[H RAP BROWN]
Dear Media Editor,
I had decided not to comment on current affairs until after I have completed writing my first novel, which I hope to have finished for publication by the end of June. However, after reading your posting today on former Education Minister Carl Bethel, I am compelled to offer a few observations to set the record straight.
You are correct when you say that the Free National Movement (FNM) was formed at Spring Hill Farms, a property owned in Fox Hill by the late James “Jimmy” Shepherd, a member of the Dissident Eight and one of the forgotten heroes of the struggle for majority rule. I am a founding member of the FNM, and was the founding editor of The Torch of Freedom, the FNM’s newspaper. As a result I sat in on some of the meetings between members of the Free PLP and moderate elements of the defeated United Bahamian Party (UBP). You may be aware of the fact that when the Dissident Eight, under the leadership of Cecil Wallace Whitfield, and their followers, myself included, broke away from the PLP, we first referred to ourselves as Free PLPs. There were those among us, myself included, who were opposed to joining up with members of the UBP because of their vicious and oppressive policies against the black majority while they were the government. We felt that we had contributed as much, and in the case of some even more, to the struggle for majority rule and had every right to be called Free PLPs. Sir Cecil, however, was a very persuasive man, and in his view we had to make a clean break from the PLP and form a new party.
I have provided this bit of background information to point out just how wrong you are to suggest that Spring Hill Farms was the headquarters for the “goon squads.” The truth is that serious political discourse and planning took place at Spring Hill Farms to lay the foundation for a strong and vibrant political party that after two decades of struggle becaue the government of The Bahamas. However, the FNM that exists today is not the same FNM that the courageous Dissident Eight put their political careers on the line to establish. It is the “Third Force Party” that Hubert Ingraham unsuccessfully tried to establish after he was put out of the PLP in 1984. True, it was Hubert Ingraham who led the FNM to victory in 1992, but the vast majority of the original members of the FNM still are convinced that the Bahamian people were ready for a change, and had Sir Cecil won his battle with cancer, the FNM would have still won in 1992. The big difference between Sir Cecil and Hubert is that Sir Cecil was an honourable man; Hubert Ingraham cannot lay claim to being the same.
It is so sad that those original FNMs who are still active in the party have allowed Hubert Ingraham to turn Sir Cecil’s dream into such a political nightmare. The FNM is now totally Hubert Ingraham’s party. What he says goes. Even now, because of fear of incurring another dose of Hubert Ingraham’s wrath, Carl Bethel will not admit that he was humiliated and fired on national television by this potential little dictator. Carl, more than anyone else, should realize that the voters in Elizabeth have sent a strong message that the FNM will lose the next general election badly; after all, he was the campaign manager for his party’s candidate, and no matter what the election court decides, the message is clear that the people of this county will not run the risk of having Hubert Ingraham lead The Bahamas for another five years and totally destroy the democratic way of life that we are accustomed to.
On another note, you referred to the “goon squads” as if their existence was a bad thing. It was not. That name was coined by elements in the UBP for a group of young men who disrupted UBP meetings held Over The Hill. As an avowed Black Power advocate at the time, I participated in some of those disruptions, but those of us seriously involved in the Black Power Movement were committed to taking more drastic action to bring about change in The Bahamas. We were advocates of Malcolm X’s exhortation to bring about change by any means necessary.
Oswald T. Brown
Freeport, Grand Bahama