November 15, 2012
The House of Assembly's proceedings were marred by several unruly outbursts from the Opposition benches yesterday as Bahamians eagerly awaited Prime Minister Perry Christie's latest information on the referendum, which has now been delayed to January 28. Dr Minnis made his comments in the Opposition room of the House of Assembly after he was denied an opportunity to respond to the Prime Minister’s communication. He said while he applauds the government for the decision to include a National Lottery in the January 28 vote, there are still many questions the Prime Minister needs to answer.
“The Prime Minister will now have to explain the inherent inconsistency between a National Lottery, which is ordinarily owned and run by the Government, and privately-owned web cafes. Surely they will not be able to sell competing numbers from foreign lotteries? And what will be the Government’s position on possibly illegal Internet casino gambling, under International Law? No doubt the Government will be able to answer these questions as persuasively and reliably as it has dealt with the issue of the legality of a non-constitutional Referendum prior to today,” he said.
Dr Minnis also said Bahamians need to know why only “a few” gambling businesses will be legalised and who will decide what businesses will be shut down and what businesses would be permitted to continue. “The question of who will own these legalised businesses is a critical one, since ordinary Bahamians should be fully informed of whether they are being asked to vote to grant tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions each year, in legalised profits to only a handful of people. The question of whether the government will pursue an ‘all for the few’ policy, perhaps as a reward for a past and possible future financial political donations, must be answered,” he said.
“Bahamians should be given the opportunity to determine who should be the ultimate owner or owners of such business. This is all the more important now, in light of the Government’s expressed intention , after some flip-flopping, to go ahead with proposals for a National Lottery, who will own that?” Dr Minnis also denied that the FNM ever accepted any donations of money from any web shop owners. “I cannot speak for individual candidates,” he said, “but the policy of the FNM on this matter is inflexible, that as an organization we would not solicit or accept any political donations from web shops and we did not. We would confidently expect the same forthrightness from the governing party. It is critically important that whatever the Government proposes to do in connection with web shops, it does with clean hands.” Dr Minnis said the FNM’s position is clear, to answer the overriding question: “Exactly what are the Bahamian people voting for or against?”
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