Friday, May 19, 2017
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Chairman Sidney Collie yesterday advised the public that the party, through its campaign policy mandate, has barred anyone associated with the political organisation from “issuing threats, intimidating or attempting to victimise” any government employees in the name of politics.
Mr Collie said the FNM has long adopted the official policy that “no person innocent of wrongdoing, irrespective of the political affiliation, should face any form of persecution on the job.”
The clarification came as Mr Collie responded to allegations that employees at the Bahamas Agriculture and Industrial Corporation (BAIC) were being victimised and intimidated by senior personnel at the government run facility while appearing as a guest on radio talk show “Darold Miller Live” with Darold Miller.
A female caller featured on the show Thursday claimed that she was aware of several cases at BAIC where FNM supporters were using their affiliation with the party to chastise and intimidate employees promoted or appointed between 2012 and 2017 - the duration of the recent Christie administration.
The caller, during an exchange with both Mr Collie and Mr Miller, asked the two men to clarify why the employees were being subjected to such an arrangement despite senior members of the Minnis administration publicly declaring that no victimising will take place during their time in office.
In response to the line of questioning, Mr Collie insisted that no such behaviour was sanctioned by the FNM or its leaders.
Mr Collie said he would investigate the claims and, in accordance with the party’s policies, address a letter to the soon to be appointed executive chairman of BAIC to “look into and fix” whatever issues are uncovered.
When contacted by The Tribune following his appearance on the show Thursday, Mr Collie said the FNM does not condone victimisation.
Mr Collie stated: “The party doesn’t have any jurisdiction or authority to address that claim directly. But we do have policies in place where if this is the case; if someone is issuing threats, intimidating or attempting to victimise in the name of politics; we can step in, address the person in charge of that ministry or office and that matter is addressed.”
He continued: “That is the point I wanted to get across during my radio appearance this morning. Since coming to office we have moved to make the point that we have no intentions of removing anyone from their post of employment.
“We have indicated on several occasions; myself and the Prime Minister (Dr Hubert Minnis), no person innocent of wrongdoing, irrespective of the political affiliation, should face any form of persecution on the job.
“What that caller alleged is serious and while I don’t have the position or authority to address it directly, I hold the power and authority through the party to bring it to the attention of this government and that is my intention.”
Mr Collie’s sentiments comes just days after Deputy Prime Minister K Peter Turnquest spoke out against claims that the new Minnis administration had given directives for persons to be fired from government programmes started under the previous administration - specifically the Christie administration’s empowerment programme, which focused on creating apprenticeship opportunities for Bahamians.
Mr Turnquest told The Tribune that the claims were inaccurate, insisting that new ministerial portfolios had only been recently given and that ministers were still working to familiarise themselves with their new agencies and responsibilities.
The government has indicated that all Cabinet ministers will conduct audits within their respective ministries.
The government said it is seeking to curtail unnecessary expenditure and the results of these audits will assist it in determining the way forward. The government also warned that where persons are found to be in breach of the Financial Administrative & Audit Act, to have misappropriated public funds or engaged in unlawful activities, the law will take its course.
On Tuesday, seven persons – four men and three women – all employees of BAIC, were taken in to police custody in connection with missing items from the corporation.
Late Wednesday, all seven workers, including another taken into custody later, were released Thursday pending further investigations.
Of the BAIC investigation, Mr Collie yesterday warned that while victimisation is one thing, persecuting those found of wrongdoing is another.
Mr Collie added: “We will let the chips fall where they may. No one innocent of wrongdoing should fear. The efforts of the government aim to address issues within the system and those that abuse the system.”
Former Nassau Village MP and Executive Chairman Dion Smith was taken into custody Thursday afternoon in connection with the police investigation.