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EDITORIAL The Concept of Democracy

The jockeying is on in earnest for the next Parliamentary Representative for the constituency of West End, Grand Bahama and Bimini in the House of Assembly.

Political posturing in The Bahamas, as it is in all Caribbean countries, is an ongoing sport for many people.  Ever since organized political parties were formed in The Bahamas some 70 years ago, it became almost game and sometimes an unnecessary fight on who should represent a particular party in a constituency.  Over the last three decades, the Progressive Liberal Party in particular has seen many contests for nominations which have been decisive and left some political aspirants embarrassed, despondent and even bewildered.

The Night Of The Long Knives, as it was called in 1977. caused some politicians to leave the PLP after they were not able to secure nominations.  At that time both the leader of the party, Sir Lynden Pindling and his deputy Arthur Hanna both threatened to resign their positions if certain persons were confirmed by the National General Council of the Party to receive nominations.  There were several incumbent Members of Parliament like Carlton Francis, Edmund Moxey, Lionel Davis and Arlington Butler who went against the Public Disclosure Bill in the House of Assembly which the PLP government wanted passed.  Francis moved for the Bill to be sent to a committee in the absence of cabinet ministers who were late in returning to the House after the lunch break.  He was supported by these MPs, much to the chagrin and annoyance of the then government. By refusing to give them nominations for the next elections, they were being punished for going against a fundamental decision of the party.

Then there were MPs like Oscar Johnson, the then MP for Cat Island, while being the people’s choice, an effective representative and eloquent orator, he found disfavour with the leadership.  He was denied a nomination, as was Franklyn Wilson, a popular young man, the then MP for Grants Town, when he delivered a negative report of a select committee he chaired against Cabinet Minister A. Loftus Roker.   At the time he defied the request of Sir Lynden not to table the report.  He was denied his nomination.  The renominations of some incumbents who supported Wilson were also threatened before they recanted.

At the end of that process, the then Chairman of the Party, Hubert Ingraham, was quoted in the newspapers telling those who were denied nominations to “consider the alternative,” meaning the Opposition Free National Movement.

In the FNM, there was a split in the party over who should have been the candidate of the party in the then Clarence Town, Long Island constituency.  The leader, the late Cecil Wallace Whitfield wanted one person and other influential FNMs wanted another.  As a result, the Bahamian Democratic Party was formed.

With a by-election in the offing, there is a controversy brewing on who should receive the PLP nomination for the seat now vacant by the passing of former cabinet minister Obie Wilchcombe.  It has become interesting since Shane Gibson, another former cabinet minister is interested.  He claims that he is the people’s choice.

Mr. Gibson should know that the people do not always get what they want in the National General Council of the PLP.  Many of the candidates deposed or not nominated in 1977 were the people’s choice.  However, they were not the choice of the leadership of the party and consequently the NGC.

Anyone who receives a nomination of the party must have the absolute confidence of the leadership and must be acceptable to the party as a standard bearer of the organization.

Whatever past difficulties Mr. Gibson experienced or the extent to which he has been absolved or acquitted of any charges are secondary.  The primary focus must be whether he is able to have the confidence of the party and then the people whom he seeks to represent.  While Mr. Gibson is popular in many circles and might be well intentioned, his success will come from convincing members of the Candidates Committee and the NGC that he is the fit and proper person to replace Wilchcombe.

All of the candidates vying for the nomination must realize that is not about them.  It is about giving service to the Bahamian people.

The party was born out of the absolute necessity felt by the masses in the country to bring about change.  The party secured the government many times on the solid achievements it made for and on behalf of the people. They must all remember that the PLP is a viable, standing and reliable political force in the country today because of the faith and confidence of the masses in their party. These qualities must come from representatives of the organization.

They must remember too, that West End and Bimini is not a safe seat for any party, despite Wilchcombe’s popularity in death.  The FNM won the constituency several times and Wilchcombe was defeated there too.

The process for democracy can sometimes become messy and troublesome.  Oftentimes, the majority in a situation does not get the result it deserves or wants, but at the end of it all the concept of democracy is still better than any other system.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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