(For The Punch – 10 January 2013)
by P. Anthony White
Today, 10 January, just over eight months since the “new” Progressive Liberal Party again became the government of The Bahamas, all is not well as prime minister Perry Christie and his administration face some worrisome challenges, particularly with regard to the embarrassing fiasco at the National Insurance Board.
Today, 10 January, also marks the 46thanniversary of this date back in 1967, when the PLP first became the government, in coalition with Labour and an Independent, with the late Sir Lynden Pindling as premier.
That event ushered in majority rule in The Bahamas, and all modern Bahamian history and sociology take relevance and significance from that happening.
Indeed the late Sir Randol Fawkes and Sir Alvin Braynen were grudgingly though sweetly part and parcel of the revolution had to be recognised and acknowledged for their roles as independent accommodators of that historic people’s achievement.
Nineteen-sixty seven was a year of some marked movements and occurrences on several diverse fronts.
That was the year surgeons began experiencing problems with the new technology of heart transplants, and when a short war broke out between Arabs and Israelis, with Israel emerging as a regional power.
In this region Donald Sangsterwas Acting Prime Minister of Jamaica, and Vere Bird, Sr became premiere of Antigua.
In the movies in 1967, “In The Heat of The Night” was rated best picture and “Bonanza” was the most-watched television show.
In New York City, The White Boy was winding up his educational odyssey.
Yet in the region and around most of the free world, what had happened in the small British colony of The Bahamas caused a stir.
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Although independence was not to come until 1973, sections of the international press insisted on likening the outcome of the 1967 elections to those activities in African territories resulting in freedom from colonialism.
At home that perception was fine with many, many people, since it attracted international sympathy and rendered the local leaders of the revolution somewhat greater champions.
Indeed it must be admitted that both at home and abroad, the 1973 independence mood and celebrations paled by comparison to the drama and the hoo-ha on 10 January 1967.
The adoption of the musical them from the movie Exodus (“This land is mine, God gave this land to me”), coupled with the analogy of the new premier to Moses and the Biblical significance of The Tenth Day of the First Month (10 January) had conspired to render the PLP’s 1967 victory a matchless national wonder.
And indeed it was. Only a fool would balk at that reality. Only political paranoia would cause rejection of that momentous item of Bahamian history. Yet history is a continuously evolving affair. Like time, it marches on, and new developments, new technologies, and new human perspectives require wise men and nations to keep apace.
The sad alternative is to become stuck in time, to become a slave to an irrelevant time or period, and as a result to be rendered almost useless to the real, modern, today world.
Progressive from 1967 the PLP, as the government until 1992, much to the credit of the late prime minister Sir Lynden Pindling, moved with the times, letting in new light and technologies, and embracing many opportunities for advanced national development.
If there were shortcomings and negative commissions and omissions which led to the party’s defeat in the 1992 general elections, they stand beside the accomplishments like National Insurance and the College of The Bahamas, but can never in honesty erase them.
However, when that political wheel turned in another direction with that unforgettable election of 1992, which ended the quarter century rule by the PLP, a new political, historical and developmental era descended upon The Bahamas. A new culture and a new generation of modern Bahamians began to dominate The Bahamas.
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The country sensibly faced those new challenges with modern tools and new and modern political and developmental ideas. The clear indication was that under the new government of the Free National Movement and its leader Hubert Ingraham, the promise of a new culture would indeed become reality, even at the expense of the prime minister’s popularity inside his own FNM enclave.
Those Bahamians who were still unemployed, those citizens who safety was jeopardised by criminal elements, and those forward-looking local entrepreneurs seeking economic break-throughs all wanted to be presented with a new, modern set of plans for relief based on that refreshing new culture.
They all appreciated the historical and historic significance of what happened in The Bahamas in January of 1967, even, in the case of the youth, if they had only read about it or had been lectured on it.
Yet they understood well that their needs could not be met, their problems solved, or a bright future guaranteed by a nostalgic step backwards through the looking glass into the wonderful memorabilia of 1967.
When the Free National Movement captured the government in 1992, it was primarily because the Bahamian people were reacting to the difficult and dark realities of the time. Back in the late 1970s, for example,
The White Boy was forced to take the decision to relocate with his family to the Cayman Islands and then to the Seychelles, because politics had, deliberately or otherwise, prevented his economic progress in his hometown. But leave that there.
When the government changed in 1992 after 26 years of PLP rule, the voters had shelved the magnetic wonder of 1967, had stripped off the rose-coloured glasses, and had seen life fully and seen it whole.
When in 1992 the people voted overwhelmingly for the FNM, it was out of utter necessity and common sense, and not because anyone thought any less of the significance of 1967.
That was why, when another election came in 1997, it was difficult to understand why so many responsible figures in the then opposition PLP, led by Perry Christie who is the present prime minister, would have wanted again to attempt using the dram and the glory of 1997 as any pivotal part of any serious election campaign.
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Whilst there might indeed have been pockets of fairly senior citizens to whom the PLP which brought majority rule and the Square Deal and free high school education would have been considered a sacred cow never to be repudiated, that lot would have been a quaint minority.
Even today a majority of modern, intelligent PLPs are not sheepishly impressed with the 1967 razzmatazz. They are certainly proud of their PLP, and most probably will continue to vote or the PLP because they believe a new PLP order, especially that launched last year as a platform Charter for Governanceis still possible. However, they ought sensibly to leave the 1967 PLP on the historical shelf.
Political parties and movements and causes and personalities change. They change because the people and the communities they serve are ever evolving. Any political organisation or personality stuck in a time and mentality frame is doomed, like the ghost of Jacob Marley, forever to walk the night.
The Free National Movement which contested the general elections of 1972 and 1977 would not at all have been expected to have captured the polls in 1992, except that those Bahamians who voted FNM in 1992, and who became admirers and supporters of the party understood completely what had happened in 1972.
They had come to appreciate and applaud those original eight dissidents who had walked away from power and glory to found a political three which would not bear fruit for a full twenty years.
Indeed even now, when the PLP is the government, if they have not yet done so, the present leaders and frontliners of the ruling PLP could still learn a valuable lesson from a study of the FNM, why the party kept losing, and how and why the party won in 1992.
For four elections after the 1967 revolution which brought majority rule, a majority of Bahamians voted PLP because – coupled with the fact that they could see change and development taking place around them and they were politically trained to believe that the opposition FNM was the white man – the glowing spectre of 1967 was forever emblazoned before them.
That corporate vision was shattered in 1992, even though, in 2002 and again last year in 2012, the new PLP under leader Perry Christie was able to reach deep into the political consciences of old and new PLPs, and not doubt of others among the populace willing to go again with the party that brought majority rule.
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Today on the 46thanniversary of majority rule, it is almost vulgar to involve that singular glory in the mud and the mist of partisan politics. Rather, wreaths should be laid to the champions like Clarence Bain and Milo Butler and Uriah McPhee and Carlton Francis and Doris Johnson and remember how they always kept things in perspective.
Of course today’s new PLP and prime minister must lead the way in that new direction . . . for what it’s worth.