(L-R) Hubert Chipman, MP St. Anne's; Edison Key, MP Central and South Abaco; Richard Lightbourn, MP Montagu; Loretta Butler-Turner, MP Long Island, Neko Grant, MP Central Grand Bahama; Theo Neilly, MP North Eleuthera and Andre Rollins, MP Fort Charlotte. Photo: Shawn Hanna
By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
THE seven “rebel” Free National Movement MPs who ousted Dr Hubert Minnis as leader of the official Opposition in Parliament have called plans to expel them from the party “absurd” and “perverse”.
In a statement released last night, the group said the actions taken by the FNM’s Executive Committee “to initiate expulsion proceedings” against them shows that party officials “are obsessed with the embarrassment suffered by Dr Minnis, instead of the interests of the FNM as an organisation, or the larger national interest”.
The statement came from Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner, Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant, St Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman, Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn, North Eleuthera MP Theo Neilly, Central and South Abaco MP Edison Key and Ft Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins.
The group called accusations from Dr Minnis that their actions were undemocratic “ridiculous,” stressing that the time had long passed to put the country’s interests ahead of the “selfish political pettiness of Dr Minnis.”
The statement said: “To be clear, it is absurd and perverse that our party would entertain the thought of expelling us for taking the same actions that the dissident eight – the founders of the FNM – took against Sir Lynden Pindling and the PLP in response to our country’s first preoccupation with the cult of personality in a post-Majority Rule Bahamas.
“We, the majority of the FNM’s parliamentary team, were constrained to seek the assistance of the governor general in the best interests of the FNM and the wider interests of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
“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. 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.”
The MPs added: “In taking these actions, we are enthusiastically supported by FNM supporters and Bahamians-at-large. The FNM was conceived in dissent and nurtured in struggle. The actions taken on December 7, 2016 were envisaged by the framers of the Bahamas’ Constitution, men like Sir Arthur Foulkes and Sir Orville Turnquest, together with founding fathers of the FNM like Maurice Moore and Dr Elwood Donaldson who are still alive today, as a democratic means of removing an ineffectual leader of the opposition. We have acted lawfully in accordance with our nation’s supreme law.
“We remind Dr Minnis that the FNM is at its root a party that was built on principled dissent in response to political intimidation. We proudly carry on that tradition of fighting against those, like Dr Minnis, who wish for us to cower in the face of threats of expulsion for speaking truth to power. Our country desperately needs people of courage to rise up and take a stand. We stand with men and women of courage.”
Last Wednesday, seven of the FNM’s 10 MPs wrote to Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling asking her to remove Dr Minnis as leader of the opposition, invoking Article 82 of the Constitution. The MPs asked Dame Marguerite to replace him with Mrs Butler-Turner.
The Long Island MP was officially sworn in yesterday.
After a special meeting at FNM headquarters on Wednesday night, Dr Minnis, who is still FNM leader, called on the dissenting MPs to quit the party or face disciplinary action. The MPs have said they have no plans to resign.
Letters outlining the charges against the MPs was sent to them on Friday.