January 21, 2014
Following comments from Prime Minister Perry Christie that he should have regulated the web shop industry instead of holding a referendum, Senior Pastor of Grace Community Church Lyall Bethel said yesterday he felt frustrated and undermined by Christie's remarks.
"You better believe it," said Bethel, who was among a group of pastors who led the Vote No campaign.
"I run a church and many pastors throughout this country spent a good amount of their time working to make sure persons were educated as to all of these things.
"We still had our members to look after. We still had persons who were hurting, hospital visits, funeral visits etc.
"To put all that energy into this believing the prime minister that these things were going to happen as he had said a few times originally, it's very frustrating
"How does a government that knows that when people step forth for a referendum they mean business, to this day, a year later, not deal with this?"
Bethel stressed that he was not trying to pick a fight with the prime minister. He said he wishes for him to succeed.
"My encouragement is that all of us pray for the prime minister," he said, "pray that he would courageously grab the reins of governance and that he would rule wisely."
When asked by The Nassau Guardian last Friday if he regrets not 'having a horse in the race', Christie said: "I ought to have moved immediately to regulate the industry without going to a referendum and to articulate to the people of the country that we were going to have enormous problems in trying to have an environment where it is not regulated."
Christie hinted that the government might still regulate web shops.
Former coordinator of the Vote Yes Campaign Philip Galanis agreed that Christie should have simply regulated the web shop industry from the start.
"I think it is unfortunate that we missed an opportunity," Galanis said.
"I think he should be commended for being bold and strong and brave to say that though. I think the government should now do the right thing and legalize and regulate the web shops."
Bethel said if Christie did regulate the industry, it would be a "slap in the face" to those who voted no on the January 28, 2013 referendum.
"I think he (Christie) may be testing the waters," he said.
"The prime minister by his lonesome, caused to be called a referendum to find out the opinion of the Bahamian people when it came to gambling. No one put him in a half nelson; no one broke his arm; no one put a gun to his head.
"He himself admits that he wished he had the courage. So I believe the prime minister will not commit political suicide by having called for a referendum, heard what the people said and still in the face of that regulate them."
If he did, Bethel said, the church would be obligated to hold him accountable.
On January 28, 2013, voters were asked whether they support the regularization and taxation of web shops, and whether they support the establishment of a national lottery.
The total number of votes cast against the web shop question was 51,146 or 62 percent of the votes cast versus 31,657 or 38 percent of the votes cast in favor of taxing web shops.
Less than 50 percent of registered voters voted.
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News date : 01/21/2014 Category : Nassau Guardian Stories