|PM: House won’t vote on gambling|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Aug 22, 2012
Members of Parliament will not be required to vote on the gambling referendum in the House of Assembly, Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday, adding that each MP will have the chance to vote on the controversial matter at a polling station like everyone else.
“It’s not a vote in the House of Assembly; it’s a vote in the ballot box for all citizens, including parliamentarians,” Christie told The Nassau Guardian after he left a Cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon.
“If they want to vote they vote; if they don’t want to vote they won’t vote. There’s no pressure for anybody to vote as the case might be.
“It’s going to be a vote for the Bahamian people and it’s going to be as soon as reasonably practicable, my words, after the by-election. After August 31 a date will be set for the by-election.”
Retiring North Abaco MP Hubert Ingraham’s resignation takes effect on that date and a by-election must be called within 60 days from that date.
Christie also reiterated that his administration will not come out publicly for or against legalized gambling despite repeated calls from Christian Council President Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson to do so. The prime minister said he wants people to vote based on their convictions without any influence from the government.
“I think he is mistaken,” said Christie when asked to respond to Patterson’s challenge.
“As prime minister, I am supported by a significant number of people. Why should I try to preempt their free choice on this matter by saying vote for the PLP in this position because the PLP’s position is as such?
“That’s what we are trying to avoid. We are trying to get people to independently arrive at a decision devoid of political considerations because the implication of not voting for it is to close them [illegal number houses] down. This is now being put to the Bahamian people for them to make a decision.”
On Monday, Patterson challenged the government to take responsibility for any decisions relating to the legalization of gambling for Bahamians and to “leave the people out of it”.
Christie has repeatedly said his government would not take sides on the issue and will leave it up to a public vote.
A Nassau Guardian poll of the 38 MPs revealed that most of them did not want to disclose their stance on gambling or claimed they did not know how they would vote in the referendum.
Christie said if Patterson wants to know his personal position he would disclose it in confidence, but would not make it public.
“If he wants to find out my position I’ll tell him, but I know that I am prime minister and if I signal what I believe in, people will in fact say that’s how we should vote and I’m tying to avoid that,” he said.
The prime minister added that research on the gambling issue, which was done by the former administration, found that legalizing the sector for Bahamians would bring in “a significant amount” of potential revenue for the government.