PM denies gerrymandering
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday dismissed claims made by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie that the new boundary cuts are an attempt by the government to save unpopular Free National Movement (FNM) MPs while decimating PLP seats.
Ingraham insisted that the boundary cuts represent a fair distribution of the number of registered voters in New Providence.
“In terms of how the lines are configured, I’m not familiar with details of that,” Ingraham told reporters yesterday in an interview he gave after ground was broken on the Princess Margaret Hospital’s expansion project.
“All I know is the FNM would have drawn equitable and fair lines consistent with its mandate to see that as many seats as possible have an equal number of votes and where they’re not equal, to ensure that the inequality does not exceed a certain percentage with regard being had to the current voters in New Providence which was 96,000 as of two days ago.
“And 23 [New Providence] seats in the House should produce an average number of voters of 4,170 voters or thereabouts. And so we will see [the extent to which] the FNM and the commission [have] been able to meet that mandate.
Ingraham said there are about 20,000 registered voters in Grand Bahama, which means that each of the five constituencies will have an average of 4,000 voters.
He noted that the FNM has been committed to reducing the number of seats in the House of Assembly for years.
“We are carrying through to what we promised more than 10 years ago and that is to reduce the amount of seats to the minimum that we can by law — that is 38 seats,” he said.
According to the official Boundaries Report, there will be 23 seats in New Providence, five in Grand Bahama and 10 in the Family Islands.
Ingraham provided some context to his point regarding fewer constituencies by pointing to population sizes of several countries in the region and the numbers of constituencies they have.
For example, Barbados, which has a population of 287,000, has 30 constituencies; Belize, which has a population of 327,000, has 31 constituencies, and Trinidad, which has a population of 1,300,000, has 42 constituencies.
Regarding gerrymandering claims, Ingraham said they could not be further from the truth.
“If the people of Nassau have moved to the eastern, southern and western parts of New Providence, obviously the seats have to follow the people,” he said.
“They can’t stay in the center if the people have moved. That’s the reality.”
Ingraham said the change in boundaries in New Providence will mean an average of 500 more voters per constituency.
Some PLP politicians have suggested that the added numbers will put a strain on MPs. But Ingraham shot down that suggestion as well.
“I don’t understand what they mean by a strain on MPs,” he said
“The lazy ones among us will always be lazy… wouldn’t do their jobs. I can’t imagine why there would be a strain for an MP for New Providence to be able to visit his constituents and to be responsive to them.
“That’s a nonsensical argument.”
The Boundaries Commission members are House Speaker Alvin Smith, chairman; Justice Stephen Isaacs, deputy chairman; Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette; National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest and MP Philip “Brave” Davis.