.”

The conversation with then U.S. Embassy Political/Economics Chief Brian Bachman took place on April 8 in what was then Ingraham’s law office in Cable Beach.

The cable goes into surprising detail: “Pol/Econ chief called on Ingraham at his Cable Beach office which was relatively small but nicely appointed. Ingraham works there alone, with just a single employee, a part-time receptionist who left before the meeting concluded. He did not seem terribly busy, as the phone rang only twice during the hour-and-a-half long conversation, and neither call seemed work-related. His desk was near empty and his TV was turned to CNN to watch war news."

The conversation was characterized in the cable as a wide-ranging discussion of his tenure in office and current political developments.

It provides a unique insight into what our greatest ally — the U.S. — thought of Ingraham at the time.

It also provides insight into Hubert Ingraham’s complex political persona.

‘SELF-CONFIDENT, UNAPOLOGETIC AND ARROGANT’

In the comment section at the end of the cable, the Embassy official had this to say:

“Supremely self-confident, unapologetic and, dare we say, arrogant as ever, Ingraham still has a forceful and formidable presence.

“Currently inactive in Parliament and largely out of the public view, he obviously is still keeping a close eye on political events both inside and outside the party, and we have little doubt that he still has influence within the FNM if he chooses to use it.

“Ingraham is still a relatively young man for a politician, and seems to have little desire to return to his former trade (the law).

“If the (Perry) Christie government continues to struggle against a weak economy and the widespread perception that it is inactive, and Bahamian voters begin to feel a little nostalgia for the strong hand on the tiller, we wouldn’t be surprised if Hubert Ingraham reemerges as a potential ‘savior’ for his party and The Bahamas.”

Hubert Ingraham ended up doing just that.

At the time of the conversation, Ingraham claimed that he had no intention of defending his seat in 2007, and did not intend to take an active role in the upcoming FNM convention, but “when asked directly if he would ever consider re-entering politics, Ingraham dodged the question completely”, according to the cable.

“He did admit that various people within the FNM continued to push him to retake the leadership, however, and refused several clear opportunities to say he was definitely not interested.”

Less than three years after that conversation he was convincingly returned as leader of the FNM after running against his hand-picked successor, Tommy Turnquest.

And in 2007 he was elected prime minister for a third non-consecutive term — although the FNM won by a small margin, and it was well below the numbers that Ingraham had predicted while on the 2007 campaign trail.

CONTRADICTIONS

The contradiction between what was said and what eventually took place is an example of the contradictory and mixed character traits that are not foreign to politics, but have come to define Ingraham the politician.

Hubert Ingraham is seen by most Bahamians as extremely competent, hardworking and smart.

Throughout the U.S. cables, Ingraham is referred to as “sharply focused on issues”, “a man of action”, “pragmatic, “no-nonsense”.

Many see him as a man of integrity who means the best. But there is a clear sense that he can be ruthless when necessary. There is also a strong streak of stubbornness that in the past has gotten him into trouble — the Clifton Cay development and Constitutional Referendum.

As noted by Guardian columnist Ian Strachan recently, Ingraham can be both arrogant and exemplify simplicity at the same time.

He is usually himself and does not put on airs. He lives in a modest home, has modest tastes, and is not given to extravagance in his habits. But he can also be arrogant and highhanded, seen often in his administration’s penchant for not seeing the importance of communicating to the public why its policies are important to the country.

He can be brash and removed, yet very accessible to the average Bahamian. His home telephone is listed in the phone book and he often answers the phone himself.

The same man who can be crude at times in terms of language and brashness, can also be quite charming when necessary.

Hubert Ingraham can also let his temper get the best of him, hitting out unnecessarily and at a cost to himself and others. Yet he can show restraint in not responding to some of his regular critics.

Ingraham is genuinely democratic when it comes to national issues and his administrations have moved to implement a number of measures that have improved democracy. Opening up the airwaves, drafting revised libel laws, among them.

However, he is famously autocratic party-wise. And while some in his Cabinet say it is much more consensual than many imagine, he can push into a minister’s ministry if he believes something is not getting done.

According to the cable, while discussing Christie’s Cabinet with Bachman, Ingraham said, “many of them harbor further political ambitions and have their own agendas,” and he shook his head at Christie’s seeming inability to control them.

“Ingraham said he ‘never would have tolerated such behavior’ in his own Cabinet, however, noting how, under the Westminster system, it is difficult to just remove a Cabinet minister or discipline him effectively, as all it may do is create a political enemy who retains his seat in Parliament.

“Ingraham acknowledged that this had never stopped him, but claimed with a mischievous gleam in his eye, that this was ‘because I was always confident — confident that I had the support of the people. Perry doesn’t have that confidence’.”

Many political observers have been left to wonder about the curious events that lead to Ingraham’s return to the FNM as leader.

It was not until the last minute that it was revealed that Ingraham would offer himself for the leadership of the FNM, directly challenging Turnquest.

On the morning of the elections, Turnquest told reporters at the party’s convention that Ingraham had called him directly and assured him that he would not be running.

Hours later Ingraham was escorted to the podium, heralded as a savior of the party. His wife Delores was nowhere to be seen.

Ingraham is famous for keeping key decisions well-guarded, but the seemingly last-minute decision to run as leader could easily be seen as a deep betrayal, even though the party appears to have moved beyond that chapter.

Another obvious contradiction is his relationship with long-time political foe, and personal friend, Progressive Liberal Party leader Perry Christie.

Ingraham and Christie will beat up on each other on certain matters, but never on personal issues.

In the same cable covering the political discussion in 2003, under the heading ‘Perry and Hubert’, according to the U.S. Embassy official Ingraham said that he and Perry Christie remained good friends and they talked by phone a couple of times a week.

“Ingraham said that they didn’t always talk politics, but didn’t avoid the topic either, and said that he offered advice to Christie regularly.

“He said that he believes Christie is a good man, and well-intentioned, but criticized his leadership style.

“Ingraham said, ‘Perry has always been indecisive, and will always be indecisive. It’s just the way he is. He can’t change’.”

POLITICAL MISCALCULATION?

Asked by the Embassy official if he had any regrets from his 10 years in office, or if he would do anything differently, if given the opportunity, Ingraham reportedly quickly responded, “Absolutely not!”

“He said he was a contented man, and that he had accomplished virtually everything he had set out to do.

“On further reflection, he admitted that he wished that the FNM leadership transition had been handled better, but he deflected blame for that, saying that it should have been done earlier and smoother, but he was delayed by FNMs who kept urging him to put it off and trying to get him to run again.”

Regarding the failed constitutional referendum, Ingraham denied that it was a factor in the FNM’s loss, according to the cable.

“In fact, he said, he had already become convinced by January of 2002 that the FNM would lose the general election, and scheduled the referendum because he was confident that it would pass and would give the FNM momentum going into the election.”

According to the cable, Ingraham refused to characterize it as a political miscalculation.

Only Hubert Ingraham knows just how genuine those words were, or if he was simply re-writing events of the past to protect his political legacy.

An election is on the horizon, and Ingraham and his FNM can ill-afford any political miscalculations in the current political environment.

5/23/2011

thenassauguardian