Since the May 10, 2017 general election, the Free National Movement (FNM) has lost Reece Chipman (Centreville) and Vaughn Miller (Golden Isles) from its parliamentary caucus.
These two MPs were members of the so-called Dissident Four. The other members were Frederick McAlpine (Pineridge) and Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson.
All four voted against the increase of VAT from 7.5 percent to 12 percent in 2018.
McAlpine, Miller and Robinson were all immediately relieved of their posts at the Hotel Corporation, Ministry of Social Services and Ministry of Tourism and Aviation respectively.
Before these terminations, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis had fired Chipman as chair of the Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation.
In July of this year, Minnis reinstated Robinson as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation.
After his dismissal, Robinson’s statements to the press and in Parliament about the Minnis administration were non-confrontational and conciliatory. Robinson had left the door open for reconciliation.
Conversely, Chipman, McAlpine and Miller have repeatedly been critical of Minnis.
The departure of Chipman and Miller from the FNM appears to be permanent.
In May of this year, Dr. Duane Sands resigned as health minister. Since his resignation, Sands has followed in the footsteps of McAlpine, Chipman and Miller by being vocally critical of the Minnis administration.
It remains to be seen if Minnis will offer him a renomination in Elizabeth. In my opinion, the FNM could survive the defections of Miller, Chipman, McAlpine and even Sands. But it cannot overcome the apparent rift between Minnis and Brent Symonette, who resigned as minister of financial services, trade and industry and immigration in July 2019. Symonette has been increasingly critical of the Minnis administration for reasons unknown.
There is a perception that Symonette represents the Bay Street Boys and the White Knight elements within the FNM. These are the financial backers of the FNM, who have been funding the organization since 1970 or thereabouts.
The readership would recall that Symonette faced scrutiny over a government contract being given to an alleged family company in 2009 while Hubert Ingraham was prime minister, as was also the case in 2001.
The then FNM administration successfully navigated through the public relations nightmare of 2009. But it failed to mitigate the fallout over the 2011 WikiLeaks revelations that a high ranking FNM official had spoken condescendingly of Symonette and his lack of appeal to Bahamian grassroots due to his privileged upbringing and skin color.
Symonette would take a hiatus from frontline politics, making way for Hubert Chipman in St. Anne’s in 2012 — one of only nine FNM candidates to win a seat in Parliament that year.
The FNM lost badly in the 2012 general election. And I strongly believe the Symonette fallout played a significant part in that election loss.
As a Cabinet colleague of Symonette in the last Ingraham government, Minnis should be well aware of the severe ramifications of Symonette not supporting the FNM.
The FNM can ill afford to repeat the same mistake.
The party could overcome the loss of Sands and the Dissident Four. But it could not overcome the loss of Symonette and the Bay Street Boys financial backers.
— Kevin Evans