||Last Updated: Nov 5, 2019 - 3:29:38 PM
STATEMENT BY THE HON. PHILIP BRAVE DAVIS QC, MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MONTHLY PRESS CONFERENCE
The ongoing persecution of Frank Smith
After having their bribery case brought against Frank Smith under dubious and questionable circumstances dismissed by the Magistrate’s Court and upheld by the Appeals Court, the FNM has decided to take their crusade of persecution to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
I wish to respond to the statements made by the Attorney General in the press in response to the PLP’s statement on the matter issued on Sunday, 3rd November 2019, by the Chairman of the PLP Senator Fred Mitchell.
It is not good enough for the Attorney General to say that the costs of the QCs are reasonable. Reasonable to whom and for whom? These are public funds and he must say what the total cost is including the costs internal to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is our understanding that significant sums and resources have been diverted to prosecute this matter, away from fighting serious crimes and immigration issues for example.
It was also mixing apples and oranges to suggest and compare the expenditure of the Christie administration on Bahamar and the FNM on this witch hunt. The Bahamar matter required defences to legal challenges in multiple jurisdictions. This matter is a simple case which had no legal complications.
We also disagree with the Attorney General when he says that this matter is a purely legal matter and not a political one. This on the contrary has everything to do with politics and the vendetta that the FNM has against the PLP. It is a political campaign driven by victor’s justice and paid for by the taxpayers.
We reject any and all attempts to pollute the issue with the Sydney Stubbs. The former MP’s case in bankruptcy law is not comparable. Bankruptcy is a private law remedy. It was Mr. Stubbs who prosecuted his appeal to the Privy Council, not the Government of The Bahamas or the PLP. This matter is a public law matter and the government is paying for this witch hunt, having hired three different English lawyers.
Their third lawyer, Peter Knox, follows the two other highly paid English Queen’s Counsels Jenkins and Gouthrie in that order. The associated costs are not a private matter as the Attorney General erroneously indicated, but this is a matter of great public interest and the government is duty bound to publish how much of the tax payers’ monies are being spent on this case just as they were quick to publish what contractors were paid under the PLP government. The principle is the same – the government is spending public funds on a public matter. The politically convenient application of double standards is however nothing new to the FNM.
The forced retirement of Samuel Evans
The PLP publicly sympathizes with the former Deputy Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Samuel Evans, who was recently forced out of his job and into retirement for no good or sensible reason. Captain Evans served his country with distinction with forty years of unbroken meritorious service. We agree with Mr. Evans that the FNM selectively and disingenuously applied its vacation policy to target and sideline certain officers in order to place individuals of their choosing in strategic leadership positions. We point out that the public service is not anybody’s personal and political fiefdom. I believe this practice is what the FNM spent most of their time in existence demonizing as “victimization.” The Minnis administration engaged in that very same brand of intellectual dishonesty when they assembled their current leadership team at the Royal Bahamas Police Force.
We know very well from the history of the FNM that in their warped minds, there is always one rule for them and another rule for everybody else. You need only look at the boorish behaviour of the Speaker of the House in his recent vicious and despotic attack on the Fourth Estate and freedom of the press as evidence of their duplicity and intellectual dishonesty.
The State of Education
From that fateful day when the Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd smugly threatened the jobs of scores of Ministry of Education workers, we knew he was on a losing wicket and the ultimate loser would be our children. Mr. Lloyd’s tenure as Minister to date has been a disaster as all can see a measurable deterioration in the quality of education with declining performances in the BJC and BGCSE standardized exams.
Additionally, schools have not opened on time for the start of the new school year due to repair delays fuelled by budget cuts. You saw a press statement issued by Senator Darville about uninhabitable conditions at the Hugh Campbell Primary School in Grand Bahama with no attempts by the government to address these structural concerns.
Further, the Minister has failed to resolve a number of outstanding labour issues with the Bahamas Union of Teachers. There have also been reports of teacher shortages, unsafe and unhealthy work environments which have led to demonstrations, strike votes, walkouts and sit outs by teachers.
Yesterday, when teachers should have been in the classrooms, many of them were assembled outside the Supreme Court in support of their colleagues who were seeking legal redress over unpaid wages.
In our view, the genesis of all of this is poor leadership or the lack of leadership. Instead of intimidating and threatening teachers, Minister Lloyd must put the welfare of the students first and act accordingly. His boorish behavior has hurt our children and if it is not arrested could have negative implications for us as a nation.
Inaccurate Dorian death count
The PLP has repeatedly raised the issue of the inaccurate death toll related to Hurricane Dorian but there has been no credible response from the government on this. Notwithstanding the public outrage over a viral social media video of human remains uncovered in piles of garbage and debris, the government has largely remained silent. Public Works Minister Bannister called the video shocking, but still no credible response from the government.
We are now advised that more two months after Dorian, the government has taken the advice of the PLP and contracted a company to ground and pulverize Hurricane debris in an attempt to dispose of it at the public landfill. We hope the residents of Hudson Estate finally get the relief they were seeking for weeks as the garbage and debris to date remain uncollected by authorities. This then raises the question of the protocol covering the search for and separation of human remains from the piles of post Hurricane garbage and debris BEFORE the garbage is disposed of at the landfill. This protocol must be in place. Just as there are foreign companies with the capacity to ground huge amounts of debris, there are companies who specialize in searching for and separating human remains in the aftermath of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and Hurricanes.
We are also advised that at least one such company has submitted a proposal to the government to provide such services, but to date this proposal has been ignored. It is inconceivable that the government will treat those storm victims as Hurricane debris. We call on the government to state what the protocol is in these circumstances. The Prime Minister had a golden opportunity to address this issue during his Sunday press conference but conveniently ignored it while many families continue to needlessly suffer and grieve over of a lack of closure regarding the fate of their loved ones. We ask the government to give considerations to using prisons in minimum security as labor in the cleaning up exercise in Abaco and Grand Bahama.
Status of Grand Bahama International Airport
We see this ‘balance sheet’ government patting itself on the back over the first quarter fiscal performance, but what about the status of the Grand Bahama International Airport? This is the gateway to Grand Bahama for stopover visitors and Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) and the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) have indicated that the Grand Bahama Airport Company (GBAC) will not rebuild the Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA) which sustained heavy damage during the passage of Hurricane Dorian. It is important for port licensees, potential investors, residents of Grand Bahama and all other stakeholders to have some definitive strategy that will offer a sense of economic certainty over the future restoration and development of Grand Bahama and this includes the airport. Since Dorian’s passage, I have called for and the Deputy Leader has called for a comprehensive plan to address the recovery and restoration of the infrastructure, the superstructure and the economy of Grand Bahama and Abaco. NOTWITHSTANDING THAT, THE PRIME MINISTER MUST, NEVERTHELESS, ENSURE THAT THOSE WITH STATUTORY AND LEGAL OBLIGATIONS TO THE PEOPLE OF FREEPORT AND GRAND BAHAMA FULFILL THEIR OBLIGATIONS AS REQUIRED. To date, we have ONLY received a piece meal approach from the Prime Minister who appears to be making it up as he goes and shooting from the seat of his pants.
The Prime Minister is no longer credible on Ragged Island, having failed to deliver his promises to that island more than two years ago. We call for the exemption of VAT from that island to equal what has been granted to Abaco and Grand Bahama.
JCNP and the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture
The Minister of Youth sports and Culture continues to demonstrate a noticeable degree of incompetence in the execution of her ministerial portfolio. The disrespect highlighted in statement by the JCNP indicated a total disregard on behalf of the Minister towards the legal mandate of JCNP and her inability to recognized that her role as Minister does not superceed the function of the JCNP. I call on the Prime Minister to have a frank conversation with the Minister with a view of bringing a resolution to all involved parties. Minister Rolle’s Professional fitness as Cabinet Minister is of great public concern. She continues to lose the confidence of young Bahamians and the cultural community.
Service at Passport Office deteriorates
We have received reports of deterioration in the quality of customer service at the Passport Office. Apparently the new procedure is to have customers stopped at the door, questioned, and turned away at the discretion of the employee standing guard at the door. This process creates further delays in the processing of passport applications, especially in the post Dorian era where documentation losses spiked. This raises serious questions about the government’s commitment to the ease of doing business in The Bahamas. It is no wonder that The Bahamas’ international rating in ease of doing business has declined. The Foreign Affairs Minister must get on top of this because Bahamians who have accessed this service leave feeling disrespected and treated as second class citizens.
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