By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
MEMBERS of the Free National Movement said “it will be war” if party officials continue to try to block former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis from speaking at constituency association meetings.
Last night, Dr Minnis addressed a crowd of FNM supporters at a Garden Hills Constituency Association meeting despite reported attempts by the FNM’s leadership to thwart him from doing so. FNM leader Michael Pintard addressed another crowd of party supporters at a Centreville Constituency Association Meeting last night — both meetings were held at the same time.
When he spoke, Mr Pintard said even if he one day no longer enjoys the support of the party as leader, he would never behave in a way that would “damage” the organisation, adding “it’s bigger than any one man, bigger than any one woman”.
Last night, Dr Minnis insisted “Mr Pintard is the leader and I respect leadership” on the sidelines of the Garden Hills event.
Asked about how he felt about speaking at the meeting, Dr Minnis said: “I speak in front of Garden Hills representatives and many others you know but if I’m invited to speak - I speak.”
During his remarks, Dr Minnis mainly took aim at the Progressive Liberal Party and their governance. Mr Pintard did the same as well, but also took time to speak about loyalty.
“We are asking you to value the opinion of each other. Everybody has something to contribute. We believe that we should use all the competent qualified people we can get. Competence is important. But what is also important is loyalty. We have to be more loyal to the brand and to the team than to our own personal ambitions,” Mr Pintard said.
He recalled how he previously had “two tough” runs in previous elections, once as the unsuccessful candidate for Centreville. He said he never doubted the value of the party’s then leader at that time.
“I never confused my personal situation with what is good for you, for us, for the brand. There are going to be some times when things don’t work out well for us individually and some days we got to suck it up because there are some crisis bigger than our personal situations,” Mr Pintard said.
Mr Pintard added: “Loyalty is important. I love this country, I love the Free National Movement and the reality is the day you decide that our love affair is over, I’ll keep loving you even if it...(is) from a further distance. But I will never leave the organisation you and I have helped to build, not only will I not leave it, I will seek not to behave in a manner that I damage the organisation that we built.
“It’s bigger than any one man, bigger than any one woman,” Mr Pintard said.
Last night, former Fort Charlotte MP Mark Humes, former Minister of Health Renward Wells, and former Minister of Works Desmond Bannister were in attendance at the Garden Hills meeting. Long Island MP Adrian Gibson also showed up.
Mr Bannister told reporters voices need to be heard, Dr Minnis’ in particular.
“I grew up in a time when the airwaves were not free and you all (may) not appreciate it because you all are a lot younger,” Mr Bannister said. “The FNM opened that up so that we could have all these stations that we have so that all of you, young people, brilliant young Bahamian people can have the opportunities you have. So I can’t be part of something which tries to stifle any Bahamian.
“It’s important for voices in the FNM to be heard. Dr Minnis is a former prime minister of this country. He has made immeasurable contributions to our country and his voice should be heard. As a member of Parliament … every time he goes in Parliament... he makes contributions that the country needs to hear and what he spoke about tonight, he spoke about a number of issues that impact all of us. So it’s important for him to be heard.
“I think you’ll see Mount Moriah has invited him to the next meeting. I think you’re gonna see a flood of those invitations. I know that Carmichael invited (him) next month, and you’re gonna continue to see the FNM being the FNM. When I spoke at Carmichael just a few weeks ago, I made a comment at the end of my speech. It’s very important that everybody appreciates that. You have to grow on the shoulders of the giants who came before you and if you don’t grow on the shoulders of those giants, instead of being a political party, you become a cult,” Mr Bannister said.
The party is already facing the perception of being fractured internally and suffering from infighting. Still, Mr Bannister said. the FNM is going to pull together.
“The FNM is going to pull together because we are the only solution for the Bahamian people. So you’re going to see the organisation pull together under the leadership that the FNM members support and the Bahamian people want to see,” he said.
He also said the FNM must not stifle free speech.
“First of all, the comments that I made were repeated in other forums. It gives an indication that there’s a concern about freedom of speech. We have to be able to have that in our country. We can’t stifle speech - that’s important. All of us want to hear what Dr Minnis had to say. We’re all here in support of him to hear what he had to say because of the contributions he’s made.”
Zendal Morley, the chairman of the Garden Hills Constituency Association, also pointed to Dr Minnis’ position and work to justify him speaking.
“Because he is a sitting MP of The Bahamas for Killarney. He’s a Bahamian and he’s FNM. So he has the right to speak to any meeting, any FNM meeting that anybody is invited to,” Mr Morely said.
He claimed there were many attempts to stop Dr Minnis from being able to speak, adding some up to yesterday.
Peter Outten, chairman for the Carmichael Constituency Association, also made similar accusations.
“Dr Minnis will speak in Carmichael. Duane Sands cannot stop that, will not stop that or it will be war,” he said.
Probed about attempts to stop the former prime minister, Mr Outten admitted: “I got a phone call last night from one of the assistant chairman telling me if I bring Dr Minnis to Carmichael to speak I would suffer the same fate as the chairman for Garden Hills. I said bring it on.”
Asked what was the “fate”, he replied: “They sent this good chairman a nasty letter trying expel him from the party. You’re gonna try expel me from the party, I’ll get the bell.”
FNM chairman Dr Duane Sands and deputy leader Shanendon Cartwright were present at the Centreville meeting.