REMARKS AT PLP RALLY, CHESTER COOPER, EXUMAS AND RAGGED ISLAND MP, PLP DEPUTY LEADER
February 15, 2018
It’s incredible to be here tonight to see so many PLPs who will stand up for what is right!
I hope that today, in the aftermath of what went down in the House of Assembly yesterday, Bahamians of political persuasions can see that democracy and due process are under assault in this country.
The four members of the opposition went to Parliament in attempt to do something extremely straightforward – have the speaker of the House of Assembly removed for his complete lack of impartiality and flagrant abuse of the rules of the House.
We followed the proper procedure; we sat out the suspension handed down by the speaker, even though we obviously disagreed with his ruling.
We put the motion on the agenda and waited patiently while the prime minister tried to steal the attention away by talking about a heads of agreement signing that they plan to do next week. I shall return to this point later.
And even still, so undemocratic is this lot, so petty, that they couldn’t even see fit to contribute to the motion that the leader had moved.
Abusing their power yet again, they amended the motion in order to make it look better for the speaker, who had disgraced himself.
They were so desperate to control the narrative, to assert their control, that they even tried to shut down one of their own – the member for Pineridge, Fredrick McAlpine.
Even McAlpine, who took the PLP to war on the campaign trail, suggested that they were perhaps being unchristian.
He told them, after he had to create a little bit of a fuss, that they should be careful not to be seen to be bullying the opposition, or even their members on the back bench.
He told them that what they did looks bad and it’s a reversal of their promise to have a different kind of governance, a different kind of politics.
Well, maybe McAlpine is just realizing it, but I could have told him that the promises of the Minnis-led FNM are often not worth the paper they’re printed on.
You can ask the people of Ragged Island about that. And I’ll talk more about that in a little bit.
But what kind of insecure leadership seeks to change a motion in the middle of the debate just to make themselves look good?
Like I said, it’s petty.
So, our motion was changed and they succeeded in keeping the speaker in the chair.
But what was so shameful about the entire day is that the speaker apologized when he went back in the chair.
He was contrite and remorseful, even though the damage was already done.
At least he had the decency to apologize for attacking the leader and his wife, and Maurice Tynes and spewing personal, hateful nonsense from the chair and bringing the office to all-time low.
My question is, where were the other apologies?
Where were the apologies from these respected men and women who sat there listening to the speaker last Wednesday then praised him for his great moral character?
Where were the apologies from the men who sat there while the member for MICAL talked about when it was OK to beat or manhandle a woman?
Where were the apologies or the condemnation from those members of Parliament who are divorced or have foreign-born wives?
Where were the apologies to their constituents for wasting their time last Wednesday and not dealing with the people’s business?
It has to be questioned if the FNM has any respect for democracy at all
And why was all that we heard about what the PLP did before?
Why was it that not one of them, outside of McAlpine, would actually speak to what the speaker did?
They were probably too embarrassed or frightened of the repercussions from stepping out of line.
Clearly, toeing the party line is more important to them than honesty.
Sometimes a little courage is just what the doctor ordered.
After I became the MP for the Exumas and Ragged Island, I was invited to speak to an arm of the party and I pulled no punches in explaining what I thought were the reasons behind our election loss. And the party still embraced me. Nobody came for my head. There were some who some who agreed and some who disagreed. We all agreed to examine the election results and move forward in strength.
That is what democracy looks like. Look to the PLP if you want an idea of how a party should function in and out of office.
In any event, the speaker remains in the chair and we are constrained to operate under his oversight.
However, I want him to know, and I want the government to know, that we’ll be watching like a hawk and we’ll be jealously protecting our rights and the rights of our constituents.
We won’t go quietly into the darkness of undemocratic rule. We’ve fought too hard and too long to bow before a party that appears to have little regard for the rights of the minority.
But we’ll use every available means of recourse we have to hold this speaker in check and to make sure the minority is heard until we become the majority again.
You know it’s important for PLPs to come together in times like these.
Times like these when we see that our government is perfectly willing to trample on democracy.
Times like these when we see that the prime minister is satisfied to send his minions to his dirty work and undermine institutions that have stood for hundreds of years.
This is the time that we must stand and galvanize our base and speak truth to power.
We threw a blow for democracy yesterday and we must continue to do so.
I urge you PLPs, stay battle ready!
I’m going to make way for the leader here in a little bit, but I just wanted to touch on one or two things happening on the national scene at the moment.
First, let’s talk about this $4 billion deal with Oban Energies for the oil refinery terminal in Freeport that the prime minister was so quick to tout yesterday.
Let’s acknowledge something – that was a deal, I understand, that was being looked at for quite some time. The former administration looked at that not too long before the last election.
Now, I hear the prime minister saying this deal was approved in December 2016.
But I don’t know about that. He’ll have to table whatever he claims on that in the House for the nation to see before I believe that.
I don’t really know who this company is or what they’ve been promised by this administration. So, you’ll forgive me if I don’t celebrate with them right now.
What I find curious about this FNM government, especially when it comes to Grand Bahama, is how much they lean on the PLP.
As much as they castigate the PLP, as much as they say how bad the PLP was, it appears that the PLP continues to save the bacon of this administration time and time again.
I had a great time in East GB the other day, and they can certainly use the activity. I hope it’s a real deal. Right now we have too little details about this Oban Energies deal to tell what’s what. And I have a question – is there funding in place for the deal? I am not prepared to accept their word for it. I am a man of business. I want them to SHOW ME THE MONEY.
And I got one more question for them with regard to this $4 billion deal. What is the track record of this business in this environmentally sensitive industry? I googled it and it looks like a relatively new company to me?
Just two questions for now, eh? But I have this in my sights. Shouldn’t be too hard to give the Bahamian people some answers.
Now, maybe it’s real. Time will tell. But the timing right now seems a little desperate to me.
Speaking of leaning on the PLP to pull their fat out of the fire, this is certainly the case with the buyer of the Grand Lucayan, who made a sensible deal for the benefit of Grand Bahama before the last election, only to have the new Cabinet reject the buyer just because the deal was a PLP deal.
Now, they’re back at the table with the same buyer, and all they have to show for their procrastination is the suffering of the people of Grand Bahama. No wonder McAlpine gone rogue on them.
It was reckless and irresponsible, and hopefully now that they know better, they’ll do better.
I’ve been to West Grand Bahama too and the people there are in desperate need of jobs and economic activity.
I ask this Gov’t again to don’t just throw out empty talk to string our people along, show us the detail. I am a man of business they must SHOW ME THE MONEY!
I also want to take this opportunity to ask this government where in the current budget is this $90 million they say they won’t affect government borrowing this year.
I checked the budget book again, you know. And I still don’t see it.
The IDB said this money was approved by the organization under the last administration. But the last administration never went to Parliament to approve that borrowing because VAT was on the right track.
Now they’re borrowing again, after promising that, that astronomical deficit they blamed on the PLP was the last of it for this fiscal year.
I want the minister of finance to know that we’re watching you.
And when you bring that resolution to Parliament, be prepared to answer some questions.
First they say it won’t increase the amount borrowed. Now they say, well, it’s gonna increase the amount we borrowing but we won’t draw it down until next budget year.
Well, that minister has the tendency to change his story. So we will see what they say next.
Forgive me for being sceptical about everything they say. But once bitten, twice shy.
For instance, the government keeps telling me that they’re working on a master plan for Ragged Island and this “green city”.
They keep telling me be patient, don’t talk about it, I should be shamed for questioning them.
They keep telling me Tesla and Google and Amazon, and the Carbon War Room, or whoever, is working on a plan for the island. They have sexy talks, you know. That’s how they won the election.
And I keep asking them what that has to do with fully restoring government services and rebuilding buildings on the island.
I have to wait for Tesla to figure out how to construct a school for fewer than 50 students? Or send a nurse, or a police officer?
I have to wait for an international design firm to put an administration building on an island a few square miles in area?
Let’s be serious.
I’m going to keep advocating for Ragged Island. And I’m going to keep advocating until we see results.
A green city sounds great, but let’s deal with the immediate need right in front of us right now.
In closing, I want you all to be encouraged. Know that you have a band of fighters in the House of Assembly and those of you who believe in the PLP, can rest assured we’ll continue to hold their feet to the fire and we won’t let up. Your four by one relay team will continue to bring home the Gold.