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Turnquest insists boundary changes fair

Leading off debate on the report of the Boundaries Commission in the House of Assembly yesterday afternoon, Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest insisted that the changes being made are fair.

Turnquest noted that the commission’s members included three Free National Movement (FNM) MPs.

The constitution mandates that the speaker of the House of Assembly chair the commission and a Supreme Court judge sit as its deputy.

Two members of the governing party and one member of the Official Opposition are the other three members.

As previously reported, there will be 23 seats in New Providence, five in Grand Bahama and 10 in the Family Islands for a total of 38 seats, the minimum required under the constitution.

Turnquest, who was one of the members of the commission, said the boundaries were changed to ensure an average of just over 4,000 voters in each constituency.  But the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has accused the government of trying to decimate PLP seats.

To the contrary, Turnquest said Deputy Chairman of the Commission, Justice Stephen Isaacs, ensured that the report was fair.

“So you could look at the three members (of the FNM) and say they are likely to be partisan. They are likely to support the party.  But don’t accuse the judge,” Turnquest said.

“He is the real arbitrator.”

However, PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis, who was the Official Opposition’s representative on the commission, argued that the boundary proposals are unfair to the electorate.

Davis noted that the 2010 census indicated that there are close to 39,000 people living in the constituencies of Farm Road and Centreville, Bain Town and Grants Town, Englerston, and St. Cecilia.

“Yet still that was compressed to three,” Davis said.

“The question is when they are elected they don’t just represent those on the register, or those persons who voted for them.

“They represent the residents of that constituency and they are still the representative for those persons and they have to address the needs and wants of those [people].

“Hence, it is my view that the compression is unfair to the residents of those communities.”

The rich and the poor

The compression of those constituencies was one of the issues that came up during the commission meetings.

Members also disagreed over whether rich people should be lumped in the same constituency as poor people.

Turnquest and Davis went head to head during debate over which of the two suggested that poor people should not be lumped with rich people.

Turnquest said that during one of the constituency commission meetings, Davis said he “didn’t think that the Five Pound Lot should be in the same constituency as Blair”.

“In fact, the point was so absurd that I was shocked to hear it,” Turnquest said.

“In fact, the Member of Parliament for St. Anne’s (Brent Symonette) had to say, ‘man calm down’.  I was flabbergasted that he (Davis) would make such a stupid assertion.  It was stupid then and it’s stupid now.  And deserves no more commentary.”

However, Davis claimed that it was Turnquest who made such assertions.

“It was you who characterized the people of the Five Pound Lot as poor,” Davis said.

Davis called on Turnquest to read the minutes of the meeting and identify where “I said from my mouth in the minutes that we should not lump the rich and the poor”.

“It was him, Mr. Speaker, that castigated and characterized the people of Five Pound Lot as poor and the people of Blair as rich.  It was he,” Davis said.

Turnquest demanded that Davis “tell the truth and withdraw the remarks”.

Reading from the minutes, Turnquest said, “Mr. Davis mentioned that the government’s proposal did not attempt to keep like communities together.

“As an example, he said Blair Estates was lumped with the Five Pound Lot.  Minister Turnquest strongly objected to this line of reasoning and indicated that there was only one Bahamas.”

Davis admitted that he did say that.  However, he added that he never referred to any grouping as being poor or rich.

“This member characterized the people of Five Pound Lot as poor and people of Blair as rich,” Davis said.

As previously reported, three new constituencies will be created: Nassau Village, Southern Shores and Tall Pines.

Blue Hills, Clifton, Englerston, Kennedy and St. Thomas More will be eliminated.

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