By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
AFTER nearly two days of intense backlash over sticking up his middle finger during a public event in response to unsubstantiated claims against him, Prime Minister Perry Christie expressed “regret” for his behaviour, saying it is “not what I’m like”.
The Prime Minister, 73, insisted that in hindsight he would not have made the obscene gesture, as he suggested that it might have caused embarrassment not only to the nation, but also to his family.
In making a personal statement to the House of Assembly yesterday, Mr Christie questioned how those in public life ought to react in the face of “egregious assaults of untruths and distortions”. He said such instances become “exceedingly difficult” when his wife and children are attacked in a manner that goes to the root of their existence.
This was the springboard for the major part of Mr Christie’s explanation for his shocking actions on Monday night at a Progressive Liberal Party event and came after he was the subject of much ridicule.
It also led Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis to call for Mr Christie to “get the hell out” and resign from office. He and several religious leaders also demanded an apology from Mr Christie.
Yesterday, Mr Christie asked for indulgence during the morning session of Parliament to give an explanation for ‘flipping the bird’ earlier this week. The obscene gesture was made in response to rumours that he was the owner of condominiums, which were allegedly appropriated through his position of power.
“Mr Speaker, I want to make a personal statement with respect to me as Prime Minister and as a member of Parliament for the Centreville constituency,” Mr Christie said. “It has to do with the responsibilities of leadership, the defence of family (and) the necessary balance that should take place when all factors are taken into consideration.
“Firstly, I should indicate that in my public life I have been guided by an obligation to ensure that members of my family are not embarrassed by my conduct. Secondly, there are relatives of mine who are senior religious personalities.
“But I have an obligation to ensure that whatever I do, whatever I say, whatever actions I take into consideration, the esteem that they have for me and really put very basically, never to do things as best we can to cause them any degree of embarrassment. I particularly have an obligation to my family.”
He continued: “I don’t know how in the face of the most egregious assaults of untruths and distortions one has to react and respond. It is exceedingly difficult when one’s wife and children are attacked in a way that goes to the root of their existence.
“Then there is the obligation to the office that I hold that, notwithstanding the natural urge to defend even with one’s life, you have an obligation to the office of the country that is tied to future generations of Bahamians in terms of the example that you should be seeing and the standards that you should be seen to adhere to. It becomes sometimes a very exacting experience to constantly remind oneself of the competing and conflicting obligations.
“There is a Shakespearean dictum ‘To thine own self be true’. So when I ask myself on proper reflection if I had the opportunity to speak in that place, at that time, on that occasion for the reasons I was speaking would I do that again? The answer is no,” the Prime Minister also said.
“The reason why I said I am speaking to the exclusion of all considerations is that there are significant numbers of young people who have been emboldened by what I have done.
“And I don’t want them to believe that is me.”
Mr Christie went on to question why Christian charity is not displayed more in instances where personal attacks have been made on public figures and their families.
“Many times I ask, ‘where are right thinking people when people go beyond the political definitions to attack family members? Where are the right thinking people, where are these people who respond? Why do they remain quiet? What is it about Christian charity or the lack of it that stops right thinking persons from making interventions in public places and saying that what you said about that lady is not right. It’s not the right thing to do. What you said about that child is not right. It’s not the right thing to do. Where are they?’
“This is the kind of public discussion as we approach general elections that we should have where we agree to standards, common lines of civility, because I apprehend that if we don’t we are going to release scars that will have a permanent impact not just on the lives of people who are innocent, but potential leaders of this country who may decide that this is not what they should be doing.
“Mr Speaker, I really stand to express my regret to indicate specifically as it is related to specific attacks by specific individuals that I have seen my family respond in magnificent ways where they have invited people into our home who said bad things, had meetings with them and where the spirit of forgiveness is put before everyone.”
He also said: “I would hope that those who may have been offended by it who were present would accept that that is a matter that I would not have wished that I did and for those who are people in our country who would wish to understand what I did would accept my deepest expressions of regret.”
On Tuesday, Dr Minnis said the Prime Minister’s behaviour was “foul and has no place in the public domain”, adding that Mr Christie had become “unhinged”.
“I, along with all right-thinking Bahamians, was shocked and horrified by the public embarrassment displayed by our Prime Minister,” Dr Minnis said at FNM headquarters.
“This behaviour, to my knowledge, is the first and hopefully the last time a sitting prime minister of our God-fearing nation, (will) publicly curse at Bahamians by using such profane gestures.
“And our Prime Minister must know that regardless to where he is, he represents the Bahamas and should behave accordingly,” Dr Minnis said.