Nassau, Bahamas – The following is a statement by the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Dr. Minnis, made on June 8th, 2016:
I am happy to speak to the historic constitutional Referendum which was held throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, yesterday, Tuesday June 7, 2016. The people voted and spoke resoundingly. This was the second attempt by the Government of The Bahamas to make changes to entrenched provisions of The Bahamas Constitution during its forty three years of existence resulting in the people instructing the Parliament not to make any changes to the constitution.
The Bahamian people spoke loudly and peacefully and they sent a clear message to the government, whom they do not trust, and the world, that they wanted no changes to their constitution. The results were clearly a rejection of the PLP Government who unfairly favoured one side above another. We in the FNM unreservedly accept their decision, and offer our congratulations to the people of The Bahamas for the orderly and peaceful way in which they expressed their desire in the ballot booths. We also thank those religious leaders who participated in the exercise to educate our people.
We in the FNM have always believed that our responsibility is to empower Bahamians and our vote in the House of Assembly fourteen years ago and again earlier this year was to empower Bahamians by giving them the right to decide what their constitution should contain.
Throughout this referendum process we have respected the intelligence of our people and looked to empower them by encouraging them to study the Bills and educate themselves by attending informational meetings. Unfortunately, those opposite have used their control over the Government’s purse to push for an outcome of their choosing instead, by funding the Yes campaign while at the same time denying funding to the No campaign.
Free and fair elections are the foundation of any democracy, ours being no exception. It is demonstrably unfair for a government to use the peoples’ taxes to fund one side of the issue while denying funding to the opposite view. An FNM government will enact legislation to remove this discriminatory practice in future referenda.
Unfortunately, the process used in yesterday’s referendum revealed a number of flaws which resulted in many persons being denied their fundamental right to cast their ballot and could possibly cast a long dark shadow on our country’s ability to hold free and fair elections. Incidents of these flaws include:
A lack of clear instructions from the parliamentary officials regarding the presence and dress code of Observers;
Contrary to agreements made with the Parliamentary Commissioner to allow members of the major political parties to act as observers, many observers from the FNM were denied entry into the polling places because they wore red shirts.
In many cases polls were opened and balloting proceeded before the FNM observers were finally allowed in the room.
Hard copies of the register of voters were not available on time and in most cases not available at all, at some polling places.
Voters were instructed to write no or yes in answer to the questions rather than to mark an X.
These irregularities are of great concern to us especially in light of the upcoming general elections and we wish to put the government on notice that these irregularities must be fixed. In light of this, the Free National Movement will demand that international organizations be invited to observe The Bahamas general elections in 2017.