By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
EAST Grand Bahama MP Peter Turnquest was right to resign last week as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, according to St Anne’s MP Brent Symonette.
“I think he did the right thing and it’s now up to him to deal with the issues involved in the legal arena and once he has taken care of that, if he does so successfully, he can then resume a further post in government,” he said yesterday.
Mr Symonette resigned as Minister of Immigration and Financial Services last year. Elizabeth MP Dr Duane Sands, former Minister of Health, was the second minister to resign from Cabinet this term.
Mr Turnquest resigned after being named in a Supreme Court lawsuit relating to an alleged $27m fraud. He was not named as a defendant in the matter, however, and has maintained his innocence.
An announcement on who will succeed him as Finance Minister could come this week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said on Friday.
“I will announce very soon,” Dr Minnis told reporters in Exuma. “What I can say is that I most certainly won’t remain in the Ministry of Finance, I can say that with certainty. Tomorrow (Saturday) I’m travelling to Cat Island and I will meditate and discuss with some of my colleagues and by the time I come back sometime next week we will have to make announcements moving forward.”
The Minister of Finance must be a member of the House of Assembly, according to the constitution. If Dr Minnis decides to appoint someone to the Senate as minister of state for finance, one of the current ministers in the Senate – Carl Bethel, Dion Foulkes or Kwasi Thompson – would have to relinquish their seat in cabinet.
Free National Movement members have been debating who, if anyone, will become the new deputy prime minister. The position is not constitutional and Dr Minnis can decide not to appoint anyone at all to the post.
If he does fill the position, however, some in the FNM hope he would do so only after the organisation chooses a new deputy leader. For this to happen, Mr Turnquest would have to resign as deputy leader of the party so that his vacancy can be filled at a party convention, a special convention or by the Central Council.
Among party officials asked about the Deputy Prime Minister position, there was no clear consensus about who the party would favour. However, Works Minister Desmond Bannister, the most senior elected FNM official in the House of Assembly was a popular choice and is seen as the one who would cause the least amount of controversy in the party.
During his visit to Exuma last week to officially open a government dock on that island, Dr Minnis accidentally recognised Mr Bannister as “deputy” before quickly correcting himself during his remarks, prompting knowing laughs from the crowd.