NASSAU, BAHAMAS – After facing much criticism following his resignation from his Cabinet post as immigration minister earlier this week, Brent Symonette, the Member of Parliament for the St. Anne’s constituency, expressed on Wednesday that much of the public outcry in response to his decision has been fueled by the age-old issue of race.
After a heavily decorated career in politics, Symonette is getting ready to make his exit from frontline politics.
The recent resignation from his Cabinet position was the first step in the process of retiring from the political scene.
Symonette confirmed that he will complete his tenure as the MP for the St. Anne’s constituency, but will not seek reelection in the next 2022 General Election.
Symonette hosted an audience with media yesterday to tell his side of a story, which he suggested has seemingly become an issue of black and white.
The former cabinet minister’s comments came in response to backlash to a number of matters, mainly: his family’s vested interest in Bahama Hot Mix – a company contracted by the government to resurface the runway at Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA), his recent resignation from Cabinet and his generational wealth.
“This is a question of ‘race,’ and you will see backlash in some cases in the Haitian community. You see backlash against the number of Indians you see on Bay Street, you see the backlash against the number of Chinese that are here and these are all issues that we need to discuss,” Symonette shared.
“Once your passport or birth certificate says Bahamian is there a restriction on what you can do? You should be entitled to the privileges and benefits under the constitution.”
Symonette, the son of the country’s first premier, Sir Roland Symonette, was not only born into generational wealth; but he has also managed to increase his family’s net worth and has subsequently passed that wealth on to his children.
Symonette suggested that his family’s wealth is not a valid reason for his family to be marginalized by the masses.
He asserted that if government wished to award a contract to a company in which his children have a vested interest; it should not be a matter for public outcry; especially if the company is qualified for the project at hand.
“In terms of airports, we are highly qualified and internationally qualified for the work so should we be precluded because my children have nine or 10 per cent of the company,” he questioned.
“The wealth in The Bahamas is controlled by different people; you’ve got me, you’ve got Franklyn Wilson, you’ve got Tiger Finlayson, successful bankers and lawyers and that’s what it is, so let’s have that discussion.”
The discussion which he alluded to is relative to what Bahamians will consider to be acceptable for sitting Cabinet ministers and whether or not their wealth, or lack thereof, will be a setback from serving publicly without hiccups.
It’s a discussion which Symonette said may not receive adequate attention any time soon, because of age-old barriers, like race, which still exist.
He used the example that even if he wanted to run for prime minister of the country; it’s a journey he would never be successful at because of his race.
“I think if I had tried to run for leader of the FNM or prime minister there would have been a barrier,” he said.
“You’ve seen all the backlash from my recent resignation; so, maybe The Bahamas is just not ready for it.”
While Symonette has stepped down from his Cabinet post, and will not seek reelection, he confirmed that he will continue to support the vision and mandate of the Free National Movement (FNM) from behind the scenes.