By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE fate of the six Official Opposition MPs who stood against FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis will heavily depend on their willingness to work with the leadership should he be re-elected at the party’s upcoming convention, FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest said yesterday.
In an interview with The Tribune, the East Grand Bahama MP said it was likely that he and Dr Minnis would be re-elected, based on the positive responses they have received while courting delegates ahead of the July 27 - 29 convention.
“We are the best choice to lead the party and the country recognising all of the challenges before us,” Mr Turnquest said. “The Minnis and Turnquest team has the skills and vision to lead this party and I am confident that the delegates will affirm that in convention.
“The decision (about working with the six MPs) will be made after the convention and will have a heavy bearing on the MPs’ willingness to work with the leader, putting the best interest of the party first.
“We are sure that the six will support the leadership once we get out of convention.”
He added: “Hopefully we will all accept the decision of the delegates no matter what is the outcome and pledge to work together.”
Regarding the internal struggles within the party, Mr Turnquest attempted to downplay this saying it was nothing new to the FNM. He said the issues appear to be more dramatic because of the “evolution of media”.
“We have never been a party thinking like sheep. We always challenge leadership and positions. Nothing has really changed in that regard.
“Yes, it is a little more dramatic because of the evolution of media. But it is not totally different than what has been the history of the party. We do all realise that the interest of this party is best managed by us.”
On Sunday, Dr Minnis dodged the question of whether he would still work with the six members of Parliament who threatened to have him removed as leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament by way of a petition to Governor General Dame Marguerite Pindling if he did not convene a conclave to decide the date of an early convention.
“(If I remain leader) we will be focused on unifying the party and the country to take it in the right direction,” Dr Minnis insisted when he was pressed on the future of his relationship with the MPs following the convention.
Some have speculated that the “gang of six” MPs could be denied ratification and nomination for the 2017 general election if Dr Minnis retains his post.
The six disgruntled FNMs are St Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman, Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn, North Eleuthera MP Theo Neilly, Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner, and Fort Charlotte MP Andre Rollins.
On Sunday, Dr Minnis suggested that his “close and personal” relationship with the FNM’s more than 400 delegates places him in a position to, for a third time, be elected as head of the opposition party.
The Killarney MP seemed confident when asked of his support from delegates. He said his work over the last four years has proven to FNMs with voting power in the convention that he has the ability to lead.
“I have spent the last four years travelling throughout the length and breadth of this country building a personal relationship with Bahamians in the Family Islands,” he told The Tribune on Sunday.
“So when whomever are selected, they would know my views and they would know I preach that this is the people’s time and what my focuses are. I have focused heavily on ownership opportunities, land reform and the need to strengthen local government.
“Those on the islands would know I have said we need to stop being so Nassau centric and ensure students there are given their fair share of scholarships. I have said this will happen in addition to giving them stipends and easier access to obtaining an education at the College of the Bahamas.”
He added: “They know me personally. My relationship with the delegates is a close one.”
Mrs Butler-Turner and Senator Dr Duane Sands will challenge Dr Minnis and Mr Turnquest.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette has warned Dr Minnis that it would be a mistake for him to block the nominations of the six MPs if he successfully defends his post.
In a previous interview with The Tribune, Mr Symonette said Dr Minnis should be careful with his campaign strategy of playing the “victim” as he emphasised the value of retaining experienced politicians.
He pointed out that the dissenting MPs represented the party’s brand in Parliament, adding that the days of a “one-man” platform have passed.