Andre Rollins speaks in the House of Assembly.
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
LONG Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner yesterday accused Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins of attempting to “take over” a Free National Movement town hall meeting in Long Island on Monday night by bringing his supporters to the event organised by the party to officially endorse her.
Mrs Butler-Turner told The Tribune that Dr Rollins came to the meeting with a “handful” of people who began campaigning for him to be the next Member of Parliament for Long Island.
However, Mrs Butler-Turner said Dr Rollins and his group were outnumbered by her supporters and his attempt to “hijack” the event “fizzled”.
Mrs Butler-Turner said the meeting went so well that she is “even more convinced” that she will be re-elected, despite reports that she was heckled and booed at the rally by a faction of FNM supporters who claim the party is imposing her on the constituency against their wishes.
Last week Dr Rollins, a member of the FNM, said he would challenge Mrs Butler-Turner as an independent candidate if the voters on the island urge him to do so.
His threat came hours before the FNM announced it had ratified Mrs Butler-Turner as its standard-bearer for the constituency in the next general election.
“The meeting went very, very well even though Dr Rollins was actually campaigning there,” Mrs Butler-Turner said. “He was trying to give the impression that he has a major following and the majority of people in Long Island don’t want me, but that plan fizzled. If I were him, I would be embarrassed.
“He only has like eight or 10 persons with him and there were at least 100 or so people at the meeting. My people outnumbered them. I didn’t plan this meeting at all; I was on vacation and when I came back I was told the town meeting was to take place.
“The meeting eventually felt like a rally because once I spoke the people became excited and you can tell that I had the support. It went better than I would have anticipated and I am not concerned about Dr Rollins.”
Despite Mrs Butler-Turner’s optimism, a well-connected FNM insider who spoke to The Tribune on condition of anonymity said the event was not a town hall meeting but a “poorly attended, terrible rally”.
“It was a disgrace,” the insider said. “I have never seen an FNM function have less than a few hundred people and there was barely 120 people there. Loretta was even booed at one point. No one came out because the people don’t want her and she can’t seem to understand that.
“I don’t see how she can win, the people just don’t have the confidence in her anymore. The people now mad with Dr Minnis too; he came here with the intentions of having a town meeting, that is what we were told. It then turned into a rally and the people were not given a chance to speak. They shove her down our throat and we do not want her.”
A senior FNM source who witnessed the goings on at the meeting described the event as “a hot mess”.
The Tribune attempted to contact Dr Rollins for comment but calls were not successful up to press time.
He and Mrs Butler-Turner have a history of animosity.
In 2013, the Long Island MP slapped Dr Rollins, who was then a member of the Progressive Liberal Party, in the House of Assembly. At the time she said she was “provoked” by Dr Rollins, who she said whispered “horrific” things in her ear and would not let her go.
Dr Rollins, however, denied making any derogatory comments to her but said he encouraged Mrs Butler-Turner to seek therapy because of her outbursts in the House of Assembly.
Earlier this month, former Cabinet minister Tennyson Wells told The Tribune that he instructed a group of voters in Long Island to draft a petition for Mrs Butler-Turner’s removal if they truly wanted another FNM candidate.
Mr Wells said this group approached him for counsel during the most recent regatta on the island where he advised them that the most effective way to get the party’s attention was to gather as many signatures as possible to prove that she is no longer supported.
Last week, the FNM also ratified Mark Humes as its candidate for Fort Charlotte.