Monday, August 20, 2012

No 100-Day Victory for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) as Many Problems Loom

No 100-Day Victory As Many Problems Loom

Tribune242 Editorial

DESPITE the PLP’s promises of a better Bahamas at the end of its first 100 days in office, crime continues to dominate the headlines. Running a close second are accusations that FNM supporters in key government positions are being victimised. And, of course, Prime Minister Christie, determined for government to become the major shareholder in BTC, is moving full steam ahead for a meeting with Cable & Wireless sometime before month’s end. He has named his negotiating team. He has also announced that former Prime Minister Ingraham’s plans to sell the public a percentage of government’s shares in the telecommunications company has been cancelled.

And so, the possibility of Bahamians owning shares in “their” BTC is no more. However, their ownership will be a figment of the imagination as they ostensibly will own BTC through the PLP government, who will have the final word, with Bahamians having no say. Mr Geoff Houston, BTC’s CEO, must be mystified about the PLP government’s intentions because under Cable & Wireless’ administration government’s profits for its 49 per cent ownership has almost doubled to what it was when it owned and managed the whole company.

We all know that no sensible investor would have bought BTC with government as a controlling partner. Bahamians have evidence that no government corporation in this country has ever succeeded because of political interference. At last one corporation has escaped government’s clutches, and if it is to have any future it is up to Bahamians to make certain that government gets no further control.

Mr Christie told the press that although BTC executives were going to try to talk him into agreeing with them, his difficulty was that it was not what he thought. “It’s what the people who voted for me think and I can’t go back to them and tell them that maybe the next four to five years.”

When on the campaign trail did Mr Christie make BTC an election issue? All we heard about was urban renewal, reduction of crime, mortgage assistance, health benefits and the like. We do not think that those who voted for the PLP had BTC on their mind. Maybe Mr Christie is answerable to a small group within his political party and among the unions, but, it would be hard for him to prove that he was given the green light by the general electorate.

But today the issue is ZNS and the way the news staff are being handled there. It is reported that they are to be removed from the nightly news slots so that the station can “beef up” coverage. Apparently, it is claimed that ZNS is loosing traction to private radio stations. This country can thank former prime minister Hubert Ingraham and the FNM for this freedom to express themselves as the party celebrates its 20th anniversary of removing the government of the late Sir Lynden Pindling in 1992. It was because of the disgraceful performance of the government owned corporation under the PLP, which silenced the voice of the Opposition, that one of Mr Ingraham’s first acts on becoming prime minister was to open the airwaves and give the Bahamian people their democratic right to free speech.

Now that the PLP are back in power they intend to reform their radio station. Those inside the corporation have called it a case of “blatant political victimisation.”

It is claimed that those who are being reassigned to other positions are perceived to be FNM, two of them being punished because they covered the FNM rallies during the May election. If this accusation is true, it is shocking. A reporter has no say in what story he is assigned to cover. Imagine a Tribune reporter refusing to cover a PLP function, because he is FNM. He would be headed towards the door so fast for insubordination that he wouldn’t know what hit him. In fact we do not know the political sympathies of any of our reporters, nor do we care. Our only concern is that they are competent reporters and bring that competence to every assignment they are sent to cover.

One of our reporters has been told by a ZNS insider that some ZNS managers have been overheard threatening reporters. “You gonna get what’s coming to you. We will deal with you,” they have been quoted as saying.

If this is true the corporation should be shut down. Bahamians should protest that their tax dollars are supporting a station that would employ such unprofessional managers.

As the Broadcasting Corporation is supported by the public purse, Bahamians are entitled to know whether this displaced staff is being replaced by competent professionals, or just a group of political toadies.

Where is the voice of Obie Wilchcombe, PLP MP for West End and Bimini, who in the past could be depended on to defend the Fourth Estate, having at one time been on the staff of the Broadcasting Corporation.

However, thanks to Mr Ingraham and the FNM, persons like MP Fred Mitchell and others will not have to fly to Miami to broadcast to their constituents in Nassau because they were banned from the PLP controlled ZNS. They were the days when Mr Mitchell had nothing good to say about Sir Lynden or his government. Today, Bahamians will always have a voice and can express their views on a variety of talk shows in an open and free broadcast market. ZNS is no longer an essential service. And as such we should not have to pay for its upkeep.

A message sent to Tribune242 invites Bahamians to “take a look at what’s happening at BEC…staff there are on pins and needles! People to this day are afraid they’ll lose their job because they attend FNM rallies! That’s just insane.” And Bahamians were told to “ask anyone who works at BTC what is happening there since the PLP took office. It is difficult to understand how this type of behaviour can be so blatant. It is not just the PLP it is the Bahamian political way and will keep the Bahamas back for as long as patronage is accepted.”

And so, instead of celebrating achievements in their first 100 days, the PLP are being accused of “blatant victimisation.” And as for the promised reduction in crime — thanks to Urban Renewal — although the police are fighting hard, it seems that in some areas it’s a losing battle. So it’s no sense for officialdom to try to hide the crime figures, people who live in the communities know the truth.

August 20, 2012