ANGLICAN Archdeacon James Palacious said Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis should apologise for offering “lukewarm” support for last year’s constitutional referendum while he promotes his administration’s plan to amend the country’s laws to give children of Bahamian men and women equal access to citizenship.
Archdeacon Palacious, who said he supports the Minnis administration’s citizenship agenda, added Dr Minnis “lacks credibility” on the matter. He also said the equivocation and flip-flopping from both major political parties on the issue in the last two decades has undermined the fight for expanded citizenship rights.
When asked by The Tribune if he thought Dr Minnis should apologise for not strongly campaigning for the 2016 referendum, Archdeacon Palacious said: “Yes, because he went lukewarm on it after a bi-partisan group was appointed. [Lynn Holowesko] along with Sharon Wilson and the FNM had already agreed to support it.
“Both of them [the PLP and Dr Minnis] need to apologise. None will, but they should.”
He added: “Most definitely the prime minister lacks credibility on this issue. He’s supporting this thing so enthusiastically now, but a little over a year ago what happened?
“He wanted me to vote my conscience now all of a sudden you aren’t leaving it up to my conscience, but you are coming out swinging and saying this is what’s going to be done?”
Several weeks before last year’s referendum, Dr Minnis urged Bahamians to be “properly educated, then vote your conscience.”
Although he had previously stated he supported the referendum and equal rights for women, some critics faulted him for not campaigning for the referendum and clearly stating that he wanted people to vote in support of the proposed changes.
Then-Prime Minister Perry Christie later expressed disappointment in Dr Minnis, who he thought was on board with the referendum. Last year Mr Christie said things went “hopelessly wrong” when the FNM leader told people to “vote your conscience.”
“How can you be so enthusiastically in favour of this now when you weren’t that way then?” the archdeacon asked yesterday.
Nonetheless, the Anglican leader said despite the failure of last year’s referendum, the Minnis administration has the mandate it needs to make the changes it seeks to, especially since those changes will not involve changes to the Constitution.
The archdeacon’s support for the changes are a stark contrast to that of Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander, who wants the government to respect the results of the 2016 vote. Archdeacon Palacious is the vice-president of the BCC.
“It’s appropriate for them to do this because the government has been mandated to run the country in a way that is reasonable and wherever applicable in compliance with international standards,” Archdeacon Palacious said. “I appreciate the fact that the two referendums for it failed. I give deference to what those that say do not go against the will of the people are saying, but what the prime minister is saying is that people are wrong and he should not be presiding over a country where he cannot grant citizenship with equality. “The referendum only stated that people do not want you change the Constitution, it did not say do not change the law to make it possible through some other means.”
Archdeacon Palacious also said the referendum results in 2002 and 2016 were tied to the unpopularity of the administrations at the time.
He said: “If in 2002 Ingraham said Jesus loved them, Bahamians would not have believed it. If in 2016 Christie said Jesus loves you, Bahamians would not have believed it. The popularity of the administrations contributed to the results and that can’t be isolated from a discussion of this matter.”
The Nassau Guardian reported last week that after Bishop Fernander’s critical commentary about the government’s citizenship agenda, Attorney General Carl Bethel emphasised to members of the BCC that the government intends to make administrative changes but not to change the Constitution.
Last week, Press Secretary Anthony Newbold suggested in a press conference that in view of that meeting, Bishop Fernander’s position may have changed.
“The attorney general has spoken to the president of the Bahamas Christian Council,” Mr Newbold said when asked for the prime minister’s reactions to criticism from some, including Bishop Fernander. “You may want to revisit a conversation with the president of the Christian Council. His views may have changed a little bit.”
However, contacted yesterday, Bishop Fernander said his view remain the same.
“[Mr Bethel] didn’t change my view on anything,” the BCC president said. “I convinced him to have meetings and go out and discuss this issue with the public. But I told him I couldn’t change my position on this.”
Bishop Fernander has called the administration’s intentions “draconian” and “undemocratic” in view of last year’s referendum results.