By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday admitted that the stalled Constituencies Commission report has not only been a hindrance to his party, but has presented challenges for the FNM ahead of the 2017 general election.
The stalling of the report has been seen by some as a strategic move by the government to place itself at an advantage over the fractured FNM heading into the election.
In this regard and notwithstanding the issues his party faces, Dr Minnis issued a warning to the PLP led government, insisting that the FNM stood ready to snatch the country from the grasp of “law breakers”.
He reiterated allegations he made on Wednesday that the government was in breach of the Constitution, which states that the Constituencies Commission should report to Parliament in intervals of “not more than five years.”
Under the previous administration, the last constituencies report was tabled in the House on November 17, 2011.
However, House of Assembly Speaker Dr Kendal Major has dismissed this concern.
On Wednesday, Dr Major said he had warned both Dr Minnis and Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells, who raised the matter in the House, that the law should be interpreted as five years from the establishment of a new Parliament and not five years from the last tabling of a boundaries report.
On Wednesday, Dr Major said the commission delayed the release of the report in the hope that the sluggish voter registration will pick up considerably over the next few weeks.
“We would have hoped and liked for the government to follow the law,” Dr Minnis told The Tribune. “The timely release of the report would have helped us in putting together our campaign paraphernalia and readying for the road ahead.
“We are still uncertain of how many seats they will be bringing forth so you can see where the challenge is there.
“Prime Minister Christie and the PLP are accustomed to leaving things for the last minute, that is their modus operandi. But it is not mine.
“The government is breaking the law. They have no respect for it.
“So since we cannot jail them for breaking the law, I am urging all Bahamians to register to vote and kick them out of office because we cannot have law breakers running the country. If we are to have a better future then we must have a future where our laws are respected.”
Asked what he believed was behind the report’s delay, Dr Minnis said he was unsure.
“It can be both. They may be waiting for voter registration numbers to increase or it can be that they are delaying the release for strategic reasons.
“While they may know what’s in the report and we don’t, they can prepare and have advantage over us. But I am sending a warning that that will not happen. We are only waiting for the bell to ring. We are waiting to snatch this country from the hands of this criminal PLP government,” Dr Minnis said.
Dr Major, who is also the commission’s chair, told reporters on Wednesday that he was confident that members will be in a position to table the report “within two weeks or very shortly”.
The House of Assembly was adjourned until February 5.
“There was an argument put forth that we would allow a little bit more time to increase and beef up the voter registration because there is more access, more opportunities to register,” Dr Major said.
“Opposition members also expressed some concern, and the question goes to whether constitutionally the prime minister should make a decision with the voter registration being as low as it is, and I think all of us can agree that we would rather not, or wait until its increased to the extent that it’s a reasonable amount that speaks to the aspirations of the Bahamian people.
“At some point we will have to make a decision, make a cut off point. The argument was put forth, it’s a cogent argument to wait a few more weeks and see what happens.”
Earlier this month, the Parliamentary Registration Department announced 26 new voter registration stations in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
However, voter registration numbers are still trailing behind the last election cycle’s pace as less than 50 per cent of eligible voters have been registered.
According to Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall, just over 80,000 persons have registered to vote to date.
Earlier this month, Dr Major expressed disappointment that the group has not completed its report, underscoring several contributing factors, including low voter registration numbers and “contention” among members, that delayed its progress.