Loretta Butler-Turner accepted her instruments of appointment to become the first woman to serve as leader of the official Opposition on Sunday.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
HINTING at new and unexpected possibilities for the country, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday accepted her instruments of appointment to become the first woman to serve as leader of the official Opposition.
While she noted the historic first, Mrs Butler-Turner stressed that greater significance lay in the conviction expressed by herself and her parliamentary colleagues for a new direction in the country.
“Today is about the collective judgment and the sincere beliefs of the majority of the duly elected representatives opposed to the government of the day,” she told those attending after receiving the instruments from Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling.
“We have acted in accord with the Bahamas’ Constitution and in accord with parliamentary democracy. We have acted in accord with our consciences, as have others in this country who have also acted similarly.”
She added: “We stand on a firm and tested democratic foundation, history will judge our intention and our resolve.”
After the ceremony, when pressed for details on the next move for herself and the six Free National Movement parliamentarians who ousted Dr Hubert Minnis as leader of the Official Opposition in the House of Assembly last Wednesday, Mrs Butler-Turner replied: “Stay tuned.”
The FNM has charged that the parliamentarians have brought the party into “disrepute, division, rancor and dishonour,” according to a letter about disciplinary proceedings that may be launched against them, obtained by The Tribune.
Mrs Butler-Turner said she and her colleagues would issue a response to those charges by today.
When asked whether the resulting dispute will affect efforts to mount a strong Opposition in Parliament, Mrs Butler-Turner said: “I seriously doubt that, we know what needs to be done in the House. We’ve watched for a long time as the Progressive Liberal Party has done many things that the Opposition has not stood up to strongly enough, and so our position in the House will be very strong.”
Mrs Butler-Turner said: “Much of what our decision is predicated on is on the Constitution of the Bahamas which supersedes any constitution there is, and so our position certainly hearkens to all of the perimeters of where we are as the Official Opposition as laid out in the Constitution of the Bahamas.
“We have done absolutely nothing undemocratic or unconstitutional,” she said.
Asked about her efforts to mount a strong opposition in the context that Dr Minnis was still the leader of the FNM, and if successful, would become prime minister after the next election, she said: “I think a lot of that is hinged on the response that we get from the party itself and so as we move forward very quickly those determinations will be made.”
Democratic National Alliance Chairman Andrew Wilson, and the third party’s candidate for Elizabeth, Prodesta Moore, attended the ceremony amid reports that the “rebel” FNM MPs are negotiating a coalition with the DNA.
For his part, Mr Wilson said he wanted to witness history in the making.
To this, Mrs Butler-Turner said: “Rumours are simply that - rumours.”
Mrs Butler-Turner named North Eleuthera MP Theo Neilly to replace Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells as leader of opposition business in the House, but was tightlipped over Senate picks slated for release “within the next 24 hours.”
“New appointments is only one of the tasks that we have at hand. We also need to ensure that we have a person on the Boundaries Commission, we have an opportunity to do that.
“From a statutory and constitutional position there is much work to be done and we will not wait to draw it out. You will see immediate things happening within 24 hours.”
All of the MPs who called for Dr Minnis’ removal, except Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant, were present at yesterday’s ceremony.