By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday criticised the “gang of six” Free National Movement MPs and others who have opposed FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis, charging that the Killarney MP has never been able to show his leadership skills because he has been too busy “fighting a game of survival” within his own party.
Mr Wilchcombe also criticised the FNM as a whole for its lack of “stability,” saying that the party’s infighting “sends the wrong message for an organisation that says they want to lead the country”.
Adding that the FNM is in a “quagmire,” Mr Wilchcombe said the party would likely not be taken seriously in the next general election because “they’ve sent a message to the entire country that they’re not a unified body . . . and a convention is not going to resolve it.”
Mr Wilchcombe’s comments come after months of reported infighting in the FNM centred on the leadership of Dr Minnis.
“They’ve never allowed (Dr Minnis) to settle and perform as leader,” Mr Wilchcombe said. “He’s been trying to survive. So fighting to survive every single day, how could you perform as leader? You’re supposed to let the leader lead. But what they’ve done is they have from day one put pressure on him, seek to remove him from office, so every single day he’s been fighting a game of survival. “Trying to build blocks, trying to build strength. That’s all he’s been able to do. He’s not been able to sit down and really show whether or not he can lead. So at the end of it all he’s going to be stuck with individuals who for the most part will never support him, and that’s the reality of it. That’s what the country sees.”
He added: “You have a leader in place now who wanted to hold a convention sometime in November, you rushed this convention because you say he should leave. Suppose he wins tomorrow, then what? And what is he to do tomorrow if he wins? And how is he to trust those individuals after he wins? And if they win tomorrow, then what are they going to do with him and how is he going to work with them? Sounds like a real quagmire. I think the FNM right now is in the midst of a quagmire.”
Last month, The Tribune exclusively reported on an email in which Central Grand Bahama MP Neko Grant was critical of Dr Minnis’ performance during the wrap up of the 2016/2017 budget debate. He said the Killarney MP showed “no interest” in the head-by-head exercise and seemed unprepared.
Mr Grant, leader of opposition business in the House of Assembly, said he was sure Dr Minnis had not studied the budget and that his behaviour was “most disturbing” and “disrespectful.”
And that attack came weeks after the “gang of six,” which also includes St Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman, Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn, North Eleuthera MP Theo Neilly, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner, and Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins, wrote a letter to the party’s Central Council outlining Dr Minnis’ weaknesses as a leader.
Those six MPs were initially dubbed the “gang of six” after they threatened to have Dr Minnis removed as leader of the opposition in Parliament.
Mr Wilchcombe also said all of the infighting is an indictment on the FNM as a whole, which he said creates the perception that the Official Opposition lacks stability.
“How can you lead a country if you can’t lead the people within your organisation? How can you lead the country when you have strife within your organisation?
“Who would want to trust you in leading the country when they’re not sure if everyday you’re going to be bickering, whether or not the leader is going to get the full support, whether or not he’s going to be undermined? Who’s going to do that? I think that’s the real issue they face that the country is going to ask.”
On Monday, 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.
However, Dr Minnis dodged the question of whether he would still work with the six MPs who have opposed him.
The FNM’s convention is slated for July 27-29.
Mrs Butler-Turner, along with FNM Senator Dr Duane Sands, will go head-to-head against Dr Minnis and FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest during the event. Both Mr Grant and Mr Lightbourn last week said they support Mrs Butler-Turner and Senator Sands in the leadership race.