By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
VOTER apathy and the Free National Movement’s failure to capitalise on the Progressive Liberal Party’s mistakes prompted seven parliamentarians to seek Dr Hubert Minnis’ removal as leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Assembly yesterday, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner said.
The move, which plunged the party into unprecedented crisis, came without an extended period of planning, The Tribune understands, as the parliamentarians decided on their action by 10pm Tuesday night, finalising details yesterday morning.
Although he did not attend the Tuesday night meeting, Central and South Abaco MP Edison Key was contacted by one of those parliamentarians Tuesday night and informed of their plan, he told The Tribune.
Mr Key dismissed notions that Mrs Butler-Turner spearheaded the move even as Bahamians took to social media to insist she did.
“No, no, no, that’s foolishness,” he told The Tribune. “They all wanted to do it before. After (Dr Minnis) threw me under the bus, I said, what do I have to lose?”
Earlier this week, Mr Key lambasted Dr Minnis and accused him and other FNM officials of going behind his back to select a new candidate for the Central and South Abaco constituency.
As news of the move began to reverberate yesterday, it remained unclear whether other prominent members of the FNM were aware of or approved of the plan.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson, an outspoken critic of Dr Minnis in the past, said he was shocked and surprised by the move.
He declined to say whether he would have discouraged the parliamentarians against their plan if consulted, though he said he and others persuaded them in the past to abandon such a move.
“It’s a difficult position to put the party in because the solution for the way forward is not clear,” Mr Watson said.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham could not be reached for comment.
During a press conference in Parliament’s Minority Room, the seven parliamentarians refused to take questions, saying they will do so at a later date.
“The majority of Bahamians believe that our country is spiralling out of control,” Mrs Butler-Turner said as she read from a prepared statement. “By any objective measure, our national failures far outweigh our successes. Proof of our decline is found in the pervasive apathy among our people: a sense that we are incapable of doing any better. This apathy has conditioned us to accept the unacceptable on the false premise that we lack the power to change our circumstances. The simple truth is this: Wherever apathy prevails, there can be no meaningful change.
“The reality is that those of us in opposition must accept our share of the blame. We have failed to convince Bahamians that we represent a change for them to vote for. Instead, we have taken the posture that the electorate will choose by default to vote against the PLP. Such a strategy fails to meet the challenges of our time and is not deserving of the confidence of the Bahamian people.”
This, she said, and the general failure of the FNM to inspire Bahamians, is why they sought to remove Dr Minnis as leader of their side in the House.
The petition by the seven MPs was sent to Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling asking her to invoke Article 82 of the Constitution.
Speaker of the House Dr Kendal Major read the contents of the MPs’ letter in the House of Assembly yesterday, shocking those in the room, including Dr Minnis.
The request has to be approved by Dame Marguerite to take effect. If it is approved, Dr Minnis would still be leader of the FNM.
Seven of the FNM’s 10 MPs - Mr Key, Mrs Butler-Turner, Dr Andre Rollins, Theo Neilly, Neko Grant, Hubert Chipman and Richard Lightbourn - signed the petition.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday evening, Dr Rollins said the MPs’ decision was in the best interest of the country, not for selfish reasons.