Centreville MP Reece Chipman yesterday listed the government’s handling of Hurricane Dorian as a key reason for his decision to resign from the Free National Movement (FNM) to become the only independent member of Parliament.
Speaking about the storm, which devastated parts of Abaco and Grand Bahama last month, Chipman said, “It was a big thing for me.”
He continued, “When Bahamian lives are lost and the way you would’ve seen lives on the street, definitely there is some accountability that needs to take place from the government. We have a Disaster Preparedness and Response Act that should’ve been followed. The act was in place from 2008.
“Had we done the annual review and the annual planning from 2008, I’m not saying that we would’ve saved all of the lives, but at the very least we would’ve done what we were supposed to do to ensure that lives were not lost.”
Chipman said he submitted his resignation letter to FNM Chairman Carl Culmer at 10 a.m. yesterday.
Speaker of the House Halson Moultrie was also served with a notification of the Centreville MP’s resignation at 10 a.m., according to Chipman.
In his letter to the speaker, Chipman requested to be reseated in the House of Assembly.
He also requested “a short five minutes” to address parliamentary colleagues at the next sitting of the House.
“I can do more for the people of Centreville as an independent,” wrote Chipman, who won the seat by a mere four votes over former Prime Minister Perry Christie in 2017.
“There is a huge disconnect, in my opinion, between the Parliament and the people, and I am no longer able to sit back and let it happen.”
During a press conference at his constituency office on Arundel Street yesterday afternoon, Chipman said he had been considering leaving the FNM for “quite some time now”.
“…Since January, once I had left the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the thought process had begun, and basically giving my party an opportunity to show that the direction that they were headed in was in the best interest of the people,” he said.
“At this point, I have determined that it is not in the best interest of the Bahamian people based on the legislation that I have seen brought forward, based on lack of review of [legislation], based on the fact that you can just abuse the House rules and the law at the disenfranchisement of the Bahamian people.”
In a statement, the FNM said it was “aware” of Chipman’s resignation from the party.
“It is unfortunate that Mr. Chipman decided to leave our party,” the FNM said.
“The FNM is a place where young Bahamians can make their contributions to nation building.”
It added, “We thank Mr. Chipman for his service to the party and country as an FNM. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Chipman has been highly critical of the Minnis administration since it came to office.
In June 2017, he was one of four FNM MPs to vote against the government’s decision to increase value-added tax.
In October 2018, he also voted against the government’s decision to lease the Town Centre Mall —which is owned in part by then Cabinet minister Brent Symonette — for the relocation of the General Post Office.
Earlier this year, Chipman suggested that the government was losing public support, noting that Bahamians were becoming “more frustrated”.
Yesterday, Chipman said that partisan politics “lacks integrity”.
He added, “It lacks accountability. It lacks transparency.”
Chipman also said, “Insecure leadership cannot work in a democratic country or even in an educated society. It must be able to embrace the idea of meritocracy and democracy and to operate at its highest level.”
He insisted, “Partisan leadership lacks truth when there is no accountability and there is no transparency. I have resigned from the Public Accounts Committee simply because the Progressive Liberal Party passed a rule that did not allow for us to go in and see documents.
“The FNM came in and did nothing with those rules. And so, it showed me that partisan politics is not working in the best interest of the Bahamian people.”
Chipman said he requested several meetings with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis prior to his resignation from the FNM.
However, according to Chipman, he and Minnis never got to meet.
In March 2018, Minnis fired Chipman as chairman of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC).
While speaking about his firing yesterday, Chipman said, “…Based on the information I would’ve received from the individual who fired me, he said, ‘I was not getting along with the people.’
“I can only give you what I was told why I was fired.”
Chipman said he does not intend to join the Progressive Liberal Party.
He expressed confidence in being re-elected as an independent candidate in 2022.
“I do believe that I have the support of my constituency to be re-elected,” Chipman said.
“And as an independent candidate, we must always know my voice now is a little louder for the people, and there’s power in the voice of the people.
“And so, the people of Centreville, like they would’ve done before, they elected an independent before and they can elect one again.”
He said he will host a constituency town meeting at the end of the month.