Speculation and rumors abound after the historic, seismic event lead by Loretta Butler-Turner in the House of Assembly last week, defrocking Dr. Hubert Minnis as Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition, and many questions in the aftermath.
On a historic day in the House of Assembly seven members of the opposition, all Members of Parliament for the Free National Movement (FNM), handed the speaker of the house a letter to the Governor General stating a vote of no confidence in Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition and requesting that Long Island MP Loretta Butler Turner be given the position.
Signing the letter were Hubert Chipman, MP St. Anne’s; Richard Lightbourn, MP Montagu; Loretta Butler-Turner, MP Long Island, Neko Grant, MP Central Grand Bahama; Theo Neilly, MP North Eleuthera and Andre Rollins, MP Fort Charlotte and Edison Key, MP Central and South Abaco.
Though there were prior rumblings of a vote of no confidence from sitting members dating back as early May of this year, it is speculated that the Central and South Abaco MP, Edison Key’s change of heart on Dr. Minnis was the last piece to making it happen.
Mr. Key, formerly a solid supporter of Dr. Minnis, reportedly said four days prior on December 3 that he felt betrayed by the Leader of the FNM and concluded that he was a poor option to lead the FNM into the next general election.
Mr. Key claimed that Dr. Minnis and his operatives were working behind the scenes in Abaco to get rid of him, holding “secret” meetings in his constituency without inviting him.
He told the Nassau Guardian that, given the way Minnis handled that particular situation, he has come to know the “real” Minnis — and that person is not someone he wants to be associated with any longer.
He said, “The real Minnis is a very deceptive person. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He has no experience. You look at it now, Neko, a senior person in the FNM, who has been minister of works, gone. Look at Chippie, gone; Lightbourn, gone; Neilly, gone.”
“And a ‘fella’ like me, who stood by him, never wavered a moment, never was swayed by the rest of the crew, and every one of them were against him, every single one of them.
“I never went against him. I supported him. I told him that over and over, ‘you have my support’.”
But now Mr. Key says: “I don’t want anything to do with him. The way he treated me, I have no respect for him anymore.”
The FNM’s Central and South Abaco Constituency Association Chairman Victor Patterson defended Dr. Minnis against accusations of betrayal and dishonesty levelled by Mr. Key last week regarding his candidacy snub.
Instead, Mr. Patterson said it was Dr. Minnis who continuously argued with the association that Mr. Key should be given another run.
According to Mr. Patterson, Dr. Minnis’ intention was to reward Mr. Key’s loyalty by offering the 78-year-old MP a Senate appointment and the agriculture and fisheries portfolio if the FNM was elected to office following the 2017 general election in exchange for his blessing for the party to use another standard bearer.
However, Mr. Key objected and insisted that if he could not be the MP, then he wanted nothing at all, Mr. Patterson said.
“Mr. Key announced that he would not be running again at the end of his term. This is not in dispute, it’s in The Tribune of March 16, 2015,” he said. “He told us we would need to find another candidate and so did the national party.”
Mr. Patterson said as they spoke to persons in the constituency it became clear to the Association that most were not interested in Mr. Key being the candidate.
He added that when Mr. Key announced to the press that he might be interested in running again he never approached the branch “and we interpreted that as saying well if they can’t find anybody well maybe I’ll do it again. So we said we better wrap this up and make our choice.”
The FNM Central and South Abaco Constituency Association has put forth James Christopher Albury as their choice for candidate. However, he has not been officially ratified as of this printing.
Mr. Key admitted that he made the decision to join the “rebel seven” MPs in ousting Dr. Minnis from the post of leader of the Official Opposition because of this situation.
“I supported him, but he betrayed me and turned his back on me. So what must I do?” Mr. Key said.
House Speaker Dr. Kendal Major read the letter from the seven FNM MPs to the governor general in Parliament.
Dr. Minnis said Bahamians were witnessing a subversion of a democratic process, referring to the FNM’s July convention.
Mr. Key said the move to remove him is also a democratic process.
“We live in a country where democracy rules, and you have a right to change your mind,” he told the media.
“I changed my mind, therefore, I did what I had to do.”
Mr. Key, when asked, gave no indication that he would cross the isle and rejoin the Progressive Liberal Party.
Following the event the three FNM Senators – Dr. Duane Sands, Carl Bethel and Kwasi Thompson – handed in their resignations following protocol as the Dr. Minnis was responsible for their appointments to the post.
In a meeting at their headquarters in Nassau on December 8 the FNM charged the “rebel seven” Parliamentarians with action that has brought the party into “disrepute, division, rancor and dishonour,” according to a letter about disciplinary proceedings.
The parliamentarians are given seven days to give a written response to the executive committee of the FNM, attempting to exculpate themselves.
“In the event that you fail to reply or the Executive Committee is of opinion that such reply as you have furnished does not exculpate you, the Executive Committee may, under the provisions of Article 54 of the Constitution of the FNM, appoint a Tribunal, as therein specified,” the letter said.
So far, the seven parliamentarians have said they will not resign from the party.
On Sunday, December 11, history was made as Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday accepted her instruments of appointment to become the first woman to serve as leader of the official Opposition
“Today is about the collective judgment and the sincere beliefs of the majority of the duly elected representatives opposed to the government of the day,” she told those attending after receiving the instruments from Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling.
“We have acted in accord with the Bahamas’ Constitution and in accord with parliamentary democracy. We have acted in accord with our consciences, as have others in this country who have also acted similarly.”
She added: “We stand on a firm and tested democratic foundation, history will judge our intention and our resolve.”
In another historic move, and amidst much speculation, on Monday, December 12 Mrs. Butler Turner appointed Democratic National Alliance Leader (DNA) Branville McCartney as leader of opposition business in the Senate. His appointment deepened speculation over the “end goal” of the seven FNM MPs.
Mrs. Butler-Turner maintained that she and her colleagues will not be joining the third party, but stopped short of revealing how the resulting collaboration will influence the election campaigns of either party. The DNA were also equally silent on the ramifications of the appointment.
She said, “The significance is that we were able to even get this collaboration, that is the most significant thing. The second significant thing is that we respect the differences we bring to the table, but more importantly we understand the commonality that we share and all of our people, our supporters share, and that is people have been begging and asking us to please either come together formally or to work together to pool your resources to rid yourself of the PLP government.”
“We have a work in progress,” Mrs Butler-Turner told reporters when asked for more details, “we have told you we have a plan, and we are moving now in building out that plan. The only thing that stops us now from rolling out the rest of our senators is the fact that we understand from the prime minister that there has to be clarification as to whether we will be able to use three senators or whether we will be able to appoint four senators.”
“So in that regard that is what we’re concentrated on, I ask you to stay tuned because essentially what is going to happen is going to be so dynamic and you’re going to be able to see that we’re able to do something totally different from what you look at in terms of just party politics in the Bahamas.”
Mrs. Butler-Turner added: “Party politics has not served us well at this juncture, we have become very tribalistic and what we’re showing is that we’re able to move away those tribal barriers to work together for the common good and that is to prevail.”
Pressed for details on how the collaboration will take shape, Mr. McCartney said, “My answer is this, at the end of the day we must come together as Bahamians who want what is good for the country to rid ourselves of the PLP and that is what has happened here.
“We must rid ourselves of this inept, ineffective, nontransparent, unaccountable government – period. This should be something that is welcomed in order to change this country. We have absolutely planned beyond and they will come out in due course.”
Dr. Minnis, in front of his followers, stressed that while Mrs. Butler-Turner was poised to assume responsibility for Opposition members in the House, she was not and could not be made the leader of the party.
“Let me be very clear that she is not and cannot as such be made leader of the Free National Movement,” he said.
“It is only the national convention of the FNM or, in emergency circumstances, its Central Council, that can elect the Leader of the Free National Movement.”
Dr. Minnis said, “the core FNM remains strong. I want to remind them that what has happened today is an act of God. It is a blessing for the Free National Movement, and it’s a blessing for the Bahamas that such an act occurred before the Free National Movement became victorious, because if this act had occurred while we were government, the government meaning the Free National Movement of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas would have been destabilised.
“So as I stand here I say to the nation that I thank God that such an act has happened now. We in the Free National Movement will always put God first, and with God’s help I am certain the Free National Movement will be the next government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and be assured that Peter Turnquest will be the next deputy prime minister. I want the Bahamas to view the members who are standing with me, my ratified candidates because these will be the same members who will be sitting in Cabinet, and who will be running the day-to-day operations of your country.”