Nassau news

Former PM retires

Former Prime Minister Perry Christie resigned as leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) last night at a PLP National General Council (NGC) meeting and said he takes full responsibility for the PLP’s crushing defeat at the polls in last week’s election.

The PLP secured four of the 39 constituencies.

“As your leader, I accept full responsibility for our party’s defeat in the general election of May 10, 2017,” said Christie at the party’s headquarters on Farrington Road amid objections from the crowd.

“I stand before you as your leader and I declare that I fully accept the responsibility for the defeat.

“I also accept without reservation that in the best traditions of our democracy, no less, the impulses of my own conscience and value system, dictate that I resign as the leader of our party.

“This is the correct and only thing for me to do from both a political and moral perspective.

“Accordingly, I herby resign as the leader of the Progressive Liberal Party with immediate effect.

“You have heard me speaking often from the Bible.

“A visiting pastor recently told me it is all about seasons.

“My season in politics has now ended.

“And so tonight, my beloved fellow councillors of our great party, it is for me to bid you farewell as your leader.

“The time has come for me to move on and I do so with these final words to you.

“I wish to God that I could have helped more people.

“But, God knows for all my faults as a leader and as a man, I tried my best to do the best that could for the Bahamian people.”

Christie led the PLP since 1997.

PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis will succeed Christie as the interim leader of the PLP until it goes to convention.

Davis said the focus will be on rebuilding the party and its brand and being an effective opposition party.

He won one of the four seats now held by the PLP in the House of Assembly.

Former Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller told The Nassau Guardian last week there was a plan by a group of PLPs to get rid of Christie during the PLP’s convention in January.

He said that plan fizzled after key members, including Davis, backed out.

Miller also expressed concern about Christie’s mental state following the loss.

Other senior PLPs, including former PLP MP Damian Gomez, said had Davis been leader going into the election, the PLP would have won.

Last night, Christie said he was disappointed to learn that his PLP family was questioning his mental state.

While he did not name anyone, Christie said he does not understand why any of his colleagues would speak in a negative way about him.

He also said he never anticipated his colleagues would not know him sufficiently to understand “I would accept responsibility on behalf of the PLP for whatever happens”.

Miller did not attend the NGC meeting last night.

Way forward

Speaking to the way forward, Christie said it is important that the PLP understands the message the electorate sent.

He said PLPs must also come to terms with whatever mistakes were made.

“It is not at all incorrect for us to humble ourselves before the people and let them know that we understand their message,” he said.

“We should speak to whatever failures we’ve had, as well as the many successes because we have always said we are going to work hard, we are going to work assiduously, [and] we are going to work to do our best.

“But, sometimes mistakes are made and we have to be, not just honest with ourselves about those mistakes that are made, but in frank admission to the people of our country from whom we expect their respect and support, that we understand how important it is for them to understand that we respect them and their views.”

Christie said this is critical to rebuilding the PLP, a challenge he said the party has responded to before.

Noting there has not been a two-term government in 20 years, Christie said the historical odds favor a return of the PLP soon.

However, he said the PLP must do the right things to rebuild and prove itself “worthy of the trust of the Bahamian people”.

“We’ve been beaten,” a passionate Christie said.

“We’ve been knocked down, but we are going to be measured by the fact that we are going to get right back up.

“How many times you’ve heard me say, seven times down, eight times up?

“That’s because in a democracy things happen. You win, you lose.

“There is no silver medal in politics.

“And leaders must be prepared, so just as I can celebrate with you, I’ve got to mourn with you.

“But, I have the responsibility, leaders have the responsibility of lifting your spirits.”

To Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Christie said he trusts Minnis will carefully examine what the PLP has left behind.

He said he is proud of what the PLP has been able to do and urged Minnis to “do those things for the people of The Bahamas”.

There was a tremendous swing toward the Free National Movement last week, with the vast majority of Cabinet ministers and PLP heavyweights losing.

These included former ministers Fred Mitchell, Jerome Fitzgerald, Shane Gibson, Michael Halkitis, Alfred Gray, Melanie Griffin, Hope Strachan and Khaalis Rolle.

However, the PLP retained several familiar faces, including Davis (Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador), Glenys Hanna-Martin (Englerston) and Picewell Forbes (Mangrove Cay and South Andros).

The PLP’s Chester Cooper also won The Exumas and Ragged Island.

Going into the general election, Christie had expressed confidence that the PLP would win.

Some of the issues that dominated the campaign trail included the lackluster economy, crime and education.

The government’s handling of Baha Mar and the sealed agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China was also a key issue.

Additionally, the government’s use of value-added tax (VAT) featured prominently.

Legacy

“I don’t know how they are going to describe it, but when you look at what we have done, what we have done for the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, what we have done in securing their futures, you know that I don’t have to tell you our commitment to the redemptive powers of second chances,” Christie said.

In his last term, Christie introduced the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI).

His government transitioned The College of The Bahamas into The University of The Bahamas.

Despite the protracted delays and challenges, Baha Mar — a multi-billion project expected to bolster the country’s economy — opened under the Christie administration.

The former administration raised the minimum wage and amended the labor laws.

Christie oversaw social intervention programs such as the National Training Agency and Urban Renewal 2.0

The Christie administration also launched National Health Insurance at the end of the term that just ended, though it remains in the early stages, with future funding unclear.

Christie instituted the Ministry of Grand Bahama.

He regained a two percent stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) from Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC), though the deal was never made public.

Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham sold 51 percent of BTC to CWC in 2011.

Christie introduced a mortgage relief program that has reportedly signed on more than 400 people.

His government restructured the tax regime in the country with the introduction of VAT.

He also regulated the web shop industry in The Bahamas, but faced fallout for ignoring the results of a 2013 gambling referendum..

Following a landslide victory in 2002, the Christie administration during its 2002-2007 term built over 1,400 homes.

Unemployment figures fell from 9.1 percent in 2002 to 7.9 percent in 2007.

In its last term, unemployment figures fell from 14.7 in 2012 to 11.6 percent in 2016.


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Former PM retires