I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the
PINDLING AND ME – A POLITICAL/SOCIAL HISTORY
By Fred Mitchell
First, I would like to thank Felix Bethel and the Politics and Government class here at the College of The Bahamas for making this lecture possible.
It was a Friday – the 25th August - at about 7:30 a.m., my usual call to the Leader of the Opposition, Perry Christie. Only this time it was not at his home. He was at the home of Sir Lynden Pindling, and his voice was grave. It appeared that Sir Lynden had taken a turn for the worse, and Mr. Christie’s tone seemed imperative.
It appeared then that Sir Lynden had taken a turn for the worse, and given our personal relationship it would be expected of me by others and certainly my mother would have expected no less, and I certainly expected it of myself, I had to go to be at his bedside. It was not something that I relished. I thought about all the days leading up to my own mother’s death on 4 May 1999. And how the death had come so unexpectedly, without the neatness of those deaths in the movies. I dreaded what was beyond a moral responsibility but a duty. And so with some trepidation, I went to the Pindling house.
I got there around 2:30 p.m. and I did to know what to expect. But Obie was at the door, followed by his Mom who told me to come on up. With me was Lee Davis my law clerk. I tend to take one of them with me everywhere. And this was certainly an historical occasion. He is one of the generation for whom independence was a fait accompli, and I thought that it would be appropriate for him to watch the real transition in place.
We arrived in the bedroom, turned out to be Monique, the youngest’s bedroom. And the place was neat and spic and span. In there was the Rev. R. E. Cooper. Lady Pindling sat down. Michelle came in and said : “Daddy Fred Mitchell is here!” There seemed to be a grunt of recognition. But that was all. Sir Lynden was gasping for breath, and I was immediately struck by the fragility of life and the ethereal nature of time. I quite frankly found the scene incredible. Here was the man, the chief of The Bahamas, the man whom Finance Minister William Allen once described as bestriding The Bahamas like a colossus, struck down on his deathbed, and dying, and helpless, and there was nothing any of us could do to stop it. We were losing him, and the collective history of his efforts, now lay in the bed gasping to an inexorable earthly end.
Reverend Cooper led a prayer, after which we watched and waited and talked for about an hour, and then I left. That was the last time that I saw Lynden Pindling. And that was after 31 years of ups and downs, joy and laughter, work and play, public and private life. He was gone, and what I now had was a finite set of memories the value of which like the value of the work of a dead painter had soared with Sir Lynden's passing.
Now it was up to me, and to Perry Christie, Sean McWeeney, Hubert Ingraham and all the many others trained in his milieu to make some sense of the legacy. This morning then, I have asked the students of the College of The Bahamas, Felix Bethel’s Politics and Government Class to listen to some every personal reflections about Pindling and me. But the interest is not a prurient interest. The reason that the reflections are important is because I hope that they can assist in the development of better public policy. I owe my education in politics and public service in part to Sir Lynden as do a great many of the leaders in the country today.
And so I offer what I hope is a frank set of revelations that are personal to me: from how various internal party crises were handled, to the dismissal of Ministers from the Cabinet, to the political breakdown between us in 1984, to the reconciliation in 1996, and to the last years on the same side again.
I hope that this will lead to a book and will prove to be of lasting interest to students of Bahamian history.
The death of the country’s first Prime Minister brought out an outpouring of grief, sympathy and nationalism that many believed no longer existed in the country. It is therefore an appropriate time for a deeper reflection of what Michael Craton has called the Pindling era. Mr. Craton who has written the definitive work HISTORY OF THE BAHAMAS, dates the Pindling era from 1967. The question is when does that era end. One imagines that most historians will say upon his death, but the fact is that his policies and the people that he trained continue to govern and continue to influence the popular will. Not the least of these is the Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and the Leader of the Opposition Perry Christie.
That question - when is the end of the Pindling era - will probably have to be answered by persons such as yourselves, when you come to review the era as mature writers and historians. However, this effort tonight is to try and record some anecdotal history on the public policy of The Bahamas during the period that former Prime Minister Pindling directly influenced the scene. And to that extent, the end of the Pindling era can be seen to be the day of his death.
Now what I need to clarify is what this piece today is not. This is not a eulogy. In other words, this is not an uncritical piece of praise for the great man. To be sure there is some of that. It is not about all the great things that he did, although there will be some of that. This is rather an attempt at a frank contribution to those who wish to enter public service, about the business of Government and how it was conducted under Pindling.
I am at a distinct disadvantage having never served in the Cabinet with him, but what I have experienced may give you a window into how decisions were made that came for good or ill to affect The Bahamas in which you now live. It is a window into how business was actually conducted in the country, and not how it appeared on the surface. I would also ask those who did serve in the Cabinet with him to start writing, because I think that it is imperative for there to be a written record of how decisions were made in The Bahamas.
What is unfortunate is that the great man himself did not record in memoir form how he went about making various decisions. In my final visit with Sir Lynden, I had the honour of introducing to him one of this country’s future leaders Cassius Stuart of the Bahamas Democratic Movement (BDM). It started out a very prickly meeting, with Sir Lynden pressing Mr. Stuart for the true reason he wanted to meet him. Once we got past that, the meeting lasted for well into an hour and a half. It was during the course of that meeting that Sir Lynden revealed that he was working with a biographer to record his personal history. I then argued for a memoir. He told me that unfortunately he would not be doing it. And so that was the end of that.
I remember though my suggestion to the present Government about how deal with it. And this is what I mean by hoping to make a contribution to public policy. We must institutionalize these things regardless of who or what party is in power. Certain things belong to the nation. And so it was my suggestion with Sir Lynden that an archivist from the Department of Archives ought to have been specifically hired as they should be for all Prime Ministers to interview those Prime Ministers to record for posterity an oral record of their Prime Ministership. It can then be put away for future historians and political scientists and politicians such as yourselves to study when time permits and when it is appropriate.
There is another caveat that I wish to record before advancing into today’s piece. The cast of characters in the modern history, the Pindling era as Michael Craton calls it, is still very much alive. And so the information is still sensitive. I am still not at the point where things can be said without hurting the feelings of some who are alive. And so to some extent there has been some self-censorship out of respect to the sensitivities of those who are now alive. But this piece today is important because it is a marker for me when I can come to the time having retired myself from public life and the national stage when I can say what I want without fear of the sensitivities involved.
I wish to dedicate this today to my mother Lilla Mitchell who I believe inspired my desire for public service. The past is prologue says Shakespeare, and that is very much the case in my situation. But there is also the future and I wish to dedicate this to two young persons whom I greatly admire and who are in the process of training themselves to be lawyers. I believe they too will enter the realm of public service and more than anything else this is a marker for them.
Perhaps it is useful to start at the beginning. When did I meet Lynden Pindling. I first met him in June of 1969. The Toastmasters Organization was new and was headed then by the late Earnest Strachan and had amongst its members Alfred Maycock who later became a Minister of the Government under Sir Lynden. I got myself into some trouble with that group. They had a speech contest and it was sloppily organized. At the last minute St. Augustine’s was asked to participate and I did not like it. And so instead of preparing a speech like they wanted me to, I took the opportunity to castigate them for lateness and lack of organization.
It was my first real lesson in Bahamian politics. No one gets high marks for speaking frankly. All you get is grief. I did not place at all in the speech contest, although Toastmasters were effusive in the their apologies for the wrong they had done to the school.
But after the final contest, Sir Lynden who had just become Prime Minister two years before, asked all of the contestants to attend a session of the House of Assembly and later to lunch at the British Colonial as his guests. This was great excitement and we all agreed to go.
One can compare and contrast this to an experience I had at the graduation ceremony of St. Augustine's College in 1998 when I offered a similar exercise for the leaders of the class of 1998. Instead of anticipation, I could hear people sucking their teeth in the audience. One of the parents came up to me afterwards and said that they could see visibly the expression of shock on my face on the stage. It was a great disappointment. But such are the changing times some thirty years later.
The excitement of meeting the new Prime Minister was palpable amongst us all. And in that first encounter, the Prime Minister and I were the only ones who engaged in dialogue. I do not remember how it ended. The next time I met him was at my graduation in 1970 but I did not get to work with him until some time later and through a strange route.
I need to pause here to say that the meeting of the Pindling and the young Mitchell was primed much earlier than that. Because he had fired the imagination of a much younger version of Fred Mitchell long long ago.
No one in my immediate family had ever entered politics. But my mother's family had several people who were active in the PLP and it was into that milieu that I entered. Sammy Isaacs who was my mother’s first cousin was amongst the first Members of the House of Assembly for the PLP, having been elected in 1956. I grew up in the background of concern for him because politics ruined his finances. The warning never to back notes at the bank for anyone if you are a politician. The fact that you could lose your home if you are not a careful politician.
Later his mother Dame Albertha Isaacs who was a PLP activist since inception and my grandaunt, became a Senator for the PLP serving from 1972 to 1977. So I had this kind of political background on the periphery. And I wanted to become the first Member of Parliament from my family. That of course has not happened and may not be, but that is the ambition that still lives.
My first conscious thoughts of things political must have been the blockade by the U.S. President John Kennedy of Cuba in 1962. I remember walking to school with my friend now Dr. Austin Davis and talking about the Cuban crisis as American planes flew in formation over The Bahamas.
The next most important political event was the assassination of John Kennedy. My neighbour Virginia Stewart called me from the kitchen table to run through our back yard to her yard to come and listen to the radio, John Kennedy had been shot and killed.
In local politics, I barely remember the 1962 General Election although, I vaguely remember Arthur Hanna, another distant relative being elected to represent the Far East District in 1960. I have later come to learn that this was because of the expansion of the number of seats in the House of Assembly brought on by the 1958 strike.
But the real political excitement began for me in 1965, when I read avidly the Tribune. Sir Milo Butler and Arthur Hanna being thrown out of the House of Assembly and later the great events of 1965 on Tuesday 27 April: Black Tuesday, when Sir Lynden threw the Speaker's mace out of the window. That was my kind of action and remains my kind of action today. I think that it was Sir Lynden's finest political moment.
And the final step in my political evolution was the night of 10 January 1967. My parents as I said were not political people and I do not know even how they voted in 1967. We lived in Centreville behind the Collins Wall and a middle class area for Black people. Yet on the night of the election, I recall lying on the carpet in the dark listening to the radio with the election results, and hearing the crowds outside walking up the streets. I remember the nervousness of my white classmates the day after the election about the fact of the PLP’s victory. But what I felt then on the day after that election was that our time had come. I knew that I had come into my own. Some people say that Independence is the highlight of our history but for me it is the night of 10 January 1967.
This piece was written in part in Stella Maris, Long Island which might well be described as the birthplace of the Progressive Liberal Party. That is ironic since Long Island has never elected a PLP Member of Parliament. It has always supported the United Bahamian Party and its successor the Free National Movement. It has been unremittingly hostile to the PLP and the PLP to it.
Today in Long Island, if you mention the word PLP, they talk about how in the south they were punished by the Pindling regime because they did not support the PLP. The electricity was brought up to Thompson's Bay where the PLP side of Long Island was and no further. The roads were so deteriorated that it took hours to travel the shortest distances. There was no infrastructure put in Long Island particularly the south as it was represented by the FNM.
And yet the founder of the PLP is buried in Clarence Town Long Island. Sir Henry Taylor whose idea the PLP was in 1953 and who was the Member of Parliament for Long Island from 1949 to 1956 is from Clarence Town, Long Island and is buried there. He formed the PLP with Cyril Stevenson and William Cartwright in 1953. In those years, the House of Assembly had a seven-year term.
I start there because Sir Henry has a window into the personality of Sir Lynden which I think provides an important perspective. Remember that Sir Henry was a whiter man, or a mulatto, and so were Bill Cartwright then the Member for Cat Island and Cyril Stevenson, who became the Member for Andros.
I would recommend that you read Sir Henry's book: ‘MY POLITICAL MEMOIRS’. There are two stories that I would like to tell from this book which I will quote in extenso.
The first excerpt comes from page 226 of the book and Sir Henry Taylor is describing how Sir Lynden became the Parliamentary Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party. The background to this is the fact that Sir Henry lost the election of 1949. And even though he remained Chairman of the PLP, the party realized that it needed a Parliamentary Leader in order to conduct the business of the party in the House of Assembly. Remember also that 1956 was to be the first time that party politics was to be practiced in The Bahamas.
And I quote: Since it was preferred that the Parliamentary Leader would be a Member of the House, we were faced with a choice of one of six men who had been successful at the polls in the Election. They were preparing to take their seats the following evening.
In looking over the list, I said to Cyril, “I would suggest you for the position, Cyril, especially since you are the only elected member from the founding fathers of the party. You realize that because of your complexion you would not have a chance to win an election in the Council. You also realize that it is possible that Randol Fawkes will be the choice tonight. If you were nominated, someone would be sure to nominate Fawkes and he would win.” Fawkes was elected from South New Providence.
Cyril agreed with me. At this period, Fawkes stood high in respect and estimation of the majority of the members of the council. He would have been the favourite by a good majority.
“Would you agree to have Fawkes nominated,” Cyril asked. “I do not think so,“ I answered him, “I have a lot of respect for Fawkes. But I do not think he will be suitable as a Leader. I do not think he will be a good Prime Minister.
The other elected members were considered by Stevenson and me, and Clarence Bain from Andros, Sammy Isaacs from the East in New Providence, Lynden Pindling from the South and Milo Butler from the West.
After much thought and consideration we finally decided between us that we would have Pindling nominated. We proposed to place it before the Council in the meeting that same evening. Neither of us mentioned this to Pindling or any other person. He was not present when Cyril and I discussed the matter. I asked Cyril to nominate Pindling immediately after I informed the Council. He promised to do so. There is still the possibility that someone would nominate Fawkes and he could have been elected.
The meeting of the Council was called at nine p.m. It was Sunday, the day before the opening of the legislature. It was well attended. The six elected members were present, including Mr. Pindling.
I did not put the item on the agenda. I did to want it discussed before the meeting. I waited for an opportunity to introduce it to the members. At the appropriate time, I said, “Ladies and gentlemen, the members of the House will be going into their first meeting tomorrow night. Previously we did not elect a Leader, because it was not necessary. However, the time has come when it is imperative, and you must decide and elect a Parliamentary Leader. We cannot afford to send these men into the House as ‘ Sheep without a Shepherd’. He will be there to assist in co-ordinating their deliberations, and to so guide them that they will vote in accordance with the aims and aspirations as set out in our party’s platform. Tonight you will have to elect your Parliamentary Leader. I am therefore recommending that you elect Mr. Pindling.”
Cyril immediately got up and said, “I nominate Mr. Pindling to be the Parliamentary Leader for the Party.” Mr. Charles Dorsett seconded the motion.
In the meantime I took a quick survey of the members and watched their reactions. Mr. Pindling heard his name put into the nomination, and he must have been surprised. He was sitting with his head bowed, with no apparent emotion. He sat there motionless and quiet, hoping, I thought, that the motion would have an unopposed passage. Mr. Fawkes was looking around from one person to the other apparently wondering whether some member would nominate him. No one did. The faces of the other Councillors plainly registered their reactions. I saw acceptance by some, and disapproval on the expressions of others.
While observing all this, I began to put the question. There was no dissenting voice around the table, but there were dissenting countenances. Some of the members were apparently not pleased, but they did not want to oppose Mr. Pindling too openly. I put the motion. “As many,” I waited. “As many” I hesitated, “as are in favour of Mr. Pindling being elected Parliamentary Leader of the party will sit, contrary will rise.” Nobody stood up. The vote was unanimous, and Mr. Pindling was elected.
I turned to Mr. Pindling and said, “Congratulations, you are now the Parliamentary Leader.” His “thank you” to me was not very gracious. I wondered whether he did not want it. It gave me the impression also that he thought the position was his anyway.
I thought that this passage was an important one to recall because it gives us a slight window into Sir Lynden’s persona. I remember our last meeting with Cassius Stuart. And when we entered the room, you got the impression that we were the last people on earth that he wanted to see. He was prickly that morning. He asked Mr. Stuart “Why do you want to see me?” Telling the young man that it was a bad idea to form his own political party. What can I tell you? But later on, the ice melted and as I said, the meeting went on for some 90 minutes.
H.M.’s comment is apropos because so much of Sir Lynden's public persona had to do with his air of inevitability, right to have it and his right to be it. So he was able to play out on the public stage that he was the man to be king who became the king and was entitled to be king. The Bahamian people responded to that aplomb and embraced him for it, as the person who could best sum up their ideas as a nation and act on their behalf. He did it successfully until 1992, when he himself admitted that he was finally not in step with the Bahamians who had voted him out of office.
You could tell, perhaps that at the stage of the writing of this memoir by H.M. Taylor, he was not a happy man, and in several places in the book, he speaks about Sir Lynden’ personality in ways that are not altogether flattering. But I suspect that all changed because of what happened at the very last part of Sir Henry's life when Sir Lynden appointed him Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Again, it is a window into how decisions are made. I had become rather close to H.M. Taylor as he then was, going to visit him in an inadequate hovel of an office that was reserved for the Hansard Editor. The job was a sinecure provided by the PLP and Sir Lynden for the then Mr. Taylor who had fallen as he perennially did on hard times. Throughout the book, you will see that H.M. Taylor sacrificed all of his funds for the PLP and was always out of work and in financial trouble.
After he left the PLP in 1965 and moved to the United States, there was a long period of silence. I did not know what happened to him. But one day when as a columnist for The Herald, the PLP’s newspaper in its 1976 incarnation, I received a letter from H.M. Taylor who was living in Miami questioning the accuracy of the involvement of the Heastie sisters in the early years of the PLP. Slowly a re-engagement must have developed with the PLP and rapprochement with the then leaders of the PLP. Sir Henry was clearly quite sore about two things.
First, he was the party’s founding Chairman, having served from 1953 to 1963. He was re-elected to office in the 1960 bye-elections. He had sacrificed everything for the PLP. Yet despite all of this, he was being displaced by a younger group of men the National Committee for Positive Action (NCPA). He saw this group of young Black PLPs as a shadow group, intent on subverting the course that he had set for the PLP. They were antagonistic at every turn to the founding fathers of the PLP and their way of doing business. The NCPA was more aggressive, and it was clear to him that their objective was to rid the PLP of its founding fathers. He looked to Mr. Pindling for help, but could not read Pindling’s intentions except by omission.
In fact he says several times during the book that on the face of it Mr. Pindling was not a member of the NCPA and did not openly join in any of their measures. But Mr. Pindling clearly had their support. Henry Taylor said that in the years 1960 to his last year as Chairman in 1963, the two hardly spoke at all. Relations were bad. The public may not have known but the two were not getting on at all, and from HM’s point of view the party was divided and flawed.
This is a window into Pindling’s personality again as a politician. He could carry a poker face. He had the face and air of deniability. So that you could be sitting in front of him , asking for advice, seeking counsel or a decision, pleading a case, you could not get a fix on what his views were. He would say the right things to you, he would often plead ignorance or rely on the expression of a delegate as in “the fellas say”, but you could never pin adverse decisions on him.
Mr. Taylor found out what the real position was in 1964 when he expected to be appointed to the Senate by Sir Lynden. As Leader of the Opposition, under the 1963 constitution which brought in Ministerial Government on 7 January 1964, the Leader of the Opposition had two Senatorial appointments. The Senate replaced the lifetime appointment of members of the Legislative Council with ten-year appointments as Senators. Sir Lynden chose not Henry Taylor as one of those appointments but Sir Clifford Darling the hero of the Taxi Cab Union and the General Strike and Charles Rodrigues, a black East Street merchant. Sir Henry left the PLP shortly afterwards.
But by the middle of the 1980s all of that was forgotten. Sir Henry was then an old man, and Pindling himself had mellowed. And so a place was found for Sir Henry in the Hansard office to be its editor. As I said, it was a sinecure and the place had no resources. It was an exercise in frustration and little was done.
Sir Henry must have been there for about eight years, and he was clearly getting down and tired. He told me that he had had enough and went to see Sir Lynden to indicate to him that he thought it was time to move on and could the Government provide, despite his lack of the years of service, a pension for him. Sir Henry was shocked at Sir Lynden's reply. He told me that Sir Lynden said to him: That he was very sorry but there was nothing more for him. The Government had done what it could for him. And he could hold on to the Hansard editorship as long as he wanted to, but once he could hold on no longer “that was it.”
But as it is so often in this life, that was not it. And clearly the softer side of him emerged after that hard-edged message. And this was also something that I found about working with Sir Lynden. He would often deliver this cold blunt message, but within days you would get some message from him which meant that he was sorry that he said it, had changed his mind and would try to help. That was so long, of course, as you did not take what he said to heart and face him down in public on it. Henry Taylor simply complained and to all that he could. All those whom he thought had some public influence, he complained to and the message must have gotten through.
So it was indeed ironic that Henry Taylor became Governor General. And whom did he replace? Well he replaced Sir Gerald Cash, but most importantly for this purpose, the man who was really expected to get the job - Sir Clifford Darling - did not get the job. It is ironic that Sir Henry lost his job as a Senator to Sir Clifford Darling in 1964 and two decades later, Sir Clifford lost his job to Sir Henry as Governor General. He had to wait for two years. In the event, Sir Henry got the job and was later confirmed in the job and was also able to get the pension for which he had asked Sir Lynden when he thought it was time to retire from the Hansard office. And so all was well that ended well.
Sir Henry who had started out riding the road of Long Island on a white horse preaching the message of the PLP was buried as a national hero and given a state funeral as a former Governor General and buried with full military honours in Clarence Town, Long Island cemetery.
This air of plausible deniability as I said was a fundamental feature of Sir Lynden's public persona and of the way he did business as a politician. He knew how to keep his counsel, with an absolute straight face. Several instances come to mind of my own with him.
I remember when he decided that he could no longer work with Brenville Hanna as the Chairman of the Progressive Liberal party. Mr. Hanna is a friend of mine, who now works as a consultant with the Ministry of Local Government. He lived in the Centreville constituency and more than most was responsible for introducing me to party politics and getting me elected to my first position as Chairman of the Centreville branch of the PLP.
Brenville had a long and dedicated history as a member of the PLP, an officer and an activist. But Sir Lynden decided that it as time for someone else to serve. Mainly because I believe he thought that Mr. Hanna was too influenced by Arthur Hanna the Deputy Prime Minister and the up and coming Ministers in the Government Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham. Sir Lynden decided in 1982 that he was supporting Simeon Bowe for Chairman.
That was the rumour that was going on.
This presented me as a delegate with a difficult choice. Brenville Hanna was my friend, and I felt that I owed allegiance to that friendship. On the other hand, although I felt that Simeon Bowe was not acceptable as Chairman, I would have agreed had Sir Lynden made his wishes clearly known on the point. So I went to see him one evening in the Prime Minister’s office, the Churchill Building. I asked him point blank what the story was on Bulla Hanna and Simeon Bowe.
He gave a brilliant piece of obfuscation. He said that he was supporting neither side. He said Brenville Hanna was a good PLP and Simeon Bowe was a good PLP. So he had decided to stay out of it and may the best man win. I did not quite buy that but if that was what he said, I took it at face value.
So armed with that, I went to the convention the next night. True to his word, Sir Lynden decided that he was not coming to the proceedings of the night. And usually proceedings did not start until the Leader arrived. He sent his wife. Now as a bit of background, men like Arnold Cargill, Felix ‘Mailman’ Bowe and Vincent ‘Skeeter’ Collins who were the former PM’s real friends at the time, were all campaigning for Simeon Bowe. That should have been a clear clue as to who Mr. Pindling was really supporting.
Add to that, the fact that his wife Lady Pindling was actively campaigning for Simeon Bowe and Everett Bannister, who was my boss at The Herald was supporting her.
When I arrived at the convention floor, I had left Pindling working on his speech for the convention, the air was electric. And the convention started late. Andrew ‘Dud’Maynard, who later became a Senator and was then Chairman of the Party sent a frantic message for me to come inside. I went to see him. He was standing over the public address system and the deejay's machines trying to cue up a record. He told me “Man Fred see if you could get the madam to come inside so we could start this thing.” Or words to that effect. If I am not mistaken, I remember speaking to Obie Pindling who said that his mother was angry and she was not coming inside. So I went outside to see her.
Before, I could get to talk to her, she saw me and she balled her fist, shouting at me: “You see this,” she said, shaking her fist and flashing this huge ring on her finger; “I am going to use this ring to bust you down this evening.” I was shocked. I did not know what had brought that on. So I asked her what was the matter.
She said that Arthur Hanna, Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham were plotting to overthrow her husband. And I asked her what evidence is there of that? Her reply was curt: “Why should I tell you, so you could go back and tell your cousin Arthur Hanna.”
Well this was all a new dimension to me. But I assured her that no such thing as the case, that I had spoken to her husband and he had assured me that he was staying out of the race, and that I was free to support Bulla Hanna. I don’t recall now whether that mollified her or not, but the convention was able to get underway shortly after that.
Bulla Hanna won the election. But he had a limping chairmanship. He had a post without any authority. Sir Lynden didn't communicate with him at all, and he was defeated two years later by Sir Lynden's new candidate Sean McWeeney, later Attorney General. By that time in 1984, Arthur Hanna, Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie were all out of the Government.
H. M. Taylor had the same experience as Bulla Hanna a decade earlier. He was elected chairman but without the support of the leader of the party the chairman cannot function.
In 1982, I became the National General Council Member for South
Long Island. And it was done simply by Sir Lynden’s fiat. In that role
I took now Senator Obie Wilchcombe with me to conduct Branch Elections.
It was his first time in that part of The Bahamas. When he got off the
plane he looked at the hills behind Deadman’s Cay and exclaimed “They have
mountains in Long Island”. We still laugh about that story today.
But the public policy point was there was no democracy in my appointment.
People wanted Errington Watkins, but Sir Lynden said “Mitchell” and that
Plausible deniability can be found in another story of a public policy decision taken by the Government during that same convention. A friend of mine Kendal Demeritte had an idea to bring in the then popular musician Yellow Man from Jamaica. He of the: Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt fame. The deal was all set and the concert was to begin, except that the Department of Immigration refused to issue a work permit for Yellow Man to come and sing. When Mr. Demeritte investigated the matter it turned out that before Immigration okayed a work permit they circulated the application to all the concerned Ministries for their comments.
One such adverse comment came from the Minister responsible for culture, Kendal Wellington Nottage. Mr. Nottage took a strong position and despite my entreaties to him refused to budge. He claimed that he had to protect Bahamian culture from incursion by these dark outside forces like Jamaican reggae music. Mr. Nottage was also the Minister responsible for Broadcasting. This was the same Mr. Nottage who was pictured in the press dancing at a Bob Marley concert in Nassau widely condemned by The Bahamas Christian Council. There was only one radio station at the time, and Mr. Nottage went further with this matter. Mr. Nottage banned all reggae music from ZNS radio and TV. An incredible and illegal decision but one that stood never-the-less for some time.
I explained to Mr. Nottage that his decision was wrong. I did this because Kendal Demeritte had come to me to ask whether there was anything I could do to help his situation as he stood to lose thousands of dollars. I told Mr. Nottage that his decision was anti-Black and anti-Jamaican, and that he as a public official of The Bahamas would not like it if the Jamaicans banned all Bahamian music. In fact, I said, the Rolling Stones also have music that is objectionable so why don’t you ban that group or is it because they are white? The bit about the Jamaicans retaliating did not seem like much of a threat because his view was that Bahamians did not produce music that Jamaicans would want to play anyway.
My last recourse was to go and see the Prime Minister. Again it was an incredible performance. He agreed with me. He was surprised to hear that Kendal Nottage had done such a thing. He thought Kendal Nottage was wrong. He started to preach that we can’t have ourselves go down in the Caribbean as anti-black or anti-Jamaican. But the bottom line was would he intervene to save my friend’s money? The answer was that he would “see what he could do.” He would try to speak to Kendal. I was not very hopeful. And Mr. Nottage’s decision stood.
One of the ironies of that decision and Mr. Nottage, was that in October of 1984, he and George Smith were called down to visit the Prime Minister where the former Prime Minister was to ask for his resignation following the release of the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into drug trafficking in The Bahamas. The night before, A. Loftus Roker, who was about to become the Minister of National Security had a strategy session with Sir Lynden. Out of that session the following decisions were made: Arthur Hanna’s resignation from the Cabinet would be accepted on 10 October 1984, the Prime Minister would ask for and obtain the resignation of George Smith and Kendal Nottage from the Cabinet because of the adverse findings against them in the Commission of Inquiry report, Perry Christie and Hubert Ingraham would be dismissed from the Cabinet. The meeting ended with the former Prime Minister agreeing to all of the above.
Except that when George Smith and Kendal Nottage were called down to the Cabinet office, either the former PM was unconvincing about whether they ought to resign or he got cold feet or he could not remember. In any event, Sir Lynden called Loftus Roker and asked him if he could come down to his office and in the presence of George Smith and Kendal Nottage to explain to them why they ought to resign!
This brings me to the second passage that I would like to quote from H. M. Taylor’s book. The background to this is the antipathy between the National Committee for Positive Action and the old guard of the PLP headed by H.M. Taylor. Remember that H.M. has said that he could not figure out what Mr. Pindling’s position was vis-à-vis the NCPA. But it was clear that the lines were drawn.
I quote from page 260 of H.M.’s book:
After the elections of 1960 there were strained relations between Mr. Pindling and me. His attitude towards me changed completely, and it was apparent that he tried to avoid any discussions with me. I found it impossible to draw him out for a discussion on party business. He was the Parliamentary Leader and I was the chairman. Two of the top officers of the party were not meeting with each other to plan for the party's future.
Before the convention of 1962, I was surprised by a visit to my home by Mr. Pindling. He had never visited before, and I wondered what his mission was. He came right to the subject. He had a message from the “boys” for me. [Note that it is not his sentiment but he is a delegate for the boys] They wanted me to resign as Chairman of the party immediately. The reasons he stated were: a. That I did not dress well enough to be respected as head of the party, and b. That they could not with pride present me to any important person as their Chairman.
I was inwardly furious. I kept calm. I asked Mr. Pindling, who the ‘boys’ were. He said that it was Wallace and some of the others. They were discussing it and asked him to come and see me. He did not say that he was one of the ‘boys’. Pindling suggested that if I did not want to resign immediately, if I would announce that I would not stand for re-election in the coming Conference, it might ‘appease’ the boys. I was not surprised but I was astonished at their bold, brazen approach. I kept calm enough to say to Mr. Pindling, “Will you come back here for an answer tomorrow?” He agreed to so do. He never returned.
When the 1962 convention was called, I was again nominated for election as Party Chairman. I was elected unanimously, without opposition. The ‘boys’ did not oppose my nomination because they did not have a legitimate excuse to offer the Convention since the rest of the delegates present were definitely in my favour.
Permit me a few observations. First there is a quality present here about which many of Sir Lynden’s colleagues often speak. That is the art of being a delegate. One of the reasons that he was successful in marshalling some very aggressive forces in the nascent PLP was his ability to get the consensus and to act as an effective delegate. He was not perceived to be radical. He could keep his counsel. And so while Wallace-Whitfield was regarded as a radical, Pindling was regarded as one who was cool and collected, smooth. While Fawkes was regarded as mercurial, daring and often erratic, Pindling was seen as dependable, calculating and cautious; not afraid to move when it was necessary, but only after figuring out where the majority were. That contrast also existed for eighteen years between Arthur Hanna as the radical Minister of Immigration and then Finance and the more centrist Pindling.
We had a chance to talk in that last meeting about how he came to be chosen as Leader of the PLP. He told Cassius Stuart that he was chosen because he was the only one. The older men thought that he had the education and training to lead the party so it fell to him by default, but he had to learn a lot. He said that he was afraid and reluctant to do it but he felt he had no choice. The older men supported him.
Pindling’s most radical moments, most deft stroke came with Black Tuesday. But it also demonstrated itself when his leadership was under threat. He knew how to move to protect his position. And in that, his wife Marguerite was a sure and certain ally. He said on the occasion of his 25th anniversary that his wife was a princess when he met her and she was still a princess that day.
Sean McWeeney spoke in his eulogy at the funeral about the care with which Sir Lynden spoke of his wife Marguerite in the political decisions and the support of him and I quote:
“As for my wife, Madam Speaker, a very special word, if I may. It has been my singular good fortune to have at my side from the time of my entry in politics in 1956 to my exit in 1997, a princess whose bearing, grace and charm made the toast of four continents and a lady whose fortitude in the face of the most daunting adversities and whose unwavering devotion to me and what I stood for contributed mightily to my survival and my successes in politics. To Marguerite, my wife, my lover, my homemaker and my best friend of 41 years, let me say this then, that for her support, her understanding, her tender and constant care and here boundless love and devotion, I am grateful beyond measure.”
Pindling never said to me in the many years and hours that we spoke about Black Tuesday whether he supported the initial move to proceed with the demonstration and the throwing of the mace out of the window. What he did say was that he was afraid during the whole exercise.” Some observers say that on that day both Milo Butler and Cecil Wallace Whitfield had become so exasperated because it was taking too long for Sir Lynden to act. He said that he had butterflies in his stomach. But the fact is that Sir Lynden did act and it goes down in history as a deft political stroke.
What he also added during his lifetime and on many occasions was that when Black Tuesday's events were planned and executed, the planners and executers were most aware of the events of Burma Road. They did not want a repeat of that riot. He said that he remembers as a schoolboy being let out early by Molly Albury from the Western Junior School because of the riot. He said they remembered as small boys that someone took a bottle from a Coca-Cola truck and smashed a window and that had started the whole combrucktion.
He was determined that they would have a peaceful protest. And once John Bailey, the Magistrate, read the riot act, they led the people peacefully from the places on Bay Street to the Southern Recreation Grounds where everyone dispersed.
Sir Lynden also said that the crowds were not planned for. They had no idea that the crowd would respond the way they did. And that the supporters of the PLP were actually the smallest part of the crowd. People left their work places because they heard of the excitement and they had come to see for themselves and they joined the crowd on Bay Street.
Another source of contention was what happened politically after the events of Black Tuesday. You will read that shortly after that Orville Turnquest, Paul Adderley and Spurgeon Bethel disagreed with the boycotting of the House of Assembly, a decision taken by the PLP’s National General Council (NGC) to protest the re-districting by the UBP. They were subsequently suspended from the PLP and formed their own party the National Democratic Party (NDP).
Sir Lynden told me that Messrs. Adderley, Turnquest and Bethel were not told of the Black Tuesday plans, because there were suspicions that they would oppose any such move. In particular, Orville Turnquest was in a law partnership with the UBP’s Minister of Welfare Eugene Dupuch, after whom the law school is named. The NGC members felt that the information would be leaked by Mr. Turnquest (as he then was) to the other side. Spurgeon Bethel was a supporter of Messrs. Turnquest and Adderley and so he was not told.
With the departure of the three members just named, and the subsequent resignation of Cyril Stevenson also in 1965, the PLP was down to four Members of Parliament; Pindling, Hanna, Butler and Bain, exactly where it is today.
THE PINDLING PATRIARCHY
When you look at the list of accomplishments by Prime Minister Pindling they are legion. In some of the more blasé moments as a young person, I used to say that what he did was actually nothing because as the champion of independence he still had to get it done. I thought for example that all the organs of a modern state were so obvious that it was no great feat to put all of those things in place.
The list includes: Bahamasair, the Central Bank, the National Insurance Board; the Royal Bahamas Defence Force; the Hotel Corporation. They seemed obvious.
In retrospect, they also seemed contrived to a young mind. This is often the consequence of getting to see persons like a prime minister operate at close range at a young age. My friend Rex Nettleford often advises young people that you have to be civilized before you can be blasé. And when Sir Lynden shared with me a document which he called One Man’s Personal Manifesto written in 1970 in which he outlined all the organs which he wanted to put in place, I was astounded. I thought the man was a sheer genius. I read it around 1976. Not until I was exposed to history and political science did I know that these institutions were inevitable. But the fact is you still had to do it. And you still had to get it done and someone had to do it. In our history, he was the man.
One of the criticisms of Sir Lynden was that he tried to be all things to all men. That he could look you in the face as a political ally, friend or enemy and cold-eyed deny something; pretend that he did not know but at the same time be fully aware of a situation. It is called in politics, keeping one's counsel. It is that same quality which Sir Henry Taylor identified in his book of always playing the role of the delegate as a means of giving you the impression that he himself was not part of the decision. He would often report bad news with the words: “the fellows say”. In other words, it is not me it’s just my fellows, and that takes him off the hook.
The other quality which some saw as ungratefulness but which his party and I admire as a great political quality, that of being poker faced in the face of great charm and largesse from his enemies and allies and those in between. No more was this more in evidence than in his relationship with the Grand Bahama Port Authority.
Sir Lynden had known Edward St, George and Jack Hayward for a long time. Mr. St. George was a magistrate in The Bahamas in the 1950s and St. George often told the story of the two of them travelling together when he was the circuit magistrate in Andros. But that did not mean a thing to Pindling when it came to representing the interests of The Bahamas, the PLP and himself.
It is a quality which the present Prime Minister lacks or at least people believe he lacks. He appears to be easily seduced by the blandishments of his financial and social betters, Pindling was never seduced. Perhaps he crossed the line sometimes but not – not ever - seduced.
The finest hour with that was of course the bend or break speech. It is my argument - and I would like one day to ask Maurice Moore the then Member of Parliament for High Rock, Grand Bahama whether this is so or not – it is my argument that one of the major policy disputes behind the break-up of the PLP in the early 1970s was the policy of how to deal with Freeport.
Remember that Pindling came to power on a pro-black, pro-nationalist bent. In Freeport there were economic good times in 1967, and as soon as the new PLP was in power the investors there befriended a number of the new Blacks in power, but the Cabinet under Pindling was adamant that the national Government had to get control of Immigration policy.
You will remember that in the first version of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement negotiated under the UBP, the British Government and their lawyer Stafford Sands who was also the Minister of Defence allowed the Port to have control over who could immigrate to Freeport. The PLP’s cabinet had decided that as a matter of policy that could not stand.
In 1969 after the constitutional talks a new constitution came into force which consolidated the national Government's power over the internal affairs of the state, and made it beyond all doubt that the national government would have the final say over who was to come and work in The Bahamas. Arthur Hanna became the Minister for Immigration in 1970 and immediately embarked on a campaign of Bahamianization. He is the author of Bahamianization.
That was contrary to everything that the investors in Freeport stood for. Things came to a head in November 1969 at the official opening of the Bahamas Oil Refinery in Freeport, known as BORCO. Jeffery Thompson, Mr. Pindling's former articled law clerk and by that time Minister of Development remembered the day well. Pindling did not tell him or his political colleagues what he was going to say. He simply played his cards close to his chest.
Mr. Thompson remembers that when the Government Administrator Garnet Levarity was announced on the podium there were cheers for him much louder than there were for the Prime Minister. Mr. Thompson said he made a mental note then that Mr. Levarity's days were numbered. Then the speech. If the unbending social order in Freeport did not bend, it would be broken.
The Tribune’s Etienne Dupuch who was the mortal enemy of Lynden Pindling and the PLP reported the matter as the ‘bend or break’ speech. The Tribune to this day argues that that speech broke the economic back of Freeport. It caused a withdrawal of investment. Wallace Groves its founder withdrew and eventually the company was sold to its now owners Edward St. George and Jack Hayward.
But what that early event helped to cement in the public's mind was that of a nationalist Prime Minister who put the principle of The Bahamas first before economic gain. It established that in this country Bahamians could count on the Prime Minister and the national Government to intervene on their behalf.
And that is how it worked. If foreign nationals did something that was offensive to Bahamians and their interests, there was a direct line to the Government and that person might find it shall we say uncomfortable to remain in The Bahamas. It is those days for which Bahamians now hanker. The climate changed in favour of the policies of the UBP when the FNM took over in 1992. The economy was in the doldrums and people then believed that the land policies of the PLP were too nationalistic and restrictive and the immigration policies the same. The FNM came to power with specific promises to reverse that and they have. The result is the discontent and the fear that people have today that the country is being swamped by foreigners and land is being sold out from under us.
Pindling then, left a Government legacy of a patriarchy. He sat at the top as a sometimes benevolent, other times harsh, patriarch who oversaw everything in the country. He ran a nationalist Government. He left a legacy that the Government is supposed to be there to be able to intervene for and on behalf of the people directly. Thus all roads would often lead to the Cabinet Office. It worked many times with him: policies were reversed by a direct appeal to the Prime Minister. That tradition continues today with Hubert Ingraham who learned all he knows in policy from Sir Lynden.
I was at the end of twelve months of being 23 years of age when the elections of 1977 were held. I had met a man named Paul Drake, a writer, tall blonde Jewish, who had a great impact on the political scene in The Bahamas in terms of shaping the propaganda political wars. I did not know him when I first joined the PLP. But during 1976, the then Prime Minister Pindling said that he wanted to restart The Herald, the party’s newspaper once run by Cyril Stevenson. Michael Symonette, now the proprietor of The Print Shop was to be its editor, and a man named Paul Drake was to run the editorial side of the paper.
I first heard of Paul Drake from P. Anthony White. Mr. White, now a consultant to the Prime Minister and Governor General, was an FNM supporter who used to be a PLP supporter. He used to work at the famous Fourth floor of the Trade Winds Building, next to the main Bank of Nova Scotia on Bay Street in a company called Diversified Services. This was the fourth floor that was accused of corrupting the PLP and which included David Probinsky and Arthur Foulkes as the PR geniuses and political handymen of the then Prime Minister. Perhaps one day Mr. White can tell that story.
Paul Drake who died in 1994 was an American born in Boston, who spoke with a strong Israeli accent somewhat like the now prime minister of Israel Barak. He served in the 1967 war and the Yom Kippur War in the Israeli Army. He had fascinating stories to tell. He taught me political writing of the kind that I most enjoy.
I had tried to be come a candidate for the 1977 general election as the nominee for the PLP in Centerville. I was the Chairman of the Centerville Branch of the PLP had I thought I had the support of most of my cohorts who grew up with me in the area. But the shining star of the PLP and Centreville at the time was Perry Christie. He had only recently returned from law school, and Pindling had taken a shine to Mr. Christie from his school days in London, and immediately catapulted him to a position in the Senate in 1975 to fill a vacancy.
In retrospect, I did not have a ghost of a chance at 23 to defeat that choice. But I learnt a great deal in that first lesson about politics in how, shall we say, people can play things close to their chest. No one wants to offend, and everyone tells you they support you. I did not even know who the persons were on the candidates committee who were going to decide my fate. I believe that in the Council I got maybe my Grand Aunt's vote. But the choice was a clear Perry Christie in Centreville. I immediately promised my help and ended up from a desk in the Bahamas Information services writing his first speech for his first election campaign political broadcast on ZNS. That year he ran against and defeated the now Governor General Sir Orville Turnquest.
As I said in retrospect, I do not think that I had a ghost of a chance. But I decided that I would persevere. It would not be until 1992 that I decided again to actively seek office. That time as head of my own party. That year as head of the Peoples Democratic Force (PDF), now defunct, I negotiated a Senate seat with the Free National Movement, where I was to sit as an independent. That decision was carried out and executed by Sir Orville Turnquest, the now Governor General and one Hubert Alexander Ingraham whom I had first met in 1977 just before he became Chairman of the PLP.
My first recollection of a meeting with Mr. Ingraham was during the campaign of 1977 at a political rally for Milo Butler Junior at the C.I. Gibson primary School Gymnasium. I was standing up by myself or perhaps with my aide at the time Charles Rolle Jr. of Kemp Road. Mr. Ingraham asked to see me and asked if I would simply withdraw to the side so he could have a few words to say to me. I did.
He spoke sotto voce and said that he was speaking on behalf of his friend and partner Perry Christie. He said that Mr. Christie was a very worried man because I refused to withdraw my candidacy for the nomination for Centreville. I asked why? He said that I was causing trouble with the Committee for the nomination, and he asked me to withdraw my nomination because Mr. Christie was going to get he nomination anyway. He said I was a young man and could wait and he would support the nomination for me the next time. It was the first of a number of broken promises by Mr. Ingraham. I told him that I thanked him very much for his concern but since Mr. Christie was going to win the nomination any way, I would not withdraw since my chances were either I would get it or not. I would take my chances. As I said I lost that fight. I am still around and waiting. But that’s life and my relationship with Mr. Christie, which has gone through many permutations, remains today.
The election result was a resounding defeat for the Opposition because of the split in the Opposition forces. There were four parties that fought the election in 1977, the PLP (the governing party), the Free National Movement (the party of Cecil Wallace Whitfield) and the Bahamian Democratic Party (headed by Henry Bostwick). The Vanguard Socialist Party was an important intellectual presence. headed by Professor John McCartney it never made any impact in an electoral sense on the population. Its ideology appeared to be too far left.
The Bahamian Democratic Party emerged with the lion’s share of the votes on the Opposition side. They were the inheritors of the seats traditionally held by the United Bahamian Party that went out of existence in 1972 after its amalgamation with Cecil Wallace Whitfield’s FNM. The FNM itself had been formed out of the breakaway of the eight persons who split from the PLP following the then Mr. Whitfield’s resignation from the Cabinet in 1970 and the vote of no confidence that was moved by Sir Randol Fawkes and supported by the dissident eight of the Free PLP.
The election was over and the question was what was I going to do? I was working at the Public Affairs Division of the Bahamas Information Services at the time. This was the radio arm of the Bahamas Information services. It was headed by Vibart Wills, a Guyanese born British citizen, whom Pindling had befriended in London and asked to come here and head the unit. It appeared that they were having some sort of political falling out and the unit was not moving, so it was time for me to move on. I realized then that I ought to have studied law and would not have been in the problem of looking to someone for a job. It is the most demeaning experience to visit a politician and ask what is in store for you.
George Smith was instrumental in getting an audience for me with Sir Lynden. Mr. Smith, who was then the Minister of Agriculture, after five years as Minister of Transport, and his brother Philip the Member of Parliament for North Long Island had become friends with me. I worked in both their campaigns in Exuma and in Long Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay. A. Loftus Roker reinforced the call to Sir Lynden. He was then the Minister of Works, and I had spent a great deal of the campaign with him in north Andros. Pindling agreed to see me, and asked me if I would take a position as a special consultant to the Broadcasting Corporation's News Department. Philip Smith was to become the Chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation, and the Queen was coming to The Bahamas and they needed someone who would help ZNS prepare for that event.
And so with misgivings about it, I decided to go. The misgivings were because Kendal Nottage was the Minister Responsible for broadcasting, He was an unknown quantity for me, but from what I knew of him I did not expect a pleasant ride. I believed however that because of Pindling’s benefaction and the allies like the Smith Brothers and Mr. Roker that I would be protected from any harm that might come from that direction.
I was wrong and I pretty soon learned a lesson in politics about how far the so-called Princes of the realm, even the king of the realm will go to protect a surrogate. You should always remember that often there is only so far that they are prepared to go. If the going gets too tough, and then they have to let you swim for yourself and they will. I went to ZNS and received a baptism by fire.
The preparation and work for the Queen’s visit was phenomenally successful. The research was appreciated by the people at ZNS. Television was new and Charles Carter ran the television operation. He was later to become a Member of Parliament himself. Calsey Johnson who was overall GM later became a PLP candidate and Senator. Ed Bethel was the Director of News.
ZNS being a monopoly was a powerful voice and influence in The Bahamas and was always the centre of attention. The PLP was concerned that it could not get its message out. Pretty soon the Chairman Philip Smith asked me if I would assemble a team to form a public affairs unit which would broadcast the Government's views to the country. I did that through a programme called This Week in Parliament. It was universally reviled by the Opposition but television in 1977 resulted in my face and name being for good or ill etched into the minds of thousands of Bahamians.
Henry Bostwick who is today the President of the Senate still teases me about how he despised me in those days. How he thought I was simply too young, too smooth, and too glib to get away with what he thought was pure political propaganda. And that must have made me public enemy number one. I pretty soon became a golden boy for the Prime Minister and the Board and the Minister but reviled by persons on the staff and the political opposition.
Following upon a report of a political war of words between the Hon. A.D. Hanna and Henry Bostwick in the House of Assembly where Mr. Hanna threatened to throw a book at Henry Bostwick, the News Director at the time Ed Bethel got in some problem. All we heard at the time was that Ed Bethel had offended the then Deputy Prime Minister, ZNS was in trouble financially. Mr. Hanna was the Minister of Finance and it was said that he was exacting a price for increased funding for ZNS. I have never asked him if it were true and I will one day. For those purposes that is the story that got around at my level.
What I know is that Charles Carter called me in and interrogated me and asked me how it was that I could have allowed the broadcast to go on to the air in the way that it did. I pointed out that I was the junior man on the scene, that Mr. Bethel was my superior and I could not direct him what to do.
You can understand the sensitivities of the telling of this story today, and you will see why in a minute that I do this with such trepidation since some of the wounds of these events have still not fully healed. But I think that the record must be set straight.
I was asked to visit the Chairman of the Corporation at his home off Village Road late at night. He told me that the Board had made a decision to dismiss Ed Bethel from ZNS and wanted to offer me the job as Director of news. He said to me that as the Chairman I want you to take the job. As your friend I am telling you not to take the job. Winston Saunders, another member of the Board and a friend also advised me against taking the job. I was too ambitious to say no. I had one more person to ask.
I went to see the Sir Lynden. In those days, I talked to him virtually every day. He was upset. I wasn’t sure at whom. But he kept looking out of the window of his office in the Churchill Building down at the waterfront. He talked like he was not in the room and not a part of the decision. He said that he had been told about the decision made by the Board at ZNS. He thought it was a bad idea. He didn’t think that Mr. Bethel should have been fired. But he was acquiescing. He said that we had a good thing going with the Public Affairs Division and now the Board had gone and ruined the whole thing. He simply sighed and wished me good luck. That was it.
Shortly after the decision of the board was announced, I was appointed Director of News and Public Affairs as of I August 1978, and all hell broke loose. It came off like an ambitious Young Turk without a conscience had been used by Pindling to push a dedicated journalist out of his long time job. Mr. Bethel had been on the job for 20 years. The staff did not like it. The country seemed to revolt against it. And the press seemed universally opposed to it.
But I persevered ‘irregardless’ as they say. It was clear to me that I had no hand in the decision to fire Ed Bethel and I wondered why people would not look to the person who actually made the decision. To no avail. I was the fall guy, and to make matters worse for the first time in my political life, I learned that no one will defend you when you are in political trouble you are on your own. I had to defend myself at the age of 24 against the onslaught. The only way I knew how was to work, work, and work and ignore all the commentary. That time at ZNS served me well, because I still use the lesson today. Work, work and work and ignore the commentary.
But in retrospect, I still wonder why it was not possible to explain the story, I have since learned that sometimes the truth gets lost in the din of the cut and thrust and perhaps if you live long enough it will get straight. Most times, it will not and you just have to satisfy yourself that you know the truth and go on with your life.
There is much more to be said about that period at ZNS. But for now I wish to leave it there. I think that Ed Bethel and I have reached an understanding. I think were pawns in much larger game. I don’t even know if we are able to speak about it and I won’t express all I have to say here about that period until I write the larger work but I record it here as one of those events for which I have some regret because of the way it adversely affected that individual.
THE POST ZNS YEARS
The day that I became 25 years old on 5th October 1978, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was the happiest night of my life and I have not felt that moment since. My mother threw a surprise birthday party for me. Given all the trouble that had been caused by the appointment to the Directorship of ZNS News and Public Affairs, it was a great relief to see the scores of people who turned up. It was simply a happy night.
But I have the kind of personality that is always anticipating the dark side and I kept thinking that it could get no better than this: all the money needed, all the fame I had wanted, the influence I desired had come at 25. What next? My political ambitions were not satisfied, and my relationship with the Minister for broadcasting was getting increasingly fractious. I had the impression that it was because of my close personal relationship with Sir Lynden that all the trouble was brewing. And the best way to say it, is that despite his remarkable talents in many areas, Kendal Nottage and I simply did not take to each other. That is the most charitable way to say it. And I say that in the hope and the expectation that all of that is long since past and I hold no animosity whatsoever toward him.
But I believed that a clash was going to come sooner or later, and I knew from the time of the appointment that neither the Chairman my friend Philip Smith, nor the Prime Minister could or even would if they could offer protection. I had the sense that although I won the battle at ZNS, I had lost the war and my reputation had been damaged. Later after I returned to Nassau from school at Harvard, the Prime Minister in a frank talk told me that he thought I had a personality problem and that I could not get along with people. That's a pretty devastating thing to say to a young man, and I almost believed it. But I have long since rejected it as hogwash.
So on the night of my 25th birthday, I resolved that as soon as I could I would leave the Corporation to go on to do a master’s programme at Harvard if I could in public administration. I thought that my friends at Court would support the application for study leave with pay. It was the easy way out for all of us. And they did. I applied to Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and was accepted. The Corporation agreed to leave of absence with pay. They would not pay for the schooling but allowed me to get the Provident Fund Money to go. Arthur Hanna who is related to me distantly and who we grew up calling Uncle Arthur used his position as Minister of Finance to provide a City Market Scholarship for two thousand dollars and with that I left for Boston, Massachusetts in August 1979.
When I arrived at Cambridge, I thought that I could exhale. Free of all the intrigue and notoriety. And I studied well. I enjoyed it immensely. It was a life-changing year. It turned my political beliefs on their heads. I became convinced that Government and collectivism was bad for the people of a country and that more emphasis needed to be put on individual effort, privacy and individual freedom. So my creed that I had accepted from the early days in the PLP that decisions were made by the state for and on behalf of the collective will of the people, simple news decisions at ZNS for example, were wrong and I became convinced of it.
I was to continue to receive my salary and I settled in for a year of academic bliss. That was not to be. After the first month, when I had used up my vacation, I got a call from my secretary at the Corporation to say that she wished to alert me to something that seemed to be wrong. It was a typical Bahamian warning. She said “I don't know what is going on here but something has passed my desk and it does not look good. I think you had better call the chairman or the Prime Minister.”
I called Sir Lynden from Cambridge and told him what I had heard. The Chairman Philip Smith had informed me that the Minister had cancelled the Board's decision to allow me to receive my salary while I was away. So that meant that I would be in a serious financial crunch if something did not happen to intervene. Sir Lynden expressed surprise. I don't know if it was a real surprise but he did, and asked me to join him in New York for Thanksgiving 1978 where he was supposed to visit our Mission at the United Nations. I did that, and he said that he appreciated the situation and would seek to solve it by the time I returned home for Christmas.
We met at Christmas time and he told me that he had spoken to Edward St. George at the Grand Bahama Port Authority who had provided the sum of ten thousand dollars to assist with the school year. That solved that problem. In the meantime Kendal Nottage, the Minister asked me if while I was at home we could have lunch. I forgot to mention that he was in Sir Lynden's suite in New York when I went to see the Prime Minister at Thanksgiving. I agreed to have lunch and at lunch, he told me that he understood my situation, and he was prepared to offer me the salary that had originally been promised by the Corporation. I thanked him but politely declined.
I never understood and I suppose it is not a question that one can ask: why did Sir Lynden not intervene directly and simply say to Kendal that the matter had to be restored. I never asked him but there always seemed a reluctance despite all that is said about him being such an autocrat to force his Ministers do something by order. He seemed always to avoid any kind of confrontation unless he had to, and said anything to avoid it.
I returned home from Harvard definitely better off than when I left but I also had no job, and I had no prospects. My salary was returned by the Corporation upon my return but it was made clear to me that the management and staff did not want my return and the Prime Minister was either unwilling or unable to force it. And so after sitting it out for a long time George Smith, the Minister of Agriculture and Loftus Roker, the Minister of Works were able to intervene again and this time Pindling agreed to see me and arranged a berth at the Bahamas Information Services as his personal assistant. The idea was, he said, to assist in running the campaign to amend the constitution's citizenship provisions, following the D’arcy Ryan decision by the Privy Council in 1980. That pretty soon became a dead end. The Anglican Bishop Michael Eldon came out strongly against it and that was about the last time I heard about it. Except for one time during a funny incident in Abaco in the 1982 campaign.
Sir Lynden and I were in Abaco. He had a speaking engagement. And during the question and answer period, this is sometime in 1981 or 1982, someone in the audience asked him about the referendum on citizenship. And he waxed eloquent, about the Government's timetable and how everything was in place and pretty soon there would be a referendum. I was then the Editor of yet another incarnation of the PLP’s newspaper called The Herald yet again. A job I held from 1981 to 1983. This was news to me and great news for the party paper. I would have a scoop. So I was writing furiously. After the meeting, I heard this voice calling out frantically in the dark of the street where the meeting was held: Where’s Fred?! Where’s Fred?! It was Sir Lynden. Someone pointed him out to me. He walked up to me and said: “Oh you know that thing about the referendum on citizenship? Hold on to that until I speak to you.” Yes sir, said I. That was the last I heard about it. Needless to say the constitution has not been amended. But the aplomb with which he delivered that answer about the referendum from the public stage was absolutely incredible. I was convinced that it was only a short time to come.
Some people have dismissed this kind of action in later years as that of a flammer as we like to say. But it seems to me that it is that same quality which we got to dislike as he became unpopular in his later years that exactly served the country well in his early years. He was able at turns to be nice to the foreign investor or the rich white Bahamian elite, who actually all despised him in many ways. And at the same time that he was nice he could turn icy cold and taciturn. The people of the country therefore never generally came to believe that he could be bought out for a few immigration permits.
Nothing illustrated that quality to me more than another incident, the year of which I forget, when he toured the city of Freeport. It was a tour similar to the one that the owners of the Grand Bahama Port Authority arranged for the now Prime Minister last week. Unlike the response to the present Prime Minister’s visit where everyone believes that he has been sold and accepted a bill of goods, Pindling never got swallowed up in it. I do think that he got too close officially to St. George and the Port Authority during his later years in office and it was used to great effect by the now Prime Minister. But imagine what we can say about the now Prime Minister and his connection with the Port Authority in Grand Bahama. The Port's Chairman Edward St. George is even able to pronounce on Bahamian politics, including telling CDR that they are frightening away investors. This is the same man who was told by the Prime Minister in 1992 that he should stay out of the political affairs of The Bahamas. Mr. Ingraham was on the platform laughing as St. George spoke last week.
But back to my story. We all gathered at the Sir Charles Hayward Club in outer Freeport, somewhere near the sea in Lucaya after the tour for lunch. It was close to the time of Sir Lynden’s birthday so I would put it around March 1982. And St. George rose and waxed eloquent about Sir Lynden what a great man he was and so on and so forth. Jack Hayward in his back- handed style damned him with faint praise. But he gave his two bits.
One would have expected in the normal course of things for the guest after all these great things were said to get up and respond. And we sat and waited. There was a long period of silence. Sir Lynden kept looking up at the ceiling and said nothing. It was an embarrassed silence. Then all of a sudden, Sir Lynden simply turned to one of his friends sitting next to him and started talking. The rest of us started talking. We were absolutely amazed at it. That was cold.
And on yet another occasion, during the 1982 campaign we were in Deadman's Cay Long Island for a meeting at a restaurant near the airport. Errington ‘Bumpy’ Watkins was the independent candidate for the Clarence Town constituency, the south Long Island district that has never voted for the PLP. The PLP was not opposing Mr. Watkins. This was quite a controversial decision given the fact that Bumpy as he was called opposed Independence and wanted to help Abaco break away in 1972 and was seen as a secessionist. One of our big supporters refused to vote that election because of our tacit support of Bumpy.
Anyway, we all gathered at the restaurant for the speech of the Prime Minister. Sir Lynden came and spoke and spoke and spoke. He spoke for about twenty minutes, but not once did he call the name of the candidate Bumpy Watkins. He urged people to oppose the FNM but he never told them to vote for Bumpy. Again as young men we were amazed. And I say we because joining me at The Herald at the time was Mark Beckford, a talented young writer, who died prematurely on the operating table some five or so years ago. We travelled across the country on these political trips. I hope wherever he is, he is able to hear this and smile.
FAST FORWARD TO 1984
By the time the 1982 election was over, I knew that it was time to move on again. I had been hoping against hope that I would have been able to survive as a journalist and make a decent living. I wanted to start my own public relations firm but that was dependent on the Government. After the election the PLP despite the promises made by the Prime Minister had no more use for a newspaper. I was tired of the deadlines and trying to find money to keep the thing going. The party lacked a clear commitment to a comprehensive public relations strategy.
And so I first had a chat with Archdeacon William Thompson. It is still hard for me to say, the late Archdeacon William Thompson. He was straight and to the point. You have go and study law. I vacillated. I took off for Jamaica and spent a week in Kingston and three days by myself at a fabulous north coast resort in Ocho Rios called Trident Villas. And there I made my decision. I would go to the UK, do the two-year course and the one-year and the bar and be done with it. I left in December 1983, and I was finished in July of 1986, just in time for the 1987 General Election. I thought that I would at last have the bona fides to be a candidate for the PLP.
This is a society that is enamoured of lawyers. And it was especially infra dig for me to go through the experience of law school at my age. But I remembered Jeffery Thompson who left his job as a Cabinet Minister to study law with a wife and three young children at the age of 40. He did it. I could do it. I gritted my teeth and did it. It seemed a long, boring, slog at the time. In retrospect, I had the time of my life, winning the school’s prize in constitutional law.
But the best laid plans of mice and men as they say, you know the rest. Even during the 1982 successes, there was always this kind of foreboding which suggested that something was not quite right. And in December 1982 while I was away, it was announced that the Prime Minister would receive honours from the Queen and become a knight. My heart fell. I was greatly disappointed. I could not believe it. There were lots of defenders but it seemed incredible that while sitting in office, the nation builder would bestow the honour upon himself. Disillusionment began to set in in earnest, even as I sat at the banquet in his honour. Again, we have an amazing society in that we sit and give formal praise, even as we whisper about impropriety off to the side.
The real problem came during a investigative report by NBC later that year which made startling accusations about drug corruption in the Government. The Opposition pressed for a Parliamentary Select Committee and got instead a Commission of Inquiry. Just before the Commission of Inquiry was supposed to report, the telephone calls were coming fast and furious from Nassau to London to me. I learned that the Prime Minister in 1984 intended to make a decision with regard to the Cabinet. Arthur Hanna who had been Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister for 18 years and who most people would have thought was inseparable from Sir Lynden decided that he was leaving and resigning on 10 October 1984. Sir Lynden in order to take the steam out of that resignation decided that he would ask for and accept the resignations of George Smith and Kendal Nottage as Ministers of the Government. He would fire Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie, two other Ministers. This was dynamite.
I spoke to Paul Adderley from his post in New York where he was addressing the General Assembly. His voice was grave indeed.
I supported Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie after the dismissal. I thought that the person who would have resigned and should have resigned if only to face a general election ought to have been Sir Lynden. I thought he made a terrible blunder by not doing so. I withdrew any contact with him and wrote publicly about my dissatisfaction with it.
While in London for one of his periodic visits, he tried to reach me sometime the next year. He had not heard from me in months. This was most unusual. Richard Demeritte was the High Commissioner for London and he and I spent many moons together in London talking over events with him in absentia from The Bahamas. He as High Commissioner had to meet and greet, wine and dine Sir Lynden. One Saturday night following a long day at Bar School, I got a call from the High Commissioner from his car. Arthur Hanna was with him in the car. He started in a grave voice; “M’boy” he said “I think you’re in trouble. The man is looking or you.”
“Who is that?” I said, feigning ignorance. “The Prime Minister” came the reply. He gave me a message for you. Do you want to hear it? I told him to go ahead. The PM said to tell you that he is satisfied that you are ducking him. But to tell you not to worry he is still your friend and that anytime you need him he will be there for you. I asked Midge Hanna what did he think. “You are man” said Mr. Hanna. The HC asked if I had any reply for Sir Lynden. I said I had none that could be repeated on the telephone.
Many relationships went on ice during that period that have now been repaired, and some day it will be appropriate and I will be able to say all that transpired during that period, the ‘you say and I say’ but for now I leave much of it unsaid. Suffice it to say that it was a long and deep thaw. The PLP went terribly wrong following the Commission of Inquiry, the expulsion of Hubert Ingraham. The victory that came in 1987 made the party arrogant and this led ultimately to the defeat in 1992.
Being out of the PLP, I satisfied myself with political activism in favourite themes like human rights and particularly the fight against the death penalty. I formed close relationships with the human rights movement: Dr John Lunn, Maurice Glinton, Fred Smith, Dr. Mary Ritchie, Elizabeth Darville and Sir Randol Fawkes. All those relationships drifted apart after the 1992 election when it was clear that they were all really FNM operatives and I was - in the context of 1992 - more of an independent.
Hubert Ingraham was quite concerned about the inability to get me to join the FNM before and after the 1992 election, and it probably cost me a seat in the House of Assembly, because he offered me the South Beach seat in exchange for joining the FNM. I was not comfortable. I did the deal on the senate seat. And he tried to get out of that after the election, asking me instead to work as a special assistant in the PM’s office, a job I had held ten years earlier. I thought to myself, this guy has a fundamental problem with me that can’t be solved and sooner or later we shall have to part company. And those events began to unfold as I believed that the Free National Movement began selling out the national patrimony by its policies.
Mr. Ingraham himself simply did not know how to talk to people. He was rude and boorish and full of his own power, and one of the first meetings that I arranged with a group of women to meet him about the dismissal of a Bahamian mother with three children who had campaigned and voted for Frank Watson showed his disregard for the Bahamian people. The way he talked to those women who were fighting for their Bahamian co-worker at the Hotel Corporation was most insulting and I don’t think that they ever forgot it. I certainly did not.
That attitude of his began to inform my decisions and we drifted apart from a close political relationship from 1984 to 1996 to the point where I am satisfied that he will do anything in his power to destroy me today. I inform my decisions on that latter basis in the year 2000. How have we come to that from where we were is quite another story, the story about Hubert Ingraham and Fred Mitchell. Today is the story of Sir Lynden Pindling.
The Leader for the PLP in the Senate Franklin Wilson in 1996 had been after me for months about rejoining the PLP. As the FNM began to drift more and more away from the interests of the Bahamian people and Hubert Ingraham became more insensitive, I became more and more annoyed. You just couldn’t get through to him and you were constantly having wars of words with him. The more the PLP alternative seemed more plausible.
My political advisors kept saying that the direction to go was toward Pindling again. I don’t remember how it all started but I recall that I had promised the FNM that I would maintain my independence throughout their first term of office. If PDF did not develop, I would then shift emphasis and seek public acceptance for my joining the FNM. It was a hard pill to swallow and I was always uncomfortable with it.
In the winter of 1996, after not having spoken to Hubert Ingraham in months, perhaps as long as a year, this from speaking to him every day on the telephone early in the morning; I decided to start against my better judgement the shift to the FNM by sending certain public signals. I was trying to keep my promise to them.
I went to the Golden Gates Assembly, led by Pastor Ross Davis for a church service where I was asked to speak, and in the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister I said that I would soon be making a political decision which might mean the end of my independence. This caused a stir in the political community. FNMs seemed ecstatic in response and many of them anticipated that I would join them. The Prime Minister said nothing.
I heard by radio that the Prime Minister was travelling to South Andros to sell the idea of local government. Without announcing it, I borrowed a friend's plane and flew over to spend the night at the public meeting in South Andros and be seen there. It was yet another signal. Mr. Ingraham and I spoke briefly and agreed to meet soon.
That soon turned out to be November 1996. I had had enough of the rope-a-dope and wanted to, needed to know what he was going to do. Was he going to fulfill his promise about a nomination for the FNM in exchange for joining the FNM?
THE INGRAHAM DELEGATION
Mr. Ingraham was leading a delegation of Bahamian businessmen on one of his periodic progresses. This time it was Canada, and I thought that I would force a meeting in Toronto. So I flew up to Toronto in November 1996 and checked into the York Hotel and found where he was. I met him that night at a reception being put on by CIBC.
He waved at me and I nodded back. It was going to be a difficult night. He got up on the platform and started talking to his hosts about the political and economic situation in The Bahamas. And of course he said something which I thought was inappropriate. He started telling the folk gathered there that there were only two parties of any significance in The Bahamas. And looking at me he said “…and they are the only ones that count. No one else can have anything else to say that counts.” The Bahamians looked around in the room at me. I suppose he was talking about the fact that I continued to lead People's Democratic Force. In fact, PDF was a spent force by then.
In case there was any mistake about this little verbal barb, Bill Allen, the now Minister of Finance came over and said to me; “I see the Prime Minister was talking about you.”
The Prime Minister came over and asked whether or not I wanted to join him for dinner that night. I declined. But early the next morning I saw him just after breakfast and I asked for and got a meeting in the afternoon in his suite.
The conversation was not an easy one but it was direct. First he was appalled, his words not mine that I had suggested that a male ought to be head of the College of The Bahamas. Someone had faxed a copy of my statement to the press. He thought it was a bad idea and thought that it would cost votes for the FNM. I told him that while I respected his ideas, my ideas were my ideas and I begged to differ with him.
Then he said that there was no hope for a nomination from the Free National Movement, he said the best I could hope for was another seat in the Senate but it would require my joining the FNM. I told him I would think about what he said and thanked him very much. I believe that is the last time that we have spoken other than to say hello and exchange pleasantries.
As we descended in the elevator in his hotel, the course was clear. My instinct to accept the overtures made by Sir Lynden to return to the PLP were correct. The independent course could no longer be maintained given our system.
And I recalled another promise I made to myself. I remember the opening of Parliament in 1993. The PLP had a place to which to repair while waiting for the session to convene. I was not welcome there. The FNM had the Cabinet Room to which to repair. I was not welcome there. I had to stand up in the street and talk to the security people while waiting. I told myself that I would try never to find myself in that position again. Certainly, it seemed that an independent was only a source of entertainment, free entertainment for the Bahamian people. But he or she did not have a chance in our system to make any changes.
I believe it was Senator Obie Wilchcombe, the Chairman of the party, who told me that Sir Lynden had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and had gone to Baltimore for treatment. That was November 1996. I got an address and telephone number.
My friend Calvin Brown, a PLP of longstanding from the Shirlea district, and I decided that in order to cover our tracks we would travel to Washington, D.C. We would then drive to Baltimore to see Sir Lynden. Senator Wilchcombe made the arrangements, and the meeting took place.
The reception in the riverside suite was glorious. Senator Calsey Johnson was there. Richard Demeritte, the former High Commissioner, Lady Pindling, Dashie Williams (an aide to Sir Lynden) were all there. Senator Wilchcombe was there. Sir Lynden and I retired to a separate room for an hour's worth of talk. It was quite incredible after twelve years of estrangement, things had come full circle. The old saying, if you live long enough...
The discussions were not easy, although they were not as tortuous as the discussions with Mr. Ingraham. Sir Lynden said that he wished me to return to the PLP and to use my skills in relations with the media to keep the PLP's name in the forefront. We agreed that Bahamians were under siege and needed a nationalist party to protect them. He could not then offer any specific seat, but George Mackey had been to see me and was suggesting that upon his retirement that I take over the Fox Hill seat. Sir Lynden thought that was a good idea and said he thought it could be sold. The question was, when would the move be made? I told him I had to think about it, because whenever I had made a final decision it would mean resigning from the Senate but I could not do so willy nilly. There had to be a public pretext to do so. We agreed to meet again in Nassau. I wished him well.
After our private meeting, we returned to the living room of the suite and prayers were said by Richard Demeritte as we all held hands. Lady Pindling said in parting: “Things are all right now because Fred Mitchell has come back home.” I smiled.
Later we met in Nassau. The deadline for an election was drawing nigh and a decision had to be made. So I went to see Sir Lynden at his request, this time at his office. He was concerned that I had not made a decision and time was running, I needed to get into the field. I told him that I was committed. That I would run for Fox Hill. And the only point of policy that he raised with me was my stand on capital punishment. Would I be willing to accept the PLP’s position on capital punishment? I did not know that the PLP had a position, I asked him what was the PLP’s position.
He said that the PLP’s position was that capital punishment would only be used in extreme circumstances. I told him that I remained opposed to capital punishment but would not publicly embarrass the PLP on the subject. That said, the deal was done.
Now Sir Lynden asked me for two other things. First he said that I had to write a letter applying for the nomination for Fox Hill. Then he said that I had to give him twelve dollars for my dues for a year's membership in the party. I told him that this was premature. I told him that the moment I sent him a letter, the news would be in the press the next day and I would then have to resign from the Senate. There would be no public pretext and it would look entirely opportunistic. What we needed was for the FNM to be pushed into doing something foolish which would cause them to push me out of the Senate. Then if I went to the PLP, the public would say: “Well that’s a wise thing to do because the other side does not want him.” My political advisors and myself were desperate to find such a pretext.
This was December 1996 and it wasn’t long before the FNM moved. I was awakened by a political friend from Freeport who told me to listen to the radio news. There was Dion Foulkes Chairman of the FNM, reading a resolution calling on the Prime Minister to remove me from the Senate. We all laughed out loud. “Bloody fools,” I said, “we gat them now.” I remember hearing Alergnon Allen's voice in the background saying “Shame Shame” as Dion read the statement. I waited still.
The next thing Hubert Ingraham stepped in. He called a radio talk show and indicated from his car telephone that he supported the Council’s resolution. That was enough. I submitted my resignation to the President of the Senate effective 8 January 1997. I had officially lost the confidence of the Prime Minister who had nominated me to the Senate pursuant to Article 39 of the Constitution.
The deal with Sir Lynden was that if I lost, I would be appointed to the Senate. I thought it was the best deal I could work out.
Oh, by the way, I never paid the twelve dollars and he never asked me about it again. I also never wrote to ask for the PLP’s nomination for Fox Hill, I got the nomination for Fox Hill. He never asked me again about the letter.
The PLP to which I had returned was a different kind of organization though. It was nothing like the well-oiled machine that I remembered. The warriors were old and tired. The party was a shell of its former self. I stood behind Philip Galanis MP, then a Senator, on the night all the candidates were announced at the convention in February 1997 and thought as we stood there how foolish it all felt and looked to be paraded like some 1960s marching brigade. The party needed radical change. It was time for Sir Lynden himself to retire.
The other part of the deal was that in the negotiations with me, Sir Lynden agreed that he would retire within one year of taking office as Prime Minister if we won the election. It was not a condition of my joining but and understanding between us. That was the best I could do. Many of my supporters were trying to get me to force an accommodation that I would not return unless he agreed to announce his resignation in advance. I was able to negotiate his announcing the one-year resignation in his address to the convention.
The thing that struck me is how decisions took so long to be made. Hubert Ingraham would make a statement about something during the election campaign. The PLP would take a week before they could answer it. We all had to gather and pore over the statement, crossing every T and dotting every I. It reminded me of that night when Sir Milo Butler died on 22 January 1979. I was then the Director of News and Public Affairs at ZNS.
I knew my job very well. And I knew that Sir Milo had been ill. One thing that had always impressed me as a youngster about the US networks was their ability to get a summary of someone’s life as soon as they died on the air. I was determined not to be caught with my pants down on the Sir Milo death. It was not to be. I was ready to go but at the eleventh hour, I received a telephone call from the Prime Minister's office that I must come down immediately to the office. In the office was Perry Christie and Sir Lynden. Sir Lynden wanted to see all the scripts that I proposed to write about Sir Milo. By the time he had finished poring over the thing it was too late to meet the newscast deadline. All the next day I was furious because people blamed me as the Director of News for ZNS not being ready upon the death of a great man.
And so the tendency was still there twenty years later to micromanage. That has to work itself today out of the PLP. The 1992 campaign as we now know was fatally flawed. The PLP was an impoverished organization, no money. The leadership was not definitive enough. We could not have won. And as you know we lost and lost badly.
And for two years there, it was a terrible season for the PLP. You almost could not speak its name in public, our supporters were cowed. Sir Lynden's Andros seat was won by the FNM. We were down on our luck. Sir Lynden himself was so afraid to venture out in public that he did not appear at Chuck Virgill, the murdered Minister’s funeral. People blamed him for the murder. As it turns out, the persons convicted were FNM supporters.
But it appears that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. In death, all of the bad things seem to have faded into the background, Now the villain of the piece is no longer Lynden Pindling, it is his protégé Hubert Ingraham, Mr. Ingraham is the one who dragged the man's name through the mud of a Commission of Inquiry. That Commission discovered nothing of public importance, save that a man could not balance his chequebook. It was simply designed to needlessly embarrass the man through idle and speculative gossip.
Upon Sir Lynden’s death, perhaps Mr. Ingraham had a bout of conscience, and if he did (which I doubt, I think it is all calculation) then he ought to have repented for all the wrongs which he committed in order to win. All is fair, they say in love and war.
In the last years, I cannot say that I was every close to Sir Lynden. But we had an easy relationship, one that allowed me despite my views about his former policies, to call upon him at any time. In fact, I had the privilege of bringing him, actually driving him in my car to two days of the Politics and Government class here at the College of The Bahamas. The students were shocked when they walked into class and they kept him long after class talking about the past and his policies.
In fact he said the day he came here that his problem was so many requests from students about the past and his policies. He had difficulty meeting those requests.
What then is the point of all this? There is plenty more to come. I am ending here today. Much still cannot be said. But I thought that before I forgot some of this stuff, I should record it, and make some sense of it, and its importance for public policy.
I therefore draw the following preliminary conclusions over what Michael Craton has called the Pindling era. That era has come to a close with his death on 26 August 2000 at the early age of 70.
First, I join those in saying that Lynden Pindling was indeed a colossus who bestrode The Bahamas. He made an inestimable contribution to the development of the modern Bahamas. He developed the modern Bahamian state and was the father of the nation, leading us to independence. That cannot be taken away from him.
Some of his detractors point out that at first Sir Lynden was reluctant to support independence but once the idea caught on in the popular imagination, he took ahold of it and sold it to the nation. They say that Arthur Hanna was the ideological architect of the policies, Pindling was the salesman. But clearly he was a good salesman because he was able to point his finger on the pulse of the Bahamian nation from 1967 to 1992. It was a long stretch.
I also conclude that the same qualities of micro managing, holding his cards close to his chest, the duck and feint of his public postures helped to keep and build the consensus that kept the country stable for twenty five years. The white people did not run after Independence. They trusted him. He was able to confound all his enemies. And even though they defeated him in the 1992 and 1997 elections, in his death they all paid tribute to him.
I also conclude that there was much to be admired in his style of leadership. The writer Vidian Naipaul says that we in the Caribbean need a messiah in our politics. And he was seen as just such a figure. I call The Bahamas under him a patriarchy where people felt that they could appeal directly to him and have their problems solved or at least find a listening ear.
I also conclude that he was genuinely interested in training young people to take over The Bahamas although at the end he did not know when to let go. And the legacy he has left to the Bahamian state is a strong, confident, cadre of young Bahamians who can run and govern The Bahamas. We are now in danger of undermining that legacy by the actions of the present Government but I think that if we act soon we shall survive that.
I think that the country will always remember, those of us who were alive, how relieved we were when Sir Lynden flew home by Concorde to get back to The Bahamas following the sinking of the HMBS Flamingo on 10 May 1980. I was intimately involved in that story too but that must wait for another time.
I also conclude that his greatest contribution to the country was the policy of Bahamianization. The Bahamian people knew that as long as the PLP was in power, Bahamians were in charge of their destiny in this country.
I conclude also that it is now time to move on from a patriarchy to develop a more technocratic approach to the business of Government. That is the next step in the legacy of Pindling.
I conclude also that his greatest disappointment was the lack of real progress on changing the economic picture for black Bahamians. He felt that he had failed in his policies in that area.
Watching young Cassius Stuart and the old man Lynden Pindling talk about politics, my being somewhere in the middle, I was struck by the rare privilege I have had to be close to the development of public policy by a chance meeting some three decades ago.
I was struck by the fact that if you live long enough you go through all sorts of peaks and valleys, and in a real sense I am firmly convinced that the old saying that this is God’s breath not yours is absolutely true. We had been fast friends, mentor to protégé as I am sure he was to many others. Each felt a special closeness to him.
We divided over the Commission of Inquiry and barely spoke to each other for twelve years, and then it evaporated like there had never been such a divide. It as the same for Franklin Wilson whose nomination was shockingly taken away from him in 1977 because he had dared to cross the great man. And yet at the end, they were fast friends, even to the point of Sir Lynden's last public statement being over the telephone, too weak to come to see that a subdivision had been named in his honour by Mr. Wilson’s Arawak Homes.
His last public political appearance was at my Fox Hill Branch in May 2000. I have never seen such excitement in the village in years. The Branch Chairman paid the fellows under the tree to paint the headquarters. The great man was coming: cake and food ordered. It was a great occasion. Some of our own supporters thought that we were wrong because we should have kept him out of the limelight.
But I like to think that I am realistic and knew what I was doing. It was clear that the end was near, and I wanted to be sure that we were able to record the deep and profound appreciation that the people of Fox Hill had and I had for Lynden Pindling. I wanted to ensure that my deep and profound appreciation for good or ill for the contribution that he made to the development of who or what I am was told to him before he faded away.
A lot of water has gone under the bridge but I think that I can safely say that I shall never forget him as long as I am alive.
Thank you very much indeed.