Categorized | Featured, National News

Minnis, Christie Square Off On Referendum Process

Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis on Wednesday said while his party fully supports major changes to the country’s constitution, especially as it relates to gender equality, he said the government is going about this process the wrong way and suggested that the entire plan be revised.

While delivering his contribution to the controversial and ongoing debate on a package of four bills to amend the constitution, the Opposition leader said there are too many loopholes in the process.

In fact, he added that ever since the bills were drawn up, there have already been numerous amendments, deletions and changes made, forcing him to question just how sound the November 6 referendum will be.

He further suggested that two of the four questions proposed be removed.

“We believe that amendments two and three which are being proposed can be dealt with by legislation,” Dr. Minnis said. “Children born to Bahamian men born out of wedlock may have their citizenship dealt with under the Status of Children Act 2002.

“We believe that constitutional amendment is not required. With respect to the conferring of citizenship of the foreign born spouse upon marriage, this deserves further consideration and consultation.”

Article 10 of The Bahamas’ Constitution grants a foreign woman immediate citizenship after having marry a Bahamian man.

According to Dr. Minnis, parliament should consider legislating, that when a spouse, whether they are male or female, become entitled to permanent resident status with the right to work and become eligible for citizenship after five years.

As it relates to the most controversial question of them all, regarding the issue of sex, gender and marriage, Dr. Minnis said the government should rewrite the entire bill.

“The FNM suggests that in view of the contentious nature of amendment four this bill should be reworded in committee so as to reduce the contentious nature of the bill,” he added. “We have listened to the people, we have listened to the religious leaders and we feel this bill should go to committee and further be discussed and reworded in an acceptable manner to the Bahamian people.”

After his contribution though, Prime Minister Perry Christie expressed shock that Dr. Minnis, in his contribution, disagreed with so much of what is proposed, and noted that the Opposition leader was an integral part of the process.

Mr. Christie also noted that in its initial stages, meetings were held with both government and Opposition members as well as with members of the Constitutional Commission and they all decided on the way forward.

“We agreed a process moving forward that would reflect a unified approach,” Prime Minister Christie said. “At all material times it was unmistakably clear that this is the only way we ought to proceed on this matter.

“The Constitutional Commission chairman was charged with the responsibility of keeping the government advised as to their recommendations and keeping the Opposition advised. On occasion the Opposition got the information before the government, with respect to the question, absolutely no doubt, whatsoever. With respect to what the leader of the Opposition spoke of today, it was as if he wasn’t even in those discussions and he is not responsible for agreeing to the process he was a part of initiating.”

The prime minister said he does not want, because of the authority of Dr. Minnis’ office, for his participation to discolour what was “firmly committed to, unreservedly committed to and what ought to be lived up to.”

However, Dr. Minnis said at the end of the day the four amendment bills being proposed are all about trust.

He also advised the government to ensure that the changes being made are in line with the new progressive, modern attitudes of the population.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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