Making his first public appearance during the 2021 general election campaign season on Saturday, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said his decision to show up in Elizabeth was exclusively to demonstrate support for Dr. Duane Sands in his re-election bid, and expressed hopes that Sands will one day follow in his path and become prime minister of The Bahamas.
Ingraham said he supports Sands “100 percent”.
While being asked whether he also supports Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis as he did in 2017, Ingraham said, “I am here today to support Dr. Duane Sands. That’s what I am here for. I am here for no other purpose other than to support Dr. Duane Sands. I am here to support Dr. Duane Sands as the re-elected member for Elizabeth.”
Ingraham – who wore a red FNM shirt with the words #ELIZABETHSTRONG Hubert Ingraham – was also asked why he decided to throw his support behind Sands.
He responded, “Because he’s a good man and I think he deserves to be elected. He’s had a similar experience I’ve had, you know. I used to be a minister before; I got fired. I got elected to the House and I became prime minister. Hopefully, he can have the same experience.”
Ahead of the 2017 general election, Ingraham’s presence on the rally stage helped to energize the FNM’s base.
At a rally, days before the election, Ingraham declared, “I stand in full support of and in total solidarity with Dr. Hubert Minnis, leader of the Free National Movement and the next prime minister of The Bahamas. I am satisfied and convinced that the FNM is the best party to form the next government of The Bahamas. It is the best party for you, for your children, for your communities and for our country.”
But the former prime minister has played no role in the 2021 campaign.
Asked on Saturday whether he intends to address any rallies this time around, he said, “I don’t expect to be speaking from any stages. I don’t expect to be asked. I have not been asked to speak. If I am asked to speak, I’m not likely to say yes.”
He continued, “I’ve had COVID. I have comorbidities. So does my wife, and I think that my health will keep me away from such activities. I take a risk today to come to my doctor to endorse him publicly. But generally speaking, no.”
Questioned whether he was taking that position because he does not support the current prime minister, Ingraham insisted that he had already answered the question.
He was also asked his thoughts on the prime minister’s decision to call a general election at the height of the COVID crisis.
“Well, that speaks for itself,” Ingraham said. “There’s nothing I can say that can explain that better than that reality; that in the middle of this pandemic, we are having an election. That speaks for itself.”
While the next general election was not constitutionally due until May 2022, the House of Assembly was dissolved on August 19 and Minnis announced the election will take place on September 16.
The announcement came two days after officials at both Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) and Doctors Hospital warned that the healthcare system in The Bahamas was on the brink of collapse, due to the strain from COVID.
More COVID cases (3,540) and COVID deaths were recorded in August than in any other month so far.
The Ministry of Health recorded a total of 25 deaths in its reports for Friday and Saturday – all deaths that occurred in August and some in the opening days of September.
The FNM has been having drive-in rallies, during which some FNM supporters left their vehicles and mingled in groups.
The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had a virtual rally on Saturday night.
Although PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis chastised the FNM for having drive-in rallies, there were large trucks filled with PLP supporters during motorcades that took place on New Providence on Saturday.
At the PLP rally, the party’s candidate for Elizabeth, JoBeth Coleby-Davis insisted Elizabeth and The Bahamas are ready for change.
“Duane Sands, he knows better, he knows Philip Brave Davis is an honorable man, but he let’s the (FNM) lies go on and on anyway,” Coleby-Davis said.
Ingraham’s presence in Elizabeth with Sands on Saturday will likely be viewed among FNMs and others with great interest.
Sands resigned as minister of health last year amid controversy over a decision to allow six permanent residents, who had donated 2,500 COVID-19 test swabs, to disembark on New Providence and quarantine at home while The Bahamas’ borders were still closed.
He said on Saturday he was humbled by Ingraham’s endorsement.
“I think that there is very little doubt that Hubert Ingraham has played a phenomenal role in the development of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas,” he said.
“And to have his support, his endorsement of me, is both humbling and it fills my heart.
“I want the people to know that Hubert Ingraham was responsible for the creation of the community of Elizabeth. If you remember, he was the minister of housing; this was his pet project.
“And so, we are looking at the past, we are now looking at the present, and, hopefully, this is still the future of Elizabeth.
“It means an awful lot to me and I am extremely grateful that he would take some time out of his schedule just to come and spend time with us in this community.”
Former Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn and former St. Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman were also out in support of Sands on Saturday.