After addressing the Free National Movement’s Garden Hills Constituency Association meeting last night, former Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who was asked about failed attempts by the party’s leadership to block him from speaking, said, “I respect leadership.”
Minnis made the comment after a reporter pointed out to him that FNM Leader Michael Pintard, at a Centreville association meeting that was going on at the same time, declared that the FNM is bigger than any one person.
Minnis responded, “It’s a party. It’s an organization and Pintard is the leader. I respect leadership.”
The FNM has been experiencing increasing tensions as its leadership believes Minnis has been undermining the current leader and campaigning through the constituency associations to launch a comeback as leader – a post he gave up more than a month after leading the party to a humiliating defeat on September 16, 2021.
In the immediate days after that general election loss to the Progressive Liberal Party, it was unclear whether Minnis would give up the leadership and whether he would decide against running for that post again at the leadership convention held that November.
Pintard became leader after winning the race at the convention.
Since then, there has been a general feeling among many FNMs that Minnis will seek to return as leader ahead of the next general election.
Despite influential FNMs who make up the leadership council intervening almost a year ago to ease the tensions, the party has in recent months appeared increasingly fractured.
FNMs were left to decide yesterday whether they would head to Garden Hills and listen to Minnis speak, or whether they would attend the Centreville meeting and hear Pintard.
As the FNM carried the Centreville meeting live on Facebook, Minnis’ Facebook page was showing the Garden Hills meeting.
Former MPs Desmond Bannister, Renward Wells and Mark Humes attended the meeting in Garden Hills, as did Long Island MP Adrian Gibson.
“All of us wanted to hear what Dr. Minnis had to say and we are all here in support of him to hear what he had to say because of the contributions he has made,” said Bannister, expressing concerns about attempts to “stifle free speech”.
Among those at the Centreville meeting were St. Barnabas MP Shanendon Cartwright (FNM deputy leader); St. Anne’s MP Adrian White, FNM Chairman Dr. Duane Sands, FNM Senator Darren Henfield and former Minister Elsworth Johnson.
Minnis and Pintard both addressed national issues and both flayed the Davis administration for its administration of the people’s affairs.
While he spoke with reporters briefly after the Garden Hills meeting, Minnis did not address the attempts that had been made to prevent him from speaking.
“I don’t talk about FNM party business,” he said.
Minnis added, “If I’m invited to speak, I speak.”
Garden Hills Constituency Association Chairman Zendall Morley did speak to reporters about efforts by the party’s leadership to muzzle Minnis.
He said that up until yesterday, there were “many attempts” by the party’s leadership to block Minnis from speaking, including attempts, he said, to block the meeting from taking place altogether last night.
Peter Outten, chairman of the FNM Carmichael Constituency Association, said Minnis will also address his association and no one in the FNM can stop that from happening.
“Tell Duane Sands, Carmichael, Garden Hills, Mount Moriah, Bamboo Town, we stand with the chairman of Garden Hills and the nonsense they coming on with; they think they can destroy the FNM. It’s war,” Outten declared.
He said, “Dr. Minnis is coming to Carmichael. Go and tell it on the mountain. Tall and short can see that Dr. Minnis will speak in Carmichael. Duane Sands cannot stop that, will not stop that or it will be war.”
Outten also told reporters, “I got a phone call last night from one of the assistant chairmen telling me if I bring Dr. Minnis to speak, I will suffer the same fate as the chairman for Garden Hills. I said bring it on.”
He claimed there are efforts to expel Morley from the FNM — a claim The Nassau Guardian was unable to verify last night.
Outten said Minnis is not getting the respect he deserves from the FNM.
“They hate to respect Dr. Minnis and all of his accomplishments under the previous administration even though they were a part of it,” he said.
“They just don’t want to acknowledge Dr. Minnis. Nonsense. When you go in the tub, you get the clean and dirty water in the same tub and these ungrateful men, Carmichael ready for them.”
Bannister, the former Carmichael MP who was minister of works in the Minnis administration, told reporters the FNM is traditionally a democratic organization.
“I grew up in a time when the airwaves were not free. … The FNM opened that up so that we can have all of these stations that we have so that all of you, the young people, brilliant young Bahamian people, have the opportunities that you have,” he told reporters.
“So, I can’t be part of something which tries to stifle any Bahamian. It’s important for voices in the FNM to be heard.”
He noted that Minnis is a former prime minister who has contributed to the country, and is also currently a member of Parliament.
Bannister said Minnis “will have a flood of invitations” to address FNM constituency associations.
• Nassau Guardian Assistant Broadcast Editor Jared Higgs did the reporting for this story.