Published: Apr 19, 2017
Despite the dismal performance of Perry Christie and his Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) over the last five years, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis has not yet made an adequate case for why he should lead the country, former FNM Chairman Darron Cash said yesterday.
“I don’t believe that, that case has been made as yet, and again, Dr. Minnis has the unenviable task of being judged not merely as a member of Parliament, but as a future prime minister of the country, and so what he is expected to do and what he is expected to say is unfortunately for him considerably more weighty than what people expect of the other candidates,” Cash told National Review.
We contacted Cash, who like us, resides in Killarney, to have a chat with him about the tremendous dilemma some Killarney residents face in choosing between the far from inspiring and underperforming former opposition leader, Minnis, and the Progressive Liberal Party’s (PLP) candidate Raneika Knowles, a newcomer to politics. A vote for her would be a vote for Christie.
Of course, this can be said about any of the other PLP candidates.
A vote for any FNM candidate is also a vote for Minnis.
But there is something utterly cringe worthy in marking an ‘x’ next to the name Hubert Minnis after watching him painfully struggle to show strong leadership of the Official Opposition — a post he was stripped of several months ago.
Many will hold their noses and do so, of course.
Despite the fact that Democratic National Alliance (DNA) Leader Branville McCartney is also an unattractive leadership choice, the DNA’s candidate, Arinthia Komolafe, a banker and lawyer, is a quality candidate we can take seriously.
It will be interesting to see the kind of support she gets.
Minnis won handsomely in Killarney in 2012. He got 53 percent of the vote last time — that’s 2,434 votes.
Still, many at this point have not yet made a decision.
Cash admitted that he too faces some challenges in deciding.
When we asked him whether he has determined how he will vote, he told us: “I want to vote for my leader.
“I want to support my party and now that I’m not on the inside, it is my hope that throughout the course of the campaign I will see and hear the kinds of discussions of issues that are important to me about the kind of country the leader wants to create, the kind of leadership that he wants to provide and to me, that case has not yet been presented, and so, I look forward to that happening.”
Perhaps he is being optimistic if he truly does believe anything will change with Minnis in the next 22 days.
But Cash said, “This is the first time since 1987, when I voted for the first time, that the person for whom I would vote is not immediately clear.”
The truth is, the FNM’s base understands that Minnis is its only hope to win the election come May 10.
He has been elected leader twice since he was first chosen in 2012. He has resisted every effort to topple him. He has been emboldened in his leadership in the party.
If they want to win, FNMs have no other choice but to rally around Minnis and present a united showing in the next three weeks.
But the truth also is that Minnis is far from dynamic. He is unavailable to explain his vision, perhaps because it is not even clear to him.
He says he is focused on winning. He has no time for the press. He has no time to answer questions. He misses the point entirely that answering questions is a part of the process of showing what he is made of.
He has not yet convinced many of us that he has a clue how to bail us out of the mess we are in as far as the economy is concerned, as far as our fiscal and debt challenges are concerned, as far as crime is concerned, as far so many other things are concerned.
Clearly, Minnis is hoping to ride to victory with the widespread anti-Christie and anti-PLP mood that exists today.
Cash was honest enough to admit that Minnis has not yet been convincing in his contention that he is prepared to lead The Bahamas.
“The message I give to the leader of the FNM from today going through election day is that he and his colleagues who are candidates ought not take the Bahamian people for granted and Dr. Minnis in particular ought not take the people in Killarney for granted,” he said.
“As a Killarney voter, despite my membership in the FNM, we still want specifics. Killarney people are discerning voters and they still want specific answers to questions about what the government under Dr. Minnis would do, and what kind of government Dr. Minnis would lead because all of the things that Killarney might find offensive about how Prime Minister Christie might lead or the kinds of errors in judgment, as much as they may be upset with him over that, it is not a forgone conclusion that Killarney voters will automatically support Dr. Minnis unless he presents credible, viable, meaningful alternatives to a set of discerning voters.
“And in that regard, you’re right that [up] to this point the way in which the campaign has been led or run does not automatically present those clear alternatives, and I would hope that they (Minnis and other FNM candidates) would begin to both change the tone and increase the level of substance.”
We are certain that some FNMs will dismiss Cash’s assessment as sour grapes, given that he was denied an FNM nomination. He was also badly beaten during the 2014 race for deputy leader.
But many people will no doubt understand just where the former chairman is coming from — including many of Minnis’ own constituents.
Minnis’ weak leadership is the reason why so many people are undecided voters.
Cash appears to be in that group.
He said, “I don’t want the leader of the party I support to be spending any minute of his time thinking about me specifically.
“The only message I wish to convey is he ought to see his thinking constituents as being like me and wanting answers and more so than responding to me, he ought to be thinking that he has a duty to speak to them and the kinds of issues and concerns that they have, and in doing that, whatever my personal thoughts are if he does that, I am satisfied that he would far exceed my expectations by doing that which the majority of Killarney voters are expecting.
“For me personally, it has not yet happened, but again I have a tremendous amount of context because I have seen leadership up close, and therefore I’m at somewhat of an advantage when it comes to knowledge of all of the parties.”
Cash indeed has seen leadership up close. He has seen Minnis in action. His observations then take on weight.
“Many months ago, and by that I mean before the FNM went into a convention in 2016, and some time after I had returned to private life, I cautioned the FNM and the party leader that they had to be concerned about the emerging narrative about our leader’s own trust deficit,” Cash said.
“I cautioned the leader that if his own colleagues were describing him in terms that suggested an inability to trust, that it was only a matter of time before others who knew him less well would start doing so as well.
“Even if you put the internal revelations aside, I dare say that Killarney voters read The Nassau Guardian and National Review. They read the Tribune publisher’s assessment of months ago, and I’m sure many of them are thinking about those assessments as they ponder their choice.
“Not to mention the fact that the manner in which (outgoing FNM MPs) Hubert Chipman, Neko Grant, Theo Neilly and Richard Lightbourn were treated, will have a ripple effect on voters who do not simply vote along party lines.”
Cash pointed out that the trust issue is important in leadership.
As an example of the kinds of things that have led to Minnis’ trust deficit, Cash pointed to the FNM leader’s criticism of Renward Wells’ signing of a letter of intent (LOI) in 2014 with Stellar Waste to Energy without proper authorization.
The matter led to Wells’ firing as parliamentary secretary months later, and his eventual severing of ties with the PLP and his decision to join the FNM.
The whole affair stank to high heaven. It still stinks.
“When I served as chairman, Mr. Renward Wells was a member of the PLP. He was a parliamentary secretary in the PLP.
“He took the position that the FNM had done something untoward during the BTC privatization and he held such a strong view on it that there ought to have been a select committee in the House to look into it,” Cash said.
“And I took him to task on that. This is the same person who we came to understand had signed a letter of intent with Stellar Waste to Energy, and again as chairman of the organization and my leader, Dr. Minnis, took him to task for that and [demanded] a level of transparency and openness in terms of declaration to the Bahamian people, yet within months Mr. Wells would come over to the FNM side and for the leader the issue then suddenly became of no consequence.
“And the point I make then is that Killarney voters don’t simply dismiss it because the person has moved to the other side.
“We cannot on the one hand expect Mr. Christie to impose his will on the court when it comes to Baha Mar, and in doing so ask the question of what does he have to hide, when we have no issue whatsoever with Mr. Wells coming over to the FNM continuing to hide the facts of [the LOI] and it makes no difference.
“The point that I make to the leader is, the same supporters in Killarney had doubts when he was in the PLP and they have doubts now that he is in the FNM.
“Transparency cuts both ways.”