While saying that a “group of goons” were screaming at her as she addressed night two of the Free National Movement’s (FNM) convention, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner said it was the outcry against her by FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest late Thursday night that was the final straw in a process she claims was corrupted and hijacked.
Butler-Turner said she is not leaving the FNM and revealed that she and her running mate Dr. Duane Sands spent much of the day yesterday in talks with FNM Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis, Turnquest, and their advisors.
She said they are seeking to reach an amicable settlement of their differences and expressed hopes that they will avoid a fracture in the party, despite the contentious atmosphere.
Around 2 a.m. yesterday, Butler-Turner and Sands announced that they were pulling out of the leadership and deputy leadership races respectively, which were set to take place yesterday.
It was an abrupt and stunning turn of events in a weeks-long process that was punctuated by claims of stacking the deck and insults that were hurled from supporters of both sides.
Butler-Turner’s near hour-long speech on Thursday night ended with seemingly angry Minnis supporters shouting “Roc Wit Doc”, drowning her out.
The Long Island MP also called for FNM parliamentarians and candidates to join her on stage. But in a move that many said was no doubt embarrassing for her, only Sands went up.
Turnquest, who was the keynote address, did not end up speaking until 11 p.m. He railed against the disrespect he said had been shown.
Butler-Turner was surrounded by supporters in a suite at Melia resort late yesterday afternoon.
During that time, she explained why she and Sands ended their bids.
Asked to respond to people who said she “chickened out” of the leadership race, Butler-Turner said, “There’s not a chicken bone in this body. Anybody who knows me, knows that. I am all courage. I am a person who stands on conviction, even when my party might not stand the way I stand.
“I have no fear of standing for that. I am a person that believes in process. I also believe in the fundamentals of being able to have free and fair elections. I told you there were concerns. The concerns did not just arise.
“I’ll give you a case in point; we did not receive the program until late the night before the convention. I then find out that I have 10 minutes.”
Butler-Turner was asked to speak to the moment when her colleagues ignored her request for them to come up.
“I’ll tell you what was going on. You could see that there was a whole movement in the back of the room that was going against what we were all trying to accomplish and that was unity,” Butler-Turner said.
“It was utter confusion in that place last night. That’s a whole part of why we’ve had to stop this process.
“We can’t move forward in a confused state. I didn’t give them a heads up that I would invite them up, but I felt it was the right thing to do at that time given the fact that we had all of this animosity growing in the back of the room.
“You know, the night before, we had the leader call me up on the stage to dance and prance and then the next night we had a group of goons screaming at me while I’m trying to give my speech. Did that demonstrate the unity that we were trying to accomplish?”
Butler-Turner said she and Sands dropped out of the leadership and deputy leadership races “reluctantly and with a heavy heart”.
“After several weeks of our campaigning and seeking to ensure a level playing field, we came to a fuller realization that the process was filled with some irregularities and deep structural problems,” she explained.
“This included but was not limited to irregularities with the delegates list and the election of delegates. We concluded after personal reflection and contemplation, prayer and discernment that we could not go forward in good conscience in a process that proved undemocratic on a number of levels.”
She insisted that their concerns will be addressed internally and explained again that those concerns were the reason why she had delayed providing the balance of the $100,000 she agreed to raise to help fund the convention.
“We are terribly disappointed that we have disappointed our supporters by our withdrawal and so we just want to thank them because this was indeed a last resort in a process that we could not continue in good conscience,” Butler-Turner said.
“Now right now, we need to reflect on what has happened and we need to remain calm and deliberate. We will continue to believe in the fundamental principles of our great FNM, including the collegiality, the democracy, the transparency, accountability and fairplay”
Sands added: “I think at the end of the day you know it when you see it and once it was clear that we had reached that point we took steps to discuss what is best for this great Free National Movement, and I can assure everybody who has provided us with overwhelming support that the love, the respect for traditions, the foundational principles of the Free National Movement are what are guiding our very, very serious steps. We realize just how unusual this is and yet we believe that our great party will be better because of it.”
Stressing that she plans to stick with the FNM and help build it back to strength, Butler-Turner said, “The Free National Movement is not a party that chose me. I said that on numerous occasions. It’s a party that I chose. I chose it because I believe in the ideals and philosophies of it.
“Many times when we’re faced with these challenges, we have to make decisions. My decision is to make this party better, make it more of the party for the reasons why I chose it. Those of transparency, accountability and good democracy. I have no desire to leave the Free National Movement at this time or any time in the future.”
She indicated that she is still interested in being renominated in Long Island.
Butler-Turner also promised not to do anything to damage the FNM’s brand.
“We’re working. We’re definitely working,” she said.
“The discussions will be ongoing.”