Categorized | National News


The following are remarks by  the Hon. George A. Smith at the 65thanniversary celebration of the Progressive Liberal Party at the Dundas Centre For The Performing Arts Mackey Street last Friday:

“Anniversaries are a wonderful thing. Everyone and everything that ever was has had anniversaries. Some of these things have been very good and some have been very bad. With all of its issues during the past sixty-five years, the fact is that the Progressive Liberal Party has been among those very good things.

No, we have not been perfect; but, then again, the PLP is a creation of human beings – a species, by definition, which is not perfect.

Like so many other things which we humans have created, the PLP was born out of pain, suffering and injustice and was crafted to bring relief to a suffering people. We make no excuses for this. In fact, most of us are extremely proud of the principles upon which the Party was founded. These principles should guide us still. They were eloquently enunciated during our Constitutional Convention last year July and form an integral part of our new Constitution. These principles seek to set the course for our future as a political force and for the betterment of the Bahamian People when the Party returns to Government.

We – all of us – are called on to reflect on these principles as we ponder our Party’s noble history of fighting for the benefit of our People. In this process we find ourselves recalling those men and women who charted the way forward.

As we reflect on our leaders from the past, we frequently recall the names and vision of those who led the way. It is equally important for us to recall and focus on the qualities of those men and women who were not in the forefront but nevertheless provided that oh so important local support and leadership- I think of men like  J. B. Carroll, Rev. John Miller, Mario Simms, Rev. Leroy Cartwright and  others, from Long Island.

It is easy now to take for granted the work of these and others who gave and continue to give so much of their time, talent and treasure for the good of the Party; but, we do so at our peril.

We easily call to mind names like A. R. Braynen and Randol Fawkes when we think of Majority Rule and the elections of 1967. But the reality is that they were more of the moment than the long, long road. True, they are entitled to our national thanks and gratitude, but we have to appreciate that their opportunity to play the role which they did had it existence on the shoulders of the work of People like Eugenia Lockhart and the other leaders of the Women’s Suffragette Movement; Clifford Darling and other labour leaders who led the 1958 General Strike; Cadwell Armbrister, Bartholemew Bastian and other labour leaders of the 1950’s and 1960’s; and, the many Faith Community leaders throughout the Country who stood tall and proud in demanding social Justice for the downtrodden.

The brilliance and energy of men like Ira Curry, Kermit Rolle, Rolly Gray, Kenneth Rolle, Raymond Lloyd,  Rev. Jasper Ferguson, Rev. Granville Hart, Charles Clark and so many others  of Exuma which continues to inspire Exumians and all Bahamians to never give up the fight.

I call some of the names lest we forget. You know so many more and should invoke their memory as you have the opportunity.

We like to recall the names of international personalities who led the fight for civil rights for Black People in their various states but we forget the heroic battles waged by men and women like Pompey of Exuma, Dick and Kate both of Cat Island and the many other enslaved Persons who led uprisings in The Bahamas against the putative owners and the slave plantation economic and political situation of their time before emancipation.

We tend to forget the names of the men who led the fight for legal and political rights for People of Colour in New Providence during the early nineteenth century in the last years of legal slavery, but, thanks to the wonderful work of Sean McWeeney in his marvellous historical work ‘Breaching the Gates’, we not only have their names but are transported back in time to the period and become emotionally embroiled in the fight waged by John Boyd, Stephen Dillet, John Deane, Thomas Minns and others in their trials and triumphs resulting in rights before the courts and membership in the House of Assembly.

When you appreciate that this was a time when Black People were regarded as either farm animals or little more than such by the white and colonial power structure, admiration for their struggle would have no bounds.

As we move further on in time, we are able to reflect on those men who led the fight for more wages during the building of the military air field in New Providence in 1942 by an American contractor who paid his white staff wages equalling multiple time that paid local black labourers doing the same work. There have been those who sought to demonise them by referring to their demonstrations as a riot and who instructed the resident British soldiers to fire their weapons at them as a mean of seeking to frighten them into abandoning their fight for justice. Their treats and their guns did not deter them from seeking their rights.

The same fire that drove the men to seek better from the time of enslavement, the fight for legal and political rights inthe nineteenth century and the fight for workers rights in the 1940’s and 1950’s is what encourageda group of intellectual

and business leaders from Grants Town to regularly meet and discuss the potential for achieving better for People of Colour in the colony of the Bahama Islands during the first half of the twentieth century.  Men like Robert Turnquest, C. R. Walker, A. F. Adderley, Rev. Jerome Nottage, T. G. Glover and Gerald Dean.

These men and women influenced H. M. Taylor, William Cartwright and Cyril Stevenson to found our Party sixty-five years ago. They  influenced young men and women like Lynden Pindling, Arthur Hanna, Doris Johnson, Arthur Foulkes, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Warren Levarity, Livingstone Coakley, Loftus Roker, Jeffrey Thompson and so many other to join the fight even though they all knew that they were going up against an entrenched, powerful and rich ruling white oligarchy.

It was men and women like those I just mention that inspired others to do what some thought was impossible. I am thinking of Philip Smith who won three elections in Long Island. No one did it before him and no one since. Peter Bethell also did what some told him he could not do, that is winning in North Eleuthera. The lesson here is never tell a ‘man’ what he cannot do.

This Country and our Party owe so very much too all these Bahamian patriots. On their behalf I call on all who are responsible for the affairs of the PLP to see that their gallant efforts are never again disgraced by anyone.

It is this history and these founding principles embedded in our Constitution which commits us to Social Justice, caring for the poor which emboldens you to share in this mighty and worthy fight. The People are entitled to nothing less from those of us who would seek to lead. We lead best by knowing from where we have come and understanding the ambitions, hopes and desires of the People. It is their future and we are privileged to share in their mission to achieve better and much more.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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