Sears Bids For PLP Leadership

Tribune Staff Reporter

FORMER Attorney General Alfred Sears yesterday announced his intention to challenge Prime Minister Perry Christie for leadership of the Progressive Liberal Party at the governing party’s national convention in November.

Mr Sears is the first to make such an intention known, ensuring that Mr Christie will face the first challenge to his leadership since the National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage and attorney Paul Moss faced him in 2009.

Mr Sears has been laying the groundwork for a leadership run for months, having released a list of proposals he intends to champion if he becomes leader of the PLP.

He spent recent months canvassing the country to make an assessment about whether it would be wise to run for leader. He pledged to run a “clean” race, one without personal attacks.

“The issues before us continue to be restoring our economy with specific focus on job creation, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians and ensuring economic diversification, instituting fiscal responsibility and prudence in governance, combatting crime within our borders and establishing a system of transparent and accountable governance among many other progressive reforms,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Mr Sears told The Tribune he notified Mr Christie and PLP chairman Bradley Roberts about his decision to contest the leadership of the party. He met with members of his constituency branch yesterday evening to discuss the matter with them.

He said he will present comprehensive plans for the country in the upcoming months and enhancing government transparency and accountability is expected to be one major plank of his agenda.

It is a potential sore spot for the Christie Administration, which has made no apparent progress towards creating campaign finance laws or addressing concerns about the transparency of the country’s contract procurement process, two matters that have long been a priority to stakeholders.

Mr Sears is also expected to argue strongly for greater devolution of the Prime Minister’s powers and for an expansion in the scope of local government.

“This campaign will present a transformative vision for the Progressive Liberal Party and the Bahamas,” he said in his statement yesterday. “The campaign will not make any personal and negative attacks on anyone.”

It is often said that the PLP’s election process is stacked in favour of the party’s leader. There are many stalwart councillors in the party who are of advanced age and have the ability to vote in the convention.

They are more likely to have had relationships with Mr Christie, who has been a parliamentarian for more than 40 years, than they are with Mr Sears, who has served in government for ten years.

Asked if he has concerns about the fairness of the PLP’s election process, Mr Sears said: “I, as well as every other candidate who will step forward, will be provided a level playing field and a fair process. Our great party should have the confidence to ensure that any contest for its leadership is fair and democratic. I’m confident that the delegates of the PLP are patriots of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and when they hear the manner that I want to take the country in they will support me.”

Mr Sears is a respected figure in the PLP and within the legal community. He was encouraged by the PLP constituency branch of Fort Charlotte to return to frontline politics last year after members grew frustrated with their representative, Dr Andre Rollins, who has since left the PLP.

If not for the prodding of the party, it is unclear if Mr Sears would have returned to frontline politics in 2017 and therefore challenge Mr Christie.

Mr Sears was Attorney General from 2002 to 2006 and Minister of Education from 2002 to 2007. He also served as Chairman of the Council of the College of the Bahamas between 2012 and 2016.

In his statement yesterday he said: “During my tenure as member of parliament, attorney general and minister of education, I learned the complexities of governance in our society, the challenges in addressing the concerns of working class Bahamians. Further, I gained a deep appreciation of the urgent need to reform our governance process, better incentivise Bahamian entrepreneurship and extend private public partnerships.”

Mr Sears is currently the managing partner of Sears & Co, the law firm he established in 1992. He told The Tribune yesterday that he anticipates receiving notable endorsements in the upcoming months.

Nonetheless, the PLP has not held a convention since 2009, despite the party’s constitutional mandate to hold one every year.

The last convention held in 2009 showed how deep support for Mr Christie runs in the party. He won 1,158 votes in a landslide victory over Dr Nottage, who received 204 votes. Mr Moss, an attorney viewed as an outsider, won 23 votes and later left the party.

Mr Christie stirred controversy recently when he said he seeks to remain leader of the PLP to provide stability to the party and because young members in government have urged him to continue on.

While it is unknown if others will step forward to challenge Mr Christie, Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis is often seen as another potential challenger.