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FNM lashes Mitchell on frequent travel

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: Oct 15, 2013

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The official opposition is demanding to know how much money has been spent to cover the many trips taken by Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell since May 2012.

Since January, Mitchell visited numerous places, including Chile; Los Angeles; Illinois; New York; Washington, D.C.; Miami; Haiti; Trinidad and Tobago; Barbados; Qatar and the Turks and Caicos, among other places — some of them more than once.

In a response, Mitchell accused the FNM of being “profound jokers who are engaged in silly trivialities” and said they should “get a life”.

He also pledged to “attract fresh money to The Bahamas to rescue us from the poor economy left by the FNM”.

Mitchell recently announced that he expects “to be on the road for the better part of the next year”.

“The idea is to utilize the office of the minster of foreign affairs to explore new country to country ties with a view to finding new resources for our country’s development,” he said during a recent press conference.

“I am pleased therefore and look forward with anticipation to the results of our bilateral discussions with Middle Eastern countries while I was at the UN and who have expressed an interest in investment in The Bahamas.”

But Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis said Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle already fills such a role.

“That is the responsibility for the state minister for investments,” Minnis said.  “But one needs to review the entire traveling of the minister of foreign affairs, especially at a time when the country has minimal resources.”

Minnis said the Public Accounts Committee will demand an accounting of Mitchell’s expenses, including who travels with him and who pays for that.

“The Public Accounts Committee will be demanding all of that information,” he said.

Mitchell said the current leadership of the party should ask former Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette what travels he did.

“When they let me know, then perhaps I will go beyond pointing them to the country's budget which governs the expenses of the ministry,” Mitchell said in a statement.

“They voted for that budget so they should have no quarrel with it. I understand though why they are nitpicking.

“The Bahamian people are asking for them to account for why they sided with enemies of the country when those enemies attacked The Bahamas just a few weeks ago. The FNM should account for their behavior.

“So again I say they ought to go get a life. This argument is the same stupidity and idleness they ran on with when the PLP was last in office. They must be brain dead.

“This minister will continue to defend this country's interests abroad and try to attract fresh money to The Bahamas to rescue us from the poor economy left by the FNM.

“They should be ashamed of themselves. They should repent.”

Mitchell was referring to recent protests against The Bahamas by Miami-based protest group Democracy Movement in response to allegations of abuse at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre.

When called for comment, Symonette said Mitchell should produce what business, if any, has come to The Bahamas as a result of his travels.

“Some of my expenses were paid for out of the Office of the Prime Minister because I was traveling on behalf of the prime minister,” Symonette said.

“I did not overspend my budget. I also allowed some of my junior officers to travel. Challenge him to produce a budget of his travels.”

Symonette said he would have traveled less frequently during his term, and traveled mostly in the place of then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner also said that Mitchell’s constant traveling is perplexing.

“The issues he needs to be dealing with are at home, poachers from the Dominican Republic for instance,” she said.

“Then there is the issue of the Haitian migrants and Cuban migrants. Those are issues that affect us as a country. There is nothing in those far-flung countries that is going to impact us more than the countries in the Caribbean region.”

Butler-Turner added, “I think if any minister goes abroad on some promotional trip, whether it’s tourism or investments, it would be prudent to know what they achieved on those trips.”

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