Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe said he would not compete with Prime Minister Perry Christie if the 71-year-old offers to lead the PLP at the party’s October convention.
If Mr Christie steps down as leader at that time, his party is disciplined enough to avoid the kind of drama that could divert attention from its governing agenda during the remainder of its term, Mr Wilchcombe said.
“I would not contest the leadership from (Mr Christie),” he said. “I’m very supportive of Mr Christie and his outstanding service to our country. He has served with honour. I believe nothing will cause me to relinquish my loyalty to his leadership. I will not undermine him. Those of us who have an interest in leadership should, in fact, spend more time preparing so if he announces his departure we’ll be in a position to lead with distinction like he has.”
The prime minister has not discussed his plans for the future with PLP members, Mr Wilchcombe said, adding that this is in the best interest of the party.
“He hasn’t told us what his plans are,” the West End and Bimini MP said. “And he has to be careful. He doesn’t want to leave the party and create chaos and anarchy. Of course the way things like this have been handled has always been with dignity and honour; that’s the way the PLP has done it. Pindling was challenged. Christie was challenged. I’m from the school that believes you must better your skills and skill sets so that you could be in a position to ask for (Mr Christie’s) support at the end of the day. But, of course, he can’t devalue his position.
“He has to time his future directly so he doesn’t find himself as a lame duck prime minister. But I know that he does not wish to stop anyone from pursuing their dreams.”
As for the impact a leadership battle could have on the perception of unity among senior party members, Mr Wilchcombe said: “The PLP is a structured organisation. The PLP has order. We know when to close ranks. We know when to take matters in-house and at the end of the day you have to appreciate what the party says.”
Mr Wilchcombe said he doesn’t “have the slightest idea how many people may seek the party’s leadership.”
He added that his fellow governing party members are a “tight group” that “jokes all the time” about the leadership issue.
“We have fun about it,” he said. “We’re a body. Notwithstanding that we have strong views and some wish to be leader, we’re united.”
Mr Wilchcombe said an ideal leader must have the trust of the Bahamian people and a commitment to service.
“You have to have a history of service and a commitment to doing service with love,” he said.
Mr Wilchcombe also said he hopes to convince his “buddy,” Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller to support him in his leadership bid if he were to run in October.
Mr Miller recently told The Nassau Guardian that he sees Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis as the party’s future leader, not the West End and Bimini MP.
“Leslie is my good buddy,” Mr Wilchcombe said in response yesterday. “Many will have to choose who they want to choose. One day I hope to convince my good buddy and show him that I have the pedigree and then maybe he will support me.”
On Sunday, Mr Wilchcombe announced his aspirations to lead the PLP, saying if he had the chance to become prime minister he would take it. Mr Davis also said yesterday that he would like to lead the PLP, if a vacancy becomes available.
In January, Mr Christie said it would take a compelling reason for him to lead the PLP into the next general election.
During a televised interview with State of Affairs on ZNS, Mr Christie said he told his family that 2012 would be his last campaign, but added that there are some supporters who do not want him to step down as leader.