Perry Christie’s desperation and abandonment of Centreville
Published: Apr 20, 2017
Two days after the date of the general election was announced, an embattled and desperate Perry Christie went to Windsor Park for the handout of 1,000 Urban Renewal food parcels to residents of his Centreville constituency.
What an extraordinary coincidence was the timing of the event, held specifically in the prime minister’s constituency, about 48 hours after the general election was announced.
Christie desperately sought to spin the blatantly political event: “I am so happy, because I made a decision that I did not want to make this a political program.”
Why did he have to make such a decision? Were there attempts or thoughts of making it political?
Christie then blithely bellowed balderdash: “I did not want to have people confused about whether they’re FNM or whether they’re PLP or whether they’re DNA or whatever they are.”
How good of our fair-minded prime minister to help residents of his constituency to discern their political affiliation.
What good and noble representation from the self-proclaimed democrat, who arrogantly ignored the will of the people in the gambling referendum, and whose government failed to bring legislation to create the National Intelligence Agency.
Christie thumped at the Urban Renewal event: “And, I don’t mind how many of you are in here and what they say; the one thing all of you would know, I don’t need to play politics to win Centreville.”
He said this exactly as he was playing politics. It’s a well-known political shuffle by the great shuffler and dancer of Bahamian politics. With Christie, it is typically best to believe the opposite of what he says. See for example his many proclamations about Baha Mar.
Christie is the exemplar of that brilliant Dr. Maya Angelou insight which she offered with her sonorous voice, matter of fact wisdom, and broad smile, punctuated by her iconic diastema: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the first time.” At the very beginning of his public career Christie talked but did very little. Nothing has changed.
Meanwhile, thank God Christie was not playing politics with taxpayer funds to help residents in his constituency. Perry Christie would never countenance something like that.
A few weeks ago Christie went to Fox Hill for the opening of a new community center which boasts various amenities, including a swimming pool. Christie marvelled at the center. He wistfully said he wished that Centreville could enjoy such a facility.
It was a sad and telling admission by Christie. It was sad for the people of Centreville. It was a telling indictment of Christie as the member of Parliament for the area.
He has represented Centreville for four decades. A child who was in vitro when Christie first represented the constituency is about 40 today with children of their own. While they have seen many life changes, little has changed to improve Centreville.
During his four-decade representation Christie has done little to materially transform Centreville. Much of the constituency is in worse shape today. Over four decades Christie could have built one of the best community centers in the country.
He could have built a state-of-the-art center for seniors. A recent video seen on WhatsApp showed the neglect and poverty in Centreville. Over four decades Christie could have dramatically improved housing in his constituency.
Christie is said to have fallen out with some of his supporters in Centreville because they believed he had little time for constituents. A number of residents are claiming that he is back on the ground campaigning because he is desperate. Many see him as arrogant and removed.
Christie’s neglect of Centreville is such that his political headquarters in the constituency were badly rundown and in need of considerable repair. Christie simply did not care enough over the past five years to maintain his headquarters. It was telling of his neglect and indifference.
In his representation of Centreville in the House of Assembly, Christie followed the path of his mentor Sir Lynden Pindling instead of that of his friend Hubert Ingraham.
Sir Lynden’s strategy for representing a constituency was broadcast in 1987 at Windsor Park, the same venue for the Urban Renewal handout for residents of the prime minister’s constituency.
After returning from his Kemp’s Bay constituency after the 1987 general election, which many observers believe the PLP won fraudulently, Sir Lynden, in a fit of anger after nearly losing office, vehemently announced that he would abandon the middle class.
Sir Lynden expressed the view that as Bahamians entered the middle class they were less likely to vote PLP and less likely to remain dependent. The PLP has thrived with their dependency minds.
That the PLP represents some of the more deprived communities in New Providence is not coincidental. It is not because of great regard for poorer Bahamians. It is a political strategy that Christie has mastered.
The FNM has a much more progressive record under Hubert Ingraham than the PLP has under Christie. But because politics is often not about logic, facts and reason, many still emotionally believe that the PLP has a stronger progressive record in the last few decades.
He famously neglected his Kemp’s Bay constituency. An iconic story is Sir Lynden having lamp poles sent to South Andros in 1982, a general election year, with the promise of more electricity.
The poles remained on the ground until the 1987 general election when they were erected. But it was not until the 1992 general election that the poles were strung.
In the early days of the PLP government Sir Lynden would also tell his colleagues not to do too much in a given term because they had to leave things to do for the next term.
Some of them, like Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, had a different view. They believed they should accomplish as much as possible now as there would always be plenty to do in the future.
Ingraham’s Abaco representation is different, from Cooper’s Town and North Abaco and throughout Abaco, Hubert Ingraham transformed the island of his youth, which has seen many millions in capital development and infrastructure.
On a visit to Abaco, former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur marvelled at what Ingraham did in Abaco, noting that the island enjoyed some amenities various states in CARICOM did not enjoy.
Urban Renewal fits in with a certain philosophy of Christie. The program has done outreach and a number of good things. But it has not been the sort of development and empowerment program it could have been.
Christie and the PLP have used it more as a dependency program and for partisan political purpose to take care of many of their people. It was never designed or intended to be a transformational program.
It was more of a community service effort than an economic and social development program. It has been less about renewal and more about charitable outreach, which is important, but not sufficient.
Urban Renewal 2.0, which has been an abysmal failure in stemming crime as the PLP promised, has been widely successful as a PLP boondoggle. It is also a jobs program for certain PLP bigwigs and supporters.
A Tribune editorial observed: “It would appear that Urban Renewal 2.0 is a disaster under the direction of the PLP-appointed... former party assistant secretary-general on Grand Bahama and school caterer, whose self-proclaimed claim to fame is that she is qualified for her present position because she ‘comes from urban’”.
Urban Renewal has been dogged by questions of financial irregularities and has been investigated by the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Assembly.
The sad and tragic tale of Perry Christie’s abysmal representation in Centreville is one thing. If he cares enough he will have to live with the record of his neglect.
But it is the people of the area who have lived, and will live the rest of their lives, having been neglected by someone who had the power, including that of his great office, to improve their lives and ease their burdens but who did not do so over the course of more than a generation.
It is a tragic story all around and one of the greatest failures of Perry Christie.