|Is the PLP for the ‘small man’? pt. 2|
Published: Feb 17, 2012
It was on that fateful day, August 2, 2003, when the motor vessels United Star and Sea Hauler collided at sea. It was an August Monday holiday weekend and the Sea Hauler was full of passengers traveling to Cat Island. That day has been described as the worst in the maritime history of The Bahamas. Due to the collision, four persons lost their lives and 25 were injured – some seriously, losing limbs.
What did the Christie-led Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government do at the time to help the many victims and their families? Absolutely nothing.
In fact, more than three years later, the then Ministry of Transport and Aviation released a statement on December 22, 2006, days before Christmas and another new year following the tragedy, stating among other things that, “the government will continue to take all legal avenues to resolve this matter. All parties are encouraged to join with the government in seeking a resolution to this matter in a manner consistent with the law of the land.”
In plain language the PLP did nothing, and worse, intended to do nothing to, as they say, “wipe the tear from every eye” of the victims and their families. The PLP had an opportunity to give real meaning to those words and demonstrate care and compassion. Instead, they did nothing. The above statement by the then PLP government was in response, at the time, to demands for compensation by the families and the injured persons.
It was the FNM government, led by Hubert A. Ingraham, just a year after being elected on May 2, 2007, that set up a fund of $1 million to truly relieve some of the suffering of the victims of the tragic Sea Hauler incident and their families.
Not only did the compassionate and progressive FNM government make the $1 million available to the victims and their families, it also agreed to have the past and future medical expenses incurred at any governmental health facility be paid by the government.
We are reminded of the straw market fire on September 4, 2001, a mere eight months before the May 2002 general election. While the FNM was in government, in the months leading up to the general election, the Christie-led PLP strongly criticized it for not rebuilding the market.
Ironically though, the Christie-led PLP won the May 2002 election and for five years to the day, May 2007, they failed to rebuild the market. Incredibly, they did not even commence its reconstruction. And they had the brass to make an issue of eight months. Worse, the same make shift and intended temporary arrangements the FNM government put in place for the straw vendors during the eight-month period, remained their workplace for the duration of the PLP’s term from 2002-2007.
We all know that it was this compassionate and progressive FNM government, in this term, during the worst economic conditions the world has faced since the Great Depression of 1929, rebuilt the market for the straw vendors who had to endure the elements in the same intended temporary arrangement over five years under the PLP government.
It is an irony, because in the main, the straw vendors (not all of them) are thought to be supporters of the PLP. But the PLP did nothing for them. It took a FNM government to wipe away the tears of every straw vendor and to bring true relief to all of them.
The opportunity for tertiary education has been a thorny issue in this country because the prevailing view under the 25-year governance of the Pindling-led PLP was that unless you were connected to the PLP in some way, “you needed not apply”. Famous words of the PLP today.
Today many qualified Bahamians, regardless of party affiliation, receive scholarships, funds that are not repaid. If you meet the academic criteria, you can receive at least $7,500 and up to $40,000 per year to study abroad for a four-year degree. No questions asked about who your family might be or who you may know in the governing party. Due to the FNM government those days are gone, and thankfully so.
The Christie-led PLP government awarded a grand total of $1.7 million in scholarship funds from 2002-2007. The current FNM government awarded, inclusive of the current school year, $28 million in scholarships. In fact, this school year alone more than $8 million has been awarded. That is almost five times the entire term of the Christie government and 20 times that of their last year.
So who’s for the ‘small man’? The facts speak ever more loudly than all the PLP talk: Hubert Ingraham and the Free National Movement.
– Michael A. Foulkes,
secretary general, FNM