Written by: B.A. Thompson
I readily accept that no one is indispensable. Times change, people move on and the notion of the irreplaceable individual is a myth as noted in Charles De Gaulle’s grim reminder, “The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men”.
Yet there are times in history or institutions that are so shaped by the extraordinary contributions of a single person that it is hard to imagine one without the other. That is my current feeling on Perry G. Christie and the Progressive Liberal Party. Prior to 2002, the PLP was “on the ropes”, “of no significance”. Mr. Christie was successful in leading a crusade of sorts to re-establish the party in the minds and hearts of the Bahamian electorate. Then, as now, he had detractors and doubters all around him. Irrespective of the “slip and fall” in 2007, I am one of those PLP’s who believe that Mr. Christie can lead us to victory again, because defeat does not drive him to sulk in dark, hidden corners, but rather it emboldens him to come back better prepared, wiser, and stronger. Mr. Christie’s life story in academics, athletics, junkanoo and politics is a testimony to his “bounce back” mentality.
It is therefore with perplexed interest that I have followed the reports – “The Choice of the PLP Establishment” and “Where Stands the PLP” in recent on-line Bahamas Uncensored reports. I say up-front that I have absolutely no difficulty with any open, legitimate challenge to Mr. Christie’s leadership of the PLP, because when I last looked, the party was still a fully democratic institution. What troubles me however is the expressed opinion of Bahamas Uncensored that Mr. Christie is the “Choice of the PLP Establishment”, suggesting perhaps that his support is a narrow base of “PLP muck a mucks” (whoever they are). They are grossly mistaken. Mr. Christie enjoys broad political support across all strata of PLP supporters, island to island. If Bahamas Uncensored is right on a leadership challenge, then in time we will find out if others do.
Another troubling aspect is this unyielding focus on findings in this Greenburg Report, of public perception of Mr. Christie as being “weak and indecisive”. Well let’s examine it objectively and fairly. It appears that Mr. Christie’s “weakness” is attributed substantially to his not dealing harshly (strongly) enough with perceived acts of poor judgment on behalf of certain elected PLP members. As Mr. Elcott Coleby succinctly pointed out in a recent article, PM Ingraham’s response to his so-called FNM members scandal was one of “do nothing” and he eventually rewarded them with high Cabinet posts. Yet, Ingraham’s action was not classified “weakness”. This is not to support the notion that our political leaders turn a “blind eye” to indiscretions of their party colleagues. Rather, I wanted to show the hypocrisy in the public perception of Christie/Ingraham actions relative to “scandals” of their members. What is disappointing is that Bahamas Uncensored knows who and what drives public perception in the country, as they always comment on it.
Mr. Christie as Prime Minister being “indecisive,” is a rather foolish argument. It would mean that his Government was indecisive. The response can only be that the Christie Government presided over the country’s most successful housing program, attracted over $20 billion investment projects while driving the economy to unparalleled heights, settled on an acceptable buyer for BTC at an attractive price after years of (and still) FNM Government indecision. “Tongue in cheek”, the Christie Government would have blown the country wide open with opportunities for Bahamians I guess, if they were only decisive, (as look what they accomplished being indecisive).
We have to realize that Leaders bring their personalities and life experiences to their decision-making process. Pres. Obama is considered uncomfortable making decisions quickly. He is deliberative, prides consensus and relies on research and others’ expertise. In John McCain’s memoir “Worth Fighting For”, McCain called his decision-making style “instinctive, often impulsive”, saying “I don’t torture over decisions. I make them as quickly as I can and quicker than the other fellow if I can”.
In the context of the Bahamas, one leader is called decisive and the other indecisive. It’s really a concoction of a jaundiced local press with clear political objectives. They have very successfully made these false labels stick, driving people’s perception in the process. Again, objectively, reasonably and fairly, Mr. Christie’s decisions in office were obviously deliberative, focused and had staying power. His successor in office, Mr. Ingraham erratically decided to cancel the Straw Market contract in favour of a park, then “undecided” it, to scrap the Bay St. re-development with the departing Christie administration, then “undecided” it, to kill the Urban Renewal Programme, then “undecided” it, to remove the container port to Arawak Cay, without any tangible research or reliance on independent expertise and we wait to see if public opinion pressures him to “undecide” that.
The above reflects my response to the perceived “weak and indecisive” traits of Mr. Christie as mentioned in this Greenburg Report. If Bahamas Uncensored has a different view, then it should say so in clear concise language to its loyal readership.
As the PLP moves forward to its fall convention and beyond, I believe it must welcome with open arms and hearts its more youthful voices clamoring for leadership and change. In their quest for both however, these “youthful voices” must always be mindful that politics is a “power game” and also a “team sport” and cannot be approached with a foolish degree of naiveté to say as you like, do as you like, without consequences.
I believe that in the next election as before, the FNM will attempt to smear the PLP as a party of corruption and misdeeds. Whether Bahamas Uncensored likes it or not, there is no better person to lead the charge against that smear campaign, than Perry G. Christie – a Bahamian politician, with over 30 years continuous public service and a record of unimpeachable integrity in Government. The issues of weakness and indecisiveness in a Christie leadership are non-issues and are easily addressed. Let’s move on to more substantive matters in preparing our party to re-claim the Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.