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Elections are for the People

PRE-ELECTION PASTORAL REFLECTION- Rev. T.G. Morrison

Elections belong to the People.  It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their backs on the fire and burn their behinds (buttocks), then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” Abraham Lincoln.

For: “every election is determined by the people who show up” says Larry J. Sabato. Alas, the time is upon us which many call “The Silly Season”, subtly suggesting that, some take leave of their senses and say or do somethings or not say or not do somethings that, cause the eye brows of the critically conscious to be raised.  Needless to say that, as the Masses of Bahamians registered to vote, exercise that right, we pray for peace and calm, throughout the length and breadth of our Commonwealth.

For several months, we have seen and heard, power struggles, vitriolic speech, character assassination, the usual skullduggery and intentional disorganization all seemingly aimed at creating a climate of confusion and or ideological suspicion to say the least.  What are the reasons for this new approach to campaigning in The Bahamas is anyone’s guess. However, with a clarity and sobriety that are un-mistakable, each Registered Voter must approach the scared privilege of casting a ballot for the person of their choice.

But wait, is the vote really for a Person or Party? Does our electoral process afford us the opportunity to vote soberly for a person to represent us or it’s really for the face (persona) of a Party, that once elected is to vote upon Bills that become Law, based on The Party’s bias or agenda?  Within this last five (5) year cycle, we have heard voices that, attempted to critique their particular Party; but, were met with fierce resistance, totally shut down and or frustrated to the point where they left the Party and at least two, crossed ‘The Floor’.

Is there no place in Bahamian Parliamentary Democracy, for a Member elected by the People, to voice the concerns of the People, or to have a dissenting voice and still enjoy the security of their Party and yet be respected for their views based on their conscience?  If the answer is no, then, it would seem that we vote for Political Parties only, and thus, each Party must be thoroughly scrutinized.  But, how could such scrutiny take place when there seems to be a culture of ‘blind loyalty’ in all the Political Parties.  Some argue from the position of observation that, certain areas or Constituencies are never going to change their historical voting patterns.  Others go as far suggesting that, educational acumen, social standing, colour and geographical boundaries, all determine which Party people will align themselves with.  Still others go farther and say, it is a deliberate move by Politicians to not interrupt certain cycles, (e.g poverty, lack of education, and high unemployment) in order to benefit from ‘blind loyalty’. One only need look at the voting patterns of some Constituencies no matter their name change and the evidence will be shocking. So, while there may be some justification to the theory of ‘blind loyalty’; shouldn’t people’s lived realities provoke them to break with the norm and ask:  Is this going to improve my life?  Or how much longer am I going to be taken for granted? Don’t I deserve better?

Without question, there is too much at stake in this election, to give into ‘blind loyalty’ or non-critical voting.  Since, never in our Nation’s history has there been so many persons vying for Political positions who seem more power struck then Patriotic.   More consumed by illusions of grandeur and self aggrandizement, then committed to engaging in governance that, empowers the People to become owners of our Country, our Economy and our Destiny on the World Stage on our own terms.

In this election season, the word CORRUPTION has been used so many times that, its shocking and unacceptable implications have been neutralized.  Are we really a Nation where corruption is our true Culture?  And if so, how can we become alarmed that, products of a corrupt Culture are elected to the Lower House of Parliament? Are we at the place where, corruption is our new normal and where good governance ought not to be expected or demanded?  Are we becoming that diminished in our ethics or so seared in our consciences that, we no longer can distinguish right from wrong or even care about what is right or wrong?  Are we not correct to demand accountability from those elected to serve our interests not theirs? Are we not justified in asking for transparency from those, trusted to manage our patrimony and or to act in good Faith on our behalf? Are scandals only merely ‘nine days talk’ or do they destroy creditability and thus, disqualify some from ever holding Public Office? Should discoveries of broken Public Trust alter our voting patterns?

Is it a figment of most of imagination or is there a metastasizing arrogance in those elected to serve, to the point where they are annoyed when critique or questioned? Are we to believe that, an Elected Official is always right, or can do as he/she pleases without consequences.  Or is it a passivity twinned to an apathy of our People that, allows politicians to be so seemingly disrespectful and shamelessly dishonest without genuine contrition or remorse? But wait, hasn’t there been in recent years a growing disrespect for God and public disdain for things and People consecrated as Holy unto the Lord?   Isn’t the culture of politics married to the Church in The Bahamas?  For our history shows that, the Church allowed the political machinery to envelop her, in the struggle for social change and justice.  So much so that, now the Church is an echoing chamber of political propaganda, rather than, a Prophetic Voice, reminding Politicians of their sacred trust to ensure that: “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

Regrettably today, the touted abiding respect for Christian values strategically placed in the Pre-amble of our Constitution is as tokenistic and disingenuous today, as it was when it was originally placed there.  Politicians spout scripture thoughtlessly, invoke God’s name in vain, ask for prayers conveniently and disrespect the Church brazenly. So much so that, Worship Houses are launching pads for campaigns, Preachers are handpicked to Prophesy, Pray and Proclaim, but godly principles are not influencing what is said and done in the Upper and Lower Chambers of Parliament.  But, that ought not be surprising; since, godliness and Christian charity are glaringly absent on the campaign trail. How sad it is when, men and women who profess Faith, that are Elected or Appointed to Parliament refuse to speak up or against and shy away from voting based on their conscience; which ought to be formed and influenced by Judeo Christian principles.  Even those trapped in the ‘vortex of ignorance’ can appreciate this statement: “Any man or woman who refuses to respect and honor God cannot and will not respect and honor those created in the image and likeness of God.” When have come to a place in our Country when, politicians see themselves as demi-gods, seek to consolidate ultimate power, declare themselves as the final authority and take it as a joke to presume what God Almighty would do or CAN’T DO! These realities are beyond scary, presumptuous; THEY ARE, TOTALLY OUT OF ORDER.

Without question, this Election will be a decisive moment in our evolution as a People.   Some 175 persons feel constrained to offer themselves promising to serve those who have elected them.  Though there are many Parties it is safe to say that, three out of many are major contenders in the bid to become the next Government of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.  Two of those Parties have governed the Bahamas intermittently since the elections of 1992 and the third brands itself as a fresh alternative.  Our Parliamentary Democracy does not allow us to vote for a Prime Minister, since the Leader of the Party, who commands the most seats in the House of Assembly becomes Prime Minister and is invited to form a Government.

A close look at the three prominent Leaders reveals that, their personality, charisma, gifting, competencies and years of experience differ.  As they offer themselves in this cycle, what do we see and hear? Is it right for Leaders to demean another person or ‘pull them down” only to extol himself?  Is it not important to weigh the words and action of a Leader, rather than accepting everything hook line and sinker?  Ought not a Leader’s words mean something? Should not a Leader’s word be trusted? Shouldn’t a Leader be unafraid when making a decision or taking an action? Shouldn’t a Leader be able to command the respect of those he leads and discipline those whose actions are not in the best interest of good governance? Shouldn’t a Leader go through the ‘baptism of fire’ and emerge better instead of bitter? Shouldn’t a Leader be able to say I was wrong, I am sorry, I made a mistake, accept the consequences and do what is necessary to repair trust? Shouldn’t a Leader deport himself in a respectable manner, mindful that, many look up to him? Shouldn’t a Leader know that, the sole purpose of detractors is to make him  lose focus and credibility in the eyes of those who believe in him or her? Shouldn’t integrity be a hallmark for any Leader? Shouldn’t every Leader know that, his voice is never to become so common that, people stop listening? Shouldn’t a Leader know when to quit? Shouldn’t a Leader put Country above self and ego? Shouldn’t a Leader let history determine the strength and validity of his legacy?

Our Country needs Leadership in the purest and most profound understanding of the Word. But, one can only lead when people are following. Who are we prepared to follow in this election cycle?  Should we follow one who has earned the right to be called a ‘Career Politician’; or one who was elected to lead a defeated party, was challenged for leadership at least two times, was removed as Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, by a vote of No Confidence by his Parliamentary; yet, was retained as Leader of his Party and is only now being afforded the privilege to lead his party into a General Election; or one who formed a Party for reasons obscured from the Masses, was passionate about the need for change, but, accepted an appointment from the First Female Leader of the Opposition in Parliament; who has NO PARTY, while saying he will advance his OWN Party’s agenda, only to resign to focus on preparations for General Election?

Make no mistake, every Party has its share of flaws, evils, deceit, and charlatan like personages and social media is being used to shine the spotlight on all. So one needs to be critical of the source and learn the biases of those posting. While it is hard not to revisit the words and actions of the Governing Party, the Official Opposition, The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament and the Leaders and voices for the other Parties, there has to be in each voter a sense of what he/she wants for the Country and which Party is best positioned to bring that vision into fruition.

Since the Progressive Liberal Party has been privileged to be the Government for the past five years, does the good it has done out-weigh the bad or does the bad eclipsed the good? Has it been a good steward and upon reckoning, been found trustworthy? Has it shown that, it truly believes in Bahamians? Has the Country been placed on sound financial footing? Has trust in its governance eroded irreparably in light of the Gaming Referendum? Should its disrespect for the will of People be forgiven and forgotten? Was it a lack of trust or other factors that led to the failed Equality Referendum? Has it been transparent in the way it led and did business? Has the introduction of VAT and the proceeds derived from it been properly accounted for and prudently spent? Is the PLP Government to be blamed for the multiple downgrades or is it to be placed at the feet of the International Agents of the ‘Empire of Money’? Has the birthing of Carnival helped the Country by enriching the masses or only a chosen few? What are the infrastructural accomplishments of this PLP Government? Has this PLP Government responded to the Housing plight and relieved struggling Home Owners? Has its programs through Urban Renewal and Social Services positively impacted People or was it merely a political band aide on serious social wounds ? Has the PLP policies and strategies to arrest unabating crime yielded appreciable results? Have Bahamians been positioned to become owners of The Economy and has the PLP government moved the Country away from a Service Economy? Now that The University of The Bahamas is a welcomed reality, will it be allowed to impact Public Policy and bring serious structure to BAMSI? Was it intentional not to pass the Freedom of Information Act? Are the reasons given so far for the sealing of Documents relative to the Sale of Baha-Mar justified? Have the Family Islands flourished under this government? Has the PLP government promoted and defended the values of The Bahamas or has it caved into secular international pressures? Has the PLP government gotten the controlling Shares of BTC, to the extent that, Bahamians have reclaimed ownership of the Fibre Optic Cables? Has the PLP government handling of Crown Land protected the patrimony of our people or squandered it? Has the PLP government arrested the alarming rate of unemployment? Has the PLP government partnered with Educators to interrupt the cycle of patent ignorance in our Youths? Has the PLP government protected our Natural Resources or gotten maximum from use of the same or protected the environment and ensured that its policies in this regard benefit the Country in the long run?

Has the FNM been an effective Opposition? Has the FNM kept the feet of the governing party to the fire? Has the FNM been a strong Opposition defending the rights of the people? Has the infighting crippled the party? Has the FNM positioned itself to lead this Country? Has the public vilification of its Leader painted him in a bad light? Are the charges of  the FNM’s Leader’s  lack of charisma, experience and competence justified or overly exaggerated? Has the FNM Leader’s inability to control his colleagues in Parliament hurt him? The fact that, he was allowed to continue leading the Party, does that speak well of him? Does the FNM have realistic plans to arrest Crime, and adequately address the Social and Financial decay of the Country? Is the labelling of the FNM as rebranded UBPs justified? Is it an elitist party? Is the FNM being financed by external donors? Is the strong anti-corruption policy to be taken seriously? Does the FNM have the ability to connect with the Masses and break through its own ‘blind loyalty’ cloud? Does it deserve another chance to lead the Country under a new Leader? Or simply put, is the DNA the Party to look to for meaningful change? Is there any truth in the assertion that, the PLP and FNM are flip sides of the one coin; one, a worn-out product; and the other a refurbished product? Can or should this neophyte Party be trusted to lead at this crucial juncture in our evolution, seeing only two of its Candidates have ever served in Elected or Appointed Office in Parliament? Is the DNA the Party of the People or the Party of its Leader?

By now you ought to recognize, this Election is serious and a sobriety that has yet to be shown must characterize the Voter. It is your vision of the Bahamas that’s important and the Party you are persuaded can best facilitate that vision, while guarding integrity, disciplining those in its ranks and ensuring that we become owners of this Country and its Natural Resources.

For those of us passionate about preserving the Christian influence in governance, we must prayerfully discern which Party truly is committed to Judeo Christian values and is prepared to stand up for their preservation in this Country and on the world stage. The world is becoming more and more liberal and secular and Courts are being used to reverse time tested principles and to change public opinion and policy. Therefore, it is paramount for those who profess Faith to vote their consciences if elected to Parliament and not be swayed by the pressure to conform to the Party line.

No one can or should tell you who to vote for, but every Christian ought to vote as led by God, Who alone leads us into all Truth. So we pray that, the Lord will order our steps in HIS WORD! Bahamians, there is no need for violence or any social unrest after May 10th since we all have to live here and give an honest days’ work for an honest days’ pay. Remember, to be our brothers and sisters keepers at all times and in every situation.

An urgent appeal is therefore being issued to aspirants for Public Office, especially during these last days of campaigning: turn off the heated hateful rhetoric, be courteous in speech and actions, respect people’s families, speak only truth in love, minimize the availability of alcohol at Rallies and Constituency Offices and or while campaigning and urge your supporters to respect the rights of others and walk away if tensions rise.

To those in charge of Administrating this vital part of our unbroken democracy, do things in decency and order, avoiding at all costs the perception of shadiness and duplicity and or collusion in a partisan way. Rebuff the perception of ‘intentional disorganization’ so that people are not disenfranchised or frustrated while exercising their right to vote. Ours is a tradition of ‘fair play’ and integrity and let this time not be an exception; as only those eligible to vote ought to be allowed to vote. Keep the process simple and manage time properly, by deploring adequate authorized staff at the various Polling Stations. Remind the Staff to leave their political biases at home and guard the sacred trust.

Finally, to VOTE is a golden opportunity and a sacred right of every eligible person, so embrace it, for it is a part or STEWARDSHIP and responsible citizenship. For George Orwell stated that: ‘A people that elect corrupt politicians…are not victims…but accomplices.  Therefore, may the Eternal God guide us in the process of casting our VOTE!

 

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