The public spat between Free National Movement leader Dr Hubert Minnis and deputy leader Loretta Butler-Turner is a tell-tale sign of the deep-seated animosity between these individuals and serves as a preview of the impending battle royale set to take place at the next FNM convention, which has been forecasted for February 2015.
The convention is setting up to be a politcal bloodbath. At this juncture, there are some fundamental premises that can be set out, the greatest of them being that the status quo – i.e. the current leadership team – has to be disrupted. There appears to be no way that the Minnis-Turner combination could genuinely move forward and, for the FNM, either one or both may have to be canned. The FNM has to make the next convention the defining moment of the campaign leading into the 2017 general election and that party must resolve its in-house issues.
After the public spat about an event in Abaco, and the outrageous attacks seemingly launched by surrogates of one side or the other via social media and tabloid newspapers, I am told that the FNM’s chaplain – a Mr Minnis – resigned his post at Thursday evening’s council meeting. According to my sources, the disgruntled chaplain apparently criticised the party leadership about the recent squabble and what he felt was a disorganised, disunited party that “needed to get it together.”
He purportedly also told those gathered that if the party continues its current path and key figures cannot resolve petty personal disputes, then the party would “be in the wilderness forever.” One of my sources described the chaplain’s resignation/statement as a “tense, intriguing moment.” There has been much talk about the problems with a party in Abaco and why it turned out to be a most unfortunate happening. Frankly, I have heard from both sides and both firmly stand behind their account of the events. According to my sources, in Thursday’s council meeting, Dr Minnis told members that it was a misunderstanding and that he “did the statesman thing but also sought to assert and re-iterated to everyone gathered that he was the leader of the FNM and that there’s only one leader at a time so everyone needs to fall in line.”
That said, as FNMs prepare to go into convention, if the leadership wants to show solidarity, all sides would call off their attack dogs – i.e. those surrogates on social media, various websites and callers into talk shows. It is clear that some of the attacks read on social media and on various websites are coming from within and, clearly, if FNMs attack the Progressive Liberal Party with the same degree of passion as they attack each other, the party would be in better stead with the Bahamian public. Whether it’s a personal issue or attempts by certain factions to hold on to power or attempts to control the party apparatus behind the scenes, key figures in the FNM must realise the damage that’s being done to the FNM brand.
A sanitised version of the Minnis-Butler rift was the bitter showdown during the Democrat primaries in 2008 between Hillary Clinton and now US President Barack Obama. There is no question that people are crossing the line as to what’s in good taste and there are dirty tactics being employed and much finger pointing. There are some who see critical character flaws in the leadership of the FNM.
The Abaco fiasco exposed a deep fissure in the relations of high-ranking FNMs. The North Abaco mess seems to have been a simple problem of communication that was amplified because no one was prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who they genuinely dislike. It is clear that there is no personal or political capital invested between the leader and deputy leader, it is clear that there is no goodwill in those banks and so – between them – there seems to be no inclination to let anyone slide, no overwhelming urge to let bygones be bygones. No doubt, they both have their reasons.
Let’s be honest. Dr Minnis was the person on whom the FNM relied to lead them from the wilderness after the party suffered a crushing defeat in 2012. He embraced the challenge and, regardless of the FNM’s decision, he must be thanked for nobly leading the charge. Frankly, at that time, he appeared to be the only person – who held a seat – to whom it made sense to give the post. Let me also say that Mrs Butler-Turner reinvigorated the FNM, she was the spark in the House of Assembly that a deflated, shattered FNM party needed after a beat down at the polls. Butler-Turner’s style of speaking and her aggression boosted the party’s morale and anyone who seeks to deny that is simply being a stranger to the truth.
As it stands, when people talk about the FNM and its leadership, it’s still couched in euphemisms, flowery language and diplomatic jargon. However, there are persons within the party who – of late – have seemingly thrown caution to the wind and are beginning an in-your-face, open criticism of Dr Minnis on social media. I recently saw – among other comments, some of which I thought went overboard – folks were conducting a Facebook poll on the leadership.
Some FNM insiders tell me that they find themselves between a rock and a hard place where they are, on one hand, forced to sing the party song and toe the party line whilst, on the other, they are rolling their eyes and deeply distressed at the direction in which the party is headed.
According to one council member: “The leadership issues strengthen Branville McCartney and the DNA and make them look all the more promising. People look at Bran as being viable and this is due to the fact that his is also an opposition force. He is seen as a symbol of change and, quite honestly, for that alone people are gravitating towards him and the DNA.
“It is an absurd thing and very similar to the way they gravitated towards the PLP in 2012, but people are feeling like there must be something better than this and, so much as they did in 2012, they are suspending all critical analysis and evaluation and not feeling the need to vet the DNA, just as they didn’t vet the PLP.”
Indeed, there has been a recent high-profile defection from the FNM – that of a chap referred to as “Big Belly” O’Brien. Sources told me that O’Brien was a longstanding council member and that he left for the DNA less than a month ago. One source said “he was with the party for donkey’s years before just upping and leaving, probably in frustration.”
As it stands, Dr Minnis still has a good chance of retaining the FNM leadership and anyone who sees his sacking as a fait accompli needs to “put the cup of sky juice down.” I do not think that Minnis will lie down and play dead or go down without a fight. I expect that the battle for leadership will be memorable and that it will be a bitter fight to the bloody end. We shall see who emerges.
Why Rollins is right to rouse the PLP passions
The reality is that Dr Andre Rollins has roused the Progressive Liberal Party more than anything since the general election.
There are clearly those within that governing party who feel that Dr Rollins has “some nerve” to suggest that something is wrong with the PLP, which means that for party followers and officials he has become public enemy number one and therefore, in their minds, deserves their full attention and attacks.
Dr Rollins should not apologise for expressing his views. That is foolishness. He should not, at any time, apologise for not putting his party’s interest over his country. He should not apologise for speaking his conscience.
Clearly the PLP has circled the waggons and are, and will continue to, attack him mercilessly and aggressively. It appears that the party does not want to admit that the dentist is much less of an issue in the totality of life than the fact that a new study has just revealed that poverty has increased in The Bahamas and that young people and immigrants are bearing the brunt of it, that VAT will push even more people below the poverty line, that the College of The Bahamas – our foremost, national tertiary institution – has not resolved its leadership problems and that the murder count is at a record pace this year.
That said, the most important thing that seemingly could be talked about is the fact that Dr Rollins stepped on their toes and said some things that everybody agrees with. Our country is in trouble when folks seek to preserve power and there doesn’t appear to be that same urge to preserve our people.
Whilst Dr Rollins’ entire party seems out to deal with him, where is that same passion for unemployment, poverty, crime, etc?
I suspect that Andre Rollins will suffer a blistering onslaught and be subjected to the most scurrilous attacks. At the end of the day, he may be forced to bend or even break – but, will he?
No doubt, Dr Rollins is keenly aware that there are other men who stood up to the injustices of his party in times past, from the Dissident Eight to Carlton Francis to Edmund Moxey to Rodney Moncur and so on.
We are watching a battle that is, essentially, a mortal combat for the conscience of our country, particularly as we approach the end of our options and the possibility of currency devaluation, debt default and when we are dealing with difficult challenges in terms of formulating a sound energy policy, issues concerning healthcare and education and so forth.
Dr Rollins needs to stand-up on a public platform and perhaps exercise his right to leave his party. He has been disinvited by a number of the party’s heavyweights – even on the floor of the House – and he should take a cue.
If Dr Rollins capitulates now, he will be the subject of derision, laughed at and scorned by the public. The public is watching and, at the moment, he’s on a high. However, it is time to fish, cut bait or get the hell out of the boat.
The biggest blow he could deliver to his party – at this juncture – is to resign his membership in the party. Other than that, he should wait to see what happens if he does not apologise … if they expel him, he would immediately enter the annals of local political history.