26th April 2005
A move afoot to get rid of Senator Tommy Turnquest as the leader of the Free National Movement to pave the way for former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham’s return amounts to an act of treachery, two former FNM Cabinet Ministers indicated yesterday.
Algernon Allen and Tennyson Wells both made a bid to lead the party in 2000, but lost to Mr. Turnquest who had the endorsement of Mr. Ingraham.
Mr. Wells said that Mr. Turnquest is now being "backstabbed" by the same group of people who supported him as leader, while Mr. Allen said, "As one who knows this party intimately, I see all the hallmarks of treachery afoot."
Their comments came following an exclusive report in The Bahama Journal that revealed that an advisory committee headed by former Deputy Prime Minister Frank Watson has indicated to Mr. Turnquest that many FNM’s are concerned that the party would have no chance of winning the next general election with him as leader.
The committee, which was appointed by the FNM leader, reported to him last week.
Mr. Allen, who called into the Love 97 talk show "Issues of The Day," said the pursuit of power at all cost manifested itself in the 2000 FNM convention.
"They got rid of most of those who cared about country, who cared about the direction of the party," he said.
Mr. Allen said that the very people who several years ago "drove Mr. Turnquest’s agenda" are now those seeking to cut his political legs and arms off "and they’d stop no short of drinking his blood."
"Here we have this scenario: Mr. Ingraham and others put Mr. Turnquest in position. They heralded him as almost the second coming. They went from island to island, from place to place and they told the public emphatically that he was the only one who could lead the party.
"Now here comes these same persons who surrounded Mr. Ingraham, who carried that message with a passion and who did so in ways which further ruptured and destroyed the organization. But now they say ‘Here we are at this point in time. This man can no longer lead us. He is not fitting.’ Mind you, they failed to say that in 2002 really Mr. Turnquest was only leader in name because the public voted undoubtedly on the record of the FNM over the past five years."
In his usual impassioned tone, Mr. Allen added, "We have been rendered literally with an ineffective opposition because all are content now with cutting off the fledgling legs of Mr. Tommy Turnquest. I sympathize with him because I know what is happening. Unfortunately, he is in an incestuous group, a group that enjoys carnal knowledge with their own, so to speak. [It’s] an incestuous group that seeks now to destroy him because they seek now to forward another agenda."
Mr. Allen said he seriously doubts that Mr. Ingraham wants to return to the leadership of the FNM, saying the matter is not now even in question.
"I cannot see Mr. Ingraham leaving his pensions and emoluments which are a quarter of a million dollars a year – [he’s] given a salary, maid, chauffeur, gardener, medical insurance and all the rest – to return to the fray of politics and I do believe that it would not be in his interest. It would not be in accordance with his stated philosophy. It would not be in accordance with the overall advancement of good governance in the country," Mr. Allen declared.
"I think now that the Free National Movement ought to sit and now focus and undoubtedly there is a very strong probability that they will not win 2007, but political parties do not focus on the immediate. They structure toward the inevitability that in 2012 there is an election, God willing if Christ does not come."
Independent Member of Parliament Tennyson Wells, who also served in Mr. Ingraham’s government, said the fact that Mr. Turnquest had to appoint a fact-finding committee tells that the party is in "disarray."
He said that while Mr. Ingraham may be able to win the leadership of the FNM, he would not be able to win a general election.
"He has been a divider," Mr. Wells said of the former prime minister. "I would not support him if he comes back. At least 30 percent of the base support that the FNM needs to win the election would not support Mr. Ingraham if he comes back."
He said that it is highly unlikely that the FNM could win the election under Mr. Turnquest, adding that he would need "grooming" and much greater support than he has now.
"I never thought that Tommy was a person to be leader of the FNM in the first place," Mr. Wells said. "[He’s a nice person] and has a role to play in the organization, but at that level, no. He is not the person for that."
Mr. Wells said he always thought that the Member of Parliament for Lucaya Neko Grant, and FNM Chairman Carl Bethel "who has a problem with his personality" could lead the FNM to victory in a general election.
He also suggested that former MP Lester Turnquest has what it takes to lead the FNM.
Mr. Wells also told The Bahama Journal that he is still interested in leading the FNM.
"I never really left the FNM," he said. "But most of them are so bitter against me that I’ve resigned myself to my position. I will make my judgment within the next nine months to a year…but if you ask me whether or not I believe I could win the next election, I think if I was leader of the FNM, I could win the election. But I’m not going to go out and fight over anything. It has to be a consensus. I’m not going to get involved in any friction…I’m finished with that."
Mr. Ingraham has declined to comment on the matter of his possible return as leader of the FNM.
But Mr. Wells believes that Mr. Ingraham should tell the Bahamian people definitively that he does not plan to return if that is in fact the case.
He said the former prime minister’s refusal to comment has created confusion.
Meanwhile, former DPM Watson, who headed the advisory council, said on Monday that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the group’s work unless the party’s leader allowed the release of the report.