August 15, 2014
For Immediate release (064)
From the Office of the Chairman, Darron B. Cash
The Leader and Members of the FNM remain 100% committed to WORKING TO ENSURE EQUALITY FOR WOMEN!
Last Wednesday The FNM Leader acknowledged the voices of the People and that the bills needed to be corrected. By publicly stating his case, the Leader demonstrated courage to do the right thing and a willingness to LISTEN to people when their views are requested.
The Leader and Members of the FNM wisely pulled back from the referendum abyss by refusing to join the Christie Government in totally ignoring the voices of the people. Dr. Minnis and the parliamentary team are to be congratulated for doing so, not condemned.
The FNM wants to make it clear: The Leader, officers and members of the FNM are fully committed to ensuring gender equality. Anyone suggesting otherwise is being disingenuous. That commitment is exactly why we have come up with clear suggestions on how to improve the process and more importantly how to achieve equality for Bahamian women both through constitutional amendments and amending existing legislation. That is precisely what the FNM Leader did last Wednesday in Parliament. Furthermore, it became as obvious to us as it was to some PLP Parliamentarians and members of the wider society that some of the language ought to be adjusted to ensure simplicity and the elimination of ambiguities.
In light of our constructive engagement we take issue with all those who seek to give the impression that the uncertainty surrounding the referendum is a result of the FNMs’ statements or actions. In fact the public should note that in order for the amendment to be successful in the Lower House the PLP did not need the FNM’s support based on their numbers. However, because they lacked the support within their own ranks our cooperation became absolutely crucial. We neither sought to use this as leverage nor did we undertake to prejudice an already skeptical and weary public. Therefore, we caution the leadership of the PLP and the Commission to be responsible and measured in their comments and let us truly collaborate on this important course of action.
There should be no mistake about it; the Leader of the Opposition’s message to the Prime Minister was simply this, TAKE A STEP BACK and get this process RIGHT. The message was not to TURN BACK! Dr. Hubert Minnis acted within the true spirit of what this constitutional review process entails; HE LISTENED TO THE PEOPLE. And the People are urging this government to do the same.
In that regard the Bahamian people deserve a lot of credit for engaging intensely in this debate from the very beginning. They are not waiting until the bills are finalized before they have their say; they are setting the record straight up front. That is a good thing for the country.
The fundamental intent of a referendum is for a government to listen to its people, and for this current exercise, the Bahamian people began letting their voices be heard right away. The FNM and its Leader are listening.
We also give Mr. Sean McWeeney his due credit for the mature and disciplined manner in which he responded to the dynamic constitutional debate that took place in the House of Assembly on Wednesday. After the spirited debate Mr. McWeeney is quoted as saying “if members of the opposition or members of the government have concerns about particular bills it’s not too late. The bills haven’t been passed. They have not even reached the committee stage so if any member has any specific amendment or question that they would want the commission to consider we will consider them”.
The FNM does not want to drag Mr. McWeeney into a political debate, but he is dead wrong to suggest—as he did recently—that the Leader of the FNM’s early stated commitment to the referendum gave the Commission or the Government a blank check. It did not. The Commission Chairman is wrong to suggest that some blood oath had been violated.
Additionally, the Prime Minister needs to take a page out of McWeeney book. The PM did not demonstrate strength on Wednesday.
Instead Prime Minister Christie buried his head in his hands and behaved as if all was lost. As the Father of the House Mr. Christie of all people must know the power of the people and the power of the people to force parliament to change course. He of all people should know that because that this precisely what he did when he was in Dr. Minnis’s shoes in 2002.
Back in 2002 then Leader of the Opposition Christie and Dr. Bernard Nottage—despite having met with and establishing an agreement with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham as to process—the PLP leaders STILL left Parliament, conspired with their colleagues in the PLP, muddied the water with constituents and members of the religious community and then decided to oppose the bills based on political expediency.
We repeat, that is NOT the path that the FNM intends to take.
In point of fact Mr. Christie’s decision to double cross PM Ingraham was more problematic (and less mature and constructive) than the current FNM Parliamentary Leadership team’s constructive approach could ever be, because by the time the PLP decided to exploit people’s fears for political advantage, the bills had already gone through the entire process. It was only AFTER the bills had been passed in Parliament that they decided to demonstrate fake concern for the people and process. To his great credit and maturity the FNM Leader of the Opposition, Hubert Minnis is acting quickly and responsibly while valuable cooperation is still possible to get the referendum back on track.
Dr. Minnis and the FNM remain 100% committed to the goal of ensuring full equality for women. A determination to improve and refine the draft legislation and a determination to improve a process that will ensure that the bills are acceptable to the majority of the Bahamians people should not be misinterpreted.