Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham speaking to the media after registering to vote with his wife Delores at Government High School this week. Photo: Shawn Hanna/Tribune Staff
By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
FORMER Prime Minister and Leader of the Free National Movement Hubert Ingraham called on Dr Hubert Minnis, Loretta Butler-Turner and others who are fighting in the party to find a way to put their differences aside or face the possibility of the Progressive Liberal Party winning the next election with a minority of votes.
Speaking to The Tribune yesterday, Mr Ingraham said if Prime Minister Perry Christie can work with those in the PLP who have openly challenged him for leader, he does not understand why the same thing cannot happen in the FNM.
He stressed that the electorate likes to “punish” divided parties and the FNM will be at a “disadvantage” if members do not find a way to work together. He also said the FNM must find a way to make a deal with the Democratic National Alliance ahead of the next election.
“In my opinion the FNM needs to give focused attention to resolving the issues that divides its parliamentary group, so they can present a united front to the public of the Bahamas,” Mr Ingraham said. “If Perry Christie and Brave Davis, if Perry Christie and Bernard Nottage, Perry Christie and Alfred Sears can get along together in the PLP, I have no idea why Hubert Minnis and Loretta (Butler-Turner), Hubert Minnis and Hubert Chipman, Hubert Minnis and Richard Lightbourn can’t get along in the FNM’s tent.
“It seems to me to make sense to present the public with a united front, the public does not like divided parties. In fact they like to punish parties when they are divided and the extent to which the FNM can get itself together, put us in a position to be able to talk to the DNA, and if they are not talking any sense, the FNM has the opportunity now to take its Senate seat back from Mr (Branville) McCartney and proceed and tell the public why they can’t do a deal with them and why the public ought to focus its attention on voting for the FNM as an alternative to the PLP.”
In December, Mrs Butler-Turner was appointed leader of the Official Opposition after she and six other FNM MPs wrote a letter of no confidence in Dr Minnis, who remains FNM leader. She later appointed Mr McCartney to the Senate.
In response, Dr Minnis told the group to quit the FNM or face disciplinary action. Mrs Butler-Turner has since announced plans to run as an independent in the next election.
When asked if he agreed with the MPs’ decision, Mr Ingraham said: “I don’t even want to get into that part of it. That’s not the issue. The issue is they are where they are and they need to move from where they are to a point where they can present a united front to the public of the Bahamas.”
He added: “If they don’t (come together) they are at a disadvantage. That’s my opinion. I’m only giving my opinion. My opinion and $1.50 I guess will buy a cup of coffee.
“I think that they need to consider doing that. Find a means by which they can live together in harmony, just as the PLP has done and is doing. There are great differences between the PLPs whose names I called just now and Perry Christie and there (are) differences between Minnis and these other people, I just called their names. They have a common set of beliefs and they need to work towards dealing with that without allowing personalities and all these other things to get in the way.”
He also likened the fracture in the FNM to the uproar in the Republican Party over Donald Trump’s presidential run.
“The United States just elected Mr Trump, most of the Republicans did not want him and his political leadership,” Mr Ingraham said. “They are all together now. Same thing in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see that unless you are together you might end up with the opposition votes being split and the PLP winning the election with a minority of votes. That could happen.”
Mr Ingraham resigned as FNM leader in 2012, after the party lost the general election. Dr Minnis has faced intense criticism since getting the job in 2012, with many saying he is inadequate, even though he has been voted into the post three times. On two occasions he was unopposed, with Mrs Butler-Turner dropping out of the race at the last minute in 2016. She lost her bid to unseat him in 2014.
When asked if he thought Dr Minnis has what it takes to be prime minister, Mr Ingraham was noncommittal.
“He has been elected leader of the FNM,” he said. “That is what the FNM wants and people have to decide whether they are going to vote for the FNM or not. It is too late to have changes now.”
As for whether he thinks the dissenting MPs can win their seats as independents, Mr Ingraham brushed off this question.
“It’s not a question of that. The FNM must make every effort to get everybody together and if at the end of the day it cannot get together, the FNM got to say you are either FNM or you are not FNM.
“But there has to be reasonable efforts made to resolve the issues and to come together. It cannot be what’s happening now. What’s happening now is not in the interest of the FNM in my opinion.”