By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Chairman Sidney Collie has rejected assertions that the party was not forthright regarding who the organisation would select as its Pinewood candidate, insisting yesterday that due diligence was given to all applications.
Mr Collie, in an interview with The Tribune, admitted that despite there being strong backing for radio talk show host Lincoln Bain from the constituency, the party made the decision not to continue with him because he simply did not pass the vetting process.
The FNM on Tuesday night ratified community activist Reuben Rahming as its standard bearer for the area. The decision to run Mr Rahming has angered the FNM’s Pinewood Constituency Association, with several of them attending Tuesday night’s campaign launch with signs in support of Mr Bain and bashing FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis.
Members of the association claimed that Dr Minnis repeatedly gave assurances that Mr Bain would receive the nod to represent the constituency.
Mr Collie has said this couldn’t be further from the truth and that they were all made aware that Mr Bain would not be selected.
“Lincoln Bain applied for the nomination for Pinewood and he went through a process like all the other applicants,” Mr Collie said. “It was a very thorough vetting process, which included a face-to-face interview with the search committee and followed by an investigation. Lincoln did not pass the test.
“And notwithstanding all of what Pinewood is saying, the Search Committee and the Candidates Committee and the Executive Committee did their due diligence and determined after giving Lincoln all the benefit of the doubt that they could not nominate him. It’s as simple as that.”
He continued: “The leader, myself and the secretary general had a series of meetings. More than three meetings with the Pinewood executive constituency association, with and without Lincoln. Last meeting we had with Pinewood was last week Thursday. The entire executive along with Lincoln, the leader, myself and the secretary general. That meeting lasted four hours until 11 o’clock.
“So there was complete and thorough vetting and everyone involved had ample opportunity to clearly and unabashedly express their opinions and all of their opinions have been expressed and have been taken into consideration.
“Notwithstanding the very strong backing and there is no doubt that the executives of Pinewood back Lincoln very strongly. But notwithstanding all of that, the party has decided to nominate someone else,” Mr Collie said.
When contacted yesterday for comment, Mr Bain maintained that there was no explanation for the obvious snub. He said there were repeated assurances from Dr Minnis and there was “shock” when things did not go as promised.
However, he suggested that the incident involving former Senator Lanisha Rolle might have had something to do with the party moving in a different direction.
Mrs Rolle resigned from the Senate post earlier this year after The Tribune published a series of stories focusing on a secret audio recording. In it, Mrs Rolle not only spoke disparagingly of several FNM members, but revealed to Mr Bain that he would not get the nomination for the Pinewood seat.
Mr Bain later admitted that he recorded Mrs Rolle saying it was a bid to protect himself from possible sabotage.
“If it was true, there is no way that our team would have been upset. That cannot be true,” Mr Bain said.
“Even up to the last set of ratifications that took place on the 27th of October. Dr Minnis met days before with the Pinewood Gardens Association and he informed them that I would be the candidate, that there were no issues with me and that I would be the candidate. He said that he would be neutral in the process and he would put me forth to council to be ratified.
“We had several meetings where for example Dr Minnis said he wanted Pinewood to consider Reuben Rahming, but there was a series of shifty dealings that took place. I was the candidate. The Candidate’s Committee ratified me unanimously. I was ratified by the Pinewood Association executives unanimously and all of a sudden Lanisha Rolle got interest in Pinewood Gardens and then everything shifted.”
He went on: “I was Minnis’ blue eyed boy until up to that time and then that’s when we had the incident with Lanisha, but that is when we found out that she had interest in Pinewood Gardens. The executives of Pinewood rejected her outright and because of the incident she couldn’t go to Pinewood anymore.
“So Dr Minnis moved Lanisha one step over even though people told him she shouldn’t run anymore. He moved her one step over to Sea Breeze and moved the Sea Breeze candidate over to Pinewood Gardens and this was a last minute thing.
“The natural flow should have been to go to Pinewood Gardens, to go to the Vetting Committee, to go to the Candidates Committee and then go to Council.”
Mr Bain said the problem many supporters had with Dr Minnis was an issue of trust. He said this was why the FNM had not been galvanising its home base.
Responding to the controversy, Mr Rahming told this newspaper that he was not worried about the pushback because it is expected in a democratic process.
When asked whether he had met with the Pinewood Gardens Constituency Association prior to his ratification, Mr Rahming did not directly answer the question, but said: “We did what we needed to do and the party is satisfied. The association is a part of the party.”
Pressed further on whether he needed the help of the association to run a successful campaign, he said: “Elections are about yes or no it is not about someone voting for someone. It is called majority win.”