Don’t tell me what you believe. Show me what you do and I’ll tell you what you believe. This adage captures Prime Minister Perry Christie and his government’s ever growing disdain for democratic norms even as they profess to be such committed democrats.
Don’t mind Christie’s endless promises or what he says he believes. Watch what he does or fails to do. The gulf between his words and actions is often vast. There is more than hypocrisy here. There is sheer naked contempt for a litany of democratic practices.
Will his usual braggadocio and chest-thumping, Christie boasts that he’s a great democrat, much as a D-student who finally gets a C-minus on an assignment or two wants you to believe that he’s a straight-A student.
From stacking the PLP with hundreds if not near a thousand or more Stalwart Councillors to ensure his continued rule, to slapping Bahamians in the face by arrogantly ignoring the gambling referendum, Christie exhibits a contemptuous attitude towards democracy within his party and in the country.
Christie is known for promising financial accountability and transparency, then utterly failing to live up to his word. Recall his promise to disclose how much money Mohammed Harajchi gave the PLP. Recall too his promise to say how much Peter Nygard gave the PLP.
Each man claimed to have given the PLP millions. Christie has never given a full accounting. Why has he failed to do so? Why is the self-proclaimed democrat so mum in giving the figures?
Following his extensive travels and that of his large travelling party to Sri Lanka for the 2013 CHOGM then to Rome and London, Christie promised to give a full accounting of the trip. As usual, he failed to be forthcoming.
When Christie looks you in the eye and makes a solemn promise it’s a good bet that it will never, ever materialize.
Now Christie has taken his lack of transparency and lax attitude towards financial accountability to a new and dangerous level. In a stunning departure from convention the Minister of Finance introduced a national budget lacking in all manner of details.
Salaries within ministries and departments are lumped as a single line item. The College of The Bahamas, which once had its own head, is subsumed in a single line item in the Ministry of Education’s head, and the Public Hospital Authority, which has certain statutory independence as an authority is collapsed under the Ministry of Health’s head as a single line item.
Christie and the PLP have failed to bring into force the Freedom of Information Act, another promise yet unfulfilled. Now, budgetary details heretofore in the public domain are being withheld. This is an outrageous and dangerous precedent which may allow a government to hide all manner of subterfuge and skulduggery.
When a government operates with unnecessary secrecy, it betrays a certain attitude and potentially questionable activities it may want to hide.
The Finance Minster allowed approximately $20 million in untendered contracts to be generously doled out to scores of PLPs in Andros. He publicly seemed cavalier about a contract for a new Ministry of National Security building that has raised eyebrows.
Christie is grossly incompetent as Finance Minister. He was late for his budget presentation, which was largely incoherent, typical of his abysmal performance in office.
He seems on track to become one of the most unaccountable finance ministers since the advent of ministerial government.
Christie and his government’s abuses of power, secrecy and despotism are mounting. Having created a National Intelligence Agency (NIA) with no legal standing or oversight mechanisms, the PLP brushed off criticism.
As is his undemocratic pattern the prime minimiser has yet to speak in any detail on an issue for which he bears responsibility, the likely illegality of a secret surveillance and intelligence operation. His contempt for democracy and the Bahamian people could not be clearer.
Having gambled and loss on the gambling referendum Christie declared that he would abide by the decision of voters. His message now to voters: Drop dead I’m going with the numbers boys.
One guesses that his long-missing horse in the gambling debate has been discovered, with Christie riding it roughshod over Bahamians who will be left behind to clean up the horse’s mess even as the head of government rides off into a lucrative sunset, referring of course to the brilliance of the sunset.
Meanwhile, Christie continues to be dogged by a glaring conflict of interest having served as a consultant for an oil exploration company when he was Leader of the Opposition from 2007 to 2012, the same company which had previous business before his government from 2002 to 2007 and which has business before his current administration.
We do not know how handsomely Christie was paid for his services. What we do know is that he promised to have a referendum on oil exploration before further exploration, another promise in the dust.
With his spectacular conflict of interest and having broken his referendum promise the garrulous Christie has arrogantly said nothing, which is standard fare for him on issues the public has a right to know about, including the level of remuneration by a foreign oil exploration company to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition
Don’t fall for what Christie says he believes. Watch his actions. They so often are not the actions of a great democrat as he claims to be. His conflict of interest as a former consultant for the Bahamas Petroleum Company is reminiscent of a conflict of interest that dogged Sir Stafford Sands.
Sands, then a minister in the UBP and an attorney, accepted lucrative “fees” from gambling concerns to help promote their interests. Though not illegal, Sands arrogantly flouted good standards of governance.
The PLP used the conflict of interest issue as one of the main rallying cries of the 1967 general election claiming that Sands had a conflict between the interests of his clients – the casino operators -- and that of the Bahamian people.
Fast forward several decades and Christie as a Member of Parliament, Opposition Leader and potential prime minister took a consultancy on the particularly sensitive and highly controversial matter of oil drilling, the introduction of which would have enormous consequences for the country.
To the PLP, what Stafford Sands did was despicable, vile, a sell-out of the national interest, a betrayal of the Bahamian people.
But in Christie’s case, he’s a PLP and they are entitled to do whatever they please as the standards of conduct which apply to others do not apply to them.
Imagine Stafford Sands saying back then, “How dare anyone question my integrity?” He would have been derided for being so arrogant and acting as if he were above questioning.
One should not too quickly accept what Christie says he believes. Watch what he does and one may discover what he truly believes.
Remember how much Christie says he believes in Bahamians? Never mind the slogan, remember that he alienated approximately 10,000 acres of prime Bahamian land in Mayaguana to foreigners, then said it was a good thing for the very people he sold out.
Also alarming is the self-proclaimed democrat and his party’s contempt for Parliament. The PLP created the NIA without the consent of Parliament. Now the PLP is hiding critical details from Parliament on the budget.
All of this demonstrates the autocratic and secretive mindset of an increasingly dictatorial and unaccountable government.
The PLP’s major problem is not mostly about poor public relations. Their main problem is that their relations with various publics are poor because of bad policies and abysmal performance, as well as a public which generally loathes having to listen to yet more nonsensical claptrap from Christie.
The PLP now seem to deem the press as their enemy, launching all manner of assaults at the fourth estate, while trying to co-opt certain media personalities with assignments and contracts.
What so amazes, is highly amusing, is Christie’s feigned indignation when criticized on certain matters.
He balls his fist, chops the air, looks earnest, ramps up the volume, furrows his brow, all playacting and defensiveness designed to intimidate and to deflect from his incompetence, broken promises and failures.
On the NIA, his conflict of interest as an oil exploration company consultant, on his ignoring the failed gambling referendum, Perry Christie should have resigned on any one of these issues as would be the convention in other jurisdictions.
Collectively, they constitute a pattern of abuse and shameful disregard for accountability and transparency. Christie claims that he’s a great democrat. Look at his actions and believe such self-praise at one’s peril and that of the nation.