PM explains firing
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama —Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham explained yesterday that he fired Kenneth Russell from his Cabinet on Friday because he acted inappropriately as it relates to a development that was being proposed for East Grand Bahama.
Ingraham spoke to hundreds of jubilant Free National Movement (FNM) supporters, who packed Christ the King Anglican Church hall in Freeport to hear him explain why he fired the housing minister.
“I assure you, I did what any prime minister who is worth his salt would do to a minister who acts in a manner inconsistent with Cabinet and the Government of The Bahamas,” Ingraham said.
“There is nothing personal about it. It is what had to be done.”
Russell sat in the front row as Ingraham spoke of the series of events that climaxed with the firing.
Both Ingraham and Russell were greeted by thunderous applause.
“The party I lead is always in search of new and additional talent to add to our team. That’s the purpose of the party, to renew itself. No man is an island and no man can claim to be in office forever,” Ingraham said.
“Sometime ago, I delegated to my deputy, [Brent] Symonette, to go and speak with Ken Russell, and tell Ken it’s suggested that he step aside as a candidate in the next election.
“Brent brought me back a very profane message from Ken. I said, ‘Well, I got to belt this cat myself.’ And by cat, I don’t mean derogatory. I mean it’s a job I got to do myself.
“I did that job myself. I told Ken, who is here with us today, that after the next election, if we are successful, as I expect we will [be], I don’t intend to put you back in the Cabinet, and I suggest that you step aside, so we can nominate somebody else.
“I made an offer as to what would happen for him if he did that. He told me he’s going to get back to me next week.”
Ingraham further explained that at a recent meeting in Grand Bahama, Elkinah Pinder (a long-time friend of Kenneth Russell and a trustee of the High Rock Branch of the FNM) started talking about the proposed East End project.
“This matter was considered by the Government of The Bahamas on four separate occasions, and we determined on each occasion at the end of it that we could not and would not support this project,” Ingraham said.
“In fact, we will love to have a project like that or any kind of project in Grand Bahama or in The Bahamas, but we also want to do things that we think make sense and not everyone who comes along and says he has done something is somebody who we could trust.”
The prime minister continued: “I asked Elkinah in the meeting, ‘What project are you talking about?’ He then handed the [microphone] to Ken. He told Ken, ‘Go ahead.’ Ken described the project. I spoke some words afterwards.”
Ingraham said he saw Russell days later and told him, “The offer I made to you last week is hereby withdrawn because if it wasn’t so near to the election, I would fire you for what you did.”
The prime minister said: “He explained himself. That didn’t change my view. Subsequent to that, you would have seen in the newspapers, you would have listened to the radio and you would have heard the television.”
In the interviews to which Ingraham referred, Russell said the FNM would lose hundreds, if not thousands of votes if he is not re-nominated.
Ingraham said when he met with Russell on Friday he asked him for his resignation. Russell refused, and the prime minister fired him.
“I have nothing against him, notwithstanding what he says about me ,” said Ingraham, adding that he was hurt that Russell called him a tyrant.
“He has been my friend, is still my friend. I don’t intend to lift a finger against him. I am bigger than that.”
Ingraham said constituencies in Grand Bahama, like other constituencies, are important to the FNM.
He said it is important for the party to continue to bring in new talent.
“We want in this election to put forward to the Bahamian people the best team that we can,” he reiterated.
“In order to do that, some of our members who are now in the House are going to retire. Some of them will of their own volition. Some are going to be asked not to run again.
“I do not expect to have another FNM MP behave as Ken did when they are asked that question. And I say that with great confidence.”
Ingraham asked Grand Bahamians to continue to support the FNM.
“We are the best party for Grand Bahama, the best party for The Bahamas,” said Ingraham, adding that the PLP administration’s footprint is nowhere in Grand Bahama.
“We never claimed to be perfect. But the evidence of our goodness in Grand Bahama can be seen, felt and touched.”
He added, “In the next election, the choice is going to be very simple: PLP or FNM; Hubert Ingraham or Perry Christie to be prime minister.
“Never mind all this noise in the market and all these other things. It’s going to be PLP or FNM. FNM or PLP. And everything in the middle will get crushed up.”
Earlier in the day, Ingraham met privately with FNMs from the High Rock constituency and asked them to send in the names of two people who could be considered to run in the new East Grand Bahama constituency.
Russell was not at the earlier meeting, which was held at Pelican Bay.
After the meeting at Christ the King, Russell made it clear that he did not have discussions with Pinder regarding a matter discussed in Cabinet.
“I don’t know how I feel about the matter that led to my firing because I did not speak to anybody about the project,” Russell told The Nassau Guardian.
“The gentleman (Elkinah Pinder) who he (Ingraham) spoke about, has met with the people who want to do the project for the past year, so I didn’t speak to [anybody] about the project; [I didn’t talk] out of Cabinet.”
Russell said Pinder knew as much about the project as him given all the meetings he had with the parties concerned.
“It had nothing to do with [leaking any information out of] Cabinet,” Russell insisted. “Nothing at all.”
Russell also stood by his comments that Ingraham had acted like a tyrant, but indicated that he is pleased that the selection of a candidate for the new East Grand Bahama constituency will be handled in a democratic way.
“I am pleased with the fact that the prime minister has changed the method of selecting candidates,” the High Rock MP said.
“As I have said from jump street, if you are selecting candidates in a democratic way, I have no problem with that. So if he is telling the branch that they must send at least two persons’ names in for selection, I’ve got no problem with that.
“What it will mean is that the final decision will still be made at the council level…It will give everybody who wants to run an opportunity to put their name in.
“That is not what we were told last week. We were told last week that a team will select the candidates and they will bring them to us and either we like them or we don’t like them.”
Russell said he knows that if the branch submits his name as one of the two names, he would not be selected.
“But at least the branch will have an opportunity to put in names to select the candidates and that’s the democratic process that I was fighting for, for the past week.”
He said he had not yet made a decision about whether he would still run, even if it’s not on the FNM’s ticket.
Russell added that in the past he defended Ingraham when people called him names.
“I thought he was the greatest democrat in the world and unfortunately this incident (the matter related to the selection of candidates) just changed my mind,” the former minister said.
“Now tonight he’s gone back to saying the branch will have an opportunity to select candidates.”
Russell said the FNM must offer hope to Grand Bahamians ahead of the next general election.
“The FNM in Grand Bahama is still very strong,” Russell said.
“Grand Bahama is still FNM country, but the campaign that we will have to mount in Grand Bahama has to give people hope. If the people are not feeling or finding any reason to have hope in what the FNM’s plans are for the future then most likely they would do something else.”
Asked what’s next for him, the MP said, “Ken Russell lived before Parliament. Ken Russell lived [while] in Opposition and Ken Russell will live without Parliament.”
Russell said he has no regrets and plans to make a statement in the House of Assembly today.