By ADRIAN GIBSON
If the Free National Movement (FNM) is to survive this next round of warfare between Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner, her flatterers and those who prop her up, the party must now decide to give her an ultimatum to fish, cut bait or get the heck out of the boat.
Last week, the FNM was scheduled to hold a much-touted leadership runoff between Mrs Butler-Turner and incumbent Dr Hubert Minnis at the conclusion of its three-day convention. However, at the eleventh hour, Mrs Butler-Turner decided that she never loses, but rather quits.
At around 2am on Friday - the day of the vote - the Butler/Duane Sands team pulled out of the race for leadership, blaming their withdrawal on Dr Minnis and asserting that the process was unfair and that their participation would only validate it.
Frankly, I think that after the response of delegates to her speech that night, where they nearly ran Mrs Butler-Turner out of the convention hall, decided that she would withdraw. Clearly, she must have believed that a withdrawal meant that Dr Minnis would be unable to claim that he beat her yet again.
The public backlash against Mrs Butler-Turner, in the days following her withdrawal, has been patent. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, having a bus wrapped with her face and campaign information, printing paraphernalia and rallying supporters, Mrs Butler-Turner abruptly quit. Many of her closest supporters and allies claim to have not been consulted beforehand, most of them finding out in the morning dailies and on social media.
Mrs Butler-Turner later told the media that apart from Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest’s harsh critique of her on Thursday night, which she said was the last straw, there had been serious challenges with the overall process. This included issues with the selection of the delegates and the final list of them. Her “Forward-Together” campaign also complained that the list was not readily available upon their requests.
The FNM’s convention was a high-strung affair, with lots of dancing, backstabbing, flying off the handle, double dealing, political shaming, name calling, personal attacks and, in the case of Mrs Butler-Turner, “ducking” what would’ve been a 4-to-1 thumping. The convention should have simply been subtitled “Just bust a move”.
I am in Washington DC and as I tour and move about the political capital of the United States, I realise that there is much more than we could do to further democratise our political processes and put infrastructure in place to ensure first-class representation.
Whilst I do not approve of the audience’s boisterous interruption of Mrs Butler-Turner’s speech with shouts of “Roc wit Doc”, I can understand why there are some who did so. Frankly, Mrs Butler-Turner had gone well beyond her allotted time and it appeared that she had decided to filibuster the second night of the convention, speaking at such length that even the television stations would end their coverage.
And then there was Richard Lightbourn who, seemingly not being able to accept that the musical cue means to leave the stage and conclude his speech, spoke well in excess of his allotted time and made condemnable, insensitive and disturbing remarks proposing state-sponsored sterilisation of unwed mothers as an anti-crime initiative.
I listened in shock and dismay, wondering if my ears had betrayed me. Unbelievably, Mr Lightbourn saw “tying the tubes” of unwed mothers after “having more than two children” as a social antidote. Mr Lightbourn has committed political suicide and, given his offensive, misogynistic comments, he should not be re-nominated.
I can see the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) creating attack advertisements and running them repeatedly. The impact of his comments upon the FNM as a political brand will be far reaching. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear Mrs Butler-Turner w- ho projects herself as a feminist and a campaigner for women’s rights - publicly chide and censure her political ally.
Although the Minnis/Peter Turnquest team has extended the olive branch to Mrs Butler-Turner and Dr Sands, it is the latter who appears to have been the most receptive to moving forward and working with the leadership. Whilst Dr Sands attended the last night of the FNM’s convention and was embraced by the party’s hierarchy and delegates present, Mrs Butler-Turner was a no show. That was evidence of what appears to be her intent to continue to infighting and warmongering within the FNM.
This week, Mrs Butler-Turner rejected Dr Minnis’ declaration that he was again extending the olive branch to her and suggested that this was no more than a sham to entice supporters to step away from their principal reservations with the party. She asserted that she is not for sale and charged that she will stand on her principles and that she could not be bought. She further stated that “they (Minnis/Turnquest) are not going to offer me anything without the inclusion of the other MPs”.
Hmm. Strangely enough, none of these other MPs mounted the stage when Mrs Butler-Turner called on them to join her last Thursday night. Only her running mate, Dr Sands, joined her with the other dissident MPs cowardly abandoning her whilst she stood onstage, shamefaced. Clearly, some of them must have been thinking of their own nominations and how best to save themselves given the fact that the delegates in the convention hall that night were unreceptive to Mrs Butler-Turner’s message.
Politically, such behaviour epitomised cowardice and is the political equivalent of what former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger referred to as girly men. If the proverbial ship is going down, they should have all been “man enough” to go down with it whilst standing firm.
Yesterday, Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant stepped down as leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly and the FNM’s shadow Works Minister, pointing to his relationship with Dr Minnis as the motivating factor. So, will Mrs Butler-Turner now accept that post or will she too spurn the appointment? Is Mr Grant’s resignation another step towards an eventual exodus of the dissident five from the FNM?
Sadly, Mrs Butler-Turner has been conducting herself like a spoilt child of late. She seemingly feels entitled to the FNM’s leadership, viewing herself as that party’s political saviour and displaying no respect for process. Her ego far outstrips her ability.
When will this drawn-out melodrama end?
Last week, Mrs Butler-Turner engaged in a sounded off on several occasions, voicing emotive and - in some cases - highly antagonistic commentary on social media sites such as Facebook and WhatsApp. In one instance, she sounded off on Facebook, accusing Dr Minnis of attempting to steal the convention and silence her voice by engaging in undemocratic practices.
In another instance, Mrs Butler-Turner allegedly accused Dr Minnis of organising a convention filled with organised corruption, criminality and intimidation. I was flabbergasted to hear some of her utterances on talk shows and in other forums. She clearly has no regard for Dr Minnis.
What Mrs Butler-Turner seemingly fails to realise is that her injurious, pernicious drivel only invites ridicule of her party, belittling the leadership and her colleagues in the eyes of the public. Such conduct is unacceptable and downright contemptuous.
On a recent Guardian radio talk show, Mrs Butler-Turner claimed that she had staved off the would-be coup against Dr Minnis that led to the call for an early convention. She said that she talked her parliamentary colleagues out of their plans to go to Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling with a vote of no confidence in Dr Minnis.
However, Dr Andre Rollins told a different story on Monday.
In a statement, Dr Rollins said that while it was “evident to (him) that the party desperately needed a shake-up and (he) believed that holding an earlier convention would achieve this” and that while he admitted to indicating “in no uncertain terms that if an earlier convention were not acceded to, (he) would join those colleagues in writing a letter to the Governor General expressing no confidence in the leader”, he was never consulted about a “blistering letter to the Council, enumerating the perceived deficiencies and failings of Dr Minnis” that was also released to the press.
Dr Rollins said: “The facts are that I was never once consulted about the letter and did not know about its existence until hearing about it on Carlton Smith’s “Let’s Talk Live” talk show on Guardian Radio after it had already been leaked to the press.
“I proceeded to make inquiries to others about why my name was included on a letter that I knew nothing about and had not made any contribution to. I subsequently received an apology - written and verbal - from Mrs Loretta Butler-Turner, whom I suspected was intending to once again run for the party’s leadership. However, still privately upset by the lack of respect shown to me, I decided that the best way to respond to her unethical act was to allow her to suffer her own political demise: If she wanted to make her bed hard, then I would get out of her way so that she could lie down in it.”
So, Mrs Butler-Turner must be made to answer whether or not she signed or caused Dr Rollins’ name to be signed to that letter? And, if so, did she seek his permission?
If Mrs Butler-Turner denies having done so, Dr Rollins has stated that he has proof of her apology, as she - according to him - gave him both a verbal and written apology. If Rollins’ name was added to that letter without his permission, such conduct would be nothing short of unethical and demonstrative of a political strategy that is centred upon destabilising the FNM and torpedoing any chance of Dr Minnis ever becoming Prime Minister.
I think she is insincere and disingenuous. She claimed that she transformed, going from a heavy set woman to her more trimmed-down physique and stating that she has adopted a calmer temperament prior to her latest campaign for leadership. Frankly, she appeared to be more temperamental and contentious this time around.
Dr Rollins was honourable in maintaining that he would not offer himself for re-election having openly expressed a lack of confidence in Dr Minnis. Mrs Butler-Turner has engaged in what can easily be interpreted as gratuitous, unconstructive criticisms and degradation of Dr Minnis in the public’s eye and has also expressed no confidence in his leadership.
She is not alone in having taken such a position. However, Dr Rollins is correct in noting that to pursue or remotely be interested in seeking an FNM nomination under Dr Minnis - given her recent utterances - would be egregious and nothing short of duplicitous.
As it stands, Mrs Butler-Turner does not appear to be sincerely interested in the unification of the FNM. Her quest for validation that has driven to her making ill-advised comments even in the wake of a convention she actively agitated for.
I am advised that the starfish is representative of the logo of a new party that has been purportedly discussed by Mrs Butler-Turner and the dissident four MPs. Only time will tell whether they pull the trigger and launch that party or if they will all refuse nominations from the FNM. One cannot be fish and fowl at the same time.
Decisions must be made!
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