September 26, 2016
The Free National Movement (FNM) is trying to complete its list of candidates for the general election as soon as possible in order to provide these men and women proper time to hit the ground and get to know their constituents.
On September 15, the party ratified Loretta Butler-Turner for Long Island, Walt Saunders for MICAL, Mark Humes for Fort Charlotte and Marvin Dames for Mount Moriah. Though he was not ratified that night, there is an expectation that Dionisio D'Aguilar will run for the FNM too.
Dames and D'Aguilar are well known. Dames is a former deputy commissioner of police. He is smart and was groomed from the beginning to take a leadership role in the police force. He was in consideration to be commissioner of police but the then prime minister, Hubert Ingraham, chose Ellison Greenslade, making Dames his deputy.
Dames retired from the force and became the executive in charge of security at Baha Mar. Then came the bankruptcy at Cable Beach. Dames now runs his own security firm.
D'Aguilar has been inching toward public life for some time, regularly being in the press commenting on national issues. He's an accountant who is president of Superwash, a family business that is the largest chain of service laundries in the country. He is also a former president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and a former director at Baha Mar.
Dames and D'Aguilar are good candidates for the FNM. Well spoken, well regarded, intelligent and not associated with scandal, they would be good candidates for any party.
Dames' experience in law enforcement would be a good asset around the Cabinet table for a country with a long-standing crime problem. D'Aguilar has long railed against the business climate in The Bahamas created by misguided government policy - more taxes, more red tape, more bureaucracy, more government spending. His perspective, too, would be useful in shaping government policies.
The ghost of Sarkis
The tie between these men is Baha Mar.
When the money ran out on the $3.5 billion project at Cable Beach a nasty fight broke out between Sarkis Izmirlian (the developer), on one side, opposed by the Chinese contractor of the resort (China Construction American), its lender (the Export-Import Bank of China) and the government of The Bahamas. Izmirlian lost that fight. The bank now controls the fate of the property.
Izmirlian has not hidden his displeasure. He hoped to be able to use Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the United States to restructure and move forward. The Chinese and Christie administration outfoxed him, however.
There is the impression out there that the wealthy foreign investor wants the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) out and he is sending "his candidates" in to the political process to ensure this happens.
PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts is pressing this point. He accused FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis on September 13 of hitching the party's "wagon to that of Sarkis, what with all of Sarkis' men conveniently forming the leadership of his party".
"Is this what the party of Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield, Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs and Hubert Ingraham has come to?" asked Roberts in a statement.
"We get it that the Ingraham era is over, but is Minnis' strategy of shaping the FNM organization into his philosophical image and likeness to have this democratic organization used as a willing vessel and conduit through which a jilted and bitter developer can launch a vengeful and retaliatory strike against the state over a perceived wrong done unto him?"
Dames has not been in the public sphere debating the Baha Mar bankruptcy. He was an executive at the resort and moved on. While you can link him by association, he is not defined in the public eye by his brief employment at the hotel. D'Aguilar's situation is different.
He has been Izmirlian's lead spokesman, in many respects, in the fight against the government and the Chinese. If he is to run and make Bahamians believe that he has to come to public life to represent their interests, he will need to distance himself from the Baha Mar issue and Izmirlian in his future utterances.
Bahamians are a xenophobic people. The PLP will keep on the attack with this line of argument against the ex-Baha Mar men. It faces the charge of being the party of foreign interests and would love nothing more than being able to throw that brand back at its opponents.
Brent Dean, Nassau Guardian Editor
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