THE Progressive Liberal Party tried to brand much of the government’s agenda in the Speech from The Throne as a continuation of the previous administration’s plans.
“We listened intently and the reality is that the Speech from The Throne is an acknowledgement of the transformative foundation already constructed by the PLP government,” Official Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis said at a press conference yesterday.
“We are encouraged to hear that the government has embraced essential job related skills training and specialised programmes for youth.
“The government must now enter the real world of governance and not trash talking from a platform,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Free National Movement’s pledge that it will increase people’s access to justice was met with a PLP response that the Public Defender’s Office was established by the previous administration and the time it takes for cases to come to trial has been reduced.
National Health Insurance (NHI) was also established by the PLP, Mr Davis said, adding that the FNM’s NHI goals merely mirrors his party’s commitment to secondary and tertiary implementation of NHI.
“So the foundation is there,” Mr Davis said, “set by the PLP but the devil is in the details.”
He added: “It is also important to ensure that the favoured few who provided funding for this government doesn’t end up being the main beneficiaries of this government. While the FNM speaks the words of the protection of the poor, we will ensure that the benefits do not go to the wealthy.”
The party will await details of the Minnis administration’s referendum plans before revealing its positions on the government’s promise to implement term limits for prime ministers, institute a recall system for parliamentarians and create an independent boundaries commission, Mr Davis also said.
“We wish them well,” Mr Davis said when asked about his party’s position on these issues. “They all serve to direct our democracy and I would prefer to await the details of how they intend to achieve these initiatives and at that time we will have a more robust response to it.”
Nonetheless, Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin appeared to express a preliminary view on at least one of those promises, saying: “Bahamian people put in place their own terms limits you know. When they go to the polls, they do what they got to do and then it ends so I don’t know why you need something in writing. The Bahamian people decide who will be where and when it will happen.”
It’s not clear when the Minnis administration plans to host a referendum. The government revealed its intention to do so during yesterday’s speech, which was read by Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling.
If the government does host the referendum, the positioning of the opposition will come into focus as governing parties have sought to secure unanimous parliamentary support for referenda in hope that this would increase their chances of succeeding.
The PLP faced criticism in 2002 when it flipped its position on the constitutional referendum that was initiated by former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, and the party faced questions about that decision ahead of last year’s failed referendum on gender equality.
Likewise, the PLP sought last year to place some blame for the failed referendum on then Leader of the Official Opposition, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, who voted in support of the gender equality bills in Parliament but told Bahamians to “vote their conscience” in the lead-up to the referendum.