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NASSAU, Bahamas -- Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney last night called on Bahamians to "redefine the possible" before unveiling the first group of candidates who will run on the ticket of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) in the next general election.
The DNA introduced 10 of its 41 candidates, which include three young candidates, whose ages range between 28 and 38, according to party Chairman Mark Humes. The candidates named were Kelphene Cunningham (Garden Hills); Floyd Armbrister (Exuma); Sammy Poitier (Sammy Star) (South Beach); Farrel Goff (Clifton); Ben Albury (Montague); Adrian LaRoda (MICAL); Roscoe Thompson (South Abaco); Charlene Paul (Elizabeth) and Alfred Poitier (Kennedy). McCartney -- the party's leader -- intends to run again for Bamboo Town.
The DNA was unveiled before more than 1,000 people at the Wyndham Nassau Resort on Cable Beach.
McCartney, a former minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, outlined his party's vision for the country. McCartney painted a picture of a utopian Bahamian society that would be created by his party replete with litter free roads, well-landscaped gardens, stunning architecture, sidewalk cafes and rows of theatres for playwrights.
"The vision of the DNA is to transform The Commonwealth of the Bahamas into a nation where Bahamian people will be esteemed as the most precious resource - above all natural and material resources - and the nurturing of our intelligence and creative brilliance will help us become a genuinely democratic, economically prosperous, and socially mobile 21st century nation," the party's mission statement states.
McCartney insisted last night that the DNA will construct a "new Bahamas," a theme he pressed into the audience throughout his opening address. And he borrowed the line of "change," which U.S. President Barack Obama used to win the seat of the highest office in the world three years ago.
(Tim Aylen photo)
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Dr. Hubert A. Minnis (FNM-Killarney), the leader of the official opposition, has his work cut out for him. He has some big political shoes to fill as he seeks to reconstruct and mold the shell-shocked Free National Movement (FNM) in his own image. The ever pervasive shadow and hologram of Hubert A. Ingraham (FNM-North Abaco) loom large over his shoulders.
I have long predicted that Dr. Minnis would emerge as de facto leader of the FNM, even if, for the time being, the former leader is, in fact, the de jure leader of that defunct party. So said, so done. At a recent press conference or was it a one man, as usual, diatribe, Ingraham demonstrated that he is still of the bogus and mistaken view that he is still relevant in Bahamian politics.
The biggest single reason why the FNM went down in flames in the general election is Ingraham and his abrasive style of leadership. Yes, he used to be relevant, bold and fresh. Today, he is irrelevant, timid and stale, with all due respect. His shelf life has expired but he continues to act and believe that Bahamians still want to purchase a rancid loaf of bread.
Dr. Minnis, however, has what it takes to become prime minister of this nation. Some misguided persons think that it is all about being bombastic. Others, just as deluded, believe that a leader must wear his or her mantle on their shoulders like some big and bad bully.
The days of such leaders are over in The Bahamas. What we want today is a mixture of both where compassion is combined with laser-like focus on the issues and concerns which impact ordinary Bahamians on a daily basis. Political insecurity and one-man band scenarios have plagued our country for too long and we must move beyond them. Who is Dr. Minnis the man and is he up to the task of unseating the now resurgent Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration?
I am not a PLP and I would not even talk about the FNM. What I am, however, is a true born Bahamian who has an unequalled passion for my country and the orderly advancement of all who call this nation home, bar none. Political tribalism will be the death blow to the hoped for success of the PLP. Far too many so called PLPs believe that God Himself bestowed this nation upon them and to hell with the rest of us who may not belong to their tribe.
Already one is witnessing the return to positions of influence of the "old guard" within the PLP and already one is able to cringe when one sees how contracts and other governmental favors and perks are being handed out, like candy, to those who bow at the altar of Perry Christie and the boneless sycophants who worship the rest of them.
Mind you, don't get me wrong, in politics this is the way it is. I submit, however, that there must be several slices of the collective loaf of bread available for other Bahamians regardless of political affiliation. It is morally wrong and politically unacceptable for the whole hog to be shared amongst only those who belong to a governing party.
This is the difference which Dr. Minnis will bring to the table. He is a self-made man whose means have very little to do with his political posture or the virtue of his being in the House of Assembly. Whatever he might have he earned it the old fashioned way by hard work, focusing on an agenda and by prudent investments with his own income.
Lynden Pindling, Christie and Ingraham, by contrast, never had to really work hard in their natural lives. None of them, God bless them all, has ever had to work "hard" in the private sector for too long.
Dr. Minnis came from relatively humble beginnings and had to go out to work early in his life. Yes, his father may have been able to do something for him, but basically he came up the rough side of the mountain. He has a tenacity and attention to detail that few frontline politicians seem to possess or have the ability to display. His speaking style is adequate to the task at hand and he is a sharp debater in the House of Assembly. His feathers are not ruffled easily.
In going to meet the man called Dr. Hubert A. Minnis, I am of the firm view that he is more than capable and able to stand his ground in any and all circumstances. I am also aware that some of my PLP friends and enemies (and I have a load of them both) will question why I seek to praise and embellish the abilities of the leader of the opposition but I call a spade a spade. I serve at the altar of no tin gods, iron men or Fruit of the Loom women.
"Going to meet the Man" is the title of a book written some years ago by the now deceased, celebrated black American writer James Baldwin. The sentiments expressed therein by Baldwin are applicable, in today's context, to the leader of the opposition. Dr. Minnis, eventually, will reconstruct and mold the now shell-shocked FNM into a force to be respected by its detractors.
If the PLP fails to deliver on its big gold dream, the average Bahamian will be merciless in his/her treatment of that party come the next general election. The immediate task at hand for Dr. Minnis, however, may well be a hopeless one. The upcoming by-election in North Abaco, in my submission, will be lost, big time by the FNM unless they immediately put certain measures in place.
In going to meet the man, Dr. Minnis must rise to the occasion. If he fails to do so, and I am of the view that he is being set up to so do, his leadership momentum will be subjected to severe challenges. Do I know how they in the FNM would be able to retain North Abaco? Absolutely. Will I so advise them?
To God then, in all things, be the glory.
- Ortland H. Bodie Jr.
At least 11 people are dead as a result of a suspected human smuggling operation gone wrong off Abaco a few weeks ago. Authorities fear 10 other passengers, who remain unaccounted form the vessel 'Cosy Time', are dead.
Twenty-eight passengers were reportedly onboard the vessel and seven people survived. The victims are all thought to be of Haitian descent.
National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage has told the House of Assembly that one of the survivors, a man of Bahamian-Haitian descent, said he boarded the boat because his mother insisted he go to the United States on the vessel.
"The gentleman further stated that he believed each person paid a total of $5,000 a head for the journey," Dr. Nottage said.
The Bahamas is a major smuggling zone for people and narcotics to the United States from South America and the Caribbean. However, there are usually no prosecutions for human smuggling for some reason.
Most of the people smuggled here are Haitians and many die trying to escape the poorest country in the hemisphere.
Thus far one person has been charged in connection with the deaths in Abaco. Several others have been taken in to custody for questioning. The man who has been charged is innocent until proven guilty in a court. We make no comment on his guilt or innocence, but we commend the government for this time investigating this matter seriously and seeking to bring before the court those it suspects responsible so that a jury could decide their fates.
One of the ways to slow human smuggling is to aggressively prosecute those involved. When migrants are killed in human smuggling operations those who organized the operations and those who command the vessels are criminally responsible for those deaths. Manslaughter charges should be leveled against smugglers who survive these tragic occurrences.
If we do not get tough with this heinous crime it will continue and more desperate people will lose their lives seeking better lives away from their economically challenged homelands.
The witness told police one of the boat's engines kept cutting off, which slowed it down.
"He reported that the seas were very rough and the vessel began to take on water," Dr. Nottage said.
"The vessel eventually capsized and everyone began to scramble to save their lives. He reported that he did his best to save other persons, but the sea was too rough, so he had to save his own life."
We must not just view this situation as tragic. The Bahamas should use it as an opportunity to change how we deal with human smugglers. They prey on the desperation of poor people.
In the weeks leading up to the May 7 general election, the former Free National Movement (FNM) government purchased the old Island Palm Resort for $1.9 million to facilitate the expansion of the Rand Memorial Hospital. The former Ingraham administration had already spent some $12 million in upgrading the accident and emergency theater and the reconstruction of the theaters at the local hospital.
According to the former FNM Minister of Works Neko Grant, in the April 13 edition of The Freeport News, the Island Palm Resort would have been demolished to make provisions for a facility that would provide 180 beds that are needed for healthcare in the northern region. It was anticipated that the construction phase of the new healthcare facility would have injected millions into Grand Bahama's decimated economy.
Perhaps all Grand Bahamians are agreed that the Rand Memorial is in dire need of more rooms. The island's population has simply outgrown that facility, which was built in the 1960s. Grand Bahama's population in 2012 is perhaps two or three times larger than it was in 1969. That is why many Grand Bahamians welcomed the FNM's plan to use the property to facilitate the expansion of the local hospital. And seeing that it is right next door to the Rand Memorial Hospital, it made every sense in the world. But obviously the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government does not see it that way. According to Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis, the PLP government is planning on converting that property into a much needed homeless shelter.
This recent announcement by the deputy prime minister has raised many concerns in the business community, especially in the downtown area of Freeport. Many business persons don't view this new plan by the Christie administration as an improvement to the infrastructure of the island. According to one business person, the government is regressing as opposed to moving forward to provide the infrastructure that would benefit the island.
Still, no one can deny that a homeless shelter is needed in Grand Bahama. Unfortunately, homelessness is a reality in Freeport. While many uppity middle-class persons would like to bury their heads in the sand and ignore this grim reality, several struggling Grand Bahamian families have lost their homes and are now living in their cars. Many Grand Bahamians have fallen prey to the anemic economy.
Freeport is not an ideal place for poor people. It continues to baffle me that neither the FNM or the PLP has been able to get a handle of Freeport's depressed economy. Even the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) appears to be unable to fix the economy. Still, whatever one's views are concerning the PLP's plan for the Island Palm Resort, you would still have to commend the Christie administration for at least attempting to address the issue of homelessness in Grand Bahama. For what it's worth, the plan to convert the resort to a homeless shelter is likely a fitting symbol of all that has gone wrong with Freeport over the past 10-plus years.
The city of Freeport was nicknamed the "Magic City" because of its robust economy during the sixties, seventies and eighties. Back then many Grand Bahamians held down either two or three jobs at a time. Now, however, the unemployment rate in Grand Bahama is the worst in the entire Bahamas. It is over 20 percent, I think.
There was a time in this city's history when thousands of Bahamian migrants flocked to the Magic City in search of employment opportunities. Now, however, many are leaving in droves because of their inability to find gainful employment. There is now a Grand Bahamian diaspora in islands such as New Providence, Exuma, Bimini and Abaco. These islands are doing far better than Grand Bahama.
I vividly remember hearing former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham tell hundreds of Abaconians at an FNM rally earlier this year in Abaco that their airport was the second busiest in The Bahamas. It simply amazes me that a Family Island like Abaco has a busier airport than the one in Freeport City. Yet Freeport is supposed to be the second city of this country, not Marsh Harbour.
Actually, I was a bit ambivalent about the FNM's plan for the old Island Palm Resort for the simple reason that the property would never again be a hotel. That hotel closed it doors due to business decline in October of 2011. At the time of its closure, about 15 persons were employed at the resort. Grand Bahamians have become accustomed to hearing of failed businesses closing their doors.
Further, the tourism industry continues to lag behind. With so few stopover visitors coming to Grand Bahama in recent years, many hotels have either scaled down or have closed down.
I will not chide the Christie administration for converting the Island Palm Resort to a homeless shelter. As I mentioned above, this plan is a fitting symbol of all that has gone wrong with Freeport in the past 10-plus years. Such a plan bespeaks the high level of poverty that continues to grip thousands of Grand Bahamians. As far as I am concerned, it couldn't have been any other way.
- Kevin Evans
The election is over. Criticizing just to criticize or to make headlines seems to be the order of the day for the chairman of the Free National Movement (FNM). During the campaign he labeled himself the lie detector. Now he has become the official analysis negatively on everything the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) does. I'm no defender of the PLP. I'm just tired of the unnecessary daily, uncalled for condemnation when there are so many more pressing issues that can be dealt with.
Mr. Chairman, accept the fact that the FNM was kicked out of office by a landslide, by a margin of 29 seats to nine, and the PLP was given a clear mandate by the Bahamian people to govern, albeit not the popular vote. And perhaps the party is on its way to picking up another seat in North Abaco.
The energy that you are using in your continued denigration, you should channel some of that energy in retaining the North Abaco seat.
The people have spoken (the voice of the people is the voice of God). Get over it and move on. Give the new government a chance. The people have spoken, you are wearing yourself out Mr. Chairman. Are you prepared to criticize on everything for five years?
- Kelly D. Burrows
I would be grateful if you would print a letter in your editorial that I sent to former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham on June 25, 2012:
Re: 'You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucile'
I write these words with a heavy heart but I feel I must say them. You are wrong for quitting on the people of North Abaco after they showed great faith and elected you to represent them for what you coined as your last and final term. I don't care how you look at it, you are wrong and I urge you to reconsider. You have a right to change your mind about quitting just like those who are now in charge have been changing their minds about promises they made since they came to office.
You did a stellar job, gave exemplary stewardship and governed with integrity, but your time of being prime minister and leader of the Free National Movement (FNM) is finished. There is no more coming back to that. However, you owe the people of North Abaco the full five years in office as they held confidence in you and, in spite of the money, fanfare and distractions of the other side, they elected you to represent them in the House of Assembly from 2012 to 2017 and not from May 7 to July 19, 2012, as you and some others now have it.
I take you back to 1997 and the by-election in South Andros. I was 19 years old, a young voter that you had convinced to support you when Sir Lynden had resigned. My parents threatened to throw me out and I, along with another friend of mine, literally almost got assassinated in Mangrove Cay because we decided to support the FNM. I'll never forget that at the last rally held you had the deejay play a song by Kenny Rogers - You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucile - a fitting symbolism of the message that Sir Lynden had abandoned South Andros at a time when we (supposedly) needed him most. It grieves my heart that, 15 years later, I am watching you do the same thing to the people of North Abaco at a time when there is no doubt in anyone's mind that they need you to hold on, be there for them and represent them.
What happened to the man who charted his own course regardless of consequences? The man who took responsibility for his actions and held to his beliefs and decisions in spite of grave opposition? What happened to the man who didn't allow history to dictate his actions but rather he wrote new and different chapters in history? What happened to the man who challenged one of the most difficult leaders in this country within that leader's own party and then defeated him in a political duel? What happened to the most fearless Bahamian politician that the world has ever known? What happened to the man who made me believe that there is still integrity in Bahamian politics? What happened to the man who convinced me that a barefoot boy from the island with a speech impediment could be prime minister? Where is the real Hubert Alexander Ingraham?
While I am sure you would have preferred not to lose the election, the reality of the matter is that you are human subject to faults and failures like anyone else. Some days you will win and some days you will lose. I know that you are not concerned about what those on the other side have to say to you. You had your time to criticize and throw jeers and now it is their time to do the same. Let them get it off their chest as you bellow that infectious laughter like you always do because you know their days of getting off on you will be short-lived. Everyone in this country knows them and their track record and, like real leopards, they cannot change their spots. However, everyone in this country also knows you, especially the people of North Abaco, and for you to give up on them and leave them to wolves is shameful and disgraceful.
Let me have you early told - if there is a by-election in North Abaco, because of your resignation, the other side will win. Our party does not need any additional losses right now because we cannot afford it. We are in debt and from the looks of things, while we have new and promising leadership, things will not get better anytime soon. Our representatives in Parliament are few (we have seen worse) but there is strength in numbers and you would provide excellent support should you remain. Demonstrate your humility, put away your personal differences and desires, get over yourself and do what is right by the people that you offered to serve.
Your representing North Abaco is not as demanding as being prime minister or being in charge of our party. You are only required to be in Parliament once every 90 days although I expect you to show up much more regularly. You promised the people of The Bahamas that if you were returned as prime minister, you would serve your entire term in office. You promised the citizens of North Abaco full representation if they re-elected you. While the masses failed you in this regard, the voters of North Abaco kept up their end of the bargain. What happened to the Hubert Alexander Ingraham that made his commitments and kept them?
Sir, I mean you no disrespect but if you continue with your resolve to resign you will disappoint many who looked up to you and respected you as a virtuous, honorable character. All that you would have done in the past would not matter if you are seen as a quitter and sore loser in the end. Do not walk in the footsteps of Sir Lynden. Surprise me and the rest of The Bahamas. There are many who would prefer that you complete your term and, yet, everyone is expecting you to go away; let those who feel they've conquered you continue to be hyped up on that idea that you are gone and then snatch that joy away from them and do right by the people who you claim you are forever indebted to.
I look forward to your favorable decision in this regard.
- Marvin R. Z. Gibson
In 1985 or thereabouts, I asked my mother, "Who do you believe could become prime minister of The Bahamas following Sir Lynden Pindling?"
Without hesitation, she replied, "Hubert Ingraham".
I had not heard of the man before that and did not and could not know that one day I would work closely with him as that which my mother said he could be, prime minister of The Bahamas. I was 18 years old then.
In 1990, I would have an opportunity to get a first look at the political prowess of this man my mother said could be prime minister, as he was the lead player in the unfolding drama of the Marco City by-election in that year.
By that time he had already succeeded Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield as leader of the Free National Movement. He cut his political leadership teeth in the Marco City by-election, defeating the great Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling and his then entrenched and seemingly invincible Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). So began the legend of Hubert Ingraham, a genuinely brilliant political mind.
From 1992 to 2012, no personality loomed larger than Hubert Ingraham on the political landscape of The Bahamas. Between 1990 and 1997, his was the rising star while that of Sir Lynden was setting. In our history, they loom large at the center of the stage of political astuteness and outstanding leadership.
But to think of Ingraham merely in terms of political prowess is to miss the reality of the brilliant leadership skills he possessed. Hubert Ingraham possessed great vision, uncommon focus, dogged determination, impressive industry and work ethic and unassuming compassion. He has a sharp mind with photographic memory. Yes, he is demanding, watchful and jealous to guard his public integrity.
Diplomacy may not have been his hallmark at times, but it only suffered to get the job done and to pursue progress. He is a reformer, a doer, a results-minded person. His commitment to public service is 24/7 and in government it was a thing of beauty and wonder to behold. His timing in politics was often impeccable, as was his ability to make political points with just a word or a phrase.
In the true recorded history of our country, he will be credited with many achievements: freeing of the airwaves; introduction of elected local government; introduction of a school board system; implementation and modernization of the infrastructure of The Bahamas; the granting of autonomy to The College of The Bahamas; the upgrade of the social safety-net of The Bahamas; and the restoration of the good name of The Bahamas in the global community, just to name a few.
More than anything else, however, he will be that leader The Bahamas needed to navigate its ship of state through some of the worst experiences in our nation's history: the pre-1992 economic and social decay of The Bahamas; the effects of the terrorist attacks of 2001; and the Great Recession of 2008. In time, most, if not all, will come to see just how steady were his hands, how thoughtful his mind and how committed and courageous was his heart.
In this life, your detractors can be many, especially when you are a person on the move seeking to do great things and trying to make a difference. Your enemies can be ruthless in their characterization of you. Ingraham was the target of the venom of many such detractors and enemies. I say target and not "victim" because being around him, he never seemed to let the venom get to him. I know he was not immune but the poison never overcame him.
In fact, Ingraham's ability to ignore reacting negatively to the attacks of his detractors, both personal and otherwise, was admirable to say the least. Exacting revenge never seemed to occur in his response to those who would damage his reputation or misrepresent his efforts. Ingraham is not a perfect man. None of us are, but his seems a perfect love and dedication to public service and for this he shall long stand out as one of a kind.
I have no special dispensation to say so, but it is my opinion that blessed was this man who ascended from the humble shores of Abaco to the most powerful office in the land. Purposed to become one of the great leaders of our Caribbean region was this barefoot boy from Cooper's Town raised by his grandmother. Destined was this man who walked with kings and commoners with an ease seldom seen on such strong and accomplished leaders.
When they ask me about the times in which I lived, I will proudly tell them I lived in a time of promise, I lived in a time of better, I lived in a time of trust, for I lived in the time of Ingraham.
- Zhivargo Laing
Recently, a leading politician enthused: "Sir Lynden Pindling will have his place in our history. But to my mind, Hubert Alexander Ingraham is the greatest prime minister in the history of an independent Bahamas. History will be more than kind to him. History will celebrate him as the great reformer and modernizer."
This encomium to the former prime minister was delivered at an FNM function a few weeks ago by the party's Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner. What makes such high praise even more noteworthy is that its author is the granddaughter of Sir Milo Butler, a father of the nation and a colleague of Sir Lynden and others in the struggle for majority rule and independence.
As Hubert Ingraham readies to retire from frontline politics, the assessment of his premiership will begin in earnest. Many are already of the view that, thus far, he has served as the nation's most illustrious prime minister in an independent Bahamas.
Sir Lynden, also a father of the nation, is a pivotal figure in an independent Bahamas, and will be accorded his due in the nation's history. In the pantheon of heroes, Sir Lynden is a sort of mythic figure, his portrait adorning the one dollar bill and his name on the nation's leading international airport.
Yet, leaving aside the Pindling mythology and the inevitable hagiography surrounding such a figure, Hubert Ingraham may prove, in the objective light of historical analysis, to have been a more transformational figure in significant ways. There is precedent for this.
By example, though Winston Churchill ranks high for leading Britain through World War II, it is Clement Atlee whom many British historians rank higher for his social welfare reforms and domestic policies including the inauguration of the National Health Service.
Sir Lynden and the early Progressive Liberal Party deserve credit for building many national institutions and empowering black Bahamians including helping to build a strong black middle class.
But as Sir Lynden's legacy is examined more dispassionately by historians and new generations of Bahamians he will be compared on his own merit and compared also with subsequent prime ministers, including Hubert Ingraham.
Stripped away from that analysis will be the cult of personality mentality that the country "owes" Sir Lynden or indeed any prime minister for what they did for The Bahamas. We live in a democracy where the very people who afford leaders the privilege of service may dismiss them at their will.
Though gratitude is due to those who serve the country, what is owed political leaders is a fair and honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and accomplishments and failures.
It is an odd notion forwarded by some, that because he is a great man, that we should ignore Sir Lynden's failures. This bizarre notion was even advanced by some men of the cloth during a commission of inquiry investigating various matters relating to Sir Lynden's tenure as prime minister. Great men or women don't need their biographies whitewashed in order to maintain their greatness.
It is remarkable that those who seek to ignore Sir Lynden's failures are loath to afford Hubert Ingraham the same pass. Like his mentor, Hubert Ingraham will have to be judged in his full measure, by what he did and by what he failed to do.
Even as Sir Lynden is afforded his historic due, weighing down his legacy is what he failed to do and, more importantly, the terrible mistakes he made at great cost to the country. This is especially so given the giant of a leader that he was as the independence prime minister and as the iconic Moses figure having led Bahamians towards a promised land of majority rule and greater economic prospects.
Yet, having helped to secure these democratic rights and economic opportunities, Sir Lynden squandered what could have been an even more profound legacy for him and for the country. It would fall to Sir Lynden's self-professed, "most illustrious protégé... " to advance many of the promises Moses failed to keep.
To assess the successes and failures of our post independence prime ministers is to measure their tenures by the promises of majority rule and independence. Such an assessment will be more fact-driven and less reliant on one's emotional response to a given individual.
While some are driven to distraction and silly commentary by Ingraham's often brusque personality, it will be more his accomplishments and considerably less his personality that will be judged by history.
The Ingraham whom some delight in labeling a dictator, freed the broadcast media, which subsequently helped to play a role in the FNM's electoral defeats in 2002 and in 2012. One of the greatest weapons dictators have long enjoyed is control or intimidation of the media. Ingraham also instituted sweeping measures to make elections freer, fairer and more transparent.
Sir Lynden presided over an erosion of democracy keeping rigid state control of the broadcast media engendering and deepening a climate of fear where many were afraid to express their views. Under Sir Lynden's PLP, elections were much less free, fair and transparent, possible causing the FNM's 1987 election defeat.
So, who will historians judge as the more democratic prime minister when comparing Sir Lynden and Hubert Ingraham? Ushered into office by the flowering of Bahamian democracy, Sir Lynden followed the route of other strongmen, thwarting and sometimes strangling the very democratic ethos he promised to uphold. Hubert Ingraham followed another path, deepening our democracy and enhancing freedom of expression.
Yet, this is but one of many areas where history and generations to come will accord Hubert Ingraham a higher grade or status than his immediate predecessor.
There will be many other areas of accomplishment where the mentee will outstrip his mentor ranging from environmental protection, to creating a greater shareholding society, to local government to more progressive labor laws and social protections.
The range of Ingraham's and the FNM's accomplishments are extraordinary. We would be living in a more backward, less free, less modern country were it not for the soon to be former member of Parliament for North Abaco.
When Sir Lynden gave his farewell address in the House of Assembly in July 1997 he praised the still young Hubert Ingraham as, "the most illustrious protégé of mine thus far". A relatively short decade and a half later that protégé is set to give his farewell address to the House.
With his leave-taking, that protégé will be remembered mostly not as the Delivery Boy or Papa. He will be remembered, in the words of Butler-Turner as "the great reformer and modernizer", and in the minds of many, and quite possibly in the broader view of history, as the most illustrious prime minister, thus far, in an independent Bahamas.
After coming so close for so long, the Free National Movement (FNM) found gold in the last decade of the twentieth century. Hubert Ingraham, the former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) minister and chairman, led the opposition party out of the wilderness and to victory.
Two decades later, that same party is depending on that same leader to win it a fourth mandate. To do so, he has pledged change. This change is not philosophical or organizational. He's changing faces - this in an effort to win a contest in tough times. Some have already started complaining and calling 'the chief' names. But being the only man to ever lead the party to success, is anyone in the FNM qualified to question his decisions?
Where they came from
The FNM is a coalition movement - as is any lasting party. Remnants of the old United Bahamian Party (UBP) and rebels from the PLP formed the organization. Its first general election was in 1972 and it lost that vote. The FNM won 39.3 percent of the votes cast - the PLP won 59 percent.
The FNM struggled for the next two decades, losing the 1977, 1982 and 1987 elections to Sir Lynden Pindling's party. Ingraham joined the FNM in 1990 and led it to victory on August 19, 1992. He, the poor boy who grew up in Abaco, ended the 25-year rule of Sir Lynden.
Over the next five years Ingraham took the FNM to its pinnacle. It won in 1997 by a landslide margin, with Ingraham declaring after the poll that he could have won them all.
The PLP only secured six seats in that race - it lost one of those seats in a by-election following Sir Lynden's retirement.
In the 1997 election, Ingraham cut the number of seats in the House of Assembly from 49 to 40 and he took the FNM to 57.7 percent of the popular vote. This was a massive swing from where the party was when it first took on the PLP in 1972.
What Ingraham brought to the FNM was winning. Though Sir Kendal Isaacs and Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield are regarded as historic figures, those former FNM leaders could not deliver the ultimate prize. And in politics, winning is the only marker of judgment for leaders.
Who will run in 2012?
Ingraham won the FNM's third mandate in 2007 by securing just under 50 percent of the vote. The term has been difficult, however. The financial crisis of 2008 was devastating and its effects persist. The unemployment rate was 8.7 percent then. It is now above 13 percent. There have been four murder records in five years. The $120 million road work upgrade for New Providence has been poorly managed by the contractor, Jose Cartellone Construcciones Civiles, and the government. And Atlantis, the project initiated during Ingraham's first term, has been taken by a creditor. The prosperity resulting from that resort contributed to the FNM's landslide win in 1997.
For the FNM, this election will not be easy. Despite the efforts by the government to push back against the effects of the most significant recession since the Great Depression, voters often blame those in charge when things are not going well.
With an election that must be called by May of this year, Ingraham has let it be known that this time around he is bringing forward a new, younger slate of candidates.
No one will know for sure until the final names are listed, but from either public statements made by Ingraham, 'word on the street' or statements by candidates, the team will look quite different.
We know Kenneth Russell won't be an FNM candidate again under Ingraham. Clifton MP Kendal Wright is probably in that same category. Also in the not-running-again group is Larry Cartwright, who has made it known he is bowing out. North Eleuthera MP and House Speaker Alvin Smith too is out, seemingly along with Marathon MP Earl Deveaux.
Quite a few people are rumored to be in the 'moving category' - that is, sitting MPs or candidates who are leaving the areas they ran in last election. Desmond Bannister is moving from Carmichael to North Andros. And Zhivargo Laing, Loretta Butler-Turner, Dion Foulkes and Phenton Neymour are also said to be going elsewhere.
Reshaping the party is wise
For Ingraham this is likely his last general election. Having sat in Parliament as an MP for Abaco consecutively since 1977, he has done it all. He has even done something Sir Lynden could not. He regained power in 2007 after stepping aside following his party's 2002 defeat. Sir Lynden, his mentor, tried but was unable to get back in the throne after his 1992 defeat.
Many tangible things have occurred during this FNM term. The straw market was finished; the national stadium was completed; a terminal at the airport was built, and others are under construction; the unemployment and prescription drug benefits were created; millions of dollars have been spent on the water system and roads in New Providence; the Bahamas Telecommunications Company was privatized; the container port is almost built; major investment is underway to upgrade the hospital; the magistrates complex is almost done; and there have been upgrades to the Supreme Court complex. Even more accomplishments could be listed.
The FNM during its campaign will argue that it is the party of doing and Perry Christie and his party are the party of talk. Ingraham will list what he has done and ask the people to choose between talk and action. At this stage of his career he will fight hard to win, but if the people want what he would describe as 'mere talk' over action and doing, then I suspect that he would be quite happy to say he did his best and to retire.
But before going, if that is to be Ingraham's fate, it is wise to give the next generation a chance. One of the major criticisms many
Bahamians have of the PLP and the FNM is that both Ingraham and Christie have stayed too long. One of the ways to push back against this criticism is to empower the young now.
If the FNM wins, those young people would be in positions to lead right away. If the FNM loses, those young people would have the experience of an election.
Those old FNMs who have had multiple opportunities to run should not feel badly if Ingraham tells them it's over. It is his party. And that is so because he is a proven winner. Within the party, he has earned the authority to set his line-up for an election. Is a man a tyrant, as he was called by Russell, simply because he makes political moves to best position his party, in his mind, for an election? Of course not.
In politics there are no friendships. There are just alliances of convenience. In the weeks to come as Ingraham refines his list of candidates, more FNMs will come to learn this - which is something they should have known when they entered politics.
I have always thought that both leaders should have retired by now, but that is neither here nor there at this stage. For each to allow the next generation to step to the frontline at this election is a reasonable compromise in our centralized political system. Those they used to get this far, who have been or will be discarded before the election, should look back fondly on the time they spent 'in the mix'. You were the tools of great men.
The non-interest of subsequent central administrations in making the Family Islands sports program a top agenda item has been a concern expressed in this space often.
Indeed, on a goodly number of occasions over some four decades, it seemed appropriate to lobby for the islands to be better assisted with sports development. At long last though, there is a good "reason" to believe that the sports development programs in the various Family Islands will be a major focus collectively, of the present government. The "reason" is the presence of Dr. Daniel Johnson as minister of youth, sports and culture.
I was with Minister Johnson and his party of officials recently when he visited Marsh Harbour and Moore's Island in the Abacos. There is a high level of passion in Minister Johnson. He wants to upgrade the sporting facilities in the islands. Certainly, he understands quite well that he has started a process that must be given full attention. The message of his dedication to sports development in the Family Islands has gone out. There is general expectation now in every island community. Outside of New Providence and Grand Bahama, the islands are badly in need of quality sports facilities. The story of how a percentage of Bahamian athletes persevere and succeed against great odds is known worldwide.
My foreign media colleagues marvel always over the high rate of success per capita Bahamian athletes are having. For me, the big question is about how many more elite athletes would be produced if the facilities in the Family Islands were up to par. For instance, you leave Moore's Island where the athletes have just a rough uneven field at their disposal and you visit the sports complex in Marsh Harbour and take note of the outdated asphalt track those athletes in that area have to make use of. They have no choice but to use what's there for them, no matter how deplorable.
I don't consider myself to have ever been an athlete. However, I've been close to our national sports program from my teen years. I worked out at times over the years with the likes of our late legendary hurdler Danny Smith, Leslie Miller, Kevin Johnson and Fritz Grant. I know well about injuries, aches and pains that athletes have to live with even when utilizing proper facilities.
So, when I viewed the dilapidated asphalt track in Marsh Harbour, the plight of the athletes in the Family Islands was re-enforced in my mind. It's just not good at all for the young girls and boys in Marsh Harbour to be in a situation whereby their shins, ankles and knees receive constant battering from the improper running surface.
Asphalt tracks ought to be outlawed. How many young boys and girls of Marsh Harbour became disillusioned because of the soreness of their limbs and joints due to running on the asphalt track? How many of them determined that they didn't want to continue running track as a result? Poor facilities have far-reaching consequences.
So, Minister Johnson, a tall order is in front of you.
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