Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis, Member of Parliament for Killarney, yesterday, officially distanced the party from comments made by MP for Montagu, Richard Lightbourn, during the party’s 2016 convention on Thursday (July 28) night.
Speaking with colleagues in the House of Assembly Wednesday, August 3, he voiced concern over the controversial statement made by Lightbourn’s comment, which quickly went viral and made headlines in the Caribbean, which in part stated, “It is also a necessity for us as a nation to consider adopting the lead of several countries in the world, which will result in an unwed mother having her tubes tied after having more than two children which will in the end result of fewer children being born. The state should not have the burden of paying for the upbringing of children.”
The statement aroused concern and distaste by many throughout the country; however, less than 30 minutes after Lightbourn made the comment during his convention presentation, Minnis maintained that he apologized.
Wednesday (August 3) morning, Parliamentarians were engaged in a heated debate over Lightbourn’s statement.
“Mr. Speaker, I rise with your permission to make a communication to this Honorable House on a matter of grave public importance.
“Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, July 28, 2016, while addressing the National Convention of the FNM, the Hon. Member for Montagu, Mr. Richard Lightbourn made the statement that the next FNM government would implement a policy which would, in effect, require that any single mother who has had two or more children born out of wedlock, be sterilized.
“It is implicit in such a statement, that the power of the State, expressed through legislation passed to such effect, would be brought to bear against such unwed mothers to ensure, where necessary, the forcible implementation of such a legislated policy.
“Let me state unequivocally and assure this Honorable House and the Bahamian people that the FNM has no such policy, no such plans, and no such intention.
“On behalf of the FNM I absolutely repudiate and disassociate myself and the party which I lead from any such proposed policy as that postulated by the Member for Montagu,” informed Minnis.
Minnis added that within 15 minutes of Lightbourn’s remarks being made, pursuant to his instructions, the National Chairman of the FNM, Sidney Collie, issued to all news media a press statement, which read, “Mr. Lightbourn's comments tonight were personal and do not reflect the position of the FNM. The FNM does not believe in restricting anyone's rights, including women's reproductive rights. The FNM has and will continue to fight for all Bahamians, regardless of gender.”
Minnis furthered, “Mr. Speaker I wish to make certain facts abundantly clear to this House and the Bahamian People.
“The question of imposing any form of state sponsored sterilization or, indeed, any other form of state sponsored eugenic practices, such as abortions, has never at any time been approved, and has never even been discussed in the parliamentary group of the FNM, or in any organ or committee of the party,” advised Minnis.
Additionally he acknowledged that any statement made to such an effect by Lightbourn or, any other person, is a statement of his or her own personal belief, not a reflection of the principles and policies of the FNM.
“The Convention Committee of the party had implemented a review procedure for all speeches proposed to be delivered to the recent Convention. Despite several requests made to the writer, the speech of the Hon. Member for Montagu was never submitted for prior vetting by the review panel. The Party was consequently entirely unaware of the contents of the Member for Montagu’s speech to the Convention,” said Minnis.
“Let me reiterate, the Free National Movement has never advocated and does not support any form of state sponsored intervention, forcible sterilization or any forcible interference in the constitutionally protected rights of the individual to privacy and self-determination, inclusive of the reproductive rights of women.
“As a responsible and caring government, the FNM has fully supported the well-intentioned and proactive counseling and health and family-life education efforts of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry and Department of Health and the Department of Social Services.
“We are fully cognizant of the need to promote the traditional family unit while also caring for, counseling, supporting, educating and training those mothers, whose life circumstances and, perhaps, unfortunate choices, might have led to un-intended pregnancies,” noted the Leader.
He concluded by noting changes that have been made with respect to changes in the law to permit child support payments to be made directly to the Magistrate’s Courts, in particular for children born to unwed mothers.
“We have also as a government, made significant changes to the law which permitted payments of child support and maintenance, especially for unwed mothers, to be made directly to the Magistrates Court, so that unwed mothers need not go through the difficulties of setting up a bank account and keeping records of payments made or not made.
“Due to our reforms it is the court itself, which made the order, which receives any payments and keeps the records, so the court always has the records available, whenever a complaint is made by the mother that child support payments are not being made by the father, in breach of the court order.”
Published Thursday, August 4, 2016