August 30, 2016
When Perry Christie said he wanted to stay on as leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and prime minister because younger PLPs asked him to, we thought he was having another moment of delusion.
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August 29, 2016
Last month the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) published a paper "Chinese rise in the Caribbean - What does it mean for Caribbean Stakeholders?".
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August 29, 2016
Before 1959, three-fourths of Cuba's arable land was owned by U.S. corporations and citizens. The two nations were so tightly bound that Cuba's economic policies were practically guided by U.S. interests alone.
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August 29, 2016
Prime Minister Perry Christie is the master of farce and artifice, an impresario at substituting good governance and sound policy for public relations stunts and meaningless speech with as much value as cotton candy or a magical potion from a snake oil salesman.
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August 17, 2016
At the end of July, 11 individuals received jail sentences in Havana of between 15 to 30 years for attempting to traffic narcotics into Cuba from Jamaica. The convictions followed a number of co-ordinated operations to stop go-fast boats arriving with large quantities of marijuana. The intention had been to sell the ganja in the Cuban capital.
Criminal intent apart, the long sentences reflect Cuba's concern about the moral, public health and societal impact that the use or sale of narcotics could have on Cuban society; an approach that has resulted in zero tolerance towards even the possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use, and severe sentences for citizens and visitors alike.
It is a policy quite unlike that of Jamaica which, in recognition of its own reality, has decriminalized possession, allowing a person to carry up to two ounces of ganja and to grow up to five plants where permitted. It has also established a Cannabis Licensing Authority to regulate a medicinal marijuana industry, which it sees as offering significant economic gains, employment and a new source of government revenue.
What these contrasting but equally valid positions illustrate is the complexity of trying to harmonize an approach to marijuana, not just in the Caribbean region, but across the whole of the Americas.
While parts of the United States, Canada, Uruguay, Colombia and Jamaica have either established or are intending creating legislation legalizing and controlling the limited use of marijuana, many other nations like Cuba remain strongly opposed to the legislative and moral downgrading implied.
This divide was clearly demonstrated earlier this year when in April the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs ended without any significant change to the existing conventions, despite strong representations for reform from Latin American and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries seeking a less prohibitionist global regime.
The meeting revealed deep disagreements over international drug policy between what the UN describes as countries that favored moving to a humane approach by dealing with drug use primarily as a public health issue, versus those nations favoring a strict law and order response to all narcotics issues.
At the UN session, CARICOM nations proposed that the UN review the classification of ganja. Jamaica's minister of foreign affairs, Kamina Johnson-Smith, argued against a one size fits all approach, observing that all countries should be allowed the flexibility to craft appropriate laws and policies while continuing to undertake their obligations under the UN Drug Control Conventions.
All nations, she suggested, should be able to take into account important national elements, such as different cultural perspectives and practices, noting that in Jamaica's case marijuana's use as a folk medicine or as a religious sacrament were not associated with illicit, large-scale cultivation for trade.
"We contend that the classification of cannabis under the Single Convention is an anomaly and that the medical value of a substance must be determined by science and evidence-based analysis, above other considerations," Johnson-Smith said, reportedly to some applause.
The meeting ended, however, without any such change being agreed, despite the fact that in the Americas the marijuana industry is rapidly and observably becoming a mainstream activity leaving the Caribbean behind.
In particular the sale and taxation of marijuana has become big business in many parts of the United States as well as a significant source of revenue for the states involved.
Its cultivation is now legal in Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, as it its sale with a state issued license. Possession has been decriminalized in 18 US states; and it is legal medicinally in 25. In 2015 in Colorado alone, licensed and regulated stores sold US$996 million worth of medical and recreational marijuana, earning in the process tax revenues for social spending of more than US$135 million.
As Jamaica's Finance Minister Audley Shaw recently pointed out, the legal marijuana market in the U.S. is predicted to rise from US$6.7 billion this year to US$21.8 billion by 2020 and that some countries like the Netherlands have begun to export medical marijuana to countries like Canada, Italy, Germany and the Czech Republic.
If, as is also expected, the Canadian government introduces legislation next year to make the sale of marijuana legal it will make the country one of the largest in the West to allow its widespread use.
All of which begs the question as to why the region as a whole is not moving more quickly to reach a conclusion about decriminalizing the possession of small quantities of ganja for personal use and developing marijuana as a legal medically oriented cash crop in a carefully controlled manner that supports economic growth and social spending.
In 2014, CARICOM set up a Regional Commission on Marijuana to examine the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding its use in the Caribbean and to determine whether there should be a change in the current classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug. Despite this, continuing divisions over the issue within CARICOM and delays to convening national meetings suggest that a final report may be some way off and possibly absent from the agenda of Caribbean heads of government for a considerable while yet.
In a sign of growing impatience, a number of senior Caribbean figures have begun to speak out about the need for a change of regional policy on marijuana for both economic and humane reasons.
St. Vincent's prime minister, Ralph Gonsalves, has been particularly forthright, stressing the importance of decriminalizing marijuana in a careful, structured and controlled way, using it as a tool for the economic diversification of the region. He has also noted that the window is small before international corporations in the U.S. begin to grow marijuana on a large scale as a medical export crop.
In addition, the Caribbean Court of Justice has noted that the lives of thousands of Caribbean young people continue to be blighted by incarceration for being in possession of small quantities of marijuana, and for this reason has said that it is important the matter be addressed quickly.
Major decisions require time, careful consideration, wisdom and judgement. Unfortunately, as each day passes benefits accrue to the U.S., while the region and individuals are increasingly disadvantaged. It is time for a regional policy that accepts limited possession and a regional medical marijuana industry.
o David Jessop is a consultant to the Caribbean Council and can be contacted at email@example.com. Previous columns can be found at www.caribbean-council.org. Published with the permission of Caribbean News Now.
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August 16, 2016
This piece is penned as an open letter to those who labor in the vineyard of public service in general but leaders in the political arena in particular. However, it is important that I commence this piece by denouncing in the strongest words possible the recording and publication of a song, the lyrics of which included personal attacks on the leader of our nation, Prime Minister Perry Christie, his wife, children and others. This is not only despicable. It is distasteful and grossly inappropriate, as it does not represent who we are as a people.
There is no doubt that many Bahamians agree that freedom of expression like many other freedoms in our society continues to remain an inalienable and fundamental constitutional right of all Bahamians. In this sense, we are able to express our feelings on any number of matters or individuals. However, this freedom comes with responsibility. The Apostle Paul noted this in his charge to the Corinthians, who were of the view that they possessed the right to do anything. Paul cautioned them by informing them that, while you may have the right to do anything, not everything is beneficial or constructive. Another biblical version describes this by noting that all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful or edifying. In this regard, there is no doubt that the individual who recorded the song was not being constructive and did not seek to edify based on the tone and lyrics of the song. It is therefore appropriate that opposition political parties and Bahamians in general have openly condemned this ill-advised expression of art.
This is my letter to you Bahamian politicians in 2016.
Dearest Bahamian politician,
I must admit that I feel truly compelled as a young independent thinker and observer of the happenings in our society to pen an open letter to you, our esteemed parliamentarians and, in some cases, Cabinet ministers. I trust that the message contained herein will be conveyed with much respect and understanding without being taken personal by you, but rather used as an opportunity for introspection.
There have been several Bahamian artists, social media pundits, columnists and commentators who have expressed their dismay, dissatisfaction or fatigue with the current political status quo. However, it is expected that their views will be communicated in a respectful and cordial manner. Alas, there seems to be a growing lack of respect for self and others with a growing negative sentiment toward our leaders. While respect was once a watchword in Bahamian society, it appears to be in great decline with the trend being led by our own political leaders.
As politicians, you are well aware that the public and the youth are watching you, but do you care? Respect for our elders, respect for people's properties, respect for another's life, spouse and child seem to be eroding daily. It is clear that we have strayed away from the old landmark; but what role did you play in this as a political leader?
Daily, our children witness our behavior to determine how they should act; they look to their elders and political leaders for guidance on how to govern themselves. What example have you set for the next generation? Are your actions worthy of emulation? It seems acceptable now for you to publicly disrespect your fellow leaders and the people while parents compound this by disrespecting each other in the presence of their children and young people disrespect the elderly without remorse. This growing pattern of disrespect in the political, religious, professional and corporate world is a cancer to our national development.
Not too long ago, our foremothers and forefathers used to remind us that "manners maketh the man" or "manners will take you through the world". Laurence Sterns is quoted as saying, "Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners". Can it be deduced then, Mr. or Ms. Politician, that we as a people have lost respect for ourselves?
I know that your job leading our great country could be a thankless and difficult one, Mr. and Ms. Politician. I also know that some of you enter frontline politics for the good of our nation and to make a positive contribution. Whether you believe it or not, many Bahamians are grateful for your service. However, the truth of the matter is that many of you have passed your "use by" date. This does not necessarily refer to the age of our parliamentarians, even though many of you are past or fast approaching the statutory retirement age. We are aware that in some cases "age is nothing but a number", provided you still have much to offer in ideas, vision and energy.
To the politicians who have spent years in their proverbial seats, a self-evaluation will be useful to help you decide whether it is time to vacate your seat to allow for another. Do you respect the valid viewpoints of the vast amount of individuals who call into talk shows, make social media posts, write to newspapers, protest and hold meetings among other things politely asking you to leave, or are you caught up in your exclusive world of fantasy?
We trust that you can discern sycophants from genuine supporters and can tell that the endorsement of your candidacy by a few persons is not sufficient evidence that a constituency or an entire nation wants you. Having made your contribution or failed to do so for years, can you see the handwriting on the wall? Will you do the honorable thing and bow out gracefully? In Nelson Mandela's words, "When a man/woman has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he/she can rest in peace."
The question is whether you know what your duty is or has been and can you measure how much of your goals for entering public life have been accomplished. If not, then perhaps it is clear why you have no timetable for your exit from frontline politics and refuse to leave when your ovation is loudest to make room for a new breed of ideas and politically willed persons to improve the conditions of our nation.
The writing is on the wall and the evidence is clear for all to see that the Bahamian people have yet to find a body of people who they can trust with governance for more than one term. Let's recap.
No government has enjoyed the benefit of a majority of more than 50 percent of the popular vote since 2002 (51.8 percent). Since 1997, the electorate has played musical chairs with successive administrations, treating power like a revolving door - FNM in, PLP out; PLP in, FNM out.
The real question are: Will those of you who are void of ideas, vision, charisma, political will and the fortitude to defy the status quo and make decisions that will advance our nation toward a path of prosperity step aside to make room for the new? Will those of you who view the Bahamian people as subjects and detest all opinions contrary to yours in the 21st century Bahamas take your flight? Will you who lack the moral compass to return the nation on the path of being respectful and respected exit the scene? Moreover, to all and sundry who are hanging on to your proverbial seats despite fatigue and disengagement, kindly make room for the many Bahamians who are ready to serve. As a reminder, there is no life peerage in Parliament.
It is worth reiterating that we are grateful for your willingness and courage to serve our great nation. We know that you sometimes feel unappreciated or underappreciated. Nevertheless, if you've executed your God-given assignment faithfully, future generations of Bahamians will praise your work and effort. While some of you will receive your flowers in the land of the living, there are others who will be honored after you've gone on to your eternal rest. Nevertheless, it is incumbent that you stop holding on to the reins of power and the trappings that come along with your office while at the same time stifling national growth. The Bahamian people are grateful that legislation provides you with what you as legislators have deemed to be an appropriate pension amount to live on after you leave office.
Some of you might ask: How do I know it's time to go? If you are honest with yourself, you know that the still inner voice within you has been telling you for some time: For the sake of your legacy, your family, your political organization, but more importantly for the sake of country, please leave on your own terms. Don't allow the people to oust you in shame, lest you feel bitter and consider the electorate as being ungrateful for your personal sacrifice to our commonwealth. We take solace in the fact that you - our political leaders - are not delusional and can tell when the writing is on the wall. I implore you to make this bold and honorable decision to leave and transition to statesmen and stateswomen without delay for love of country.
When the chronicles of times in Bahamaland are written and the tale of your era is told, do all that you must do to ensure that, in the words of Frank Sinatra, you did it your way!
- Grateful and patriotic Bahamian offering constructive unsolicited advice
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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August 15, 2016
o Author's note: This article was adapted from a column that was first published on September 21, 2009.
Since majority rule 49 years ago, three persons have led this country, each with his unique strengths and weaknesses, and each with his own distinctive vision for the nation, parts of which were achieved and parts left unfulfilled.
The longest serving prime minister, Sir Lynden Pindling, held office for 25 years, while Hubert Ingraham completed 15 years as prime minister. The current prime minister, Perry Christie, has served for nine years.
Christie is the front-runner for re-election as party leader at the Progressive Liberal Party's (PLP's) upcoming convention in November. If he is successful both at the convention and at the polls next year, this would result in a total period of a half-century that The Bahamas that has been led by only three individuals.
Therefore, in light of the changes that have taken place in the leadership of the Free National Movement (FNM) and the prospects of a leadership race in the PLP, this week we would like to Consider this... Is The Bahamas ready for a philosopher king?
Plato's philosopher king
In "The Republic", Plato outlined his concepts of the ideal government. Distilled to its basic premises, Plato argued that the best form of government would be a society ruled by a philosopher king. In Plato's society, that individual is a member of a class of persons who were raised and educated from birth to take their place at the highest levels of government.
This kind of monarchy was, in Plato's estimation, the greatest possible political system, since both democracy and oligarchy have their tyrannical leanings. One cannot help but suspect that Plato saw himself as the ultimate philosopher king, and that his system was based largely on dissatisfaction with the government of Athens, which ranged between democracy and oligarchy, after the execution of Socrates. But Plato sought to soften the hand of an absolute leader by providing him with enlightenment, an appreciation for all segments of the society and a wide knowledge of all aspects of his nation and his people, hence a philosopher king. The idea has some merit, but is it workable today and is it workable in The Bahamas?
If we review our leaders over the past five decades, notwithstanding his shortcomings, Sir Lynden, in our opinion, most closely equates to Plato's definition of the philosopher king. We are not suggesting that he achieved or fulfilled that status in all respects, but of the three members of that club he comes closest.
He had a tremendous vision first for majority rule and a Bahamas for Bahamians first, personified in his government's Bahamianization policy. He appreciated the people of The Bahamas as individuals and as the Quiet Revolution gathered momentum, he interacted with them on a daily basis as they waged this peaceful campaign for freedom. Sir Lynden then led the country to political independence from Great Britain, and headed a Cabinet that established institutions that have significantly affected every aspect of our economic, professional and social lives.
The other two leaders seem to reside at opposite ends of the political poles. At one end, a pure political pragmatist whose decisive, determined and some might say dogged determination and almost autocratic leadership style seems to be in stark contrast to the characteristics of the individual who was both his successor and his predecessor; who is generally characterized as a consensus builder; who is slow to reach decisions and therefore appears to demonstrate a gentler style of leadership.
Despite the positive accomplishments that Pindling, Ingraham and Christie achieved, all three of the men have failed to implement policies for the sustainable attainment of real economic independence for a large number of Bahamians. And so the question must be asked: Do we need a philosopher king whose legacy will be to truly economically empower Bahamians to achieve full independence for ourselves and our homeland?
All too often, Bahamians complain about bearing witness to the red carpet being rolled out by politicians for those who come across the bar, who are often prepared to accept foreign investors at face value without fully investigating their antecedents, frequently granting them concessions that are unthinkable for Bahamians; often providing them with the ability to use the land that we bestow on them to raise the financing which they do not have in place before they arrive in order to create jobs, but not ownership for Bahamians.
This is not the progressive, forward-thinking leadership we would expect from a philosopher king, who would by definition be patriotic and blatantly biased toward empowering his own people to achieve the highest levels of success within his own borders, thereby strengthening his own kingdom from within.
Essentially it seems that too often our leaders are overly consumed by their concepts of theory or practice, mired in either the throes of the theoretical or ensconced in the pit of pragmatism. Too often, there is little appreciation for the middle ground, little consideration given to the balanced position.
Too often public policy and politics are viewed as either black or white, never as gray. That is not to say that they should waffle on issues that affect our national development, or that we want our leaders to be fence-sitters, but they should consider the wisdom of taking decisions and implementing policies whose outcomes would positively impact the greatest number of Bahamians, both today and into the future.
A Bahamian philosopher king
Although a philosopher king might be difficult to find in this 21st century Bahamas, Bahamians should demand more from their leaders on all sides of the political divide. And they are beginning to do so. Why else would Bahamians remove both parties from office after a single term?
The time has now arrived for Bahamians to demand that their leaders are more educated in the broadest sense of that word, not just in their particular professional discipline. We need our leaders to be more informed on issues that affect our national development and on international developments that impact us in ways where we have little, if any, influence.
We need leaders who fully appreciate Bahamian traditions and customs and who are able to nurture our rich culture in order to take its proper place in our national agenda. We need leaders who, while governing us as a nation, still regard The Bahamas as a place full of individuals with hopes, dreams and desires for a secure and fruitful future, and with the competency to achieve them. It is time for us to demand that our leaders appreciate the value of the knowledgeable, learned and cultured way of the philosopher king.
In our modern Bahamas, our smartest and best-educated individuals - those who approximate the mold of a philosopher king more closely - have chosen to avoid political office, in many cases leaving the governance of our society to those who generally do not satisfy the qualifications of the philosopher king. Consequently, we are left with politicians who have little vision, a myopic world view, poorly read and uninformed persons who are devoid of analytical skills to critically assess and implement policy options to lead us.
We all know what the Good Book says about a people with visionless leaders - their fate is to perish. It is now up to each of us to carefully examine those who would offer for all positions of leadership.
It is now our solemn responsibility to disregard the external hype and look into the character of the men and women who would seek to represent our interests to be sure they are truly the best and brightest we have. We deserve the workable elemental attributes of a philosopher king and the smarts of 21st century Bahamian leaders. We the people deserve and should demand no less than the best.
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to email@example.com.
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August 11, 2016
The Conservative Party in the United Kingdom is one of the more successful political parties in history. The Tories' success is due in large measure to its internal culture and conventions, party structures and party discipline.
There is much that the major Bahamas political parties can learn from how the Tories organize themselves and change leaders. This is especially so given the dismal state and vast dysfunction within the PLP and the FNM.
Both parties are saddled with highly unpopular leaders clinging to power in organizations stymied by internal irregularities and poorly functioning internal democracy. FNM Council meetings, conventions and the organization of branches make a mockery of democracy.
Within the PLP, maximum leader Emperor Perry Christie is loathed to hold a convention, having held off as long as he could and nearly until the last moment. He throws tantrums and is angered that anyone should challenge him for the leadership.
Despite a profound and deepening lack of trust in either of the major parties, the FNM and PLP continue to avoid the need for internal reform, further alienating the mass of voters, who now view both parties as private clubs organized to protect and advance the narrow interests of a select few party insiders and their financiers.
Neither party is genuinely interested in strong party and campaign finance laws. Neither partly is likely to address corruption in government if elected at the next general election. Cynicism by voters will only grow.
The FNM brand is near collapse, with the sense that there is now little distinction between the parties on issues such as corruption and a lack of democratic accountability.
In the UK, the Conservatives have demonstrated remarkable flexibility in jettisoning failed or unpopular leaders with unsentimental and ruthless dispatch, while in The Bahamas we treat our political heads as chieftains owed obeisance.
Despite becoming the first British female prime minister, and having carried her party to victory in three general elections, the legendary Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, who had grown increasingly imperious and arrogant, was dumped by her party because of her growing unpopularity in Britain.
Thatcher's political decline gained momentum with the resignation of key Cabinet members, including Sir Geoffrey Howe, a mild-mannered Tory grandee and Thatcher loyalist.
His temperately delivered rebuke of her in the House of Commons because of her imperiousness and increasing disregard for collegiality proved scathing. It opened the door to even greater criticism and a challenge to her leadership.
With others smelling blood in the water and determined to challenge her, a confident Thatcher called a leadership race. Though she won the first ballot among parliamentary colleagues, Thatcher's numbers were reduced.
She returned home from a meeting in Europe to take soundings from her colleagues. Her meetings with various secretaries of state and Cabinet colleagues were brutal. Her support had collapsed. She was advised to go.
It is possible that Thatcher could have won a leadership battle, winning enough votes from backbenchers to remain as party leader. But with her senior colleagues, those who knew her best, advising her that she had lost their confidence and support, she felt duty-bound to leave.
The Conservative Party culture worked in removing a prime minister who had remained in office for too long. Her senior colleagues and the conventions of the party caused her to resign.
Britain nor The Bahamas or similar parliamentary democracies need rely on a term limit for the prime minister in order to remove party leaders or provide for succession.
In our system of Cabinet government we do not directly elect a prime minister as is the case of voting for a president in the United States. Voters elect a party from which the prime minister is chosen. Accordingly, there are rightly no set terms for a prime minister.
Those here at home who seek a term limit for the prime minister as a means of addressing the curtailing of an individual's time in that office have not addressed the main source and better response to this issue: a party culture and mechanisms to change leaders within political parties.
Our constitution already offers the flexibility and mechanism to check and limit political power. It is up to political parties to utilize these measures and to ensure greater democracy within a party.
The decision by former PLP Cabinet minister Alfred Sears, a proponent of a term limit for the prime minister, to seek the leadership of the PLP, is a welcome development.
If Sears can attain a decent result, even if he does not win, he will have shown himself to have what it takes to challenge Christie, setting himself up as a potential successor.
Sears has written about constitutional and government reform. If he desires a wider hearing in the country he must demonstrate that he is committed to reform within the PLP, a party allergic to reform and deeply committed to the status quo and the oligarchy it serves.
The British Conservatives have also demonstrated a high level of discipline at critical moments in British history. The party has shown a certain cohesiveness despite being riven internally by ideological differences such as the divide, sometimes gulf, between Eurosceptics and Europhiles.
Following the post-Brexit turmoil the party offered an object lesson in political damage control and quick repair, showcasing how a party's internal culture and structures are critical in times of crisis.
Having failed to achieve the Brexit result he desired, former Prime Minister David Cameron quickly offered to resign after an orderly process in which his party had appropriate time to elect a new leader. He did not act precipitously and impulsively and resign immediately.
Critically, Cameron did not resign because the Remain vote failed. Indeed, for the sake of the stability of the party and the country, most of his Cabinet wanted him to remain, as did prominent Leave campaigners.
The distinction is critical: Cameron left because he did not want to be the prime minister who carried out the process of the UK exiting the European Union.
Those here in The Bahamas who called for Prime Minister Perry Christie to resign in the aftermath of two failed referendums on his watch, and who were quick to find a parallel between Cameron and Christie, appear not to understand the principle upon which Cameron resigned.
A prime minister does not necessarily have to resign simply because of a failed referendum. Neither Hubert Ingraham nor Perry Christie should have resigned after the failure of constitutional referendums on their watch, especially as the constitution mandates a referendum on specific changes in this foundational document.
What Christie should have resigned over is his failure to abide by the result of the gambling vote. The distinction is important.
In the aftermath of the Brexit vote the Tories were in turmoil. Cameron, who need not have called such a vote, and who had recently been elected with an outright majority, ended his political career with the UK set to leave the European Union, and with possibility of economic disaster and the dissolution of the union on the horizon.
Meanwhile, the Tories were ripping themselves apart with all manner of bloodletting and backstabbing, and Machiavellian machinations between Brexit rival camps and between rivals for party leader. The behind-the-scenes manoeuvring, much of which played out in the media, was often vicious and typically ruthless.
Yet, the party's spiral out of control was stemmed by its culture and the process for electing a new leader, which proved durable as the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn seemed bent on suicide and retaining a leader whose parliamentary colleagues were seeking a new direction for the party.
Tory grandees and rival leadership camps coalesced around Theresa May, who deftly appointed a Cabinet of rivals, with prominent Leave and Remain proponents now bound by the collective responsibility of Cabinet government.
Next week: More on the need for domestic political party reform and lessons for reform and change from other countries, including Great Britain.
o firstname.lastname@example.org, www.bahamapundit.com.
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August 09, 2016
Growing up on a small archipelagic nation, Bahamians have a choice as to how they see themselves and the world around them. We can choose to focus on the dots that portray our chain of islands on a map of the world and limit our dreams to the invisible walls of impossibilities. Conversely, we can visualize a nation though small in size but rich in potential in which there are no boundaries to the achievement of success by our people.
In the innermost parts of the Bahamian soul is the fire of ambition fueled by our parents and ancestors; a flame ignited by the words and counsel of those who came before us. We drew inspiration from the travails of our predecessors who grew up in a society plagued by injustice and prejudice. Our motivation was pulled from their determination that generations that followed them will not be held back from being educated and aspiring to lay hold on the Bahamian Dream. We have since evolved into a country with other forms of inequities and discrimination. The challenges before us as a nation are enormous and many as we are being tested on every front. The current scenery is one in which hope is waning among the populace on a daily basis. While the cost of living continues to rise, the ease of doing business continues to decline and the level of joblessness is at unprecedented levels. Can we dare to dream again?
Footprints in the sand
The footprints of many Bahamians are being left on the sands of time daily in our nation. As this writer postulated before in referencing Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities", it appears to be the best of times and the worst times all at once in Bahamian society. Our nation is not a failure; we are a success by many standards but we stand on the precipice of uncertainty. While there are some who are disillusioned by the current political, civil, religious and corporate leadership, we refuse to throw in the towel or give up on our nation's promise of a brighter future.
Should we dare to dream again? We write our own history regardless of the oppression built into a flawed system that consumes its inhabitants. We pen the chronicles of our Bahamaland while she faces a potential credit downgrade, high crime level, high unemployment, challenged educational system and decreasing moral compass. The sands of time are calling for imprints from the feet of Bahamians that will rise up to the occasion and deliver relief to the people. Who will harken unto this call?
The political landscape
The recent developments in our political landscape provide a glimmer of hope that we as Bahamians can dare to dream again. The decision by Loretta Butler-Turner of the Free National Movement (FNM) to pursue the top leadership position in the FNM demonstrated the characteristic courage of the Bahamian. She stood up to be counted in the army of people who want to project a vision for a prosperous Bahamas. Even though she was unsuccessful in her bid, there is no doubt that she dared to dream.
The announcement that Alfred Sears, QC of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) will be vying for the leadership of the PLP at the upcoming convention is another demonstration of the power of a dream. The reality is that both of these individuals have displayed courage in challenging the status quo against all odds. In the words of the German writer and statesman, John Wolfgang von Goethe, "Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success." The fear of failure in an endeavor should never supersede the passion for success.
Missing the mark
The criticisms and bashing of the Long Island MP for challenging the incumbent leader raise some important questions. While Sears has committed to a clean campaign based solely on ideas, it is not unfathomable that gutter politics and mudslinging may be inserted into a routine democratic process. The level of disdain we have seen in relation to persons who seek higher office is troubling. We have become comfortable with the status quo and hostile to anything that could unsettle our comfort zone. In doing so, we have become enemies of our own progress as a nation.
Pursuit is the evidence of desire and what separates success from failure is often the act of pursuing one's dream and aspirations. However, it appears that the reason for our resistance to persons who choose to challenge our idea of normality is grounded in intoxication by power and blindness by political tribalism. This is the bane of a society that opposes change at the expense of national development. While challengers of an existing system may not always be successful in their mission, we ought not to isolate or ostracize them; rather we should embrace their uniqueness and consider what new ideas they are proposing. In failing to do so, we miss the mark.
Those that dream
The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr had a dream; Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of a new nation and President Barack Obama had the audacity to hope despite his circumstances. One would ask, who gave these individuals the effrontery to dare to dream? The ability to dream is a God-given gift that we all possess and over which no man has control or monopoly. When we dream, we remove the limits created by the existence of our realities and the chains of our imperfections.
It is this gift that encouraged a young black Bahamian boy returning home to his native country after pursuing tertiary education abroad. Appreciating the fierce urgency of now, he sought political office because he dreamt of a better quality of life for his people. Lynden Oscar Pindling was once unknown but will be remembered for generations to come because he dared to dream. A man with a little more than a dream led the charge against injustice and an oligarchy in the midst of economic, social and political disparity among Bahamians. Only in a dream could one see a boy rising from the obscurity of Mason's Addition to speak truth to power and challenge the status quo.
Who will arise?
What could possibly give this young man not hailing from the elite class or perceived aristocracy and a son of a Jamaican immigrant the enormous courage and tenacity to lead the charge to bring down an oppressive system? It was Pindling's decision to dare to dream; the ability to believe that the impossible could become the possible and the improbable, probable. Pindling lived in interesting times during an era in which citizens around the world wanted their voices to be heard in clamoring for a one man one vote system.
Sir Lynden was raised up at a time when nations desired to break away from imperialism and colonialism by taking their destinies into their own hands. He emerged from obscurity during a period when the disenfranchised black majority desired a fair share of the economic pie. The man referred to as the father of the nation embraced the burden of leadership in an era when independence and development were the watchwords. Today, who is our Pindling? What bright, courageous male or female will dare to dream and be bold enough to speak truth to power and defy the status quo? The time is now; the people are waiting and watching. However, we will not see them if our vision is clouded by personal comfort and the convenience of the normal.
o Arinthia S. Komolafe is an attorney-at-law. Comments on this article can be directed to email@example.com.
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