|Minnis: Referendum should not be govt’s priority|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Jul 19, 2012
Free National Movement Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday questioned why the government is focused on holding a referendum on gambling so soon instead of placing all its energy on job creation and lowering crime.
“A lot of people are hurting, lights are off, a lot of people can not pay their rent, a lot of people are unemployed,” Minnis said. “These are urgent matters.
“There are a lot more important issues facing the country. You have social issues, crime, issues with all of those individuals who work at City Market who have not received their pension benefits [and] other benefits.
“There are other issues that are more important than the gambling issue, so one has to ask the question why rush into that.”
Both the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM) promised to hold a referendum on gambling if they won the general election.
Minnis also criticized the government for not stating a unified position on gambling.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said the government will not come out in support of, or against gambling, but will leave the final say on the issue to the people.
“I think the government has to take a position,” Minnis said. “If you’re bringing forward a referendum then you should show why this is the direction you are taking, what are the advantages, etc.”
He said while the FNM will not tell its members how to vote, the party, as the Official Opposition, will educate the public on the ills of gambling.
“As opposition we must inform the public as to what are the disadvantages and they would make their own decision,” Minnis said.
“But we would not try to force our members to make one decision or another.”
Yesterday, he shied away from saying how he will vote in the referendum.
Back in May, Minnis said he would vote in favor of legalizing gambling if the government holds a referendum on the issue.
“I have nothing against individuals gambling in terms of lottery, buying numbers etc,” he said on the Guardian Radio talk show ‘Darold Miller Live’.
“I just feel that it should be done in the proper legalized manner.”
He said he does not play the lottery or buy numbers.
Christie has said the government intends to hold a referendum by the end of the year.
If Bahamians vote in favor of legal gambling the government intends to tax the industry.
The prime minister has said if a majority of Bahamians vote against it, the government would ensure that the laws against illegal gambling are strictly enforced.
Minnis spoke to reporters after paying a courtesy call on Catholic Archbishop Patrick Pinder.
St. Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman and Montagu MP Richard Lightbourn were also there.