AN end to secrecy, and a building of trust.
Fine words from new Prime Minister Philip Davis – but the trick will be living up to them.
Things didn’t get off to the best start on Friday, when the media was only informed after the fact when he was sworn in as prime minister in a private ceremony. An historic moment for the nation passed without being properly recorded, snapped on a cellphone camera and forwarded on social media.
The full pomp and ceremony rolled out the next day, as Mr Davis received his instruments of appointment, with his deputy, Chester Cooper, not far behind in a second ceremony to take on the roles of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Aviation and Investments.
Transparency is, of course, something that the now former Prime Minister, Dr Hubert Minnis, had pledged on the campaign trail.
Once in office, it seemed people became increasingly frustrated by the lack of transparency that followed – from the failure to hold regular press conferences as promised, to the failure to implement legislation on campaign finance, or the shuffling of feet that went on when questions were asked about such things as the Oban Energies deal.
Even in his last days, Dr Minnis was saying we would see the reasons for calling the early election as the campaign played out. We never did.
Now the spotlight falls on Mr Davis. He said in his first speech as Prime Minister: “I also commit to lifting the veil of secrecy on that which has gone before us, so that all of the arrangements under which we have to live are transparent, and those who authored them are accountable.”
He added: “We will uphold the Constitution and the rule of law, and ensure that everyone is treated fairly, so that it’s not one rule for one set of people and another for another set of people.”
It is good to hear that the rule of law will be upheld, especially with the prospect of allegations being made in the Peter Nygard court case that could come close to home for the PLP. That case still has many question marks against it over how investigations have been handled in The Bahamas pertaining to Mr Nygard.
The finger of blame will likely be pointed at the FNM in some areas – note that line about holding people accountable, and with a downgrade from Moody’s as an unwelcome item in his in-tray the moment he stepped into office, we expect that will be one distraction he’ll be pointing elsewhere with.
At long last, we have a Freedom of Information Commissioner – appointed in May, but we will wait to see how his office functions before we give a verdict on its role in aiding transparency.
But if Mr Davis wants to build trust, then he must live up to this, his first pledge. We all want that veil of secrecy lifted. So keep your promise, Mr Davis. The failure of your immediate predecessor to do so is a cautionary tale.
One of the first actions of the new Prime Minister was to keep the curfew extended until midnight – or rather, to one minute before midnight, which seems a curiously precise piece of timing.
One of the first pieces of advice he may well receive is from medical experts encouraging him to tighten up the lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.
In opposition, the PLP spoke out against a number of the measures from the previous government’s fight against COVID-19. In government, they now find themselves being advised by many of the same people that led their predecessors to the courses of action they chose.
On Monday, Mr Davis says, “we’ll be quickly getting into the nuts and bolts of where we are, what we have to do now to get it done to ensure that we get this pandemic under control.”
Already, however, he has signalled that he does not think that curfews are an effective tool in the fight.
We shall see what the new government does – but its success or failure will be measured in stark numbers. Already over the weekend, we have seen a further six deaths from COVID-19 confirmed. Those, of course, are not the fault of the new government – but it will only be a matter of a few short weeks before new cases are recorded under whatever new regime is introduced to tackle the spread. We pray that the government is successful, for the sake of everyone. We also hope that Mr Davis lives up to one other thing he said on Saturday, when he sits down to talk to medical experts today.
“We are going to listen,” he said. We hope he does.