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25 JANUARY 2017

Check against delivery

Mr. Session Chairman
Brothers and sisters

I am pleased to be here tonight. This Convention has been long in coming and I hope that this is the beginning of a renewed commitment to this process of an annual get together; the kind I remember from my youth: through rain, sleet or snow. Let us provide the opportunity for the fellowship one to another and the building up of the institution by at least one annual gathering where we meet and greet, learn to sing from the same hymn sheet and choose our leaders.

I am pleased also that democracy is at work in the party and that dissent is possible with a minimum of acrimony and with mutual respect for the ideas within a big tent. The number of young men and women who have chosen to come forward is a real blessing.

I want to pay tribute to the people of Fox Hill without whom none of this would be possible. We have a full delegation here. We had a very sober and compelling, frank conversation last week as we prepared for this. We know our job is to win. We also know that no matter what is being said in the wind about how easy it is, there is a battle ahead of us. The anecdotal evidence suggests that this election will be each man hold their man. We have our marching orders.

On Monday 23 January, a noted Queen’s Counsel Fred Smith tried to fool the Bahamian public that he was apologising to them for these remarks delivered on 15 January at the Coral Beach Condominium Association in Freeport. He was speaking a group of foreigners, some 65 of them. The minutes of the meeting reflect that he knew that he was being taped, and he knew also that the tape would be circulated. Yet, drunk with the wine and intoxication of the crowd, he spoke the truth and his honest and reasonable belief as he saw it, from his heart. Loose lips sink ships.

He said: “You’re all white for the most part… and it’s a big problem for the Black Bahamians that you’re down here. Believe it or not they want your money, they want you to spend it but they don’t like you alright. A lot of them don’t. The fact is The Bahamas is a very racist, a very xenophobic, a nationally insecure and a very hateful place to foreigners”

Listen to it for yourselves and you judge whether it was taken out of context. (play voice insert)

This morning, The Tribune published the apology in full and called for me to apologise to him. When you examine the so called apology, it is not an apology at all. It is really an explanation for why he said what he said and he sought to justify it by seeking to become a victim. Let me make it clear, hell will freeze over before there is any apology from me.

True to form when my initial remarks were first reported in the House of Assembly, the press did not report what I said. Thank God for Andrew Burrows of ZNS that the story got out. The Tribune buried the story in the back. The Guardian reported it on their Business page. When Mr. Smith responded with his so called apology that made the front page.

The broader point I make then is that the PLP does not control the narrative in the process of this political battle and in shaping public opinion. This then is the time to take stock of how things really run and why there is this overwhelmingly negative tone around everything that we do. We must reverse this and begin to more effectively mould and shape public opinion.

That story of the QC is but one example.

The negative twists in the wonderful success of BAMSI in Andros and Bahamar at Cable Beach are other examples.

I think therefore that this party has a compelling case to tell Fred Smith QC and his fellow travellers to take his so called apology and shove it.

Why is this important to this convention?

In March last year, I went to the House of Assembly and revealed that I had been informed that an organization Save The Bays was masquerading as an environmental organization but was really a front organization being funded by a rich Permanent Resident in The Bahamas to destabilise and overthrow the PLP. That was said in the House of Assembly and is the subject of a Parliamentary Committee’s investigation. The Committee should call without delay for the bank accounts, subpoena these people, and compel them to disclose the true nature of what they are doing in The Bahamas.

Save The Bays, the phoney environmental organization, has the same people who run the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, who are the same people who have run to the Inter American Human Rights Commission to complain saying their lives are in danger then refuse to cooperate with the police.

These are the same people who want openness, transparency and freedom of information who have sued newspapers in libel to silence them and then have run to the courts to stop Members of Parliament from speaking in the House.

This is a clear and present danger to the PLP. In other words, the question is where does the money come from to pay for all this litigation which is leading to the inability of your MPs to do their jobs? We must follow the paper trail wherever it goes.

The Government – the PLP has to find out where they are getting this money from; what is their true purpose and motive; are they acting according to law? We must seek to stop any unlawful behaviours dead in its tracks. This is a matter of this PLP’s survival.

Now why is this so important and what does this have to do with building and empowerment and moving this country forward? Well this matter is about the national identity and sanctity and protection of our country. We must defend our country from those who are without who would destroy us and those who are within.

At the same time, as the so called apology was being given, the same Lawyer Fred Smith was duplicitously making a pointed personal attack on this minister, under the headline: Mitchell Embarrasses The Bahamas.

The only embarrassment is by Mr. Smith himself.

So ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, the Department of Immigration, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pledged to defend our country. We do so without fear or favour. It is not only against the illegal migrants who come from the north of Haiti, the desperate economic migrants from Cuba and the monied smugglers from Latin America, China and the Far East, but against those who come as legitimate traders and end up working outside the scope of their work permits, robbing Bahamians of legitimate job opportunities.

This is a problem in the Exuma Cays, in Eleuthera and Harbour Island, in Grand Bahama, in Abaco and in New Providence. You come in as a tourist then start to work without a work permit.

It is also to defend against those who are abusive to Bahamians. The department will revoke the permits of those found by the Department of Labour to abuse Bahamian workers.

Fifty years ago Sir Lynden Pindling and the PLP struck the most decisive blow for the freedom of the black people, when he won the government and ushered in majority rule. Aleta Continua… the struggle still continues. Forward Ever! Backward never!

The symbolic march down Burma Road is continuous. It never stops as long as obstacles to freedom and social justice and economic justice stand in our way. We will stand on the shoulders of those great warriors for justice and freedom and continue their noble work of building, empowering and moving this country forward together. There can be no compromise on this.

I am a Burma Road Baby. We are all the children of Burma Road. Let us continue to pledge to work to protect the heritage, the dignity of this country for all people.

PLP All The Way!