Grand Bahama residents are sounding off on former Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration Brent Symonette’s recent resignation from Cabinet.
The official statement from Cabinet of the resignation was announced Monday, July 1. While Symonette no longer serves in the ministerial portfolio, he retains his seat as the Member of Parliament for St. Anne’s.
In recent times, Symonette, whose companies have received several government contracts, including having the Post Office in the capital relocated to the Town Centre Mall, a building reportedly owned by the MP and family members and a contract to upgrade runways at Lynden Pindling International Airport, has had “conflict of interest” allegations levied against him; as a result, many Bahamians were calling for him to resign from his government position.
As a result of the resignation announcement, this daily’s reporter took the street questioning residents on their views regarding Symonette’s departure from Cabinet.
President of the Coalition for Concerned Citizens Pastor Eddie Victor said that he thought the whole issue was Symonette’s portfolio and the various areas he was responsible for.
“I believe that you cannot avoid the whole conversation whether there were conflicts with his extensive business background,” he said.
He stated that it has existed since Majority Rule, January 10, 1967, which symbolized the promise of equality, a level playing field and fair play for all Bahamians, “You had few people that were wealthy and the majority of Bahamians were in poverty.”
He noted that currently, conditions are very similar as there are some Bahamians who are extremely wealthy and many that are financially challenged.
Victor stated that he believed Symonette’s decision to resign is a good decision, but it still does not solve the main issue among most Bahamians.
According to Victor, Symonette’s decision sheds a light on the economic inequality that exist in the country.
He furthered that there is a great divide between a few wealthy Bahamians and most Bahamians. “We need to focus more on how we truly empower Bahamians to prosper in their own country.”
He added that this has not happened in a significant way since the country’s Independence.
Victor expressed that there is a disconnect between persons in government office and the people.
Another resident, who did not want to be identified, told this daily that based on what Symonette explained, the resignation seemed reasonable and it probably did quiet the conversation about his possible conflict of interest in various matters.
Maintaining that the Opposition (Progressive Liberal Party) will use this and “spin it” to suit their own narrative, the resident noted that Symonette is not the first to resign and probably will not be the last.
Everette Marshall voiced that Symonette, explained how he made the decision of wanting to resign by his 65th birthday, “And that it is his right to do so.
“I know that there is no problem within the organization and with his ministry, it’s just that he made that decision and we got to accept it,” he said.
A female resident shared her thoughts on the resignation, stating that it was a surprise to the Bahamian people. “And what is continuously surprising is the fact that the Free National Movement (FNM) Administration had advocated for freedom of information and transparency but is failing to practice that.”
She said that they (FNM) need to be more forthcoming about things that they are doing that affect the public, adding that she is not reassured that this decision was appropriate for the time.
Bishop Patterson Williams said, the announcement came as a shock to him; however, after listening to Symonette’s interview with Shenique Miller on her radio talk show, ‘The Conversation,’ he had a better understanding of the decision.
“He believed that it’s time to allow the younger people, to kind of, take over,” said Bishop Williams.
He noted that everyone has an opinion, but Symonette has made his contribution and now it is time for things to move on.
Another resident noted that he thought Symonette expressed his point of view well during the radio interview and commended Miller on the interview.
Meanwhile, Yamacraw MP Elsworth Johnson, replaced Symonette and was sworn-in by Governor General His Excellency C. A. Smith.