NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Citing maddening infighting, unfair practices and a loss of its foundational values, Ricardo Smith has announced his departure from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
“The worst part about it is that, instead of at this time — Davis, the party leader is not well — the party really taking a firm look at the leadership, taking a look at where it is and what might be the right thing to do, the old guard seems to be dug in to have things remain the way it is,” he said.
“I think when you put all of this together; I mean how could you go out there and tell people you want to lead them; that you want to be honest; that you want to make things better; and you’re totally dishonest to your own membership.”
Smith, a long-time PLP, told Eyewitness News he intends to run in Pinewood in the next general election and has been exploring options, but he’s done with the PLP.
“I will not go any further with the present situation in the Progressive Liberal Party,” Smith said.
“I am not going to do that. I’m done with that. But I am open to other options that are available to me, and I am reviewing the situation at this time. In short order, I will make a decision as to the best way forward.”
Smith ran against Chester Cooper for deputy leader in 2017 and lost. He received 69 votes to Cooper’s 1,226. He contemplated another bid for deputy leader at the party’s July 2019 convention, but Cooper and Davis were returned to the top two posts unopposed.
In a statement dated September 9, Smith said the party’s principles and commitment to working people and the poor were virtues that kept him in the “fold for these many years”.
While he acknowledged the PLP was not perfect, Smith said he was proud to call himself a PLP.
However, he said in more recent times the PLP has drifted from its sacred vows.
“This drift has led me to reconsider my willingness to continue my involvement in the organization,” Smith wrote. “I have watched as our party introduced several new measures that go against good sense and order.”
He was referring to the candidate aspirant policies and procedures, which he said lacked proper guidelines, rules and has resulted in “unconventional competition” for seats among candidates with no timeline as to when it will end.
The result has been “serious disunity, and ongoing infighting”, according to Smith, who said the PLP continues to “give people a false sense of becoming candidates when they know that it is not likely to happen”.
He said: “We have been talking about unifying the party [but] we put 10 or 15 candidates in one area, aspirant candidates in one area, and everyone is going at each other’s heads.”
He added: “The party that I loved and supported these many years is not the PLP today. I now have a conscience problem and truly cannot continue to lend my support to this madness.”
Smith also expressed grave concern with the behavior of PLP Chairman Fred Mitchell, who he said should have immediately quarantined and retested voluntarily upon his arrival in Grand Bahama recently.
“Concern for public health and safety in my view should have been paramount,” he wrote.
“The total disregard for the community was totally unacceptable.
“I took personal exception to this and concluded this behavior to be irreconcilable…”
He called Mitchell “cold and callous”.
When contacted today, Mitchell declined to comment.
Photos purporting to show Mitchell at a Grand Bahama restaurant made the rounds on social media, prompting criticisms.
Mitchell declined to comment on whether the photos showing him sitting at an outdoor table of a restaurant wearing a mask under his chin were taken last week.
In a recorded video, Mitchell said “trolls” of the FNM were in a feeding frenzy.
He said he had no intention of entering “that game and to enter any specific comments beyond what I said at the airport”.
“It is clear why I came here,” he said. “It is clear the circumstances under which I came here. It is clear what my view is of the law. I claim no special privileges. Apart from that, I have no specific comment.
“The authorities are aware that I am in The Bahamas. This is a Bahamian island. I am a Bahamian legislator and I claim no privileges beyond that. Those are the facts and I urge people to stick to the facts.”
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian, Mitchel reportedly said he had tested negative and was in quarantine, adding that he followed all protocols and was “still doing so”.
Last Wednesday, the PLP released a video of Mitchell being interviewed by ZNS upon arriving at Grand Bahama International Airport.
Yesterday, Smith said with the current leadership team, the PLP’s chances at the polls come the next general election were slim.