Former Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday defended the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) decision to delay its convention until November.
The party has not had a convention since 2009, even though its constitution calls for one to be held every year.
The decision to have the convention so close to the next general election drew criticism from prominent party members like Philip Galanis and George Smith.
But PLP Chairman Bradley Roberts said the decision was made to ensure the long anticipated constitutional referendum on gender equality could take place first.
When asked if this is a credible reason for postponing the convention, Mr Wilchcombe said he doesn’t believe “an excuse (for postponing the convention) is required.”
“I think the simple position for me is we’ll have it during the constitutional time and that’s where I think it ought to be,” he said.
However, the party’s constitution says: “There shall be a general meeting of the party every year in the month of either October or November or as is otherwise determined by the National General Council, which meeting shall be called the National General Convention.”
Mr Wilchcombe said holding the convention in November is “the right thing to do.”
“When I was chairman of the PLP before, my greatest criticism, believe it or not, was having conventions all over the place. The constitution of our party says conventions must be held by the end of October, November. That’s our constitution and it says we should hold it each year except for mitigating circumstances so that’s understood.
“But what we have to do is have our convention by the constitution and that’s by October. If you miss it, then you have to wait for the next October. But the conventions are important. They are about bringing people together; they’re about solidifying your base, ensuring that your base knows about the programmes and policies you wish to introduce. The criticism I don’t worry about. What the PLP has to do is look at where it is right now, assess where the country is, the changes in the country and its role in government over the last several years.”
Mr Wilchcombe said the convention will give the governing party a chance to be honest about what succeeded, what didn’t and what mistakes were made.
“We have to look at the last several years, we have to be honest with the Bahamian people, where we’ve fallen short, admit that, where we have more work to do, admit that and talk about the strengths that we have as well.”
“The truth is that we have done a lot but it’s never going to be perfect. Some mistakes were made and some things happened but we have to face it with honesty and talk to the Bahamian people. People are reasonable. They want the best and if you look at where we are right now, the economy is improving, moving, as many other countries have slowed we have slowed, but you can count on us to keep moving. You’re seeing a number of policies being introduced. We still have some issues as it relates to crime but I believe that we are making some breakthrough.
“Governance is not easy, but it is what you have asked the people to give you, that’s the opportunity to govern and that’s what has to happen. We have to assess, so conventions are important for us to go back, talk to the Bahamian people and tell them where we are, and then ask them for another opportunity to bring progress.”
Last month, Mr Roberts announced that Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested the PLP postpone its convention until after the proposed constitutional referendum.
The convention was planned for November 2015 but was rescheduled for April 2016 because of the devastation left by Hurricane Joaquin in the Family Islands and recovery efforts, which were underway. Hurricane Joaquin battered the central and southern Bahamas for two days, on October 1 and 2, 2015.