25 April 2002
It is as usual an honour to speak to you this evening
on what is perhaps the last time that I shall mount a public platform in
this campaign. I am always happy to join my colleagues Glenys Hanna
Martin, Dr. Elliston Rahming and of course the man of the hour Ron Pinder.
I think he is running a fine campaign and I look forward to seeing him
in the halls of Parliament after 2nd May 2002. That will be a great
day for him and for his family and of course for the PLP. He will
be the new Marathon Man.
That is what the PLP is all about. It has made it possible for men and women of ordinary means to seek to represent their country in the highest forum in the land. I support his candidacy unreservedly and I urge you to support Ron Pinder in the next general election.
Tonight we are just one week away from the General Election and so we are down to serious business. I remember Bermuda in November 1998 and what a taxi driver said to me as the PLP faced the election there. He said we must save Bermuda if Bermudians are to have chance to survive. We must elect the PLP he said.
And having said that the people of Bermuda, our sisters and brothers in the PLP in Bermuda elected the PLP to office for the first time in 35 years of trying.
And so tonight I say the same to you. If The Bahamas is to be saved from ruin and its values and its people saved from further denigration and insults, we must vote PLP this time. Now more than ever we need the PLP. The PLP is the nationalist party. It will intervene to protect Bahamians, putting Bahamians first.
This crosses the racial divide. Indeed when it comes to the suffering that the FNM has put on the Bahamian people, it knows no class, race or religious distinctions. Behold all have suffered and fallen short under the Free National Movement.
In our constituency of Fox Hill, we know of the story of a plumbing business owned by a Bahamian family of many generations. In two years, they have lost eighty per cent of their business to Canadian plumbers. They have appealed to the Immigration Department, to the Minister of Immigration, to the Prime Minister. All of their appeals have fallen on deaf ears. They have almost lost their business. I told them hold on just a little bit longer because help is on the way in the men and women and the values of the PLP.
My brothers and sisters donít you think that it is obscene the way the FNM has been throwing money around on advertising over the past weeks. They have not learned the lessons of overkill that the Bahamian people sought to teach them in the referendum. After a certain point there is something called the law of diminishing returns. And that is what has happened to FNM advertising. People are simply so sick of it, especially this stupid jingle about Tommy T. The little kids are singing, Tommy T, stink of pee.
Here you have a situation where people are losing their homes because they canít pay mortgages, people are hungry because they canít buy food and people are in need generally. Yet in the face of that the FNM can spend 1000 dollars or more on a full page ad in a newspaper that is going to be thrown away the day after it is issued. One Thursday, we counted 23 pages of advertising by the FNM in one newspaper.
I saw the other day, Lady Edith Turnquest on a public platform. She is the charming and beautiful mother of Tommy Turnquest. But she served this country not a short while ago as the wife of the Governor General and first lady of the country, a neutral political figure. No other Governor General or former Governor Generalís wife has engaged actively in a political campaign. There is no law that prevents it but it would seem to me a prudent thing to protect the independence of the Office of Governor General for both the occupant of the office and the former occupants of the office to forswear any political engagement whatsoever. It is said that Sir Orville is now appearing at some partisan political functions.
It is part of what is an insensitivity to the proper way in one has to treat the office of Governor General. Once you take on that office, you in effect give up or sacrifice your right to take part in the partisan political debate for life.
I notice too that my opponent Juanianne Dorsett published in the newspaper yesterday a photo on page 8 of The Tribune in which she stood with the Governor General to present the Josiah Awards in Fox Hill. Those awards went to deserving citizens of Fox Hill. And we in the PLP pledge to support those awards. But we found it curious that the photos appeared almost two months after the picture was taken, and in the middle of a political campaign. The photo appeared to be calculated to influence the election during the official campaign by using the Governor Generalís office to indicate some stamp of approval on the candidate who stood with the Governor General and the awardees.
I am satisfied that it is also arguable that the publishing of the photo was designed to have some political effect in Fox Hill by giving the impression that the persons in the photo support her politically. Well they might but she should not put them in the position of having to even discuss the issue. The political persuasion of each man or woman is their private business and only public if they wish it to be so. Private information means information that you own about yourself and about which you have or ought to have the absolute control over the release of that information. I blame the representative. She should not have put anyone in that position at this time in the middle of a political battle. And so my opponent has brought the Governor General into a political battle.
Further, I believe that in the future as a matter of policy Government House ought to control the release of photos taken at Government House so that the office of Governor General is protected in the future from that kind of abuse.
Today was the vote for the armed forces and the Parliamentary Commissionersí workers. I can tell you that I believe that the civil service voted in general today to oust the present Government. That would seem to be the logical result of the outrage in so many quarters from prison officers to defence officers to teachers to police officers over the shameless attempt by the Government to use the tax payers' money, the money of civil servants to attempt to bribe them into voting for the FNM by giving them raises and back pay, twenty four hours before they were scheduled to vote. Once again, this is an obscenity, which must not stand. And it is a great pity that the Leaders of the FNM cannot in some way be found criminally culpable for this abuse of treasury funds.
I am concerned of course about the state of the Treasury. We have at least one public official on record as saying that we have a short fall of 100,000,000 dollars in revenue for this fiscal year. That is the reason why so many bills canít be paid by the government, except the ones that are being used to attempt to bribe voters.
The overdraft of the Government is stretched to the hilt at the Royal Bank of Canada, as the Government scraps to find monies to pay salaries every month. That is what the PLP will find when it comes to office. And could this economic crunch and dependence on the Royal Bank of Canada be the reason why the Government is unable to intervene and assist the employees of the Royal Bank of Canada who are being dismissed in a secret down sizing exercise as we speak, without appropriate notice and satisfactory compensation?
A Government that knows how to stand up for Bahamians and not afraid that their cheques will bounce would be able to intervene on behalf of these employees. We understand that the present area manager has come with the specific mission of downsizing the bank. One third of the jobs of Royal Bank in the Bahamas are to go. There are some 300 employees in The Bahamas. That means 100 jobs are to go. Our information also is that the Bank has been leaving notes on employeesí desks after they have gone out to lunch and terminating them forthwith. This is not an appropriate way for the Bank to do business.
Banking employees should be aware of what is coming. Because a similar thing is about to happen in CIBC and Barclays as they downsize to fit into an en entity called First Caribbean. Is it not strange that the Government of The Bahamas has not had one word to say about this major change in the banking market in The Bahamas?
A PLP government will at least care. It will at least express concern. But it seeks to do more. By means of public policy it hopes to be able to engage in a true tripartite relationship with labour and employees for the betterment of our country,
And so as we go to the polls on 2 May, the choice is really clear to us. That choice is PLP all the way! I thank you and good night.