By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
PINERIDGE MP Rev Frederick McAlpine refutes recent remarks made by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis about him wanting Grand Bahamians to suffer, saying he only wants to see the island's economy progress.
"Grand Bahama is my home and The Bahamas is my country. I would not wish to see my home, neither any island of my country suffer, including Ragged Island," he said on Friday at his constituency office in Freeport.
"It would be far more impressive if the prime minister, as opposed to speaking to Crooked Island about the purchase of the Lucayan strip, would come to Grand Bahama and speak to us (in Grand Bahama)."
“Informing us what the business plans are for the purchase of these hotels, how the government plans to operate them until they are sold, and what’s the alternative if they are not sold within the projected six-month time frame," said the outspoken MP.
Dr Minnis attended a town meeting on Thursday at the Ezekiel Thompson Centre in Cabbage Hill, Crooked Island, where he talked about the government's purchase of the Grand Lucayan Resort in Grand Bahama.
"It is unfortunate that my leader of the party, and the prime minister of the Bahamas, under whose government I serve the people of Pineridge, has expressed to the people in Crooked Island, and not Grand Bahama, that I wish for them to suffer; or that I want the people of Grand Bahama to suffer."
According to Rev McAlpine, his constituents in Grand Bahama have been reacting to the comments made by the prime minister.
"I am being forwarded some information on the social media and it is not going over pretty well by a lot of people,” he said. “Again, you got to know what fights to pick and that really was not necessary to go down in Crooked Island and invoke my name down there to the people," he said.
"I have not been to Crooked Island since the last time I preached. But one thing the PM and my colleagues must understand while some people talk about the Bahamas, I actually know the Bahamas. I travelled to every one of those islands. So when they talk about McAlpine they know, so I will continue to fight for the people. And if fighting for the people is wrong, then I don't want to be right."
The Grand Bahama MP stated that the economic climate in Grand Bahama has not been good for over a decade-and a-half, and that people are still suffering since the change in government over a year ago.
"First of all, you cannot want for people what is their present reality," he said in response to Dr Minnis’ remarks. “Grand Bahama has been suffering for the past year and five months, and that suffering has even widened under our governance," Rev McAlpine said.
The people of Grand Bahama, he said, voted for better and for relief, yet the island's unemployment rate is the highest in the country.
According to the MP, residents are morally and socially depressed because of the poor GB economy.
"I just don't talk about GB, I reside on the island with the people and only wish to see the progress and revitalisation of this island's economy," he added.
Rev McAlpine admitted that while he does not think that the government's purchasing of the Lucayan Strip was the best idea, he, like most Grand Bahamians, has accepted the fact that the government has purchased the property with intent to sell it quickly.
Rev McAlpine believes that Grand Bahama needs an economy stimulus that goes beyond the purchase of the Lucayan strip.
He noted that before the closure of the hotels on the Lucayan strip, the island was still suffering economically under the leadership of successive governments and the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
"I can only wish my Prime Minister and government well as we seek to revive, renew, and rejuvenate the island and the people of Grand Bahama," he said.
When asked about the estranged relationship between himself and Dr Minnis, Rev McAlpine said: "I don't know and I am beginning to ask myself the same question. I don't know if I've done anything to the Prime Minister. If I said anything to the Prime Minister, I am sorry. But I want to publicly apologise if I have offended him personally or publicly, that was never my intention."
"I think the PM and I might have gotten off on the wrong foot because I was not one of those who support Dominicans coming in. I found that difficult to do at a time when the people in Pineridge roofs were leaking, Ragged Island was tore up and other areas in the southern part of the Bahamas was also tore up. I believe that you take care of home before you take care of others.
"I did not say we could not support Dominica, but bringing Dominicans to live, nobody invites visitors to their house if their house is not in order.”
Mr Rev McAlpine also noted that perhaps another reason for the breakdown was his not being able to go on the campaign trail and travelling the country with the party leader.
"I had a very hard opponent and perhaps if I had an easier seat I could be travelling all over the Bahamas, but I had a hard seat and my priority was to win the seat of Pineridge, but whenever I was called on to speak in GB, I spoke with vigour and fervour," he said.
Rev McAlpine said that he supports the FNM party.
He said his relationship with the other four MPs are amicable. "I would say that we communicate, but I can't speak to that fully as I am watching a few things, but I have no problems with my colleagues," he stated.
"I am a party man, I support the party, I don't worship men. I am a preacher, and a Christian," he said.