Election Eve Address Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham 6 May 2012
My Fellow Bahamians:
Tonight I address you on the eve of a momentous day. Tomorrow Bahamians will go to the polls and participate in a free, democratic and fair election. As this country makes its choices on its path into the future, we must also look back and thank God for the gifts he has given us. It is true that the last five years have not been easy; it is true that our country has had to weather some stiff winds; through it all we have persevered and progressed. We have done this because despite our challenges, The Bahamas is a land of opportunity. It is a country we love; a country in which we will secure a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren.
It is our shared future especially that of our children and the nation’s youth that has been the driving motivation behind my parties’ efforts for the last five years. During our terms in office, we sought to create a greater Opportunity & Shareholding Society for all Bahamians regardless of one’s station in life or the circumstances of one’s birth. And we steered The Bahamas in a new direction. We ushered in an era of clean, accountable and transparent government; a government in the sunshine, productive, forward-looking and progressive. And, we revived the promise of The Bahamas and gave the nation renewed hope. We have worked nonstop to restore your trust. We are fighting on two fronts. We confronted the Great Recession, the worst global economic crisis in 80 years.
And we are relentlessly and aggressively tackling the long simmering problems of crime and violence. We are doing so by fighting the immediate effects of crime while addressing the conditions which have given rise to crime and a culture of criminality by some. We are making progress in economic recovery and national security. Yet, there is much work to be done. Just as we delivered the greatest overhaul of our criminal justice system and our national infrastructure and social security systems in decades, we will deliver more during our next term.
Should you re-elect us as the governing party we will build on what has been achieved. We will launch Jubilee Bahamas, a 10-year national plan leading to the 50th anniversary of independence.
A key component of Jubilee Bahamas will be the enhancement of Bahamian ownership of the economy through a Recovery and Growth Agenda focusing on jobs and wealth creation, small businesses, and support to entrepreneurs through innovative grants and incentives.
We will launch a Heritage Tourism Initiative and put in place incentives to stimulate and advance Creative Industries and a Creative Economy which will provide for sustainable economic growth and national development.
We will advance our Back to the Island campaign, which we hope will become the largest return of Bahamians back to the Family Islands in our history.
A rising tide must lift all boats. We will undertake the redevelopment of traditional Over-the-Hill communities through economic development, social development and intervention and genuine urban renewal.
Toward this end we have located new Government buildings in over-the-hill communities beginning with the Ministry of Health Complex on Meeting and Delancy Streets, the refurbished magistrates courts on Nassau St. and most recently the new Magistrate’s Court Complex on South Street. We are nearing completion of the comprehensive renewal of vital infrastructure: roads, drainage, water and other public utility services so necessary to stimulate and sustain economic activity and development in long neglected neighbourhoods. The development of a Native Market Place will provide an exhibit and display station for the sale of Bahamian produce and crafts from all over The Bahamas in the heart of old traditional neighbourhoods.
Our National Security Strategic Plan will guide our fight against crime, drug- and gun-trafficking, illegal immigration and poaching. Our aggressive and relentless anti-crime strategy fight will include the full-range of tools required in the arsenal of crime prevention and crime-fighting. We mean to fight both crime and its causes through law enforcement, social intervention and every available means possible.
Accordingly, we will introduce the most comprehensive social intervention and youth development initiatives ever in the modern Bahamas. We will transform the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. It will be the largest, boldest, and most wide-scale boost of the Force in its entire history. This will include the purchase of a new world class 21st century fleet of vessels and aircraft.
We will build on our Social Development Agenda in the fields of health care, education, housing and social security. We will introduce National Catastrophic Health Insurance. We will continue to build the best health care facilities in this region. We will expand home ownership. We will improve the quality of public education, including student performance. We will expand the national unemployment benefit. We will introduce an innovative system of conditional cash transfers for those qualifying for social assistance benefits.
We will deliver these and other pledges just as we have delivered for you in our prior terms in office; and we will do so with fiscal prudence and through clean, honest and accountable government. My Fellow Bahamians: Ours is a Commonwealth of great natural beauty and bounty. The resources of our Bahamas must be protected and the opportunities of our land more fully shared. This is why my successive governments have ensured a greater Shareholding society. This includes ending the monopoly by a few families of the ownership of the Port of Nassau. Today, as a result of my Government’s policies 11,065 Bahamians, as compared with less than 19 families, own shares in the Port of Nassau.
The possibility of finding oil in The Bahamas demands the greatest care and due diligence by any Government of The Bahamas. This will certainly be the case with any government that I lead. In this spirit I make the following pledge: The approval of drilling for oil in the pristine waters of The Bahamas is among the most momentous decisions that any Government of The Bahamas will ever have to make. This decision by your Government should never be influenced by any financial relationship that exists between the company seeking the permit and its paid consultants and attorneys. It is a decision with wide ramifications that will affect the very nature and essence of who we are as a country.
A Government led by me will not agree to any drilling for oil in The Bahamas until all necessary and appropriate regulations are in place and until we are fully and competently in a position to regulate such activity. This is essential to protect our environment and the world’s ocean beyond us from harmful and risky activity in our waters. I am not unmindful of what happened in the Gulf off the coast of Louisiana just two years ago. We certainly do not have the resources, human or financial, nor the billet, to respond as the United States Government responded. And even their response did not portent well for protection of the ocean bed and marine life from serious and lingering damage. The Bahamas is not now in a position to regulate and oversee drilling operations in our waters.
My greatest obligation is to do the right thing at any given time to protect the best interests of you, the Bahamian people, and that of future generations. I will not take any action to harm our country regardless of the promised financial reward for a select few consultants and legal representatives.
For me, Putting Bahamians First is a solemn duty. It is not a slogan I throw around in order to win votes. Putting Bahamians First is a duty I have sworn to uphold each time I placed my hand on the Bible and promised to abide by the constitution and protect the interests of Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition, his Deputy and one or more of their candidates and its election coordinator finds themselves on the eve of the General Election with an unprecedented and extraordinary conflict of interest on one of the most momentous decisions your Government will ever have to make.
My Fellow Bahamians: I wish for a moment to speak to the nation’s youth.
Dear Young Bahamians: I wish to complete what I began. I seek another and final term in office. You are not only the promise of tomorrow; you are also our hope for today.
The Bahamas of which we are all proud is home to an intersection of the world’s cultures and peoples. As a people, we have woven from the texture and fabric of Africa, Asia and the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean, a unique tapestry that is the Bahamian experience. We have created out of this diversity, a commonwealth of extraordinary talents way beyond the measure of our size. We have done so with enviable success in art and music, athletics and academia, and increasingly in entertainment and world fashion.
Our per capita medal count at the Olympics is a matter of great national pride. That we have more Olympic gold medals than a number of much larger countries highlights the immense potential of our young people and our athletes. We are a gifted people.
From Andre Rodgers in baseball to Mychal “Sweet Bells” Thompson in basketball to Myron Rolle in football, as well as others, our Bahamian talent has excelled in international athletic competition. The Bahamas has excelled in other arenas also. Our Rhodes Scholars speak to our potential in academics. We have journeyed from Sidney Poiter and Calvin Lockhart starring in films to Maria Govan and Kareem Mortimer making films. Joseph Spence and Max Taylor showcase our potential for artistic genius.
It is not an idle boast to invite the world to mark the manner of our bearing! As I said at the dedication of the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium: “The Bahamas National Children’s Choir and the Bahamas National Youth Choir have captivated thousands around the world. They leave their audiences wondering: “Who are these young people who so proudly call themselves Bahamian?”
And when others look at a world map and see our size and discover the size of our population, they ask themselves a follow-up question: “How does so much talent come from such a small country?” Might I add, they ask these questions in Russia where our National Children’s Choir had audiences on their feet swaying to Bahamian rhythms. In Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, at the Beijing Symphony Hall in China, and before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Nelson Mandela, our National Youth Choir brilliantly showcased what one reviewer described as their choral majesty and beauty.
Dear young people: Our success as a nation and the realization of your potential is not limited by our geographic size. Our success as a country will be determined by the boldness of our national vision, the breadth of our Bahamian Imagination and the strength of our national character.
I know of which I speak, because this land has afforded me opportunities I could not dream of as a child growing up in what was then a remote Cooper’s Town Abaco with my grandmother. Indeed, 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 from 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, fair play and an honest day’s work and a life-long commitment to helping others. Last week in Cooper’s Town, I dedicated this, my last campaign for the House of Assembly, to the memory of Mama. Tonight I rededicate myself to what has motivated me for my entire public life and that is to do for the Bahamian people what Mama did for me.
In this spirit and in the memory of all those ancestors and loved ones on whose shoulders we stand, let us together build an even greater Opportunity Society. Let us build an Opportunity Society in which every child in our land has the opportunity to use their God-given talents and their Bahamian imagination to realize their dreams and to help build a better Bahamas.
Tonight I have a feeling of profound gratitude. I thank the people of North Abaco for electing me to Parliament on 7 occasions and for the privilege of serving them over many years in public life. And, I ask North Abaco to re-elect me one more time. I thank all the Bahamian people for placing their trust in my leadership and that of successive FNM governments.
On behalf of my colleagues, I ask you, the Bahamian people, for another term to continue the good work we have begun. I ask you for five more years to complete the work of my lifetime and of the past five years.
Our Bahamas is an archipelago of opportunity and possibilities. We have a proud democratic heritage which will be on display tomorrow as the world marks the manner of our bearing. Let us conduct ourselves peacefully, with dignity, with mutual respect. At the end of the day, and of the many days thereafter, we remain one people, united in love and service.
So, let us, in one accord, continue to face the challenges of today and seize the promises of tomorrow, as we steer The Bahamas we love, Steady Sunward! May God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. I thank you and good night.
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