REMARKS FOR LABOUR BY DAY BY/ THE HON. PHILIP BRAVE DAVIS Q C MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION /5 June 2020
My fellow Bahamians, I wish you the very best on this Labour Day.
You know, Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”
He said it, in fact, in a speech to striking sanitation workers, on the day before he was assassinated.
I’ve been thinking about Dr. King lately, and what he’d make of this moment. Somehow, even though he knew such hard truths, he had the strength to preach love and unity and nonviolence. He knew that working people could be powerful by standing together. He knew that every one of God’s children deserved dignity.
He believed he could make his country a fairer and more just place. “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”
My friends, I know that it feels pretty dark right now. It’s been one hardship after another. The truth is, it’s been hard for a long time, even before the virus, even before Hurricane Dorian.
The current government started off with twin blessings, a strong US economy and Baha Mar, yet they still raised your taxes; they still came after what was in your pocket.
We already had an economy that was really only working well for people at the top, people who had inside access and could get special treatment.
Now, on top of that, we’re facing a new crisis: a terrible health threat, and an economy in freefall. So it is dark out there. But I believe better times lie ahead. Of course I do! Just look at the history of our country: time and again, Bahamians have achieved progress that once seemed impossible.
Sir Clifford Darling. Sir Randal Fawkes. Clarence Bain. Sir Lynden Pindling. Cadwell Armbrister. Anthony Roberts. Sir Milo Butler. Imagine trying to tell any of them that the work was too hard, justice too elusive, the obstacles too steep.
My father looked up to those men. He taught me that the PLP stood with the working man. That meant everything to us. My grandfather could not read or write.
He and my grandmother were subsistence farmers on Cat Island. My father himself left school at the age of 13. For most of my childhood, he was a fireman, and my mother a maid. I’ve been a packing boy, a mechanic’s helper, a carpenter’s assistant.
I believe there is dignity in work — all kinds of work. I believe everyone matters. And I believe an economy that works better for everyone is not just achievable but a moral imperative.
How do we get there? With determination, innovation, and collaboration. And, of course, a lot of hard work.
I see our nurses working all night; I see construction workers toiling in the heat; I see teachers adjusting to new circumstances with little preparation or resources — so I know none of you are afraid of hard work.
What are some of the building blocks for change?
We need fair laws, including a law that prohibits an employer from unilaterally changing the terms of a contract.
We need the political will to enforce protections for workers. We need a government that believes disputes with labour should be settled in a
timely fashion, understanding that uncertainty hurts everyone.
We need a vision for the Bahamian economy, a strategy for getting The Bahamas “unstuck” – we’ve been spinning our wheels on some of the same problems for years without enough progress.
You know, I’ve been looking at this government’s latest budget, and I cannot understand their failure to use this moment to really invest in this country’s infrastructure. When we build or rebuild bridges, docks, seawalls and more in this country, we are hiring Bahamians and investing in a stronger country.
Thousands of Bahamians are out of work right now. Thousands of people worrying about paying their bills. Thousands feeling the sting of desperation.
Our middle class is disappearing. People who were out of work before this crisis are really in trouble now. Despite the rosy picture the government’s trying to paint, visitors aren’t coming back in large numbers any time soon. So we have to act.
Let’s rebuild critical parts of our infrastructure – now’s the time to create new apprenticeship programs, offer training, give Bahamians new skills and put the country to work.
Friends, when Sir Lynden marched, he knew that it was a beginning of a long road. In the PLP’s very first platform, we pledged to be a party that “dedicated itself to the service of all Bahamians, not a privileged few.”
That’s our mission today, too. I hope you’ll join us – we want to hear your voices. Help us illuminate the darkness. “Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” Let’s build a better country together.
And May God Bless The Bahamas.