By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE appointment of Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner as leader of the official Opposition was labelled yesterday as the result of an “abuse of the democratic process” by the “blind, greedy and selfish ambition of a few,” according to Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis.
In a press statement released shortly after 3pm Sunday, as Mrs Butler-Turner was receiving her instruments of appointment in a ceremony at Government House, Dr Minnis slammed the move as a swipe to the “faithful, dedicated, hard-working and committed” members of his party.
Dr Minnis said despite the tactics used to oust him, he remains “steadfast” in his duty as party leader, contending that the occurrences in the wake of his removal as official Opposition leader in Parliament have not “moved” him.
“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.
“Indeed, we are energised and committed more than ever to ensure that you and our beloved Bahamians, receive what you truly deserve: the highest quality representation, with impeccable integrity.
“To FNMs throughout the Bahamas, rest assured that your Free National Movement Party is ready, energised, and committed more than ever to fight, for and on your behalf.
“As Oscar Wilde once wrote, sometimes, ‘what seems to us as bitter trials, are often blessings in disguise.’”
On Wednesday, Mrs Butler-Turner led the successful ousting of Dr Minnis, after she and six of her colleagues - Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant, St Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman, North Eleuthera Theo Neilly, Central and South Abaco MP Edison Key, Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn, and Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins - wrote Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling, stating that they had lost faith in the leadership of Dr Minnis.
The MPs exercised their right under Article 82 of the Constitution.
They also said they voted to have Mrs Butler-Turner replace him as leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament.
In response to the move, Dr Minnis called on the group to do the honourable thing and resign from the party or face disciplinary action.
To date, none of the parliamentarians have tendered their resignations from the party.
When contacted by The Tribune on Friday for comment, FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest insisted that the party’s constitution spoke clearly to the matter, adding that Dr Minnis would be absolved and the party “best ready to move forward.”
He said the FNM must now focus on completing its platform, the ratifications of its remaining candidates and its overall election machinery, as it awaits the outcome of the process.
Mr Turnquest maintained that there would be no split in the party over the ordeal, as the “disgruntled” parliamentarians didn’t speak for party supports.
“There is no split. We have a serious difference of opinion by seven members who have taken a unique but not unprecedented position. The overwhelming majority of the FNM, its associations and its various constituencies and councils fully support our leader and our party.
“Not to say that there may not be a few other individuals that agree with their actions. I’m sure there are, but the overwhelming majority supports the leadership and the party. That was clear in successive conventions and in council.”
Earlier this year, six of the MPs, excluding Mr Key, threatened to ask the governor general to strip Dr Minnis of his post as Official Opposition leader if he did not convene an earlier convention, which was originally scheduled for November.
Dr Minnis acceded to this demand and the party held a three-day convention in July. Leading up to the event, Mrs Butler-Turner campaigned for the leader post, only to drop out of the race hours before votes were cast.
Despite the bitter campaign, she was recently ratified as the FNM’s candidate for Long Island for the 2017 general election.