Mitchell Blasted On CSME
By Candia Dames
June 20, 2005
“If he is unhappy with that position he should not seek solace in lambasting those who did not share his view.” Mr. Brian Moree
Chairman of the government-appointed Bahamas Financial Services Consultative Forum Brian Moree believes it was unfortunate that Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell deemed it appropriate last week to "impugn and demean" the views and motives of certain persons who opposed his views on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
"In doing so the Minister seemed to think that this somehow vindicated his position or strengthened his case on CSME. I think, with respect, that he was wrong and in doing so he did not enhance his cause or the dignity of his office by resorting to name calling and finger pointing," said Mr. Moree, who also commended the government for "listening to and considering the views of the Bahamian" people on CSME.
During his address one week ago today, Minister Mitchell announced that the government will not be signing the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas within this present term, and lashed out at various individuals who had opposing views on whether the country should join the regional agreement.
Minister Mitchell said that some detractors of the CSME were false prophets who opposed the independence of The Bahamas back in the early 1970’s and are now crying crocodile tears over the issue of CSME and an alleged threat to the country’s sovereignty.
He also named several people directly, including Mr. Moree, whom he accused of spreading misinformation on the issue.
But Mr. Moree, in his statement issued over the weekend, said, "The simple fact is that the Minister, as the lead spokesman for the government, failed to convince thousands of Bahamians that signing the Revised Treaty was in the national interest of our country.
"If he is unhappy with that position he should not seek solace in lambasting those who did not share his view. Rather, I respectfully suggest that it would be more constructive for the Minister to focus on the relevant issues and at least countenance the thought that there might be some merit in views other than his own."
Refuting more of what the Minister said in the House of Assembly last week, Mr. Moree added, "I regret that it is necessary to remind the Minister that those of us who do not agree with his assessment of the CSME are not unintelligent, confused, uninformed or misguided.
"My opposition to the CSME is not, and has never been, politically motivated or in any way related to the Minister in his personal capacity. I repeatedly made the point in my public statements that the CSME is not a political issue and the national debate should proceed on that basis."
Referring to Mr. Moree, Minister Mitchell in his address said that as the chairman of The Bahamas Financial Services Consultative Forum, caused "quite a stir in the community" when his group released an immigration report suggesting that the immigration laws of The Bahamas should be liberalized to allow for more foreign workers to come and work in the financial services sector.
"Now he comes a few months later and says that we must not sign onto the CSME provisions because they would allow the free movement of people," the Minister said. "I must be missing something here. What is the principle at stake here? If you believe in liberalized immigration what problem in principle then do you have with the CARICOM treaty which believes in liberalized immigration?
"But I have to add quickly, the government is not proposing anything to do with the free movement of people. That reservation is proposed and already agreed. It is the existing situation and status quo. But you know never let the truth interfere with a good story."
Mr. Moree also responded to the Minister’s comments in this regard.
"He characterized that report as suggesting that the immigration laws of The Bahamas should be liberalized to allow foreign workers to come and work in our financial services sector," Mr. Moree noted.
"Remarkably, and with no basis in truth, the Minister then boldly attributed to me the position that The Bahamas ‘should not sign onto the CSME provisions because they would allow the free movement of people.’
"As I am the chairman of the forum, the Minister ridiculed this position which he attributed to me on the CSME as contradictory to the contents of the report. The Minister was clearly inferring that I was advancing irreconcilable positions, apparently in an attempt to discredit my opposing view on the CSME. This is a most convoluted and distorted thought process."
Mr. Moree pointed out that he did not object to the CSME simply because it would allow the free movement of people.
"While that is certainly a legitimate concern for many Bahamians, even considering the reservation in respect of Articles 45 and 46, there were and continues to be many additional well reasoned, thoughtful and principled objections to The Bahamas signing on the CSME.
"Secondly, there is absolutely no inconsistency between supporting the recommendations in the forum’s report and the position adopted by me in opposing the CSME. Specifically, there is no helpful comparison between the narrow liberalization of our immigration policy as it relates to a single sector in selective and targeted areas of specialization on the one hand and the open sesame which (but for the reservation) is envisaged in the Revised Treaty on the other hand whereby ultimately there would be no restrictions on the nationals of 15 different countries moving freely between the member states in a single economic space."
Mr. Moree added, "The Minister should follow his own admonition and avoid subterfuge and confusion when commenting on the CSME. My views on the CSME as it relates to The Bahamas are based on my consideration of our national interests.
"Presumably the same can be said of the views of the Minister. No one involved in the debate should claim to have a monopoly on virtue and certainly the national debate is not advanced by denigrating persons who hold a different view or impugning their motives."
In his budget address last week which focused exclusively on the CSME issue, Minister Mitchell also blasted former Ministers Sir William Allen and Zhivargo Laing; Bahamas Public Services Union President John Pinder; attorney, Fred Smith, who heads the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association; and the Nassau Institute.