In a rare public statement that came days ahead of the start of the Free National Movement’s (FNM) convention, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham last night urged FNMs to unite, but did not address widespread speculation that he might seek a return to public life.
“Following the outcome of the leadership election in the Free National Movement this week, it is essential that the leader and the party quickly move toward unity and stability,” Ingraham said.
“This is especially necessary with a general election due within a year. The best way to ensure stability and unity is through a spirit of collegiality and cooperation, which must be fostered and exemplified by the leader of the party.
“This spirit of collegiality is the cornerstone upon which the FNM was founded. It is a foundational value of the party and of a parliamentary democracy with its system of cabinet government and collective responsibility.”
The convention will bring to a head months of tensions and acrimony within the FNM with several FNM MPs strongly opposed to current leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.
Those MPs have accused Minnis of being a divisive force and an incompetent leader.
Further addressing the unity theme in his statement, Ingraham said, “During the 19 years I had the privilege of serving as party leader, I sought to unify the FNM by working alongside and bringing into government those with whom I may have had policy or political disagreements and those who ran against me for the leadership of the party.
“This spirit of collaboration and creating a team out of a diversity of voices and perspectives is the best way for a party to move forward and to gain the confidence of its core supporters and the electorate in general.”
Ingraham did not criticize Minnis directly, but his statements on what the party leader ought to be doing will likely lead to some concluding that he is critical of Minnis and his inability thus far to unite the FNM.
The former prime minister said, “It is typical in a parliamentary democracy, as evidenced by recent events in the United Kingdom, that rivals be brought together for the good of the party and for the good of the country.
“Electorates reward party unity and stability and punish the lack of same in a political organization.
“Whoever is elected FNM leader must demonstrate the maturity and the wisdom to engage in open dialogue with all sections of the party. Unity will not be fostered and the FNM will be divided if there is a closed mindset toward or program of retaliation against opponents.”
That statement was an apparent reference to suggestions some in the FNM have made that Minnis should ensure the party denies nominations to the six MPs who have openly opposed him, if he is re-elected.
Ingraham said FNM supporters throughout the country and non-aligned voters are eagerly waiting to see the direction the party takes following the convention.
He said, “If the party moves toward real unity rather than simply talking about unity, many voters will feel reassured.
“But if the leader and leadership of the party do not make every effort to unite the party and to cooperate with others, the FNM will fracture and will face a general election unstable and disunited.
“I strongly urge the party to come out of the convention in a spirt of unity, which will require all sides, especially those who are victorious, to reach out in a spirit of reconciliation and collegiality. This is a time for magnanimity by all sides.”
He added, “The enduring theme of the Free National Movement is ‘all together’. It is my sincerest hope that the party comes together in a spirt of unity in order to defeat the PLP and rescue the country.”
This is the first substantive public statement Ingraham has made since he told The Nassau Guardian earlier this year he does not plan to return to public life. At the time, he also hinted at disappointment over certain goings on in the party.
In the months since that statement, the infighting has continued, spilling into the public domain.
Minnis is seeking re-election as leader. So far, the only other person to announce a leadership bid is Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner.
Ingraham retired from public life in 2012 after leading the FNM to an election defeat against Perry Christie and the Progressive Liberal Party.