By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
PINERIDGE MP Frederick McAlpine’s outspoken stance in the capital has proved damaging back home as the executive council of his constituency association is up for re-election.
The 15-member council was dissolved last month in a move that seeks to shore up the association’s loyalty to the party, according to party insiders, who underscored the sitting council was split over its support of the controversial MP.
However, Mr McAlpine yesterday described the latest development in his strained relationship with his party as a “coup”. In an interview with The Tribune, he said he was ashamed by the “underhanded, undemocratic” agenda but ultimately decided not to challenge the upcoming election.
“The chairman came down and they had a meeting with the intention to dissolve the executive because the present executive supports me,” Mr McAlpine, pictured left, said.
“The few people who don’t support me are on the gravy train or are trying to get on the gravy train. What they’re doing as a party that extols democratic principles, transparency, accountability - it’s a coup.
“It’s a coup to ensure that they can put the people that they can control, in control, to make sure it goes the way they want. Even after a democratic executive was elected and won.”
FNM Chairman Carl Culmer confirmed the dissolution took place about two weeks ago following a vote, but declined further comment on the matter.
“The association agreed that they need to look at a fresh mandate because they felt as though the association is an FNM association and they want to ensure at the end of the day that we win the seat.
“The party will follow the wishes of the association, that’s the most I will say on that,” Mr Culmer said.
Mr McAlpine’s former campaign manager, Sanfred Rolle, said about nine executive members broke ranks with the MP and called for a meeting with Mr Culmer and Grand Bahama Council Chairman David Thompson.
Mr Rolle claims the MP has created a “divergence” ever since he was left out of the Cabinet, adding he personally spoke to Mr McAlpine several times telling him that he had “crossed the line”.
Hansel Collie, vice-chairman of the Pineridge Constituency Association, told The Tribune the council was dissolved due to conflict. Mr Collie stressed there was “110 percent” support for the Minnis-led administration despite Mr McAlpine’s critical statements.
“We had to close that because of the interference, a conflict we were having,” Mr Collie said.
“It was causing a whole bunch of problems. The MP would direct the chairman what he would like for the chairman to say in a meeting. If you notice every time [Mr McAlpine] go in the House of Assembly he say Pineridge sent him to say whatever he is saying.”
Mr Collie said: “We never sent him to say foolishness.”
“You know how the FNM go, we don’t dictate how you should run your council but if it’s going against our national policy then you have to dissolve it and get new members. Things wasn’t going as positive as we thought it should go.
“The first time when we had elections it was sort of a handpick. The MP is responsible for choosing his people who he want to be there. But the executive this time it will not be that way. This time its not going to be handpicked. The people are really going to decide who they want,” Mr Collie added, “there will be no interference.”
Mr McAlpine told The Tribune in March he intends to run again in the Pineridge constituency even if he does not get the nomination from his party.
Yesterday, the Pineridge MP said he believes his executive members could win the upcoming elections but will not participate in “petty politics”.
Mr McAlpine has broken ranks with his party on several issues and has been critical of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis on many occasions, including his harsh criticism of Dr Minnis’ failure to address the conduct of two FNM Cabinet ministers relating to the Frank Smith bribery and extortion trial.
He believes the ministers should be treated the same way as he and two other FNM colleagues, who were fired from various appointed posts last year based on rules of the Westminster system when they voted against a VAT increase.
Most recently, he abstained from voting in favour of the government’s recently passed Immigration Amendment Bill 2019. Mr McAlpine said he believes it effectively puts Bahamians in the back seat.