By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis accused Prime Minister Perry Christie and senior members of his Cabinet of putting party politics over the good of the nation when they cut the budget debate short in what he saw as an apparent attempt to silence Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins.
Dr Minnis said Mr Christie, Minister of Works Philip “Brave” Davis and Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage shirked their responsibilities to the Bahamian people to speak on pertinent issues related to their respective ministries.
He said it appeared “suspicious” that Mr Davis’ team released the minister’s budget contribution to the media earlier in the evening, only for the Cat Island MP to later say he had no plans to speak in the House of Assembly as he moved for an early close of the debate.
Dr Minnis added that while Mr Christie suggested to the House that he had an urgent meeting to attend connected to Baha Mar on Wednesday night, the prime minister never left Parliament. In fact, he said Mr Christie stayed in the House until 4am with the rest of the MPs until the 2015/2016 budget was passed.
“You don’t want this member to speak because you don’t want the nation to hear negativity about you or any damning words that may (prevent) you from winning an election going forward,” Dr Minnis said. “It shows that the PLP, they are very bad for this country because they are only concerned about themselves. And at all costs they would prefer to win an election.”
“They ran (in the last election) talking about a bridge to the future, but the youth in their party are being dismantled. They are showing that they are not concerned about young people, you either follow the line or the old guards, who are relics of the past, or you move because there is no future here for you.”
He said the country was waiting in vain to hear from the nation’s leader Wednesday night on mortgage relief or plans for CLICO policyholders.
“He sat in there with the rest of us until 4am the following morning. He could have debated; we sat in there until 4am.”
Dr Minnis said the country wanted to hear from Dr Nottage on new policies to fight crime and said Mr Davis owed it to the Bahamian public to speak about money management concerns in the Urban Renewal programme and the Bahamas Agricultural and Marine Sciences Institute (BAMSI).
“What they demonstrated was overt, shameful disrespect for the Bahamian public and overt arrogance. What they showed was that they were not concerned with the national issues, they were more concerned about themselves, about protecting their party, protecting themselves, not concerned about the country and the issues that face us.”
He added: “The people wanted to hear from the prime minister – what’s the position on CLICO, what’s the position on mortgage relief, what are we doing about equality for women, when will we have the referendum, what are your definitive solution on high youth unemployment? They want to hear about Baha Mar, those individuals who had left their jobs and subsequently went over to Baha Mar, are their jobs safe? Will Baha Mar be open, what will happen in the interim – these are issues that face the nation.”
In a heated and contentious meeting of the House of Assembly on Wednesday night, Mr Davis moved for an abrupt end of the budget debate although neither he nor Dr Nottage had made their contribution.
Mr Christie also had not given his expected wrap up of the budget.
Dr Rollins, who had not yet spoken, argued that the PLP was trying to muzzle him.
However, Mr Davis said that it was within his right to move for the vote to close the debate because “all of the minority members of the House of Assembly have spoken” and Dr Rollins’ intentionally missed his opportunity to speak.
Ultimately, House Speaker Dr Kendal Major ruled in Dr Rollins’ favour. The Fort Charlotte MP quit the PLP at the end of his fiery speech.