48 total votes.
IN backing Education Minister Glenys Hanna Martin, Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis” has given himself a problem.
The principle of Cabinet unity means that after a decision is made in Cabinet, all members speak as one.
It prevents a free-for-all where the government announces a new policy or a new agreement and one member or another of the Cabinet comes out and says oh well, I am against it, you know.
After all, how can a government hope to convince the electorate of a policy if it cannot even convince its own Cabinet members?
So when Mrs Hanna Martin says that she was against the Royal Caribbean deal for a beach club project on Paradise Island when she was in opposition, and she remains so now – that is one problem for Mr Davis.
But the problem he has given himself by saying that she did not breach the Ministerial Code is that other members of the Cabinet may feel that if she can speak up in opposition to a government policy, then why can’t they?
More particularly on the issue of the Royal Caribbean project, if they do not speak out now, we can take it that each member tacitly supports the proposal – even in the face of criticism that the government is favouring a foreign investor over a Bahamian one. That Bahamian investor would be Toby Smith, whose neighbouring lighthouse restoration project has faced contesting claims over who has been promised the Crown land needed for each scheme.
If public opinion is dubious over the elbowing aside of a Bahamian entrepreneur to make way for a cruise line to set up a resort, other members of the Cabinet may wish to distance themselves from such a decision. And with the green light on Mrs Hanna Martin expressing her doubts, why not?
And if other potentially unpopular policies are approved, will others feel they can say they did not support them even if they were part of the Cabinet that gave them the nod?
There are plenty of controversial topics ahead – will a Cabinet member speak out against the final proposal for marital rape legislation? Will a Minister of State oppose the decision on NIB? How about marijuana laws – will there be a united front there? With regard to the changing stance on VAT on healthcare have a representative express doubts? Then there is the push towards a global corporation tax – that is not likely to be a vote winner, will an MP in a tight constituency find they need to speak out for their own electoral interests?
The other difficulty is that people may well say that they think Mrs Hanna Martin is right – and that makes it all the harder for the Prime Minister to convince the Bahamian people that this project is indeed sufficiently different from the one he himself opposed before the election.
In saying that Mrs Hanna Martin has not crossed the line on this issue, Mr Davis is telling every other member of the Cabinet that they can go at least as far as the Education Minister when it comes to expressing a lack of support for any given issue.
As we say, it is a problem for Mr Davis. How big a problem will depend on how many others now choose to speak out.
There is an increasing trend on the streets of New Providence, it seems.
A reader alerted The Tribune to the increasing numbers of tour parties zipping around the streets on all-terrain vehicles or scooters. These have been seen before, of course, but there seems to be a regular occurrence now where some of the guides leading these tour parties are taking the law into their own hands.
Time and again recently, our reader says, those guides have blocked off the route at traffic lights, ushering tourists through a red light while drivers who have been given the green light find they cannot get past the guide.
Is the tour guide going to pay the fines the tourists face if they get arrested for running a red light? What happens if a car goes through a green light only to accidentally strike an ATV doing what the tour guide says instead of the light?
The police should deal with any cases they see before someone gets hurt. But even more, the tour companies operating these trips should clamp down on such behaviour. And if they get caught doing it, then they should risk losing their licence for such businesses. If they can’t follow the law, they shouldn’t be allowed to do business.