By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party stalwart and former Cabinet minister George Smith said Bahamians deserve a better explanation from PLP officials as to why it has postponed its convention until November of this year, a date that will be close to the 2017 general election.
Saying the news disappoints many party supporters, Mr Smith said the explanation party Chairman Bradley Roberts has given for postponing the convention to November – to allow for the referendum on gender equality to take place first – sounds like an “excuse” rather than a sound explanation, given that the party has not held a convention in seven years, contravening its own bylaws which says it should hold one annually.
Mr Smith said the late convention will likely encourage party members to fall in line behind the PLP’s current leaders and not seek to challenge for various positions or hold officials accountable.
During the party’s general council meeting on Thursday, Mr Roberts said that Prime Minister Perry Christie recommended that the party’s convention not be held until after the constitutional referendum, which has been postponed several times.
A new date has not been set for the gender referendum, however Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage has said he expects the vote to be held before the end of July.
Still, Mr Smith said the government can “walk and chew gum at the same time.”
“They can deal with different issues at the same time,” he said. “We can deal with the referendum on one hand and have the convention on the other. We know what has to be said with the referendum. I don’t know that doing that necessarily deters us from doing the convention. We’ve been talking about this referendum since its failure a decade ago. It’s nothing new.”
Given that the government has said it wants to hold the referendum by the summer, Mr Smith questioned why the convention has been pushed back to November.
“It’s the second month in the year so you can stage the referendum for the fourth and fifth month. November, however, is one month before the end of the year. Why the long delay? The Bahamian people are entitled to a more thorough explanation than they are receiving and the public ought to demand that the elected officials give explanations that don’t sound like excuses. We can’t just be putting things off. People are offended that we keep postponing these things. Don’t postpone for what seems to be flippant reasons.”
This is not the first time the convention has been delayed. After announcing that the event would be held in 2014, Mr Roberts announced in October of that year that it had been postponed to foster unity ahead of the expected gender equality referendum that was also scheduled for that year.
However the referendum never took place.
The PLP convention was then expected to be held in November 2015, but was postponed to April due to the damage Hurricane Joaquin brought to the southern islands.
Mr Smith said the news of the November convention “will be disappointing” to many PLP members.
“All PLPs know we ought to have had several conventions between 2009 and now,” he said. “Anyone who says they are happy with this cannot be as truthful as they ought to be. It’s not what we Progressive Liberal Party members are about.”
However not everyone in the PLP shares Mr Smith’s view.
Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller, one of the party’s most outspoken members, told The Tribune yesterday that he doesn’t see the issue as controversial, adding that the party usually holds its conventions in November.
He said that he doesn’t see a rush or desire to challenge any of the party’s leaders for their positions, making it irrelevant when the convention is held.