After spending most of the term exuberantly praising the leadership of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, as she had also done repeatedly in opposition, Seabreeze MP Lanisha Rolle, who has been cut out of a nomination by the Free National Movement (FNM), let it all hang out when she contributed to the 2021/2022 budget debate in the House of Assembly yesterday.
Rolle claimed she had been bullied as a female Cabinet minister and was treated unfairly as the FNM ignored the desires of the Seabreeze constituency branch as to who should be nominated.
The party recently nominated communications specialist Maxine Seymour to run for the seat.
“Mr. Speaker, it is my belief that a true test of democracy would have been to allow the constituents to say whether or not they wished for the MP to return,” Rolle said. “However, there are those likened to King Darius’ advisors, who have determined that I will not return as an MP for whatever their reasons and while they have their say, I’m fully persuaded that the king of glory will have his way.”
Rolle told the House that the FNM’s decision not to renominate her has caused turbulence throughout the constituency.
Calling for fair treatment, she said, “This is the good member for Killarney’s (Minnis) first shot around as prime minister, and regardless of his missteps, what many may see as missteps and the accusations [made] against him, whether true or not, the Free National Movement party has given him an opportunity for a fourth consecutive time to allow the constituents of Killarney to choose whether or not they want to continue his representation regardless of whether he is favored in the eyes of the public or not. None of us that sit here are perfect, but I believe all sitting members of Parliament should have been given the same opportunity in a true democracy.”
Rolle resigned from Cabinet in February without any explanation.
The outgoing Seabreeze MP, who had been the only woman around the Cabinet table, was the fourth minister to resign this term, and her resignation came less than three weeks after the speaker of the House of Assembly cut ties with the FNM.
After she resigned, the prime minister also arrogantly refused to provide the public with any explanation.
The Cabinet Office said at the time, “Certain matters have been brought to the attention of the prime minister and are under investigation.”
In terms of her political sour grapes, we have no sympathies for her.
Rolle had toed the political line when it was expedient to do so.
Now that she has had a falling out with the FNM’s leadership, she has found her voice beyond political cheerleading for Minnis.
What we do find most regrettable is that Rolle’s reputation was maligned when that Cabinet Office statement suggested she was under some type of investigation relating to activities in her former ministry. She was then subjected to nasty and baseless social media allegations.
We understand her need to defend her good name.
But we find it more than curious that she has suddenly become so publicly passionate about women’s empowerment and the protection of women’s rights as she was in her contribution yesterday. Rolle spoke of the need for more women to be elected to political leadership.
“It is my view that until we have balanced representation, a balanced budget will be highly improbable in the true sense,” she said.
But she did not use her platform as the only woman in Cabinet to aggressively promote and highlight these issues.
In 2017, for example, Rolle, then social services minister, told reporters marital rape was a private issue. It was not one she brought any attention to when she was in Cabinet.
When House Speaker Halson Moultrie in 2018 delivered a blistering attack on the leader of the opposition, speaking insultingly of his wife, and also attacking the former House chief clerk from his speaker’s chair, there was no condemnation from her or from any other governing party MP.
In fact, they closed ranks and shamelessly moved a vote of confidence in Moultrie.
Rolle’s comment about being bullied as a minister and her suggestion that she was not protected was an interesting statement, a clear swipe at the prime minister.
And while she did a great deal of talking in Parliament yesterday, craftily giving the current executive a bruising, and airing the FNM’s dirty laundry, the former minister, after a contribution that extended over an hour, failed to finally tell the Bahamian people why she abruptly left the Minnis Cabinet in February.
Resignations of Cabinet ministers are always a big deal. They attract national interest.
What made Rolle’s resignation even more noteworthy is she had once appeared intent on defending Minnis at all cause.
In opposition, she railed against members of the party’s parliamentary caucus who had opposed him. She quickly became a controversial figure.
Her reward for unwavering loyalty was a Cabinet post.
Somewhere along the way, her relationship with the leadership of government and of the party deteriorated to a point of no return. While she wanted to run again in Seabreeze on the FNM’s ticket, she has been left out in the cold. She is on the outside looking in. Realizing her time in Parliament is coming to an end, she is now speaking up, and underscoring the level of disrespect she has endured.
We may never know what led to Rolle’s resignation or why she fell out with Minnis.
Her poor treatment by the party is not unlike the bad treatment and disrespect others have suffered.
We understand that in some instances, MPs who are being denied a nomination were never formally advised by the party’s leadership. Some of them are just too embarrassed to admit this publicly.
This is disgraceful.
It is reflective of the kind of leader the so-called “rebel seven” did not want to be affiliated with, so much so that they were willing to sacrifice their own political future by speaking out and acting to rid Minnis as leader of the opposition in 2016.
Hot on the heels of Rolle’s contribution yesterday, Pineridge MP Frederick McAlpine spoke, doing what he has done for most of his time in Parliament, flaying Minnis and predicting doom for the Minnis-led FNM.
“I don’t think that Prime Minister Ingraham has many regrets,” McAlpine said, “but if he does, I know it would be you (Minnis).”
Many have tuned out McAlpine over these many months as his excoriation of the prime minister and the Minnis administration is nothing new.
But when looked at as part of a bigger picture of widespread disaffection within the FNM, it could spell more trouble for an already troubled and hugely unpopular governing party.
Just last week in Parliament, Fort Charlotte MP Mark Humes, who has also been dropped by the party, publicly appealed to Minnis to show him respect.
These developments speak to Minnis’ inability to keep the confidence of his full parliamentary caucus at a time when that confidence is most needed.
During every term, there is always an expectation that political spats and broken alliances will arise, but the level of dissatisfaction among those on the FNM’s front line this time around is unheard of. It is reflective of challenged leadership that has not done an adequate job of making efforts to maintain stability.
It appears many of the criticisms leveled against Minnis by the seven MPs who removed him as opposition leader in late 2016 are being supported by events that continue to play out.
The FNM will head into the next election with Minnis’ leadership of the party firmly in place and with the standard bearers of the party touting his leadership – as Rolle and others who have been sidelined had once done.
But what many in the public will see is a beleaguered prime minister who appears to be approaching the end of the line.