Govt flips PLP vote against Minnis to confidence vote in PM

Government MPs late last night voted in support of a resolution expressing confidence in Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis.

The four opposition MPs were the only members who voted against that resolution.

After the PLPs left the chamber, Minnis joked that Golden Isles MP Vaughn Miller was the “unofficial leader of the opposition” as he remained.

A few hours prior, Miller announced in the House of Assembly that he intends to be seated as an independent at the next sitting.

However, he remained seated when MPs who were against a vote of confidence in the prime minister were asked to stand.

Earlier in the day, the
government quickly quashed a resolution for a vote of no confidence in Minnis by moving an amendment to that motion brought by the opposition.

When he spoke last night, Minnis accused the opposition of “trying to upset the Christmas spirit with this ridiculous resolution”.

In bringing the original resolution, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis accused the prime minister of misleading Parliament in relation to a resolution brought last year seeking approval for the government to lease space in Town Centre Mall to house the General Post Office, owned in part by St. Anne’s MP Brent Symonette, who at the time was a minister.

The October 2018 resolution stated that Symonette had no involvement in the discussions on the lease decision, but Symonette revealed earlier this year that he and the prime minister had discussed the matter directly, including how much the rent will be.

“In 2017, the prime minister promised Bahamians it would be the people’s time, but it turned out that the people the prime minister intended to help were mostly limited to his inner political circle,” Davis said.

“In addition to the Town Centre Mall lease, companies owned by St. [Anne’s] were awarded contracts totaling more than $53 million.”

Davis also criticized the prime minister over the handling of a controversial agreement with Oban for an oil refinery and storage facility in East Grand Bahama.

The government signed that agreement in February 2018.

“The record clearly shows that the prime minister misled the House on the Oban signing ceremony, no question about it,” Davis said. “And he simply excused himself with the aid, comfort, endorsement, a wink and nod from 33 other parliamentarians.”

PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper also insisted that Minnis be removed.

“I would rather be spending time in this House dealing with an agenda that benefits a broad number of Bahamians,” he said.

“But either we believe in adherence to the Westminster system or we don’t. In a country where there is so much crime, where so many flout the law, how can we sit here and excuse these failures by the prime minister?

“How do we ask others to account, but not our elected officials?

“To do so gives the sense that there are those among us who are above the law.

“It gives the impression that there is a protected class among the political elite in this country. It would be delinquent of me, of us, to simply let this slide.”

However, North Abaco MP Darren Henfield said the entire exercise was “nonsensical”, as he expressed his support for Minnis, praising him as a dedicated and hardworking leader. He said The Bahamas is “not one of those countries where they impeach people”.

Similarly, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames called the proceedings a “waste of time”.

Yet PLP members were not the only ones who were highly critical of the Minnis administration yesterday.

As he did during debate on the Town Centre Mall resolution last year, Miller lambasted the decision to lease the Town Centre Mall.

“Since we have been elected, Mr. Speaker, at an alarming rate we have lost touch with the electorate,” Miller said.

The prime minister last night wished Miller the best in his future and joked that he would be prepared to lend him some MPs so he could form the official opposition.

Centreville MP Reece Chipman, who resigned from the FNM in October, becoming an independent, said during debate on the amended resolution, “When we are wrong as adults, as honorable members, we [must] take responsibility for that and we move on.”

Chipman was not present for the vote, however.

Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine, who has been highly critical of Minnis and the government, was not present during the debate throughout the day and during the vote last night.

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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