Justin Smith who is seeking the nomination for St Barnabas from the PLP delivered this statement at the PLP’s press conference on Wednesday 20 May 2020 to protest the harshness of the penalties imposed by Magistrates against people who are charged with breaking the curfew laws. Mr. Smith says he will be lobbying the PLP to give everyone back their money and wipe the slate clean for curfew violations:
“I, as many other young Bahamians, read in amazement an article circulating in the Tribune, 19 May 2020, which spoke to an 18-year old teenager being fined $700 by a magistrate for operating his coconut selling business in violations of the curfew and emergency powers.
“We all cringed reading the contents of an article which speaks not only to the structural inequities in our society but also to the policies and systems encroached on the most vulnerable among us. As I have previously said, governments are put in place to protect the vulnerable and advance the cause of our people.
“We’ve seen over the last three years, a policy of political exclusivity. There have been laws and legislations passed that seemingly help the rich and hurt the poor. From the passage of the Commercial Enterprise Bill (2017), an erosion of the principles of Bahamianization, to the 60% increase in VAT on the backs of ordinary Bahamians while the wealthy and well-connected got tax concessions and credits and finally and more evidently, we’ve seen it through the public appointments and recently with the policies associated with the COVID-19.
“To be frank, people within our communities are hurting. While we fight COVID-19 so many homes across the capital are fighting poverty, joblessness, lack of provision, mental health issues and a sinking morale each day. It is important that our policies and proclamations are made in understanding of the great challenges our people face.
“Sadly, this decent, industrious, resilient young Bahamian was subject to the failures of a callous government. Think of it, a young Bahamian now faces criminal conviction for violating an arbitrary curfew in an effort to feed and provide for himself. This is unconscionable. Meanwhile, in our society major supermarkets and big businesses have been allowed to operate without interference. How then can we justify a striving young Bahamian being punished for operating as a coconut salesman? What danger did he pose to the public health and safety of our citizens? Was he more of a threat to our national security than the 6 permanent residents of Lyford Cay allowed to breach protocols and enter the country without being tested for COVID-19 and sent home to self-isolate? Have they or any other person involved been fined by the magistrate’s court for their abysmal disregard for the Emergency Powers?
“This is not justice. This is injustice. This is not right. It is wrong.
“I will be advocating that when the PLP returns to office that it wipes away these criminal records in all of these matters and return the monies that were extracted from people in these unfair circumstances. In addition to that, our party has committed to immediately begin investing $250 Million dollars into SME’s, increasing small business financing offered through the Small Business Development Centre and reforming policies to support small businesses. These are progressive ideals aimed at improving the quality of life for our people and protecting individuals like this one.”