EDITORIAL: Rolle speech raises suspicions over jobs

Are jobs being given for votes in Abaco?

That’s the terrible impression being given by Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle from his speech yesterday.

More than two years on from Hurricane Dorian, after the government has been perceived to have dragged its feet over rebuilding, with so many still left struggling to get back on their feet after the storm – and with many still left without answers over their missing relatives – suddenly on the eve of election we have a move to permanently employ dozens of North Abaco residents.

Mr Rolle himself acknowledged that this will likely be seen in a political light, saying: “I know some people may say from the other side that this is a political move but we say to you it’s about your future. We are committed to you.”

In the same week as an election, when you commit to adding 85 more permanent staff to the public purse, you think the opposition will see this as a political move, Mr Rolle? We wonder why that might be. If positions were reversed, would you be crying foul days before an election at the permanent hiring of staff?

Mr Rolle suggested this has been in the pipeline for a while, saying: “We said this from last year that if you did well and you did your work, we will make sure that you fill the vacancies in the Ministry of Public Services and National Insurance and all 85 of you who are on my register, you will get your letters, we have printed them, they should be with your staff.”

Not alone in this task, Mr Rolle says a major part has been played by the area’s MP, Darren Henfield.

He said: “Every single day for the last few weeks Darren has been coming to me and saying to me, minister, where are my letters? Where are my people?”

The last few weeks, you say, Mr Rolle? Tell us, is there something that changed in the past few weeks that suddenly brought an added urgency to Mr Henfield’s requests?

Is it perhaps that an election was called?

Even if all this were above board, to announce it on the eve of election like this looks and smells like a political move. To add that a senior Cabinet minister in Foreign Minister Henfield has been asking every day about it only makes it seem more so.

It’s appalling for the people involved too – who might be seen as being given a political favour when in truth it might indeed be a reward for hard work. If everything is genuine, they do not need their hard work discredited.

The situation is even worse if you look at just two words: “My people.”

My people? As opposed to whose people?

At the very least, this is inappropriate. There is so much talk about reducing corruption in government – and this does nothing to help that perception. And if it really is a case of giving jobs for votes? Well, that’s more than a perception.

This should have been resolved long ago if it were genuine, or it should have waited until after the vote. To push it through so close to an election only brings suspicion, and our country’s politics have long suffered from too much of that.