306 total votes.
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
OPPOSITION Leader Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday suggested that Senator Rodney Moncur was among the “best” this country had to offer as she defended her appointment of the community activist to the upper chamber, insisting that she respected him for publicly stating his contentious positions when others were not bold enough to do so.
Responding to critics who have questioned the logic of her choice, given the fact Mrs Butler-Turner and Mr Moncur have differing views on marital rape and gender equality, the MP said it was “reprehensible” and “frightening” that there were those who secretly campaigned against these issues.
Pressed further, Mrs Butler-Turner said she does not listen to words,but values actions, saying that in his acceptance of the Senate appointment, he was following her lead. She added that this demonstrated Mr Moncur’s commitment to his country.
She maintained that his appointment to the Senate, along with that of former Senator Monique Gomez and political newcomer Jude Knowles to the opposition’s Senate bench, represented a microcosm of society. She announced last week that Democratic National Alliance Leader (DNA) Branville McCartney would be the leader of the Opposition business in the Senate.
“I think the most egregious assertion that is being made is the fact that Mr Moncur in particular has been so adamant about positions that I personally and politically have been very passionate about,” Mrs Butler-Turner said during a press conference following the official swearing in of the new Senators.
“I can say this much. I respect Mr Moncur for publicly stating his positions. There is no question that he did not agree with the Gender Equality Bill.
“I think what I find most reprehensible are the individuals that pretended that they might have supported it or those who secretly campaigned against it and were not man enough to say they didn’t support. Those are the people that frighten me most.
“So when we look at this team of individuals that brings diversity and difference I believe that whether it’s because of the difference of our political colours DNA and FNM or whether it is because of the differences on some policy or fundamental issue, the real proof is being able to have that representation at the table.
“I am strong enough and I am bold enough to agree to disagree and to embrace differences and this is what the Bahamas is made up of. So, essentially, if we are able to bring the voice of those who do agree and those who do not agree and they can see that we are leading by example, then, of course, they know that we are mature enough to make the differences that this country needs.”
She said the appointments were about advancing the country and that many people had also questioned how other people in her caucus, like Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins, are able to get along.
“The country needs the best that we have and it needs representation from every quarter and if Loretta Butler-Turner, Branville McCartney, Andre Rollins, Rodney Moncur, Monique Gomez, Richard Lightbourn and the whole crew of us for the people that we represent come together, this is not about either of us but it is about advancing our country.”
In his first Senate address, Mr McCartney said he was aware of the noise in the market over his appointment to high office, but he said it should be viewed as an answer to calls for opposition forces to unite.
“Over the last four years and over the last week or so I had to ask myself some tough questions,” he said in the Senate yesterday. “What does it mean to be a politician in this modern day Bahamas? What does true representation and true leadership look like?
“As members of the voting public preparing for the most historic elections of our time, I am certain that you have asked yourself the same questions and as I stand here today in this place where scores of people before me have been called to serve here in the public arena I can say with confidence that true leadership transcends politics and rhetoric it is far more elemental.”
He added: “It requires an unprecedented level of awareness and empathy. Effective leaders are passionate, courageous and patriotic and understand that the rights of no single individual can come before the rights of the collective. At its core true leadership is brave. Even in the face of the storm and those of us who have taken on the role of political leadership must confront that storm.
“I am not so naive to believe that this appointment to the Senate does not raise its share of questions. In the last week many have questioned the motives the state of the DNA and the future of our country as a whole. The Senate appointment provides a public platform something that was not possible before,” he said.
“Despite the noise in the marketplace, I think it is important to note this appointment to Senate as a member of the Democratic National Alliance finally answers the question or the call of thousands of would-be voters who have demanded that the country’s opposition forces and political leaders put aside difference in order to advance the country.”
For his part, Mr Moncur thanked “decent” Mrs Butler-Turner for his appointment. He said it was his hope that he would be allowed to be a “free” Senator.
“I thank decent Loretta Butler-Turner, the Leader of her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, for appointing me to the Senate. I thank my colleagues who are here to share this opportunity with me.
“I regret that my wife was disobedient. I told her not to go away, but she went away so she’s not here to witness this grand occasion. However, when she left, I was not a Senator. When she returns I shall have security and I shall be a Senator.
“God save the Queen and, of course, it is my hope and prayer that I shall be a free Senator to express my views on the issues for I am a man with the gift of discernment. God save the Queen and I am honoured to be among you,” he said.
A justice of the peace, Mr Moncur was a vocal critic of the June gender equality referendum, calling the exercise “witchcraft” and erecting a billboard outside his office urging people to vote “no” to all four questions.
Mrs Butler-Turner campaigned for the “yes” vote. In June, she told The Tribune that Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis should accept some responsibility for the referendum’s failure.
While she was minister of state for social development in the Ingraham administration, Mrs Butler-Turner tabled a marital rape bill in Parliament, which proposed to make spousal rape a crime. After loud outcry and pushback from various sectors in the community, including Mr Moncur, the bill was shelved.
Mrs Gomez, an attorney, resigned from the Senate two weeks ago, shortly after Mrs Butler-Turner and six other FNM MPs removed Dr Minnis as leader of the Official Opposition through a petition to the Governor General. She resigned because she was one of four senators who were appointed to the upper chamber by Dr Minnis. Mr Knowles is a fisherman and contractor who hails from Long Island.
Mr Moncur is former leader of the now defunct fringe party, the Worker’s Party. He also ran and lost on the DNA’s ticket for the Bain and Grants Town constituency in the 2012 general election.