By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
SAVE Our Bahamas committee member Pastor Lyall Bethel yesterday questioned whether Prime Minister Perry Christie was trying to use the gender equality referendum to secure a win at the polls in 2017.
Pastor Bethel suggested there may be an ulterior motive behind Mr Christie’s “obscene display of partiality and misuse of public funds” as he expressed frustration over the government’s refusal to fund ‘vote NO’ campaigns. The group is now appealing to the public for donations.
He further suggested that Mr Christie was determined to win at any cost, even though he has not publicly declared that the outcome of the June 7 referendum will foreshadow the outcome of the 2017 general election, as former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham did in 2002.
“It is utterly disgraceful,” he said. “The Prime Minister is treating public funds as if he’s getting it out of his own pocket. He’s been financing the Constitutional Commission for two years under a supposed education campaign, but it wasn’t because you never heard the other side. That was not able to make a dent in suspicion so he now starts a YES Bahamas campaign.”
Pastor Bethel said: “We have been made to understand that many of the persons are salaried positions, the (YES Bahamas) ads you can count them, every night there are five or six during a broadcast.”
“We’re watching daily as the Auditor General reveals the misuse of public funds,” he said. “The Prime Minister is adding to that travesty: who knows, perhaps to secure the next election. I don’t know what his motivations are, I just don’t know.”
The YES campaign is being funded by the government; however, its budget has not been made public.
The Save Our Bahamas Committee is urging Bahamians to vote no to the fourth constitutional amendment, which seeks to remove discrimination based on sex. The group, which staunchly opposed the 2013 gambling referendum, is adamant that the bill was part of a “diabolical” plot to allow for same-sex marriage.
Save Our Bahamas consists of Mario Moxey, senior pastor of Bahamas Harvest Church; Pastor Bethel, of Grace Community Church; Minister Kevin Harris; Alfred Stewart, senior pastor at New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church; and Geoffrey Wood, senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church.
Pastor Bethel yesterday made a public appeal for donations as the groups has been self-funding the campaign to date. Cheques can be made out to Save Our Bahamas and dropped off at any of the member churches.
“We want to encourage them,” he said, “if they do not want the matter of same-sex marriage snuck under the radar on us. If they feel they are being treated unfairly, that the government is acting inappropriate, come and support us.”
On Wednesday, Minister of National Security Dr Bernard Nottage announced that the symbols for the yes and no vote would be the scales of justice and a gate respectively.
Pastor Bethel said it was clear that the government was trying to subtly suggest that the YES campaign was seeking to balance the scales of justice, while the no campaign was closing the gates on forward progress. However, he said the symbol would be well-received as a rallying point for the vote no campaign members, who consider themselves the moral gatekeepers of the country.
Pastor Bethel said: “The PM has acted falsely on two referendums. First he voted yes in Parliament for the gender equality referendum and then went out and campaigned no, the gambling referendum is the second time,” he said. “Now one gets the impression he’s acting falsely for the third time. He needs to listen to those voices; they may not want to hear but play fair. Whether he does or not we’re prepared to raise the money and it will only make the defeat of his bills all the more painful for him,” he added.