PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis expressed disappointment and surprise yesterday in his predecessors, Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie, over their comments suggesting he has ignored their capacity to help the country recover from Hurricane Dorian.
In a statement, Dr Minnis called their comments misleading and referred to them as an “unnecessary distraction”.
“We as a country do not have the time for divisiveness, partisan politics or jockeying for position,” he said.
After touring Abaco on Wednesday, the former leaders expressed scepticism to reporters about whether Dr Minnis will have them play an active role in the recovery process.
Mr Ingraham, the former MP for North Abaco, said though he spoke to Dr Minnis after Dorian’s passage, he did not think the prime minister would give him a role in recovery efforts.
“After the passage of Hurricane Dorian,” Dr Minnis responded, “Mr Ingraham reached out to me. An offer of a major assignment was made. He declined the offer. He also declined to meet with me at the Office of the Prime Minister.”
“In the spirit of bipartisanship, the Cabinet of the Bahamas recommended that Mr Christie should also be asked to serve. An approach was also made to Mr Christie. It is clear that there was and still is a misunderstanding but patriotism requires us to put this aside and move forward.”
The Tribune understands Dr Minnis wanted Mr Ingraham and Mr Christie to lead fundraising efforts for the government in the wake of Dorian but both former leaders wanted to play a more substantive role.
While Mr Christie and Dr Minnis have always been political rivals, the statements this week have thrust the long simmering tension between Mr Ingraham and Dr Minnis into public view for the first time, stunning Free National Movement insiders yesterday, some of whom were already contemplating what it could mean for the party. Dr Minnis succeeded Mr Ingraham as FNM leader in 2012 and they are the only people to ever lead the party to general election victories.
“The prime minister would have inaccurately represented the four brief conversations we had since the storm, the text messages exchanged and the email sent by me to him which he claimed not to have received, resulting in my having a copy delivered to him,” Mr Ingraham told this newspaper yesterday in response to Dr Minnis’ statement. “Had he done so, he would have revealed that I advised him that I was convinced he did not wish to have my assistance.”
On Wednesday, Mr Ingraham said he offered Dr Minnis assistance “in any way, shape or form” but the prime minister thanked him, expressed appreciation and said he would get back to him. “We’ve spoken several times since that time,” he said.
He also said he believed people in The Mudd and Pigeon Peas shantytowns were not sufficiently warned about Dorian’s approach. In particular, he believed they were not spoken to in Creole.
Dr Minnis said in response: “The other thing I wish to mention is the claim that government officials did not visit shantytowns with Creole speakers to warn residents to evacuate. Mr Ingraham is mistaken on that issue as well. Media reports attest to this fact.”
On August 31, Pastor Wilson Isnord, head of Seventh-Day Adventist churches in Abaco, was accompanied by several Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers as he traversed the two shanty towns speaking Creole and urging residents to evacuate to shelters. Police officers, speaking English, also urged them to evacuate about six hours before Dorian made landfall.
Dr Minnis said, in responding to the largest natural disaster in the country’s history, his government is focused on helping to restore people’s lives.
“I am heartened and deeply grateful by the extraordinary number of Bahamians and foreigners who volunteered to help and are helping the government and charities in response to Hurricane Dorian,” he said. “I thank all who are contributing their time, resources and talents. As I have said in my address, this is a time for the greatest act of volunteerism in Bahamian history. We welcome all Bahamians of goodwill and generosity of spirit to make their contributions to helping those in need.”