By Sam Duncombe
The government of The Bahamas is increasingly dysfunctional and perverse. They continue to wilfully ignore, downplay and reframe the very serious matters and concerns that have been raised by Save The Bays (STB) and others: oil pollution at Clifton, the Rubis fuel spill, the burning dump, and unregulated and unlawful development, for starters. And even after a Supreme Court judgement, Prime Minister Perry Christie and the Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Alfred Gray have failed to close the illegal facility Blackbeard’s Cay notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s order requiring them to do so.
Invasion of privacy – more illegality
Most recently, we witness the Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald reading private emails of STB directors – illegally obtained – under the protection of the House of Assembly. How does this look to the world of investors and bankers? – knowing that when the government wants to, it will spy on them?
What an obscene violation of privacy!
The complete lack of self control and common sense is staggering! In successive stunning moves, the Government ignores the rule of law, discards democratic principles and takes its depravity down to the lowest of depths to advance its agenda, obscure its wrongdoings and defend the indefensible. Its Cabinet Ministers then attack citizens in Parliament where we have no opportunity to respond.
How could the “honourable” Ministers of Education and Immigration abuse their power by using the protection of the House to lambaste, insult, cast innuendos and attempt to degrade the reputation of its own citizens?
Why would the Minister of Education and Minister of Immigration be so concerned? Shouldn’t they be at least as interested in finding out if there has been criminal misconduct that has threatened their own citizens?
We have been called the Bahamian Hustlers. That’s laughable – who are bigger hustlers than this government?
Decades of non responsive government
Why has every government for the past 25 years resisted the environmental movement? Science has repeatedly demonstrated that key protections of the environment are necessary to ensure a sustainable healthy environment as the best way forward and yet successive governments continue to ignore it at our collective peril.
Minister Fitzgerald claims that Save The Bays is trying to “overthrow the government” an outrageous assertion! – It seems to me they are doing a pretty fantastic job of overthrowing themselves.
Imagine if the Government put as much effort trying to do right by Bahamians, instead of zealously attacking its citizens – if only that energy could be put to good use running the country responsibly, effectively and efficiently.
The reality is environmental groups would not have to exist if the government did its job.
Clearly, we cannot trust the government to protect the environment for the Bahamian people, and we cannot allow it to continue to scandalize the country by dragging it through the mud of cronyism and self-dealing.
Maligning patriotic Bahamians who care about our environment and its people, is not the answer we can accept. The government needs to be responsible and respond appropriately.
Why would the Minister of Education and Minister of Immigration address the House with their spewing of hostility and spitefulness? It is sad and disheartening and honestly shameful given the desperate need for rational debate in this country. The stature afforded the Ministers by their profession and official posts as Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers in The government of the Bahamas should have dictated greater wisdom and discretion in their response to a lawsuit which alleges a murder plot. Moreover, their fuss and fury certainly does not set a good example of how to deal with controversy, particularly as the entire nation can watch their petty, vindictive and malicious behaviour. This is a sad performance.
Politics of Intimidation and Insults
In 25 years as an environmental activist in The Bahamas I have frequently discovered that those who unjustly attack an opponent’s character and reputation, rather than their contentions and arguments, avail themselves of this tactic of last resort due to weakness of their position. It may well also be that their point of view betrays their transparent motives that advance a very narrow agenda of tribalism and self-interest.
I am a proud Director and Campaign Manager for Oil Pollution for STB which has at its core 7 objectives to promote environmental awareness, and to protect and strengthen environmental laws. The disingenuous attacks on STB is patronizing and seeks to silence us for disagreeing with them – to intimidate, so that we either submit or disappear. We don’t want to fight: we demand a seat at the table to ensure the environment is being protected and laws are being followed. And we’re not going away.
It is the classic “control and suppression” move of those who see themselves as entrenched in “power and privilege”. Their aim is often to impose their own agendas, not only on those they want to silence now, but also those that may be “awakened” by the current protests.
It is indeed ironic that the government is calling for the IRS to investigate STB funds, when the government can’t seem to produce any information regarding political donations, and can’t produce public accounts satisfactory to the Auditor General. And then again, we need to consider the multi- millions of dollars that are unaccounted for and misused by this administration: Bank of the Bahamas, BAMSI, VAT, Carnival, NIB, Real Property Tax, the Post office etc… Perhaps it’s best not to throw stones when living in a glass house? The government ought to stop their smoke and mirrors tactics and focus on disclosing where OUR money is going.
History and Political Expediency
Some fascinating facts: In 2002 when another group of Bahamians (myself included) were fighting the Clifton Cay development and the PLP was the opposition, the PLP were quick to jump – nay trample all over the coattails of all those patriotic Bahamians who stood loud and proud to preserve our historic cultural and natural heritage at Clifton for political mileage. I gather that a ground swell of public opinion to be used in their favour was perfectly acceptable. Political expediency determines the validity of a cause as they readily and quickly ran to the front of the parade and proceeded to espouse the virtues of protecting the environment and our heritage.
During the same time the current Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe was a talk show host at More 94 FM. I was invited to appear on the show so many times I practically became his co host!
But that was ok because we used our time on air to speak out for saving Clifton. What’s that Shakespeare quote again?… “Adversity makes strange bedfellows.”
But that was ok then because it suited them, and frankly it suited the fight at the time. Shouldn’t it be the job of both the government and the opposition to stand with its citizens?
In fact Prime Minister Christie acknowledged after winning the 2002 election that supporting the Clifton fight had helped them win the election.
The then FNM government also used the protection of the House to attack those of us in the fight. We were called operatives of the PLP at the time among other things. It is really rather perverse that in 25 years the same old dirty, slimy tactics are used interchangeably from one government to another government in attempts to intimidate and silence any dissention from the public.
But what amuses as much as angers me with this fiasco is that the government now wants to unleash the IRS and FBI hounds on Louis Bacon, who is the same person that helped us in the first Clifton fight in 2000. And the PLP had no problem using Louis Bacon’s support in 2000. His Moore Charitable Foundation (MCF) assisted those of us on the ground with financial and professional resources. Does anyone care to remember EDAW – ( an international landscape architecture, urban and environmental design firm) which the last PLP administration utilized for the Down Town Redevelopment Project? EDAW was sourced through MCF to provide the Clifton Heritage Park Committee with the first conceptual plans for the Clifton Heritage National Park.
So while Minister Fitzgerald is claiming that no PLP members were involved with this group in actual fact they were involved with them long before the FNM party ever was. They supported a very vocal and visible fight in which Mr. Bacon played an important and meaningful role. We owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Bacon, the man being persecuted by the government today, for his help in saving one of the most important historical, cultural and environmental sites in The Bahamas. I for one, will forever be grateful.
Challenging the Status Quo
As a patriotic Bahamian, it is my duty, honour and privilege to ceaselessly challenge these antiquated ideas, outdated attitudes and spoon-fed rationales that are routinely served up primarily to support and maintain the status quo and far too frequently defending vested interests by diverting or subverting the legitimate interests and rights of the Bahamian people at large.
We should in 2016 be enjoying a government that has the capacity to implement our collective aspirations in an authentic and sustainable relationship with the natural world, meeting the challenges of today. Our government should take measures to arrest the ongoing destruction of our environment by unscrupulous developers, and educate our people to “re-member” our connections to the natural world and thereby cure the dysfunctional relationship between people and nonhuman nature.
The government’s behaviour in the House is not worthy of the very honoured position they hold. I am thoroughly disgusted that the government would use the protection of the House of Assembly to denigrate citizens who are trying to make positive and constructive contributions to the environmental well-being of our Bahamas.
The unholy alliances and relationships between family, friends, fornicators and financiers of the political and economic “elite” are destroying our country. What is clear is that more and more, all of us on the “outside” do not belong to this club/country named the Bahamas. For far too long the politicians have treated our country as though it was their own private land where they can help themselves to everything they can extort, grab, or manipulate. And they have evidently forgotten that they were elected to serve US – NOT themselves.
Why is it that our government is not working for us? Why are they constantly rushing to defend certain foreign developers / party financiers often at the expense, literally and figuratively of the good people of the Bahamas? It seems to me that the majority of politicians are their own top priority and the rest of us are situated way down on the totem pole. It is depraved that this government has more reverence for some foreign developers than it does its own people.
If the government feels threatened that an environmental organization is trying to “over throw” them (which is laughable) perhaps they might take some time they so willingly give to some foreign developers / party financiers and pay attention to the concerns of their citizens. It is under their “governance” that concerns raised about environmental issues are continually ignored, and as patriotic Bahamians it is our duty to take a stand and make sure the Government does its job to protect the environment for future generations.
Glen Albrecht, an Australian professor of environmental studies, has observed that large numbers of people are experiencing a type of stress and negative emotions that he calls solastalgia: which he defined as “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault.”
Our beautiful country is not a basket of resources to be exploited and plundered by greedy politicians and their patrons. It is living system of interconnectedness and we must rediscover and reinvent our place as caretakers of the environment which sustains us.
Reject the continuous lies – repetition does not make them true. We need real answers and we need positive action.
As reEarth supporter Jeremy Peterson stated, “It’s time to truly look ahead to our future and decide whether or not we want one.”