By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
IN a bid to gain support, Central Grand Bahama MP Iram Lewis has sold himself as a man for the people who will get the Free National Movement “back on track” and more in touch with ordinary Bahamians if elected as the party’s leader at this month’s convention.
Mr Lewis was addressing dozens of party supporters who gathered at Holy Trinity Activities Centre on Saturday night where he officially launched his leadership bid.
The FNM’s leadership convention—scheduled for November 27—will see Mr Lewis go head-to-head against Marco City MP Michael Pintard and East Grand Bahama MP Kwasi Thompson, the latter of whom also held campaign events over the weekend to garner support.
“As you prepare to cast your vote, I encourage you to soberly and seriously consider the type of leadership we need at this critical time in our party,” Mr Lewis told supporters.
“I am a servant leader, someone who genuinely loves people, is a listener, someone who values everyone’s opinion and can make tough decisions after evaluating all options available. In fact, people will often hear me say I love people, not politics.
“I don’t like to be called a politician. I consider myself a people-tician. For me, service is not about power or prestige. It's about people. I believe a leader is more than a collection of good speeches, flashy ads and a nice platform. A leader has to be an example. A leader has to engender trust and a leader has to be able to bring us together. I believe I am the man for the job and together, we can get the FNM back on track.”
For his part, Mr Thompson painted himself as the right man for the job who will “rebuild” and “restore” the FNM if chosen as the next leader.
While pledging to "build on the legacy" left behind by former leaders, Mr Thompson was also clear that he has no intentions of being anyone’s “puppet.”
“I am thankful to all who have previously served as leader,” Mr Thompson said during an event at Balmoral Club on Friday night. “We must honour all who have previously served as leader. They have all made a valuable contribution to this party and this country.
"But today is a new moment and it is time for new leadership. While we build on the legacy of our former leaders... I will consult, I will listen but I ain’t gone be nobody’s puppet."
In their speeches, both FNM MPs touched on familiar themes of unity, while pledging to bring more transparency to the organisation.
Mr Lewis said for far too long, longtime FNM supporters have felt “overlooked, ignored, taken for granted”, but promised to change this negative outlook under his leadership.
He added: “When it’s time to support the party, you are asked to help with events, to walk the streets during campaigns, and to put your name and face out there with your friends, family and community to defend our party. But when you wanted to give input you have been shut down. When you needed help, far too often your calls have gone unanswered and messages unread.
“This can’t continue if we want to move our party and our country forward. Tonight, I commit to you that as leader, we will take our party back to the grassroots level and build up. We are going to create systems that ensure you have a say in party decisions and in who will represent you. We will focus on better communication that flows both ways.”
Mr Thompson, meanwhile, acknowledged that there were several mistakes made under the former government, but urged members to move past those errors and instead look forward to a new beginning.
“We can cry, we could complain about our past mistakes and there was some mistakes or we can acknowledge them and then learn from them. The time for blaming is done and the time for complaining is done. This is now time for restoration. It is time for rebuilding and it is time for healing. It is also time for unity,” Mr Thompson said.
In addition to promising to unite the party, the former Cabinet ministers also pledged to fight for more women to be included in politics.
Mr Thompson said: “I also want to work hard to increase the number of women candidates that we have in the Free National Movement. Tonight I ask for the support of (the) Women’s Association and all of the women delegates throughout our Free National Movement.”
Meanwhile, Mr Lewis said: “I have said so publicly, and I will say it again tonight, we need more women in frontline politics. Whatever we have to do to make it less burdensome to get involved, we will do. Whatever it takes to make them feel safer and more respected, we will do. After all women have done for us in this party and in this country, it’s the least we can do for them! I implore women, especially our great women of the Women’s Association to join the Iram movement. Together, we will build a more balanced organisation and get the FNM back on track.”
Asked if he felt confident in his chances of being elected as leader, Mr Lewis told reporters that he did.
"I do believe we stand a good chance like anyone else and like I said, I wish all of those behind me for leadership luck, but I wish me good luck," he said.