PETER Nygard in this image from video in which he was seen walking on a Brazilian beach looking at women and saying to an interpreter to tell a young girl to “lie about her age”. Photo: Mega Agency
By MALCOLM STRACHAN
EMBARASSED in international media, one of the most glaring shortcomings of our democratic process was laid bare for the world to see in the recent indictment of Peter Nygard. The horrific allegations should come as no shock to those of us who heard stories about the infamous Nygard Cay.
His proximity to government officials, financial support and audaciousness speak to exactly why The Bahamas needs campaign finance laws – something our political leaders have been hesitant to do, despite how they speak publicly. Nygard’s political contributions, dating back to the early 90s, and admitted by Nygard himself in an audio recording released during “silly season” leading up to the last general election, total in the neighbourhood of $5m to the Progressive Liberal Party.
His first contribution to the PLP dated back to 1992 and was documented in a letter to then Minister of Agriculture and former Prime Minister Perry Christie where Nygard pretty much flaunted his support of $45,000 – equivalent to about $85,000 in 2020 – while asking for political favours. Millions of dollars and five administrations later, Nygard’s legend has grown without interference from any Bahamian government. Likewise, campaign finance laws are nothing but another political talking point.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister and current PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell, while in Cabinet a year before being voted out by the Bahamian people, blamed the lack of campaign finance legislation in response to recordings of Nygard claiming he “pissed away” $5m supporting the PLP, only to get “fake promises” in return.
Mitchell said: “My own view is yes (lack of campaign finance laws) is the root of this. How do you fund election campaigns? As it presently stands, you can accept donations from everywhere and we don’t have to disclose where those donations come from. It’s difficult if you’re not in office to raise money because there are only a certain set of people who have money in this country.”
Oddly enough, Mitchell’s proclamation was made in Parliament – the place where politicians pass legislation. Interesting.
Almost 14 months later, the Free National Movement was given another opportunity to bring this much needed legislation. Further impetus was given by the OAS Electoral Observation Mission’s recommendation of the need for campaign finance laws – legislation many countries have been enacting to safeguard their democracies. Their recommendation also echoed the one that they gave five years earlier.
And despite Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ election promises to bring forth campaign finance reform, we have another administration that refuses to make this a priority. So what does it take? Another term for the Minnis administration? Isn’t this level of embarrassment on the global scale sufficient to understand that all that glitters is not gold – that all money isn’t good money when it’s coming from undesirable sources? While what has been outlined in the legal documents are only allegations at this point, to be associated with such filth is unbecoming of any administration – PLP or FNM.
The messages that have been sent to our Bahamian mothers and daughters over the past 30 years say plainly that they do not matter. That they are mere beings to be objectified, used, abused and cast aside.
Does it take reading it in an American media outlet for its impact to resonate differently? If so, I hope we are shamed until we can get our act together and do things the right way in this country.
Each Bahamian will have to take some pride, fight their urges to be judgmental of the young women involved and challenge their Members of Parliament to ensure campaign finance laws is no longer a can being kicked down the road.
When asked to comment, Police Commissioner Paul Rolle said the RBPF had received four complaints about Mr Nygard – four complaints over the course of three decades. He went on to say that when officers were dispatched to Nygard’s home that he had already left the country and refused to return. While he did not note when the complaints came in or the time the police took to attempt to question Nygard, we can reasonably assume it would have taken place this year, or at the very least, since the Minnis administration has been in power. Three decades is a mighty long time, friends. Five administrations, five police commissioners and four complaints. If that doesn’t speak to a nation being for sale, I don’t know what will.
Ladies and gentlemen, our choices are few. We must clean up our country.
If those desiring to lead cannot get with our programme – once we can agree on whatever that is - we must reject them outright.
As Canadian media outlets are preparing to produce documentaries depicting The Bahamas as a sex trafficking haven where, if wealthy enough, the government may turn a blind eye to lawlessness, our skeletons are going to be pulled out of the closet.
The question for the Minnis administration now, however, lies in what sacrifices will be made, as well as what steps will be taken to mitigate the reputational damage the country is going to receive.
Some lessons are learned the hard way. Hopefully, this one is pellucidly clear.