Categorized | National News

Discord In PLP Over Bills

What started as a non-contentious debate on proposed amendments to the 41-year-old Constitution took a sharp turn yesterday with government legislators going head to head on what has shaped up to be the very thorny issue laid out in the last of four Bills.

In fact, one Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP is even prepared to give up his parliamentary responsibility for it.

In its present form, the bills make it unconstitutional to discriminate on anyone based on their sex.

It is a thorny issue that some are convinced will open the door to same sex marriages.

The government insists otherwise; an argument Central and South Eleuthera MP and State Minister for Legal Affairs, Damian Gomez strongly reiterated during his contribution in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

“Our law as it presently stands states that marriage is an institution between a male and a female. We have not proposed to change that. We have not even dreamt it up and yet it consumes so many people and I wonder if they are harbouring insecurities about their own sexual position,” he said.

“This is a debate that even doesn’t arise.”

However, Mr. Gomez said he does not agree that a proviso should be included in the Constitution outlawing homosexual marriages for democratic reasons.

Making a strong case for his argument, he cited the draconian measures Uganda took in its stance against homosexuality, suggesting that The Bahamas could face some strong international repercussions if it were to go down a similar route.

Mr. Gomez told the story of how the Uganda’s president acceded to a similar constitutional amendment despite strong objections from the United States.

“Within hours, the US imposed sanctions, withdrew aid relief and they were quickly followed by the European Union (EU). We would dare our biggest trading partners? I’m not sure Bahamians are ready to stand in line at immigration counters in the US or be faced with the loss of jobs when business stops coming.

“Ugandans immediately took the position to rescind the amendment. We don’t have that ability in our Constitution and the expense and time it would take to rectify such damage would put us in a horrible economic situation,” he said, prompting fierce backlash from fellow PLP MP, Andre Rollins.

“There is no outlaw or outlawing of homosexuality in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Now, if you’re intending to scare the Bahamian public, that’s one thing, but at least be sincere in what you have to say,” he charged.

“This should be a matter of educating the Bahamian public on the basis of truth and not on the basis of scare tactics.”

During his contribution, Mr. Rollins took his comments a step further, harshly scolding Mr. Gomez of making “asinine” statements.

“They were beneath the level of honour that is supposed to be attached to a member of this honourable house,” he said.

“It was a puerile. It was childish. We don’t need to reduce ourselves to making those kinds of arguments… He is an intelligent man who understands the ramifications of what we propose…I believe that if you come in this place and you are told that you either think a certain way or you have no place in our organisation, you were merely a token. You were used to achieve a certain objective and when that objective is achieved, there is no longer any use for you.”

The outspoken MP went on to respond to the rumblings that his no holds barred position on a number of issues prove that he is not a true PLP.

“I ask myself is that a way to cause one to be brought into conformity. I need to get this off my chest…We are of this new generation. We think differently. The way politics worked in the past is not necessarily the way politics will continue to work in the future and if that we take strong views that the public is entitled to hear, then so be it,” Mr. Rollins added.

“…If is said that I am offensive. If it is there are persons who object with what I have said, I am prepared to suffer those consequences. Having said that, I fully expect that if this taken to vote as it is today, I can no longer and I am prepared to no longer serve as Government Whip because if the government expects that if has the unanimous support of this government side and I cannot acceded those wishes I am prepared to step aside. That would be the right thing to do but if the government is prepared to reconsider in a way I believe is in concert with Bahamians, obviously there would be no reason to do that.”

Mr. Rollins’ fiery comments followed Marco City MP Greg Moss’ objection to the same constitutional amendment.

“We should not be about the business of trying to legislate what others would see as progressive legislation to open the door to these unions without the countenance of our people in this way. If we want to have blunt, open, direct discussion on this by way of statute or an open discussion on the amendment of the Constitution and the effects it will have, I think we should have this, but not in this way and in any event, I do not support it.

Mr. Moss also expressed some reservations about the second proposed amendment, which enables a Bahamian woman who marries a foreign man to secure for him the same access to Bahamian citizenship that a Bahamian man has always enjoyed under the Constitution in relation to his foreign spouse.

“My position is that no one should have a right to citizenship just by marrying a Bahamian, no one. Their children should be citizens If you marry a foreigner that foreigner should have the right to work in this country, be with his/her family and the certainty that they’re children will be citizens and after the appropriate time that foreigner should have the right to apply for citizenship, but our citizenship is not for sale and it shouldn’t be for sale by marriage nor by money,” he said.

As for his position on the first Bill, Mr. Moss said his position is very simple.

Thought concerned about what has been proposed – the bill seeks to achieve gender equality through the transfer of citizenship – Mr. Moss said if forced to vote on it, “I will support it.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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