PLEASE CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
I rise on behalf of the wonderful people of North Abaco and its surrounding cays, honored but humbled by the privilege afforded me to serve in this honorable house.
It is evident that many have come from North Abaco and across The Bahamas to share and celebrate this historic event with me– the passing of the proverbial baton (or dare I say “torch” Mr. Speaker) to a new generation political leader after almost one generation of uninterrupted representation. After being away from the family for 35 years, North Abaco, like the prodigal son, has returned home to the family of the Progressive Liberal Party. Let us rejoice and be glad.
So Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of North Abaco, I thank the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie for the confidence he reposed in me to conduct myself honorably and in my ability to competently represent the collective needs, aspirations and desires of the people of North Abaco. Had he not been that bridge between Sir Lynden Pindling and the next generation of national leaders, I might not be here standing before you today and Mr. Speaker, your lofty position in leadership is also a living testimony to the vision of our esteemed leader and Prime Minister.
It is noteworthy that one of the enduring tenets of the Progressive Liberal Party was to facilitate as best it could the opportunity for ordinary salt –of-the-earth Bahamians to serve in high office. We witnessed this tenet in action with the election of the late Bruce Braynen to the Lower House and the appointment of the Teleta Strachan, a straw vendor, to the Senate. The PLP saw to it that the Bahamian people were governed by their peers as opposed to being lorded over by a select few of elites who were for the most part disconnected from the experiences and sensibilities of ordinary Bahamians.
I am happy that our leader holds that same conviction as I am not a member of the social elite nor am I a man of means and privilege. I am your average son of the soil who did his community proud because I dared to dream. I am a loving father, devoted husband, committed public servant and a small businessman who loves his community, worked diligently in the communities of North Abaco with the hope that I could assist in making them better than I met them.
I applaud and encourage this conviction in our leadership that as much as possible, they should provide the opportunities for ordinary Bahamians to serve at the highest levels in government. I am a product of that deeply held conviction and I promise you Mr. Prime Minister and the good people of North Abaco that I will maximize my opportunity and I will not let you down.
To my colleagues in the Parliamentary Caucus of the PLP, I thank you for your wise counsel, guidance, support and intervention in my young political development. You have assured me of your continued support and I wholeheartedly accept it. I say again – thank you, thank you, thank you and I love you.
To the people of North Abaco, your enthusiastic and unwavering support was my carriage as we battled a formidable foe – yes an eight time Member of Parliament and sitting Prime Minister fully intent on retaining power. You handled opposing political views with deference when the eyes of the country and the world gazed upon you during this bye-election. The manner in which you exercised your voting franchise not only strengthened the PLP brand, but reaffirmed our commitment as Bahamians to the fundamental principles of democracy. I thank you, I appreciate you and I love you North Abaco.
I thank the former Prime Minister and former member for his years of public service and my opponent, Greg Gomez, for a good clean fight. The results of the bye-election discredited all claims of voter suppression of any kind by the governing Progressive Liberal Party as 86.5% of eligible voters peacefully and without fear of punitive acts reprisals, did cast their ballots for the candidate of their choice. Let the record show that the North Abaco bye-election recorded the highest voter turnout in recent election history – some 20 percentage points higher than the Elizabeth bye-election in February 2010 where there were 1,800 no shows.
Having spoken my peace, I turn my attention to the future. There can be no question that God’s hand was in this bye-election as on October 15th, 2012, the people of North Abaco spoke loud and clear as they embraced our vision of a new day and a brighter future. They embraced a vision that fostered progress and development for our communities free of the rancor of partisan political influences.
There is much work to be done in North Abaco. We must invest in education and training from our pre-schoolers to our post-secondary young men and women if we are to maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace. The government has committed to the construction of three pre-school units, the establishment of Urban Renewal 2.0 in Abaco and the pavement of thoroughfares in a number of our communities. I will work assiduously to cause to be established a BTVI campus in Abaco to address the training needs of our growing and dynamic workforce.
Mr. Speaker before I take my seat, I want to thank my wife Temeka and our children for their unconditional love, unwavering support and the patience that allowed me to endure the grind of two political campaigns.
I thank my family and friends who have travelled from Abaco and Grand Bahama to be here with me today because they know how much this means to me.
I again thank the entire campaign team, including the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers and the Members of Parliament of both the Government and the opposition because an effective opposition allows democracy to function properly.
To all others too numerous to mention but played an important role in this great victory for democracy, I thank all of you for your dedication and commitment to this cause.
Last but not least Mr. Speaker, to the wonderful people of North Abaco, they can rest assure that I will serve them with the outmost faithfulness, respect and integrity. I solemnly promise to attend Parliament faithfully to conduct their business through vigorous debate and frequent interruption of opposing views so that together we will ensure that North Abaco’s voice is heard and its continued growth and development to peace and prosperity are realized.
Thank you Mr. Speaker for your indulgence and may Almighty God continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.