A document that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis characterized over the weekend as “fake news” and something he knew nothing of was discovered to be an official gazette that can only be directed by the prime minister, The Nassau Guardian can confirm.
The document, dated August 22, 2017, had been circulating on social media over the weekend.
The Nassau Guardian was able to purchase a copy of the document, which had The Bahamas coat of arms at the top and the header “Cabinet Office, The Constitution Allocation of Portfolio”, from Government Publications in the Churchill Building for $5 yesterday.
It read, “The Hon. Romauld Sotario Ferreira is no longer charged with responsibility for the following: Relations with national and international organizations on matters relating to the environment; international convention, treaties, protocols and agreements relating to the environment; reefs and blue holes; Plant Protection Act; wild animal and bird protection; natural history specimens and the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission (BEST).”
The document said that those responsibilities would fall under the portfolio of the prime minister.
In his weekly press briefing yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold said that Ferreira was not demoted.
Newbold also said that six of the portfolio transfers were done in error.
“The prime minister decided to take responsibility for BEST so that, as an agency under the Office of the Prime Minister, it could be a part of the review process before matters went to National Economic Council,” Newbold said.
“In making the change to the portfolio allocation, matters that were listed next to BEST in the gazette were included amongst those transferred to OPM (Office of the Prime Minister).”
Newbold said those matters were relations with national and international organizations on matters relating to the environment; reefs and blue holes; wild animals and bird protection and natural history specimens.
“Both the prime minister and the OPM and Minister Ferreira and the Ministry of the Environment and Housing operated with these matters being dealt with by Minister Ferreira and his ministry,” Newbold said.
“The discussion on social media brought the error in the gazette to the government’s attention and that is being corrected.
“To be clear, Minister Ferreira was not demoted and his ministry continues to access the skills of the BEST Commission when needed, as do other ministries.
“I hope this clears up this misunderstanding.”
Scour the gazette
When asked why the prime minister did not announce the portfolio transfer, Newbold said, “The prime minister communicated what needed to be communicated.
“There was no intention to hide anything.”
Newbold was also pressed on why the prime minister called the document “fake news” and claimed that he knew nothing about it.
“… As far as he was aware, anything that said that there was this wholesale transfer of responsibilities would have to be fake,” Newbold said.
“As far as he is concerned, that’s not what happened. That was never intended.”
But speaking to the media on the matter, following the celebration of the opening of three new restaurants at Marina Village, Atlantis, on Saturday, Minnis said, “Fake news has said so many things about me; those things don’t bother me.
“I have told my entire Cabinet just to remain focused.
“Just stay on the highway. You know where the goal [is]. You know what to achieve. You know the goal, and just head towards the goal post.
“Don’t worry about the sideway, and don’t worry about the exit terminals; stay focused.”
Asked to confirm that the document circulated on social media was fake, Minnis said, “They have sent so many documents around by me.
“… I know nothing about the document.”
Newbold said that the prime minister “is not scouring what happens in Cabinet or what is sent to the gazette”.
“That is somebody else’s job,” he said.
When asked again why the prime minister called it “fake news”, Newbold said, “He chose to deal with it how he chose to deal with it.
“That is all I can say about that. He knew that he had BEST; anything else was not something that he had to be concerned about.”
The Guardian noted that, since August 22, Ferreira had been conducting affairs that were no longer a part of his portfolio.
Newbold said, “The prime minister never took them on.”
He said that Ferreira continued to hold those responsibilities.
When asked if there are any legal concerns regarding this, Newbold said, “No.”
“There is no reason to be concerned,” he said.
“If it was necessary for the prime minister to do something in relation to one of those elements, he can do it.”
Newbold said that the matter will be corrected.
“There will be another gazette,” he said.
Newbold also admitted that he learned about the document over the weekend.
“I found out about it, like everybody else, when it was sent around on social media,” he said.
The Guardian reminded Newbold that he is the press secretary.
“So, what does that mean?” he asked.
The Guardian noted that he should be abreast of what’s happening with regard to the Cabinet portfolio.
“There is no reason for me to know what is in the gazette,” he said.