Saturday, December 31, 2011

The politicians and the politics of the 1990s -- even of 2007 -- are obsolete... And as far as the politics of The Bahamas is concerned, both of our long-standing parties have seemed comfortable with the formula bequeathed to us by our colonial forefathers; a pepper-pot of traditionalism in some areas and a discourse of modernisation in others -- a dish which has resulted in the gradual disintegration of the Bahamian middle class over the last decade in the face of a global economy in transition, concentrating wealth more and more in fewer peoples' hands

Making the case for a national political debate


EXPLICITLY, my intention is to present an argument for why I believe this election season requires a debate between the leaders of the three most visible political parties.

There are, I would argue, questions that remain concerning the lack of any pronounced or marked ideological difference between these three parties, and in these difficult times the Bahamas needs thoughtful and critical leadership.

Public debate should enrich the political process and supply Bahamians with varying and alternative imaginings of our possibilities as nation. It seems clear to me that the level of public debate in the Bahamas cannot adequately answer this challenge.

As a bonus, I hope this piece will also serve as an indictment of politics as usual in the Bahamas and an appeal directed especially at young voters. Those with influence often accuse us of apathy while simultaneously shirking responsibility for our current condition.

I fear that we will follow in their footsteps -- deifying political leaders and being baptised in red, yellow or green (or whatever the colours of the day are) on the altar of our own political immaturity. This is not the time to reify that tradition; we know now where that path leads. Look around you.

Bahamians have unfortunately been let down by a great deal of our erstwhile political pundit class, many of whom seem, quite frankly, bitter. A number of these political commentators betray what can only be described as hurt feelings and personal vendettas in their writing and on the radio.

In turn they've become the spin doctors of choice for their patron political parties, making house calls even. I'm certainly skeptical that they can be relied on to provide non-partisan opinions and I've long since rid myself of the expectation that this particular sphere of influence will ever mount a meaningful challenge to the status quo.

Colin A Hughes reminds us in his book, Race and Politics in the Bahamas, during the run-up to the 1967 election, the two most read papers in the Bahamas, The Tribune and The Nassau Guardian, both seemed to support the ruling United Bahamian Party (UBP).

These days there is no white supremacist regime that must be challenged. Instead, the status quo is represented by the uncritical and empty party politics that characterises our electoral contests.

As the revolutionary theorist, Antonio Gramsci, makes clear, there are two types of intellectuals: those who align with emergent, new intellectual and social forces, and those who work to maintain the old. The Bahamas has more than its fair share of the latter.

Facebook has seemingly provided an opportunity for more democratic political debate. However, upon closer inspection, you realise that only a few people are actually speaking.

The walls for Bahamian political Facebook groups are dominated by a small fraction of the members, most of whom are vehemently partisan mouth pieces for their team of choice.

I use the word "team" carefully, because many Bahamians treat political parties like they would a sport team -- counting who had the most people at the home game, idolising the star quarterback, comparing the roster and trash talking.

Most sports teams are devoid of ideology and I would argue our political parties are as well. For the majority of Bahamians, I would imagine that this doesn't matter; what counts is which team scores the winning touchdown. We've yet to learn that in this kind of a game everyone loses.
Sadly, referencing Hughes' book, you will quickly learn that in the early years of the 20th century the Bahamian electorate viewed the election season as a chance to get something for nothing -- then it was rum and rice. What is now, a free T-shirt and a Christmas ham?

When, as made clear by the Bahamian Wikileaks, our politicians are comfortable claiming that "free paraphernalia" is one of the most important factors in winning an election, this particular piece of history becomes significant.

Hughes' also remarks that for politicians, elections amounted to nothing more than sporting events, a game between peers carried out over generations. Ninety plus years later and things seems remarkably the same. Maybe it's an age thing but when politicians shout, "Come on down," at each other across the parliamentary aisle I can't help but think of "The Price is Right."

The lack of universal participation on Facebook may be because of apathy, but I've observed another possible explanation: outsiders and disagreeable opinions are not welcome.

In preparation for this article I decided to engage in some informal ethnographic research. I even participated in the discussion on few posts as an independent voter.

In one particular instance, my intervention was not appreciated. According to one of the regulars, my point of view apparently violated the "wisdom of God." And when I pointed out the wisdom of God, as espoused by man, has been used by man to inflict pain and suffering, no less on our own ancestors, things got ugly.

The good Christian who originally countered my argument Biblically, called me everything but a child of God, blocked me and apparently continued insulting me so that I could not respond. Meanwhile, others rushed to the post, and with a click of the "Like" button and "lol" in repetition, they patted each other on their virtual backs for maintaining a comfortable level of ignorance and aggressively defending business as usual.

This perhaps provides some insight: even on Facebook, where the access to political debate has been democratised, only certain people get to speak about certain things, and only in certain ways. There is no space on the Bahamian political landscape for alternative political discourses and few have been brave enough to try and make space.

Go off the reservation, show the ruptures of illogicality in age-old political wisdom, the senselessness in so-called political common sense, and face a collective wrath.

You can dare to question the status-quo but know that at the very least you and possibly your family will be blocked, insulted and laughed at. This is something made intelligible after my last article for this paper. My untraditional (dare I say un-Bahamian) position on homosexuality cost a family member a job opportunity. None of this makes for meaningful, respectful or productive debate, does it?

How then can a national political debate transform the grim picture I've just painted?

Honestly, it can't. But, it is a step in the right direction. Against my better judgment, I want to suggest that if anyone should be responsible for showing the Bahamian people how to conduct the kind of political debates necessary for us arrive at the best political conclusion for our country, it is our political leaders.

A nationally televised, internet streamed, radio broadcast of our two seasoned political leaders and the firebrand new contender debating policy, defining differences in ideology and comparing visions of the Bahamian future is beneficial for all, especially the Bahamian people.

I know I'm not alone when I say that I'm interested in hearing what our hopeful leaders have to offer, outside of the theatrics of adversarial parliamentary posturing and away from the throngs of adoring fans. Despite the fact that some political leaders believe they must no longer compete for their inevitable ascendancy, that they are tried and tested, these are new and unusual times.

The politicians and the politics of the 1990s -- even of 2007 -- are obsolete. And as far as the politics of the Bahamas is concerned, both of our long-standing parties have seemed comfortable with the formula bequeathed to us by our colonial forefathers, a pepper-pot of traditionalism in some areas and a discourse of modernisation in others -- a dish which has resulted in the gradual disintegration of the Bahamian middle class over the last decade in the face of a global economy in transition, concentrating wealth more and more in fewer peoples' hands.

This is also not the most opportune time for a greenhorn politician to stake a leadership claim with a less than impressive political resume. The simple answer would be to say the Bahamas needs a new politician or a new political party, when in actuality what I think we need is a new politics. I am left unconvinced that, in what has become a politics plagued by ego, we should suffer yet another political contender asserting his dominion over our government with an air of entitlement.

Prime Minister Ingraham could once and for all show the truth of the Free National Movement's record, and himself as a man of action. Mr Christie could mount a clear opposition to the FNM, and set out a bold vision for the Bahamas as imagined by the Progressive Liberal Party. It would also benefit Mr McCartney, who could finally show all of those who doubt him that he can contend on the national level and that Democratic National Alliance's promises of hope for the Bahamian people are not empty.

Not only is it time for Prime Minister Ingraham, Mr Christie and Mr. McCartney to explain why any of them should be allowed to stand at our country's helm in these rough waters, but it is time for the people of this country to require it of them. In the past, we've failed to hold our leaders truly accountable.

When the Prime Minister feels it is within his right to say that the new contender won't be carrying "his tings" anywhere, the Bahamian people must necessarily retort, "Tell us why you think you'll be carrying our tings anywhere?"

When the leader of the opposition places the blame for our country's current economic condition squarely on the shoulders of the sitting government, the Bahamian people must necessarily inquire, "How does your partisan rhetoric square with the reality of a global economic downturn, and what exactly would you do differently?"

When the dewy political newcomer promises change and hope, the Bahamian people must necessarily interrogate - "How do you intend to deliver given the greenness of you and your party -- a hastily stitched together team of entrants -- and what can you offer that will change the game?"

And, when the only difference between the various parties seem to be colour scheme and personality, aren't we really choosing between parties intent on steering us basically down the same path, perhaps some more vigorously than others?

To echo a ghost from the Bahamian political past, and referencing Hughes' book yet again, in 1971 the youthful Vanguard Nationalist and Socialist Party (VNSP) wrote of the PLP, "The lack of a basic and coherent political philosophy ...has been a major factor in its failure correct the abuses of Bahamian society by the wealthy few, to create genuine political and economic opportunity."

When it comes to politics, in the same way the media and the electorate have remained seemingly unchanged decades later, I would argue that the charge levied against the PLP in 1971 is true of all our political parties today. You may not like the source but they had a point then and they have point now.

What we have here is not a failure to communicate but a history of neglect concerning the Bahamian political consciousness by the Bahamian political elite -- neglect that, in the end, benefits them. It's time we do something differently.

They say a people deserves its leaders. If that is true, it begs the question, what kind of a people are we?

Post-1973 Bahamians have often shown themselves to be a people divided by frivolous considerations like loyalty to political parties with no clear ideological direction and politicians that are scandal ridden, self-indulgent and entitled.

Because of our inability to unite around holding our political leaders accountable, those whose interests are contrary to the welfare of the Bahamian working and middle classes often succeed in having those interests met.

I hate to use polemical and loaded phrases like "ruling class" and "foreign interests," but as Bahamians battle each other over an ever-widening terrain, even on virtual socialscapes like Facebook, it is the Bahamian bourgeoisie, the ruling class, and foreign interests that benefit from this distraction.

Our leaders should be the ones fighting -- warring for our trust and confidence, crusading for our well-being. Until we demand that our government and the opposition speak to their value outside of the comfortable, staged events of political rallies and the "Real Politicians of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas" docudrama that is our parliament proceedings (divas, cat fights and all), those of us who the government should serve -- the people -- will find ourselves left fighting over whatever gets tossed our way. And sadly, at this moment, there's not much to go around.

Joey Gaskins is a graduate of Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY with a BA in Politics. He was born in Grand Bahama and is currently studying at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he has attained his MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies and has begun a Doctoral Degree in Sociology. Joey also writes for the Bahamas Weekly and the Nassau Liberal.

December 30, 2011


Friday, December 30, 2011

It was not easy for men such as Sir Clifford Darling to challenge the old political order of the day, but through courage and perseverance they succeeded in making The Bahamas a better place

Respect and our nation builders

thenassauguardian editorial

Countries and peoples demonstrate maturity, or lack thereof, when nation builders die.  In mature places men and women who were at war, politically, for years set aside rivalry and honor the successes of departed opponents.

In unstable places, places not at ease, there is pettiness and spite when the legacies of dead statesmen are analyzed.

Maturity was on display after the death on Tuesday of former Governor General Sir Clifford Darling.  Sir Clifford, the fourth Bahamian-born governor general, died at Princess Margaret Hospital at 89 after a long illness.

“His proud legacy will not be forgotten,” said Prime Minister and Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Hubert Ingraham in a statement.

“Sir Clifford’s passing brings to a close another remarkable career of an early nation builder and pioneer for equality.”

Sir Clifford had a decorated life in politics, which culminated when he was appointed governor general in 1992.  He had served as a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP from 1967 to 1991.

In 1971, he was appointed minister of labour and national insurance and had oversight of the introduction of the National Insurance program.  Sir Clifford also served as a senator and as speaker of the House of Assembly.

In November 1957, Sir Clifford and a group of cab drivers blockaded and closed the airport in a bid to protest an exclusive deal the major hotels had with a taxi company, which resulted in a monopoly that excluded the taxi union.  The General Strike followed in January.

Perry Christie, leader of the opposition and of the PLP, noted the significance of the 1958 General Strike in the achievement of majority rule.

“Clifford Darling was a major figure in that political struggle as well under the banner of the Progressive Liberal Party,” he said.

Branville McCartney, leader of the Democratic National Alliance, also offered a note of respect on the death of Sir Clifford.

“Our nation is forever blessed to have birthed a true nationalist like Sir Clifford Darling,” he said in a statement.

“We, as leaders, could learn so much from his service and sacrifice, and should honor him by trying to mirror his great legacy.  Bahamians everywhere are eternally grateful to reap the fruits of his labor; I know that I'm one of them.”

All great men and women do much good and make quite a few mistakes.  When the historical record is written, the entire scope of work of historic figures should be analyzed.  What is important for the development and evolution of a young country is that we collectively keep the respectful, reasonable and fair tone, which was on display this week, when we speak of those who sacrificed much to build an independent Bahamas – be they PLPs, FNMs or even members of the old United Bahamian Party.

For our policymakers we must make sure that modern Bahamian history is taught as much as possible in our schools.  This history will help the next generation know what it took for us as a people to come this far and what it will take for us to go further in the 21st century.

It was not easy for men such as Sir Clifford to challenge the old political order of the day, but through courage and perseverance they succeeded in making The Bahamas a better place.

Dec 29, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This year in Bahamian politics - 2011: ... and in 2012... crime, the economy, the New Providence roadworks and leadership are likely to be the major issues debated during the general election campaign... The Bahamian electorate will decide if they want Perry Christie, Hubert Ingraham or Branville McCartney — that is, if a clear winner is chosen

An intriguing year in politics

Year in review 2011

By Brent Dean
Guardian Associate Editor

This year in politics has been a preparation for the year to come.  Next year men who have dedicated their lives to politics are preparing to fight for power, likely for the last time.

Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie, leaders of the Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) respectively, are the main contenders.  Branville McCartney and his Democratic National Alliance (DNA) are making their first appearance.

In 2011, each political leader was faced with internal upset.  Sitting parliamentarians, potential candidates and political wannabes all expressed anger in the public sphere when it became evident that the end had come to their ambitions or careers.

A minister is fired

Kenneth Russell, MP for High Rock and former housing minister, sat next to Hubert Ingraham in the House of Assembly.  Up until November, he rigorously defended Ingraham, his leader, and the policies of his administration.

Then in December, that bond between the men was broken with Russell publicly calling Ingraham a ‘tyrant’ and a ‘dictator’ after being fired from Ingraham’s Cabinet.

“I worked with him a long time and this is the first time I have seen this negative side of him,” said Russell on December 9, the day he was fired.

“The prime minister was my friend.  In fact, we are related.  The same aunties and uncles he has in Cooper’s Town (Abaco), so do I.

“I don’t know why he turned this way, but I have no problem with it; it’s his choice to make.  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is always with me.  And even though Ingraham would attempt to slay me, I still love him.”

Ingraham indicated Russell was fired for inappropriately discussing Cabinet business — a project for Grand Bahama that was rejected by Cabinet.  However, some political observers think Russell’s termination resulted from Ingraham’s desire not to run him in the next election and his public complaints about that decision.

Whatever the reason, Russell ends 2011 an outsider.  He will not be a candidate for Ingraham’s FNM.

Opposition party upset

Christie and McCartney had their share of public break-ups too over nominations.

In June, then PLP treasurer Craig Butler resigned his post and left the party because he could not secure a PLP nomination.

Butler sought the party nomination in the February 2010 Elizabeth by-election.  He was rejected.  He then tried for the PLP nomination for the old Kennedy constituency.  He was rejected again.

Butler has admitted past drug use.  The PLP, a party that has had to wrestle with embarrassing scandals in the past, would not budge on its opposition to Butler’s candidacy under its banner.  Butler has vowed to run as an independent.

While Butler left the party because he could not get a nomination, a former PLP colleague of his was forced to announce he would not run in the general election.

Vincent Peet, the North Andros and Berry Islands MP, on December 20 bowed out after an issue regarding $180,000 in client funds was made public in a series of Nassau Guardian stories.

“After much prayerful deliberation and after much consultation with constituents, colleagues, family and friends, including the esteemed leader of my party, Perry Christie, I have decided not to stand for re-election in the forthcoming general election,” Peet said in a statement.

“My decision in this regard is final and irreversible and I have informed my leader and the relevant councils of my party accordingly.  At this particular juncture of my life, I need to concentrate my attention and energy on my legal practice.”

Dr. Perry Gomez is to take Peet’s place as the PLP’s North Andros candidate.

DNA disputes

McCartney’s party revoked the nominations of two candidates, it said, for non-performance.

Former High Rock candidate Philip Thomas and former South Beach candidate Sammie Poitier, also known as Sammi Starr, were out at the end of November.

However, McCartney and Thomas gave different reasons as to why Thomas is no longer the candidate for High Rock.

Thomas claimed he was kicked out for disagreeing with McCartney, while McCartney claimed Thomas was not living up to the commitment he made to the party.

On December 5, McCartney denied reports that his party was falling apart after the break-up with Thomas and Poitier.

“It’s not falling apart at all; it’s growing every day and getting stronger and stronger,” he said.

“We’ve been in existence for six months, we’ve made history in six months and we have become a major party within a six-month period.”

Is the DNA real?

McCartney faced these political issues at year’s end.  His DNA party was launched May 12.  At his launch event at the Wyndham Nassau Resort on Cable Beach he called on Bahamians to “redefine the possible”.

“I truly believe that you are not here simply because you have nothing better to do, but because you believe that change is necessary, and you know, like I know, that our country is not the country we envisioned it to be,” he said.

McCartney hopes to take advantage of perceived dissatisfaction with the PLP and FNM.

In 2002, with Ingraham as leader and Tommy Turnquest as leader-elect, the FNM lost by a landslide margin to the PLP.  In 2007, with a growing economy, Christie’s PLP lost to the Ingraham-led FNM.  In 2012, Ingraham and Christie plan to return to the electorate as the leaders of their respective parties.

They present themselves at a time when the country has set four murder records in five years and the unemployment rate is above 13 percent.

McCartney thinks the Bahamian people now want a change.

Even if this is true, Bahamians are conservative voters.  Dr. Bernard Nottage was the leader of the Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR) in 2002.  He was the sitting Member of Parliament for Kennedy at the time, having left the PLP.  In that election Dr. Nottage’s party only won two percent of the vote and he lost his seat.

History is not on McCartney’s side.

The stakes are high for the leaders

Ingraham and Christie have been at it, politically, for quite a while.  Both have been MPs since 1977.  Both were young ministers in Sir Lynden Pindling’s Cabinet.  Both served as leader of the opposition and as prime minister.

Christie will be 69 next year.  Ingraham will be 65.  These friends and adversaries have become so powerful in their respective parties that neither could be moved internally.  But, the years have taken their toll and most observers think that this is the last race for the historic duo — the winner becoming prime minister again and the loser going in to retirement.

For McCartney, the stakes are also high.  If his DNA does poorly and he loses his seat in the House, a promising career could be over.

Crime, the economy, the New Providence roadworks and leadership are likely to be the major issues debated during the campaign.  The voters will decide if they want Christie, Ingraham or McCartney — that is, if a clear winner is chosen.

The 2007 general election was decided by fewer than 4,000 votes and the 2010 Elizabeth by-election by only three votes after a court case.  The country has remained divided from the last general election and a third party makes the race more unpredictable.

If Ingraham wins again his political success will debatably rival his mentor Sir Lynden Pindling.  If Christie wins he would be able to complete an agenda he thinks was pulled from him too soon.  If McCartney wins, even just a few seats, Bahamian politics would change forever.

With 38 seats in play –—the boundaries commission cut the constituency number to the constitutional minimum — this battle will play out seat by seat in community after community.  As it should be, the people will decide the fates of these leaders and their parties.

Dec 28, 2011


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Those who refuse to exercise their right to vote for cavalier and unreflective reasons, do a disservice to the witness of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Bahamian men and women freedom fighters, and protestors around the world today for whom the right to vote is a democratic gift not to be taken lightly nor for granted

The right and duty to vote

Front Porch

By Simon

Those Bahamians who take for granted our democracy and their right to vote with smug or shallow excuses for not registering or voting, might wish to read the cover story of the December 26 edition of Time Magazine announcing its 2011 “Person of the Year”.

Instead of a single person, Time selected “The Protestor” in tribute to protestors around the world, and especially across North Africa and the Middle East who are forcing democratic change, including the right to vote.

What has been termed the Arab Spring is unfolding in different ways from the Maghreb to the Levant, perhaps even stirring protests for fairer elections in Russia.  Still, no matter the country, protestors are bound by the shared goals of political enfranchisement and greater economic empowerment.

The choice of The Protestor has a double-significance: It links collective action with individual choice, which is the ideal of free and fair elections.  Just as it may require a mass of protestors to gain the right of an individual to vote, it takes a mass of voters to continually secure those rights by exercising their franchise.

It was just over a year ago in Tunisia that the democratic flowering of the Arab Spring bloomed.  What forced the Spring and galvanized the forces of change was an act of the ultimate sacrifice by 26-year-old fruit vendor Mohammed Bouazizi.

Bouazizi was the primary breadwinner for his mother and siblings.  Deeply distraught at having his produce confiscated yet again, and at being harassed by various authorities over many years, he lit himself afire to protest his treatment and that of scores of Tunisians.


His death some days later from severe burns and injuries was the catalyst for events still unfolding.  Within a year, longstanding and entrenched dictators fell in Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt.  Other regimes such as the Assad dynasty in Syria appear imperilled.

The giddy illusion by some that with the despots gone, well-functioning democracies would quickly emerge was punctured by chaotic legislative elections in Egypt, and the fear that the generals who secured Hosni Mubarak’s rule might not be intent on giving up power so quickly.

Fearing that their democratic revolution might be at risk, the protestors who voted Mubarak out of office with their bodies returned to the now famous Tahrir Square as a warning to the generals.

The unfolding of democratic revolutions occurring in the Middle East and North Africa, highlight a charter of rights fundamental to a functioning democracy, among them the rights of free assembly and speech to support or protest an idea or government.

A companion right which bolsters and protects these and other democratic rights is the right to vote in free and fair elections for the representatives and government of one’s choosing.

There are a number of glib excuses some give for not voting: “All politicians are the same. … These politicians don’t do anything for me. … My vote doesn’t count. … The system is flawed.”  There are other variations on these themes.

While there may be rare cases of conscientious objection for not voting, most of the excuses tend to be juvenile and glib evincing an almost pristine and wilful ignorance of history and the struggle for freedom and democracy.

The right to vote is a symbol and guarantor of democratic rights and freedoms.  Martin Luther King Jr. and those who marched and died for a Voting Rights Act enfranchising black Americans would not understand those today who take such a right for granted.

Nor would Nelson Mandela who spent over a quarter a century in prison or the millions of South Africans who often walk hours to a voting station, then spend additional hours on line waiting to vote.

In Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi was recently released from house arrest after many years.  She has agreed to and is encouraging the Burmese people to participate in upcoming elections.  It is unclear if those elections will be free and fair.  Having won a previous election which was annulled by the then military junta, she has not given up on democratic politics.


To refuse to vote is a decision.  It shows a level of disdain and contempt for our democratic system.  There is a certain arrogance to those who feel that voting is beneath them and that they won’t participate in electing “those politicians” (who, incidentally, are our fellow citizens).

Voting is not fundamentally about politicians.  It is about the citizenry choosing their elected representatives and holding them accountable.  Democracy, like the human condition is imperfect, requiring constant improvement and renewal.  The alternative is a system of anarchy.

There is also an immaturity to those who refuse to help choose the nation’s elected representatives and refuse also to participate in governance.  Still, they expect someone else to make the tough decisions on everything from crime to the economy to education.

Often, these same individuals have much to say on issues of public policy though they refuse to vote or become involved in governance.  There is a level of hypocrisy by those who sit on their high horses complaining about the politicians while refusing to participate.

A refusal to exercise one’s right to vote is a dereliction of a basic right for which many have fought and died, and for which many are still struggling.  For the progeny of slaves, it is a sort of disregard and dishonoring of the struggles of those ancestors who for generations fought for basic freedoms, including in The Bahamas for majority rule.

Those who refuse to exercise their right to vote for cavalier and unreflective reasons, do a disservice to the witness of Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Bahamian men and women freedom fighters, and protestors around the world today for whom the right to vote is a democratic gift not to be taken lightly nor for granted.

Dec 27, 2011


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Sir Clifford Darling Recalls Historic 1967 General Election in The Bahamas

REFLECTIONS: Sir Clifford Recalls Historic ‘67 Elections

By Candia Dames -
Nassau, The Bahamas

  - Governor-General of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas - 1992 - 1995In 1962, women voted in The Bahamas for the first time, but Sir Clifford Darling, who was among the 18 PLPs who won seats in the historic general election five years later, believes that many of those women voted for the white Bay Street Boys simply because they found them to be good looking.

The white minority at the time was also preaching the message that blacks couldn’t govern themselves.

Nevertheless, he said, change was in the air.

"We were very disappointed when we did not win the ‘62 elections, so we went back to the drawing board," recalled Sir Clifford, now 85.

"In ‘62 while we were campaigning to win the election at Clifford Park, the Bay Street Boys were Over-the-Hill buying votes."

After the disappointing election of ‘62, Sir Clifford said the PLP wasn’t the only ones who went back to the drawing board; the Bay Street Boys did so as well, plotting how they would stay in power.

But the days of the oligarchy were numbered.

Sir Clifford remembers, "It was a long struggle."

Sir Clifford, a former president of The Bahamas Taxi Cab Union, said the union played a crucial role in bringing about majority rule in the country 40 years ago.

A bit weary of island life in 1943, Sir Clifford – an Acklins boy – left New Providence and headed to the United States, but experienced another round of discrimination.

Upon his return to The Bahamas in 1946, he said he decided that something had to be done to break the system that existed in his home country.

It was at this time he joined the Taxi Cab Union because "it was the only organization in The Bahamas that was not afraid of the Bay Street Boys".

"I spent eight years educating taxi drivers that we have to change the status quo," he said.

By 1957, Sir Clifford had become president of the union and used the organization to push the cause for black Bahamians to become first class citizens in their country.

"There were problems all over The Bahamas where blacks were treated unfairly. Blacks couldn’t go through some of the front doors of the churches," he recalled. "They couldn’t get good jobs; they couldn’t eat in the restaurants on Bay Street."

Despite the push for equality, Sir Clifford said there was little progress initially and the majority continued to be oppressed by the minority. But with 1958 came the general strike, which he said paved the way for majority rule.

"I’m happy to see today that things changed because it was disturbing to me and many Bahamians when, because of the colour of your skin, you couldn’t get good jobs, even though you were qualified," he said.

On January 10, 1967, Sir Clifford and 17 other PLPs won seats in the House of Assembly, and the so-called Bay Street Boys won 18.

Sir Clifford said that when it had become clear that the PLP had persuaded Randol Foulkes and Alvin Braynen to throw their support behind the party, "It was a glorious moment for Bahamians."

"When we were defeated in ‘62, I was pretty sure we were going to win that election and I went down Bay Street – and they all know me – and they started laughing at me after we lost, so when we won in ‘67 I put on my best suit and I went down Bay Street and I said ‘Now, let them laugh at me now’," Sir Clifford said.

"It was a good feeling. For over 300 years the minority were ruling the majority, and I knew that that was wrong, so when it came to pass that the PLP won and we had majority rule, I was very happy and I give God thanks for that."

Forty years after the struggle for majority rule was won, Sir Clifford said blacks in The Bahamas have come "a long, long way" as have white Bahamians.

"Many of the whites told me that when the PLP came on the scene they were happy because there were just a few of the Bay Street Boys who were making a good living, and they monopolized most all of the businesses," he said.

"So when the PLP came on the scene [more] whites could make a decent living as well as the blacks."

Forty years after the struggle for majority rule was won, Sir Clifford said he is also disturbed by the behaviour of many young Bahamians, particularly the young men, many of whom are ending up at Her Majesty’s Prison.

These are Bahamians who should be leading productive lives and making their contributions toward building The Bahamas, said Sir Clifford, who noted that there were 60 homicides in 2006.

"We need to find a way of curtailing this crime," he said. "We need to find where these guns are coming from and we need to find a way to prevent the amount of illegal immigrants who are coming into the country. This is not doing good for the country, really."

Sir Clifford said if the illegal immigration problem is not adequately addressed, one day illegal immigrants would take over the country.

"And Bahamians would be second class citizens all over again," he said.

10 January 2007

Bahamas Blog International

Friday, December 23, 2011

Election time in the Bahamas: ...the 2012 election promises to be worse than any we have ever been through, and reporters will have to hone their investigative skills to avoid the traps as they dig for the truth

A political plot without foundation

tribune242 editorial

ELECTION TIME in the Bahamas is often referred to as "silly season", a time when a citizen takes what he hears with a large grain of salt. As any reporter will tell you, it is not only "silly season", but it is also a very difficult period for a journalist to cover. So much time is wasted sifting fact from fiction that little time is left to report on ideas and programmes that could move the nation "forward, upward and onward".

However, the 2012 election promises to be worse than any we have ever been through, and reporters will have to hone their investigative skills to avoid the traps as they dig for the truth.

The PLP is now urging young Bahamians to bring their voices to the national stage by taking part in the country's first ever participatory journalism project. They are invited to report from their homes and streets using cell phones and cameras. This is fine, but at the receiving end -- and before it is put out for public dissemination - there has to be an experienced person checking for accuracy.

Anyone watching news reports of the troubles in the Middle East, reported by Twitter and cell phones, and broadcast by the international networks, were always cautioned that the man in the street was the source and that the reports could not be checked by the networks for accuracy. In other words, listener you are receiving information, but beware -- it might not all be true. No journalistic standards had been employed. And for the uninitiated, who might think otherwise, there is more to journalism than just fact gathering. Those facts have to be verified -- checked and double checked.

One would be surprised at the number of tips The Tribune receives that by the time the "facts" have been checked and the exaggeration and opinions stripped from the information, a story is published -- but not exactly the one reported by the telephone caller.

And so if Twitter, Facebook and other social media are to enter this election with raw information, there is going to be a lot of public confusion, and trained journalists will have a mammoth job chasing up these reports to find out how many are accurate, and how many have to be debunked as cheap propaganda.

For example, when we walked into The Tribune yesterday afternoon, there were two journalists in animated conversation. We joined them.

They were sceptical about a report that had been making the rounds all day and which they knew in the end would bring negative results. Knowing the parties involved, they could find no benefits in it being true for either party -- the FNM or DNA. If true, it would create a mountainous credibility problem for the DNA, a problem that Mr McCartney could not tolerate.

The story that we walked into apparently emanated from a rejected DNA candidate, who was now shaking the dust off his feet as he left a party in which he no longer had faith.

According to him -- with the story gathering many new layers in its repeated telling -- Bran McCartney of the DNA and Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham were in huddled talks, resulting in Mr McCartney surrendering his party at the feet of the Prime Minister. Of course, there was a price. Mr McCartney would not be prime minister as yet, but he would be a stepping stone nearer his goal. In an FNM government, Bran McCartney would be deputy prime minister. And current deputy prime minister Brent Symonette? He would get the proverbial boot, of course.

Like our senior reporter, when considering the source of the tall tale, knowing the temperament of the Prime Minister, and what we believe we know of Mr McCartney, we did not give credit to any part of the story. But our reporters could not shrug their shoulders and laugh. It was their job to investigate.

Prime Minister Ingraham denied the story. And so did Mr McCartney, but the PLP clung to it almost as if they were delighted to have at last found a political life line.

Of course, they want voters to believe it is true to discredit the integrity of the DNA, and give the impression that the FNM is crumbling and is leaning on the DNA for support.

According to the PLP, Mr McCartney and the FNM are hatching a plot "designed to fool Bahamian voters into believing the DNA is something new and providing cover for Ingraham's fading support".

It is true that political plots are being hatched -- many of them -- but this far-fetched tale is not one to be taken seriously.

December 21, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

“Many voters have fallen out of love with Hubert Ingraham... but the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) should not be fooled into believing they have fallen back in love with Perry Christie.”

A reformed leader?

2007 issues still linger for Christie

By Candia Dames
Guardian News Editor

Nearly five years after the leadership of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) commissioned a post-election survey, the ability of the PLP to win the next general election may very well depend on whether it has addressed the perceptions and shortcomings highlighted in the report.

This notwithstanding the bitter taste many voters have developed for the current administration of Hubert Ingraham.

As one politico remarked recently, “Many voters have fallen out of love with Hubert Ingraham, but the PLP should not be fooled into believing they have fallen back in love with Perry Christie.”

The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner report set out what the reasons were for the PLP’s stunning loss in the 2007 general election.

It revealed that 57 percent of respondents cited former Prime Minister Perry Christie’s perceived ‘weak leadership’ as the reason they decided not to vote PLP.

The ‘weak leadership’ issue was widely discussed before and after the election campaign, with Ingraham stating repeatedly that the 2007 election was about leadership. 
The survey said the alleged scandals that plagued the PLP leading up to the vote took their toll.

The report highlighted the perception of scandal within the PLP ranks as well as the perception that the leader of the PLP, Perry Christie, is considered a weak leader.

Almost five years later, the question in the minds of some voters is whether the PLP has carried out any of the reforms the report recommended.

The report is still important because we are on the eve of another general election.

If the PLP is to be victorious at the polls, one would expect it to show that it has a strong, decisive leader and that its party and candidates are of impeccable character and credibility.

Valentine Grimes, a trustee of the PLP, suggested the party has the right mix to form the next government, and to successfully carry out its mandate.

Asked whether Christie has put in place any reforms in the years in opposition — the years since the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner report — Grimes said Christie was always a strong leader, and that it was the FNM’s successful public relations efforts that painted him as weak and indecisive.

Grimes said the ‘weak leader’ impression was also formed in the minds of many as a result of ineffective public relations by the PLP ahead of the last general election.

“The PR team of the FNM was able to completely retool the image of Ingraham,” Grimes told National Review.  “Whereas on the other side, they were able to effectively paint Christie in a particular light.  Unfortunately, those perceptions were difficult to overcome during that last election.”

Grimes said there is no doubt in his mind that Christie has the interest of The Bahamas foremost in all of his decisions.

“And the fact that he thinks and tries to get the views of others, I think is an important part of his character,” Grimes said.  “Whereas on the other hand there is no doubt in my mind that Prime Minister Ingraham does not seek the views of his ministers and if he does, he does not frequently take those views into consideration.

“It’s his government and his government alone.”

But while some political observers think Ingraham’s recent firing of Kenneth Russell from his Cabinet spelt trouble in the FNM, others think it demonstrated his strength and decision-making process.

Remaking Christie

Former PLP Chairman Raynard Rigby said no one should be fooled about what the main issue in the upcoming election will be, and that is the choice between Ingraham and Christie, which leader the voters like more or which leader the voters believe can move the country forward.

Rigby said he does not see where the party has adequately addressed the issues raised in the Greenberg report.

“Well, certainly not in the public domain,” he said.   “If they have done so, they may have done it within the internal ranks of the party.

“The report is now in the public domain.  One would expect the party to address the glaring issues raised in the report, particularly the perception of corruption, the perception about the leader’s weakness and also this question the party has in gaining support within certain age groups.”

Rigby pointed out that in politics, perceptions do matter.

Forty-seven percent of respondents to the Greenberg 2007 survey said they did not vote PLP because of corruption and scandals, and 19 percent pointed specifically to the issue involving former Immigration Minister Shane Gibson and the late American celebrity Anna Nicole Smith (respondents were allowed to select the two factors they thought were the most important for deciding not to vote PLP). The survey said the corruption issue contributed to the perception of Christie as a weak leader.

“Voters perceived that he was unwilling to take action against advisers or Cabinet officials accused of wrongdoing, an impression that was reinforced by the delay over Shane Gibson’s resignation,” Greenberg found.

The 2007 report said that given the focus on the leadership of the parties, the PLP’s success will depend to a large degree on rebuilding Christie’s public image with a strategy that shows voters he can be a forceful, decisive leader.

Ingraham on many occasions accused Christie of lacking discipline, foresight, competence and decisiveness.

Rigby told National Review that it is important that voters can see reform in PLP ranks.

“Politics is about a public display of where you are.  It’s not a private matter.  It’s really a public thing and certainly I have not seen it,” Rigby said.

“I think the election will also be a telling sign of whether the Bahamian people believe that the PLP has responded to what they deem their concerns were which led them to vote against the party in the 2007 general election.”

Many people say though that oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose elections, Rigby noted.

“But I’m sure that if the PLP wins the next election it means that they would be satisfied that they would have done sufficiently enough to gain the support and trust of the majority of the electorate to form the government,” he said.


Rebuilding the PLP’s image

The report highlighted steps that the party should take to rebrand its image, so as to gain the confidence of the Bahamian electorate.

It recommended expanding the party's base; cleansing the party’s reputation; conveying former Prime Minister Christie’s leadership qualities and advancing a progressive social agenda.

“It needs to take concrete actions that convey its seriousness about purging corruption from the party and state," said the report.

“There is a perception among voters — one deepened by the FNM (Free National Movement) — that the PLP has become more focused on doing things that benefit its own politicians than for people.”

It’s a claim now Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham made repeatedly on the campaign trail in the months and weeks leading up to the 2007 election.  Ingraham also accused Christie of presiding over “the most chaotic, last-minute, indecisive and incompetent government since independence”.

“The Christie administration is the poster boy for failed governance.  They have plunged our country into chaos," Ingraham said at a rally at R. M. Bailey Park on April 27, 2007.  “Mr. Christie’s PLP is besieged by scandal and incompetence.  They have lost the will and capacity to fix their own mistakes, or maybe they never had it.”

The researchers said they could not overstate the importance of cleansing the PLP’s reputation.

“It goes to the heart of people’s concerns about the PLP, and must be seriously addressed with concrete action,” the report said.

The report also said there are a number of things the party could do to show the public it takes corruption seriously: develop and publicize a party code of conduct that prohibits its leaders from exploiting public office for private gain and institute a party tribunal that is authorized to investigate allegations of corruption against party members and to recommend penalties.

In opposition, there is no evidence that those specific steps have been taken.

Former PLP MP Franklyn Wilson told National Review that “there is no doubt that there are large numbers of Bahamians who see Mr. Christie in negative terms”.

“I think if Mr. Christie is going to be true to himself, he needs to see that as what it is,” Wilson said.

“…But the fact of the matter is this campaign is going to allow people to see a lot of the image that Ingraham has is not supported in fact.”

Wilson said international credit rating agencies have pointed to the importance of consensus building in putting in place the types of reforms that are necessary to get the economy back on track.

“If that is true, what at another time was seen as a weakness on Christie’s part, can be re-presented as a strength,” he said.

Dec 19, 2011


Sunday, December 18, 2011

...exactly why was Ken Russell fired from Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's Cabinet?

Cabinet rules that led to firing


WELL, this is all very confusing, isn’t it?

Just before an election the leader of the FNM gets into a nomination spat with a three-time successful candidate in one of the party’s Grand Bahama strongholds.

The 58-year-old candidate is a Cabinet minister, who has complained publicly about changes to the boundaries of his High Rock constituency, recently redrawn as East Grand Bahama. And in quick time, he is sacked from the Cabinet and starts behaving like Tennyson Wells – right before the election.

So what is this all about? Where does party business end and government business begin in this political squabble? And exactly why was Ken Russell fired?

Social media websites were deluged over the weekend with questions and opinions on these unusual developments. Most of those comments, and much newspaper coverage as well, focused on the nomination issue, and the supposed rift between “original” FNMs and so-called “Ingrahamites”, who joined the party after 1990.

For example, Ivan Johnson in The Punch said the controversy revolved around Russell’s “gross disrespect” of Ingraham over the nomination issue. And tensions were so high at a meeting in Grand Bahama on Sunday, The Punch said, that a special security detail had to accompany the prime minister.

This was denied to me by individuals who attended the packed meeting in Freeport, and an online video of Ingraham’s remarks showed no evidence of dissent or hostility amongst the exuberant crowd of FNM supporters, despite Ken Russell’s obvious presence in the audience.

“The PM has enraged the Cecilite FNMs with his cold and harsh treatment” of Ken Russell, Kendal Wright and Verna Grant, The Punch wrote on Monday. Meanwhile, Russell had earlier told the Freeport News he did not know why he was fired. Branding Ingraham a “tyrant”, he said he would seek to run in the next election anyway.

However, insiders say the sacking had little to do with Russell’s attempt to hold onto the FNM nomination, or to any disagreement over the redrawing of constituency boundaries. He was fired because he publicly opposed a Cabinet decision.

Under our system of government, ministers must support in public the collective judgment of the government and their Cabinet colleagues. A minister who cannot support a major government policy is expected to resign. Or face dismissal by the prime minister.

This is clearly spelled out in The Manual on Cabinet Procedure: “A fundamental principle of Cabinet government is unity. It is important to present a united front to the public. If any minister feels conscientiously unable to support a decision taken by Cabinet, he has one course open to him and that is to resign his office.”

And in a telling comment to The Tribune by Maurice Moore – one of the original so-called “Cecilites” and the former parliamentary representative for High Rock – “Russell didn’t handle the matter correctly.”

In fact, the reason for Ken Russell’s firing goes back to the waning months of the Christie administration, when the government received a proposal from an American company known as Beka Development. Beka reportedly wanted to acquire 64,000 acres in east Grand Bahama at a concessionary price of $2,800 per acre.

According to Sir Arthur Foulkes, writing in The Tribune in March 2007, “Mr Christie and his colleagues in the PLP government must have taken leave of their senses even to entertain such a proposal. But it is obvious that preliminary talks have taken place and that Beka has been encouraged to proceed.”

Since then, Beka has turned its attentions to the island of Eleuthera, where it is supposedly pursuing a multi-million-dollar project on privately owned pristine coastline at South Point. This project is opposed by environmentalists, and last summer Beka said its failure to advance the Grand Bahama project was also due to environmental issues, “and the fact that 80 per cent of the required land was government-owned”.

Meanwhile, the original east Grand Bahama project seems to have morphed into something else. Last year, The Tribune reported that a mysterious company called “the Cylin Group, whose principals include the daughter of the Chinese defence minister, was looking at a major tourism development on 2,000 acres of land in the Sharp Rock area”.

This project was said to include hotels, a casino, a cruiseship terminal and a marina to be built by Chinese companies. Most of the land was said to be owned by the Grand Bahama Development Corp (Devco) and the Port Group. Devco is half owned by the Port Group and half by Hutchinson Whampoa, a Chinese company.

Insiders say that after the FNM took office in May 2007 the Grand Bahama Port Authority told government it had not agreed to transfer any land to Cylin, and subsequent inquiries as to where the money for the project was coming from were not favourable. “Nevertheless, the government gave the project the benefit of the doubt and allowed it to come before Cabinet, where it was voted down on four separate occasions.”

In Ingraham’s own words, “we would like to have any kind of project in Grand Bahama, but we also want to do things that we think make sense and not everybody who comes along and says we’ve got something is somebody who we could trust”. He added that Russell promoted the project in public even though it had been rejected by the government four times.

On Monday, Russell admitted as much to The Freeport News. He said he was working with investors seeking to do a $1.5 billion development on Grand Bahama. He acknowledged that the investors had applied to the Port Authority for land but their request had been turned down. Very little is known about this proposed project or the developers themselves.

The nomination issue is a separate matter, insiders say. This is apparently a case of the FNM leadership trying to recruit fresh talent to revitalise the party ahead of an election. However, there are those who argue that the Cabinet rules issue was a pretext to get rid of Russell, an ineffective minister who was obstinately refusing to step down as a candidate despite an earlier undertaking to do so.

In this context, there is no doubt that the FNM leadership has the biggest say in deciding the slate of election candidates. According to the party’s constitution, candidates are recommended by the executive committee (chaired by the party leader), after consultation with constituency associations. The recommendations are then ratified by the FNM council, which is also chaired by the party leader.

“I met with the High Rock, now East Grand Bahama, Constituency Association earlier this afternoon,” Ingraham told the crowd in Freeport on Sunday, “and invited them to put forward the names of at least two candidates that you could consider to carry your party’s flag for East Grand Bahama in the next election, and I expect to hear from them in short order.”

He added that some sitting FNM members of parliament will resign of their own volition and others will be asked to make way for new candidates.

The subtext to all this is the future of the Grand Bahama Port Authority itself – a private franchise with enormous value for the country as a whole. Insiders say that the island’s economic woes combined with the Port Authority’s lack of direction creates a huge dilemma for the government, which does not want to be seen as intervening heavy-handedly in private enterprise, abrogating the Hawksbill Creek Agreement or pre-empting the courts.

But at the meeting on Sunday Ingraham put the GBPA on notice. “After the next election we will say to the Port Authority, this or that. And so it will be very much a question of Grand Bahama’s future in the next general election, which will take place not long from now.” It is not clear what he meant, and Ingraham declined to elaborate for me.

Meanwhile, the opposition PLP is said to be working assiduously behind the scenes to get disgruntled FNM’s to run for the PLP or cross the floor and support a vote of no confidence in the government. This would presumably force the prime minister to dissolve parliament, after which a general election must be held within 90 days.

If this does not happen the government can constitutionally continue in office until May 2 (the date of the 2007 election), when parliament must be dissolved and an election held within 90 days. So theoretically, the prime minister has until the end of July to hold elections, although most observers believe a February poll is more likely.

Of course, most observers believed a November election was in the cards too.

• What do you think? Send comments to, or visit bahamapundit.

December 15, 2011


Friday, December 16, 2011

A closer look at the firing of housing minister - Kenneth Russell; the Free National Movement (FNM) Member of Parliament (MP) for High Rock - Grand Bahama

The undoing of Kenneth Russell

A closer look at the housing minister’s firing

By Erica Wells
Guardian Managing Editor

Every political leader must make decisions that please or infuriate.  Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has developed a reputation for being one of those leaders who has no difficulty making the ones that infuriate.

For example, last week he frankly told reporters that there would be some new faces in the Free National Movement’s line-up of candidates going in to the next election.  Among those would not be sitting MPs who are not seeking reelection and those who the party felt were no longer suitable fits.

This has not sat well with some long-serving party members, and at least one has come out publically against the decision.

Those who speak out publically against Ingraham usually meet the same fate.  Just ask Pierre Dupuch, Tennyson Wells or Branville McCartney.

High Rock MP Kenneth Russell last week became the latest casualty among some of those who have defied Ingraham publically.

Russell was fired last week Friday from his cabinet post.  Many immediately assumed the decision had to do with his audacious challenge to the prime minister made in the media the day before.

But party insiders familiar with the situation said that Russell’s undoing started more than a week earlier, and that Russell’s criticisms of Ingraham at a party meeting in Grand Bahama on Thursday night were ultimately what sealed the former housing minister’s fate.

“Russell doomed himself,” a party insider told Guardian National Review.  “Russell began to sow the seeds of his firing last week.”

The party insider was referring to a meeting held in Grand Bahama during the first week in December, when Ingraham and a delegation were on the island for a coming together of the top brass of the party, including MPs, branch chairmen and party executives.

It was at that meeting, said the party source, that Russell’s branch chairman raised the issue of a proposed development for East Grand Bahama and the cabinet’s decision to not approve the resort project that was touted by some as having the potential to create several thousand jobs.

Ingraham reportedly said that the project had too many issues and was not ultimately a good or viable one for the long-struggling island economy.

“The feeling was that the only way Russell’s branch chairman would have known about the cabinet’s conclusion was if Russell had told him,” said the party source.  “That was private cabinet business.  It was not in the public domain.”

“The PM could not allow Russell to undermine his authority.  Russell had lost credibility in the PM’s eyes,” the source added.

The cabinet statement announcing Russell’s termination cited that Russell was “relieved of all ministerial responsibilities arising out of conduct by Mr. Russell inconsistent with his ministerial duties”.

The statement did not provide further details; however, FNM sources point to the meeting as the sea change that ultimately led to Russell’s termination.  This combined with statements by Russell criticizing the prime minister – for not going ahead with the development – to others on the island as recently as Thursday night made for an untenable situation, according to party sources.

Hours after he was ordered to pack up his office on Friday, Russell told this newspaper: “If my push to have business come to Grand Bahama is what caused him to fire me, then so be it.  If my push to get as many houses built and change the Ministry of Housing to a better place is what caused him to fire me, so be it.”

Russell said that he knew more than a year ago that there was a rift between he and Ingraham.  He said he did not know why Ingraham had “turned away from him”.

That friendship presumably became even more strained when Ingraham made it clear that Russell would not represent the FNM in the upcoming general election.

That’s when Russell told reporters that he would run on the FNM’s ticket in Grand Bahama with or without Ingraham’s approval.

Trouble in Grand Bahama for the FNM?

Russell has deep roots within the FNM.  He is a former chairman and vice-chairman of the Free National Movement High Rock Constituency Association, and was elected to the House of Assembly for the High Rock constituency in 1997.  He was one of the few FNMs re-elected to another term in 2002.

He was a member of the Housing Commission for Grand Bahama from 1992 to 1998, and a member of the Local Government Council for Freeport from 1996 until his election to Parliament.  He also served as chairman of the Town Planning Committee for New Providence and The Bahamas between 1997 and 2001, and as a cabinet minister with responsibility for Public Works between 2001 and 2002.

Russell said that while he had previously thought that Ingraham was “more democratic” than anyone else he knew, he was learning that Ingraham could also be a “tyrant”.

“Let Grand Bahama make the selection (of who it wants to run).  Grand Bahama is [part of] a free country.  Let them make the selection.  It’s not for you as one man to do,” said Russell in an interview on Friday after he was fired.

“The prime minister painted a good picture for me, and I thought the prime minister was a democratic man, was a man who had a heart because of what he showed me in my experience with him. He was more democratic than anyone else I know.  Or so I thought.  And he was a man (who) was down to earth – don’t mind the rough exterior.

“But now, I’m learning that he could also be a tyrant.  That’s what I’m learning now.  I learned it the hard way.  Now he (has) the power; he could destroy me and he is freely welcome to do so, but God is in control of this ship.”

This latest development in the Free National Movement so close to a general election could mean trouble for the party.

Ingraham already has the reputation as an autocratic leader.  It is a trait that his opponents highlight at every opportunity.  And it was dissension in the party that some political observers said played a role in the FNM’s 2002 defeat.

However, despite the leadership fight in the run up to 2002, Ingraham was able to unify and rally the party and beat the one-term Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), which had a huge majority in the House of Assembly, including all but one seat in New Providence.

There is also the issue of whether Ingraham and the FNM have the support needed to retain the party’s seats in Grand Bahama, which some say has been “largely ignored” by this administration.

The island’s economy has been suffering for years, well before the global economic downturn.  Unemployment is at 15 percent and promises that the government made to create a ministry to specifically focus on Grand Bahama have gone unfulfilled and may come back to haunt the FNM come election time.

“It now appears that Mr. Ingraham will not have as easy a time imposing his will on the Grand Bahama FNM Council as he has done in the past,” said the Progressive Liberal Party’s northern branch in a press statement.

“The main reason for this is that Grand Bahamians in general, including members of the Grand Bahama FNM Council, place most of the blame for the state of Grand Bahama’s economy at the doorstep of Mr. Ingraham.”

But the PLP has to share some of the blame for the poor state of Grand Bahama, which struggled for years under the Perry Christie-led administration.

Russell’s termination marked the seventh time this term that a minister has left the cabinet.  Claire Hepburn, Sir Michael Barnett, Elma Campbell and Carl Bethel stepped down to take up different posts.  Sidney Collie resigned after the local government elections debacle in July 2008; and Branville McCartney, who did not get along with Ingraham, resigned in 2010.  McCartney later formed the Democratic National Alliance.

Dec 12, 2011


Thursday, December 15, 2011 thoughts on the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and Branville McCartney, Kendal Wright, the boundary cuts, the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP’s) nomination process and that party’s future leadership

A Bran-less Bamboo Town?


I am presently sitting exams which will conclude on December 20th. However, due to this being a pivotal time in our national/political development, I’ve already pre-written columns prior to my examinations period since I anticipated that my studies would likely prohibit me from doing so. These upcoming columns will be submitted to The Tribune. To those loyal readers of YMV, who always express to me how they miss the column during such absences, the beat will go on.


Over the last few weeks, feedback to my columns has been tremendous and so today I’ve decided to answer a few of the public’s questions related to my thoughts on the DNA and Branville McCartney, Kendal Wright, the boundary cuts, the PLP’s nomination process and that party’s future leadership.

The other day, as usual, I was chatting with a good friend/political sage when he cracked a hilarious joke about Bran McCartney’s political fortunes relative to the boundary cuts.

According my friend, he could almost envisage a fictional scene of Bran McCartney in Rawson Square, stopping a Haitian—“perhaps one who is (naturalised) and voting for the first time”—and having to ask the Haitian where he was on the political map as he himself would be befuddled since the recent cuts.

My friend, whose humourous telling of the imaginary story had me in stitches, said that he imagines that the Haitian responds (using his best impersonation of a Creole speaker): “I see Bamboo Town, I see South Beach, I see Golden Gates. But, I see no Bran on the map!”

Based upon recent reports, the DNA seems to be imploding.

It appears that the recent rescission of Sammie “Starr” Poitier’s nomination, which was done under the pretext of him not working in the constituency—an account that Mr Poitier has emphatically denied—was a ruse for Bran McCartney to switch from his current Bamboo Town seat to South Beach. Frankly, since the recent boundary cuts, such a move makes political sense as the new Bamboo is in reality Kennedy and merely Bamboo Town in name as opposed to the new South Beach which can be more likened to the old Bamboo Town, where many of McCartney’s current constituents are situated. Noticeably, seven of Kennedy’s polling divisions were repositioned into the new Bamboo Town.

If McCartney stays in the new, reconfigured Bamboo Town—which I doubt—he will have an even tougher race since that seat will be contested by PLP candidate Renward Wells, likely FNM nominee Cassius Stuart and independent candidate Craig Butler, who will purportedly run in that constituency as opposed to the new Nassau Village seat.

What’s more, I’ve been reliably informed that the FNM is actively engaging DNA South Abaco candidate Roscoe Thompson, who, I’m told, will likely abandon the DNA and return to the FNM fold to run as its standard bearer in the same constituency. I’m told that current MP Edison Key will likely retire to facilitate this move. If this happens, the FNM will have stripped the DNA of its strongest candidate and scored a coup. So, will it be “bush crack, man gone” for Roscoe Thompson and the DNA?

Relative to the boundary cuts, Dr Hubert Minnis has been such a superb MP that his seat has been dissected to save Mount Moriah MP Tommy Turnquest and assist likely Fort Charlotte (expanded to include West Grove) nominee Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.

Both Turnquest and Vanderpool-Wallace will have a chance to reap the dividends of Minnis’ political investment, whilst increasing the likelihood of winning their respective seats. Although the old names for both seats remain the same, one could just as well see the redrawn districts as Killarney East, 1 and 2, while Dr Minnis, who has taken on several polling divisions in the abolished Clifton seat, will now be running in Killarney West.

That said, in an act of political wizardry, incumbent Clifton MP Kendal Wright is seemingly at a crossroad as his seat—which has been eliminated—must now be in the deep blue seas, with polling divisions in the waters off of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force base. As it stands, it appears that Mr Wright doesn’t need to worry about anyone challenging him as he has been written “Wright” off the political map!

I’ve also been told that, in the wake of the boundary cuts, Elizabeth MP Ryan Pinder is actively lobbying to become the PLP’s nominee for the South Eleuthera seat. Moreover, I’m told that PLP leader Perry Christie himself might be interested in that seat, particularly since his forbears hail from South Eleuthera. Undoubtedly, whether he goes or stays in the Farm Road constituency is of no consequence, since Mr Christie is expected to politically annihilate any challenger vying for either seat.

Relative to the PLP’s nomination process, I think it was a fundamental misjudgment on the part of the party to have not nominated Dr Michael Darville to contest the Marco City seat against Zhivargo Laing. Undoubtedly, Dr Darville would politically annihilate Mr Laing in a head-to-head matchup. Both Dr Darville and Kwasi Thompson appear to be five-star candidates who must now cancel out the other. In our political culture, with a drought of new first-rate candidates coming to the fore, the race for Pineridge would be a political tragedy because regardless of who wins, the country/people could lose.

As I stated in my last two columns, in the era post PM Hubert Ingraham and Opposition Leader Perry Christie, the evolution of the major parties will be prime time drama with the country hopefully benefiting in the end.

Last weekend, it was brought to my attention that I did not mention some of the other outstanding young turks in the PLP who may have leadership interest and are anxiously awaiting their turns to vie for the top spot. So, here goes…

Ryan Pinder is an affable chap whose energetic, take-no-prisoners oratorical delivery has reinvigorated Parliamentary debates. Pinder has political appeal and, even I, can attest to dropping what I’m doing to listen to him speak in Parliament. The PLP with Ryan Pinder as leader. Imagine that! If Pinder ascends to the leadership of the PLP, it certainly would represent much growth within the PLP and of that party’s consciousness, whilst broadening its voting bloc and perhaps attracting some of the white supporters of the FNM with a more racially inclusive stance.

Perhaps, it’s all a dream. Dream over! In the long run, Pinder should not be coy or bashful about any future leadership aspirations particularly since he seems to have good potential.

Michael Halkitis is a one-term MP who is a rising star in the party. Halkitis also should be on the PLP’s watch list as a potential leadership challenger.

Andre Rollins, at this juncture, is a nondescript political journeyman who is discounted by some within the PLP as merely a political lightweight. However, his passionate take on the country’s affairs is appreciable and he could be one to watch in years to come.

That said, the next leader of both the PLP and the FNM could be a dark horse candidate or one who has yet to grace the political scene. As far as the PLP goes, perhaps such a dark horse candidate could be someone like my esteemed former law lecturer Keith Bell.

Published on Saturday, December 10, 2011 in the column Young Man's View, appearing in The Tribune's 'The Big T'

Caribbean Blog International is now open season for all aspiring politicians and political organizations in The Bahamas

Election fever is upon us

By CFAL Economic view

Once again, election fever is upon us.  With the report of the boundaries commission having been approved by Parliament, it is now open season for all aspiring politicians and political organizations.  While the actual date of the next general election is not known, it is clear that the respective machineries of the political parties are gearing up to launch in early January.

We refer to this period leading up to the general election as the ‘silly season’.  While this may to some seem unfair and even unpatriotic, we stand by our position, as normally very intelligent people take this opportunity (during the silly season) to publicly make irrational and unfortunate public utterances.  The silly season brings out the best and the worst in our aspiring public officials.  At the end of the day, 38 Members of Parliament will take their seats in the hallowed halls of Parliament.  Constitutionally, the person commanding the support of the majority of members (at least 20) will ascend to the office of prime minister.

While we eagerly look forward to the publication of the official documents of the respective parties (manifesto, covenant or whatever), they only represent articulations of visions for the next five years.  We would like to see the major political parties take this process to the next level by tackling long-term fundamental issues and committing resources to developing positions for the next 10-15 years.  It is not until we start thinking beyond tomorrow that we can successfully position our country to compete effectively in the global arena.

The real purpose of this article is not to talk about who will win and who will not; but rather to focus on the various implications for the economy – both short-term and long-term.  Our economy has been challenged, as has been most of the world, during these tough economic times.  We have been down-graded recently and unless we put in place measures to mitigate our declining economic fortunes we will be downgraded again, which would have serious implications for us and our currency.

Many of us are experiencing a slowdown in business activity; some of us have already experienced reduced work weeks and/or layoffs; and finally, there are some employers just waiting for the passage of the Christmas season to drastically reduce costs.  Politicians need to think ‘out of the box’ for the long-term benefit of the country.

We know that within the next six months we must have a general election.  In a small country like The Bahamas, election spending can (and most likely will) provide a significant short–term infusion of money into our economy.  There will be at least 100 constituency offices opened and staffed; there will be the employment of ‘generals’ in every constituency; there will be significant amounts spent on advertising, public rallies, signage, printed materials, clothing items such as T-shirts and caps, transportation and hand-outs.  Add to this the normally scheduled ongoing public works programs.  We could have a short-term injection of millions of dollars into the economy starting almost immediately.  While it may seem that there is a lot of activity, and exciting projects waiting to break ground, we must not be deluded and remain focused on the big picture, which is the future of our economy.

If we had a wish list for the incoming administration, we would like to see in the financial sector specifically and otherwise:

• Good Governance – We call for the establishment and publication of a set of guidelines for the conduct of public officials (parliamentarians and senior government officials) governing their relationships with goods and services providers in order to improve transparency and to avoid charges of misconduct.

• A Council of Economic Advisors – The Council of Economic Advisers, an agency within the executive Office of the Prime Minister, is charged with offering the prime minister objective economic advice on the formulation of both domestic and international economic policy.  The council bases its recommendations and analysis on economic research and empirical evidence, using the best data available to support the prime minister in setting our nation's economic policy.

• Accountability – We would like to see major policy decisions of a fundamental nature regarding issues such as the use of government land, the disposal of government assets, constitutional changes, economic policy, introduction of legislation impacting the conduct of business and immigration policies subject to open public debate, providing for full participation by the public.

• Privatization and outsourcing – It is imperative that we complete this process for the overall competitiveness of our economy – that is, BEC, Water and Sewerage, Bahamasair, ZNS, etc.  Garbage collection, building maintenance, janitorial services, etc, could be outsourced.

• Consolidation of regulatory authority – It is possible that several regulators could regulate an institution concurrently.  To make matters worse, these multiple regulators do not seem to communicate with each other.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of these regulators would cross-reference certain basic information?

• Level playing field – We still see inconsistencies in the application of some rules and regulations that make you question the system.  Also, we as a nation must recognize that Bahamian professionals can be just as competent as their foreign counterparts, if given the opportunity.

• Pension fund legislation – We have called for the enactment of such legislation on numerous occasions.

• Public dialogue on tax reform – As a country we cannot continue to apply the 1960s taxation model to manage our economy.  Once we attain full membership into the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) much will change.  Our participation in these arrangements is advanced and we should not have to wake up one morning to face these changes and challenges unexpectedly.

• Public dialogue on catastrophe insurance

• Consumer protection legislation

There is a need to introduce legislation, particularly in financial services, that addresses truth in lending; increased transparency for trade and services contacts; and an office to settle disputes between small consumers and large service providers.

While there are numerous other equally pressing items that could be added to our list, we will stop here.  We are convinced that placing attention on these items will go a long way towards positioning The Bahamas as a competitive player in this brave new global world that we are entering.

We are living in interesting times.

Dec 14, 2011


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Those of us who understand the parliamentary practice of the Westminster system of government knew that the fired Minister of Housing - Mr. Kenneth Russell - had signed his own political death warrant

The firing of Kenneth Russell

tribune242 editorial

"THE Cabinet Office announces that the Prime Minister has advised the Governor General that with immediate effect the Minister of Housing the Honourable Kenneth Russell has been relieved of all ministerial responsibilities arising out of conduct by Mr Russell inconsistent with his ministerial duties.

"Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has advised the Governor General to appoint the Hon Neko C Grant as Minister of Housing in addition to his responsibilities as Minister of Works and Transport."

The December 9th Cabinet announcement was terse and to the point. Kenneth Russell, member of parliament for Grand Bahamas' High Rock constituency from 1997 was no longer at the heart of government's decision making.

Mr Russell is obviously a popular FNM representative in his constituency -- winning over his PLP opposition in the 2002 election by 314 votes, and increasing his winning margin by 548 votes in the 2007 election. However, not only was he now out of the Cabinet, but with the reconfiguration of the boundaries, there was no longer a High Rock constituency for him to represent.

Mr Russell was upset that High Rock's name had been obliterated. He made his annoyance known publicly only to be chastised on the floor of the House by the Prime Minister.

On December 8, The Tribune reported that according to reliable sources Mr Russell planned to run in East Grand Bahama -- the name replacing High Rock -- on the FNM ticket despite the party's wishes. Apparently at a party meeting the night before Mr Russell had confirmed that he intended to run in the district, but to a Tribune reporter the next day, he refused to comment on reports that his decision was not supported by Mr Ingraham.

Those of us who understand the parliamentary practice of the Westminster system of government knew that Mr Russell had signed his own political death warrant. The Cabinet announcement, which came the next day, was only a formality.

"Two key interlinked features of Cabinet are collective responsibility and confidentiality," said a paper describing Cabinet protocol. "Members of Cabinet are collectively responsible for the decisions made by Cabinet. While disagreement may be aired within the confines of a Cabinet meeting, it is a convention that Cabinet decisions will be fully and publicly supported by all Ministers, despite any personal views held by individual Ministers. Ministers and any officials are expected to refrain from public comment on matters to be considered by Cabinet. The confidentiality of Cabinet proceedings supports the principle of collective responsibility, by promoting open and free discussion including the airing of dissenting views and compromise."

Their duties are outlined in a Cabinet Handbook.

"Fidelity to Cabinet is seen as critical to maintaining the position of a Minister of the Crown, as Quick and Garran remarked in 1901, 'if any member of the Cabinet seriously dissents from the opinion and policy approved by the majority of his colleagues it is his duty as a man of honour to resign'."

In 1984, after the Commission of Inquiry into drug peddling, Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie, then members of the Pindling Cabinet, made it known of their concern about what was revealed in the inquiry and the corruption in the PLP. So concerned were they that it was rumoured that they had planned to do the honourable thing and resign from Cabinet. Sir Lynden, hearing these rumours, out manoeuvred them and their marching orders were quickly hand delivered. They were both fired from the Cabinet with Mr Ingraham later being expelled from the party.

In Cabinet, the prime minister is described as primus inter pares -- first among equals. He is first because it is his duty to select members for the cabinet with whom he can work and who will support the government's policies. Only the prime minister can hire and fire his Cabinet. From time to time there are Cabinet reshuffles to make certain that the prime minister has around him persons on whom he can rely to carry out government's agenda.

Mr Ingraham is a decisive man. No one would expect him to have done less when confronted with a public show down from one of his Cabinet colleagues. One only has to look to England to understand how ruthless some Cabinet firings can be. Some of those fired over the years were very able men, who had the misfortune of becoming misfits on the Cabinet team.

In sharp contrast, we had the weak leadership of former PLP prime minister Perry Christie, some of whose cabinet ministers were like so many sputniks firing off in all directions. Several of them seemed to be a government unto themselves, each making his own decisions and out on his own mission.

In the end, this can be seen as one of several reasons for his party's defeat -- the chief had lost control of his Cabinet.

December 12, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham on the firing of the Minister of Housing, Kenneth Russell from his Cabinet

PM: Why I fired minister

Tribune Freeport Reporter

BEFORE a packed room of FNM supporters, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday explained in detail why he fired Minister of Housing Kenneth Russell from his Cabinet.

He met with the FNM's High Rock Council and has invited members to put forth at least two names as candidates that the party could consider for the new East Grand Bahama seat in the next general.

Supporters turned out at the Foster Pestaina Hall at Christ the King Church at 4pm to hear from Mr Ingraham.

He was greeted with cheers and applause as he made his way into the auditorium. Also present were Brent Symonette, deputy leader, MP Zhivargo Laing, Senator David Thompson, and former Cabinet Ministers and MPs Maurice Moore, and C A Smith.

Prime Minister Ingraham said he did what any Prime Minister would do to a minister who acted in a manner inconsistent with the Cabinet of the Bahamas.

Mr Ingraham stated that sometime ago, he had sent Brent Symonette, the deputy leader of the FNM, to speak with Ken Russell about stepping aside.

Mr Russell, he said, had sent a message with profanity back with Mr Symonette.

Mr Ingraham said he had chosen Russell to replace Maurice Moore in High Rock, and had appointed him to his Cabinet.

He stated that the party is always in search of new and additional talent and that was the purpose of asking Mr Russell to step aside.

The Prime Minister said he spoke with Mr Russell himself and informed him that after the next election, if the FNM was successful, he did not intend to put him back in Cabinet, and suggested that he step aside so the party can nominate someone else.

"I made him an offer of what will happen for him if he did that. He told me he would get back to me next week," Mr Ingraham said.

The Prime Minister said at a meeting in Grand Bahama, Elkenny Pinder and Mr Russell had questioned him about a proposed project for East Grand Bahama.

Mr Ingraham said the matter was considered by the Government of the Bahamas on four separate occasions, and on each occasion they could not and would not support the project.

"In fact, we would love to have a project like that in Grand Bahama and in the Bahamas, but ... not everybody who comes to the Bahamas and says we got something is somebody who you could trust," he said.

After returning to New Providence, Mr Ingraham withdrew the offer he made to Mr Russell.

"I told him the offer I made last week is hereby withdrawn, because if it wasn't so near to the election, 'I would fire you for what you did,' " he said.

"He (Mr Russell) explained himself but that did not change my view. I told him I decided that he had to tender his resignation."

"He did not tender his resignation and so I dismissed him. Although I dismissed him, he is still my friend," Mr Ingraham said.

Mr Ingraham also said that Mr Russell had made a remark, "Who does Hubert Ingraham think he is?"

"I am the leader of the FNM. You elected me as your leader. I assure you I did what any Prime Minister would do to a minister who acted in a manner inconsistent with Cabinet of the government of the Bahamas.

"There is nothing personal, I did what had to be done," he said.

While in Grand Bahama, Mr Ingraham met with the High Rock, now East Grand Bahama Constituency Council, and invited members to put forward to the party at least two candidates that the party could consider to carry the party's banner in East Grand Bahama in the next general.

"As you know Grand Bahama is important to the FNM. It is important for the FNM to renew itself by bringing in new additional talent.

"Maurice Moore made it possible for Ken Russell; David made it possible for Zhivargo Laing, and I got in Abaco because Charles Bootle made room for me," he explained.

"We want for this election to put forward the best team that we can. In order to do that, some of our members who are now in the House are going to retire.

"Some have asked to go on their own volition, and some are going to be asked not to go again," Ingraham said.

The leader of the FNM said he will unveil to the Bahamas in the coming weeks, the FNM's line up for the next general election.

"I am asking Grand Bahama to continue to support us. We are the best party for Grand Bahama and the best for the Bahamas.

"The evidence of our goodness in Grand Bahama can be seen, heard and touched. Your choice in the general election is going to be very simple, PLP or FNM; Hubert Ingraham or Perry Christie would be Prime Minister of the Bahamas.

"Never mind the noise in market. It is, will be, PLP or FNM. You are in safe hands with the FNM.

"Grand Bahama, we want to inject in our parliament some new blood.

"We ask Grand Bahama to accept the new blood. We want you in GB to select at least two names for the seats in Grand Bahama," the Prime Minister said.

Mr Ingraham said the seats that were reconfigured in Grand Bahama were done in response to the feedback from the people

"We have not reconfigured Marco City and Pine Ridge, we reconfigured those seats for a reason. We listened to your cry in Grand Bahama and much of what we do is in response to what you say," he said.

"There is nothing sinister about what we are doing. We do have your best interest at heart," he told residents of Grand Bahama.

Mr Ingraham then asked supporters to stand in recognition of the late FNM stalwant Ron Darville who died yesterday.

December 12, 2011


Monday, December 12, 2011

Former Housing Minister Kenneth Russell says: Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is a “dictator” who should not be allowed to run the Free National Movement (FNM) as a “one man show”

Russell responds to being fired

Says PM Ingraham a 'dictator'

NG Senior Reporter

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is a “dictator” who should not be allowed to run the Free National Movement as a “one man show”, charged former Housing Minister Kenneth Russell, who was fired from his post yesterday.

The High Rock MP said there was no good reason why he was booted from Ingraham’s Cabinet and told The Nassau Guardian he had exceeded the government’s expectations for the Ministry of Housing.

“If the prime minister decides to fire me for whatever reason, that’s his business, but I don’t consider myself as doing anything wrong to be fired,” Russell said.

“If my push to have business come to Grand Bahama is what caused him to fire me, then so be it.  If my push to get as many houses built and change the Ministry of Housing to a better place is what caused him to fire me, so be it.”

Russell suggested that the only reasonable explanation he could give for his sudden firing was his refusal to leave frontline politics when the prime minister told him to retire.

Russell said Ingraham called him on Monday and told him he was not going to be a part of the FNM’s 2012 election slate.

The MP said he told friends of his displeasure with Ingraham’s plans – something Russell thinks did not go over well with the prime minister.

“The prime minister called me on Monday and indicated that he is not going to run me anymore,” Russell told The Nassau Guardian from Grand Bahama, about an hour after he flew to that island after leaving his former ministry in Nassau.

“I told some of my friends about it and I said to them, ‘I don’t know who the prime minister thinks he is, one man in the party telling me he [isn’t] running me anymore’.

“On Wednesday, he said to me he wanted to see me at his house at 8 o’clock that night.  I couldn’t make it because I was going to a function with the Torchbearers (the FNM’s youth arm).

“On Thursday, I had the opening of the Pride III (subdivision) and the groundbreaking for the other subdivision... He only could see me this morning (Friday).

“So I came to Freeport, had a meeting last night (Thursday) with my executives and I flew back to Nassau this morning.  I walked into his office at about 9:30 (a.m.).

“He said to me, ‘You said to somebody, who I think I [am]?’  He said, ‘I will show you who I am.  Give me your resignation by 12 o’clock.’  I said, ‘Or what?’  He said, ‘Or I will do what I have to do.’  I said, ‘Fine, do what you have to do.’  I shook his hand and left the room.”

Although his firing seems sudden, Russell said he knew more than a year ago that there was a rift between himself and the prime minister.

He added the prime minister’s recent actions were the actions of a tyrant.

“I told the prime minister a year and a half ago that he is still my friend, but obviously he no longer has me as a friend.  The moves that Ingraham has made so far with the boundary cuts and what he told me about he’s not running me anymore and what not, they are moves of a dictator,” Russell said.

“I worked with him a long time and this is the first time I have seen this negative side of him.

“The prime minister was my friend.  In fact, we are related.  The same aunties and uncles he has in Cooper’s Town (Abaco), so do I.

“I don’t know why he turned this way, but I have no problem with it; it’s his choice to make. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, the Lord is always with me, and even though Ingraham would attempt to slay me, I still love him.

“I was surprised at the way he handled this and what he is doing.  He may have justifiable reasons in his mind; I don’t have any.  I thought he was a good leader... I told people [under] the rough exterior he was a compassionate man.

“I told people that Ingraham will give you the shirt off his back if necessary.  I will stand by that for the time being until he proves to me otherwise.”

The MP said he still is a member of the Free National Movement and plans to apply for a nomination on the party’s ticket for the new East Grand Bahama constituency.

“The FNM is my party.  I’ve been there from the beginning and I will continue to work with the FNM, and I intend to seek the nomination of the East Grand Bahama constituency for the FNM in the next general election,” Russell said.

As for what he will do if he is not selected as an FNM candidate, Russell said: “I will cross that bridge when I get to it.  Right now I am the FNM member of Parliament for the High Rock constituency and I will be seeking the FNM nomination for the new Eastern Grand Bahama constituency.

“We have the right to apply.  It should be no one man show, one man selecting who the candidates are.  The candidate’s committee and the council of the Free National Movement should be selecting the candidates for the FNM party.”

Russell said he plans to be in Parliament when it meets Monday, but does not know where he will sit.  Prior to his firing, he sat next to Ingraham.

Earlier this week, a defiant Russell — a member of Parliament for 15 years — said his party could lose thousands of votes if he is not renominated.

Yesterday afternoon, the Cabinet Office announced that Russell had been relieved of his ministerial responsibilities because of conduct inconsistent with his duties.

Minister of Works and Transport Neko Grant has assumed Russell’s portfolio.

Dec 10, 2011