By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Deputy Chairman Dr Duane Sands yesterday expressed concern that he and other FNMs targeted in death threats were not alerted to possible danger, saying that had they been informed they could have decided on a suitable approach.
The concern was noted in an internal email sent to several FNMs yesterday and obtained by The Tribune.
In that email, Dr Sands said he was surprised that he was named in a death threat letter sent to FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis in March.
The threat was only made public by FNM Chairman Darron Cash on Wednesday after FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner alerted the media about a death threat she had received.
In the email, Dr Sands urged party officials to meet soon to speak about the sensitivity of the matter.
The threatening letter, sent on March 24 by mail, named six of the party’s executives, including FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis, Mrs Butler-Turner, Mr Cash, Dr Sands, Brensil Rolle, former parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Housing, and North Eleuthera MP Theo Neilly. Another threatening letter was sent to Dr Minnis on February 17, 2014 containing general threats to FNMs.
“I was a bit ‘surprised’ at the revelation of a letter supposedly containing death threats,” Dr Sands’ email said. “In my view, such a letter (whether credible or not) certainly ought to have been brought to the attention of the individuals named and whichever party officials deemed reasonable.
“Such action would have allowed each individual to decide on the approach suited for him/herself and family. Further it would have allowed for a determination of whether the police should have been informed. I, nor Brensil, was previously aware of this letter. I have not spoken to Theo. At the very least, given the sensitivity . . . and the implications for family (who are alarmed) we need to speak.”
Mr Cash released a statement yesterday that explained that the threats were not publicised on the request of Dr Minnis because the party leader did not want authorities to feel any obligation to devote their already strained resources to the situation.
Mr Cash explained that Dr Minnis did not want his safety and that of other FNMs to seem like a priority over issues of national importance. He said the party, at the time, simply dismissed the threats as a prank and determined them as “not serious”. That view, Mr Cash insisted, is still the position of the FNM whom he said “will not be intimidated by idle threats or distractions.”
“We did give initial consideration to possible motives for persons sending such letters and we further considered who would most likely benefit in the unlikely event of such mass resignations,” Mr Cash said. “We concluded that the absurdity of the request was further grounds to dismiss the letters.”
Mr Cash revealed the threats to the media after Mrs Butler-Turner’s revelation that she had been sent a letter in March, which detailed how she would be tortured before her murder unless she resigned. Mrs Butler-Turner said she was contacted by someone on Tuesday night who warned her to be guarded and careful. Since going public with the claims, police have visited Mrs Butler-Turner, but she said they had very little to say of their investigations.
Yesterday, Dr Sands told The Tribune that he had not heard of the threats until Wednesday afternoon, when he was contacted by a reporter. Dr Sands said he had not seen the letter which threatened FNMs and did not know its contents. He told The Tribune that over the last 24 hours his family and friends were concerned for his safety.
Messrs Neilly and Rolle told The Tribune they vaguely remembered being told about the death threats, but that they had no concerns for their own safety.
“I am just staying focused on doing the job I was elected to do, “ Mr Neilly said. “I certainly haven’t done anything to be targeted, except represent the views of my constituents.”
“I think I remember hearing of it (the letter) but I dismissed it, because I think around that time many people were being threatened,” Mr Rolle said. “But to me, you just treat things like that as something which happens when you are in front-line politics.”
The letter sent to Dr Minnis in March read: “Dr Mr Leader, we in the FNM are sick and tired of you and Dr Sands and Brensil stink attitude. You, Darron Cash, and Loretta and Theo Neilly and Brensil, all of you better resign now if not the mobs will be shooting you all in your neck on my one.” The letter was signed “Sincerely FNMs.”
Speaker of the House of Assembly Dr Kendal Major was copied on the note which was oddly addressed to “The Leader of the Opposition Hubert Ingraham”.
On March 26, a letter voicing security concerns was sent to Deputy Police Commissioner Quinn McCartney.
In that letter Dr Minnis’ personal assistant Katherine Stewart-Marsh recalled that in February, a letter sent through the mail enclosed in a Scotia Bank envelope threatened FNMs. She pointed out that the letter had a typed signature.
“All of you will be dead soon,” the letter sent in February said.
The second letter, Mrs Stewart-Marsh told Mr McCartney, was sent in a Bahamas Electricity Corporation envelope. Both letters and their accompanying envelopes were sent to police.
Yesterday, when asked to comment, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he has been the target of threats before and urged people to take them seriously. He revealed that on Wednesday night one of his relatives was threatened by someone who was armed. Mr Christie said the police were called and are investigating.
Attempts to reach Central Detective Unit Chief Supt Paul Rolle and Mr McCartney to inquire on the status of police investigations into the threats were not successful up to press time.