After repeatedly scoffing at the gambling referendum and vowing not to vote, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has had a change of heart. Instead of sitting out Monday’s gambling referendum, Mr. Ingraham yesterday said he will instead vote ‘no.’
“I advise that I now propose to vote in the referendum I will vote ‘no’,” he said.
“I urge all law-abiding citizens of our land to vote on Monday and to vote ‘no.’ Non-participation and hence a low voter turnout will work to the benefit of those opposed to law and good order in our country.”
Mr. Ingraham said he takes offence to the government legalising web shops but prohibiting Bahamian citizens, residents and work permit holders from accessing legalised gaming in casinos licenced and regulated by the Bahamas Gaming Board.
The former prime minister said having dedicated his professional life to the legal profession, and having served as a Member of Parliament in the House of Assembly for 35 years and as prime minister for 15 years, “the blatant disrespect and disregard of the laws of our land is intolerable to me.”
He said Wednesday’s Vote Yes march on Bay Street was “laughable.”
“It is impossible for me to see at least three self-declared violators of gaming laws parade through the main street of our city, demonstrate in front of Parliament demanding that the people endorse their illegal behaviour and make them legal, and fear no consequence for their actions from the law enforcement sector of our country,” he added.
Mr. Ingraham added that operators of illegal enterprises have admitted their complicity in multiple media interviews, in which they advise that they will continue their gaming enterprises regardless of the outcome of the referendum and presumably regardless of any new legislation put in place by the government to implement the results of the vote.
Mr. Ingraham said he will reserve comment on the “mockery of the supposed neutrality which the present administration has sought to cloak rather naked support for, and promotion of a yes vote.”
“Many have lamented that the lax attitude of the then government and various law enforcement officials of the 1980s toward the illicit drug trade, which gave way to a drug culture, shredding some of our social fabric, and giving rise to a spiral of criminality, has only grown during the following decades,” he said.
“I suffered the consequences for my principled stand against official corruption at that time. I cannot now remain a silent observer as once again, perpetrators of illegal enterprises seek to further erode our democracy, disrespect our laws, and denigrate those who promote decency.”
He continued, “To excuse illegal behaviour because it is supposedly too expensive to counter is unconscionable. To excuse illegal behaviour because it creates employment is inexcusable, and to excuse illegal behaviour because some believe that it will bring additional revenue to the Public Treasury is similarly inexcusable.”
Mr. Ingraham said such a series of lame excuses demonstrates that those responsible for governing the country are bankrupt of ideas to foster growth and development, so come Monday Mr. Ingraham said he plans to vote ‘no’ on both referendum questions.
“Events surrounding the conduct and campaigning related to the gaming referendum scheduled for next Monday, 28 January, 2013 have evolved in such a manner as to have persuaded me that my position of non-participation has become untenable,” Mr. Ingraham added. “I have no personal objection to individuals engaging in legal games of chance.”
Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis endorsed Mr. Ingraham’s decision, noting that like thousands of other Bahamians, “it is clear that he has concluded that this process has been mismanaged and corrupted, and no good can become of a yes vote.”
Dr. Minnis added that the former prime minister fully appreciates that the stakes are too high for Bahamians of good conscience to stay at home and not vote.
He added that although Mr. Ingraham was previously contemplating sitting out this vote, he has determined that the only way for the advocates of this “botched process to win is for the believers in good governance, fairness and transparency to stay at home.”
Dr. Minnis said he is delighted that Mr. Ingraham will stand up and let his voice be heard.