By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
OFFICIALS from Save Our Bahamas said their campaign against the constitutional referendum did not raise “nearly” as much money as they wanted.
According to pastor and group spokesman Kevin Harris, while a final assessment of the campaign’s finances has not yet been made, the group suffered from the Christie administration’s decision not to give it access to public funds.
Sean McWeeney, chairman of the Constitutional Commission, told The Tribune weeks ago that the government should have given both sides of the referendum equal access to public funding, saying a failure to do so would be legally incorrect.
Although Senate President and head of the YES Bahamas campaign Sharon Wilson later confirmed that the government funded the ‘yes’ campaign with public funds, sources high in the government confirmed to The Tribune that the Christie administration did not intend to give public funds to those promoting a ‘no’ campaign.
In the lead-up to the 2013 gambling referendum, Save Our Bahamas raised $100,000 to campaign against that vote. The group wanted to raise the same amount this year and had requested this sum from the government.
However, Mr Harris suggested the campaign didn’t even raise half that much.
“We had small donations from ordinary Bahamians but time was a big factor,” Mr Harris said yesterday. “We had a lot more time in the gambling referendum to canvas. This very short time meant that without the support, the equal support from the Treasury, we would’ve been at a severe disadvantage. In fact, I think the government used that as leverage against the vote ‘no’ campaign, knowing the shorter time would’ve put us at a disadvantage.”
The ‘no’ campaign had intended for its last public event ahead of the referendum to be held at Rawson Square yesterday evening as part of its weekly prayer service.
Cabinet office officials booked them for the event but later sent them a letter rescinding that permission, saying in a letter, according to Mr Harris, that the group had to be preempted for a “national reason.”
It turned out the reason was because the YES Bahamas campaign was booked to hold an event in Rawson Square yesterday evening instead.
Mr Harris said this added to the sense that the government is exercising its authority in unfair ways.
“That’s the kind of games they’ve been playing with this process,” he said.
The ‘no’ campaign had an event at Bahamas Faith Ministries (BFM) Sunday evening.
Mr Harris said it was widely successful, attracting hundreds as former Court of Appeal Justice Dame Joan Sawyer and Marco City MP Greg Moss spoke, among others.
“Dame Joan Sawyer has emerged as the face and the iconic figure in this campaign,” he said. “She spoke and they loved her. They respected her. It’s obvious the government has deep concern about her and her influence.”
The ‘no’ campaign spent yesterday doing “media rounds” before holding a final event at Grace Community Church last night.
Save Our Bahamas has urged voters not to support question four in the referendum.