By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Deputy Leader K Peter Turnquest yesterday defended the integrity of the delegate selection process amid concerns that the party’s national convention has been unfairly stacked to ensure incumbent leaders remain at the helm.
Mr Turnquest dismissed concerns, telling The Tribune that the party’s Convention Committee has taken every step to ensure transparency and fairness.
However, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner also addressed the issue yesterday, saying there are some “irregularities” with the delegates list that she has seen. She said if it is proven that something untoward has occurred with the process, it should be blamed on FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis.
Their comments came after some FNM insiders claimed the delegate list is disproportionate as the majority of them are open supporters of Dr Minnis, who is being challenged by Mrs Butler-Turner for the party’s top post.
It is also claimed that some supporters of Mrs Butler-Turner who fully expected to be named on the delegates list, including former party Chairman Darron Cash, were intentionally omitted.
This is a “systematic effort” on the part of the leader to “corrupt” the process, Mr Cash said on Friday. He accused Dr Minnis of engaging in “ethnic cleansing” with a view to purging the party of anyone who does not support him.
However, Mr Turnquest disagreed with these accusations.
“It is a very open and transparent process,” he said. “There are always going to be those who think they ought to be selected, and with only six spots (per constituency) obviously people are going to be disappointed. This is a silly season we’re in so people will ascribe motive but the Convention Committee has been very deliberate about trying to be as inclusive as possible with all sides.
“So to the extent of transparency and fairness I believe we’ve done the best that we can. Obviously there will be contention because everyone wants an advantage but there are rules.
“Just because you were a delegate in previous years does not mean that you will be a delegate this year,” Mr Turnquest said. “Delegates are selected by the association in accordance with rules and conventions and each constituency has rules also.
“That is an open process and while some people may wish to be delegates, each constituency has only five delegates and a constituency representative, and then the national party officers.”
A total of 410 delegates will have voting power at the FNM national convention on July 27 to 29 at the Melià resort.
When questioned about this by talk show hosts Quincy Parker and Adrian Francis, of the 96.9 FM radio show “Q and A,” Mrs Butler-Turner revealed her concerns about the process.
“I received last evening (Saturday) what I am told is the final list of delegates for the upcoming convention,” she said. “I am advised and I can see for myself that there have been some, what I would term, some irregularities with regards to the first tranche of delegates that I have seen sent to me. I do have a team of individuals going through that list right now with a fine-toothed comb, with that I want to leave it there.
“But I will say this much about process, we in the FNM have always used as our philosophy and our ideals of being a government in the sunshine. Transparency and accountability, anti-corruption is one of then pillars on which we build governance in the Free National Movement. I would like to say that if there are any types of shenanigans going on within the machinery of the FNM and it is found to actually be happening, that means that it is substantiated. I don’t know that it will be, but if it is, then clearly we will have to lay that blame at the foot of the leadership of this party. And clearly if you have anybody in the FNM aiming to lead a corrupt process in the party machinery then we have to look at how clean our hands will be in the governance of this country.”
FNM Senator Carl Bethel, who is chairman of the Rules and Credentials Committee, said the process for compiling the delegate list was fair.
“I am given to understand that the delegates list was complete but I have not seen it yet,” Mr Bethel told The Tribune on Friday.
“But all complaints were addressed. The associations have the procedures to determine who is chosen as delegates. No one can tell them what’s fair and what’s not. Every delegate is a human being with their right to vote how they feel.
“Once the procedure is fair and proper, who can complain? We are involved in a political process so the people complaining need to go out and campaign.”
The Rules and Credentials Committee automatically presides over any complaints regarding internal party processes. Mr Bethel said it is bipartisan and operates on consensus.
Next week, Mr Turnquest and Dr Minnis will defend challenges from Senator Duane Sands and Mrs Butler-Turner respectively.
The leadership battle will be the focus of the highly anticipated national convention, the outcome of which is expected to quell the bitter infighting that has plagued the organisation for more than two years, and become increasingly public over the past several months.
Six out of ten FNM MPs have publicly expressed dissatisfaction with Dr Minnis’ leadership style and capacity, and as such, their political futures are believed to be uncertain if the incumbent leader is successful in defending his post.
Mr Turnquest told The Tribune yesterday that the fate of dissenting MPs was dependent on their own post-convention attitudes.
“What happens in that regard depends on what happens with leadership and the disposition of members after the convention,” he said. “We’re not in the business of excluding anybody that is qualified.
“I think that the main thing that we all have the focus on is the principles with which we fight. All contenders subscribe to the philosophy of the FNM and that will be the thing that bonds us together after convention.
“All will accept the results of the convention and will unite behind whoever the leader, deputy leader, and chairman is, because we have a common fight, common cause.”