Perry Christie and the PLP’s Nygard Problem
Published: Jul 25, 2013
It wouldn’t be a PLP term in office without the party’s entanglement with highly controversial, eccentric and flamboyant foreigners seeking to use the country as an outpost for their curious interests, pressing for privileges to which they may not ordinarily be entitled.
Why do so many more of these characters flock to the PLP, like moths to a flame? It has to do with the party’s history, with Sir Lynden Pindling and his coterie of the compromised having fuelled and encouraged such a party culture.
It has also to do with the history of a number of the leaders and political parties which helped to usher in majority rule and independence in various former colonies.
Flushed with adulation and hero worship, and having gained political power and access to enormous economic wealth, many freedom fighters were lured into corruptions of power and money arising from their new circumstances and fortunes.
This happened most recently in South Africa under the African National Congress, now heavily criticized for corruption within its ranks, betraying the example set by Nelson Mandela.
Even the great Ghanaian independence leader Kwame Nkrumah gave in to corruption, as did Sir Lynden and his court, with an excessive lifestyle which demanded considerably more cash than a prime minister’s salary might afford.
Like the days of piracy and wrecking, the PLP have a particular talent for fleecing foreigners. Buyers beware. It is not only Bahamians who are at the mercy of the party’s broken promises. Many foreigners are also left waiting for promises which never materialize despite their generosity to certain coffers.
Back when, there was Mike McLaney beseeching a casino license, which was faithfully promised to him by Sir Lynden were the PLP to win office. Having given the party electoral support which, according to a New York Times story included “cash, aircraft, boats, and a campaign headquarters on Bay Street” McLaney eagerly anticipated a license.
Though having described the PLP as being in his “ass pocket”, relations soured between Sir Lynden and McLaney as the latter’s reputation became better known. Sir Lynden eventually refused to meet with McLaney, who was subsequently labelled as an undesirable by a Commission of Inquiry.
Milked and bilked, McLaney left town broke, without a license. At the inquiry there was a discrepancy in the competing testimonies of the amount McLaney said he donated to the PLP, and the amount Sir Lynden said he received. Sounds familiar? Perhaps the old and the new PLP aren’t so different.
Then there was the fugitive U.S. financier Robert Vesco. Vesco fled the U.S. in 1973 to escape a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation concerning an alleged massive fraud by the financier estimated today at more than $1 billion.
He crisscrossed the region, finding governments that would give him protection from U.S. authorities, even allegedly attempting to purchase Barbuda from Antigua in order to make the former an autonomous country. A 2008 obituary of Vesco in the U.K.’s Guardian observed: “Vesco had cozied up to Nixon’s [U.S. President Richard Nixon] two brothers and employed his nephew Donald. ... As well, he found ways to reach Bahamas Prime Minister Lynden Pindling and Costa Rican president José Figueres via strategic loans, donations or investments.”
The PLP is particularly disposed to strategic loans, donations and purported investments from certain parties, domestic and foreign.
Among the worst were foreign drug lords, who seemingly had near carte blanche from the Pindling-led PLP government during the 1970s and 80s, making The Bahamas a “Nation for Sale”, a ruinous period from which we have still not recovered.
On Prime Minister Perry Christie’s watch there was the likes of Iranian businessman Mohammed Harajchi, who desperately wanted the restoration of a bank license from the PLP, but which was never granted. Harajchi claimed that he gave a substantial sum to the PLP for the 2002 general election.
In response to Harajchi’s claims, Christie made one of those solemn, passionate and supposedly high-principled declarations for which he is famous: “My party is presently conducting an accounting of monies received from Mr. Harajchi but I can state with complete confidence that Mr. Harajchi’s claim that it was $10 million is an absolute lie. It was nowhere near this amount. It was but a fraction of this amount. Details of our accounting will be made public once completed.
“Ordinarily we would not disclose the source of campaign contributions but as Mr. Harajchi has made this a public issue we are obliged to present the detailed facts concerning his contributions as indeed we will do as soon as possible.”
This promise was made by Christie on August 12, 2004, almost exactly nine years ago. It follows a pattern: A heated denial, a promise of full accountability, followed by absolutely nothing, all of which calls into question the prime minister’s credibility on these issues. We still do not know how much money Mohammed Harajchi gave to the PLP.
And then there was the late Anna Nicole Smith, a B-rated celebrity and Playboy’s 1993 Playmate of the Year, to whom then Immigration Minister Shane Gibson gave special attention, personally handling and expediting her immigration request, going so far as to making a home delivery of a certain document.
Gibson resigned due to the controversy with Christie sitting next to him on television almost holding his hand in one of the more bizarre Cabinet resignation events in the Commonwealth Caribbean.
Despite its longstanding deeply entrenched culture of chronic incompetence under Christie, the PLP knows politics. Still, when it comes to certain zany foreigners and money flowing into PLP coffers, the party seems to lose perspective, a mixture of hubris and a bunker mentality.
Late-again, Christie could not or refused to see how rolling scandals like the Anna Nicole affair were to make his the first one-term government in an independent Bahamas.
Fast forward to today. What Christie and the PLP seem to fail to understand is that the Peter Nygard matter is not a singular or stand-alone event in the minds of voters. Instead it is representative of a concern, like the Anna Nicole affair, of a PLP little concerned about questions of propriety and the kinds of perception it is creating.
Even worse is the suspicion by voters of ‘Corruption 2.0’ in the PLP, the sort of rolling scandals and unseemly dalliances with all manner of characters which led to the party’s loss in 2007. The Nygard matter capsulizes and crystallizes a widely held perception about the PLP.
Moreover, the Nygard matter has many more chapters. It is like a volcano that will spew all manner of material. Christie may well come to regret his effusive and gushing accolades to Nygard.
The now infamous YouTube sensation of the controversial businessman supposedly taking The Bahamas back is a watershed moment in Nygard’s relationship to the country.
The video speaks volumes about the hubris, narcissism and self-indulgence of a character who has now earned the disgust of many Bahamians, including many who formerly dismissed him as mostly clownish.
As more is disclosed on the lifestyle, employment practices and other controversies surrounding Peter Nygard, he will prove to be toxic to the PLP, including those who are so foolishly defending him now. The man who helped the party win office may now play a role in its defeat. Clearly, Nygard seems to have little sense of propriety and is unconcerned about certain perceptions. As a private resident that is his right. But those political figures still inclined to afford him a red carpet and a Junkanoo rush-out may be as short-sighted and as self-injected with hubris as is the foreign eccentric who is set to deeply embarrass the Christie administration.