Don't air dirty laundry in front of the tourists

EDITOR, The Tribune.

THE Ministry of the Environment and Free National Movement (FNM) Minister Earl Deveaux made the right decision to tear down several controversial Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) billboards about the record number of murders that the country has had over the past five years.

According to the April 27 edition of The Nassau Guardian, the billboards read: "Under the FNM government, 490 plus murders."

The Nassau Guardian pointed out that there were actually 476 murders, not 490. Granted, whether there were 476 murders or 490 murders, that's still a lot of murders for a country the size of The Bahamas.

Every right-thinking Bahamian knows that we have a crime crisis in this country. We don't need billboards and posters all over the place reminding us of this tragic fact. The overwhelming majority of Bahamian adults either read the newspapers or watch the news on TV. Bahamians know exactly what is going on in this country. Furthermore, we certainly don't need tourists reading about our murder crisis. Herein lies my disagreement with PLP Deputy Leader Philip "Brave" Davis.

Davis criticised Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and the governing party for tearing down the billboards. Davis views the tearing down of the billboards as strong arm tactics by the prime minister. But I consider the move by the Ingraham administration to remove the offensive billboards as a common sense move.

According to The Nassau Guardian article, one of the billboards was on the Saunders Beach roundabout and another at Montagu. Both of these areas are frequented by tourists, said the article. Such negative publicity would only decimate our number one industry which is tourism. If tourists feel that it is too unsafe to visit The Bahamas, they will go elsewhere to vacation. And when that happens, the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Bahamians would be ruined. I cannot understand why Davis doesn't see this. The last thing this country needs is for our tourists to be reading on large billboards the gratuitous bloodletting in Nassau. We should not be airing this nation's dirty laundry in the presence of our visitors. Another thing to consider is the fact that the visitors who read the billboards might end up spreading the news back home about our high murder rate. This will in turn discourage others from visiting our country.

According to The Nassau Guardian report, even PLP Fox Hill Member of Parliament Fred Mitchell admitted that several of their supporters called in to complain about the billboards. Tourism is this nation's bread and butter. Approximately fifty per cent of the Bahamian work force are either directly or indirectly employed in the tourism industry. Hair braiders, straw vendors, taxi drivers, tour operators, jitney drivers, waiters, bellhops, bartenders and other stakeholders are all relying on tourism to put bread on their tables. These people are not only supporters of the FNM, but also the PLP. This is why I cannot fathom why the campaign machinery of the official opposition could make such a senseless decision to jeopardise our number one industry by displaying the embarrassing murder count on huge billboards. We all are aware that tourism affects most sectors of our economy. Therefore, the controversial billboards could have caused a catastrophic domino effect.

The posting of these billboards coincided with the leadership of the PLP telling their supporters at their political events that other nations in the region are outpacing The Bahamas in the tourism sector. Had those billboards negatively impacted our tourism industry, PLP supporters would be the very ones to place the blame for this at the doorsteps of the FNM government. I find it disturbing that we have individuals who are willing to run the nation's economy aground in order to win an election.

While such a decision to post the billboards with the high murder count might cause hundreds of fence sitters to vote for the PLP, it would undoubtedly frighten away thousands of tourists. That is the last thing this country needs.



Grand Bahama,

April 29, 2012.