By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Chairman Sidney Collie yesterday said the door to a party nomination for Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner in the upcoming general election has been “slammed shut,” telling supporters to “forget it.”
Responding to a scathing rebuke by the party’s Long Island Constituency Association (LICA), Mr Collie moved to shut down any speculation over whether there was an alternative path for Mrs Butler-Turner to still run on the party’s ticket after the decision by its Central Council to rescind her candidacy last week.
He suggested that the letter sent to FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis by the LICA was issued in hopes that the decision will be revisited, but noted that neither he nor the party’s leader had received that letter at the time of the interview.
“In any event,” he said, “even if the letter exists, no one has contacted me, no one has sent me any letter,” he said, “as a lawyer I won’t speculate, but as a politician, in the field of politics, anything is possible.
“I presume, without seeing the letter, is that the intention is to have the FNM’s Central Council revisit the decision which the council took last week to rescind the nomination of Mrs Butler-Turner. If that is the purpose of the letter, they can forget it, it’s not going to happen.”
Mr Collie said: “There is no chance that Loretta Butler-Turner will be a candidate for the FNM, in this upcoming election, that’s gone. The Central Council, duly constituted, and overwhelmingly voted to take back the nomination and there is no recourse for that, no appeal, there is no one else that the Long Island (Constituency Association) can appeal to.
“The door is slammed shut on that one. There isn’t a sneak, no peep.”
The letter to Dr Minnis was signed by the entire executive of the constituency association, and accused him of falsely representing the views of the association in allegedly telling the party’s General Council last week that it had voted to withdraw the nomination from Mrs Butler-Turner, the island’s MP.
Dated December 15, the association’s letter claimed Dr Minnis had “done nothing but sow seeds of division, discord and distrust” since becoming party leader and that he is “desperate to the point of telling larger and bolder untruths.”
For his part, Mr Collie said he would not address any “unsavoury” comments made about the FNM leader. He maintained that the council’s decision to rescind Mrs Butler-Turner’s nomination was not connected in any way to disciplinary proceedings launched against the seven rebel MPs.
“There can be no challenge to it,” Mr Collie said, “the disciplinary proceedings that are ongoing has to do with their (seven “rebel” MPs) membership as FNMs. So after the proceedings is completed there are five possible measures that can be taken, one of which is expulsion.
He said: “The party may decide to keep them as members, but as far as the rescinding of a nomination, there is no appeal. The council is the supreme authority of the party outside of convention, and once the Central Council makes a decision there is no appeal, outside of convention.
“I have a letter before me from members of the Long Island community with signatures, making a request for another candidate, putting to me the name of somebody else that they want as their candidate. This came to me after the party rescinded the nomination of Mrs Butler-Turner,” he added.
Last week Monday, Dr Minnis confirmed that the party started its search for a new candidate in Long Island and Mr Collie added that the party had received a petition from voters there who say they do not want Mrs Butler-Turner to represent them in 2017.
Dillis Smith, former FNM LICA chairperson, said the petition was formal notice that “Long Island don’t want lazy Loretta”. According to Ms Smith, contention between certain constituents and the MP has been building since 2012.
However, she said the “stunt” the MP had pulled in deposing Dr Minnis in Parliament was all they could take.
Mrs 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 each signed the letter of no confidence in Dr Minnis.
One LICA executive, who spoke to The Tribune yesterday on the condition of anonymity, said: “If they had a petition (to remove Mrs Butler-Turner) by persons, the right thing to do is come to us and say: hey what is this? Do you have other names? We didn’t have a list of nominees, there was always only one nominee. So they never told us they received this letter (petition). They don’t respect the association, they are taking the word of a former chairman. Those persons want to have their way and if they can’t have their way they will cause a ruckus.”
Referring to claims that the present LICA was not properly constituted, the executive added: “Also, if this wasn’t an association then how did they accept our nomination and convention delegates?”
To this, Mr Collie said: “I was elected on the 14 of April, 2016 by the council as national chairman. I was re-elected on the 29 of July. My understanding is that the Long Island Constituency Association, as presently constituted, was elected in 2014. I have not gone to look at the records, I simply worked with the association that I met in place.
“I have no information other than I met them in place,” he added, “I met them and I’ve been working with them.”