Last week I told you that the PLP was on the move. Tonight, on Nomination Day, I come to tell you that the PLP is on a quick-step march to victory!
As from today, all our candidates are officially in the field. Good men! Good women! All of them eager to be of service to our people. All of them crusaders for a new beginning for the Bahamian people. We are all officially in the field now. Our campaign generals are at their battle stations. Our troops are all fired up for the final offensive. Already, May 2nd is in sight. Victory is close at hand!
Now, there are a number of election issues that I want to deal with tonight so let me get straight to them.
I see where the Dirty Tricks Department of the Free National Movement, with Tommy T’s approval, is running full-page ads, day in and day out, saying I did nothing when I was in the Government.
Isn’t that something? Well, if I was so bad, if I was such a failure, why was the FNM running me down to become their Leader when Cecil Wallace-Whitfield passed away? If I was such a do-nothing Minister why were they begging me to lead them? If I had accepted the FNM leadership back when it was offered to me, those same ads would have been saying what a wonderful, outstanding Minister I was. But because I stayed with the PLP and because I emerged as the Leader of the PLP and not the FNM, the FNM, in desperation, is now singing a different tune.
That’s the first point.
The second point about those ads is this:
Yes, I was Chairman of The Gaming Board and when I was, no one ever accused me trading away my integrity.
Yes, I was Minister of Health & National Insurance and when I was no one ever accused me of giving contracts in return for favours.
Yes, I was Minister of Tourism and when I was no one ever had to investigate whether I had acted corruptly.
Yes, I was Minister of Agriculture, Trade & Industry and when I was I never gave one of my supporters a contract and then turned around and asked him to pick up the tab for a $31,000 party.
Yes, I have been a member of the Legislature for 28 years straight years and not once in all that time has anybody ever fixed his mouth to call my integrity into question. Not once. Not until Tommy T. fixed his mouth to do it. No Leader of the FNM ever did it in all those 28 years. Not once! Kendal Isaacs never did it. Not once! Cecil Wallace-Whitfield never did it. Not once! Hubert Ingraham never did it. Not once! Tommy T’s own Pa never did it. Not once!
But all of a sudden, after 28 years of unblemished service, along comes little Tommy T. with a great, big bucket full of nasty dirt that his PR handlers have told him to sling at me. And he goes ahead and slings it!
Well it ain’t gonna stick, Tommy T! There’s a fresh wind blowin’ now! And with that fresh wind blowin’, all that dirt and slime you’re throwing at me is gonna blow right back in your face.
You see, Tommy, my integrity is a matter of public record. But what about yours?
Every day, in your newspaper ads and at your rallies, you are asking the Bahamian people to look at Perry Christie.
Well, they should look at you too!
So what about you?
· Can you stand up to public scrutiny ?
· Do you have an unblemished record of public service?
· Have you ever compromised yourself in public office?
· Have you been a minister above reproach ?
· Have you ever been credibly implicated by unethical, dishonourable conduct as a minister?
Now, if your answer to those questions is “No”, then tell me, Tommy T, tell me why does your own Prime Minister still have you under investigation?
Why did your own Prime Minister tell the Bahamian people that the accusations against you and your Deputy, Dion Foulkes, were serious enough to merit a full investigation?
And tell me, Tommy T., where do you get off calling my integrity into question when the jury is still out on you?
Even your own Prime Minister can’t - or won’t - conclude his investigation and issue his report. And by the way, what’s taking him so long? What’s holding up the verdict of this one-man jury, Tommy T? Is it because the Prime Minister knows full well that if it he were to bring in a verdict of “guilty on all counts”, it would knock you and Dion out cold and blow the FNM away?
Oh, and one more thing, Tommy T. Tell me - no, don’t tell me, tell the Bahamian people - tell them whether under the code of ethics you live by, you really think it is ethically acceptable for a minister of the government to give an air-conditioning contract to one of his supporters and then turn around and send him the bill for a $31,000 party?
Do you really think that it is alright to do something like that?
Since you have made Integrity a campaign issue, Tommy T, you need to let the Bahamian people know the code of ethics you believe in. What the Bahamian people need to know even more is whether you practise what you preach. Specifically, they need you to tell them whether, as a minister of the Government who now wants to become Prime Minister, you have lived up to the code of ethics you say you believe in.
Oh and one more thing, Tommy T. How do you explain what you did over the air-conditioning contract for the Ministry of Tourism when your own Permanent Secretary in that Ministry, and the Ministry of Works, advised you in the strongest possible terms not to give any more contracts to your man because of his lousy record? And yet, you turned right around and arranged for your man to get the contract in spite of that advice. And then, just a short while later, you throw a $31,000 party and send your man the bill!
Now tell me, Tommy T :
· What does that look like?
· What does that sound like?
· What does that smell like?
And you have the nerve to try to sully my good name? You better try to clear your own name. And while you’re doing that, you better do some fast-explaining about all those school repair contracts, your Deputy, Dion Foulkes, gave to Styles. The one-man jury is still out on that one too!
So Tommy, if you want to make Integrity a campaign issue, come clean! Answer the questions the Bahamian people are asking, not about me or the PLP but about you; about Dion Foulkes; about Frank Watson; and about Brent Symonette who had to resign in disgrace but is now back in full favour as an FNM candidate.
Deal with that, Tommy T, and then you can talk about integrity. But not before!
That’s all I have to say tonight about the “Integrity” issue.
But since I’m talking about all those ads the FNM is running page after page, day after day, in the newspapers, let me make this point :
ADS DON’T VOTE!
The FNM has plenty, plenty money so they can buy up every page in every newspaper. The PLP has never had that kind of money and we do not have it now. But when you look at all those FNM ads, I just want you to remember one thing :
ADS DON’T VOTE!
Ads couldn’t vote in the referendum either and you remember how many ads the FNM ran back then too. It didn’t get them anywhere then and it ain’t gonna get them anywhere now.
ADS DON’T VOTE!
The FNM’s ads in the referendum tried to fool and trick the people into voting “Yes”. The FNM spent hundreds of thousands of dollars cranking out a whole bunch of dishonest ads. It didn’t get the FNM anywhere then, just like all those lying ads they’re running now are not going to help them this time either.
ADS DON’T VOTE!
So the FNM might as well stop wasting all those people’s money. The Bahamian people are not stupid. They saw right through the FNM in the referendum just like they’re seeing right through the FNM in this General Election campaign. The Bahamian people know when someone is trying to con them and that’s all the FNM’s advertising campaign is trying to do; spinning a web of nasty lies and dirty deception.
But it looks like the FNM didn’t learn their lessons from the referendum after all. That’s why when May 2nd comes, the Bahamian people are going to have to teach them all over again.
Now, moving right along, I see that wonders will never cease. Until the FNM rally in St. Thomas More a few days ago, the Prime Minister was MIA – Missing in Action. After the referendum, Tommy T and the FNM were avoiding the Prime Minister like the Plague. Didn’t want to be anywhere near him. Didn’t want to have anything to do with him. Didn’t want to have their picture taken with him. Wouldn’t even call his name from a public platform. If someone called out the name “Hubert Ingraham”, Tommy T and the FNM would answer back : “Hubert who?”
But you know things are going so bad for Tommy T and the FNM these days, they will try just about anything now to give their supporters some little ray of hope. Everything they have tried so far has backfired on them. They are going nowhere fast! They are desperate now!
But my Oh my, I never thought that they would become so desperate that they would even try to raise the dead!
But that’s just what they’ve done. They went right back into that same graveyard where they buried Ingraham after the referendum and they yucked him up out of the grave, dusted him off, and hoisted him back on stage.
And guess what? It looks like Ingraham didn’t learn anything from the referendum either! He has picked right up from where he left off – still biggety, still insulting people; still telling people off; and still talking foolishness.
But I tell you one thing : nobody wants to hear any more foolishness from Hubert Alexander Ingraham about the “old PLP” because he was right there too! Whatever he says about me applies equally to him because we were both there at the same time.
Now, moving right along, the FNM have also made mismanagement an issue. They talk about what the old PLP did. They say we must defend the record of the old PLP. Well I got news for them. The old PLP is not the government now. The Government today is the FNM and the only ones who therefore have any record to defend are the FNM. They are the ones who have governed the country for the past 10 years. They are the ones who are seeking a fresh mandate to continue to govern. They are the one’s who have to run on their record.
I have never heard so much foolishness in all my life. Asking the new PLP to run on the record of the old PLP is about as stupid as we would sound if we took the position that the FNM has to defend the record of the UBP out of which they partially evolved.
But do you know why the FNM is taking this tack? Do you know why they are trying to get us to defend the record of the old PLP?
Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s because they know they can’t run on their own lousy record over the last 5 years, that’s why. They don’t want you to focus on their record of incompetence, mismanagement and corruption. They want to talk “old story time” because they think that in that way they can distract you from zeroing in the lousy service they have given you over the past five years.
Well, we are not going to let them get away so easily. Governing parties that seek re-election, as the FNM is seeking to do, have to defend their own record. They cannot avoid it.
So let’s focus the spotlight for a few minutes where it really belongs : on the FNM’s disgraceful record over the past five years.
Fact 1 : The national economy is in terrible shape as a direct result of the FNM’s mismanagement :
· The Treasury is broke.
· The Government’s bills are stacked up sky high.
· The Government’s overdraft at the Royal Bank of Canada has gone through the roof.
· Every month the Government is scrapping around to find the money to meet the civil service payroll.
· The Government has been raiding National Insurance funds to make end meet.
· Our national debt is now at a perilously high level.
· Our external reserves are in terrible shape.
· Our financial services industry is in crisis.
· Our Family Island economies have been abandoned and are either dying or dead.
With so disgraceful a record of economic and fiscal mismanagement by the FNM, you can see why they only want to talk old story time about the “old PLP”. They are doing it to draw attention away from the colossal failures of their administration.
FACT 2 : Crime is out of control. Bahamians do not feel safe and secure anytime, anywhere. Why doesn’t the FNM run an ad about that?
FACT 3 : The attempted privatization of Batelco has already cost you, the Bahamian taxpayer, close to 90 million dollars and the meter is still running with the privatization still nowhere in sight. Why doesn’t the FNM run an ad about that?
FACT 4 : The national flag carrier, Bahamasair, is bankrupt and a monument to FNM inefficiency, incompetence and mismanagement. Its fleet spends more time on the ground than in the air. The Bahamian traveling public is fed up with all the delays and cancellations that have become the order of the day. Why doesn’t the FNM run an ad about that?
FACT 5 : Our environment is being devastated under the uncaring eyes of the FNM.
In Bimini, the Capo development, with the approval of the FNM Government, is wreaking havoc on the marine and coastal environment. This is an ecological disaster that will haunt us for many generations to come. Why doesn’t the FNM run an ad about that ? The FNM wanted to allow the same degradation to take place at Clifton Cay here in New Providence. A coalition of Bahamians stopped them dead in their tracks but if the FNM were ever to get back in power it would be full speed ahead with the environmental devastation of Clifton Cay. Why doesn’t the FNM run an ad about that?
And FACT 6 - that’s all we’re going to have time to deal with tonight – our youth have been abandoned and betrayed by the FNM. O’ yes, the FNM is all over the country now looking for young people to give money to and to fill up their head with a bunch of new promises but for the last 5 years the plight of Bahamian youth has been nowhere on the FNM’s radar screen. Whatever became of all those promises the FNM made to young people in the last election? What about all the new jobs with good pay that were promised? What about all that big talk from the FNM about educational reform to create a more a more relevant system of learning for our young ? What about the strategies that the FNM promised to make our schools and neighbourhoods safe from the terror of gangs and from the infiltration of drug-pushers and other criminals? It was big talk, that’s all. Nothing else. And now, after 5 years of neglect, FNM candidates are trying to pull young Bahamians back into their bosom with a couple of dollars and a bag full of promises. Well, you can’t buy anybody any more. Those days are gone. And as for the FNM’s promises, why should young Bahamians pay the FNM any mind this time when they never kept the promises they made to them last time.
And so, my brothers and sisters, my message to you tonight is that we are going to make the FNM run on their record. They can talk all they want about what happened 20-30 years ago. Let them go right ahead but they cannot escape the fact that they are ones in power now, not us; they are ones who have governed for the last 5 years, not us. And so they are the ones who have to defend their record, not us.
And while they are doing that we will continue to articulate our vision :
· for integrity and transparency in government;
· for the restoration of peace and sanity on our streets;
· for the introduction of National Health Insurance;
· for support-programmes for the youth of our nation;
· for the expansion of low-cost housing;
· for the expansion of the national economy in tourism and international financial services;
· for the revitalization of our family island economies;
· for the rescue and salvation of Bahamasair;
· for the protection and preservation of our environment; and
· for all the other social and economic initiatives that are set out in our Platform which will be hitting the streets very soon now.
My brothers & sisters :
The suffering of the Bahamian people is nearly ended. A new day is coming. It is almost here. May 2nd is just around the corner now. So let’s keep on marching! Let’s keep on stepping!
With God’s good grace and the support of the Bahamian people, the new PLP will open a new chapter of progress and prosperity for all, beginning first thing on the morning of May 3rd, 2002.
And so with that spirit of confidence in our step and with that prayer in our heart, let us now quicken our pace to the victory that awaits us!
PLP ……..ALL THE WAY!