REMARKS BY SENATOR FRED MITCHELL
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY CONVENTION
TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2000
MARRIOTT CRYSTAL PALACE
††††††††††† Mister Session Chair, Mister Party Leader and Mrs. Christie, Mister Party Chair, fellow delegates, my brothers and sisters.† I am glad to say to you tonight that I am still standing.† And I am standing better than I ever did.† Feeling like a true survivor. I am still standing. I want to thank all of you for your continued support of my efforts on your behalf.† I want especially to thank the PLP for its nomination in the next General Election for the Fox Hill constituency.† I want to thank the people of the Fox Hill constituency for their continued support. You will meet some of them later tonight. And I promise you that I shall use my best endeavours to win that constituency for the PLP.
††††††††††† Tonight it is my main job to report to you on my shadow Cabinet responsibilities in the areas Labour, Foreign Affairs and Immigration.† You know as I do that they are central concerns of the Bahamian people at this time.† I will address each in turn.†† I will also try to say what the PLPís position would be if we were the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas as I expect it to be in not so short a time.
††††††††††† But first to some important political matters.† I am from the activist wing of the Progressive Liberal Party.† I have spent all of my political life fighting for acceptance of my political beliefs and ideas. These ideas centre around a liberal democracy with tolerance of all views and protection of the rights of the individual.
†Since 1984, I have been an Opposition supporter. Since that time, my life has been that of an activist.† And I believe that the PLP should be an activist Opposition. But that is not the only view inn our party, and you are fortunate because there is pluralism of views on how to approach political problems.† My way is my way but it is not the only way. Sometimes diplomacy is necessary but other times street action is needed.
††††††††††† I have told my colleagues in the Senate who are members of the Free National Movement that if their Leader Hubert Ingraham wants to hear a cheering squad, he can look to his backbench.† Do not look to me.† It is not my job.† My job is to oppose him with every fibre of my being. That is the PLPís job.† So tonight do not look to me for praise for what they do.† Politics between the PLP and FNM is an adversarial business. And thatís the way itís been and thatís the way itís gonna be.† Not destructive, but adversarial.† That means the system works out of the cut and thrust of the adversarial process. That is the dynamism of our democracy.
††††††††††† And a kindred spirit in this effort is the great Bradley Roberts, the PLP Member of Parliament for Grants Town who has done a yeomanís job as a standard bearer for the PLP in the tradition of Sir Milo Butler.† His most recent charges against the Free National Movement Government on what they knew and when on the question of drug trafficking in Long Island are to be taken seriously.† I have personally seen and inspected what is going on down there. It must be taken seriously.
††††††††††† I support Mr. Robertsís disclosures in the House of Assembly without qualification although I accept his expressions of regret to the US Ambassador on the DEA agents.† I support him two thousand per cent.† I brook no argument on the point. I am not going to be led down a false and errant path of the smokescreen propaganda of the FNM on this point.†† Donít confuse me with foolishness about names that should not have been released. Just speak to the central allegations: did the FNM know that the tourist project in Long Island might have been related to drug trafficking, when did they know it and if they did why did they approve the project.† PLPs should not be drawn into false arguments.† The FNM is on trial here. Simply answer the question: what did you know about the connection of drug trafficking in Long Island to the project in Long Island.† Bradley Roberts owes no further explanation to them. And neither do we.† It is Hubert Ingraham, the FNM, Frank Watson and the security apparatus, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency who have serious answers to give to the Bahamian people about what is happening in Long Island.
ARE YOU BETTER OFF TODAY
††††††††††† We must ask ourselves the question tonight as PLPs and as citizens of The Bahamas this question often asked in the United States of America: are you better off today than when the FNM came to power in 1992?† Before answering that question, I think we need to put some issues before the Bahamian people.
††††††††††† You will remember that just before the plug got pulled on the Prime Minister last Friday night, he made the comment that people in general have very short memories.† But I say not so short Mister Prime Minister that they do not remember all the pride that swelled in their chests as they recalled the kind of country The Bahamas was designed to be under your predecessor.† This was a country in which Bahamians knew that they were in charge, where Immigration laws were certain and sure in favour of Bahamianization.† This was a country in which Bahamians knew that their land was not being sold out from under them at any and every price, so that to day people are afraid that Bahamians will not be able to afford land in their own country.† The PLP protected The Bahamas for Bahamians.
††††††††††† What we see today is a lot of money in the air, a lot of talk about money in the air. But the middle class of The Bahamas feels displaced and uncertain about the future.† Ask the middle Managers of Sun International how many of them feel like slaves on the job, unable to be promoted to jobs that they know that they can do, doing the work but not getting the pay.† Ask the people at Mr. Ruffinís Marriott Crystal Place Hotel where Bahamian workers feel like second class citizens, where racism seems to be a part of the official policy of the company. In one case a woman, a Black Bahamian was fired because the supervisor did not like the fact that she had her natural African hair plaited in braids. The FNM has fostered the kind of atmosphere that allows that to happen in our country today.
††††††††††† Think about all of the high technology about which the FNM boasts, ladies and gentlemen.† Try driving to your home in South Beach or Carmichael Road at 6 p.m. I had to laugh when I saw that pathetic defensive speech by the Prime Minister on Saturday night in which he listed as one of his accomplishments the solving of the traffic problem on Bay Street by reversing the traffic. Just exactly where does Hubert Ingraham live?† He canít be talking about the same Bay Street and the same traffic that we encounter.† The traffic reversal has been a disaster.
Try getting to Bay Street at 1 p.m. Try reaching a friend on your cellular phone. The delays in traffic during the daytime are intolerable.† The access to the cell phone network is fifty per cent of the time impossible.†† The internet systems are half the time inaccessible.
††††††††††† How about trying to travel within and out of The Bahamas.† It does not matter whether it is Bahamasair or American Eagle.† The service is lousy, lousy, lousy.† The planes are small and uncomfortable and cramped.† But all of that would be acceptable if you could simply plan a schedule by one of these airlines.† It is difficult to do so; they are late whenever you fly on them.† I have never seen such a state where airlines are constantly apologizing for late arrivals and departures.† It has in fact cramped my agreeing to travel within the Bahamas.† The service by Bahamasair is so poor and the delays so frequent that it simply is not worth the headache and degradation of self to travel on the airline.† It is a disgrace.†† But I have a choice to stay home.† What about those who have to travel between the islands.
Of course, the FNM are masters at self-delusion and self-congratulations and outright lying in so many things. I heard the Prime Minister saying it is better look around. But I say to him better for whom? For him and his conies, but look around Mr. Prime Minister. Can you really tell us with a straight and bold face that Bahamasair is getting better?† It is an outrage, a disgrace and there is no other thing to do but to call it what it is.†
††††††††††† †These are quality of life issues that must be addressed, and if the PLP were the Government, the first thing that would be done is to put in place legislation that would reassure the Bahamian people that The Bahamas is for Bahamians. There is no more burning question.
There is a construction project near to South Ocean called Sun Valley. The Bahamian workers at the project Sun Valley near South Ocean that Canadians are doing dry wall construction and plumbing taking jobs away from Bahamians. In Lyford Cay, a Bahamian businessman reports that a Canadian plumber is taking jobs from a Bahamian business. He has written to the Department of Immigration to no avail. It is time for high profile visits by the Department of Immigration to these construction sites to see what is going on there.† But we know from the experience of the Bahamians in Freeport that this Government condones the use of foreign labour even where Bahamian skills are available. It is as if they despise the people that elected them.
†Work permit violations would lessen under the PLP. And certainly I were your Minister for Immigration, it would be stopped dead in its tracks.
††††††††††† As far as a land policy is concerned there must be a middle way between the draconian measures of the old Immovable Properties Act and the loose act now in place by the FNM the International Persons Land Holding Act.† That middle way would be preserve certain classes of land for Bahamians and to reduce the acreage that would require a permit for the purchase by non-Bahamians.† Further the double stamp duty on property transactions by non-nationals ought to also be re-introduced. These are my personal opinions. But at the very least as a matter of policy, it should be made more difficult for Bahamian land to be alienated from Bahamians and sold to non-Bahamians.
THE SEARCH FOR CAPITAL BY BAHAMIANS
††††††††††† I know the story of one of the most successful businessmen in this country.† He has assets that are conservatively valued over three million dollars.† His fortunes have waxed and waned in The Bahamas.† He is committed to this country in every way.† He has no where to go.† He used to be one of Shellís major dealers in The Bahamas but no more.† Today he is out of that business, largely because of a disastrous time when Shell without admitting to its dealer had difficulties and market share fell.† Shell until this year refused to recognize the problem. Today thank God due to the marketing expertise of a young Bahamian that fall in market share by Shell has turned around. But then they kept denying the problem. Our businessmanís revenues fell dramatically. When this happened, a cash flow crunch developed and he looked to his bank at the time CIBC for assistance.† They turned him down flat. They spoke to him in discourteous terms.† Even in the face of clear and compelling evidence of over collateralized loans, they refused to listen to his proposals.† He turned to the Royal Bank of Canada.† He describes what happened there as a travesty.† Finally he found some solace in courteous banking at the Scotiabank.† But I am sure some businessmen have horror stories to tell about Scotiabank as well.
††††††††††† Then there is the Bahamas Development Bank that also engages in over collateralization, interest rates that are too high and too much bureaucracy.† Or the small businessman who needs a micro loan, under $5000 for his convenience store in Fox Hill, and canít get a help wheresoever he turns.† This at a time when there is supposed to be liquidity in the system, when the banks are paying interest rates that are too low on deposits, and the stock market is supposed to be booming in The Bahamas.
††††††††††† We need to address for our people the shortage of capital in the country for small business.† And we need to implement a comprehensive piece of consumer legislation to further regulate the domestic practices of banks in terms of fees charged, due care and consideration of applications for loans and a legal requirement for answers to requests on a timely basis, full and frank explanations on how interest rates are arrived at. The banks should be encouraged to do this voluntarily but if they do not act voluntarily some consideration needs to be given on mandating collateralization requirements.
††††††††††† The complaints are legion and a number of Bahamian businessmen led by Ken Perigord intend to request a meeting with the Governor of the Central Bank to address these issues on a volunteer front instead of seeking legislation. A public campaign is to follow if there is not action.† And legislation must come if the banks do not heed the call to reform their behavior.†
††††††††††† But it leads me to discussing the question of Bahamianization.† Bahamianization of this economy is being stymied because of the lack of an accessible capital market for small businessmen.† We live in a banking community that is risk averse with extreme prejudice.† The banks go only with winners.† That is bad for the Bahamian businessmen.
† ††††††††† I think that one way to deal with this problem is to adjust our immigration policies.† I would ask my colleagues and you to approve an immigration policy to allow non-nationals to be able to enter into joint ventures by way of loans to businesses in this country now reserved for Bahamians only.† It is the only way in my view to break the stranglehold and monopoly that the clearinghouse banks now have on the capitalization of business opportunities in this country.
††††††††††† But we must also ensure that businessmen and women must know that there is a moral and ethical obligation to repay.† And we must make our court system more responsive to the collection of debts.† Presently the system is in a shambles and is another national disgrace. Under my proposal to colleagues, I would allow non-nationals who enter into joint ventures by providing capital to Bahamians, access by work permits to the country to ensure that they can protect their investments.
††††††††††† This evening, there are six policy questions which I have asked the people of the Fox Hill constituency to put to me as Opposition spokesman on Labour, Foreign Affairs and Immigration that I would like to answer for you.† They will each come to the microphone in their turn to ask their questions and then I will answer the question.† The first is Larry Wilmott, the Chairman of the PLP Branch in the Fox Hill constituency. Mr. Wilmott.
SENATOR MITCHELL, THE PLP HAS A LONG HISTORY OF INVOLVEMENT WITH THE LABOUR UNIONS IN THE BAHAMAS. IS THAT STILL TRUE TODAY? WHAT IS THE POLICY OF THE PLP ON THE LABOUR UNIONS IN THE BAHAMAS?
††††††††††† The PLP believes that labour is most important to this country. It is important for improving the terms and conditions of employment but unions are also most important to the general health and well being of our democracy. Your shadow Cabinet has accepted that principle as a matter of PLP policy.†††
While the PLP appreciates that there have to be changes in labour laws of the country to update them and make them more responsive to the needs of worker in the modern business climate, we do not agree with the way that the FNM is dealing with the trade union leaders, nor with the business leaders.† We find the Prime Ministerís conduct distasteful and high- handed.† We would achieve new labour legislation by consensus.† In other words, we would encourage the working of a true tripartite arrangement: labour, employers and government.† That process has broken down under the FNM.† In the PLP, I am in the process of proposing a Labour review committee composed of trade unions and party members to advise the Leader from time to time on important labour questions in the country.† We think that the Minister of Labour has not acted with speed and determination to deal with the labour problems and that he is in fact not allowed to do so by the Prime Minister who has usurped the Ministerís authority over the portfolio.† As Opposition spokesman on Labour I meet and speak regularly with labour leaders Duke Hanna and Obie Ferguson and the leaders of their respective affiliates including Pat Bain the new and dynamic President of the Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union.† Under the PLP there will be a national minimum wage.† But more importantly both labour and employers can know that were I the Minister of Labour they a have friend who will listen. And in Perry Christie they will have a Prime Minister who will not interfere in the minutia of every decision.† Decisions will be made in the best interests of the country.† But there will be no high handed and bombastic decisions, no insults thrown at labour leaders and the leaders of business.
††††††††††† Right now relations are so bad between labour leaders and the Prime Minister that the Unions have concluded that it will only take a change of Government to solve the problems they face.† Remember how the Prime Minister failed to settle a legitimate judgment in favour of Phiora Clarke. There are outstanding disputes with the BEC Manager Union, the BaTelCo Managers Union and the BaTelCo Line Staff Union.†† The BEC Managerís Union has been working without a contract for three years and management refuses to meet.† The Prime Minister refuses to act despite promises to resolve it.† The Minister of Labour is ineffective, and the Courts will not intervene.† Is it any wonder that Mr. Ingraham was plunged into darkness last Friday night?
††††††††††† The next question is from Barbara Smith who lives in the Gleniston Gardens North area of the Fox Hill constituency.
SENATOR MITCHELL, FOREIGN AFFAIRS IS PART OF YOUR SHADOW RESPONSIBILITIES. AREAS INCLUDED IN THIS PORTFOLIO INCLUDE THE WOMENíS DESK, THE PARLIAMENTARY REGISTRARíS OFFICE AND RELATIONS WITH FOREIGN STATES. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT THE PLPíS POLICIES ARE IN THESE THREE AREAS?
Thank you Ms. Smith.
††††††††††† Let me deal with each in turn.† First on the question of the Womenís Desk, I am disappointed that the so-called champion of women Janet Bostwick has not done more for women.† In fact her reputation is like an icon for women but when you examine what she has really done for women, it is more symbolic than real. A lot of noise and fury but nothing to go with it.† I have described her activities as Minister being asleep at the wheel. Where was Janet? Asleep at the wheel. She is the somnambulant Minister of Foreign Affairs.
††††††††††† There should by now have been a comprehensive inheritance act to change the law that the oldest son inherits all the land of someone who dies without a will. And also a law to deal with the inheritance of property where children are born to parents who are not married but whose brothers and sisters can not now inherit from one another if there is not a will. In addition, the law should provide a right of access to children for the fathers of children who are not married to the mothers.
††††††††††† Mrs. Bostwick has not helped the cause of women in that situation.
††††††††††† More broadly though, I will, say that were I the Minister in this area I would certainly move expeditiously to change that law so that women can inherit equally with men when there is no will. But I would also draw the attention of women to the FNMís true record on women.† While it is true that women have been promoted to areas of prominence and are doing great credit to the country, you have to ask why the professions of teaching and nursing where women are in the main the workers, the salaries lag behind those of men, and the FNM refuses to address that general salary issue. What about policies to ensure that offices donít empty at 3 p.m. because women have to leave their jobs to pick up children from school and then often have to bring their children to the work place at the end of the day because they have no where to keep the children.
What has Mrs. Bostwick done to assist in that situation? Nothing!† I would support public policy to deal with that.† So when women go to the polls they ought to think about that.
††††††††††† More generally, however, in this area of public policy, I will tell you the story of a young man who asked me a question about the Governmentís policy on women. He asked me whether or not I resented the policy of the advancement of women and did I embrace it or reject it.† I told him, I did not resent it.† I told him that I embraced the advancement of women.†† He expressed himself clearly.† He was 24 years old and he said that he resented it and he did not embrace it.† He believed that the Government as a matter of policy was demonizing young Black males, turning the police on them. And quiet frankly it is a feeling expressed by a number of young men in The Bahamas today.
††††††††††† What the Government must be careful of in all its pronouncements is that it does not promote gender wars.† The fact is that both genders must survive and work together in the country.† People are always asking where are the young men in the country. One morning you take a ride around the island at 6 a.m. and see the young men going to work.† They are building the buildings, the infrastructure that we occupy.† They lay the telephone lines, the electricity poles. They fix the cars. They install and maintain the air conditioning units.† ZNS TVís technical division, the cameramen, the technical producers, the engineers are men. The young men are at work.
††††††††††† The FNM must then be faulted for giving a false impression to the country that young men are no good and are not working to build the country.† And this must stop.† Under a PLP Government, I would suggest that both genders be given equal attention. We must upgrade the Womenís Desk to a Department of Womenís Affairs, to eliminate the remaining vestiges of discrimination of women in our laws.†† But in particular we must seek to find out on the academic side, on the side of the social skills why the young boys are not keeping up academically with the young girls.† It is a public policy problem that must be examined and solved. You young men and women when you go to the polls, you remember that it is the PLP that is dedicated to real gender equality in this country.† It is not the PLPís philosophy to put the police on young men, to lock them up and throw away the key.† Men and women must work together to build our Bahamas.
††††††††††† I turn now to the Parliamentary Registrarís office.† I have the experience of trying to get a copy of the Register of voters for Fox Hill on disc, in electronic form.† It has been a total and absolute failure.† Why this is not possible I do not know. But the PLP would change that situation.† The registration procedures ought to be made simpler and more accessible.† But the most important issue in connection with elections has to do with reform of the boundaries process. In Fox Hill we suffered because at the last minute in an act of personal spite, a major part of Fox Hill proper was put in the Montagu constituency, effectively disenfranchising voters of that area of Fox Hill. The representative for the Montagu area William Allen has no affinity to the people of Congo Town in Fox Hill.† His allies live on the Eastern Road.† So it was totally unfair.† Issues of that sort have to be corrected.† It is still possible for acts of personal spite that are worse than ever when it comes to this candidate and the leader of the FNM and those acts of spite can motivate changes in the boundaries. I traveled to England at the expense of the UK Government last year. I have seen how the process can properly work and I can suggest to the PLP what an independent commission ought to be and one that allows for input from voters before the final draft order is presented to Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition has also spoken about the need for publicly financed campaigns and limiting foreign contributions to Bahamian campaigns.
††††††††††† On the question of foreign policy, our policy is still that of the Covenant for the 1997 General election.† We maintain in the PLP adherence to a primary relationship that of our relations with the United States of America.† After that it is our relationship with the Commonwealth Caribbean or CARICOM, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.† We support the policy of one` China and agree that the recognition of main land China is the proper thing to do. But we do not support the unification of China with Taiwan by military means.
††††††††††† Recently, we expressed our concern to the United States Ambassador about remarks made by him in a public forum directed at the PLPís Bradley Roberts.† It is our view that those remarks were inappropriate by an Ambassador and we said so.† We believe that it was incumbent upon the Government to say so.†† And were we the Government we would have said so.
††††††††††† We are also concerned about our relations with Cuba.† It is our view that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has consistently dropped the ball on issues involving Bahamians in Cuba.† The PLP assisted earlier this year and last year in promoting the freedom of Bahamians in Cuba but Bahamians remain there.† They do not have consular access in Cuba.† And we believe given the state of tourism with Cuba and The Bahamas with so many Bahamians travelling there, marrying Cuban women, going there for education and medical care, there needs to be a resident diplomat from The Bahamas in Cuba.† This is yet another indication that Janet Bostwick has dropped the ball on Cuba.† Where was Janet? Fast asleep at the wheel.
††††††††††† We are particularly concerned that we now have large numbers of Bahamian students in Cuba.† We note the concerns of Bahamians and Americans that this is not a desirable state of affairs and it is not. But the fact is that many people are getting an opportunity to get a quality education in Cuba that this country does not provide. The United States, Britain and Canada have refused to step up to the plate to provide education assistance and loans.† The Government has fallen down on the job by providing inadequate funding for scholarships. The Government also gives inadequate support to the University of the West Indies. They have now run out of money for this year to underwrite any loans at banks for Bahamians wishing to study abroad.
††††††††††† You should know that the present programme of the Government to underwrite loans at the Bank of The Bahamas found its genesis in my campaign of 1997 and was actively promoted by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly.† Once Mr. Christie said it, the FNM quickly announced that they would do it.† This programme is an example of how an Opposition party can be successful.†
††††††††††† I believe that nothing points out the failure of the FNMís foreign policy than the problem that our financial services sector now faces.† The FNM, its Prime Minister, its Minister of Finance, its Minister of Foreign Affairs were all asleep at the wheel.† They allowed this country to get on a black list and when caught in a problem they quickly said that they did not agree to the terms and conditions of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development earlier because they did not want to erode our competitive advantage, That is a lousy excuse, made up after the fact out of embarrassment,† the truth is that they have together put this country at risk.† Already, the figures indicate that the mutual fund industry in this country is in trouble.† On the domestic front, housing starts are dwindling and the money liquidity in the banking system has decreased according to reports from the Central Bank. The signs of a recession are coming, and the FNM keeps crowing about what a good job they are going.† They have failed in our foreign relations.† The PLP would open a consulate in Havana, upgrade the Embassy in Haiti to include labour and intelligence personnel. And each embassy would have full time political and economic trade advisors.
The next question is by Charlene Curry.
SENATOR MITCHELL, IN THE FOX HILL AREA WE HAVE MANY COMPLAINTS ABOUT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS MAINLY HAITIANS SETTLING ON PROPERTIES AND BUILDING WITHOUT HAVING PROPER PERMISSION. YOU HAVE SPOKEN ABOUT THE AFFECT OF HAITIANS ON THE BAHAMIAN COMMUNITY WHAT IS THE PLPíS POLICY ON HAITI?
††††††††††† First I wish to recognize the contribution that foreign workers make to the development of this country.† There are many who make a legitimate contribution.† But were this Spokesman on Immigration, the Minister of Immigration he would be a law and order Minister.† Illegal immigration must be stamped out at all levels, not just at the level of the labourer but also at the level of the professionals who are coming here from developed countries and unfairly competing with Bahamians for jobs.† On every job site in this country in this hands off attitude of the FNM, there are complaints of foreign nationals taking jobs that Bahamians can do and are superseding Bahamians on the job and treating Bahamians with disrespect.† I have already adverted to the practices of the Marriott Crystal Palace.† And someone needs to have a word with the owner of the hotel about the way he treats his staff. Investigations need to be done at other establishments as well where there are similar complaints of how non-nationals are treating Bahamians.† The fact is that the Haitian labourer is not the only illegal immigrant.† Every year thousands of workers from the developed countries come to The Bahamas but because their skin is a different colour than Haitians, they go un-bothered and unnoticed.† They set up work and compete in the engineering, field in construction, in architecture and in printing.
††††††††††† As far as the Haitian illegal immigrant is concerned, the PLP wants the base of the Defence Force strengthened in Matthew Town, Inagua and increased air surveillance at Matthew Town to spot and turn back boats on the seas coming from Haiti.† We want greater international bilateral efforts to solve Haitiís political situation.† In fact with President Jean Bertrand Aristide about to win the elections again, we need to know what his Government plans to stop the illegal immigration. The PLP believes that our diplomatic presence in Haiti ought to be beefed up to provide greater intelligence to determine who is doing the smuggling from Haiti and bring them to justice for doing so.† Lastly, we need a treaty to provide for the import of workers to this country by quotas in the same way that Bahamians went to the US to work on the contract.
††††††††††† Lastly, our position is that Mrs. Dawn Marshall, the sister of Acting Justice Thompson, who now lives in Barbados, did an excellent study on the Haitian problem in 1977, ought to be invited back to the country to update her study and make recommendations on how Haitians are affecting the sociology of the country whether for good or ill and what we ought to do as a matter of public policy to solve this difficult problem.† I believe it is a time bomb begging to explode.
The next question is to be asked by Deidre Rolle of the Sans Sounce are of the Fox Hill Constituency.
SENATOR MITCHELL, YOU HAVE MADE A COMMENT ABOUT THE POST OFFICE THAT IS PART OF THE LABOUR MINISTRY, PART OF YOUR SHADOW PORTFOLIO. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOUR CONCERN ABOUT THE POST OFFICE IS?
Thousands of Bahamian businessmen and other citizens still depend on the Post Office for communication with their customers and many mothers and fathers with their children overseas.† But by far the most important usage of the Post Office is for mail by businessmen.†† The mail is slow and unreliable.† The service has deteriorated steadily over the years, and the government is not paying attention to the service provided by the Post Office.† The Minister has refused to answer the criticism made by your spokesman.† It is typical of Ministers under the Free National Movement.† Instead, they set up a situation where a public servant is forced to respond to a policy and political matter.† The Post Master responded to my criticism about slow and unreliable mail saying that this is the best the system has never been.† That is simply not true.† The fact is that it routinely takes 13 days for mail to get from here to the family islands and to and from the United States.† The fact is that mail within New Providence is sometimes taking ten days or more to get from one box to another and there is too high a level of mis-sorts.† These issues need to be addressed.† They cannot be willed away.† The Post Office in The Bahamas and the Post Office in Barbados are the only two Post Offices in the Caribbean that have not been privatized.† It has been recognized that this is the best and most efficient way to preserve the level of the service that most people would expect from the Post Office.† It is my recommendation that that is the way we should go.† This would allow computerization and increased automation of the post office.† I also believe that there should be delivery to every oneís address instead of the reliance on the Post Office.† However, this is contrary to the present advice on the issue by those who presently run the Post Office. But I hasten to add that privatization under the PLP will not mean butchering the labour force like the FNM did to BaTelCo.† Change will come through consultation not confrontation.†
Evangelist Irene Rolle of the central part of the Fox Hill Constituency asks the next question.
SENATOR MITCHELL, MANY PEOPLE SAY THAT THE PLP DOES NOT ADDRESS THE ISSUES AND IS NOT COMMENTING ON WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SAYS.† I THINK THAT WE DONíT HEAR OR READ ENOUGH ABOUT WHAT THE PLP IS DOING.† WHAT ARE YOUR COMMENTS ON THAT?
I think that all of us have heard the complaints and I believe all of us who are considered leaders of the PLP wish to respond to those complaints.†† But one thing that PLPs must appreciate is the bias of the news services against the PLP.† This spokesman for the PLP for example cannot be carried as a matter of policy by the Nassau Guardian, unless Oswald Brown, an in law of FNM Minister Tommy Turnquest, is not working the Nassau Guardianís desk.† The Tribune is the only newspaper that routinely covers adequately the news of and about the PLP.† Love 97 does as well.† But all of the print media in the country support the Free National Movement.† And there does not appear to be a zeal for an independent assessment and balance by the press.
††††††††††† One simply has to look at the coverage of the attacks by Bradley Roberts on the drugs trafficking in Log Island.† Each newspaper and radio station in New Providence blindly carried hook line and sinker the Governmentís propaganda on the issue, the smokes screen created by the Prime Minister about the names of DEA agents.† The explanations of the PLP on the subject were carried in a muted fashion.
††††††††††† But apart from that the PLP has a way open to it to improve the ability to get its message out.† That medium is the internet.† The last time that we met in convention, I announced that we would start fredmitchelluncensored.com as a medium for my political views and more broadly as a platform for the PLP to get its message across.† On both scores the site has been phenomenally successful.† In the month of September of this year we had some 96,000 hits on that site, I dare say higher than any other monthly total for any Bahamian site that I know of.† The number of hits increased overnight by a jump of 23,000 hits following the funeral of Sir Lynden Pindling.† And I want to thank Al Dillette and Sebastian Curry who are the Editors of the site for their efforts in keeping the site going. I also want to thank those hundreds of Bahamians who call and e-mail with tips about news for the site, FNM, PLP, CDR and BDM.†† Further, I want to thank the thousands of readers both at home and abroad for their devotion to the site.†
††††††††††† But more generally I wish to say this, repeating what I have said in another context.† During the days of slavery, the slaves had to develop a way of communicating that the slave master could not comprehend or understand. In other words, there was as back channel of communication.† For the first time in the history of the PLP we have the means to create web sites that get our message across.† I constantly hear people tell me, I havenít heard you comment on this event or that policy of the FNM.† And I respond, I donít deal in 19th century technology.† Newspapers are technology from the 19th century.† This is the 21st century.
We need as PLP to get with it and start accessing the internet and accessing the web site.† If you want to know what the PLP thinks what I think in particular issue, every political issue is discussed fully on fredmitchelluncensored.com every Sunday at 2 p.m. You can find it there. So our followers no matter where they are in The Bahamas can access the world wide web and know what the deal is from a PLP points of view.†† To be sure we have to tackle the newspapers and the media but let us develop and review our own sources of communication.†† The web site is instant and available wherever you are by telephone.† If you donít know how to use it, let your kids teach you how to use it.† But I also know that in the United States the fastest growing group of users of the internet is the age group over 65 so it is not just for young people.† It is for all people.† John Carey, our candidate for Carmichael also has a website.††
The final question is Tami Ferguson, a resident of the Fox Hill village
SENATOR MITCHELL, MY QUESTION IS CAN YOU MAKE A BROAD COMENT AGAIN ABOUT THE QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUED IN THE BAHAMAS? THE FNM LEADER HAS TOLD US THAT IT IS BETTER; WE MUST LOOK AROUND; DO YOU REALLY THINK IT IS BETTER?
I think that at best we have to acknowledge that there have been some changes, in some cases dramatic changes in the way of life since the FNM came to power.† Mainly, there is more money in evidence. But as we pointed out in our convention of 1998, there was some suspicion that some of the money was drug money finding its way into the economy.
††††††††††† I believe that the Bahamian people are more concerned now about quality of life issues.† How one is treated on the job? Does the employer treat you with disrespect?† The Government is one of the worst offenders of this.† Teachers are transferred without proper consultation.† Their union is ignored. People are dismissed from their jobs without adequate compensation.† People are spoken to like dogs on their jobs and have no one to turn to. Land prices in the suburbs of New Providence are going out of site, and it appears to the middle class that they are being squeezed by the banks and the nationals from other countries at the bottom and at the top.† It has given this country and its people a sense of unease that things are out of control.† The situation is most difficult in Freeport where there has been an almost complete reversion to the situation before 1969 when Sir Lynden made his famous bend or break speech.† Bahamians have no say in Freeport and the workers feel betrayed by the promise that they would be the first to be rehired by the new hotel in Freeport.
††††††††††† So even though there might be more money around, the middle class feels great disquiet, that at nay movement what they have can be taken away from them because of the policies of the FNM. I make an urgent appeal to the middle class of the country.† I ask you to listen to our message this time.† I know that last time, you felt that you could not listen to our message, but I implore you to listen this time. Please this is the time to listen.† Our countryís future is at stake, whether we in fact will continue to have a Bahamas for Bahamians the way to would like it to be.† The PLP is the only organization that can build the nationalist protections that are needed to move The Bahamas forward.
††††††††††† That is what a PLP Government promises, to preserve and protect the national patrimony, to give comfort to the middle class, to the working class that once again this is our country, not someone elseís country.
††††††††††† Mister Session Chair, Mister Party Leader, Mister Chair, we are at a unique cross roads.† It is my pledge god willing and with your help to bring Fox Hill back into the PLP.† I will need the help of the people of Fox Hill from Sans Souci in the east to Sea Breeze in the West.† All of the people of Fox Hill.
††††††††††† Tomorrow fellow delegates, I leave the country for Cambridge, Massachusetts to chair my first meeting as the first ever international Chair of Harvard Universityís John F. Kennedy School of Governmentís Alumni Council.† I consider it a special honour to have been so elected.† I shall take your good wishes with me.†
††††††††††† When I return, I know that there will be the report of a successful convention, on the road to victory.† Yes a fresh wind is blowing and we can hear the barely imperceptible whisper in the treetops and it says PLP and you say ALL the Way.† And it says ALL the Way and you say PLP.† And it says PLP and you say all the way.† And it says All the Way and you say PLP.
††††††††††† And I say PLP and you say all the way.† And I say All the way and you say PLP.
††††††††††† And I say thank you all very much indeed. God Bless you and Good Night.