North Abaco; Abaco Young People; F-N-Ms:
If home is where the heart is, my heart is full tonight here at home in North Abaco. From Grand Cay to Coopers Town, Crown Haven, Dundas Town and Fox Town I have had the privilege of a lifetime representing you in the honourable House of Assembly.
It has also been my privilege to serve the needs of every community that is a part of the history of Abaco from Crown Haven to Man-O-War Cay to Moore’s Island.
Tonight, I have come to ask you, the good and loyal people of North Abaco for one more term to complete the journey we began when you first elected the grandson of Prince and Elizabeth Cornish nee Cooper to Parliament some 35 years ago.
My navel string is buried in Pine Ridge, Grand Bahama. But my heart string was nourished on this soil, so deeply tied to the Cooper-Bootle family line.
Family and Friends:
The Cooper’s Town of Mama’s youth provided little opportunity for formal learning. There was no school in Cooper's Town when she was growing up.
Mama and others had to walk five miles through the bush to Old Place to attend school. But those of her generation knew many life lessons which are often so much more essential than formal schooling
The book in which these values and lessons of common sense are written for the ages, might be called the Book of Character, passed one generation to the next by the examples we give and the stories we tell.
My grandmother couldn’t write her Story with pen and paper. Yet she told her story no less in the power of her example and the life lessons she planted into my heart and spirit, and that of so many others.
Mama instilled deep within me the life lessons of industry, self- reliance, fortitude, community, and an honest day’s work and a life-long commitment to helping others.
Papa taught me how to fish and how to love fishing; a love which endures to this day. It was from catching crawfish with my cousin Glenn Russell that I would earn my first savings. Fishing has also taught me many life-lessons like the importance of timing and when to throw out your line and when to bring it back in.
One lesson Mama drilled into me was the importance of schooling. She was determined that I would get whatever learning was available in Cooper's Town and more.
Her great joy was when she discovered I could read and write. Not only did I become her regular letter writer but also Unca Reaches'. She demanded that her letters be written exactly as she said. Mama would tell all and sundry, “This boy gat learning.”
I became a Monitor at 12 and a pupil teacher at 14. I also learned how to be a wireless operator and was responsible for the delivery of groceries for Uncle Cal's shop, Uncle Clarence Poitier shop and Uncle Sam's shop. I guess I’ve been in the business of delivering for a long time.
Mama finally agreed that at 17, I was old enough to go to Nassau and work at BATELCO. Mama had saved my earnings from fishing and running errands. Those savings, together with money which she and Uncle Lee gave me, were sufficient for her to buy me a new 3-speed bicycle in Nassau. It cost $27.10, a lot of money those almost 50 years ago.
Mama didn’t like the idea of me working night shifts at BATELCO. So, I had to negotiate a transfer to the accounting department to appease her. Shortly thereafter, I found a new job at the bank. In Nassau, I also went to evening institute at Government High to work on some more learning.
The bike Mama bought me was eventually stolen. Without a bike, going to work meant walking both ways, from Clark Lane off Mackey Street to Bay Street and back. It also meant walking to my Aunt Natalie on Wulff Road in the evening to wait until it was time for the evening institute and then walking back to Clark Lane. But it was all for a good purpose...learning.
I returned home to Abaco in 1966 to work as paymaster for Owens-Illinois. The pay was good, $180 per week plus housing, transportation and three meals a day. But, I wanted to be a teacher.
Mama had other ideas. She wanted me to be a lawyer. She wanted me to go back to Town “to finish my learning”. Back in Nassau, I bought my first car for $2,000. More importantly I bought my first piece of land. Land was always important to Mama. You had to own land.
I continued my learning, of course. I began article student at McKinney, Bancroft and Hughes. The pay wasn't so good. I got $75 a week. Mama steadily watched the progress of her boy.
She was with me for all the important events in my life both private and public: at my call to the Bar, at my wedding, at the birth of Delores' and my children, at my election to Parliament for the first time in 1977, my appointment as a Cabinet Minister in 1982, all my major speeches in Parliament, becoming Leader of the Opposition in 1990 and finally becoming Prime Minister in 1992.
I believe Mama finally accepted that I had grown up when I became Leader of the Opposition in 1990. She stopped telling me what to do. It was as if she was satisfied that I had gotten where she wanted me to go.
Thereafter, she only offered advice. She remained well-informed to end of her 102 years. She listened to every news broadcast. She followed my public career closely. I am especially proud that she had the opportunity to live to see her grandson become Prime Minister.
It was as if her dream and faith in The Bahamas reached a fuller measure than she could have ever imagined. I have tried my best to deserve being “her boy” and to make her proud because, for me, she lived a life of self-denial, a life of hard work and of sacrifice.
I was only able to add chapters to my Bahamian story because of the early chapters of that story which Mama helped me to write. My story is so deeply tied to hers and yours.
In this, my last campaign for the honourable House of Assembly from North Abaco, I hope you will permit me a personal moment as I dedicate my campaign to the memory of Mama. In so doing, I rededicate myself to what has motivated me my public life...to do for the Bahamian people what Mama did for me.
When I speak of the Opportunity Society, I speak of the kind of community and country of which my grandmother would have dreamt. It is a Bahamas where every child has the opportunity to use their God-given talents to realize their dreams and to help build a better Bahamas.
For me, another word for opportunity is hope. I have often been distressed and alarmed during this election, as to the degree that our opponent’s campaign has been based on negativity and fear...with very little talk of hope.
To seek to tear down the country in order to lead it is a strange bargain. Sadly, their desperation has turned to panic resulting in behaviour that does not make them worthy of the privilege of your trust.
Ours is not a perfect land. There are many challenges to overcome, especially during these tough times. We have to advance the recovery and growth of our economy and battle serious crime while better protecting our borders, fisheries and marine resources.
For all of our challenges, this is still a blessed land. It is a land of hope and opportunity. Another civil servant recently noted the gratitude of her and her family, which not a single public officer was laid off during the Great Recession unlike many countries around the world.
I understand that they had another All About Ingraham PLP Rally last night in Nassau. They seem to think that “it’s all about me”. They clearly don’t understand that it’s all about you, the Bahamian people. They believe that it’s all about me because I am in their way.
What they don’t understand is that I’m not here in their way because I put myself here. I am here because you put me here. And I take my responsibilities to you seriously. I serve as the gate-keeper to keep them out. Without me they would happily go about their wheeling and dealing and dishonesty and crookedness; they would sell you out.
They say Lady Pindling told many stores about me last night. First of all, let me say this: you know and I know, Lady Pindlng and me ain’t no friends; never have been friends. Secondly, the man about whom she spoke last night, Perry Christie, he and I have talked about it many, many times. He can say whether she is now a friend of his, but the Perry Christie I know – she was never a friend of his! And he is no friend of hers either! I understand her hurt she must feel at losing the life of privilege she believed she is entitled to live at the expense of the Bahamian people. Well power in this country belongs to the people and those of us like me and her, who are fortunate enough to get elected should never forget that – the power is yours, not ours!
They cause me to remember the saying: when you are rich, do not squander; when you are poor, do not cry. Many in the elite and leadership of that other Party would do well to learn and remember that.
Yes, you the Bahamian people and I caused her and them to lose their positions of entitlement. We do not regret having done so one little bit. It was time for them to go and we must together ensure that they never, ever come back.
And I am very proud indeed to have been the principal of the instrument – the Free National Movement – which ensured that they departed this place and helped to keep them out of this place.
They do not have your interest at heart. They call their Rallies Rush for Gold; what they really mean is rush for oil!
Keep them out, before they sell you out!
Though we have the challenges of today and tomorrow, we can and we must seize what is right and good in this country to transform what is sometimes wrong and bad.
I have been through the storms of life. I know the depths of the valleys and the rocky heights of the rough side of the mountain. While my journey, like many of yours, has often been solitary, I have not walked alone.
A simple but compelling faith has grounded me and always reminded me of whence I came and who I belong to.
In my public service, I, along with my colleagues, had to restore the economy and good name of The Bahamas beginning in 1992. We faced also the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. This term we had to face a Great Recession which turned out to be worst global economic crisis in 80 years.
But we are a resilient people. Indeed, the Abaco that we love, boasts a community which bears the name Hope Town, the sight of a world-famous candy-cane-striped lighthouse. Whether a coincidence or not, I note that the main colour on the Hope Town lighthouse is red, not some other passing colour.
The residents who named Hope Town saw in The Bahamas a land of hope and opportunity. What these early pioneers saw in The Bahamas became a reality for them and eventually the descendants of slaves through the first and second Bahamian emancipation.
From around the world and the Americas, many others have journeyed to The Bahamas seeking opportunity and hope. The Islands of The Bahamas are Communities of Opportunity and Hope because our Bahamas is an archipelago of possibilities.
We are a great country. Not because of our size. We are a great country because of the great hope and opportunity this land affords. I know of which I speak. That Elizabeth Cooper Cornish’s grandson had the opportunity of serving as I have had, speaks to the enduring power and vitality of our Bahamian Dream and our Bahamian Story.
My public life has been dedicated to being a keeper of the flame of hope, ever expanding greater opportunity for every Bahamian child in every island, settlement, cay and neighbourhood in our Commonwealth. We have also kept bright our FNM torch which stands for progress, freedom and good governance.
I believe not only in the possibilities of communities all over this island stretching from the farthest reaches in the north to the outermost reaches of the south of Abaco. I also see the great possibilities and the extraordinary talents of young Bahamians in communities throughout The Bahamas like Bain Town and Grant’s Town; Kemp Road and Kemps Bay, Andros; Black Point, Exuma and Landrail Point, Crooked Island, and Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera and Bullock’s Harbour, Berry Islands.
I see the hope for today and for tomorrow in Bannerman Town, Eleuthera, Duncan Town, Ragged Island, Clarence Town, Long Island and Arthur’s Town, Cat Island. I see it in the village of Staniel Cay and Nassau Village, as well as in Abraham’s Bay, Mayaguana and Red Bays, Andros, and, of course, from East to Central to West Grand Bahama and Bimini.
When you drive into Savannah Sound, Eleuthera, whether from north or south, there is a sign which greets one and all. It announces: “Welcome to Savannah Sound Town Ship, Home of Mr. Timothy Gibson, Composer of the National Anthem.”
The people in Sound, as they call it, have a different accent from the people in Hatchet Bay, Deep Creek or Current, though they all live on Eleuthera. What is true for Eleuthera is true for Abaco, and for all of The Bahamas.
We are all proud to be a Bahamian, no matter the accents of voice or the circumstances of birth. No matter the accents of our island-chain, when you are travelling back home from overseas, you tell a Bahamian accent.
And no matter, the individual threads of our various Bahamian accents, when we sing March On Bahamaland, our national chorus is more powerful than our individual accents. Indeed, in the words of the National Pledge, we are “one people, united in love and service”. No one party can claim that they love The Bahamas more than any other.
“All of we is one family”, and families sometimes have differences of opinion...which is exactly what a general election is. Our Bahamian family is having a spirited debate over the future of the country we all love and to which we all pledge our allegiance.
In this campaign for the direction of our Bahamas, we believe that we have the better vision and record. We believe that we have the better leadership and team. We believe our country continues to need a Delivery Team and not a Talking Team, especially in these tough times.
The country cannot afford to have someone “as Prime Minister” who mostly talks and seems incapable of delivering on his many, many promises. The country doesn’t need a talker in the Prime Minister’s Office. It needs a doer and a leader who delivers.
It took teamwork for the FNM to complete 95 per cent of the promises in our 2007 Manifesto. I am proud of and grateful for the Delivery Team I was privileged to lead from then until now.
Leadership requires teamwork. This is why I have travelled the length and breadth of the country to ask the Bahamian people to send back our Delivery Team to finish the work we started. I ask you, on behalf of the FNM, to give us an opportunity to complete the work that we began.
I understand that the Leader of the Opposition was promising to come to North Abaco. We welcome him. There will be no interference or people bussed in as a rent-a-crowd. We would like him to see what we have done in North Abaco and across Abaco these many years. We also invite the media to come and compare what has been done here, as compared to Centreville and Farm Road, much of which he has represented for 35 years.
We’d like him to come to this town of Cooper’s Town, where when I was a boy, we didn’t have an outside toilet – I used to go in the bush. Most homes had a well to get water from. We fortunately had a pump, but most homes had a well.
I’d like him to come here, walk through Cooper’s Town and find me an outside toilet! I’d like him to walk, and find a house that doesn’t have running water in Cooper’s Town. Then I’d like him to go to Farm Road where he represented and tell me what he finds there.
That’s what Leadership does and that’s what good representation does.
It is telling that of the three Members of Parliament who did not use substantial portions of their MP allowances to improve the lives of their constituents, all three were PLPs: Perry Christie, B.J. Nottage and Alfred Gray in MICAL.
Whether in government or in opposition, the PLP leadership seems allergic to hard work and incapable of getting thing done. This is why their LOL or laugh-out-loud promise of doing in a just 100 days, many of the things they didn’t do in 1,825 days is a greater flam than that magical healing water that was being sold some years ago.
That concoction water would do for your health exactly what the PLP will do for you - give you false hope; both will fail to deliver on the results promised, and both will leave you with plenty heartache. Don’t drink that thing they have labelled as Gold Seal, sorry, I mean Gold Rush.
That Gold Rush mixture is really cuckoo soup. If you drink that cuckoo soup on May 7th, you’ll wake up the next day, and the next 100 Days and more praying for deliverance. As prevention is better than cure, vote FNM so you don’t have to endure 1,825 days and nights of PLP scandals and corruption. If you think they were bad before, they’ll be 100 times worse this go around.
I want to speak especially to every Family Island and to the residents of the many cays in our country from Long Cay in the south to the cays of the Exuma Chain in the Central Bahamas to Guana Cay and Sweetings Cay in the north.
Timothy Gibson, who composed our national anthem and other songs of beauty, hailed from a Family Island. He expressed in his music a vision of The Bahamas that blends the accents, the voices, and the talents of all Bahamians to build one country and one people.
Likewise, the Opportunity Society we are fostering extends to every island in our archipelago of possibilities, our archipelago of hope, our land of opportunity.
This is why your FNM has worked relentlessly from 1992 to provide the basic human services and infrastructure every major island group needs to create Communities of Opportunity and Hope from Inagua to Acklins to San Salvador to Bimini to Spanish Wells and Harbour Island and throughout our Family of Islands.
Even as we have been creating a new, New Providence, we are encouraging sustainable development throughout our far-flung archipelago. In a number of ways, Abaco is a model for Family Island development.
Our Islands of The Bahamas are, in m many ways, just at the dawn of many great things to come. The PLP vision reminds me of those people in earlier times who thought the earth was flat. For our part, we look to the horizon and beyond.
It is the FNM which has the proven and bold leadership, and the dynamic new talent to steer the Bahamian ship of state Steady Sunward. Christie and crew will cause our ship of state to run aground or get caught in a big oil slick.
Just like those earlier pioneers who came to The Bahamas, we have a whole new Bahamas to build as we discover the extraordinary potential of this country. But this great national mission requires leadership.
My vision is to make The Bahamas a global model for small-island state development. We propose to build a 21st century Bahamas, leaving none behind.
Our vision of holistic and sustainable development includes public investments in schools, hospitals and clinics, power generation, water, roads, docks and ports, public safety, airports and other public goods.
It remains a source of some pride for this community that within two years of the FNM becoming the Government in 1992, that a major clinic was built and opened in Coopers Town.
This term, my Government accelerated our long-range programme of expanding government services in our Family Islands inclusive of the Public Treasury, Registrar General’s Office and the Passport Office.
When it officially opens, Abaco, along with Grand Bahama will have the most modern Government Administrative Complex anywhere in The Bahamas, including New Providence. They will all be far better than the Prime Minister’s office in Nassau.
All of this will help to sustain population growth and attract domestic as well as foreign direct investment. We seek also to entice new residents including Bahamian, and non-Bahamian second home owners. Those who say such silly things about infrastructure in places like Nassau take for granted how much difference even the most basic infrastructure adds to the quality of life for Family Islanders.
And so ladies and gentlemen of Abaco, I ask you for this one final time to represent you in the House of Assembly. Mr. Christie told The Bahamas that I am going to lose this seat. I always figured something was wrong with Christie.
Next week Wednesday, we will be back in Abaco – we’ll have a rally in the South; Marsh Harbour.
We are going to win this election, God willing. You know, in 1997 the FNM became the first and only Party in The Bahamas to win every Family Island seat except one.
We once again stand an opportunity to do the same thing in 2012. We are making great progress in New Providence. We are going to win and win big here in North Abaco and in South Abaco.
We thank you very much for your support, we will continue to develop you. I look forward, with great anticipation to the development of the port here at Conch Rock in North Abaco; one of the incomplete things I have on my agenda – so we can create a better balance of the economic development and growth of the island of Abaco so the North can develop just as the Central has developed.
In nine days time, we will be the Government again.
Now, you’re not going to see me anymore before the election other than when I come here on Wednesday to speak up in Marsh Harbour.
Other than that, I will see you after election when I will return to you as the Prime Minister of The Bahamas once again!
Thank you very much! Good night!