Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday he has no intention of apologizing for campaigning against the 2002 constitutional referendum on gender equality, which is similar to the government’s proposed referendum set for November 6.
Christie was responding to questions from reporters about Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Darron Cash’s statement that an apology from him about the referendum more than a decade ago is needed to heal old wounds.
“Look, for me moving forward there is no apology for me, alright,” said Christie, following a summer youth presentation at E. P. Roberts Primary School by the Z Bandits Junkanoo group.
“There will be an explanation from me, but no apology. The time has gone. The elections from 2002 are over.
“Hubert Ingraham (the then prime minister and North Abaco MP) characterized that election by saying whoever wins the referendum will win the election.
“The people won the referendum.”
Christie added that the church opposed the referendum because the leaders of the religious community felt insufficiently consulted.
In his statement, Cash said both Minnis and Christie will have a considerable amount of work to do to win the support of rank and file FNMs and FNM supporters to ensure bi-partisanship on the referendum.
He said the “scars of anti-referendum battles of 2002 led by Christie, who was then leader of the opposition, and undercover agents of the PLP still run very deep.
“Regrettably, with the announcement of this current exercise the scab has been ripped off,” Cash said.
“Today, referendum 2002 blood is back in the water. Prime Minister Christie can turn things around. It is up to him to apply the healing balm of reconciliation. It will not be easy.”
Christie said he does not know whether the FNM shares Cash’s conviction.
He said Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis spoke on the constitutional amendment bills in Parliament and had an opportunity to address any issues.
“The leader of the opposition, unlike Darron Cash, is an elected official who I would pay attention to,” Christie said.
“Darron Cash is a fellow traveler, a fellow Bahamian, who has an office, and I pay no attention to him at all with respect to that because it is political.
“He is just political and his terms of reference are just political.”
The prime minister said he remains focused on the government’s legislative agenda and his term, which he said will be “extraordinary.”
In the House of Assembly two weeks ago, Minnis said, “Though there is much which divides us in this place, let us speak with one voice when the issue is equality before the law.
“Let us, Mr. Speaker, speak as one in this place.
“If we can do so, we will signal to every Bahamian and the watching world our unified commitment to the advancement of human dignity in our beloved Bahamas.
“The success of this effort will require a bold and unified, multi-partisan and multi-sectoral effort on the part, not just of the political parties, but of civil society organizations, the Constitutional Commission, as well as social, civic and religious leaders.”
Debate on the four bills started in the House of Assembly on?Wednesday.
In order for constitutional changes to take place, the bills must be approved with at least three-quarters support in both the House and Senate.
The bills must then be approved by a simple majority of voters in a referendum.
During a Constitutional Commission forum at The College of The Bahamas on Tuesday night, Commission Chairman Sean McWeeney insisted that if there is a crack in the FNM’s support of the bills, the entire process would collapse.
Published Friday, August 9 , 2014