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Don Causey Note: Last month we told you that a renegade effort to limit do-it-yourself fishing in the Bahamas and com¬plicate the lives of foreign lodge owners there has been nipped in the bud by gov¬ernment. That resolve appears to be hold¬ing, but it is worth noting that the leader of the renegade movement, independent guide Prescott Smith, is not giving up. He is still determined to push his narrow point of view, no matter what it does to the confidence of foreign investors or what it does to the interest level of anglers, which has plummeted of late, causing much damage to lodges, guides, and others who serve the needs of visiting anglers. Here is the full, unedited text of a statement Smith released last month after he heard about the government’s decision to ignore his dead-end plans. Some of the undertones here are really ugly.
Dear Prime Minister, Minister Gray and other Cabinet Ministers,
The only thing I have left to give this country is MY LIFE. As I sit here in Colorado, returning home some¬time this evening, I have been bombarded from Fly Fishing Guides all around The Bahamas who are screaming about a press Conference held in Orlando at the world’s largest sportfishing show. THIRTEEN YEARS AGO, I came to The Cabinet of the same PLP Government to get basic legislation done to protect the LARGEST FLATS ON EARTH in the interest of BA¬HAMIANS and to legitimize the Guiding profession.
Minister Gray, it is a total insult for your Permanent Secretary to be doing a press Conference side by side with The Out Island Promotion Board. The same Minister of Tourism, who has shown ZERO Support 13 years ago for Legisla¬tion in the interest of Bahamians, is the same Minister of Tourism who has fought
us today every step of the way.
As President of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association (BFFIA), I will not be a part of any such legisla¬tion that SELLS out Bahamian interest and GIVES control of our resources to foreign interests and special interest. ALL present promotion Boards of Tour¬ism have fought us every step of the way trying to block this legislation. They are totally controlled by special interest and foreign interest who see Bahamians as playing a token role in our number ONE INDUSTRY. BFFIA is the first and only Association in the country where the Board is controlled and made up of Bahamians who look like the majority of the citizens of The Bahamas. Ironically, it is the only such association that gets zero SUPPORT from our PLP Minister of Tourism and our Ministry of Tourism in general, which claims to put Bahami¬ans first.
Further, this is not a threat, although you may see it as one. In light of these developments, I am prepared to resign publicly and let The Bahamian people know that after 23 years and going through seven Ministers of Tourism, we are still struggling in OUR COUNTRY to get through the many GLASS CEIL¬INGS that exist for OUR PEOPLE with respect to real economic empowering opportunities. We pander too much to the special and foreign interests, as if we are like little children who are afraid to cut our own path in life.
My return home today will be met by hundreds of guides from Inagua to Grand Bahama who are questioning whether the Government, which was the same with successive Administrations, truly has their best interests at heart.
I have attached a fishing license from Colorado, which cost me 14 dollars for a one-day license and raises a serious question. Why is our Government telling the world that we will charge 20 dollars a week to fish the best flats in the world? Again the special interests, who totally control our Ministry of Tourism, is advis¬ing The Bahamas Government because we lack the much needed confidence in our own.
Minister Wilchombe, I have been in Andros now for 23 years, which as you know is the largest island in The Bahamas. It follows, therefore, that I have NEVER seen The Ministry of Tour¬ism hold a single meeting collectively with regards to addressing Tourism on Andros. Even though we have the most guides in the country, we have one fam¬ily that came from Canada dictating to your Ministry what should happen in Tourism on Andros. They have now been joined by a token black Member of that Board who is prepared to sell her Coun¬try and her Soul to the special and for¬eign interests for pecuniary and non-pe¬cuniary benefits no doubt. Is it any won¬der that we are no longer number one in the Caribbean the way we run Tourism in our country? You have not even shown the common courtesy of acknowledging a single communication from The Board of The Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association, while publicly claiming to put Bahamians FIRST.
Also Cabinet Ministers, you need to know that such persons, like Perk Per¬kins from Orvis, Ian Davis from Yellow Dog Fly Fishing, Oliver White the front for Abaco Lodge and Bairs Lodge, are some of the many special interests be¬hind the scenes advising our Ministry of Tourism. Jim Klug, who is part owner of Yellow Dog, is also on the Board of The American Fly Fishing Trade Association. It was, therefore, no surprise that they all sat in the room in Orlando yesterday.
Finally, Mr. Prime Minister, you had the courage to put this vital piece of legislation on the agenda to move it for¬ward and, Minister Gray, you have had the courage to lead this important Leg¬islation when our Minister of Tourism fought us every step of the way. So that you are aware, I got instructions from The Father of Our Nation, as he sat in a van in Staniard Creek and shared with me his vision for Bahamians and The Bahamas. All his books I have read and are in my possession! While he began the journey that led initially to our political independence, he acknowledged that the next step in our journey was and remains economic independence.