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Minnis: Equal rights is proper way to go

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

FORMER Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis says he believes equalising citizenship rights is “the proper way to go,” adding his administration had planned to address the issue while in office.

Dr Minnis was asked to state his views on the Davis administration’s plans to advance legislation that aims to address the country’s citizenship issues.

 Attorney General Ryan Pinder foreshadowed the move during a press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister last week.

 “I can only speak what was our position when I was prime minister and we felt that there should be equality in terms of women being able to pass their citizenship on to their children regardless of which part of the world they are and where they are born, and we were going to ensure that that was done,” Dr Minnis told reporters at the Baha Mar Resort yesterday on the sidelines of a regional heads of government climate change conference.

 “We were prepared to bring in legislation and we understood the challenges, legislation versus constitution, and it can be challenged.”

 Currently, children born outside of the country to a married Bahamian woman and a foreign man are not automatically granted Bahamian citizenship and thus must apply to receive it.

 Bahamian men who have children with foreign women out of wedlock also cannot automatically pass on citizenship to their children.

 Efforts through a referendum to change the Constitution to equalise citizenship rights for men and women failed in 2002 and 2016.

 Dr Minnis said before legislation is presented to Parliament, he believes there needs to be a comprehensive educational campaign so Bahamians can know what equalising rights to citizenship means for the country.

 He said: “I think the way forward once it’s done it’s essential that before it’s done an extensive education process should ensue so the Bahamian populace understands exactly what you’re trying to do and what was done in the past and (why it) failed, etc.

 “But I think that in terms of equality that’s the proper way to go, but education is the most important thing and, like I said, when I was prime minister, we had discussed, it and we were going to do it.”

 Yesterday, Dr Minnis also expressed his views on the government’s plans to rewrite the Public Procurement Act.

 Initially, the Davis administration had planned to amend the act; however, Mr Pinder said Cabinet decided to rewrite it because the legislation in its current format had several “material issues” that restricted the government’s ability to govern effectively and respond to “real life” situations.

 Dr Minnis said while his government also had several concerns with the bill in its drafted form, they decided to advance it because they felt it was in the country’s best interest, especially in terms of making governments more transparent.

 “They voted for it. They did not oppose it,” he said. “The thing about public procurement is that when we discussed it, we had challenges also. We had concerns and one of the great concerns was that you were going to remove certain powers away from politicians and it was going to be more transparent and that was a great debate among us in terms of our Cabinet (meetings).”

 “We decided that the country had to be first. We had to move, advance the country forward in terms of transparency, equality and fairness to all so we made the decision that that was the proper thing to do and we knew that we would’ve had challenges, but we also knew that there were ways in which you could do certain things.”

 The former prime minister added: “We would’ve ran into in terms of obstacles, but they voted for it and it’s the proper thing to do to advance the country forward so that all contracts are transparent, fair play, etcetera, because many people feel that contracts are issued and they were not given fair play, a greater opportunity, a fair chance, etc.”

 “I think it was the proper thing to do and we had the challenges and concerns that they had, but the country must always be first.”