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Columns : Letters to The Editor Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM

Why I will NOT march
By Nathaniel Lewis
Nov 23, 2016 - 3:59:40 PM

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This week Friday, citizens from across the country are expected to partake in demonstrations against the government, planned for the islands of New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco called “Black Out.” I will not be one of them.

Let me preface this article by expressing my unwavering support for free speech and the freedom of assembly in The Bahamas. They are vital pillars of our constitution and what makes our democracy exceptional, and I applaud any Bahamian who exercises such rights.  That said, those who are in support of the government also have the right to free speech protected by the same constitution and they equally, have a right to speak and stand up for their truth.

With that said, here are the 4 reasons why I will not partake in Friday’s March.

1. Our Democracy/The System is working – As the old adage goes, if it’s not broken, why fix it? The reality is our democracy and the governance we have for the past 43 years works in the best interest of the majority of Bahamians. The system of democracy in The Bahamas is one based on responsibility. People freely go to the polls once every 5 years to choose their government and that democratically elected government has the consent, mandate and authority to make decisions and govern of the people’s behalf. Each and every day, our government does that. Just because one doesn’t agree with a decision made, doesn’t make that decision “corrupt.” The nature of a democracy at times call for disagreements, but we cannot advance the idea the government must be overthrown, recalled or undermined during the course of their mandate because of said disagreements. Such erratic and undemocratic ideas are listed as a part of the causes of Friday’s demonstration for which I cannot in good conscience be a part of. My preference is to handle my business in the boardroom, not the streets and by working with our leaders, rather than combating against, as a youth leader and community activist I can attain real, tangible results for the people in which I serve – that is real, successful, advocacy. Our electoral and governmental system may not be perfect, but it is the best possible option available; and while I am open to hearing all common sense reforms, the ones being proposed are simply not the ones I can support.

2. Not all change is good – the word “change” tends to be a trigger that excites the base of those opposed to any government or social order, but often times, people fail to properly investigate what changes are being proposed, who is making the changes and what ability to implement the changes those proposing said changes actually possess. A lot generic and not well thought out ideas are listed as reasons for why “wemarch.” For example “Animal rights” – but what rights exactly? What laws do you feel need to be amended? What do you plan on replacing it with? I find the lack of detail surrounding many of the proposed changes concerning.  Some have touted the uprisings in other countries as reasons for Bahamians to protest but as we saw over the last several years, specifically in the Middle East, many of those countries ended up replacing their governments with regimes that proved to be far worst. I refuse give my support to a bank cheque of ambiguous talking points. Offer a real plan and I will evaluate it on its merits. Furthermore, some of the other changes being proposed I simply do not agree with. The same way you have a right to believe certain “Acts” should be passed by Parliament, I have a right to oppose. That’s how democracy works.

3. The Attitude of Some Demonstrators – Newsflash: It’s ok to be an independent, critical thinker who supports the government, their actions and their policies. I repeat, not all, but the attitude of some of the protesters have been, to say the least, off-putting. Some feel as though they are entitled to say all manner of evil against the government of the country, but anytime anyone dares to highlight the positives of our government and country, they are met with accusations of being “political” or “paid” or corrupted in some way. Just because I support certain policies of the government doesn’t make me a card carrying member of a political party. To assume such is simple minded, presumptuous and makes you a part of the problem and the divisiveness that makes politics so toxic. As one individual said, they find it “troubling” more people aren’t upset with the government. What I find troubling the arrogance of one who would get upset just because others disagreed with them or saw the exact same  government, but from a completely different view. I could go into an article of its own highlighting some of the more questionable things about this planned demonstration and some of the leading individuals attached to it, but as wise person once said, “When they go low, you go high.” Our society has become too contentious and while politics does bring out passion, it’s unhealthy when it descends into disrespect, false accusations and name calling, while seeking to discredit others simply for having an opinion. As a wise man once said “You cannot expect to be respected if you do not respect other people.” As a nation, we must to mature to the place where we can view the government from two very opposing perspectives, but still respect one another.

4. We're moving in the right direction – I love my country. I love my government. Over the last 4 ½ years, the government of the Bahamas has moved this country in the right direction by demonstrating daily, its commitment to accountability, transparency and progressive values. This Government is the most progressive in modern Bahamian history. If one, objectively was to go down the list of each and every single Government Minister, their accomplishments and their implemented Bills/Polices and be honest, you will find each have profoundly changed our country for the better:
Rt. Hon Minister Perry Christie - VAT Bill, Fiscal Responsibility
Minister Melanie Griffin - Disabilities Act, Social Services Reform
Minister Glenys Hanna Martin - Aviation Bill, ICAO Standards
Minister Hope Strachan - Financial Services Reform, Bahamas Institute of Chartered Accountants (BICA) Bill
Minister Michael Darville: GB Investment Incentives Bill, Tax Concessions for East and West GB
Minister V Alfred Gray - BAMSI, Food Security
Minister Allyson Maynard Gibson - Swift Justice Initiative
Minister Fred Mitchell - Immigration Bill 2015
Minister Shane Gibson - National Training Agency Bill, Increase Minimum Wage
Minister Daniel Johnson - National Youth Development Plan, Junkanoo Carnival
Minister Obie Wilchcombe - The Gaming Bill
Minister Perry Gomez - Stem Cell Bill, NHI
Minister Bernard Nottage - Bahamas Correctional Bill
Minister Brave Davis - Energy Sector Reform, Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (Amendment) Bill
Minister Jerome Fitzgerald - Bahamas Learning Channel, University of The Bahams,Upgrades to School Science Labs
Minister Ken Dorsett - Environmental Protection and Planning Bill
Michael Halkitis - Homeowners Protection Bill
Minister Kieth Bell - Ant-Terrorism Amendment Bill
I could list much more, but that it would require more space than this article permits. Say or feel how you wish - each and every single one of these policies have undeniably ushered our nation into a new era of progressiveness and transformed our economy, our society and way of life in The Bahamas for the better. The tangible benefits have and continue to be seen among the Bahamian people.

In no way is this article meant to diminish, or devalue the real struggles and challenges faced by many in this country and in no way is an argument being made that things are perfect. Our country still has many challenges and our government still has much more work to do. However, it must be reiterated that our government was elected to serve a 5 year term. Not 4 and 1/2year term, not a 4 year and 11 month term, but a full, 5 year term. When our most recent Golden Girl Shaunae Miller ran at the Olympics, at times it appeared she was behind, but the race was not over until the finish line was crossed and it was literally, in that moment that she pivoted and won the race. It’s not been 5 years since this government's election and as simple as a week is an eternity in governance and politics. There is still time left for the government make radical changes that will even further advance our nation and improve the quality of life for our people. It is to this end that I stand resolute in my conviction that we are much better off today, that were 4 ½ years ago and that ought to be commended and celebrated.

Again, let me be clear, I am sure those who plan on marching this week are just as passionate about their views as I am in mine, and once again, I commend them for exercising their rights to free speech and to assemble.

I however, am very pleased with the manner in which our country has and continues to be governed, and for that I will not be marching. I am satisfied with the progress we have made as a nation over the past 4 1/2 years and I fully support our government as they continue to move our nation Forward, Upward and Onward. 

Nathaniel P. Lewis

Nathaniel Prince Lewis is an award-winning Bahamian film producer, director, actor and screenwriter from Freeport, Grand Bahama. As a published author, Lewis also provides commentary on local and global current affairs. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of TheBahamasWeekly.com


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