By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FORMER Progressive Liberal Party Cabinet Minister George Smith yesterday renewed calls for the government to move forward with the proposed referendum on gender equality before the end of June 2016.
Mr Smith insisted that both major political parties need to give serious consideration to the government holding a vote within the first or second quarter of next year.
He urged women voters to take note of every politician who does not support the legislation to launch the referendum.
“Both parties have to present the very best in order to give both parties the best shot at winning the next general election,” he said.
“We must put behind us the question of the gender issue. The bills have been lingering in the committee stage of the House (of Assembly) for months. We must put that behind us and get on with the issues that affect the Bahamian people.”
He added: “I encourage every woman who wants full citizenship with all the rights that men currently enjoy to remember every politician that does not vote for and support the referendum. There needs to be serious consideration to have a referendum on the legislation before the end of June because the next nine months in this country will be very telling and significant months.”
The constitutional referendum has been delayed several times. It was first expected in the summer of 2013.
Mr Smith made his comments as he commended his party on postponing its national convention, which was expected in November. On Tuesday night, the PLP announced that the event has been put off until next year due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Joaquin. However, Mr Smith said the recommendation to postpone the event must be approved by the PLP’s National General Council.
He also told The Tribune that he was confident the Free National Movement would also move to host its convention during that time as it continues to grapple with widespread public critique of its leadership.
“I believe that the FNM has sufficient people in it who are realists and they must know what Dr Minnis’ critics know,” he said, “and that his performance has not been inspiring by any means. They will look at their organisation and look at the weaknesses of the PLP. I expect they will do it well in advance of the end of the first quarter of next year. I have every reason to believe that the primary concern would be coming out of that (convention) better able to take on the PLP and so they must address the question of leadership.
“It’s going to be a very telling issue in the next general election. There is a lot of behind the scenes consultation and advice being given to both major political parties in the hope that we address these matters, and leadership must be high on the agenda.”
Mr Smith underscored that while the PLP was the “natural” party to govern the country given its legacy and widespread base, it desperately needed to address key issues in order to restore confidence during this term.
“Both political parties have lost support,” he said, “but as for my party, the PLP has some nine months to deal with issues such as directing all efforts to dealing with crime problems in this country and the root causes of crime, we need to address the economy in a more direct way particularly in so far as it impacts on the economic empowerments of Bahamians. We need to see that the National Health Insurance is addressed in a way that people will see shortly after its implementation the benefits in terms of better health care for the general population.
“The government must heighten its effort to demonstrate greater efficiency. The level of efficiency offered by public entities is not what it ought to be. If we devote the next nine months to dealing with the problems that impact the people, improving public education, we could prove to be worthy to regain the confidence of the Bahamian people and win the next general election,” Mr Smith said.