Friday, July 27, 2012

The decision by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) to oppose the 2002 referendum to end constitutional discrimination against women was defended by Prime Minister Perry Christie

PM defends PLP’s position on failed 2002 referendum

By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter

Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday defended a decision made by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) to oppose a 2002 referendum meant to end constitutional discrimination against women.

The failed referendum, which was held in February 2002, was introduced by the Ingraham administration and included six questions. It was strongly opposed by the PLP, the opposition party at the time.

The new Christie administration on Wednesday committed to bringing another referendum to the public to alter portions of the constitution that discriminate against women.

When asked why his administration planned to hold the referendum when it opposed similar changes a decade ago, Christie said the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was not fundamentally against ending gender discrimination.

He said at the time the party sided with members of the religious community who said the government did not consult them about the proposed changes.

“We opposed last time on a specific ground,” Christie told reporters on the sidelines of a conclave for parliamentarians at the British Colonial Hilton.

“I went to the Seventh Day Adventist annual gathering. I remember the then leader of the Seventh Day Adventist [Church] saying they weren’t consulted and that because they weren’t consulted they couldn’t’ participate.

“I then checked and found out that all of the churches were saying they weren’t consulted, and I went to my colleagues and said, for the purposes of the lack of consultation, we must oppose this unless [then Prime Minister Hubert] Ingraham decides to stop it and consult, and he didn’t and that is how we got to do it.”

When asked by The Nassau Guardian if the PLP’s stance against the 2002 referendum was a setback to women, Christie said, ‘No.’

He added: “I think the PLP’s opposition to the referendum was that you should never do something against the will of the people, and the FNM was actually acting against the will of the people.

“It was not a question of a judgment as to the substance of it; it was a judgment of the process. We attacked the process and we were successful in attacking the process.

“Now the by-product of it was that you say it wasn’t passed. Yes, it wasn’t passed, but we were never motivated against any issue on the referendum.  We were motivated against the fact that it was being imposed on the Bahamian people against their will.”

On Wednesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell said that Article 26 and the preamble to Article 15 of the constitution would have to be changed if the referendum is passed.

Mitchell did not say exactly when the referendum would be held, but said the PLP intends to hold it before the end of its five-year term.

The government also plans to call a referendum on gambling before the end of the year.

During the election campaign, the PLP said it would also hold a referendum on oil drilling if it were voted into office.

July 27, 2012