May 11, 2016
It will take a broad coalition to win the June 7 referendum. The support of members of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Free National Movement (FNM) will be needed in large numbers to pass the gender equality bills. Prime Minister Perry Christie's governing party is leading this initiative. It has the support of the FNM, but many FNMs are still upset with the PLP and Christie for what they did in 2002.
The PLP and Christie supported the constitutional reform questions in Parliament back then. They proceeded to oppose them in the run-up to the referendum, realizing that they could embarrass the FNM with a defeat so close to a general election.
The referendum questions failed and the FNM lost government a few months later. The PLP put politics before the national interest. The party was duplicitous. FNMs remain angry. Christie now wants them to be part of the coalition he and his party lead. Yet, he has not apologized for the wrong he did.
On Tuesday, Former Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett suggested at a Rotary meeting that some sort of apology from the PLP over the stance it took in 2002 might go a long way in helping the four bills pass in the upcoming poll. Sir Michael is right. He also rightly noted that if these changes fail this time the issues will not come up again anytime soon.
"These proposed bills must be considered on their merits. They must be considered objectively. I am afraid unless these amendments are made during this exercise, it is not likely that they will be made for a long time," he said. "These inequalities will remain as part of the laws of The Bahamas. This, I suggest, would be a travesty."
We have said this before and we'll say it again: Christie should apologize. It would help bring angry FNMs onboard. It could, in fact, move the needle quite a few percentage points in favor of the yes side.
Christie wants this to pass. He does not want a referendum loss so close to a general election. What would it hurt him to apologize? All he has to say is: "I'm sorry for what we did in 2002. We were wrong."
It is arrogant for Christie to come to FNMs now and ask them for their support without seeking forgiveness first. These questions should pass. Their adoption to our supreme law would make The Bahamas a more just society.
The yes side needs the prime minister to do all he can to rally votes to the side. Say sorry, Mr. Prime Minister. It's easy to do. And, it will help you achieve your goal.
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