Prime Minister Perry Christie.
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie has recommended that the Progressive Liberal Party postpone its national convention until after the gender equality referendum, according to party Chairman Bradley Roberts.
Arrangements are now being made, Mr Roberts said, to hold the event in November 2016 at the Meliá Nassau Beach Hotel or the Baha Mar convention centre.
Initially, the convention was planned for November 2015 but was rescheduled for April 2016 because of the devastation left by Hurricane Joaquin in the Family Islands and recovery efforts, which were underway. Hurricane Joaquin battered the central and southern Bahamas for two days, on October 1 and 2, 2015.
The announcement from Mr Roberts came days after Mr Christie was noncommittal about the constitutional referendum, providing reporters with no specifics on when a vote on key legislation concerning the matter will be taken in Parliament.
However, National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage, who has referenda and elections in his portfolio, told reporters earlier this month that it was likely the referendum would take place “before the middle of this year”.
Still with no definite date set for the important vote, Mr Roberts said it was the prime minister’s suggestion to delay the convention until after the referendum.
“Councillors as you are aware the party’s National General Convention was rescheduled for April 2016,” Mr Roberts said during a general council meeting last Thursday.
“The minister of national security announced that debate of four Gender Equality Referendum Bills to give women equal right as males will be debated shortly in Parliament.
“(Mr Christie) informed me recently that the government will be moving to hold a national referendum as is practical thereafter. The prime minister has recommended that the national convention be postponed until after the referendum and arrangements are being made to hold the national convention in November 2016 either at the Melià or the new Baha Mar convention centre.”
The PLP has not held a convention since 2009, even though the party’s constitution mandates that one be held every year.
Last year, Mr Roberts said it was important to postpone the convention so that the party and government could focus on bringing some level of normalcy and comfort to the lives of the residents of the southern Bahamas. He said assisting them with rebuilding their lives and communities after the hurricane was of paramount importance to the government.
“Politics must necessarily and wisely take a secondary role to this critical national undertaking,” the chairman said at the time in a press release.
“The party’s leadership has determined that the level of devastation caused by Hurricane Joaquin and the scope of the recovery, the rebuilding and restoration efforts – especially of the physical infrastructure – necessarily require the full attention and focus of the government at this time.
“Bringing a measure of normalcy and comfort to the lives of the residents of the southern Bahamas and assisting them with rebuilding their lives and their communities are of paramount importance to the government at this time.”
Earlier this month, Dr Nottage told The Tribune that the government was still committed to ensuring the referendum took place.
“It’s very much still on the books,” he said at the time. “Might I add it will be talked about in Parliament this month and Parliament will have to make a decision on when to debate the bills. The referendum is likely to be carried out before the middle of this year.”
Asked whether the opposition was now on board with each of the four equality bills, which have been in the committee phase of the House of Assembly for some time, Dr Nottage said it was his understanding that each member would do whatever they think is right.
“As I understand it, the opposition is not going to take a position on it. They are going to leave it up to their members to do what members feel is right for them. We expect to get some support from the opposition and we expect our government members to support the bills.
“The bills have been in the committee phase in the House for a very long time and I expect that there may be some changes in people’s positions (but) we won’t know until we go back to Parliament with that on the agenda,” Dr Nottage said.