10 February 2021
In the House of Assembly, the second Wednesday of every month is reserved for Question Time.
That means members of the House of Assembly may put a question to any Minister, including the Prime Minister.
But the current government does not believe they need to answer questions from the people’s representatives.
Questions about hidden spending, failures, corruption, and broken promises – these are too uncomfortable.
So, the FNM members of Parliament – the same ones who campaigned on transparency and accountability — voted this morning to protect Ministers from having to answer the people’s questions — and they laughed and carried on while they did so. The arrogance on display, the contempt they have for the Bahamian people, are like nothing I’ve seen before.
They act like everything is a game. This is not a game. The suffering in The Bahamas is real and it is widespread. The government does not have a plan to offer relief and they do not have a plan for economic recovery and growth.
When the government boasts about millions spent, people wonder why it never seems to reach their family or community. That’s why we need to ask questions.
§ Why won’t the Minister of Finance lay a report before the House of Assembly, as he is required to do by law, detailing the expenditures made and suppliers chosen during this pandemic? Which donors to the Minister of Finance’s political campaigns have benefited from pandemic spending?
§ Can the Minister of Finance confirm how much the Grand Lucayan Hotel has cost the Bahamian taxpayers since its purchase in August 2018? Can the Minister also confirm the monthly expenses and losses for the hotel? Can the Minister also state if any progress has been made with the sale of the hotel?
§ Has the Minister of Finance or his Ministry made any pledges to any lender or potential lender regarding job cuts and/or tax hikes? And if so, what are they?
§ Given the fact that this government’s former Minister of Finance is implicated in a case involving $28 million of fraud and false accounting, what steps is the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance taking to ensure that the public finances have not been subjected to fraud or false accounting?
§ It’s been 18 months since Hurricane Dorian. Can the Minister of Finance state how many people died as a result of Dorian? How many people are still considered missing? Can the Minister confirm the amount of money it collected on behalf of hurricane victims? How much has been spent on the restoration effort? How much donated materials and how many supplies are wasting and rotting in warehouses, docks and on vacant property? How many people were displaced by Hurricane Dorian and how many remain displaced?
§ Can the Minister of Finance confirm if the government is negotiating the sale of lease of land in Morgan’s Bluff to Cameron Symonette and his group to mine aragonite? If so, what is the state of said negotiations?
§ Can the Minister of National Security lay the contract for the purchase of drones before the House of Assembly, and explain why his ministry recommended that the government select the contractor Swift Tactical Systems? Can the Minister confirm if the drones are in use today?
§ Will the Minister of National Security state if he has ordered an investigation in the Royal Bahamas Police Force to determine how the phone records of Frank Smith were altered while in the custody of the police, and criminally and fraudulently presented to the court in the Frank Smith case?
§ Given that a Senior Magistrate found the Minister of National Security’s behaviour to be egregious, and commented that she hoped never to see such behaviour ever again from a government Minister, will the Minister please confirm he has ceased and desisted from personally interfering with witnesses in court trials?
§ Can the Minister of National Security confirm that following the admission by Assistant Superintendent Debra Thompson that she tampered with evidence and coached witnesses – has any training taken place and policies implemented to stamp out this type of corruption? Can the Minister confirm if the Commissioner of Police has responded to Mr. Shane Gibson’s attorney to rescind the promotion of Debra Thompson to the position of Superintendent? If so, can the Minister please table the response on the floor of the House?
There are plenty more questions. These are only a drop in the bucket.
The Prime Minister goes to such great lengths to avoid answering questions – from the media, from the people, and from the people’s representatives – that the only credible explanation is that he doesn’t have any acceptable answers to offer.
The slogan “It’s the People’s Time” was the biggest lie in the history of Bahamian politics.
It’s not the people’s time when the people want answers to their questions. It’s not the people’s time for Bahamian nurses or taxi drivers. It’s not the people’s time for the people of Grand Bahama and Abaco. It’s not the people’s time for Bahamians who are wondering how to come up with next month’s rent or mortgage payment. It’s not the people’s time for children who have lost a year of their education, with no plan in sight to catch them up.
We may have been prevented from asking the people’s questions in the House of Assembly, but nothing’s going to stop us from continuing to ask them, because unlike the Prime Minister, we do respect the people, and we do believe their questions deserve answers.