ON the eve of the 2017 election, the Royal Bahamas Police Force promoted 851 officers under the then PLP government.
Today, we report that now the PLP is back in power, it is putting on hold promotions granted in the past few weeks by the former Minnis administration to ensure nothing “nefarious” had taken place.
Fred Mitchell, the Foreign Affairs and Public Service Minister, said the action was taken “out of an abundance of caution.”
He said: “What seems to have happened, looking at the actions of the last weeks of the (Minnis) administration, was that there was an attempt, it appears, and I don’t want to say it’s so until we actually know the facts, to put what we call a poison pill.”
For someone who doesn’t want to say something until we actually know the facts, Mr Mitchell is remarkably talkative on the topic.
He went on: “So, the idea was that it would hobble any new administration and two things seemed to be in play. One is to offer an incentive for people to vote for the past administration and then secondly, (the) poison pill, so that presumably those who were promoted or hired were ‘supporters of the last administration’ and would therefore end up causing problems for the new administration.”
It would be nice to think that being wary over pre-election promotions was a sign of the PLP turning over a new leaf from the time when it did the same thing.
It would be a good thing indeed if employees of the civil service didn’t have question marks hanging over them as to whether they are FNMs or PLPs and could just be people doing their jobs and working their best for the nation.
That suggestion, however, from someone who says they don’t want to say something that these promotions might be supporters of the opposite party does raise concerns.
Is this a vindictive action? Well, while Mr Mitchell concedes that some of those promotions are “long overdue”, he also says he cannot say for certain how much more overdue the government will make them.
How must those workers who have done nothing more than work diligently in their job feel at being left in limbo because of suspicions of partisan behaviour by one government or another? And it will do nothing for their mood as their first welcome by the new arrivals is to put a stop on their promotion.
The presumption of political allegiances being a reason for promotion rather than simply on the quality of a person’s work is a problem that still haunts our public service – to the detriment of those working within it.
People should not be treated as political pawns. And nor should they be held back on the suspicion that they are – without evidence having been presented.
Workers should not be caught in a game of pig-in-the-middle between two opposing parties. The more independence our civil service has against such influences, the better.
Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis is already running into some of the tough choices he is going to have to make in office.
The country’s debt is already higher than the value of the economy, and Mr Davis is talking about negotiating debts where necessary to avoid default.
Caribbean economist Maria Dukharan has forecast that The Bahamas is one of two countries in the region expected to default on their sovereign debt – although she also said that last year.
It is good that Mr Davis intends to “live up” to our obligations, but it is concerning that there is still talk on the table of a VAT cut, for example, if we’re having to renegotiate debt payments.
Any increase of state revenues will mean pain for those affected. Any cuts will have to be significant and deep to have a substantial effect. Neither one will be popular as an option.
It is important for the government to rise to this challenge – a default will benefit no one, regardless of the colour of their political shirts.