Mitchell Answers Symonette on Ministry Website

Hon. Fred Mitchell


29th August 2010

The statements made by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and published in The Tribune of Saturday 28th August with regard to the loss of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website are shocking and patently offensive. They are beyond stupid. They convey ineptitude on his part that is beyond belief.

The question of how the website was established is irrelevant to the issue that is before him as Minister. The fact is on his watch, he allowed the information which is proprietary to the Bahamas Government on to be lost and he does not have an answer for it.

The best one can say in this matter is that Fred Mitchell is not the issue as much as he would like me to be. The issue is; how did he and officials allow the Government’s information to be lost?

When this matter was revealed to the public, that the Ministry had lost the information, I wrote the Prime Minister to seek an immediate investigation and to urge the Prime Minister to cause his Minister to account to the public for his shocking behaviour, that of allowing government information to go missing and there was no accountability for it to the public. The Prime Minister has not answered to my complaint.

For three years on the occasion of the budget debates, in my monthly press briefings as Shadow Spokesman on Foreign Affairs, I raised the matter of the website and the fact that the Minister was simply not paying attention. On each occasion, the Minister would respond by saying that they were working on a new site.

At one point, his colleague Zhivargo Laing floated the absurd idea that the site was actually a Fred Mitchell site and not a government site. This equally absurd notion has now been adopted by Mr. Symonette. The record betrays the stupidity of this argument. Why would a website that is owned by Fred Mitchell continue for three years after he lost office to post speeches and picture of Brent Symonette on it?

So this Member of Parliament has nothing to say in response to the Minister’s challenge that all the facts must be revealed about how the site was set up. Mr. Symonette has the records. Ambassador Joshua Sears and Dr. Patricia Rodgers, the now Permanent Secretary, are aware of all of the facts. Indeed the Ambassador is well aware of all of the facts and he now works for Mr. Symonette. We urge him to speak the truth to power. The Minister must step back from this witch-hunt in which his government is now engaged. The government should not be the police to lock up citizens of The Bahamas who are simply seeking to get the Minister to do his job.

The Minister must say what steps he is now taking to recover the lost information.

The Minister must also accept responsibility for hounding the employees who were connected with the website out of the Ministry and now after the shocking negligence of the Minister, the information appears to be lost.

The site contains information on where visas are needed for Bahamians to travel, who need visas to travel to The Bahamas, a list of treaties, policies of the Ministry, addresses and telephone number of ambassadors and consulates and honorary consuls.

I did my job competently as a Minister. I am doing my job competently as the Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs. Mr. Symonette must not be begrudgeful. He must get down now and do his work. Time is quite short.