THE question of “will he, won’t he?” that has been hanging in the air over former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has been answered.
The announcement came on Friday, but the emotion came yesterday.
It was at a church service to celebrate 50 years of the Free National Movement that Dr Minnis became emotional during his speech.
Having confirmed on Friday that he would not nominate for the leadership nor allow his name to be placed in nomination, yesterday was a moment to speak to those who had supported him in the party.
It was enough to bring Dr Minnis to tears as he thanked his wife and family – and pledged to support the party as an MP and a former leader of the country.
He said: “It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve our country as Prime Minister and as Member of Parliament.”
There was a personal note too as he said: “We all need God’s grace. Where I have made mistakes I ask for your forgiveness. I am not perfect and I never will be.
“To the Bahamian people, I say a warm and heartfelt thank you for my time being your Prime Minister. You, the Bahamian people, are a strong, hard-working and resilient people. Hurricane Dorian did not break you, the pandemic has not broken you, your trust in God has brought us this far.”
It is the right thing to do. The party was overwhelmingly rejected by the electorate in the General Election. Dr Minnis led the party, he called the election in a hope of continuing as Prime Minister, and was told no by voters.
The FNM needs a change, a new leader, and a future that shows voters in the next election that the party is different from the one that was so roundly rejected.
We hope though that his voice does not disappear from the political arena. His experience as a doctor and as a leader in the fight against COVID is particularly relevant as we continue to tackle the pandemic.
He has indicated a willingness to help his successor “in whatever role is assigned to me”, and that is a good thing.
It is notable that another former Prime Minister, Hubert Ingraham, has also said that he feels his advice was not wanted or appreciated by the FNM over the past few years.
We hope whoever steps into both of their shoes is strong enough to know when to ask for advice and not to feel overshadowed by those who went before them.
In the end, though, Dr Minnis is departing with grace and we applaud him for doing so. He could have fought on, he could even have lost in a leadership race and bowed out without the dignity he has retained. Ultimately, he has done the right thing, not just for him, but for his party. His successor must look to do the right thing too – for the nation.
One of the issues during the last administration raised regularly by this column was the way in which a number of senior police officers were treated – pushed off on forced vacation leave only to come back to find themselves in new roles that looked designed to sideline them.
Two of those officers – ACP Clayton Fernander and ACP Leamond Deleveaux – talked candidly about their experiences on Friday, saying it was “not easy”. ACP Fernander said: “I pray to God that what has happened to myself, ACP Strachan and ACP Deleveaux, I pray to God that it never happens to none of my colleagues – the disrespect.”
ACP Deleveaux agreed, saying: “What happened to us I believe should never happen to any other senior officer anywhere in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
The officers are now back on the job, bringing with them the years of experience that they have amassed between them.
Something always seemed wrong about the way their roles were being handled, and this column was not afraid to say so.
The whole picture of why these officers were sidelined has never been made clear, with former National Security Minister Marvin Dames far from forthcoming on the matter.
Indeed, in a different case, over at the prison, the most he would say over allegations by senior corrections officers Don Cleare and Bernadette Thompson-Murray that they were forced to take vacation leave to make room for the appointment of Charles Murphy as Commissioner of Corrections is that the “facts will eventually come out and we will see what happens from there”.
The facts never did, but an election happened and now Mr Murphy has been put on leave and Mr Cleare and Mrs Thompson-Murray reinstated, with Mr Cleare taking up Mr Murphy’s role on an acting basis.
If these police officers are right in saying this should never happen again, then it should never happen under either administration. So what is happening with Mr Murphy, placed on leave by a National Security Minister in Wayne Munroe who once represented the pair who have been reinstated?
Our public service – be it in uniform or in government offices – should not be dogged by questions such as this, but where it is the answers should be clear and transparent. So far, it has been anything but that.