FNM’s Minnis Cabinet Scandals and Resignations
They came in on a platform of anti-corruption and a promise to hold wrongdoers accountable. The Free National Movement’s 2017 victory at the polls was regarded as the breath of fresh air needed to put an end to what its election campaign claimed was decades of corrupt practices within government agencies and with the executive body overseeing them. They hailed it “the people’s time” and promised economic relief and a better way of life for the masses, ending what they said was an elitist way of governing under the former Christie administration. Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis even went as far as to describe The Bahamas as a corrupt nation publicly at various regional and international forums, saying his administration would move swiftly to root out that corruption.
Now, nearly four years into his first term in office, Dr. Minnis’ Cabinet is riddled with scandal, accusations of theft, and a glaring lack of transparency and accountability.
Four of his Cabinet ministers, including his second in command, have resigned from their ministerial posts, shrouded in scandal, while several back benchers have resigned from the party all together – some taking an independent stance while one has crossed the floor and joined the opposition Progressive Liberal Party.
Brent Symonette resigned as the Minister responsible for Financial Services, Trade & Industry and Immigration in June 2019. While he gave no reason for his abrupt leave, it came just two weeks after it was revealed that a company with ties to his family was awarded the contract to upgrade runways at Lynden Pindling International Airport.
Duane Sands resigned as Minister of Health last May during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic after it was discovered that he allowed foreign nationals - said to be permanent residents - into the country while the borders were closed in exchange for medical supplies. At the time, hundreds of Bahamians found themselves stranded outside The Bahamas because the borders were closed and the emergency orders said they would not be allowed in. It was also revealed that some six persons were allowed in while Dr. Sands had previously said it was two. He resigned on the basis that he breached protocol.
Peter Turnquest, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance resigned in November of last year after it was reported in the media that he was involved in questionable dealings... an untested writ of summons alleged his involvement in a $30M bogus loan scheme …
Lanisha Rolle resigned just this week from her post as Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture. Several questionable matters, including excessive amounts of the Ministry’s money, are now being investigated.
Then there’s the Oban deal and its 2018 controversial signing and the tragedy and travesty that was 2019’s Hurricane Dorian with the flip-flopping on the number of missing persons by numerous government agencies, a botched relief effort for those who survived, and the scores of lives confirmed lost to the killer storm - first being held for months inside refrigerated trailers that were often time said to be without power and second being buried without identification and without closure for their loved ones.
The list of scandalous occurrences in just nearly four years in office goes on and has gone pretty much without the affirmed and swift action once stated by Prime Minister Minnis. Despite a stern warning to his ministers that they would be fired immediately if found being involved in anything unsavoury or unethical, their records will only reflect resignations after the fact.
He co-signed several walks of shame for former members of the Christie administration as they were hauled before the courts on unfounded fraud-related and bribery charges, even as members of his own administration were cited by a member of the judicial authority for unethical dealings pertaining to one of those high-profile cases. Prime Minister Minnis stood behind Dr. Duane Sands and National Security Minister Marvin Dames and no penalty whatsoever was levied against them.
Those cases, by the way, ended in acquittals for those PLP politicians and a pure waste of tax-payer dollars.
The VAT increase from 7.5% to 12%, duty concessions which seem to benefit members of his administration, and his insistence for salary increases for elected officials at the start of his term while the average Bahamian – the majority of which gave the FNM the resounding 35-4 victory – continued to struggle with financial challenges hasn’t served him well either.
Hardship and struggle have seemingly become a way of life for many Bahamians under his watch with record high unemployment made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions dealt under the cloak of emergency orders, more and more Bahamians becoming dependent on social assistance programmes putting a further strain on the country’s already fragile finances, and no real plan or alternatives to Tourism to revive the country’s staggered economy.