By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ALTHOUGH Parliament began yesterday with a pleasant exchange of formalities between House of Assembly Speaker Dr Kendal Major, Prime Minister Perry Christie and Loretta Butler-Turner over her new appointment as leader of the official Opposition, the session quickly turned contentious as the drama in the Free National Movement exploded into full view amid arguments over issues of legitimacy and the meaning of seating arrangements.
It was clear that the effects of last week’s decision by the “rebel seven” FNM MPs to express no confidence in FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis and to seek Mrs Butler-Turner’s appointment as his replacement as leader in Parliament remained at the forefront.
For her part, the Long Island MP said she viewed her position as a privilege.
Her appointment, she said, “Did not occur outside the parameters of democracy and the parliamentary system of government which we adhere to and follow.”
The pleasantries, however, subsided when Dr Minnis began to speak.
The Killarney MP said he has no plans to resign as leader of the FNM, a response to social media rumours.
He said the FNM remains stronger than ever.
Regarding his opposition adversaries, he said: “In all of this, those seven members have caused more damage to themselves. As a matter of fact, they can now be referred to as a tumour that is cancerous.
“I speak on behalf of the FNM. The leader of the opposition, the member for Long Island, does not speak for the FNM.”
Parliamentarians have seating arrangements based on their roles in the House of Assembly and rank, and in light of his demotion, Dr Minnis, Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells and East Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest were made to sit at the end of the first row on their side rather than their previous positions in the middle.
“This morning I was told that I have to sit in the extreme seat,” Dr Minnis said of the arrangement. ‘I was reminded that it was the seat that (former Prime Minister Sir Lynden) Pindling took.’”
However, newly appointed leader of Opposition business Theo Neilly later stood and said it was not his team’s decision to place Dr Minnis near the end of the row.
His statement prompted Mr Wells to rise and respond as he accused Mr Neilly of misconstruing Dr Minnis’ words.
Mrs Butler-Turner then rose.
“I do not believe the result of what has happened need to be belaboured,” she said. “The Bahamian people are anxious. We have in fact been referred in this House as a tumour or a mass. That is very well; we will not answer that call. We must be very careful when we refer to things such as that. This country is filled with people suffering from cancer that is carrying and taking their lives. Cancer in fact can be malignant or it can be benign. I imagine in this instance we will be that tumour. We will be highly malignant and we will grow.”
Before the spat, Mr Christie, in his first public remarks on the matter, said the governing party is not “concerned about the process that led” to Mrs Butler-Turner’s appointment, a likely response to the characterisation by Dr Minnis that his removal was undemocratic.
“There is a requirement for consultation between the person holding the office of leader of the opposition and the person holding the office of prime minister,” Mr Christie noted. He encouraged Mrs Butler-Turner to make the most out of her new responsibilities and to engage “constructively” with the governing side.
After the argument with the opposition concluded and Dr Major moved to the next item on the list, Mr Christie took to the floor to announce the sale of Baha Mar.