By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
LONG Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner and Senator Dr Duane Sands yesterday castigated Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis, branding him a “divider” behind closed doors despite his claims to want to unify the organisation.
The duo, who are seeking to unseat Dr Minnis and FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest at the party’s convention later this month, insisted that there were efforts underway within the party to “stack the deck” against them.
The allegations were made in a statement issued by their “Forward-Together” campaign responding to an announcement from the FNM’s ratified Bain and Grants Town candidate Leonard Sands that he was yesterday suspending his political campaign. Mr Sands was ratified in January along with seven other candidates.
His “untimely departure”, which comes after he endorsed Dr Minnis’ during his campaign launch last week, underscores a “disappointing” leadership, they maintained.
The reality, they said, is that Dr Minnis has been abandoned by many of his own hand-picked leaders and pointed to the resignation of Senator and former Cabinet minister Desmond Banister in 2013 among others.
“We have taken note of today’s press reports regarding the self-described ‘suspension’ of the political campaign of Mr Leonard Sands, the ratified FNM candidate for Bain and Grants Town and the larger issues of suspected shenanigans being perpetrated by our opponents.
“We will use the structure of the FNM’s constitution to aggressively fight every single underhanded or inappropriate effort to ‘stack the decks’ against us. And where the constitution is silent, we will use every other legal means to ensure the integrity of the electoral process in the upcoming convention.
“While our opponents might not see it or agree with it, the FNM is still the political party with the highest standards for transparency when it comes to Bahamian politics. In this regard, we will fight to ensure that we do not become like the PLP.”
The statement continued: “With respect to Mr Sands, as a ratified candidate, the FNM’s constitution gives Mr Sands the authority to serve as a member of the Central Council - and by definition - as a voting delegate at the upcoming convention.
“As a dynamic young candidate, Mr Sands’ voice has been a good addition to our party as we have all sought to be more responsive to the voice of young, entrepreneurial-minded Bahamians.
“While we note the ‘suspension’ of his campaign, our party constitution makes no provision for suspension on the part of a ratified candidate. Integrity and respect for the voters of Bain and Grants Town must now compel him to be fish or fowl. He appears to be out - by his own choosing and without a push from anyone - so he is apparently out. This is not the time for playing games with the people who represent the FNM in Bain and Grants Town.”
Mrs Butler-Turner and Dr Sands said integrity, honesty, openness and transparency must now drive other declared but unannounced quitters to publicly announce their intentions before the upcoming convention.
They insisted that these people should also see the moral imperative of not making critical leadership choices for which they are not personally invested and for which they will not be around to actively support.
“Mr Sands’ untimely departure, coming as it did after he addressed Dr Minnis’ campaign launch last week, underscores a disappointing reality about Dr Minnis’ leadership: Dr Minnis has been abandoned by many of his own hand-picked leaders.
“Senator and former senior minister Desmond Banister left his team after a matter of months (and) Senator and former Minister of State Zhivargo Laing left Minnis’ team after a matter of months.
“Senator Heather Hunt was fired as retribution because she supported Loretta Butler-Turner in the last leader election (and) Senator John Bostwick was fired because Dr Minnis felt it was easier to distance himself from Bostwick rather than to stand with him publicly in the face of his deepest personal and political challenge.”
Mr Bostwick was relieved of his Senate post shortly after he was arrested on an ammunition charge, of which he was later convicted.
“And, six of Dr Minnis’ parliamentary colleagues decided it was time to move on, after four years of defending him and propping him up,” the statement added.
This comes after former FNM Chairman Darron Cash on Monday accused Dr Minnis of removing two people from the FNM’s Executive Committee, which he alleged was done “for the purpose of adding a few more votes at convention”.
In a scathing statement released to The Tribune, the former senator accused Dr Minnis of being “petty” and “vindictive,” saying the Killarney MP does not want those who have opposing views around him.
Mr Cash said he has also heard rumours that he, too, was going to be removed from the FNM’s Executive Committee. He said while this has not been confirmed, he would not be surprised if it happened.
Dr Minnis could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The allegations are the latest to emerge from the FNM, a party that has been dogged with infighting and tension over the past few years, with some dissatisfied with Dr Minnis’ leadership.
Last Wednesday, Dr Minnis and Mrs Butler-Turner both launched their campaigns for leader at separate events. While Dr Minnis had the largest crowd, Mrs Butler-Turner had the most support from present and former FNM parliamentarians and senators.
The convention is scheduled for July 27-29.