On the 20th July 2010, while I was on vacation, Mr. Rick Lowe, General Manager of the Nassau Motor Company, was kind enough to send me a copy of a letter he had written to you, which I understand was subsequently printed in your daily.
As you will recall on the 25th May 2010 the Prime Minister announced in the House of Assembly that drastic changes to the rate of duty on cars were to come into effect. The Protection of Revenue Act brought those changes with immediate effect thereby catching many Bahamians unaware. On the 26th May while in the Senate debating an unrelated Bill I took that opportunity to state that I understood the law, but thought it was wrong for Bahamians to be faced with what amounted in some cases to a 60% increase customs duty without any notice as I was aware of persons who had cars sitting on the dock and would be affected by this change. I thought in the circumstances it was unjust and wrong and asked the government to allow persons who had cars were either sitting on the dock or in route to pay the old rate of duty. My comments were carried in the Nassau Guardian on the 27th May.
In the same vain during my Budget contribution in the Senate three and a half weeks later on June 21st 2010 I produced a two customs entries with the customs cashiers stamp dated May 27th(2 days after the announced increase) showing that Nassau Motor Company had paid the old rate of duty. Just as I thought it was wrong for the government to increase the rate so drastically without notice I thought it was wrong for one company to pay a lower rate than everyone else. I did not make the law and stated in Parliament that in circumstances as this where there was a significant increase in duty on a particular item I did not agree with it. But that is the law and it applies to me, you and yes Nassau Motor Company. What Mr. Lowe appears unwilling to accept is that the relevant date is the 27th
when payment was made and the cashiers stamp appeared on the entry and not the 25th when he claims customs approved the entry.
I gave this information by way of background, but the real purpose of this letter is to address a particular point raised by Mr. Lowe concerning me abusing my Parliamentary privilege by raising this matter in the Senate. I can only assume that Mr. Lowe is saying that had I said what I said inside the Senate outside the Senate Nassau Motor Company would have sued me. During the 3-4 minutes I spent on this topic in the Senate describing what I said above, I also said in closing that “an egregious offence has been committed against the Stamp Act”. This statement appears to have disturbed Mr. Lowe and Nassau Motor Company. I cannot understand why. The fact is that Nassau Motor paid the wrong rate of duty and they were subsequently made to pay the correct amount in accordance with the amendment to the Stamp Act on the 25th May 2010.
I therefore do not and will not apologize or retract what I said and for the sake of clarity, I will not say anything in Parliament I am not prepared to say outside Parliament and I state again; in the matter of Nassau Motor Company and Bahamas Customs that I raised in the Senate on June 21st 2010, an egregious offence had been committed against Stamp Act. I have now said it outside Parliament and Rick Lowe and Nassau Motor are now invited to pursue whatever cause of action they deem prudent. I appreciate his frustration and anger for having to pay the correct amount of duty, but I suggest that he has misplaced his time and energy by focusing on me for carrying out my duty and bringing this matter to the Government’s attention. I hope he will now leave well enough alone and get over it.
With regard to the issue of racism introduced by Mr. Lowe, I will not dignify his comments with a response as I find them most unfortunate in this context.
Senator Jerome Kennedy Fitzgerald.
August 1, 2010.