Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis was in defence mode Thursday as he staved off attacks against recent remarks made by the prime minister who called Wednesday’s pro-gambling demonstration on Bay Street a show of democracy.
The prime minister’s remarks came as he addressed reporters amid Wednesday’s unprecedented march in Rawson Square.
Hundreds of supporters of the ‘Yes Vote’ campaign joined web shop owners in the demonstration aimed at swaying voters ahead of Monday’s referendum when voters will be asked to decide whether they favour regularising number shops and a national lottery.
Many found Prime Minister Perry Christie’s comments objectionable and proof that the Christie administration, which insists that it doesn’t have a horse in the race, is in cahoots with the web shop bosses.
Furthermore, Mr. Christie has been accused of condoning the illegal actions of the operators and their patrons.
But, Mr. Davis said the prime minister’s comments were accurate and he shared Mr. Christie’s sentiments.
“If we were to understand the freedoms that inform the concept of democracy we would understand that people do have the right to assemble and to associate and the right to express themselves in a way to make their voices heard…that is the essence of democracy,” Mr. Davis said. “So the prime minister was absolutely correct in what he said.”
The deputy prime minister also defended the demonstrators whom he said were well within their legal right to march along Bay Street.
“I saw nothing illegal about what took place, save that a group of people got together to demonstrate their wish for a particular outcome; that doesn’t prevent a person who is not willing to have that same outcome do the same thing,” he said.
The government has touted the fact that the numbers industry provides employment to thousands of Bahamians and it contends that even more jobs will likely be created if the ‘Yes Vote’ wins.
However, numbers bosses have promised to shut down their operations if voters reject regularisation, which Mr. Davis admitted would present a challenge to the government.
“Governments have the responsibility to ensure that there are opportunities out there for their people to be gainfully employed and that is what we will pursue,” the deputy prime minister said. “We will have to go the drawing board and identify alternative means of employment to find work for these people.”
The prime minister has also indicated that if voters reject the regularisation of web shops, he would also have them shut down immediately.