By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell believes the passage of stem cell regulations is a far more important issue for Bahamians than fashion tycoon Peter Nygard’s support for the move.
Since it was confirmed in Parliament that the government would forge ahead with a legal framework for stem cell research, discussions have been largely overshadowed by concerns about the extent of Mr Nygard’s involvement – which Mr Mitchell said does not surprise him.
But he insisted that the government will continue to pursue plans to see the Bill passed despite the push-back from FNM MPs.
“The Bill will be passed (and) that will end that,” Mr Mitchell said.
FNM leader Dr Hubert Minnis first raised the question of the driving force behind the government’s decision to see the Stem Cell Bill passed.
The issue has since sparked several contentious House sessions.
Earlier this week, Dr Minnis caused proceedings to be adjourned until August 7 after he disobeyed House Speaker Dr Kendal Major’s orders to take his seat.
At the time, he said he was attempting to reveal information that would confirm Mr Nygard’s relationship with the PLP.
He had previously been ordered to withdraw offensive remarks but refused.
Dr Major said that Dr Minnis would not be allowed to Speak in the House until he either showed proof of his claims, or withdrew them.
The FNM leader has not done either in parliament, but held a press conference at which he alluded to an affidavit signed by Mr Nygard in which the fashion designer named himself a major backer of the PLP.
Before this, Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn suggested that in exchange for financially backing the PLP in the lead-up to the May 2012 election, Mr Nygard had been promised citizenship and the settling of matters involving the reclamation of land around his residence.
Mr Lightbourn said it was speculated that Mr Nygard gave the PLP $5 million to finance their campaign.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has twice promised to set the record straight once he stood on Parliament’s floor.
And twice, Mr Christie attended Parliamentary sessions but did not speak before the government side suspending proceedings.
Meanwhile, Mr Nygard – who has spoken publicly on the matter repeatedly – confirmed that he had donated money to both political parties.
The FNM has denied accepting any money from the Lyford Cay resident.
Mr Nygard later clarified during a trip to Grand Bahamas, saying he did donate $5 million, but this was to stem cell research, not the PLP government.