Ingraham Bounces Back
By Candia Dames
30th September 2005
In a rowdy session of the Central Council of the Free National Movement last night, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was sanctioned as the new leader of the party in the House of Assembly.
Even though more than 170 council members were expected to have voted, only 128 did so with 88 voting in favour of Mr. Ingraham leading the Official Opposition while 40 voted against the move.
The FNM House members were joyful of the outcome of the vote, but their detractors pointed out that it is clear that Mr. Ingraham does not enjoy the full support of the council as one third of those who voted, voted against his return as the parliamentary leader of the party.
One council member said, "This is not a good position for a former prime minister to be in."
The council voted against the wishes of the party leader, Senator Tommy Turnquest.
"We had a wonderful council meeting today," Mr. Turnquest said early this morning as excited council members filed out of the party’s Mackey Street headquarters.
"We had 131 out of 172 councilors that were here. People spoke freely. It was a wonderful evening [and] the FNM continues to demonstrate its principles of democracy, freewill and free speech."
Asked whether he felt threatened by the fact that the overwhelming vote was in support of Mr. Ingraham, Mr. Turnquest responded, "I think Mr. Ingraham is a wonderful person to lead the FNM team in parliament. He and I are extremely close and we’ll continue to be close and work together, he as leader of the Opposition and me as leader of the party."
He was also asked whether Mr. Ingraham will enter parliament next Wednesday as the leader of the Official Opposition.
Mr. Turnquest said, "That wasn’t decided here tonight and that cannot be decided here tonight."
But former Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson had a different view of what last night’s vote meant.
"I think that the council made a decision in the best interest of the party and our country in selecting the Right Honourable Hubert Ingraham to be our leader in the House of Assembly," Mr. Watson told The Bahama Journal.
"The present leader, the Hon. Alvin Smith, with go to Government House and tender his resignation and members of the Opposition will then present Mr. Ingraham to the governor general as their leader."
He added, "I expect by the next sitting of the House Mr. Ingraham will take his position as leader of the Opposition in the House. By Monday, I expect [Mr. Smith to resign]."
South Abaco MP Robert Sweeting said the opposition MP’s got exactly what they wanted.
"As we know, he has a vast amount of experience in politics. He served both in opposition and in government…I think the PLP tonight is as scared as a rattlesnake," Mr. Sweeting said.
Montagu MP Brent Symonette said after the meeting that the vote shows that the FNM is live and "very democratic."
"We think Mr. Ingraham, who is the most experienced Member of Parliament, is certainly very capable," Mr. Symonette said. "He’s shown from his track record he’s able to articulate, direct and lead."
Asked whether he wishes to see Mr. Ingraham lead the party, Mr. Symonette said, "I’m not going to make any comment about that at the moment.
Tonight was about our leadership in the House of Assembly and it’s not to be confused with the leadership of the party, which is an issue that convention decides in November."
He was also asked whether Mr. Ingraham is even interested in leading the FNM MP’s.
"I think the FNM MP’s wouldn’t have come to council tonight unless we had an indication from Mr. Ingraham that he was interested in leading the party and willing to so do. We have met with Mr. Ingraham, as we have met with Mr. Turnquest. So I think [if] Mr. Ingraham was not interest we wouldn’t have come here tonight."
High Rock MP Kenneth Russell, who was running to catch a ride at the time he spoke with The Bahama Journal, said the process was "interesting" and promised to elaborate when the House meets next Wednesday.
Former MP Anthony "Boozie" Rolle said the FNM showed once again that it is a party that relies heavily on democratic principles.
"The significance [of this] is that we would now have the most experienced member of the House of Assembly leading the charge in the House of Assembly."
Free National Movement Chairman Carl Bethel also believes the result was an "exultation of democracy."
"[Mr. Ingraham] will be opposition leader in parliament under the Constitution…how far that goes and where that takes him is really for him to decide.
" What is plain is that the party is seeking to marshal its hardest hitters, its heaviest hitters, and bring our big guns to the forefront because we are entering into a very crucial election period where it is plainly in the national interest of the Bahamian people that they be saved from this inept…and do nothing, directionless government," Mr. Bethel said.
Not everyone outside the FNM headquarters after midnight supported Mr. Ingraham leading the Official Opposition.
"I view this as a prelude to another exercise…I do not believe Ingraham is going to accept being the leader in the Opposition. That is to be seen," said Oswald Marshall.
Noel Sutherland, another council member, added, "As difficult as it might be seen for the party to go along with this whole thing, it’s a difficult thing to be seen to not support your parliamentarians."
Former Senator Lawrence Glinton, meanwhile, said as a result of last night’s vote, the party’s chances of winning the next general elections have been "enhanced immeasurably."
"He will bring a strong opposition force to parliament and it will awaken the Bahamian people to the need to change this government," Mr. Glinton said.
Mr. Ingraham was not present for the historic meeting. Some supporters of Mr. Turnquest viewed last night’s vote as a backdoor attempt by supporters of the former prime minister to get him back as leader of the Free National Movement.