I was recently involved in a matter whereby a PLP Senator, Jerome Fitzgerald, stated in the Upper Chamber of Parliament that the company I work for “committed an egregious offence against the Stamp Tax” Act.
In a nutshell, we submitted an entry on May 25, 2010, for goods that arrived on May 24, 2010. The entry was approved on May 25, 2010, according to the Bahamas Customs stamp on it, and the Government announced a new tax rate on May 26, 2010. On May 27th we paid the approved entry, after getting a Manager’s Cheque from the bank as usual, and collected the product off the dock. 83% of it was subsequently sold. Almost a month later Mr. Fitzgerald took advantage of his lofty position of power and made his comments described above. To make matters worse, Bahamas Customs rescinded their original approval and charged the higher rate of duty based on an antiquated and unjust law that allows them to make changes retroactively.
The Comptroller of Customs, after initially suggesting we did something unscrupulous, apologised in the press. See the newspaper story here… (http://bit.ly/bxxN3g). Fitzgerald was asked to do the same but refused. That aside, he attempted to make it a racial issue, seemingly a PLP tradition, by suggesting that so many other Bahamians had to pay the higher rate so how could we get away with what in his view was a crime.
The real story here though is a pattern by many within the PLP of turning things into racial, or perceived rich man/poor man issues, when they know better. Then they hide behind the libel laws that let them get away with these things in Parliament. All this leads me to the substantive point. And that is the PLP’s divide and conquer rhetoric. They often refer to the control that the “Bay Street Boys” exert over the Nassau Economy, inciting the race issue each time, yet they ignore the islands where PLP hard liners “control” things.
Take Kemp’s Bay Andros for example. I had the opportunity to go pigeon shooting there many years ago and stayed in a motel/apartment complex owned by a Mr. Norwood Rahming. An extremely nice gentleman by the way.
Needing supplies we went to the food store, also owned by Mr. Rahming.
Parked nearby were a couple school buses for Mr. Rahming to fulfil his government contract to ferry school children back and forth.
Across the street was the gas station and church. Also reportedly a part of the Rahming enterprise.
Wanting to send packages back to Nassau, we went to the mail boat, and guess what? It too was apparently part of Mr. Rahming’s empire.
In other words, there was very little of the Kemp’s Bay economy Mr. Rahming did not control.
Now was/is the silence of the PLP on issues like this because it is their guy in control, or more specifically, Sir Lynden’s point man in the community when he was the MP for the area? What is wrong with those with ability and foresight like Mr. Rahming and the “Bay Street Boys” making the most of their talents as long as they do it within the confines of the law of the day?
The double standards are amazing. And each time I start to believe the PLP could be moving into the modern era of race relations, “honourable” Parliamentarians like Fitzgerald do their divide and conquer routine. It’s now very predictable and dated in the 21st Century. I keep reminding myself we could be so much better as a country without these cheap attempts to sway voters. I honestly believe this is because there is far too much government.
Local government has to made real, where people in their community control their own destiny.
Laws, whereby a Parliamentarian can libel someone without fear of the consequences of his actions must change.
Laws that allow Bahamas Customs to rescind, or back date approvals already granted in this manner must change.
Laws that say the private sector cannot charge the higher price if two differing tags are on an item, even though the lower tag might be wrong, must change.
When a system allows inconsistencies like this, and Parliamentarians are allowed to make fictitious charges without merit, is there any wonder people lose respect for each other? When a political party suggests they are out for “fairness” and then condone practices like those of Fitzgerald and others, should they be taken seriously? They must be careful that those same tactics do not surface within their party. Divide and conquer is a negative precept and is destructive no matter where it is practised.