By DANA SMITH
TRIBUNE STAFF REPORTER
PRIME Minister Perry Christie said he will not allow the FNM to “misrepresent” the position of the government and accused the party of “shamelessly trying to exploit” the gambling referendum.
Last night, he maintained his position that the government is not influencing the upcoming January 28 referendum in either direction and hit out at the Opposition for, what he called, “playing politics.”
“Bahamians have to be very sensible in their appreciation of what is being said by politicians,” the prime minister said. “The FNM is shamelessly trying to exploit this for political advantage. They are going to find out, again the hard way, there is no political advantage for them.”
Mr Christie countered comments from FNM leader Hubert Minnis, which suggested the government is working in the interests of web-shop owners.
“For anyone, including the leader of the Opposition, to try to exploit (comments the prime minister made on the referendum) by saying I’m condoning illegality has to be horrendously mistaken and really reaching jackass proportions,” Mr Christie said.
“The truth of the situation is, we’re trying to remove the irregular conduct that is taking place in this country and if (former Prime Minister) Hubert Ingraham was the prime minister today, he would be doing the exact same thing I’m doing because that is what he forecasted in all the documentations I met in the Ministry of Finance.”
The prime minister affirmed he does not want any member of the government to influence the vote in either direction and said the government will ensure voters are aware of that.
“We wanted the people to exercise an unfettered decision on their part,” he declared.
“(The FNM) has made it political now and clearly in making it political, they are now drawing this political stripe across this campaign. The one thing I will not allow them to do is, I will not allow them to misrepresent the position of my government.
“If it means going to every island in the Commonwealth over the next few days, I will do that to ensure that every single Bahamian that I can reach understands what I meant by saying I have no horse in the race, that this is an activity that we put together to try and bring order to this country one way or the other.”
The government is “broadening and deepening” the country’s democracy in giving Bahamians an opportunity to speak to an important issue in the country, Mr Christie said, and voters have the right to “express themselves honestly and sincerely” on what they feel should happen.
That is what the government intended, he continued, and preparations are in place for either outcome.
In light of recent claims by Dr Minnis and others concerning the gambling referendum, the government will take steps to assure voters the referendum is not “flawed,” the prime minister stated.
“If people like Raynard Rigby and Minnis and those are saying we are misguided, we have not asked the right questions, the process is flawed. Then the government of the Bahamas has now a duty to address that issue nation-wide, to demonstrate to the people of this country that we are not flawed in the process and in point of fact, they will be hearing from me and others in this regard,” he said.
“The FNM, by making it very political and making this political intervention, has now put us in a position where we have to explain to the Bahamian people and take the time to do so, what in fact I thought was obvious to all.”
Mr Christie also responded to criticisms about the wording of one of the referendum questions.
“This aspect about we should have used the word ‘legalised’ – ‘regularising’ means exactly that,” he said. “It means that whatever exists now, we have to make it lawful, we have to make it acceptable to the people of this country.”
To “split hairs” on the definition, he said, “is just foolishness”.
Mr Christie also revealed a “specially selected team” will be arriving in the country next week to help prepare the government for the outcome of a “yes” or “no” vote.