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No Referendum Revenge, Says Butler-Turner

Free National Movement (FNM) leaders said they will not go the route of seeking revenge on the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and urging their members to vote against the upcoming constitutional referendum and said doing so will only be an insult and an assault to Bahamian women everywhere.

Despite Prime Minister Perry Christie, while he was in opposition, successfully leading a campaign to get Bahamians to vote against the 2002 referendum, which in part dealt with the removal of gender discrimination in the constitution, FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner said on Wednesday that her party is not at all concerned about payback now that the PLP is attempting to make the very same constitutional amendments.

During her contribution to debate on gender equality in the House of Assembly, Mrs. Butler-Turner said while they very well could, the FNM will not seek revenge for the 2002 referendum nor the failed 2013 gaming referendum.

“It might be tempting,” she said. “But it would be wrong. The two issues are separate. More importantly, this referendum is about fairness and making our sisters and our daughters full fellow citizens along with our brothers and our sons. This referendum should not be about pettiness and payback. The time to payback this faltering, disastrous and incompetent government and prime minister is coming. But now is not the time.

“Bahamians should not allow themselves to be dragged down low because of the past misdeeds and swamp of opportunism of the side opposite. Instead, let us lift up our heads to the rising sun of equality and justice, even as the sun begins to set on this bankrupt government. The FNM could quite easily play the politics of prejudice and division. But this is not who we are. We are better than that, and when it comes to full equality for all our citizens, we are much, much better than the side opposite.”

In fact, Mrs. Butler-Turner said the issues on hand are much bigger than any one party and ought to be dealt with as such.

Backing up his deputy leader yesterday was FNM Chairman Darron Cash who too vowed to take the high road in this issue and not urge FNMs to vote against the PLP’s plans.

In a press statement issued Wednesday, Mr. Cash assured that the FNM’s commitment to the elevation of women and the promotion of equality for women, is unparalleled.

“I can assure the commission and the Bahamian people that FNMs are not focused on payback and they can all rest assured that leaders of the FNM will never advocate that position,” he wrote. “We are bigger than that.

“In 2002 the FNM took the courageous step of bringing forth these necessary initiatives to promote equality for Bahamian women despite the impending backlash from a general-election-hungry PLP opposition determined to stir up confusion. Today, the FNM has absolutely no interest in following the PLP’s lead of 2002.”

Yesterday debate got underway on four separate bills to amend the Constitution to institute full equality between men and women in matters of citizenship and to eliminate discrimination in The Bahamas based on sex.

Because of its importance to national development, the FNM deputy leader is pushing the government though to make this whole referendum issue simpler.
“Whatever the particular questions for this referendum, which we need to debate, the basic question is clear: Do you believe in and want equality for men and women? Yes or no,” she said. “A young Bahamian man asked me a very wise question and then made a profound and simple statement. He asked me if most women in the world have this right that his wife, his mother and sisters don’t have in The Bahamas. I told him that only a handful of countries still treat their women in this regard as does presently The Bahamas.

“Then this young man in his 20s said he didn’t understand why there is a debate about women being equal to men. He said that was something like someone debating whether as a black man he is equal to a white man.”

In light of stating the party’s position on the matter, Mr. Cash also urged prime Minister Christie to cushion the blow by firstly apologising to Bahamians for stifling this gender equality issue, secondly reintroducing those less contentious components of the 2002 referendum like the establishment of a teachers service commission and finally by taking the bull by the horn and leading from the front.

Mrs. Butler-Turner said in the final analysis, the success or failure of this referendum is the difference between defeat and victory for Bahamians.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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