By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
MEMBERS of the Free National Movement yesterday said the party is not focused on revenge for the part the Progressive Liberal Party played in the failed 2002 constitutional referendum, but stressed that the Christie administration should be faulted for hindering equal rights for women for political gain.
FNM Chairman Darron Cash released a statement on the issue, calling on Prime Minister Perry Christie to give a “full throated apology” to the FNM and the country for the part he played in the vote “no” campaign ahead of the 2002 referendum. Mr Cash said while the government has the support of the FNM’s leader and its parliamentary team over the upcoming referendum, there is a lot more work to be done to win over FNM supporters who are still stinging from the “scars” of 2002.
“He (Mr Christie) should apologise for his action and seek forgiveness,” Mr Cash said. “His actions hurt supporters of the equality for women movement and it hurt FNMs who worked so hard to try to secure that important win for women. Mr Christie has yet to validate the legitimacy of the battle scars of FNMs and supporters of the 2002 pro-passage campaign. The wounds and the feelings are still raw. Fortunately, with a greater degree of prime ministerial leadership healing is possible.”
Mr Cash stressed that in spite of the PLP’s actions in 2002, the FNM is a party whose promotion of the equality of women is “unparalleled.”
“. . .FNMs are not focused on ‘payback’ and they can all rest assured that leaders of the FNM will never advocate that position,” Mr Cash said. “We are bigger than that. In 2002 the FNM took the courageous step of bringing forth these necessary initiatives to promote equality for Bahamian women despite the impending backlash from a general election hungry PLP opposition determined to stir up confusion.”
In 2002, the PLP while in opposition urged voters not to support a referendum that addressed the issue of gender equality, although they had supported the referendum bills when they were earlier debated in Parliament.
While speaking in the House of Assembly during debate on the constitutional amendment bills, FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner said it may be “tempting” for some voters to say “no” to the November constitutional vote as “payback”. However she cautioned against this saying it would be “an insult” to Bahamian women.
“Some wish to payback this government for refusing to abide by the results of the gaming referendum, which the prime minister so solemnly promised,” Mrs Butler-Turner said.
“It might be tempting. But it would be wrong. The two issues are separate.”
Both Mr Cash and Mrs Butler-Turner said the four referendum bills and questions must be clear enough so that the average voter can understand the proposed changes.
Mrs Butler-Turner added that while she supports the amendments to the Constitution, she has concerns that certain changes of the law in the first constitutional amendment bill will not be retroactive.
The proposed bill would enable a child born outside the Bahamas to a Bahamian woman, whose husband is a foreigner, to have automatic Bahamian citizenship at birth. However, the government does not plan to have the clause operate retroactively.
“This runs afoul of the principle of full equality,” she said in the House. “It is yet another variation of separate, but equal. We should not have a situation where past cases of inequality must still be adjudicated by a minister and the cabinet, instead of an automatic right under the supreme law of the land.
“This would create at least two classes of individuals and would still rely on the discretion of the government of the day.”
The referendum is set for November 6.