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Editorial: Put Your Country First, Dr Minnis

FROM TIME to time, one hears the suggestion that the Westminster system of government does not suit The Bahamas. In our opinion, the only reason that it doesn’t suit The Bahamas is because we don’t understand it and have, over the years, bastardised it.

The Westminster system in England has been developed over centuries in the UK parliament by conventions, practices and precedents. In The Bahamas, for example, as in many other areas of the Commonwealth, it has been codified in a written constitution.

Today, in our own parliament, we have a situation where the majority of Opposition MPs have declared that they are no longer prepared to serve under their present leader. They have elected Long Island MP Loretta Butler Turner as their leader and have received the instruments of office from Governor General, Dame Marguerite Pindling, who represents her Majesty the Queen, to make her appointment official.

The head of government – who in the case of The Bahamas is Prime Minister Perry Christie, is appointed by the head of state, who is the governor general. To be appointed prime minister, the governor general must be satisfied that he has the support of the majority of the Members of Parliament. Therefore, in addition to being Prime Minister, Mr Christie enters parliament as the leader of his party, the Progressive Liberal Party.

Now we have the situation in our House of Assembly where, after over four years of giving Opposition leader Dr Hubert Minnis an opportunity to convince his parliamentary colleagues that he is ready and able to mount a formidable opposition to the ruling PLP in the 2017 general election - a mere five months away – he doesn’t even have a united party behind him. All we hear of are squabbles among members, with some now declining to offer for re-election.

In a surprise move on Wednesday, seven of Dr Minnis’ MPs delivered a letter of no confidence in him to both Speaker of the House Dr Kendal Major, and Governor General, Dame Marguerite Pindling. The dissidents informed both that they had appointed Long Island MP Loretta Butler Turner as their Leader in the House.

We now have the absurd position where Mrs Butler-Turner is the Opposition leader in the House, but outside of the House Dr Minnis is the leader of their party, the FNM. That certainly is not the spirit of the Westminster system of government. Mrs Butler-Turner should be the leader of both.

Dr Minnis has now turned around and brought expulsion proceedings against the seven “rebels”. So instead of spending the next five months on the business of the people, Dr Minnis, if he gets his way, has put his own interests first and will probably spend the next five months fighting in court with his own parliamentary colleagues — which is primarily what he has been doing for the past four years.

This time, it is not the “Dissident Eight” protesting the leadership of the late Sir Lynden Pindling of the PLP, but the “Dissident Seven” protesting the leadership of Dr Hubert Minnis of the FNM.

“We acted in response to serious concerns about the performance of the leader of the opposition and those concerns do not go against the provisions of Article 53 of the FNM’s constitution in any way,” said the majority of the FNM’s team in the House.

“Indeed, to assert that they do is to put forward the notion that the FNM is nothing more than a dictatorship, where concerns voiced about the leadership are met with violent intolerance. That is a form of fascism. The FNM was formed as a check against such dangerous political overreach. We wish to remind Dr Minnis that we live in a democracy.

“The ridiculous suggestion that our actions were treasonous or undemocratic suggests a lack of understanding the difference between the political party and the state. Any accusation that our actions were unlawful would only be appropriate if Dr Minnis were a reigning monarch. However, we must remind all Bahamians that Dr Minnis is not a king.”

Obviously, Dr Minnis seems to think otherwise.

“What has occurred over the last few days in the FNM is the result of individuals who have failed to respect the democratic process of their own party,” said Dr Minnis.

“They have put their self-centred ambitions for leadership, and personal feelings toward me, ahead of the will of the people and the best interest of the country.

“The Free National Movement is not distracted. Our party remains the best opportunity for real, systemic change in this country. To our supporters in these seven constituencies, many of whom have contacted the party over the last few days expressing a sense of deep betrayal and disappointment in these representatives, please be assured that your party has not abandoned you.”

Now let’s look at how a similar situation was handled in the Westminster system of government.

The year was 1990 and the formidable “Iron Lady”, Dame Margaret Thatcher after 11 years as prime minister had lost the confidence of her cabinet — we shan’t go into the political background leading up to this. However, in the Commons, the question was whether to fight for her position in a second ballot or bow out of the contest. Her first instinct was to fight, but after consultation and reflection she made the following statement.

“Having consulted widely among my colleagues, I have concluded that the unity of the Party and the prospects of victory in a General Election would be better served if I stood down to enable Cabinet colleagues to enter the ballot for the leadership. I should like to thank all those in Cabinet and outside who have given me such dedicated support.”

She stepped down on November 28, 1990 and recommended John Major to replace her as party leader.

An election was looming. However, because of the unrest in the country it was doubtful that Mr Major’s Conservatives would have a chance at the polls. However, he surprised the nation when he led the Conservatives to a fourth election victory. It was reported that in that election he won the most “votes in British electoral history with over 14 million in the 1992 general election, with a reduced majority in the House of Commons”.

This is how it is done in the first world, Dr Minnis. Mrs Thatcher put the country before herself and the country won.

As someone remarked last night, if Mr Major could mount a crippled horse mid-stream and win, so can the FNM in five months.

We hope that Dr Minnis gets the message, backs aside and gives the Bahamian people a chance to have a government that will put their interests first.

Comments

Well_mudda_take_sic 11 months, 2 weeks ago

But you can't ignore the fact that no party which has been hijacked by a de facto tyrannical dictator, whether it be Crooked Christie in the case of the PLP or Dimwit Corrupt Minnis in the case of the FNM, should have any standing in the current or future government of The Bahamas.

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MonkeeDoo 11 months, 2 weeks ago

A powerful and reasoned message. But if he ain't gone yet the chances are slim to none and Slim just left town.

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sheeprunner12 11 months, 2 weeks ago

The last people to "put their country first" in The Bahamas were HM Taylor and Randol Fawkes .......... true National Heroes ............ the others have all been political imposters

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Rontom 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Flawed reasoning and false equivalency, Mr. Editor. Thatcher was then PM NOT the leader of the Opposition. Second, Thatcher CHOSE not to poll for the majority of support among her party members--Dr. Minnis actually won twice the majority support of his party members. Third, it was Loretta Butler-Turner who created this quagmire through her actions. Therefore, she needs to do the honourable thing as she did not honour nor respect the delegates of her party. Forth, do you really want to compare LBT to John Major... (there are political historians who actually read your stuff BTW)

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Publius 11 months, 2 weeks ago

We now have the absurd position where Mrs Butler-Turner is the Opposition leader in the House, but outside of the House Dr Minnis is the leader of their party, the FNM. That certainly is not the spirit of the Westminster system of government. Mrs Butler-Turner should be the leader of both.

Well who caused the absurdity to be so? And if it is that she "should be" the leader of both, are you suggesting that there should be no Constitutional provision for a vote of no confidence against a parliamentary leader? Parliament is not governed by political parties. It is an institution unto itself in authority by convention.

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Alex_Charles 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Not a fan of Minnis, not a fan of LBT. You can't be the de Facto leader of a party after you lost 3 times to Minnis. Okay, maybe let's not count the 3rd time where LBT backed out of the race last minute like a coward. If you can't secure the leadership of your party then either join another party or form your own.

But to lose 3 times then cry you deserve to be leader is asinine and absurd. Minnis is a weak leader with seemingly no policy positions. To lose to him repeatedly shows you to be even weaker and ineffectual than he is. The party will suffer a blow to it's voter base at the polls and the support for the DNA will grow. Fact remains, either this gigantic cluster fk of an opposition we have form a united coalition OR prepare for the. Chinese Gold Rush "ALL Da WAY" in 2017.

you can't have division on the bloody front lines.

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sheeprunner12 11 months, 2 weeks ago

That is why Bran should be the one to bring both HAM and LBT back together in a grand coalition .............. that is what it takes

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Publius 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Not a fan of Minnis, not a fan of LBT. You can't be the de Facto leader of a party after you lost 3 times to Minnis.

She is not a de facto leader of the FNM though. And even if Minnis were to resign, the Party is not going to elect her as leader. Since I know she had no actual end-game going into this, there would be no point to my asking, even rhetorically, just what she hopes to accomplish. She will not be running as an FNM obviously since her nomination is certainly going to be pulled. Yet she claims "we" will get rid of the PLP, though she says she is not joining the DNA or any other Party. She is lost in space.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Most Bahamians fail to understand that a UK styled Westminster parliamentary system of government has been ill-suited for an independent Bahamas since July 10, 1973. Pindling quickly realized that it was all too easy for the leader of a political party to gain absolute control over the party by fully stacking the party's leadership apparatus with small minded loyal supporters and cronies who would always put their party leader above the well being of the Bahamas and its people. Our political parties do not have a true democratic purging mechanism for the party leader who invariably successfully hijacks the entire leadership apparatus of the party in order to cement his/her position as party leader with unquestionable and unlimited authority to remain in that de facto dictator role.

Hubbigity, Crooked Christie and the Dimwitted Doc are all from Pindling's school of thinking when it comes to gaining and retaining absolute control over the leadership apparatus of their political party, thereby capitalizing on one of the key weaknesses within our ill-suited system of government. Bahamians need to wake up to the fact that the political parties will always serve the hijacker's interests in obtaining unchecked power, with no built-in democratic mechanism for booting the hijacker when necessary for the good of the party and the Bahamian people.

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Publius 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Most Bahamians fail to understand that a UK styled Westminster parliamentary system of government has been ill-suited for an independent Bahamas since July 10, 1973...Our political parties do not have a true democratic purging mechanism for the party leader who invariably successfully hijacks the entire leadership apparatus of the party in order to cement his/her position as party leader with unquestionable and unlimited authority to remain in that de facto dictator role.

Parties control this, not the Westminster System. The Westminster System is a Parliamentary and Legislative system. It does not instruct political parties on how they are to organize themselves. If parties want a more democratic system they can constitute it. Their constitutions are reflections of their political philosophy.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 11 months, 2 weeks ago

You miss my point. Our country's current system of government is simply too small and too vulnerable to the influences and interests of the internal "special" few, and more recently to the huge and very powerful external interests of foreign enterprises and their government.

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sheeprunner12 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Good observation ............ we need to tear up this bastardized Westminster Constitution system and create a federalized republic system with proportional representation and an elected President and an elected unicameral Parliament) ........... we have too many corrupt, toothless chiefs

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TigerB 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Ok lets assume, she win in this mess, well the FNM, how will that work? She would be Prime Minister and Minnis will be party leader still, conch salad

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proudloudandfnm 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Minnis must resign. He has failed miserably as party leader and as opposition leader.

He is without doubt the worst opposition leader the country has ever had. Why is it so goddamned hard to get rid of this failure? A couple hundred bought and paid for delegates gets to shove a lame, incompetent and ineffective leader down my throat? No way in hell..

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Honestman 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Hubert Minnis is like a "dog with a bone". The FNM is his "bone" and he ain't gonna let it go. Frankly the "bone" is so chewed up it is worthless so give him the frickin' bone and move on. It is time for all those who want a better Bahamas to join together to form a new United Coalition Party. There is still time. LBT and Bran can lead the way and hopefully others will follow.

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sheeprunner12 11 months, 2 weeks ago

Best option The Bahamas has right now and next year

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MonkeeDoo 11 months, 2 weeks ago

United Coalition Party has a certain ring to it. I am in favour.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 11 months, 2 weeks ago

WOW! All it took was a Senate seat to get Bran to turn over the DNA to LBT thereby abandoning and betraying all longtime supporters of that political party. Next will come a most interesting re-shuffling of the DNA's leadership apparatus along with changes to its slate of candidates for the next general election. It seems Bran was always about Bran and Bran alone as many of us suspected, explaining why his party was never able to secure a seat in the HOA. The implosion of the FNM now seems to have led to the implosion of the DNA, leaving only the PLP standing.

Crooked Christie's enrichment of the Dimwitted Doc's pocketbook has bought Christie much more than he (or his "fooking" Red China friends) could have ever expected or dreamed. Yes, it certainly looks like Red China has decided and made it possible (by dishing out the cash) for Crooked Christie to have another five-year term. And to think the Obama-led U.S. government is worried about the Russians having interfered with the recent U.S. elections! What a joke!!

By the way, who in their right mind would now cast their vote for Lloyd or the constantly yapping white-haired little poodle?!

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