Prime Minister Perry Christie.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie on Friday condemned St Anne’s MP Hubert Chipman’s claim that the boundaries report he signed off on differed from the one tabled in the House of Assembly last week.
On February 13, Mr Chipman sent a letter to House Speaker Dr Kendal Major in which alleged that the report he signed as the Official Opposition’s representative on the Constituencies Commission was different from the one Mr Christie presented to Parliament.
Mr Chipman is currently travelling to Guyana for CARICOM meetings alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell and a government delegation.
Mr Christie called the St Anne’s MP’s allegation “distressing”, and revealed that he has instructed Mr Mitchell to tell Mr Chipman that his action was “a terrible thing (to do)”.
“The report was not touched,” the prime minister said. “The report that he signed came to Parliament as is. I made a communication indicating that whenever a debate is finished, as prime minister under the constitutional powers that I have, I was going to recommend one change that was agreed to when we did the resolution, and that was a name change from Montagu to Freetown. So it is a distressing sort of intervention that he made because a judge of the Supreme Court who always says, ‘Listen, I’m not here to play the politics, I’m here to guarantee fairness’ (was on the commission). And that judge signed off on it. Everyone who knows the Speaker (of the House) knows the Speaker is a man who prides himself on being fair and (he signed off on it), so I think (what Mr Chipman did) was unfortunate.”
Mr Christie said he assumes Mr Chipman did what he did because he was “forced” or “coerced” into signing the document “for the purpose of laying the foundation for legal action”.
Supreme Court Justice Ian Winder granted permission on Thursday to members of the Opposition who are challenging the constitutionality of the boundaries report in Court to submit Mr Chipman’s letter to the court.
Without that letter, the applicants for judicial review would have to contend with the fact that all five members of the commission – including Mr Chipman – signed the report that was later tabled in the House.
“There was absolutely no change from what Brave Davis, Jerome Fitzgerald, the Speaker, the Justice of the Supreme Court and Hubert Chipman signed,” Mr Christie said. “Their report came in as is. It went to the Governor General as is and it came to Parliament to me as is. I reviewed it and for reasons that I stated, ancestral reasons, since Blair and all of those were no longer in that large grouping in Montagu, since Ingraham had taken St Thomas More and submerged it into Montagu, just looking at it and the substantial number of residents in Kemp Road and right around there, a good and appropriate take would be to name it Freetown.”
Applicants for leave to commence judicial review proceedings into the Order on the boundaries also allege that it represents gross gerrymandering.
To this Mr Christie said: “They claim that but this is all part of the politics of the election season. You would’ve heard the PLP say the same things in the past; it’s something that opposition parties say and do and when Hubert Ingraham did the boundaries in the last election, we won. When I did the boundaries in 2007, the FNM won. As someone rightly said, lines, those lines don’t vote. People vote. People wherever they are will determine who forms the next government of the Bahamas; the rest of it is just posturing. Now they are before the court. I’m told the court reserves judgement for Tuesday. We’ll see. I was convinced om the basis of advice I received that at the end of the day we will be justified in continuing on the lines of 39 constituencies and that’s what we’re doing now. In fact, if it ever goes back to 38, I’m in a much stronger position, with all those wonderful parts of Englerston that Ingraham gave me and St Cecilia.”