Monday, April 19, 2010

Ranking Women in the FNM have expressed alarm to PM Hubert Ingraham over the "disappearance of FNM women in prominent levels of national life"

FNM women hit out
By CANDIA DAMES ~ Guardian News Editor ~

Several senior women in the Free National Movement have expressed alarm to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham over the "disappearance of FNM women in prominent levels of national life", and said they are offended by his "callous dismissal" of their recent bid to meet with him to discuss the appointment of a governor general.

The women said they had recently become "very concerned" about several matters related to the functioning and public face of their party.

They failed in their efforts to convince the prime minister, who heads the FNM, to appoint former Cabinet minister Janet Bostwick to the high post.

Instead, Ingraham chose Sir Arthur Foulkes, who was sworn in last Wednesday.

In a letter dated March 29, 2010, the women wrote to Ingraham that they wished to express their opinions on the appointment that had been looming.

Their letter came before any announcement was made regarding Sir Arthur's appointment.

"Miss Italia Johnson (former Speaker of the House) reported to us that upon asking for an audience with you on our behalf, you told her that you had no need to be 'lobbied' on the matter," the women wrote.

"We write to express our extreme disappointment and dismay regarding this response and to say that we are offended at your callous dismissal."

Johnson and former FNM MPs Theresa Moxey-Ingraham and Jaunianne Dorsett were among the women who signed the letter to the party's leader.

The women said, "We have always considered ourselves much more than mere lobbyists in this great organization. In fact, history will reflect that from its inception, we have all played pivotal roles in the growth and development of this party and that we have successfully performed in every role.

"...We have worked diligently at every conceivable level of this party with the exception of leader, and we have carried our fair share of the burdens, responsibilities and blame that has gone into the building of a strong and successful political party.

"We are offended by the very term 'lobby'."

The women said they believe the appointment of Bostwick, an "iconic" woman in the party, to the office of governor general "is an opportunity for our party to regain some of the political prominence we enjoyed as an organization which respects and celebrates the contribution of women."

They said that in recent years, what had been perceived as a 'golden age' of prominence for FNM women in public life has turned into a wilderness period.

The women said that their numbers in Cabinet have been reduced; their numbers in the Senate have been reduced; few women have been appointed as chair or deputy of major public boards and committees, and true progress and prominence for the women in the party appears to have been stalled and "we have been dismissed and cast aside."

But in a response dated April 8, the party's leader failed to agree that FNM women were being cast aside.

"Each of you have held office in either our party or in governments which I have been privileged to lead between 1990 and 2002 and again from 2005 to the present," Ingraham wrote.

"You are no doubt aware that my dedication to equality of the sexes is not transitory nor politically motivated but rather fundamental to my belief system.

"I have never appointed women to positions of leadership or responsibility so as to appease a political faction or pander to any group. Women who serve in my administrations are held to the same standard as are their male colleagues. I have seldom been disappointed with the commitment of women to getting the job done and done well."

Ingraham told the women that he shared their view that Bostwick is worthy of every accolade that the party and government can offer, given her long years of service to the party and the party's cause of national political reform and social and economic advancement for Bahamians.

"Mrs. Bostwick was a valuable member of my Cabinet for 10 years," he noted.

"You should be aware that Mrs. Bostwick is fully aware of my personal high regard for her and of my gratitude and appreciation to her for her service to our party and to our country."

Ingraham said, "One of my greatest disappointments in public life has been my inability, and that of our party, to cause the majority of the adult Bahamian population to support the equality of the sexes in law and in practice.

"I am totally committed to the promotion of women and women's rights in our country. As the father of four daughters I can have no other view..."

Ingraham also said no one regrets more than he the dearth of women elected to the House of Assembly in the most recent general election.

"Indeed, it appeared as if we as a nation took a step backward when so many qualified and dedicated women offered by us to the electorate were rejected at the polls in 2007."

There is currently only one woman in Ingraham's Cabinet — Loretta Butler-Turner.

The only other female FNM MP is Verna Grant, who represents in Eight Mile Rock.

The Progressive Liberal Party has three female MPs — Cynthia 'Mother' Pratt, Glenys Hanna-Martin and Melanie Griffin.

In his letter to the FNM women, Ingraham said the fight to gain wide support and recognition of women must be fought in every corner of society.

"The victory will not come from political appointment but from genuine acceptance of women as viable political leaders," he said.

Referring to the controversial Marital Rape Bill, Ingraham said, "Since 2007 we have not been able to build a groundswell of support to afford married women the same level of protection against abuse by a spouse that is extended by law today to prostitutes."

The prime minister outlined his role and that of his administration — past and present — in advancing the cause of women in The Bahamas, including the appointment of the first female governor general and first female Speaker of the House of Assembly.

He ended his letter to the FNM women by advising that he proposed to appoint Sir Arthur governor general.

"Sir Arthur, who sacrificed much and who suffered long and hard in the political trenches of our country, all in the interest of furthering the cause of the Free National Movement, is now in his 80s," Ingraham wrote.

"I do not believe that we can properly postpone national recognition of his life work and sacrifice. He is most deserving of this tribute of respect and I trust that he will have the full support of the senior women of the Free National Movement."

In addition to the former female FNM MPs, the March 29 letter to Ingraham was signed by Patricia Johnson, Margaret Rodgers, Erma Williams and Althea Sands.

Apart from the "disappearance" of women in prominent positions in national life, they did not elaborate on any other concerns in their letter to their party leader.

April 19, 2010