Friday, October 11, 2019
IT’S been a long goodbye for Reece Chipman - but now the man who defeated former Prime Minister Perry Christie in his own seat has left the party whose red wave he rode to victory in Centreville.
We say a long goodbye - because he says himself he had decided to leave the party ten months ago, in January.
His time as an MP has hardly been smooth so far. His appointment as chairman of the Antiquities Monuments and Museums Corporation lasted until March last year, when he was given an ultimatum by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to hand in his resignation or be fired. He defied the ultimatum. He was fired.
Then he voted last June against the increase in value added tax - up from 7.5 percent to 12 percent. He wasn’t alone in that rebellion, joined by fellow MPs Vaugn Miller, Travis Robinson and Frederick McAlpine.
In January - when he said he decided to leave the party - he voiced frustration at the failure of the Public Accounts Committee to act or investigate.
And now off he goes, criticising the government’s handling of Hurricane Dorian, and saying he was ignored by Dr Minnis when he tried to air his concerns.
We’ll confess that we cannot recall him being particularly outspoken about what could or should have been done differently. Our telephone at The Tribune has not been ringing out from his calls, and we suspect that a prime minister in the midst of a crisis wasn’t in a rush to return calls to a parliamentarian who didn’t listen to an ultimatum when it was given.
Indeed, quitting the government in the aftermath of the hurricane rather than showing up and saying “What can I do?” might well attract its own criticism.
But what now for Mr Chipman? What leadership will he bring that he feels is missing?
We agree with him about the failure of the Public Accounts Committee - a problem that has gone on for more than one Parliament. It is a committee with great power to hold government to account, and to be a strong voice for citizens demanding transparency.
Some of his other moves in office have seemed more self-focused, wanting action on fake news after being the subject of social media rumours, and wanting changes in the Quieting Titles Act while also talking about trying to resolve his family’s own land issues.
Meanwhile, when talking to The Tribune in January, his words were equally determined... in a different direction. “Absolutely I will remain in the FNM,” he said.
As it turns out, absolutely not.
We’re not quite sure what Mr Chipman wants to do with the rest of his term in Parliament. He will be an independent - at least for now - but he has yet to clearly express what he seeks to achieve next.
There is a place for strong backbench or independent voices in Parliament to hold government or the Opposition to account. We hope Mr Chipman finds such a place for himself - and that his voice becomes a little clearer.
Yesterday afternoon, The Tribune was preparing to publish a list of the people still missing after Hurricane Dorian. There were 1,208 names on that list.
At the last moment, however, that advertisement from the Ministry of Social Services was postponed - and a different number surfaced from the National Security Minister, Marvin Dames. That number? 282.
We are now nearly six weeks on from Hurricane Dorian - how can two government departments have such wildly differing figures?
The Social Services total is more than four times higher than that held by the police. Which is right?
As people point their fingers at government mismanagement of the response to Hurricane Dorian, this is the kind of thing that stands out.
In trying to deal with such an emergency, people understand there are significant hurdles, but what should not be difficult is that the response is co-ordinated. Clearly, there seems little co-ordination between these two sections of government.
It is this confusion that we hoped the new ministry for disaster response might tackle - but apart from a ceremony to appoint Iram Lewis as Minister of State, little else has been seen there so far. We don’t know if the new ministry has a budget, a staff or for that matter a voice, as Mr Lewis has hardly been to the fore since.
There has already been plenty of confusion over the number of missing people - and concern over a death toll that is clearly still far lower than the final number. Reassurance that things are on the right track is not easy to find when we continue to see confusion such as this.