Response to Nassau Guardian editorial
The editorial in the Nassau Guardian of the 28th March 2014 suggested that the Progressive Liberal Party is somehow abnormal because it elected two leaders in its 60 years of existence. Nothing can be further from the truth as a brief recount of the history of the political development of The Bahamas will show.
It is instructive to note that the Conservative Party of Great Britain, the mother of the Westmister system, elected only three leaders over the past thirty-nine years. Margaret Thatcher became its leader in 1975, succeeded by John Major and today David Cameron leads that party.
Turning my attention to The Bahamas, the Progressive Liberal Party was formed in 1953 and in response to this political development the UBP was formed in 1958. That organization was led by Sir Ronald Symonette and Geoffrey Johnstone.
The birth of the Free National Movement began with the formation of the free PLP with its only leader being former PLP Cabinet Minister, Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield. That party contested the Mangrove Cay by election in 1970. He then became the leader of the Free National Movement in 1972.
In its livetime, the FNM has had no fewer than eight leaders and a number of incarnations: The eight were Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Sir. Kendal G. L. Isaacs, Cyril Fountain, J. Henry Bostwick, Cyril Tynes, the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, Tommy Turnquest and the Hon. Dr. Hubert A. Minnis.
Interestingly, when Wallace-Whitfield lost his bid in the 1972 general election, the FNM had two leaders – Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs was the leader for the opposition’s business inside the House and Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield was the leader for the party’s political affairs outside the House.
In 1974, Sir Kendal GL Isaacs resigned as leader of the official opposition in the House and was replaced by Cyril Fountain, the member for North Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador.
By 1976, there was a split in the FNM and a new party, the Bahamian Democratic Party (BDP) was formed, headed by J. Henry Bostwick. After the 1977 general elections, there was a split in the BDP which spawned the Social Democratic Party (SDP) headed by Norman Solomon, the member for St. Georges and Dunmore.
By 1978, the BDP had disbanded and a new political organization called the Free National Democratic Movement (FNDM) was formed, led by former FNM leader, Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs. Later, the word “Democratic” was officially dropped from the name just in time for the 1982 general elections as the opposition entered those elections as the Free National Movement (FNM).
After leading the FNM into their second electoral defeat in 1987, declaring that “we were out of touch with the Bahamian people,” Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs resigned as leader of the opposition FNM. He was succeeded by Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield as leader for the second time. Upon the death of Sir Cecil in 1990, the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham, the INDEPENDENT member for Cooper’s Town was selected by the FNM’s parliamentarians to be the leader of the opposition. At an FNM special convention, Mr. Ingraham was elected as the leader of the FNM. He is only party leader in the history of Bahamian party politics to become the opposition leader BEFORE becoming the leader of the party. Additionally, Mr. Ingraham holds the distinction of being the only sitting Prime Minister who was not the leader of his party. This is most unusual and abnormal in the Westminster system of governance.
In stark contrast to the FNM in areas of reliability, certainty, stability and continuity, the PLP was formed in 1953 and has enjoyed just two leaders in its sixty year history. The PLP is steady, entrenched and its evolution is intrinsically linked to the modern political, social and economic development of the modern Bahamas.
Yet in the face of all of these facts, the editor of the Nassau Guardian opined that “the PLP is not a normal political party in the western sense.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The unassailable historical account of the political development of The Bahamas clearly indicates otherwise. Any objective thinking student of politics and Bahamian history would have to agree that given the facts, the FNM, and not the PLP, “is not a normal political party in the Western sense.”
Founded in 1844 and the third oldest newspaper in the Caribbean, the Nassau Guardian has been a reliable source of news in addition to well reasoned, well researched, sensible and logical editorials and commentary for centuries. There is clearly no nexus between the proposition advanced by the editor and the annals of history which puts the legacy of the Nassau Guardian into question. Why are these assertions so inconsistent with the incontrovertible historical facts? Perhaps the Nassau Guardian has relegated this duty to a novice and green cub reporter; how else can one explain this bit of juvenile drivel masquerading around as legitimate journalism in a news paper of note.
The editor comes across as using the editorial page of the Nassau Guardian as a platform to advance a personal agenda and campaign at the expense of research and reason – two of the hallmarks of journalism whether its hard news or commentary.
The above historical account of Bahamian party politics could be of some edification for the writer for future defensible editorial references.