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1 The Bahamas at 40

Happy 40th

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The Bahamian flag flies ahead of independence celebrations.

The Bahamas at 40


Bougainvillea blooms in front of the Parliament Building in Rawson Square.

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


The Bahamas at 40



42 The Bahamas at 40

The Nassau Guardian 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement 2013

Building a nation

In the 10 years following independence, the government led by Lynden Pindling embarked on an ambitious mission to establish key national institutions and programs to support a newly independent nation.

Publisher Anthony Ferguson Managing Editor Erica Wells News Editor Candia Dames Associate Editor Brent Dean Operations Manager Gilbert Francis Sales Manager Buena Wright Circulation Manager Kurt Munro Contributing Writers Erica Wells, Candia Dames, Brent Dean, Travis Cartwright-Carroll, Royston Jones Jr., Taneka Thompson, Krystel Rolle, James Smith, Juan McCartney, Raynard Rigby, Fred Sturrup, Makia Gibson

The independence story page 12

For a group of young Bahamian men inspired by independence movements in several British colonies across the globe in the 1950s and 1960s, the idea of sovereignty for The Bahamas was a fascinating goal.

Graphic Designers Devin Francis, Theo McClain, Ayhisha Small Photos used in the magazine are from The Nassau Guardian, the Department of Archives and the Post Office Department.




Politics and governance at 40

page 48

While there is much celebration of our 40th anniversary as a country, The Bahamas of today has drifted away from the aspirations of many of those people assembled at Clifford Park to witness its birth.

The woman’s role

The role of women and their contribution to the nation’s independence movement and what it meant to national development is a less talked about aspect of Bahamian history.


A Bahamas for Bahamians


Battling social decay


Four decades of economic development

A moment in time

At five minutes to midnight, July 9, 1973, Irvin Taylor was prepared to raise the Bahamian flag for the first time before a crowd of around 60,000 people.

A grand celebration

While the headlines in local newspapers were dominated by the Watergate scandal involving then U.S. President Richard Nixon, the secretariat was busy planning what many remember as the best independence celebration ever.

page 38

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

The decaying social fabric of the country has spawned an explosive rise in violent crime over the last several years, experts have observed.

Over the years between independence and now, The Bahamas has experienced its ups and downs and generally, our fortunes have followed closely those of the wider global community and those of the United States.

A song for the nation On the night of July 9, 1973, “March on Bahamaland” reverberated among an estimated 60,000 Bahamians gathered on Clifford Park as the Bahamian flag rose to mark this country’s independence.

The Christie administration has recommitted itself to a decades-old immigration policy that was first introduced by the Pindling administration.


A cause for change

On February 27, 2002, Bahamians went to the polls in the country’s first referendum.




A nation in fear of itself


The drug years

Cover Design

There are many areas where we still struggle to get it right; areas where seemingly insurmountable events have resulted in our actual achievements falling far short of the promise within the dream.

Several years after The Bahamas gained independence from Britain in 1973, a rampant culture of drug use and drug smuggling exploded in the country. 85

Divine inspiration

Instead of attending a Hebrew class as part of his post-graduate master’s degree in theology in Louisville, Kentucky, Philip Rahming was indoors experiencing “divine inspiration”.


Toward a glorious future


Education: A few values for the future

For those who were deeply woven in the struggle for majority rule, they see the 1973 event as the seminal event on that march to self-determination.

Without a doubt, our forefathers developed a system of education that has elevated The Bahamas above many countries in our region and in the wider world.

40 years of sports power page 91

During the 40 years since that glorious moment on July 10, 1973, when the Union Jack went down and the Bahamian national flag was raised, sports collectively has been the one redeeming entity that continually, positively boosted the image of our country.

More than a commodity to be bought, owned or sold, land means ‘home’ to Bahamians. Our cover, designed by illustrator and photographer Theo McClain, uses dual image composition to depict the land as inextricably linked to the people, sustaining every aspect of Bahamian identity and culture. Theo works as a graphic designer in the Office of Corporate Communications at Colina Holdings Bahamas Limited.

A crowd showed up to welcome Prince Charles upon his arrival to Nassau for the independence celebrations.

The Bahamas at 40


MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER Anthony Ferguson Publisher, The Nassau Guardian

For four decades The Bahamas has been a free and independent country. We have evolved from being a colony far away from our European master to a people free to chart our own course based on the strength of our collective character. For young democracies such as The Bahamas to grow and prosper, a free and fearless press is essential. The Nassau Guardian is the oldest media entity in the country and this 168-year-old newspaper takes seriously its fourth estate responsibility to be a watchdog, ensuring there are checks and balances to government and other dominant interests in our society. The Nassau Guardian is a champion for freedom of information and it seeks to bring coverage to a broad range of issues from all over our archipelago. Over the years, The Nassau Guardian has grown from being the country’s premier newspaper to a multi-media source. Via our broadcast news arm, which

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

includes Guardian Radio, NB12 and Star FM, and our online presence at www., we reach more people in more places than ever before. This company is committed to being a stakeholder in building a dynamic and equitable Bahamas. One of the major aspirations of Bahamians at independence was to be able to assume responsibilities in all sectors of the economy. We are proud that these media companies are run by capable Bahamians – the sons and daughters of the dream of July 10, 1973. These Bahamians have led the Guardian group to a place of prestige and we believe that they have the work ethic, drive and creativity to take it even further. To all Bahamians, we wish you Happy Independence Day. We live in a beautiful country. It is up to us all to ensure that it becomes the land of our dreams.


The Bahamas at 40


The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


The Bahamas at 40

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The signing of the Independence Agreement in London in 1972.

THE INDEPENDENCE STORY CANDIA DAMES For a group of young Bahamian men inspired by independence movements in several British colonies across the globe in the 1950s and 1960s, the idea of sovereignty for The Bahamas was a fascinating goal. While studying in England men like Lynden Pindling, Arthur Hanna, Loftus Roker and others became increasingly intrigued by that revolution and the prospect of an end to colonial rule for these islands. “We felt we were part of that revolution at that time, that we had a duty to move The Bahamas to independence,” said Hanna as he reflected on that period. “Of course, I thought it was an easy route. Pindling said, ‘No, no boy’. He said,

‘remember Bahamians are house slaves; they love their masters’.” In 1957, Ghana was the first black African country to become independent and Kwame Nkrumah was independent Ghana’s first leader. Roker recalled that while he was a student, the first heads of government conference held after Ghana’s independence was in London. “Kwame Nkrumah was living at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane and a group of students, including about three or four Bahamians, went just to look at the Ghana flag,” he said. Roker said they spent about two hours just looking at that flag flying outside the hotel.

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

“I felt proud because this is the first black head of government now who is going to attend the heads of government conference,” recalled Roker, who later became a member of Pindling’s Cabinet and attended the 1972 independence conference as part of the official delegation. By then, a host of other colonies, including Caribbean ones like Jamaica and Barbados, had already attained independence. Since 1947, no fewer than 36 territories Britain was responsible for had achieved independence. Their combined population was 900 million. But the idea of Bahamian independence did not spring up in 1972, pointed out Governor General Sir Arthur

Foulkes during an interview at Government House. “It is a natural ambition for a colony, I think, to want to become independent at some stage,” Sir Arthur said. “The ‘when’ is the question.” In 1966, seven years before Bahamian independence, the great labor leader Randol Fawkes rose to address the House of Assembly on an idea “whose time had come”, as he wrote in his memoirs “The Faith That Moved the Mountain”. Fawkes moved for a select committee to consider “the advisability of our inviting the government of the United Kingdom to convene a constitutional conference to establish guidelines for the independence of The Bahama



Prime Minister Lynden Pindling at Clifford Park on July 10, 1973 after he was handed the Independence Instruments by Prince Charles.

“It is a natural ambition for a colony, I think, to want to become independent at some stage. The ‘when’ is the question.” Sir Arthur Foulkes

Arthur Hanna

Sir Orville Turnquest

Islands”. “Mr. Speaker, all I ask is that we prepare our people for that which is inevitable,” said Fawkes, who was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1956. Arthur Hanna, the former deputy prime minister, said it was not an easy road to the ‘72 talks. He recalled the mood of the country when he returned to Nassau from university in 1954, one year after Pindling. “The PLP was already formed at that time, but their goal was not independence,” Hanna said. “Their goal was to see if they could get recognition that was denied them through the process of discrimination, and so on, and they had problems with that. “That is the group who formed the PLP. Pindling joined first and soon as I came back I joined. I just followed Pindling.” The Progressive Liberal Party committed to building a country “in which every citizen can obtain a higher standard of living with the promise of greater social and political freedoms”. Independence from Britain was not the immediate focus. Roker said the first thing the new PLP government had to overcome in 1967 was this idea that somehow black people were second-class citizens in The Bahamas. “That’s the first thing we had to overcome because some of us believed that too,” he said. “And so we had to take it a step at a time, even though in the back of our minds we always felt that we should be independent, but the question is when do you sell that idea to your supporters.” As Michael Craton wrote in his book “Pindling: The life and times of the first prime minister of The Bahamas”, with all the problems with which it was beset at the

beginning of the 1970s, the PLP government clearly needed an issue that would over-ride all lesser concerns and identify it with a cause guaranteed to win another five-year mandate at the 1972 general election. “Lynden Pindling realized that the country needed something that would raise its sights beyond mundane and temporary tribulations and provide a surge of national pride and purpose,” he wrote. “The chosen issue, of course, was that of Bahamian independence.” The official opposition thought the timing was all wrong, however. Sir Orville Turnquest explained, “The position taken by the opposition was in fact the same position which the prime minister, Lynden Pindling, had taken immediately prior to the election. “He changed that under pressure from his party.” On this point, Roker said, “Sir Lynden would move at a time when he believed he had the majority with him, and no matter what he thought personally about independence, he wasn’t going to move until he was satisfied that the majority of us wanted independence.” Speaking for the opposition, Sir Orville remembered, “Indeed, it was a unanimous feeling, but we also felt that so far as preparation to run the country was concerned, we weren’t quite there yet.” At the ‘72 talks, then Senator Turnquest was an official opposition member of the delegation. He told The Nassau Guardian, “Since we lost the election and we went to London as the opposition party we were united with the government on the position of independence.” Sir Arthur added that it was not difficult for the opposition to unite with the government on the question of independence once the election was over. The Bahamas at 40



Philip Bethel

George Smith

“I believe he had vision and he knew those people along with him who had a similar outlook on what a future Bahamas should look like, what it should be, what it should comprise and I was overwhelmed, and I’m still grateful to be one of those who was chosen.” -Philip Bethel, speaking of Sir Lynden

Loftus Roker

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

“We believed in it and we decided we would have to put aside our fears at that time and support independence,” said Sir Arthur, who was one of four opposition members of the official delegation at the independence talks. “And you’d remember, we had a big problem in Abaco, but the opposition’s position was the people have spoken and some of us were quite happy, even though we had reservations.” Talks At the opening of the independence conference for The Bahamas at Marlborough House in London on Tuesday, December 12, 1972, Prime Minister Pindling declared that “our islands have graduated from all the schools of constitutional, economic and social philosophies” and pledged the reconstruction of The Bahamas so that “no man or woman or child shall ever again be slave or bondsman”. As noted in the December 13, 1972 edition of The Nassau Guardian, Opposition Leader Kendal Isaacs emphasized: “If independence for The Bahamas is indeed now at hand, then we say that there is a grave responsibility for each of our delegations so to co-operate in a spirit of give and take that the Bahamian people will thereby gain as much as possible.” But Errington Watkins, a member of the Free National Movement and MP for Marsh Harbour, told British newsmen he had come to campaign against independence. He also claimed to be the official spokesman for the 8,000 people of Abaco. “We are citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies,” Watkins said. “We think the Pindling government is ready to fall apart economically and we fear a second Uganda or Cuba.” Watkins’ reference was to Uganda’s Idi Amin, who had

only recently seized power in a military coup which ousted Socialist leader Milton Obote, signaling the opening of a bloody chapter in the life of Uganda, which led to the deaths of approximately 500,000 Ugandans. In Cuba, the Cuban Missile Crisis had dragged the world to the brink of another world war after U.S. President John F. Kennedy demanded that the Soviets withdraw their missiles from Cuba, which were within striking distance of the United States. In The Bahamas in 1972 there were talks of a threat by Abaco to secede from The Bahamas should it attain independence. A petition to secede by Abaco loyalists was also submitted to the British government in late 1971; but it was then rejected. At the opening of the talks, Sir Alec Douglas-Home said it was the intention of the British not to delay independence for colonies that wanted it. Pindling pledged that the quest would be unrelenting, and the delegates of the conference had been singled out to be the instruments through which and by which long-lost sovereignty would be regained. Isaacs noted that The Bahamas had developed a model of the British parliamentary system of democracy which was one of the most treasured possessions of the islands’ peoples. The Bahamian Parliament ranked among the oldest in the Commonwealth and among the most honorable as well. Pindling, Isaacs and others are not here to observe the 40th anniversary of our independence. But when they sat down at separate times with The Nassau Guardian recently, the six living members of the 1972 delegation all recalled with fondness the display of unity presented by the Bahamian delegation.


Marguerite Pindling with Prince Charles at the Independence Ball.

As the British sought to protect their interests, so too did the Bahamian delegation fight to protect the interests of Bahamians everywhere. “I think everyone who attended that conference was fully aware of the importance of that event in the history of The Bahamas,” Sir Arthur said. “Each one of us was fully aware that we were playing a part in a great drama that would chart the direction of our country for the future. “The sense of occasion, the sense of history and the idea of these particular people being there at that moment to do this, I felt very proud to be a part of that.” The talks took Roker back to his days as a student in London when he felt a part of the revolution that had formed. He recalled that among the contentious issues at the conference was the question of citizenship. “We were primarily interested in attaining independence, ironing out the question about who would have a right to claim citizenship,” added

George Smith, the youngest member of the delegation who at the time was the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary. Smith turned 30 while attending the conference. “I must say, to the credit of Mr. Isaacs, Sir Arthur, the now governor general, Sir Orville Turnquest and Norman Solomon, they joined with the government delegation and we were one on the question of who would have a right to claim Bahamian citizenship.” Sir Arthur recalled, “The glorious moment was when opposition and government got together on the question of citizenship, and it was the Bahamian delegation against the British government, not PLP and FNM, because the British had their ideas about Bahamian citizenship... On that issue, we were, as we say, solid as a rock. “We thought that Bahamians should decide who would become Bahamians in the future.” Sir Orville also remembered, “Some of the items that we agreed upon were a halfway

mark between what we wanted and what the British wanted, and so we had to compromise.” While the Bahamian delegation did not get all it wanted, it was satisfied with the outcome. It emerged with a constitution that has served us well in the last 40 years. For members of the delegation, being a part of that moment in history was a fulfilling life experience. Signing When the delegation reached a final agreement with the British and the signing of the constitutional documents took place just before Christmas 1972, it was cause for jubilation. The agreement was signed with Pindling’s gold fountain pen, which sits today in a glass case at Government House. It is a cherished memento, which, though today inkless, serves as a symbol of an important and historic moment for The Bahamas. Speaking of the emotions that accompanied the signing, former Governor’s Harbour MP Philip Bethel told The

Nassau Guardian, “I was overwhelmed.” Bethel was just 32-yearsold when he attended the talks as a member of the official delegation. He has long retired back to his beloved Eleuthera as a preacher, but still fondly remembers the feeling of pride he and his colleagues shared. Speaking of Sir Lynden, he said, “I believe he had vision and he knew those people along with him who had a similar outlook on what a future Bahamas should look like, what it should be, what it should comprise and I was overwhelmed, and I’m still grateful to be one of those who was chosen.” On December 20, 1972 the British government agreed to recommend to its Parliament, in the form of a white paper, that The Bahamas “should become an independent nation on July 10, 1973”. On May 22, 1973, The Bahamas Independence Bill passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 74 to four. And on July 10, independThe Bahamas at 40


THE INDEPENDENCE STORY ence was formally achieved. The Abaco issue was dead. A new nation was born, and with it the joys and challenges of nation building. Despite the many challenges, Sir Arthur said, “I am proud of the progress we have made and I keep saying this to young people: self-criticism is good... but self-criticism should not descend into self-abuse. “It is good for a country to be critical of itself, but also you have to take time out to look at the good things.”

“The glorious moment was when opposition and government got together on the question of citizenship ... On that issue, we were, as we say, solid as a rock.” -Sir Arthur Foulkes Marguerite Pindling and Prime Minister Lynden Pindling with Prince Charles.

Prime Minister Lynden Pindling (right) greets Lord Balniel during the Constitutional Conference.

Marguerite Pindling greets Prince Charles.

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

Prime Minister Lynden Pindling greets Prince Charles at Clifford Park on July 9, 1973.


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Women protest for the right to vote.

THE WOMAN’S ROLE ERICA WELLS The road to independence was marked by a number of significant events. There were the Burma Road Riots of 1942, the General Strike of 1958, the labor movement of the 1950s, and the majority rule and civil rights movements. But the role of women and their contribution to the nation’s independence movement and what it meant to national development is a less talked about aspect of Bahamian history. The names of many of the women who contributed to these significant national events won’t be found in the newspaper headlines of their day, or in the history books. “It is not a part of the national narrative. It’s not part of the Burma Road Riots; it’s not part of The Contract; it’s not part of the road to majority rule; it’s not part of the independence movement or the general strike – yet women played an integral and significant role in each of those national developments,” noted writer Marion Bethel, who directed and produced the recently released documentary on the women’s suffrage movement in The Bahamas, “Womanish Ways, Freedom, Human Rights and Democracy”. To be certain, among the most significant of those contributions was the impact of the women’s suffrage movement in The

Bahamas, what that fight meant to the achievement of majority rule, and how the achievement of majority rule led to the country’s independence in 1973. Women – especially the wives of politicians – worked hard behind the scenes, away from the frontlines for political advancement and the advancement of democracy. And women were instrumental in the various branches of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Free National Movement (FNM). Women also helped form the backbone of the civil service, replacing many foreigners in the Bahamianization of the service following independence. Women would also go on to leave their mark in politics, the judiciary, business, education and culture.

The suffrage movement reached across partisan lines, racial and social class divides.

As Janet Bostwick, the first woman

The suffragettes

Between 1948 and 1962, five women – Mary Ingraham, Mabel Walker, Georgiana Symonette, Eugenia Lockhart and Dr. Doris Johnson – led the women’s suffrage movement and fought for the right to vote for all Bahamian women. There were two branches to the suffrage movement in The Bahamas, according to historians. “They cross-fertilized each other and merged at pivotal times to speak with one voice,” said Bethel.

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

Janet Bostwick.


The Bahamas at 40


The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


THE WOMAN’S ROLE elected to the House of Assembly, wrote the movement was actually started by a black woman, who after party politics was introduced in The Bahamas, was a member of the UBP (United Bahamian Party). It was embraced by the PLP, it was adopted by women without party affiliation, supported by women of different races and social standing, and it was championed by progressive men. “Women suffragettes showed us that, in order to bring about significant change, we must accept sometimes that the cause is bigger than the individual, than a party, than any of the many things which divide and separate us, and that much can be accomplished when we unite,” said Bostwick. Several of the major players in the movement belonged to both arms of the movement. Mary Ingraham was elected as president of the suffrage movement in 1957. Georgiana Symonette was the vice president and Eugenia Lockhart was the treasurer in 1958. Johnson returned home from studying abroad and joined the suffrage movement. There are serious lessons to be learned from the suffragettes who took the lead in advancing their cause. According to a history of the suffrage movement, during the years 1959 and 1960, the movement gained considerable ground advancing petitions and demonstrating publicly for the right to vote: • In November 1960, Lockhart and Johnson accompanied Henry Taylor, chairman of the PLP, to London to present a petition to the secretary of state for the colonies. • In January 1961, a select committee of the House of Assembly gave a report in favor of the right to vote for women but with effect from January 1963. The PLP and the independents in the House of Assembly opposed the report; appeal was made to the House of Commons in England again.

Mary Ingraham.

• On February 23, 1961, a bill to enable women to vote was enacted with effect from June 30, 1962. • On November 26, 1962, Bahamian women voted for the first time. Some argue that the suffrage movement was more about gaining equality for black people in The Bahamas, more so than women. In fact, according to historians, the suffrage movement started with a conversation between Mary Ingraham and her husband Rufus following his defeat in the 1949 general election. He said the outcome of the election might have been very different had women voted in that election. The main purpose of the movement was to secure the right to vote. While the PLP lost the 1962 election, it went on to win in 1967. There is no doubt that the votes of women helped secure majority rule.

Behind the scenes

It is often said that there is no event of more consequence and historic importance than the attainment of majority rule on January 10, 1967, with the exception of emancipation from slavery in 1834. It represented the transition from the old to the new, and put the country on a path of growth and change that continues today. After the vote was won, for the most part, some suffragettes rested on their laurels and were content to stand behind their male leaders. It was a strong contrast to the leading role they took in fighting for the right to vote. At the time many felt that politics was a man’s job and women should be content to raise their families and, where possible, contribute to the household income. That did not stop, however, many other housewives, straw vendors, mothers and women without much formal education from fighting for political advance-

Mable Walker.

ment. These women made their mark from behind the scenes. Dame Marguerite Pindling, the wife of the late Sir Lynden Pindling, noted the significant role women played in providing a strong support system for men on the frontlines of politics. Women also made up the backbone of the branches of the political parties, answering the phones and organizing fundraisers and socials. Today, this is largely still the case and many branches would collapse if not for the work of women behind the scenes.

After independence

Following independence, women’s roles in society began to change, albeit slowly. Women have been appointed presidents of the Court of Appeal and Senate, elected to Parliament, sat as speaker of the House and in the country’s highest offices as governor general and deputy prime minister. Dame Joan Sawyer was the first woman chief justice and president of the Court of Appeal; Dame Ivy Dumont, first woman governor general; Italia Johnson was the first woman speaker of the House of Assembly, and Cynthia ‘Mother’ Pratt was the first woman deputy prime minister. While there have been a number of women in Parliament, only two have made parliamentary history. In 1973, Dr. Doris Johnson broke all precedence by becoming the first woman to be elected president of the Senate. She was also the first woman to run for the House of Assembly, to be made a minister and to serve as government leader in the Senate. She was later honored by Queen Elizabeth II when the title of Dame was bestowed upon her. On June 10, 1982, Bostwick, the Free National Movement candidate for Yamacraw, became the first woman to be elected

Dame Marguerite Pindling.

Ruby Ann Darling. The Bahamas at 40


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Italia Johnson, the first woman speaker of the House of Assembly. to the House of Assembly. There was also an unsung generation of women who went into the civil service to form the backbone of the service. They included Margaret McDonald, secretary to the Cabinet; Lois Symonette, director of Public Personnel; June Maura, former deputy permanent secretary, and Andrea Archer, head of the School Welfare Section in the Ministry of Education. Many women have also made significant strides in business, financial services, law, medicine, education and the arts. They include, Judy Munroe, a president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and general manager of the Caribbean Bottling Company; Pauline Allen, manager of Barclay’s main branch; Suzanne Black, managing director of Allied Bank and Trust (Bahamas) Ltd.; Kayla Lockhart-Edwards, soloist; Nettica Symonette, owner/ manager of Casuarinas; Ruby Nottage, lawyer; Dr. Keva Bethel, educator and first woman principal of The College of The Bahamas and Wendy Craigg, first woman governor of the Central Bank. Despite the advancement of women and their commanding role in society, there are still some gaping holes when it comes to women’s equality in The Bahamas. While women played a dominant role in Bahamian society – and still do – politi-

cal authority for the most part remained limited. Few Bahamian women were elected to political offices. The hierarchy of politics remains dominated by men. Women still do not have the same power to confer citizenship on their children as Bahamian men, and in The Bahamas it is still not illegal to rape your wife. The Christie administration has promised to revisit both issues in its current term in office. At Prince George Wharf there stands a statue of a woman holding a baby. It pays tribute to the contribution of women to the nation. The original motion to erect the statue – designed, modeled and cast in bronze by Randol Johnston – was made by Oscar N. Johnson and passed in the House of Assembly on March 12, 1969. It was “presented to the Bahamian people” by Edward M. Carey, Grand Bahama Petroleum Company Limited, on ‘Independence Plus One’ and dedicated on August 15, 1974 by then Prime Minister Lynden O. Pindling. Its plaque reads: “In grateful tribute to the Bahamian woman whose steadfast love and devotion sustained our nation through countless years of adversity.” It is a fitting tribute to the women who helped establish this independent country.

A little girl in 1979 in front of a statue that pays tribute to the contributions of women to the nation. The statue is today located at Prince George Wharf. The Bahamas at 40



Joan Sawyer being sworn in by Governor General Sir Gerald Cash as the first Bahamian woman judge of the Supreme Court on May 6, 1988

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


The Bahamas at 40




The Bahamian flag is raised for the first time.

“I said, ‘No sir, I’m not ready yet because I can’t find the flag’. I knew I wasn’t far from the pole, so I opened my arms wide and walked forward. Eventually I hit the flagpole. I fumbled around, felt the flag, opened it up, and threw it across my shoulder. — Irvin Taylor

At five minutes to midnight, July 9, 1973, Irvin Taylor was prepared to raise the Bahamian flag for the first time before a crowd of around 60,000 people. Taylor, along with Alfred Williams, had rehearsed the procedure ­­­­down to the most minute details. But something unexpected happened that night: The lights went out at Clifford Park. It was a frightening ordeal, recalled Taylor, now a retired police superintendent. Indeed, Taylor and Williams stood before then Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, and His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, along with thousands of Bahamians. But the night progressed as expected and the Bahamian flag took its place, for the first time in our history, atop a 42-foot flagpole. It was a symbol of a free and independent people, unshackled from colonialism. Forty years later, only Taylor remains of the duo. His counterpart died last April after a long illness. Williams’ widow, Anita, said her husband and Taylor became inseparable after that night. Williams, who retired as a deputy superintendent of police, was responsible for lowering the Union Jack. He was also affectionately called “Mr. Penal Code” because of his in-depth knowledge of criminal law and procedure. At his home off Soldier Road, Taylor was eager to relive the night that changed his life. He was hungry to relive the moments that secured his place in Bahamian history.


In 1973, Taylor, then a police sergeant, taught law at the Police College. “I don’t know what yardstick was used in selecting

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

me as the sergeant to raise the Bahamian flag,” he said. “But I do know one thing: They would not have selected an incompetent person to do such a historic job.” Then Commissioner of Police Salathiel Thompson and Assistant Commissioner of Police Dudley Hanna gave him the news, he recalled. Taylor said even then, he could feel the immense grandeur of his task. It didn’t hurt that the date selected for the ceremony, July 10, was also the date of his wedding anniversary. “Because of that, I never forgot my anniversary,” he laughed. Taylor was originally assigned to the flag ceremony with another officer. “Initially they had selected me and [another sergeant] to take down the Union Jack,” he said. “We had quite a number of rehearsals leading up to independence. These rehearsals were held at Clifford Park. “During one of the rehearsals... he took down the Union Jack and I raised the Bahamian flag. “On that particular ceremony, that was the first time I had seen the Bahamian flag. “So he gave me certain instructions as to how I should tie the Bahamian flag. So lo and behold after we did that, when I looked the Bahamian flag came down. “It came right down, and it dropped on the ground. So the commissioner of police, he came across to where we were at the flagpole and he said, ‘My God, Taylor’. “He said, ‘How could you all allow the Bahamian flag to fall to the ground?’ “I said to him, ‘Sir, it wasn’t me who tied it. The senior sergeant, he tied the flag’. “So as a result of that I had instructions to change him.”


As a result, Taylor selected his friend Alfred Williams, who also taught officers how to handle the flag. “So I told him that we didn’t have much time to do a lot of rehearsals,” Taylor said. “Well, he was always a competent person. “He said, ‘Man, I don’t need no long time to do that. I’m dealing with flags all the time and I kind of wondered why you all didn’t select me in the first place’. “So we selected him and we had another dry run; we called it a dry run but really it was a rehearsal, and everything went smoothly.” Anita ­Williams, the first female police officer, said her husband took his job seriously. She said he knew the night required precision. “The Union Jack had to be down at a particular time and the Bahamian flag had to reach its height at a particular time,” she said. “His concern was, ‘I cannot make a mistake while I am lowering the Union Jack’. “He said to me, ‘Do you understand what I’m saying?’ I said ‘yes’. “He said ‘I cannot. Nothing must go wrong. Everything must be perfect’.”

Independence night

Irvin Taylor raised the Bahamian flag for the first time in 1973.­­­

Independence night remains etched into the minds and hearts of many Bahamians. Yet, for many it is a vignette, a fleeting image of a historic night that remains relatively unknown. For Taylor though, the night of July 9, 1973 was a veritable powder keg of emotions. “During that independence night, I was never so frightened,” he joked. “I never anticipated that we would have that many people.” Taylor said some 60,000 people gathered at Clifford Park.

“I never saw that many people in my life in one place,” he said. “So at exactly five to 12 the Union Jack was lowered for the last time. “After the Union Jack came down, all of a sudden, the entire park went into darkness. “Now, we never had a rehearsal for that. “We didn’t even know that that was going to happen. “I was standing about six feet away from the flagpole where I already had the Bahamian flag folded and attached to the pole. “But you know when you’re in the light and all of a sudden you go into darkness, you can’t see anything. “Well, I couldn’t find the flag.” Taylor said at that moment he froze. Then he heard the parade commander, Superintendent Keith Mason, ask, “Taylor, are you ready?” “I said, ‘No sir, I’m not ready yet because I can’t find the flag’,” Taylor said. “I knew I wasn’t far from the pole, so I opened my arms wide and walked forward. “Eventually I hit the flagpole. “I fumbled around, felt the flag, opened it up, and threw it across my shoulder.

“I didn’t know that I would be talking about that night, 40 years later. But I knew something had to happen, because that occasion was a grand occasion and I knew that it could not die. It had to go on.” — Anita Taylor The Bahamas at 40


The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013



Paul Adderley with his daughter, Paula, during independence celebrations in 1973. Adderley was a member of the delegation that attended the Constitutional Conference in December 1972.

“Mr. Mason said, ‘Taylor, you ready?’ “So I said, ‘Yes sir, you can hit it off’. “Then the Bahamian national anthem started to play for the first time. “The Bahamian flag rose for the first time. “The thing about it is I had to get the flag up to coincide with the ending of our national anthem. “Of course, that went smoothly.” Anita said when the Bahamian flag reached the top, the crowd erupted with life. “Pandemonium broke loose,” she recalled. “Amid the joy there were these tears flowing and people were expressing themselves. “I imagine some of them did not fully understand, or did not fully know what independence meant at the time. “But I’m sure the majority of the crowd knew what it

meant.” She noted that before independence, some people were openly against it. “But when it came, everyone just fell in line. “We are afraid of the unknown and that’s what caused problems among the people. “But it was a joyous time for most of us.” It was a first for the nation. But the night wasn’t over for Williams and Taylor. Taylor said as he and Williams marched off the grounds, he could not shake the image of the rehearsal where the flag fell to the ground. “I didn’t even want to look back,” he shared. “So I said to Williams, ‘Boy look back and see what that flag is doing’. “He looked back and he said, ‘Boy Taylor that flag is just blowing in the wind’. “So I looked back and I felt

The Bahamas at 40


A MOMENT IN TIME very proud.”


Despite his fondness for the night Taylor said he feels largely ignored these days. “As a matter of fact, according to Darold Miller, I’m supposed to be dead,” he joked. “He had a talk show on and somebody called my name, and said ‘Mr. Taylor is trying to reach you’ and he said ‘Mr. Taylor is dead!’. “I say well, he probably got me mixed up with Alfred Williams. “But I’m quite alive and kicking.” Now retired, Taylor spends his time with his wife and adult children. He spent the best years of his life as an officer, he said. He remains dignified. His mind and wit sharp. He hasn’t participated in an independence celebration since that night.

“I was invited to one,” he admitted. “I’ll tell you the truth though, the powers that be didn’t do justice to Williams and I. “We didn’t get invited to many of the independence celebrations.” So the two men made a pact, he said. They would never attend a celebration unless they were both invited. “Here it is Williams was the last person to take down the Union Jack in the country and I was the first person to put up the Bahamian flag, and we got no recognition whatsoever,” Taylor lamented. In 2004, during a trip to Bermuda, Taylor said a young female officer, to his surprise, recognized him. “We were at the Bermuda National Stadium,” he said. “When I looked, this young lady came over to me and said she was a police

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officer. “I didn’t even know she knew my name. “She said, ‘Hi, Mr. Taylor, how are you?’ “I said ‘fine’. “She said, ‘I am told that you are the person who raised the Bahamian flag for the first time’. “I said, ‘Yes’. “She said, ‘Gee whiz we have a celebrity in our midst’. “I said, ‘Celebrity?’ “She said, ‘Yes, you are a celebrity. That was a historic occasion.’ “I said, ‘Oh’.” As a result, Taylor said the Bahamian cricket team, with whom he was traveling, was treated to a cruise, free transportation and other perks while in Bermuda. “They saw me as a celebrity and they felt they should do something for us,” he said. Taylor and Williams were both honored at the 2011

independence celebrations for their contributions.

The future

Forty years later, Taylor said he’s proud of what he did that night. He said he will never forget independence night. “It made me proud to be a Bahamian,” he said. “After 40 years I’m still proud to be a Bahamian. “We have our downfalls, yes. We have our problems, like every other country, but it’s our country.” Anita said she did not realize how important her husband would be. “I didn’t know that I would be talking about that night, 40 years later,” she said. “But I knew something had to happen, because that occasion was a grand occasion and I knew that it could not die. “It had to go on.”


The Bahamas at 40


The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


The Bahamas at 40



Prince Charles dances with Marguerite Pindling at the Independence Ball, one of the highlights of the weeklong independence celebrations.

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

It is midnight in New Providence, June 30, 1973. An unfamiliar anthem is playing on the radio. Philip Burrows, then a teenage high school student at Aquinas College, had heard it a few times before, but it was still new to him. It was the Bahamian national anthem. In the months leading up to independence it was played on radio stations at midnight so Bahamians could learn it, Burrows recalled. It was one of a plethora of initiatives by the Independence Secretariat headed by then Parliamentary Secretary George Smith. While the headlines in local newspapers were dominated by the Watergate scandal involving then U.S. President Richard Nixon, the secretariat was busy planning what many remember as the best independence celebration ever. Those involved in the celebration included many who were well known: Winston Saunders, Kayla Lockhart, E. Clement Bethel, Harold Munnings Sr. and Shirley Hall-Bass. There were many others who made invaluable contributions, but whose names did not make the history books. Smith recalled that with the guidance of then Prime Minister Lynden Pindling the secretariat was able to coordinate a spectacular celebration. “We did the greatest show ever put on in the history of The Bahamas and it still remains the greatest show to this day,” he said. “I was extremely happy that everything fell into place.” Harold Munnings Sr. oversaw the planning of the July 9 celebration. His son, Harold Munnings Jr., said he remembered the royal treatment he received during that time.


“I remember the flag raising ceremony, and the cultural show,” he said. “I remember the VIP treatment. Wherever I would go with dad we got to sit up front. “I was only 12 but I remember that. He was always busy, always off to a meeting.” The independence celebrations actually spanned 10 days. There were Junkanoo rush-outs, a float parade, sporting events and an ecumenical service. Burrows, who later worked closely with the late cultural enthusiast Winston Saunders at the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts, said he remembered a tale about rain. “One of the stories that Winston told me was that on the day of the 9th, in the morning, it started to rain,” he said. “So he drove down to the fort and there was a single man on the stage painting. “It had rained a little earlier but it had dried up. “So Winston drove out and he said he saw this man just painting and he went to the man and he said, ‘So you think it will rain tonight for independence?’ “The man said, ‘No. I don’t think so’. He said, ‘God is a Bahamian’.”

Cultural show

Burrows was a part of the cultural show on independence night. He said he thought the show would have been a disaster. “Knowing what had happened for dress rehearsals and seeing how well it all came together for the performance, it was one of those things where you sit there thinking this will be a mess, but it wasn’t,” he said. Burrows said he got involved after his school’s male choir and Government High’s

female choir were chosen to be part of the chorale group that sang during the show. Under the guidance of Kayla Lockhart, Bethel said rehearsals were interesting. “We would leave school and go to Stephen Dillet Primary School and have rehearsals for the show,” he said. “It was fun for us back then to rehearse our various numbers. We weren’t sure how the show was going to all come together. We didn’t go to the fort until the night of the 8th. “That was a very chaotic evening, really because there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Everybody was a leader. “You had all these little pieces that had all been rehearsed in various places that had just come together. We had just come out to the fort and we had rehearsed our various segments, but this was the first time we were bringing this whole show together. “So Shirley Hall-Bass would rehearse Keith Wisdom being the slave auctioneer, who was quite a young person back then. She would rehearse that. “Then there was a group of people rehearsing the Burma Road rioters. That’s what was happening; everybody had their own thing.” The night leading to independence started at 8 p.m. with various activities. The cultural show started at 10 p.m. It was a great pageant of Bahamian history, Burrows said. “I very specifically remember Sidney Poitier walking across the field and the crowd applauding,” he said. Burrows, who has directed six independence celebrations, said there was no independence observation like the first. “[They] had brought in some incredible lighting

Religious leaders pray at the flagpole at Clifford Park.

Prime Minister Lynden Pindling with Prince Charles.

“Knowing what had happened for dress rehearsals and seeing how well it all came together for the performance, it was one of those things where you sit there thinking this will be a mess, but it wasn’t. — Philip Burrows

The Bahamas at 40


A GRAND CELEBRATION which has not since been repeated,” he said. “In every independence that I’ve worked on since, they’ve not been able to get the field lit the same way they got it lit for the first.” Burrows claimed that the original programs for independence had a grave error. “The programs said ‘Under the patronage of Prince Charles, Prince of Whales’. “So all the programs had to be withdrawn and reprinted.”

Harold Munnings Sr. Harold Munnings Jr. shared a story about his father’s talents on the night of independence. Munnings Sr., an engineer and then a permanent secretary, designed a method that ensured that even though there was no wind on the night of the 9th, the Bahamian flag fluttered. “[He] told a group of engineers that he and John Bain came up with a system of fans at the root of the flagpole,” Munnings Jr. said. “And when the flag reached the top of the pole, they hit a switch and the fans came on and the flag started blowing and people were like, ‘Oh, the breath of God is blowing over the country’. But really it was my dad, the engineer.” Prince Charles inspects the Police Guard of Honour.

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


Super Bowl

After Sergeant Alfred Williams lowered the Union Jack and Sergeant Irvin Taylor raised the Bahamian flag, Burrows said the crowd at Clifford Park exploded with pride. “After the cultural show the next thing was the march to the flag,” he said. “After that the prayers were said, the [Union Jack was lowered] to the British national anthem and then the [Bahamian] flag was raised to the Bahamian national anthem. The show must have gone up to 11:45 p.m. and then the last 15 minutes were the prayers, the flag, and then chaos. “Basically everybody came out on to the field. It was like a Super Bowl championship. “It wasn’t like today when independence ends and the police drive off and people go home. “No. Everybody was on the field, just celebrating and dancing.” Forty years later, the committee for the 40th independence celebrations hopes to recapture the magic that entranced Bahamians on the night of July 9, 1973.

Prime Minister Lynden Pindling bids farewell to Prince Charles

The Bahamas at 40


Timothy Gibson was a well-respected composer and conductor.

A SONG FOR THE NATION ROYSTON JONES JR. The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013



Timothy Gibson.

Hours before thousands of Bahamians sang “God Save the Queen” for the last time, a small selection of musicians was making final preparations for the singing of the Bahamian national anthem for the first time. Francis Richardson, then a member of the Royal Bahamas Police Force Band, had been practicing for months. On the night of July 9, 1973, “March on Bahamaland” reverberated among an estimated 60,000 Bahamians gathered on Clifford Park as the Bahamian flag rose to mark this country’s independence. The opener of that song was perhaps the most important aspect of its introduction, setting the tone for a sense of nationalism, Richardson said. The Independence Secretariat selected that anthem, written and composed by the late Timothy Gibson, a composer, lyricist and educator born in Savannah Sound, Eleuthera, on April 12, 1903. The first of his works “Nassau Calling” was followed by titles including, “Sailor Prince”, “Your Majesty”, sang during a visit of Queen Elizabeth to The Bahamas, and “Hail Princess Britannia”. “March on Bahamaland” was just one of more than 21 songs Gibson composed since 1938. “Mr. Gibson came into the band room with other members of the committee, and he proceeded to present the anthem for us to learn and play,” said Richardson, who later transferred from the force to become an educator of music at Lyford Cay International School. “Ironically, the band director at the time was an Englishman, and because we were going to play the official British national anthem from his country for the last time, he found himself in kind of an

awkward situation, taking [us] out from the old, leading us into the new.” As the music sheets were placed in his hands, a pertinent question came to mind. “How are we going to present this?” Richardson recalled in an interview with The Nassau Guardian. “It was the first time that the nation would hear this song, we thought to ourselves. “It was such an important moment of our history. “We had to decide on a perfect way to present this to our Bahamian people.” In the band room, on the eve of independence, parade organizers went back and forth over whether to use the introduction Gibson had also composed for the anthem. In the end, it was not used that night and instead a sharp, but rhythmic drum roll sounded, which gave pause to the composition Bahamians had been learning for months. “This man was such a humble man; he raised no hell about it, but said ‘just do it’,” Richardson said. Dignitaries from many nations watched the many performances as the history of The Bahamas was told that July 9, 1973 night. Lee Callender, Gibson’s grandson, said the simplicity of his grandfather’s lyrics made him a great composer, but it was intentional. “All of his songs, including the national anthem, are very, very simple with a singable melody,” said Callender, who appeared as a guest on Guardian Radio’s “Bush Tea” in March. “One is able to learn the song very easily. His goal was to build community and to be understood.” The anthem has been and will continue to be sung by generations of Bahamians, Richardson said. Callender, a musician and composer, recalled Gibson saying, “I speak to you in such a way that everybody, including a child, can understand.” The national anthem was originally written in E-flat. It was later changed to key D to ensure it could be sung by school children, as pointed out by Bahamian musician JoAnn Callender. “This really touched my heart deeply because his heart was always with the young people and including everybody,” JoAnn said. “The national anthem is the song of the nation and he wanted to make sure

that everybody was included; none were left out.”

An educator at heart

As described by Lee, Gibson was passionate about learning, and even when semi-retired in 1973, at the age 70, he practiced theory exercises. “He was constantly doing that, I mean pen and paper all the time,” Lee said. “He had an office he used to go to, that was provided by the government, and he would just go there and doodle and do research; just constantly learning about new things, listening to a lot of music and talking to people. “He was just curious about life and information, and what I learnt from him is that the best educators are the learners.” Gibson studied in Savannah Sound, Eleuthera, in his early academic career. In 1914, Gibson joined his brother, the late C. I. Gibson, in Arthur’s Town, Cat Island, where he (C. I.) was a head teacher. It was there that Gibson held an official academic role in music. He was given a job as a composer. When C. I. Gibson transferred to Buckley’s, Long Island, his younger brother, then 17, followed. Gibson worked as a monitor for a year in Buckley’s before transferring to Scrub Hill where he, like his brother, became a head teacher. Nassau was the next stop for Gibson. He attended Boys Central School in Nassau Court as a student in training. Over the next few years, Gibson, a now well-known musician, transferred to several other Family Islands, including Eleuthera, before returning to Nassau. “Back then it wasn’t the way it is now,” JoAnn said. “In the Family Islands, when they needed a teacher they would send for them. “It wasn’t unusual for one person to spend one year on one island and another year to be on another island.” Gibson taught for 17 years at Western Junior School, orignally located on Hospital Lane, and rebuilt on Market Street. He gave up the job to become a supervisor of music for junior and senior schools, where he taught music, theory and singing. As an assistant inspector of schools for music in 1961, Gibson worked closely with Family Island schools and the Bahamas Teacher’s College, which later became The College of The Bahamas. The Bahamas at 40


A SONG FOR THE NATION He studied music theory at Trinity College, London, and was a choral conductor accredited by the University Conservatory of Chicago through a correspondence course. His earlier music training came from his brother C. I. and under his brother’s tutelage Timothy learnt how to read music and play the organ. In “Preserving our Heritage, Language Arts: An integrated approach”, Gibson is said to have played the piano, flute, banjo and violin, among other instruments. Lee (one of seven grandchildren), who plays several instruments, said Gibson was his first music teacher, where he “survived” piano lessons.

A new beginning

At midnight on July 10, 1973, Sergeant Alfred Williams lowered the Union Jack and Sergeant Irvin Taylor raised the Bahamian flag. Richardson watched both men, his instructors when he first joined the police force, carry out this special and historic task. When the parade commander gave the order “general salute, present arms” the drum roll was followed by Gibson’s words ‘Lift up your head’, Richardson said. He said it is difficult to put the feeling into words. “To hear 60,000 or 70,000 peoples’ voices raised, my goodness,” he said. “There was almost a sense of sadness as the Union Jack came down, mixed feelings, but when we started the anthem, and you heard the thousands of voices in the open air, I said to myself ‘my God’. In one of the most profound displays of national pride, a roar erupted from the crowd as the Bahamian flag reached its goal. “Nothing has ever touched me as when we played that national anthem, and I

was part of that, a band of only 30 people,” Richardson said. In the campaign launched months before that night, the national anthem was regularly played on the radio, in churches and taught within the school system. It was on a much grander scale, but many in the country had previously learnt works by Gibson for other notable occasions in The Bahamas, as pointed out by JoAnn. “Whenever Queen Elizabeth came to visit or the prince or Princess Margaret, he would always send a song down,” she said. “I remember being in school and the kids would say ‘I wonder which song Mr. Gibson wrote this time?’ “Everybody was in excitement, waiting for the music teacher to get the music from Mr. Gibson to see what music we would be singing at the fort. “I looked forward to those days because as children we were really excited to be a part of something big.” The raising of the Bahamian flag and the singing of the Bahamian national anthem marked the end of centuries of British rule; it was certainly a big occasion.

A different tune

Gibson also wrote popular Bahamian songs such as “Fairest Land on Earth” and “Beautiful Bahamaland”. Many of his songs have themes about The Bahamas, and speak of love for God, family and country. But it was in “Nassau Moon” where Gibson’s romantic side was exposed, JoAnn said. The opening words are, “I have been around the world but never lost my heart except for when I saw that Nassau moon.” “It showed his kindness of

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


“March on Bahamaland” played several times at the Olympic Games, most recently in London in 2012 after The Bahamas’ men’s 4x400m relay team won a gold medal.

The National Youth Choir singing the national anthem.

heart because he was a great writer, not just of music but in studying and getting a hold of all of the material that was his from the homestead,” JoAnn said. “We can see in his letter writing that he had a heart and a passion for young people in particular. “He wrote letters and he was a speaker at the Boy Scouts Club, and I saw where he wrote letters to encourage the young men to walk strong, be faithful in the things they do, do their class work, be disciplined, be kind to one another. “Wherever he went, he always tried to make people smile or to say something to brighten peoples’ day.” Gibson was given the nickname ‘Dapper’, a well-dressed man, who often donned suits.

He was rarely seen without a jacket. Lee said such songs were not expected from a “dignified man”. “He wore a suit almost everywhere he went and if he wasn’t wearing a suit his shirt was tucked in so neatly all the time,” he said. Another song Gibson wrote was “Sapodilly Woman”. Sapodilla was his favorite fruit. A marked contrast to the national anthem, “Sapodilly Woman” is a playful song. His other works were all steeped in Bahamian culture, including “Bahama Babe” and “The Yellow Elder”. The song is believed to have been written before the yellow elder became The Bahamas’ national flower.

The Bahamas at 40

42 42

The National Insurance Board on Baillou Hill Road.

BUILDING A NATION TANEKA THOMPSON In the 10 years following independence, the government led by Lynden Pindling embarked on an ambitious mission to establish key national institutions and programs to support a newly independent nation. Among these agencies were the National Insurance Board (NIB), The College of The Bahamas, Bahamasair, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Central Bank of The Bahamas. The government set about establishing these institutions against the backdrop of racial tension and distrust toward a handful of young, black men with little experience running a country. “Let’s not forget the context in which a lot of the institutions came about,” said Philip Galanis, a chartered accountant and former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) member of Parliament and senator. “They came about on the heels of majority rule just [a few] years earlier. They came about on the heels of a tremendous movement of black power and the realization of the ability of black people to govern themselves.

“And the government consisted of a few young men who did not have any experience in governing and very few of them had business experience.” George Smith, a former Cabinet minister in the Pindling administration, said the government even faced some apprehension from some PLP supporters in setting up the agencies. “There were people who were cautious,” Smith recalled, “people who were being influenced by the conservative end of our party, who would have been more inclined to get the private sector to do some of these things.”

Social security

The most impressive and far-reaching institution created after independence was the National Insurance Board. In 1972, the government brought the National Insurance Act to Parliament and the agency came into effect in October 1974. NIB’s plan, a contributory scheme that would deduct payments from wages and salaries, was a revolutionary one for

Bahamasair, the national flag carrier, was established not long after independence. The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

The Bahamas in terms of the benefits it offered: retirement, invalidity, sickness, maternity, funeral and death benefits for surviving relatives. Historian Dr. Gail Saunders said NIB was a “marvelous” creation that provided the working-class Bahamian with a small pension and other benefits in hard times. “The pension, which may not be much, has supported a lot of our people,” she said. “In the past many of the private firms did not give pensions, so if you worked for a company all your life and retired, unless you were able to save, and sometimes you couldn’t, you had no retirement plan.” Despite the obvious benefits that National Insurance would provide for Bahamian citizens, there was resistance in some quarters to the creation of the social security agency. “There was some objection to that because people speculated that it was a move toward income tax,” Smith said. Galanis said critics who did not trust the Pindling government thought the people’s funds would be misused to line politicians’ pockets. “I think that when it was initially introduced,” Galanis said, “people thought that it was going to be a slush fund for the government to do with as it saw fit and people didn’t really appreciate the critical importance that it played.” At the time, Galanis added, Bahamians were not used to being taxed and had become accustomed to pocketing every cent they earned. “But National Insurance, I think, is perhaps one of the more successful institutions that came out of independence inasmuch as it has funded so many


The Bahamas at 40


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BUILDING A NATION worthwhile endeavors throughout The Bahamas,” Galanis said.


The Central Bank of The Bahamas was created under an act of Parliament in June 1974. It opened in February 1975. The bank, which became the country’s central financial institution and regulator, replaced the now defunct Bahamas Monetary Authority. The financial overseer was created to regulate the country’s supply of money, manage foreign reserves and guide the government on financial issues. The Central Bank was also given the task of issuing Bahamian currency and accumulating data on the financial industry to understand the scope of the economy’s growth. “With independence, we graduated from a Monetary Authority to the Central Bank,” Galanis said.

ticularly regarding the charges that many of the banks impose on their customers, as well as the propensity from time to time to over-regulate, thereby thwarting the development of our financial services sector in an orderly, meaningful and progressive way,” he said. “I am also concerned that bank regulators don’t fully appreciate or have confidence in the talent and expertise and professionalism of Bahamians. “I know of instances where the Central Bank has sought to discourage Bahamian ownership of banks and this should not continue beyond our 40th anniversary. “I think the time has come for more Bahamians to be allowed and encouraged to own banking institutions, both domestic and offshore banks.” The Pindling government also created the Bahamas Development Bank in 1978 to give medium- and long-term loans for developments, co-operatives and small businesses.


An independent Bahamas also needed a naval fleet to properly defend its borders and protect its marine resources. The government created the Royal Bahamas Defence Force by an act of Parliament in 1979. A year later the fleet was born to patrol and protect the country’s marine resources and borders. Chief among the threats to these resources were poachers and illegal migration. “Pindling realized that with the emergence of us as a nation and our desire to protect the fishing grounds for Bahamians, because of the potentially lucrative nature of the fishing marine resource industry of The Bahamas, we would need a seagoing force,” Smith recalled. “The Bahamas has always suffered from illegal foreign people and though the large numbers come from Haiti, they came from other parts of the world too. We’ve always had an illegal migration problem and the defence force would do a lot to intercept those who were coming by sea. “There was opposition and talk that Pindling wanted to build his private army and wanted to have the capacity to engage our people in military activity which was a bunch of nonsense.”


Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling inspects Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers.

“Many of the things that were done by the Monetary Authority were assumed by the Central Bank, but it became much more important because as an independent country we had to regulate our sovereign currency. “We had to ensure that we had a level of reserves to make certain that we were able to pay our bills. We also had to do all we could to ensure that the Bahamian dollar, which is pegged to the U.S. dollar, was not devalued and that parity was maintained as best it could be.” Galanis said while the Central Bank has been competent in its role as a financial regulator, it should do more to encourage Bahamian ownership in domestic and offshore banks. “I think that more needs to be done in terms of Central Bank regulations, par-


The government also busied itself with constructing dozens of public schools in New Providence and the Family Islands. However, the most significant educational achievement during that time was the opening of The College of The Bahamas in 1974. Saunders said the institution was a beacon of hope for students who could not afford a tertiary education abroad. “The College of The Bahamas was much needed,” she said. “Before that we had the Teachers Training College, but a college which is going to become a university is essential, especially in developing countries where many of their citizens were not able to go abroad to receive a tertiary education.”

The Hotel Corporation was formed in 1974 as a way to stimulate and preserve the hotel industry. Smith, who also served as a chairman of that entity, said the government created the corporation when the tourism industry was beset with problems, mainly because of the 1973 oil embargo. He said many hotels, primarily on Cable Beach in western New Providence, were threatening to close. The Hotel Corporation bought up, and later resold, troubled properties in Grand Bahama and New Providence. Another notable agency that came into being shortly after independence was Bahamasair, which remains the national flag carrier. The airline was established in 1973 to link the archipelago through inter-island travel. The television station ZNS TV 13 was officially opened on October 20, 1977 by Queen Elizabeth II. However, the station began operating in July 1977. The 1970s were filled with the planning and execution of developments that have formed the framework for today’s The Bahamas at 40


The College of The Bahamas at Oakes Field.

BUILDING A NATION Bahamas. “The new Bahamian nation was firmly established,” Michael Craton wrote in the biography, “Pindling: The life and times of the first prime minister of The Bahamas”. “The economy was stabilized and resumed an upward trajectory,” Craton added. “Many new projects were initiated. Above all, a mature and confident prime minister perfected a style and method of leadership that promised to entrench both himself and

his party at the helm for the foreseeable future.” Looking back, Saunders said the government had a lot of foresight in creating the agencies that became the backbone of Bahamian development. “We had a very orderly transition from a colony to an independent nation,” she said. “Things were planned. It was a really exciting time and I hope that we can capture that excitement again for the 40th independence anniversary.”

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The Bahamas at 40


Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, right, greets former Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling at independence celebrations in 1998, as Opposition Leader Perry Christie looks on.

POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE AT 40 BRENT DEAN While there is much celebration of our 40th anniversary as a country, The Bahamas of today has drifted away from the aspirations of many of those people assembled at Clifford Park to witness its birth. Thousands were intoxicated with the hope of a new bright future, guided by a leader with uncanny charisma. And for many years those hopes were met. Yet today, four decades and three prime ministers later, our successes of the past are now rivaled by problems of the present. Problems that are threatening order in our archipelago.

The leaders

Three men have dominated politics in The Bahamas these past four decades: Sir Lynden Pindling, Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie. Sir Lynden ruled for the longest stretch – 25 consecutive years. The country he led to independence was different than it is today. It has more than doubled in size since 1970 when we had a population of 168,812. In 2010 there were 351,461 people residing on these islands. Sir Lynden’s push as the country’s leader, beginning in 1967 at majority rule, was to bring equality and equal opportunity to a colony ruled by a European power and its heirs.

“For the last three centuries, a powerful ethnic minority has, with support of the United Kingdom government, controlled the political, economic and social life of the country, and silenced all opposition,” said Pindling in an address to the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization in August 1965. “The Bahamas, which has been under the domination of European powers since the landing of Christopher Columbus in 1492, were often represented as a tourists’ paradise; however, they were anything but a paradise for the indigenous population.” Those early Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) governments helped build the modern Bahamas. Public education was expanded and The College of The Bahamas was formed; the Bahamianization policy enabled Bahamians to lead organizations across the country; the National Insurance Board (NIB), Royal Bahamas Defence Force and many other new agencies of state were built. New working and middle classes emerged comprised of people formerly denied the opportunity to rise. And in all of this, possibly most importantly, a once wide racial divide did not explode into open hostilities. Black, white and everything in between coexisted and prospered. Sir Lynden won four general elections by the time the 1980s rolled around. He

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seemed unbeatable. But allegations of drug-related corruption against his PLP would begin to eat away at his reputation – just as those drugs and the culture they brought would corrode the social fabric of The Bahamas. After the Commission of Inquiry report of 1984, the Pindling government was shaken. Senior members of Cabinet and the party resigned – some were fired. Two of the fired were Ingraham and Christie. Sir Lynden was scarred by the allegations against him and his party. Wounded, he won the 1987 general election. That election, however, would mark the last time he led his party to victory. Moses had gone as far as he could go. Ingraham defeated Sir Lynden in 1992, and he and the Free National Movement (FNM), a party started two decades before bringing together dissidents from the PLP and remnants of the United Bahamian Party (UBP), had a good decade-long run. Ingraham and his FNM were reformers. They sold off inefficient state-owned hotels; approved the Atlantis deal; opened up the airwaves to private companies; Parliament was televised; and they introduced elected local government in the Family Islands. “We all remember the victory of 1992 when finally the veil was lifted, the pall removed. Bahamians of every race and


The Bahamas at 40



Perry Christie.

class, from every walk of life, of every political affiliation, and in every one of our islands, believed that they could enjoy the full, unfettered benefits of citizenship,” said Ingraham in reflection of those early FNM governments on May 26, 2012, in his farewell speech after the FNM’s election loss in his third term as prime minister. While Sir Lynden’s years are defined by the rise of the black majority to equal opportunity and political power, the Ingraham decade is quite defined by a remarkable economic boom. According to data from the Ministry of Finance, from 1989 to 1993, The Bahamas, like many others in the hemisphere, suffered through an economic contraction. Its real GDP shrank from $3.3 billion in 1989 to $3 billion in 1992. With a new government with new ideas and policies, beginning in 1994 nominal GDP grew for four consecutive years ranging from 5.4 percent in 1994 to 6.4 percent in 1997. By 1998, growth in nominal GDP rose to a remarkable 11.5 percent. With the economy roaring, unemployment rates in 1998 and 1999 were 7.8 percent. “We provided competent, honest and productive governance,” said Ingraham in that 2012 farewell speech. The Christie years followed, beginning in May 2002. They came after a failed constitutional referendum and a failed FNM leadership transition from Ingraham to Tommy Turnquest. In Christie’s term, 2002 to 2007, there was good economic growth too. But his PLP has been more defined by its detractors than its record. Perceived gaffes, internal conflicts and miscues led to Christie’s defeat in 2007. The PLP leader was branded as a weak leader. Ingraham was back.

Hubert Ingraham.


While our governments from independence to now have focused on empowering the black majority and growing the economy, the culture, which is the formational engine of the society, seems to have corroded. Births to unwed mothers in The Bahamas escalated during the past 40 years from 29 percent in 1970 to a high of 62 percent in 2009, according to the Department of Statistics. For all the schools built by Sir Lynden, Ingraham and Christie to give opportunity to people who historically were disenfranchised, our children are not doing well. The national average in the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams has been a D for some time. That average, however, masks the failure. Taking out the private schools and the Family Island public schools, the average for the New Providence public system, where most children are educated, is a failed grade. Regarding our modern day dysfunction, there is also a tie-in between the drug culture that flourished during the Pindling years and the crime problem of today. Many of the junkies of the 1970s and 1980s gave birth to children they did not take care of. Those children have given birth to children they do not know how to take care of. We now have barely socialized generations who live in a difficult economic environment. The unemployment rate in The Bahamas is 14 percent and the youth unemployment rate is above 30 percent. These social conditions have contributed to a crime crisis that is centered in our most populated island, New

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Sir Lynden Pindling.

Providence. From 2007 to 2011, a five-year period, there were four murder records. The murder count in 2012 was the second highest in our history. The inability to combat the crime crisis between 2007 and 2012 contributed to the defeat of the third Ingraham government. Despite changing laws and boosting the resources to law enforcement agencies, the problem continued to spiral. Christie and the PLP returned to office in 2012, with promises of doing better on crime – and nearly everything else. Yet, the problem persists. The current crime spike in The Bahamas is beginning to harm the country’s international reputation just as the drug era in the 1970s and 1980s did. Incidents of tourist robberies, assaults and killings do not juxtapose well with the message that The Bahamas is a safe paradise to visit.

The next 40 years

The Bahamas is by no means a basket case. It does not have a sky-high debt-to-GDP ratio like Jamaica (upwards of 120 percent) or the comprehensive social problems of Haiti. From the perspective of the Caribbean, we are doing reasonably well. Though, this mere relative regional assessment was not the goal of many 40 years ago. Bahamians wanted to continue to live in a peaceful and civil archipelago and to add equal opportunity to that setting so all who live here could succeed based on the strength of their ideas and initiative, regardless of race or class. Persistent high unemployment since the 2008 financial crisis, high crime rates and educational under-performance mar these times. Many want change but do not know where it will come from. Over our 40 years of independence the country has had three leaders. Com-


The Bahamas at 40


POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE AT 40 pared to some developed jurisdictions that number is low. The United States and United Kingdom had eight leaders each over that period; Canada had seven. With Ingraham and Christie being Pindling proteges, it will be interesting to see if the era beyond them will bring changes in the manner and scope of governance of The Bahamas. The people assembled on July 10, 1973 dreamed of a fair Bahamas. Many today dream of a safe Bahamas, a Bahamas where they can find jobs and have the ability to eventually be owners of the economy. The major tasks of the next generation of political leaders are clearly defined. Only time will tell if men and women step forward to meet these tasks, or whether the present dysfunctions further define life in The Bahamas.

Sir Lynden Pindling was again voted in as leader of the Progressive Liberal Party in 1993.

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The Bahamas at 40


Haitian immigrants await repatriation at Lynden Pindling International Airport in early 2013.

A BAHAMAS FOR BAHAMIANS KRYSTEL ROLLE The Christie administration has recommitted itself to a decades-old immigration policy that was first introduced by the Pindling administration. The Bahamianization policy was presented to the masses during the 1970s. It was the brainchild of former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Hanna. The face of the Bahamian workforce has changed dramatically over the last few decades. For many years, Bahamians did not hold seats around the head tables of various financial centers. The marked parking spaces were reserved mostly for foreigners. At the time, Bahamians, particularly black Bahamians, were considered privileged to secure the lower-end jobs at those financial institutions. It was a reality that prompted the introduction of the Bahamianization policy — specifically developed to force employers to put Bahamians first. Following the introduction of the policy, work permits were granted to foreigners on

the basis that they would train Bahamians to eventually take their positions. The goal was to build skills among the Bahamian populace. In the words of the late former prime minister Sir Lynden Pindling, education and Bahamianization, therefore, went hand in hand. “On both counts, I think we succeeded rather well,” said Sir Lynden in his farewell speech to the House of Assembly on July 7, 1997. “In the space of a single generation, hundreds, and then thousands of Bahamians acquired a first-rate education at the expense of the state. “Through education and training, new opportunities for lucrative employment opened up, and the policy of Bahamianization ensured that those jobs were filled by Bahamians. “The result was the creation of a whole new middle class of upwardly striving, upwardly mobile Bahamians sprawled across brand new residential subdivisions and holding down jobs and

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The Bahamas at 40


A BAHAMAS FOR BAHAMIANS professions that few of us would ever have thought possible before the advent of black majority government.” Minister of Immigration Fred Mitchell shares a similar view of the success Sir Lynden and Hanna achieved with the advent of the Bahamianization policy. However, he said in the last 15 years The Bahamas has slid back into pre-independence days in some areas where Bahamian faces have now been replaced by foreign ones, particularly at some domestic banks. “That’s one of the areas where there has been a reversal,” he said. “When Pindling left office, the banking sector in The Bahamas was run by Bahamians. Since [Hubert] Ingraham became prime minister, there’s been a reversal of that fact. So we are trying to set that right. “We told them domestic banking is going to be run by Bahamians, and we mean to do that.” Asked how the heads of the various banks have taken the Christie administration’s stance, Mitchell said he believes some are attempting to convince the government that the foreigners are needed. “In many cases, there have been sort

A Haitian man suffers from exhaustion after being apprehended by Royal Bahamas Defence Force officers.

of subtle attempts to get around it because the first thing, they cry is that Bahamians are not trained... Well, I think that’s ridiculous. “It isn’t going to fly. I think the role of the government is to reinforce that that’s not the culture that we are going to support. And that’s it.”

Illegal immigration

While expatriate workers are commonplace in many countries, many migrants work here under the radar of the government, without the requisite permits. The problem of illegal immigration has no easy fix. It has been a challenge for lawmakers for decades. According to the 2000 National

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Census Report, “There has been an under-reporting of illegal immigrants in The Bahamas.” “Consequently, it is difficult to obtain reliable immigration and migration data for this populace, predominantly Haitian nationals, due to the steady and overwhelming impact of illegal human trafficking,” the report said. “Historically, immigration has constituted a major component of population growth. “In the absence of proper documentation of movements within our borders through the official arm of government (the Department of Immigration), there is no definitive way of knowing the numbers of emigrants leaving or immigrants coming to reside in the country. This can prove catastrophic. “... The majority of persons emigrating were illegal immigrants through the government’s repatriation initiatives (there is no evidence that this is working), which is a drain on the country’s scarce resources because these same illegal migrants along with new entrants are back in The Bahamas in a matter of weeks. The process then starts all over again.” Director of Immigration William


The Bahamas at 40


A BAHAMAS FOR BAHAMIANS Pratt said it would be very difficult to say how many illegal immigrants are in The Bahamas. The Department of Immigration has two rooms documenting the legal immigrants who reside here and those who have moved on. One of the rooms is designated solely for Haitian immigrants. Files in each room are stacked nearly to the roof. Pratt said it is also difficult to put a number on how many work permits currently exist. However, according to available data, there are tens of thousands of immigrants living in The Bahamas. Immigration officials suggest that people from more than 70 countries live in The Bahamas, both legally and illegally, the majority of whom are Haitians. For decades, Haitian immigrants have been illegally and legally migrating to The Bahamas. In the 1970s, former Haitian Consul Alexandre Paul pushed for Haitians who entered The Bahamas illegally to be allowed to remain in the country, explaining that it would be “one less mouth for Haiti to feed,” according to a confidential U.S.

Embassy cable made public by whistleblower website WikiLeaks earlier this year. Paul visited the U.S. Embassy on September 15, 1976 to ascertain whether the Americans would support his push to work out a plan with the appropriate Bahamian authorities to allow Haitian migrants to pay a fine rather than be deported. He contended at the time that The Bahamas needed Haitian labor, the cables said. His plan never came to fruition, but the threat of deportation did not stop Haitians from coming to Bahamian shores. In the past decade, repatriations have cost the government more than $15 million, an immigration report revealed. Since 2003, more than 41,000 Haitians were repatriated. While many Haitians have been repatriated, others have been successful in creating a life here – although that didn’t come without some consequences.


On the migration front, a policy decision was made in 1973 regarding the issue of citizenship. Children born in The Bahamas to foreign parents do not have an automatic right to citizenship.

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“The result is that a lawful discrimination set in against migrants whose children were born in The Bahamas,” Mitchell said. Mitchell added that the decision has “built a hell of a problem” he is not sure how to fix. This has resulted in many ‘stateless’ individuals. “What you will find when you look at all societies, in the U.K., Germany and the U.S., is you have a group of people who grow up in a society who feel dispossessed because of some discrimination against them and they are not integrated into the society,” he said. “So you are bound to have problems, usually gang problems. You saw it with Italian immigrants in the U.S. “They formed themselves in gangs and were constantly fighting. So what you are seeing in The Bahamas is a result of that, I think. I don’t think these people are criminally minded innately. “I think what has happened is there is a great deal of problems because they have no status in the society. “They are despised by the dominant population even though their labor is


The Bahamas at 40


A BAHAMAS FOR BAHAMIANS required by the dominant population and there’s a resentment that builds in. And the result is they band together as a mechanism to protect themselves in the county.” The latest population report shows that of the 351,461 people living in The Bahamas when the 2010 census was conducted, 39,144 were Haitians – 21,143 males and 18,001 females. In the years between the 2000 census and the 2010 census, the Haitian population nearly doubled, increasing by 82 percent in 10 years. Still, many observers have questioned the accuracy of the census and the number of Haitians living in The Bahamas. Former Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney suggested that the figure may only represent the number of legal Haitian immigrants living in The Bahamas. He thinks the Haitian population in The Bahamas is much larger than the most recent census suggests. But Mitchell said he does not dispute the Department of Statistics’ latest census

data on the number of Haitians living in The Bahamas. However, he pointed to a report conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) released in 2005. That report suggested that there were anywhere between 30,000 and 60,000 legal and illegal Haitians living in The Bahamas at the time. The IOM in its overview of The Bahamas in 2009 also suggested that there were anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 undocumented Haitians living in The Bahamas. “So whatever it is, it’s a significant number,” Mitchell said. “And the issue is that all of them are heading to the States. Haiti is in dire poverty and The Bahamas stands in the way.” With respect to Haitian immigrants, the vast majority of them are employed in domestic areas. Also featuring prominently in the domestic sector are Filipinos, according to Mitchell. He announced in March that the government plans to cease issuing work

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permits for maids, housekeepers and laborers within a year. Mitchell said that category makes up the bulk of work permit applications at the Department of Immigration. He said that in 2012 there were 1,801 work permits granted for caregivers, livein-maids and housekeepers. In the category of laborers, gardeners and handymen, 2,340 work permits were granted in 2012. The announcement has caused some uneasiness in certain quarters. “The PLP campaigned on Bahamians first,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know why people are shocked by all of this. “They shouldn’t be. The country is Bahamian, and so that’s it. The Bahamians are going to get the first call of the economic opportunities.” As for the future of the country, Mitchell said despite the burdensome immigration challenges, there is hope. “It’s just a nice time to be Bahamian,” he said.


The Bahamas at 40


Thousands of Bahamians and immigrants still live below the poverty line in The Bahamas.

BATTLING SOCIAL DECAY KRYSTEL ROLLE The decaying social fabric of the country has spawned an explosive rise in violent crime over the last several years, experts have observed. By-products of that decay are problems such as teenage pregnancy, child abuse, domestic violence, illegal immigration, alcoholism and drug abuse. These issues threaten to over-ride the values that Bahamians hold dear, according to many observers. Psychiatrist and researcher Dr. David Allen said the country cannot afford to turn a blind eye to these issues. “The drug crisis in The Bahamas, paired with the recent socio-economic downturn, has led to dis-socialization and erosion of socio-cultural values,” said Allen in his recent report “The Family: People helping people.” “This has resulted in a rise in murder and violent crime rates, loss of respect for property, poor work ethic, fragmentation of family and community and an increase in youth gang formation because of a breakdown of the family.” In the Report on Crime 2013, Allen found that in addition to the drug scourge and the economic downturn, anger, child abuse and

traumatization contribute to the country’s “powerful social fragmentation syndrome”. “The chronic violent drug syndrome is the continuing devastating blow delivered to our country by the 1980s cocaine epidemic and its sequelae,” Allen said. He added, “Life is cheap. Murder is common. Young black men are undergoing a holocaust. They are either dead, on drugs, unemployed, or in jail.” In 1976, the country recorded 13 murders. Today that figure could easily represent the number of people killed in a single month. In May 2012, 21 people were murdered. Crime rose steadily in the 1990s, but it eventually decreased by 2001. According to a 2001 crime report presented by then Commissioner of Police Paul Farquharson, crime “plummeted” by 17 percent in all major categories. Between 2001 and 2006 there was an average of 50 murders per year, according to a report written by Sergeant Chaswell Hanna. In 2007, there were 78 murders, in 2008 there were 73 and in 2009 there were 85. However, from 2010 the murder rate began to rise at an

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The drug scourge continues to plague some Bahamian communities. A DEU agent is shown on the scene of a drug bust.


BATTLING SOCIAL DECAY even more alarming rate. In 2011, there was a record 127 murders. In 2012, there were 111 murders. Other categories of violent crime have also risen sharply in the last decade.


Allen said crime is a result of the breakdown of the family. Anglican Archdeacon Father James Palacious shared similar views. He said the biggest social issue is the deterioration of the family. “It’s just like building a house,” Palacious said. “If you get a foundation wrong, what will happen? Nothing you do after that will be right, or in order to right it, it takes so much remedial effort and money to resolve it that it’s virtually impossible to get it right. “Take the level of children born out of wedlock, and you’ll

understand what I mean.” The latest report from the Department of Statistics shows that there has been a significant rise in the number of children born to unwed mothers. According to the report, 71 percent of children were born to married parents in 1970. In 2010, only 39 percent of children were born to parents who were married. According to the report, there were 5,027 births in 2009. Of those, 2,966 women were single, 1,994 were married, 15 were widowed, 41 were divorced and 11 did not state their status. Of the single mothers, 532 were teens. PACE Foundation President Sonia Brown said earlier this year that an average of 600 teenage girls are impregnated each year in The Bahamas with about 20 percent of them

eventually becoming pregnant again while still in their teens. “The numbers are too high for anybody to feel happy about it because we are still talking about 600 persons who are under 19 having children and that’s too [many],” she said. “They are ill-equipped too, most of the time. When they enter the job market, they need assistance in terms of helping take care of their baby. Sometimes they are also illequipped mentally and... don’t have the maturity level to be parents because they are just kids themselves.” Palacious also noted that the majority of women having children are single mothers. “To have a child in wedlock today in this country means that you are abnormal,” he said. “Of the 60 odd percent who are born to unwed

persons, some of them are unwanted. Additionally, many are unplanned. And there are some who cannot be properly cared for because the parents don’t have the capacity to do it either because of age, economics or social condition.” Palacious noted, however, that there are many great single mothers as well. The priest, who works with a prison rehabilitation program, said some of the country’s social problems stem from neglect.


As a result, Palacious noted that many of the nation’s youth have gone astray. Minister of State for National Security Keith Bell said 70 percent of the people admitted to prison tested positive for drugs last year. “These are serious statistics,” Bell said.

The Bahamas at 40


PCA Salutes and Congratulates the Bahamas on it’s 40 Years of Independence

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BATTLING SOCIAL DECAY “I don’t know how we’re going to do it, but we have to work collectively on this. These are our future criminals. We have people in there for minor crimes... but if we don’t do something about this we are in for a rude awakening.” Last year, the population at Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) swelled by 16 percent, the largest spike in about eight years, Bell said. “In 2012, there were 3,028 admissions to HMP,” he said. “Of the 2012 admissions, 67 percent were remanded and 33 percent were sentenced. “The statistics further show that 64 percent of the admissions were males 35 years or younger, and in my view, most disturbingly, only 25 percent... were high school graduates.” In the 2011 prison report “Rehabilitation of Inmates: A national imperative”, then prison superintendent Dr. Elliston Rahming said up until 2011, prison admissions were trending downwards. “Indeed, the facts are that the prison admission figures are trending downward and the average daily population [was] appreciably lower than it was just five years ago,” the report said. However, he said while the admissions decreased at that time, it did not mean the country was on good footing. “Having bragged about the downward trend in our admission numbers, I hasten to add that among 155 countries surveyed by NationMaster. com, the average inmate count was 148 per 100,000 citizens. In our case, in terms of the size of our prison population, we rank ninth in the world and number one in the Caribbean on a per capita basis,” Rahming said. “We have some 435 persons behind bars per 100,000. In comparison, Jamaica had 176 per 100,000, and Barbados had 367 per 100,000. “These figures suggest that for every 270 citizens in

The Bahamas, one is incarcerated.” However, as Bell noted, the number of admissions grew last year. Palacious said the rise can also be attributed to the social issues in the country.


Minister of Social Services Melanie Griffin also acknowledged that the social problems are vast. “As we know, with development comes social issues,” she said. “And for us in The Bahamas and all over the world, some people get left behind. “So one of our most pressing issues is to ensure that those people who would have gotten left behind from moving up the ranks financially, that we are able to assist them, not just financially, but in providing a social safety net for them, also breaking the cycle of poverty. “Poverty would be a pressure issue for us at this time. Also, we are grappling with crime and I think crime has been and continues to be an issue for us even though some inroads have been made. “Providing the type of social safety net that we need and ensuring that those who are most in need get the assistance has also been a problem and that is why the government is now establishing a social safety net reform.” Last year, the House of Assembly approved a resolution to borrow $7.5 million from the Inter-American Development Bank for the development of a program, which seeks to reduce poverty through the introduction of a conditional cash transfer targeted at the poor. Through the program, cash grants will be provided on the condition that households comply with health and education conditions focused on children. “We also know that the The Bahamas at 40


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BATTLING SOCIAL DECAY protection of our children has been a pressing issue,” Griffin said. “Over the years, we’ve seen reported cases of child abuse rise and again increased efforts in regard to fighting that scourge have been put in place.” More than 1,300 cases of child abuse were reported between 2011 and 2012. While the numbers are high, Griffin said many cases go unreported. She noted that abuse includes sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. The recent economic downturn also contributed to the social despair in the country, Griffin said. “We are going through a very rugged and rough recession and many people are unemployed. So unemployment is a pressing issue and job creation then becomes very important,” she said. Unemployment today still hovers in the double digits with the latest national unem-

ployment rate standing at 14 percent. Economic grief has led to rise in substance abuse and alcoholism, experts said. In his report on crime, Allen offered several recommendations to address the country’s many social problems. He called for the establishment of a national crime forum, reformation of the legal system, increased recruitment of police both locally and abroad, a stronger witness protection program, the carrying out of capital punishment, and the establishment of a national parenting program, among other things. In response to the growing social ills, Allen developed a group-based re-socialization intervention designed to confront the prevailing community chaos and dis-socialization by promoting positive emotions. Similar group-based programs are ongoing in Brazil.

A woman grieves at a crime scene on East Street in early 2013. The Bahamas at 40

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The Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island.

FOUR DECADES OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT JAMES SMITH Economic development in a country usually refers to changes in the quality of life of the majority of the population. Over the years between independence and now, The Bahamas has experienced its ups and downs and generally, our fortunes have followed closely those of the wider global community and those of the United States. An examination of development over the past 40 years reveals a pattern of erratic fiscal or monetary crises of our own making or that were imposed on us from the outside and which have shaped the direction of local economic development. The period 2007 to present day is an excellent example of how external economic events conspired with internal policies to re-shape the development path of The Bahamas.


Currently, The Bahamian economy is still suffering the effects

of the global economic downturn which began at about the end of 2007 with the collapse of the U.S. housing market, an event now referred to as the Great Recession. The effects were felt here in The Bahamas. Our economy suffered negative growth of about seven percent over a two-year period and only grew by 2.5 percent over the next two years to 2011. There was a noticeable fall-off in employment and investment levels notwithstanding the start of the $3.5 billion Baha Mar resort development. The unemployment rate almost doubled over the period from 7.6 percent to 14.7 percent. The high unemployment levels soon translated into loan arrears in the banking system totaling over $1 billon, resulting in an unprecedented number of foreclosures; many Bahamians were displaced from their family homes. Similar, but more alarming figures were recorded in Grand Bahama.

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The Bahamas at 40



Cruise ships at Nassau Harbour.

Tourism declined by eight percent and hotel occupancy levels dipped from the 80 percent levels to the high 60s. Public sector finances were left in shambles to the extent that the international rating agencies downgraded the country’s credit rating for the first time in history. The fiscal deficit grew rapidly over the period and so did government debt. Government expenditures on new airports, roads, bridges and social programs placed strains

on the Treasury. Over the period, the fiscal deficit rose from about three percent to approximately 6.3 percent of GDP ($500 million). Total public sector debt escalated from 36 percent of GDP ($2.8 billion) to around 50 percent ($4.1 billion). As a result of the sluggish revenue performance there are plans to adopt a new tax regime in the near future. In short, the last few years were extremely stressful for the Bahamian economy and the

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dislocations in the job and financial markets have adversely impacted the quality of life for hundreds if not thousands of Bahamians.


The year 2000 was somewhat of a watershed for the global economy. It was also the year that preceded the horrifying attack on the World Trade Center. On the local scene, the Bahamian economy was experiencing strong growth and most of the macro-economic indicators were positive and looking upwards. The country was in the midst of a resurgence led by a series of events in the tourism industry. Phases one and two of the Atlantis development on Paradise Island had been completed and a few thousand direct and indirect new jobs had been created. The increased national income was used in part for the construction of new homes and the importation of furniture and fixtures. Government revenue increased and reduced the deficit for that year. The expanded room capacity and the addition of new cruise lines to The Bahamas resulted in record-breaking tourist expenditure estimated to be in the region of $1.5 billion. This was a good year for The Bahamas and as the old saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” In the following year, September 11, 2001, terrorists struck in New York and the global economy, including The

Bahamas’, came to a standstill. Air travel between the United States and The Bahamas was suspended for about two weeks; no visitors came. The situation gradually improved over the next six months but the economic damage was immediate and far-reaching. Air arrivals for the period had fallen by 14 percent, resulting in millions of dollars lost. In that year also, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) launched its attack on the, “Harmful Tax Havens” which necessitated additional expenditure to stay off the “blacklist”. Hurricane Michelle landed in The Bahamas and destroyed buildings, homes and infrastructure and even the local straw market burned to the ground. The additional pressure on the treasury caused rationing of payments to creditors and relief only came after the government arranged a loan from local institutions. The fiscal deficit had again risen to three percent of GDP. Over the next few years the U.S. economy was growing steadily and as to be expected, the Bahamian economy picked up. The momentum was led by a strengthened tourist economy and construction activity was at an all-time high. Kerzner International’s phase three project and a number of large scale ‘anchor projects’ in the Family Islands impacted favorably on the economy and the fiscal deficit was reduced. The government’s fiscal deficit was headed below two percent of GDP.


The 1990s

The Bahamas entered the decade of the 90s facing severe economic difficulties, not of its own making but because of a U.S. and global recession triggered by a sudden and large increase in oil prices. Early into the decade, Iraq had invaded Kuwait and shocked global markets, resulting in price increases everywhere, particularly in air transportation. Higher airfares meant a reduction in tourist arrivals to The Bahamas and an overall contraction in economic activity. Unemployment rose to over 12 percent and the hotel industry made cost adjustments by laying off several hundred workers. The costs associated with the destructive forces of Hurricane Andrew – costly government capital projects and the fall-off in government revenues – produced growing public sector deficits in the early years. The national debt had escalated to $880 million. During this period, there were increases in local taxes ranging from customs duties to business license fees in an attempt to combat the growing deficits. Unemployment had risen to 14.3 percent in New Providence and to 16.3 percent in Grand Bahama. The difficulties continued with some of the principal actors in the economy. Resorts International reported losses in excess of $300 million and the property was up for sale. BORCO was pulling out of Freeport and selling to the Venezuelan state oil company and the Jack Tar Hotel at West End closed for business. The country was also facing increased competition in the financial services sector from newly emerging offshore centers and responded by introducing new financial services legislation. On the international

front, a new ‘consensus’ was emerging in Washington at the international financial agencies (IMF, World Bank, IDB). In a nut shell, those institutions were advising that the old model of a high level of government control of the economy was not working and therefore there was a need for more market-oriented solutions in the economy; countries were urged to liberalize their markets if there were to be any prospects for sustainable growth. In The Bahamas, there was a changing of the political guard in 1992 and distinctly new and different economic policies were pursued throughout the 1990s. It was an age of liberalization and privatization. Government-owned hotels were sold. Government monopolies were broken and regulations with respect to foreign direct investment (FDI) for the purchase and sale of real estate were relaxed. The world economy re-bounded and so did The Bahamas. Investments, particularly in the tourism sector, flowed. Sun International purchased and re-developed the Paradise Island resort. Hutchison Whampoa constructed a world-class container port in Freeport. Expansion took place at Great Abaco Beach. A number of the cruise lines acquired private cays and developed them into stopover tourist facilities for their passengers. The British Colonial and South Ocean hotels were acquired by Canadian investors for re-development. New office buildings and some high-end gated communities combined to account for more than a $1 billion in FDI over a relatively short period. By 1996, the local economy’s expansion had solidified. Tourist expenditure had grown to $1.4 billion and cruise visitor arrivals had increased by 10 percent, the beginning of a The Bahamas at 40


FOUR DECADES OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT new trend where cruise arrivals would dominate the travel statistics. It was a period of relatively low budget deficits and the country maintained its A-ratings on domestic and foreign debt by Moody’s.

The 1980s

For most countries in the world, the decade of the 80s could be characterized as one of high interest rates, high inflation, high unemployment and high energy prices. In The Bahamas, the symptoms were similar. The retail price index had increased by more than 12 percent. Our two main economic sectors were under pressure. Tourism arrivals had declined by more than 13 percent. In the offshore banking sector, increased competition from mainland U.S.A. was some cause for concern. The U.S. passed legislation to establish International Banking Facilities (IBFs) with similar operating conditions as the traditional offshore centers to capture the Eurodollar. Some locally registered banks repatriated their business to the United States. In response to the economic challenges facing the country, the policymakers embarked on a program to stimulate economic activity through increased

Bahamian ownership of the economy; the empowerment of the Bahamian populace. An Immovable Property Act was passed to ensure that land was available for future generations. The act required foreigners to first obtain a permit from the Foreign Investment Board (FIB) before purchasing land in The Bahamas. The National Insurance Board, which has emerged as the largest public sector savings institution, had earmarked about $20 million for the construction of lowcost housing in government sponsored subdivisions. The new construction and related activities were expected to act as a stimulus to the sluggish economy. The Hotel Corporation received parliamentary approval to construct the Cable Beach Hotel and to upgrade the Balmoral Beach and Lucayan Harbor hotels. The new development philosophy was for the state to play a leading role in the economy, one that went beyond regulation and the creation of an enabling environment. It now included the ownership of and operations in major parts of the economy. In the meantime, The Bahamas was being highlighted both locally and internationally as a major drug transshipment

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center for contraband coming from Latin America and headed for the United States. Reports that many locals were involved in the trade at all levels would seem to have been confirmed by the increase in economic activity during the period when the tourist figures were still less than moderate. An American television expose of criminal drug activity was followed by a Commission of Inquiry into the matter, which further underscored the suspicion. International players would continue to impact the local economy in the 80s. Robert Vesco, who was accused of embezzling several million dollars from a mutual fund, had established Bahamas Commonwealth Bank in the 70s which had provided many start-up loans to local businesses. The Genting Group of Malaysia took over the management of the Lucayan Beach Resort. An American group opened and operated Coral World. In the latter part of the 80s the economy was booming, spurred on in part by excessive consumer and commercial credit expansion by the banking sector. At one point the Central Bank intervened directly in the financial markets by capping


interest rates on deposits and restricting consumer credit growth in the banking system; that policy package was designed to stem the outflow of the country’s foreign reserves and to protect the parity between the Bahamian and the U.S. dollar. The uptick in economic activity was visible everywhere: new home construction; new automobile and large appliances imports; the construction of large, medium and small scale shopping malls; large capital projects by the government for upgrades to the electricity and water and sewerage systems in New Providence and the Family Islands. Agricultural production for exports from the Family Islands had reached historic levels and so did the migrant farm workers on some of those properties. The 80s were a period of good times and bad press for The Bahamas.

The 1970s

The 1970s might best be described as the period within which The Bahamas defined itself as a nation-state and institutionalized the organs of the central government. Those agencies were meant to give concrete expression the new philosophy of Bahamian nationalism and to the pivotal role the government would play in

directing the economy. That new national identity would evolve against the background of some challenging economic changes taking place both internally and externally. In the early 70s, prior to independence on July 10, 1973, the United States was struggling with an international monetary crisis which eventually led that country to abandon the ‘gold standard’ and instead adopt a “floating exchange rate”. Simply put, the value of the U.S. dollar would be determined in the open market as opposed to being expressed in terms of the price of gold. Other countries did likewise. The Bahamas dropped the pound sterling as its currency and pegged its currency to the U.S. dollar. The U.S. dollar devalued in 1973 and so did the Bahamian dollar which adversely impacted the local treasury and the central government had resorted to borrowing, on a relatively large scale, to keep the state afloat. Tourism was performing moderately well; there were about 1.5 million arrivals in 1971. At the time, unemployment was reported at six percent and that figure was regarded as too high and total public debt had increased to $65 million and was

becoming a cause for concern. The IMF offered, and government accepted, assistance to review the tax base and strengthen revenue administration, foreshadowing a policy pattern that would be repeated in the years ahead as the country prepared for independence. The government’s “White Paper on Independence” established the framework within which economic development would take place in The Bahamas, among other things. The emphasis was placed on indigenous ownership of the economy to the extent possible and the government’s mechanism for bringing this about was to establish a number of public sector agencies to implement that policy. The 1970s saw the establishment of the Bahamas Development Bank, the Central Bank of The Bahamas, the National Insurance Board, The College of The Bahamas, the Bahamas Agricultural Corporation, the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas and Bahamasair, among others. With the government in control of Crown lands and the public utilities companies, there was no doubt about who would be leading the economic development charge. In the early to mid-70s, the world

The Bahamas at 40


FOUR DECADES OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT economy and that of the United States were still reeling from the dramatic increase in oil prices following the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Bahamas was feeling the economic headwinds and took counter measures with its own economic stimulus package. Massive public works construction was undertaken with external loans; a lowcost housing scheme was introduced; a project aimed at self-sufficiency in agriculture was underway in Andros; a number of new schools were constructed; packing houses were constructed in several Family Islands; a financial assistance program for supplies and equipment to farmers and fishermen was established and a system of barging water from Andros was put in place. The Hotel Corporation purchased and refurbished the major hotels on Cable Beach

that were having financial difficulties and the government provided additional infrastructure in the area. By the late 70s, global economic recovery was underway everywhere and domestic investments in the form of new shopping malls and private subdivisions were fairly widespread. Bahamianization of the economy had begun.

Summary and conclusions

Over the course of four decades of economic development, the country has experienced a series of fiscal crises arising from adverse events in the global economy as well as a persistently weak government revenue raising regime. Automatic deficit financing seemed the only path to fiscal stabilization. The long, well-entrenched system of no direct taxation together with generous

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concessions for FDI appears to have conspired to not only weaken public finances, but to also divert resources from other potentially productive areas such as agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and other intermediate services areas. The recognition of and efforts to Bahamianize the economy over the past decades has had only a moderate impact and only in those areas where the government intervened and even here, there are few success stories. An over-reliance on FDI and public deficit financing have been the hallmark of economic development in The Bahamas over the past four decades; and although the standard of living has generally improved over the period, the long-term sustainability of that model is certainly open to question.

James Smith.


The Bahamas at 40


The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


A CAUSE FOR CHANGE CANDIA DAMES There’s an interesting saying in the tropical Southeastern Asian country of Burma: A woman can be equal to a man in all ways, but she must first die and come back as a man. In the 21st century, this saying could be applied to The Bahamas. On February 27, 2002, Bahamians went to the polls in the country’s first referendum. They were asked by then Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham to vote to change the Constitution to eliminate discrimination against Bahamian women. But in results that Ingraham later admitted “shocked and shamed” him, an overwhelming majority of the voters – women included – voted against the historic change. It was an interesting outcome indeed for a people who have for a long time prided themselves on being among the most progressive in the Western Hemisphere, at least as far as civil liberties are concerned. Just over a decade after that vote, The Bahamas is still behind many in the so-called civilized world in some respects. By voting ‘no’ Bahamians ensured that the country remained in the archaic position of having discriminatory language in its Constitution. The results also appeared contradictory to the fact that The Bahamas’ record on the treatment of women and the role of women in society has been a commendable one. The prime minister’s commitment to improving equality of the sexes was a plank in his campaign platform in 1997. Ingraham noted in 2002 that for far too long, the Constitution has held double standards; a state of affairs that for too many years deprived the children of Bahamian

women, married to foreign nationals, of citizenship; and denied the foreign-born spouses of Bahamian women the right to be registered as Bahamians, a right granted by the Constitution to the spouses of Bahamian men. There is a classic example of a family negatively impacted by that constitutional provision. The late Dr. Mary Ritchie, a Bahamian woman, married a Trinidadian and they moved to The Bahamas before independence in 1973. The couple’s children who were born before independence automatically became Bahamians. But their children born after 1973 had to obtain work permits to be legally employed there. The late Timothy Donaldson, a former Bahamian senator and the country’s former ambassador to the United States, once said he has always been “incensed and ashamed” by the constitutional language in this regard. Donaldson was an advisor to the Pindling government during the 1972 constitutional negotiations in London. “To me it’s just not right,” Donaldson said. He explained that the thinking of then Prime Minister Pindling was that the provision would ensure that Haitians would not eventually take over The Bahamas, which at the time had a population of only about 220,000 and today has a population of well over 300,000. The country has long been burdened by an ongoing influx of Haitians who come to the country in rickety boats, fleeing the unstable political regime in their poverty-stricken nation. The Haitian presence in The Bahamas has continued to expand over the decades. Between 1970 and 2010

The Bahamas Constitution.

births to Haitian mothers in The Bahamas nearly doubled, jumping from 7.2 percent to 13.7 percent, according to The Department of Statistics. “Pindling said these Haitians produce like rats,” Donaldson said. “He said they’re going to produce all those children and at some point in time, the Haitians will outnumber Bahamians. But

when you make a law geared at just one particular group of people, it’s certainly not a good policy.” The inequality clause is an entrenched provision of the Constitution. These provisions deal with the fundamental rights and freedoms of people as citizens, establishment and powers of Parliament, the Cabinet and judiciary. The Bahamas at 40


A CAUSE FOR CHANGE provisions and add clauses to the Constitution which was written in 1972.

Failed process

Fort Charlotte voters line up to cast their ballots in the 2002 referendum.

Entrenched provisions can only be changed by 3/4 vote in Parliament, which happened in 2002, and a majority vote by the people in a referendum, which did not happen. To add provisions to the Bahamian Constitution also requires a referendum. The 2002 referendum sought to both change

The inequality issue, undoubtedly the most contentious, was not the only question posed to the Bahamian electorate in the referendum. Initially, the following questions were crafted by legislators: 1. Do you approve of a Teaching Service Commission? 2. Do you approve of an Independent Parliamentary Commissioner? 3. Do you approve of the creation of an Independent Boundaries Commission? 4. Do you approve amending the Constitution to increase the normal retirement age of judges from 67 to 72 for

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the Supreme Court, and up to 75 for the Court of Appeal justices? 5. Do you approve amending The Constitution to permit the foreign spouse of a Bahamian citizen to reside and work in The Bahamas for the first five years of marriage, and thereafter entitled to citizenship? 6. Do you agree that all forms of discrimination against women, their children and spouses should be removed from the Constitution and that no person should be discriminated against on the grounds of gender? On January 16, members of the House of Assembly – with the exception of Dr. Bernard Nottage – approved a package of constitutional bills.

But the opposition Progressive Liberal Party later campaigned aggressively against the referendum, saying the process was botched. The result was a strong rejection of all referendum questions by the electorate. For the opposition, the resounding no votes amounted to a great victory. The PLP celebrated the win as if it were celebrating election victory. The Christie administration has promised to take another look at the discriminatory questions in our Constitution. Perhaps in a less politically charged atmosphere, we could finally succeed in making the necessary changes.

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Police officers on guard at a crime scene in New Providence.

A NATION IN FEAR OF ITSELF JUAN McCARTNEY After 40 years of independence, The Bahamas has come a long way, excelling in many areas where we set a sterling example for our Caribbean counterparts and the world. However, there are many areas where we still struggle to get it right; areas where seemingly insurmountable events have resulted in our actual achievements falling far short of the promise within the dream. Forty years after independence, many of our islands remain idyllic. Places where Bahamians still wake before dawn to do chores and children still walk to and from school unencumbered. Forty years after independence, there are still many communities where people leave their doors unlocked at nights, sleeping without the fear that someone may invade their homes; communities where people party hardily, making merry near ports or beaches where waves gently lick the shore. However, New Providence,

where most of the population lives, bears little resemblance to those peaceful places. Forty years after independence the capital has essentially become a city under siege. It is doubtful that even in the years when drug dealers trafficked cocaine and marijuana quite openly through The Bahamas, Bahamians could have imagined how bad crime would get in the country. Many Bahamians who fought so hard and put so much on the line for majority rule and our ultimate independence would perhaps wonder exactly at which point we went so far off course. In fact, it was shortly after independence that the country’s crime problem really picked up. Though crime is much more than murder, the murder count is usually the standard by which crime is judged. Though there is no evidence of a connection, the ushering in of independence accompanied a ‘new normal’ The Bahamas at 40



A police car on patrol on the streets of New Providence.

in recorded murders after consistent single digit murder counts in the 1960s.

Forty years after independence, the capital has essentially become a city under siege. However, the year following independence (1974), the murder count hit 25 for the

first time. It fell to 22 in 1975, declined as low as 13 in 1976 and then roared to 41 in 1979. The annual murder count dropped to 25 in 1980 and fell again to 19 in 1981. Thirty people were murdered in 1982; 25 in 1983, and 19 in 1984. The murder count started climbing once again in 1985, when 33 people were murdered. It hovered around the same mark for another three years until 1989 when 46 peo-

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ple were murdered. There were no notable changes in the murder count until 1994 when 52 people were murdered. The count again set a benchmark in 1998 when 56 people were killed. The murder count climbed to 60 in 1999. Seventy-four people were murdered in 2000, a new record which would remain in place for several years. The murder count fell to 43 in 2001, then climbed to 52 in 2002. The murder count fell to 50 in 2003. In 2004 it dropped to 44. By the end of 2005, however, the annual death toll was once again on the rise, as it climbed to 50. The murder count rose in 2006 when it hit 60. What followed were six of the bloodiest years in the country’s history, with a new

murder count being set in 2007 (78); 2009 (87); 2010 (94); 2011 (127) and 2012 (111). As of the end of the first week of June, there were 55 murders recorded in 2013. While Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade recently pointed to moderate success in the fight against crime and the fact that there were fewer recorded murders in 2012 than 2011, many are still living in fear. Housebreakings, robberies, armed robberies and theft are what many on New Providence live with on a daily basis, having been personally impacted by crime or knowing someone who has. In short, there are now twice as many people in The Bahamas than there were in 1970, but the murder milestone has more than quadrupled since independence.

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From left, Edwin Willes, former assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who was a member of the Commission of Inquiry into the drug trade; Sir James Smith, commission president, and Bishop Drexel Gomez, who was also a commissioner in 1984.

THE DRUG YEARS TANEKA THOMPSON Several years after The Bahamas gained independence from Britain in 1973, a rampant culture of drug use and drug smuggling exploded in the country. Colombian drug lord Carlos Lehder set up shop in Norman’s Cay, a 650-acre island in the Exumas, in the late 1970s. Lehder and his cohorts were able to grow a lucrative drug smuggling operation — that spanned Colombia, The Bahamas and the United States — whose tentacles squeezed the arms of government, law enforcement and the legal fraternity. The Bahamas was a natural choice for Lehder due to its proximity to the United States

and the willingness of some Bahamian authorities to turn a blind eye, while opening a palm, to the illicit trade. Lehder’s cartel operated wantonly in the country until 1982 when pressure from American officials led the government to crack down on the illegal trade. In 1983, the government, led by Sir Lynden Pindling, established a Commission of Inquiry to probe the drug trade. That commission exposed some of the cracks in the newly formed government and grabbed headlines locally and in the international press. In his book “Pindling: The life and times of the first prime

minister of The Bahamas”, biographer Michael Craton noted that the years 1983 to 1985 were the “most difficult and disappointing” of Sir Lynden’s career because the drug trade was allowed to flow unabated for so long. “At the very least, the government and its leader were slow to pick up the seriousness and ramifications of the problem,” Craton wrote. “To the opposition, of course, they were held guilty of complicity.” The commission found that Sir Lynden had more than $3 million in his bank accounts than his official income. However, most of the members of the commission

found that the then prime minister’s wealth could not be directly or indirectly traced to the drug trade. Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez was a member of the commission and produced a minority report on the hearings. Gomez’s minority report raised questions over Sir Lynden’s wealth. “It is certainly feasible that all of these payments could have been made from non-drug related sources,” Gomez wrote in the minority report. “But in my opinion, the circumstances raise great suspicions and it is impossible to say that the payments were all non-drug related. The Bahamas at 40


THE DRUG YEARS “ ... He left himself, in my opinion, open to criticism for lack of prudence by a person holding the high office of prime minister.” The commission’s report found that most of the former prime minister’s wealth was made up of loans, mortgages and contributions from international businessmen. Gomez told The Nassau Guardian that he was upset at what he found when he probed Sir Lynden’s finances. “My minority report was simply a comment on what I found disturbing about the amount of funds that were all going through Mr. Pindling’s account because as commissioners the court gave us permission to look at the accounts of different people. “I just made the comment that he was not acting wisely in the way in which he handled his financial affairs.” Aside from his alarm over

the prime minister’s financial affairs, Gomez said during his time on the commission he was worried over the willingness of Bahamians to idolize drug dealers and fall prey to the allure of fast cash. “The thing that still stands out in my experience is the fact that firstly the extent to which the Bahamian population had accepted the drug trade and was willing to profit from it,” he said. “One of the memories I have is one afternoon during one session when a young man who was a drug deader was brought before us and when he came to give his evidence he was hailed by the crowd almost like a hero. For me that was an eye-opener because at the time I was living in Barbados and I wasn’t aware that the whole drug issue had taken such hold.” Although the commission had no legal jurisdiction to

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“Our job was to examine the circumstances and make some recommendations,” Gomez said. “I feel that overall the community benefited from the commission because the community and the region were awakened to the reality, the extent of the drug trade and the damage that was being done. “There is no doubt that trade invaded the police force, civil service and lawyers. A lot of lawyers made a lot of money out of the drug trade so it impacted the wider society.”

Corruption Carlos Lehder.

prosecute for apparent wrongdoings uncovered by testimony, Gomez said he felt that the whole process was cathartic for a nation that had swept the problem under the proverbial carpet.

Paul Thompson, a former assistant commissioner of police, said those in law enforcement did not know who to trust and a wrong move could have serious consequences. Lawyers, government officials, police officers, even some politicians were suspect.


“There were of course police officers that were involved,” said Thompson, who joined the police force in 1951 after being recruited from Trinidad and Tobago. He retired from the force in 1981. “It appeared to me that senior officials were not concerned enough as to what was happening,” he said. “For example, I recall one senior government official telling some people, ‘Make the money. You don’t have to be concerned how you make it’.” In the late 1970s and early 80s small planes were landing nightly on makeshift airstrips in remote Family Islands, Thompson said. Those planes carried kilos of Colombian cocaine destined for the United States. Police officers stationed on the less populated islands were tempted with thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry

in order to ignore drug drops and pickups. “They tried to buy over police forces, policemen, government officials and that is where they were successful,” Thompson said. “Prior to the drug trade on the islands you had some difficulty getting police officers to transfer to Family Islands. Usually the commissioner, or the deputy commissioner, sort of had to force them into going. “With the drug trade going on in its peak, police officers were volunteering to go to the Family Islands and on their return you saw the elevation of their living standards.” Thompson recalled the story of one rookie officer who turned down a hefty bribe. “When I was in charge of [the uniform division] we had an officer in San Salvador who wanted to go on vacation,” he said.

“I sent an officer; he was studying for exams at COB. I told him this is a good opportunity for you to study. Go to San Salvador; nothing there to do, just keep the station open. “He went to San Salvador just for a few weeks and two men, one was Cuban-American, one was Colombian, came in to the station to meet the officer who had gone on leave. “Right away they put a proposal to him [the rookie] and said, ‘We want to leave some fuel at the airport here.’ They gave him $10,000 and a gold Rolex watch.” Thompson said this officer took the money, but did not want to be complicit in any crime. Still the officer did not know if it was safe to divulge the impending drug deal. “He didn’t even call because even the switchboard operators in these islands, you don’t know who you’re dealing with,” he said.

“He sent me a coded message and I could read between the lines. So, I had the police plane pick him up and he brought the watch and the money.” Thompson said police were later able to arrest the men in a sting operation thanks to the officer’s honesty.

“I recall one senior government official telling some people, ‘Make the money. You don’t have to be concerned how you make it’. — Paul Thompson Social decay

While many basked in the wonders that easy money could buy, a scourge was tak-

The Bahamas at 40



From left, Valentine Grimes, C. A. Smith, Hubert Ingraham, Perry Christie and Bernadette Christie outside the Commission of Inquiry in 1984.

ing root in The Bahamas. Drug smuggling and addiction ripped families apart, ruined lives and planted the seed of violence and crime that continues to grip the nation today. Dr. Nicolette Bethel, anthropologist and former

director of culture, observed, “We went through the first half of the decade believing that this was something that had no consequence, believing that this was something you could ship, and people’s rationale was, ‘I’m not selling it to children; I’m not selling to

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Bahamians; I’m not taking it; Americans want it they could have it.’ “But the problem was that come the mid-80s there was a glut in the U.S. market and so a lot of the drugs couldn’t get shipped over there and stayed in The Bahamas. “All of a sudden we started to notice soaring rates of cocaine addiction in The Bahamas earlier than anywhere else.” The Americans did not have studies to support cocaine’s addiction, according to Bethel. “The Bahamian Drug Council and people who were working with drug addiction were on the cutting edge of the dangers of cocaine,” she said. “By 1986 we were able to see that this drug wasn’t harmless. In the following three years a lot of middle-class

professionals were major drug addicts.” A 1986 article in the Gainesville Sun noted The Bahamas’ spiraling cocaine epidemic. Dr. David Allen, then head of the National Drug Council, told the paper that the cases of cocaine addicts at mental health facilities mushroomed “from zero in 1982 to 209 in 1984”. Gomez said this epidemic of crack cocaine use has lasting effects today. “It’s quite clear that there is a connection between drugs and some of the violence that we are experiencing today,” he said. “Quite a bit of it is drug related and it’s a pity that we have not been able to eradicate the drug menace because of people who will do anything for money.”

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Palmdale Primary School students say the pledge at an assembly at their school.


ROYSTON JONES JR. Instead of attending a Hebrew class as part of his post-graduate master’s degree in theology in Louisville, Kentucky, Philip Rahming was indoors experiencing “divine inspiration”. “I had no one to help me [with my assignment] the evening before, and so I decided not to go to class that day,” said Rahming, as he reflected on that February morning in 1970 at Simmons University. “When I got up and I looked outside, I saw the ground covered with snow. “It was the first time I saw snow in my life, and I said, I understand what it is to sing, ‘Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow’.” Rahming said as he observed classmates making their way out in the inclement weather, guilt quickly ensued. But in that same moment, “I felt captured, so to speak, and I thought of a national anthem.” That song, entitled “God Bless Our Sunny Clime” was

born out of rebellion, Rahming pointed out. The words, however, collectively speak of brotherhood and unity. “Here was snow in February, which doesn’t come in February, as it is mostly seen in December or earlier on,” he said. “I said, God bless our sunny clime, spur us to height sublime, to keep men free.” Twenty minutes later, four verses were reflected on notebook paper. A combination of his Christian background and influences in The Bahamas and Jamaica purposed the course of that one-day effort. After a short career as a wireless telegraphist, Rahming entered Christian ministry in 1960. He was ordained a Baptist minister in 1965, after graduating from Calabar Theological College in Kingston, Jamaica, that same year. He recalled observing Ja-

maica achieve and celebrate its independence in August 1962. Rahming said the elated mood in the once British colony was inspiring, and he wondered if The Bahamas would become independent. Rahming served as pastor of Salem Baptist Union, Kemp Road, between 1965 and 1969, and taught at Prince William Baptist High School, before continuing his education in Kentucky. He said the work of three men spurred his aspiration to write a national anthem in the event the country did become independent. They were Reverend Hugh Braham Sherlock, OBE; Martin Luther King Jr., a leader of the civil rights movement in the United States, and Brigadier David Hartman Smith, OBE, a Bahamian. Sherlock, who served as founder of Boy’s Town in Western Kingston, Jamaica, from 1940 to 1956, wrote the lyrics for Jamaica’s national anthem,

“Jamaica, Land We Love”. Rahming said the opening line of that anthem, “Eternal father bless our land”, and King’s message of the church being the headlight and not the taillight of the movement, resonated with him as a Christian. Rahming, a Fox Hillian, said Smith, who served as a former chief of staff in the Jamaican Defence Force from 1965 to 1973, inspired him to do something unique and vital for his country. The added benefit was it positively highlighted his community. Fox Hill, one of the oldest villages in The Bahamas, in the eastern end of New Providence, was named after freed African slave Samuel Fox. “The other inspiration, which I believe was most strong in me was Fox Hill,” Rahming said. “I live in Fox Hill, and I grew up with a stigma that nothing good could come out of Fox Hill, and I wanted to do The Bahamas at 40


DIVINE INSPIRATION tourist emphasis, which speaks to our geography. “Just come to Nassau, and you’ll be at home, etc.”

Returning home

Rev. Dr. Philip Rahming, left, at an ecumenical service with Prime Minister Lynden Pindling.

something to put Fox Hill on the map. “After I had written the lyrics for the national anthem, I felt relieved, and I felt satisfied, but suddenly a thought came. Why not try a pledge?” A look at the British pledge reveals a 37-word paragraph, swearing to respect the United Kingdom’s rights and freedoms, and uphold its democratic values and laws. Rahming said he sought to create a more condensed version for The Bahamas. The result, after “a period

of cutting it up” was a 23-word pledge, born from “God Bless Our Sunny Clime”. The song depicts a united Bahamas, through the words “one people, united in love and service”. What followed was a draft design for a national flag, though he admitted it lacked some subtleties. “I was taken out of myself, inspired, so to speak,” Rahming said. “Now the flag had a big ‘N’ on it for Nassau. “I didn’t add a color, but [I chose] Nassau to bring out the

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

His pledge, anthem and design for the national flag were submitted in 1970, several years ahead of The Bahamas adopting those concepts of sovereignty. “I sent them off, and I was happy too that they didn’t lose them,” he said. He returned to The Bahamas in 1971. At the time of the general election of September 1972, Rahming was teaching at A. F. Adderley Senior High School before transferring to The Bahamas Teachers College, which later became The College of The Bahamas. The historic victory for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) that year was a catalyst for independence talks which began in December. Rahming won the pledge competition. In the independence national anthem competition, “God Bless Our Sunny Clime” was a close runner-up to “March On Bahamaland”, written by the late Timothy Gibson, a prominent Bahamian composer. Rahming lost the national flag competition. Moments leading to July 10, 1973, thousands sang “March On Bahamaland” as the Union Jack was lowered and the Bahamian flag was raised. Though Rahming won the pledge competition, it was several years later before his pledge was officially selected and approved. The government officially selected and approved the pledge on March 21, 1978. As noted in the May 6, 1978 edition of The Nassau Guardian, the Ministry of Education and Culture announced that the government agreed that the pledge of allegiance to be used by Bahamians when saluting

the flag was, “I pledge my allegiance to the flag and to the commonwealth for which it stands, one people united in love and service.” “That’s five years, and because of that it gave me an idea to do research on the American pledge,” Rahming said. “I found out that ours was accepted five years after independence, when America’s was accepted 116 years after independence, so I said, that’s okay.” Rahming’s pledge was again recognized when the country celebrated 38 years of independence with the theme, “38 years, United in Love and Service”. Reflecting on what is commonly referred to as a national song – “God Bless Our Sunny Clime” – Rahming noted that Gibson worked alongside him in composing the music. “I asked him to write the music for me,” he said. “He took it home and the next day he brought the music written, and he asked me to give it to Clement Bethel (another prominent composer and pianist) to see if he would do anything to it. “I think that at the end of the second line of the song, Mr. Bethel put in that tune.” In October 1985, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in The Bahamas, Rahming’s national song was sung in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Clifford Park. While he questioned whether the song would be accepted, he said he felt the words and the art were fitting. From humble beginnings and a childhood riddled with illness, Rahming, 81, the longest-serving president of the Bahamas Christian Council, thanks God and his family for his accomplishments. “The doctor told my parents by themselves, ‘Do not think about him, take your mind off him because he’s not going to live and if he lives he


Rev. Dr. Philip Rahming, right, with Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez.

would be no good to himself’,” Rahming said. “When my parents heard that, my father said that he took me to the hospital. I was at Bahamas General Hospital in those days and I went there and I had to do what they call pass the crisis. “... That night I just came through and I lived, and I went and I got up.” Asked whether he was determined to achieve despite the odds, Rahming responded, “Yes, and this is why I’ve got too

much to talk about.”

A plea for unity

As the country celebrates its 40th anniversary of independence, Rahming said Bahamians must celebrate and appreciate one another. He believes the people of The Bahamas, spread throughout many of the 700 islands and cays, have considered themselves more a part of the island they reside on than the nation. “We say that Acklins can do this and Long Island that;

Exuma that and you have Cat Island Bahamian culture, and so forth, but we are one people, one country separated by islands,” Rahming said. “We are united in love, and I don’t mean the puppy love, but that Judeo-Christian love, the love you have from God. “... We have to serve well, not only to foreigners coming in, but we have to serve our own people. “We need to start working on serving our own people. When we begin to do that as Bahamians we will grow faster and stronger, and last longer.” He recalled as a boy growing up in The Bahamas, the culture of neighbors being more willing to assist one another. Rahming said today there appears to be a “yin yang concept”, a type of polar opposite of separation, which has fixed itself into the norms of Baha-

mian society. “If you and I were to shoot a game of marbles, and if you were deficient in an area, I would show you how to do it better,” Rahming said. “But if we start to put down money or say we’ll play for money now or some goals, then I wouldn’t show you your mistake. “I believe we are in that stage now, that the less you let people know, the more you’ll be above. “The [result] is ignorance, but we need knowledge to go straight through, and love will do that.” Rahming has authored three books – “A New Beginning, Martin Luther King, Jr.”; “His Religion, His Philosophy” and “A Guide to Church Membership” – and has another two on the way.

The Bahamas at 40

88 88

St. Anne’s School students wave Bahamian flags. The kind of Bahamas they and thousands of other Bahamian children will inherit remains the subject of great national debate on the 40th anniversary of independence


I was three years old on that historic night when the Bahamian flag was hoisted for the first time on Clifford Park. In viewing videos and photographs of that occasion, one gets the obvious feeling that there was a deep sense of pride and exuberance across the nation. I sometimes wonder about the mood in Abaco, where some brave-hearts wanted to remain a colony of Britain. Forty years later, the nation is unified on the benefits of independence, and many agree that our journey thus far has been a rewarding one for the nation and her people. The sentiments of our nation’s independence have differing meanings. For those who were deeply woven in the struggle for majority rule, they see the 1973 event as the seminal event on that march to self-determination. There is no doubt that the fight could not have been isolated to the dismantling of the vast empire built by the Bay Street oligarchy; the real prize was the elimination of a deep-rooted culture of colonialism. Others probably had a view that the far-removed British no longer reflected our values. They saw their lot being tied to America, which in the days of the 1970s was emerging as a super power. Too, our history from the

days of piracy to bootlegging to the Eleutheran Adventurers always shared some close affinity to those residing in several parts of the northern continent and therefore the ‘Bahamian’ traits of independence were not a new phenomenon. There can be no denying the conclusion that the path to our independence began long before the Independence Conference in London in 1972 and even long before the political fight that erupted over the issue of independence. The movement towards the creation of a fair and equitable society started long before the architects of our Constitution were born. It was the slave rebellions in Abaco and Exuma, albeit unsuccessful, and the Burma Road Riot, which created a notion that blatant injustice was sweeping through these islands and that change was a necessity. Our independence then is essentially an extension of the fight for a more just society. It was not a movement that was controlled by the political directorate. The inevitability of independence was lurking in the bosoms of the people long before the formation of the Citizen’s Committee and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Its inevitability is the fascinating component that suggests that there was a

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

collective resolve of the people to create a different path long before many even understood the implications of an independent state.

The Bahamian spirit

I believe that independence was the culmination of the re-awakening of the Bahamian spirit, the spirit of industry, loyalty, love for family and country. It is that spirit which guides us in the midst of challenges and reminds us that we have a collective obligation to direct our nation’s course towards a glorious future. I have tried to rationalize why our leaders did not possess a radical philosophy in the midst of the racial and economic discrimination that existed. They may have been justified in advancing a policy of economic reparations. But strangely, our leaders were in large measure and in truth conservative pragmatists. They did not believe in the reallocation of wealth or even the seizure of property for the benefit of the state. And in 1967, such a policy may have been easily justified. In the formative years, something led Lynden Pindling and his government to be responsible in the governance of our nation. The only rational explanation is that the course of the nation was divinely connected to a vision that had at its pinnacle the

upliftment of the Bahamian spirit. Our journey to 1973 was therefore not an accident. It was a recognition that each of us has the competence and love for self and nation to chart a progressive course for our people. Independence for us was not a detour towards individualism, it was a march built on the spirit of collectivism. This is so evident in the fact that our march to independence was not the glorification of the architects of the revolution, it was a deep and abiding sense of purpose, duty to nation and a love for country that stood on the breastplate of ordinary men and women. The spirit of collectivism still encircles our nation. Just as it stood to attention on Clifford Park on July 9, 1973, it remains vigilant to its assigned destiny to guide and protect our nation and her people. It is our guiding light and our conscience. It is that spirit that will herald us through all the ebbs and flows of nationhood, always grounded in the fact that our nation is destined for greatness.

Our futures are tied by a golden knot

One can measure the state of the nation by many differing types of formulae. The reality of any such


TOWARD A GLORIOUS FUTURE exercise lies not in the final assessment but in the recognition that all nations manifest their greatness not simply by economic or political power or success, but by the purest test, that is, a read of the barometer of the people’s confidence in their collective futures. It is a confidence that translates into hope and optimism, not pessimism, and it is collective (not singular) and universal (not class based). It is this confidence in us and our abilities and our capacity to govern which defined us in 1973 and continues to define our Bahamianism. I do not believe that our nation will fail. I firmly believe that the golden era of The Bahamas is ahead of us. Our challenge though is to ensure that our hope in the future is not defined by those whose purpose and goals are counter-productive to a better

course for our people. Our collective future must be reflective of the achievements that we know will create a society that eliminates poverty, illiteracy and crime. Our nation’s future course must be set and defined by a resurgence of a movement that reflects the new and evolving dynamism of our people. We must also rekindle the crusade towards a more peaceful and prosperous path for the future generations of Bahamians. This is vital because independence is not the opposite of colonization; it is the spiritual and mental freedom of a people; a freedom which best manifests itself in the state and standard of the people. Our successes as a nation-state are immeasurable. We have achieved much. Our democracy remains strong and peaceful. Our educational system is producing some

brilliant minds. We are recognized as a cultural and sports power. We have a well-developed financial and investment oriented infrastructure. Our leaders’ hearts are in the right place. The majority of our young people are performing well, and some are passionate about the future. Our society is a progressive one. One may ask how all of these things are possible in just 40 years. The logical step is to credit our successes to the periods of leadership. I think though that the real answer beckons a more profound analysis of our people-hood. In the midst of our success since 1973, we must never stop demanding more from ourselves. If we endorse the belief that our futures are extensions of our commitment to each other and to the nation, then we will recognize that success is a natural by-product of our

inalienable and innate rights to be Bahamian.


I will be 83 when The Bahamas celebrates its 80th year of independence. There is no denying that the world, and our Commonwealth will be radically different in 2053 than it is today. We do not have the luxury of talking about a nation failing. That is not our course because we have an indomitable spirit that guides us towards paths of full citizenship. Today, I envision that The Bahamas will be the envy of many nation states. At our 40th year, we have an untapped potential. Our economy can easily be transformed by a balanced approach to diversification. Our experiences and skills in tourism, gaming, banking and wealth management can reposition our national

The Bahamas at 40


TOWARD A GLORIOUS FUTURE priorities and goals, thereby guaranteeing a society which engages in a deliberate policy of shared prosperity (amongst all its people). We also possess the potential and unique advantage for the creation of a federalist system that protects the intrinsic beauty of each island by stimulating and enhancing our geographic, social and economic landscape. Our nation will resume leadership of the region when we recognize that our “gifts” are not to be employed for the benefit of ourselves but should be used to improve the lot of those whose history and path to self-determination may have taken a disastrous detour. I envision that through our renewed leadership we will gain world recognition. A unity between our Commonwealth and the Turks and

Caicos Islands is a rational policy that will bring enormous benefits for our peoples. I also foresee the eradication of illiteracy by the imaginative transformation of the national educational product by the restoration of the old-Bahamian pride for educational achievement. The state of our nation in 2053 is robust. Our communities will be more culturally diverse. Andros will join the ranks of Abaco, Exuma and Grand Bahama and will blossom into an economic power-house driven by a mixed-model of economic citizenship and mega non-touristic investments. Females remain the most upwardly mobile gender. They are leaders in all areas of society, business and politics. No matter the depths of your vision for our future, it is

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

no denying the fact that our further development rests upon a sovereign right to demand strong, visionary and bold leadership. Since the rebellion by Pompey, we have had women and men who have answered the call for leadership and in so doing have guided our nation’s path to guard our birthright. The Bahamas is predisposed for greatness. The Bahamian people are unique and it is our collective uniqueness which will continue to ensure that we rejoice at the “mark of our bearing”. Once we remember and hold dear to our hearts that at the core of our sovereignty is not our wealth or the benefits of prosperity, but our love for each other and community, our deep devotion to family and the ‘village’, our nation will enter the age of wise and

deliberate transformation and thereby ensure that we together create a better Bahamas in the next 40 years ahead.

Raynard Rigby.



Mychal ‘Sweet Bells’ Thompson goes up for a block.

During the 40 years since that glorious moment on July 10, 1973, when the Union Jack went down and the Bahamian national flag of black, aquamarine and gold was raised, sports collectively has been the one redeeming entity that continually, positively boosted the image of our country. Indeed, while the nation has experienced setbacks in other aspects of our society, the national sporting fraternity has been that essential characteristic that brought balance to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. Bahamian athletes, the various sporting programs, sports administrators, coaches, trainers, parents, guardians and support groups performed in a manner that brought glory to our independent land regularly. There were many occasions over the last 40 years when Bahamians have been able to hold their heads high and pump their chests with pride because of our sporting ambassadors. Prior to 1973, the country could boast of just three world championships; two Olympic medals; two Mr. World bodybuilding championships; four Commonwealth Games medals; two Commonwealth Boxing Championships; and a small selection of regional top accomplishments. In 1947, Durward Knowles and Sloane Farrington won the World Star Class Yachting World Championship. Knowles and Farrington also won the first Olympic medal for The Bahamas, a bronze in 1956. Knowles and Cecil Cooke captured the first Olympic The Bahamas at 40


40 YEARS OF ‘SPORTS POWER’ gold medal for the country in 1964, also in the Star Class of yachting. Kingsley Poitier won the Mr. World title in bodybuilding in 1965. Four years later, Tony Carroll duplicated that feat. In 1958 Tommy Robinson won a gold medal (220 yards) and a silver medal (100 yards) during the British Empire (Commonwealth) Games. He followed with a 100 meters silver medal

pendence. What was to come from 1973 to now justified the ‘sports power’ term that was coined by Kendal Nottage, the first Minister of Sports in the history of the country, four years after the Bahamian national flag went up. The year before independence, a talented, amiable athlete out of that great island sports bosom of Bimini, John

Community College was in fact a Bahamian. It was Danny Smith! Smith was selected to the 1972 Bahamian Olympic team and his career took off. His story is the real prelude to 40 years of success by athletes from this little country. On the evening of April 2, 1973, two months and eight days before the first Independence Day, Smith, a relative

records. Smith would go on to have one of the great careers in collegiate sports and culminate his national representation with a silver medal in the 110 high hurdles at the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico City. That milestone in Toronto, Canada, however, set the stage for what would be 40 years of mounting sports accomplish-

Daniel Smith (Hanna), was discovered. Kevin Johnson, the sprinter who assumed the title of fastest Bahamian when Robinson retired in 1970 and quarter miler Leslie Miller were training for the 1972 Olympic Games slated for Munich, Germany. While attending a track and field meet in Florida, they found out that the best high hurdler at Miami Dade North

newcomer to the world track and field circuit, dazzled the crowd at Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens by flashing to a world record time of 5.8 seconds in the 50-yard high hurdles. It was a brilliant performance by the young Bahamian and put him in elite company. Only Robinson – in the 300 yards run (and none after) – was able to put The Bahamas in the world track and field

ments for the country.

Bodybuilding sensation Della Thomas.

in 1962 and 1966. Gomeo Brennan won the British Commonwealth (Empire) middleweight championship and held it on two separate occasions between 1963 and 1966. In international sailing and track and field, Bahamian athletes laid the foundation for regional power status that would become synonymous with the country post inde-

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


From Smith, the hurdles star in early 1973, to the Golden Knights (Chris Brown, Demetrius Pinder, Michael Mathieu and Ramon Miller) of 1600 meters Olympic supremacy in 2012, The Bahamas built upon the earlier track and field foundation and carved out a legacy that has become the envy of


the world. The achievements of this small nation in track and field continue to astound observers around the world. Such was the case in 1992 at the Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The Bahamas was not favored to get on the medal podium at all. Particularly in the triple jump, there were no top expectations for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. A

solid elite triple jumper named Frank Rutherford represented The Bahamas. When all had completed their series of jumps, Rutherford had achieved something magical for The Bahamas. His 17.36 meters for bronze was a pioneer effort. It gave the Bahamas its third Olympic medal and the first by a discipline other than international sailing.

It had taken 36 years (19561992) for that to happen. Rutherford became a trailblazer for Olympic medals that would pile up for Bahamian track and field as the sport took over the international spotlight from sailing. Some would argue that the significance of Rutherford’s performance was greater than any other, inclusive of gold medal efforts that were to come later. For sure, he will always be the one who brought home the very first Olympic track and field medal to his country. Along the way, leading up to 1992 there were quality performances in track and field at the Olympic Games for The Bahamas, like Fletcher Lewis being a long jump finalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and success on the Pan American Games and the Commonwealth Games levels, but it was Rutherford who established the Bahamian presence in the Olympics medal category. Then the country took off. In 1996, the Golden Girls (Pauline Davis, Eldece Clarke, Chandra Sturrup, Savatheda Fynes and Debbie Ferguson) emerged for the first time as a prominent relay team. They gave The Bahamas a 4x100 meters relay silver medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games. In 2000, the Golden Girls cemented their status as one of history’s best relay squads by winning the gold medal in Sydney, Australia. In 1999 the Girls had become world champions, part of an amazing run. The Aussie 2000 Games also saw Davis win the silver medal that was later upgraded to gold when American Marion Jones was later officially tainted for the use of an illegal substance. The Olympic Games medal trend continued for The Bahamas in 2004 at Athens, Greece. The diminutive, but powerful Tonique Williams-Darling had electrified the track and field world throughout the earlier part of the year. She was on a

three-year stretch that was to become arguably the most sensational individual contribution to Bahamian sports power. Williams-Darling captured the gold medal in the 400 meters at Athens and the next year, 2005, won the World Championships. In between, she won the prestigious Golden League competition for the 400 meters and then a silver medal in her specialty at the Commonwealth Games in 2006. At the Athens Games, The Bahamas also got a 200 meters bronze medal in the person of Debbie Ferguson. Then, came the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. The event is where The Bahamas re-established its men’s 1600 meters relay squad’s second place ranking. Andretti Bain, Michael Mathieu, Andrae Williams and Chris Brown made up the team for the final

and the silver behind the United States. In the field category at Beijing, Leevan Sands, already a World Championships double bronze medalist, duplicated his predecessor Rutherford with a third place medal. The London Olympics of 2012 was when The Bahamas turned the tables, finally, on the United States. The gold medal was capped off by the scintillating final leg stretch run by Ramon Miller, who gutted out a final 80 meters with raw intensity to overtake Angelo Taylor and put a comfortable distance between them at the finish. Brown was on the opening leg this time, with Mathieu running the third leg. Pinder executed a masterful second leg. The consistency of The Bahamas in track and field at the Olympics has made the country a medal favorite every

The Bahamas at 40


40 YEARS OF ‘SPORTS POWER’ time out now on the Olympic stage. Track and field also produced its share of world champions. The first of them was Troy Kemp in the 1995 World Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden. In 2001 at the World Outdoor Championships in Edmonton, Canada, Debbie Ferguson ended up in a similar situation to Davis. She placed second to Jones but later was upgraded to gold. Sturrup in that same year won the 60 meters Indoor World Championships in Lisbon, Portugal. Also in 2001, Avard Moncur won the men’s 400 meters championship and The Bahamas captured the 1600 meters relay world title (Moncur, Brown, Troy McIntosh and Tim Munnings). In 2004, Dominic Demeritte became the gold medal winner in the 200 meters at

the World Indoor Championships in Budapest, Hungary. In 2005, as aforementioned, Williams-Darling, in Helsinki, Finland, added to the Bahamian gold medal count in World Championships events. Two years later, 2007, Donald Thomas became the high jump world champion, following in the footsteps of Kemp. In 2010, Brown won the world indoor 400 meters at the championships held in Doha, Qatar and Demetrius Pinder captured the 400 meters gold at the world indoor event in Istanbul, Turkey. In World Championships, Bahamians have captured medals other than the golden kind. Rutherford was the pacesetter here as well. His bronze medal at the 1987 World Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana was a first for The Bahamas.

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

Rolly Gray.

To be added to the list are: Davis with an outdoor silver medal in the 400 meters in 1995; Sturrup with outdoor bronze medals in 2001 and 2003; Leevan Sands with a world outdoor triple jump bronze medal in 2003, and Williams-Darling’s world indoor 400 meters bronze. In 2006 at the world indoor in Moscow, Brown won the first of three bronze medals in the 400 meters. He was to duplicate in 2008 in Valencia, Spain and again in 2012 in Istanbul. Derrick Atkins won the world outdoor 100 meters silver medal in 2007; Debbie Ferguson captured a world outdoor 200 meters bonze in 2009; Golden Girls (Sheniqua Ferguson, Chandra Sturrup, Christine Amertil and Debbie Ferguson) the sprint relay silver in 2009; and Trevor Barry, the world outdoors high jump bronze in 2011. A bevy of gold, silver and bronze medals also came for The Bahamas in athletics during the 40 years leading up to 2013 in all other competitions outside of the Olympics and World Championships. On the junior level, Sheniqua Ferguson (200 meters), Shaune Miller (400 meters) and Anthonique Strachan (100 meters and 200 meters) have been gold medal winners. Nivea Smith was a World Youth 200 meters bronze medalist. Those accomplishments have been at the top of the line for Bahamians in track and field. Without a doubt, those achievements and many others

‘King’ Eric Gibson.

firmly established the sport of athletics as the number one producer of medals for The Bahamas by a wide margin.


Two historic accomplishments were registered in boxing for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas shortly after independence. The achievements were at opposite ends of the sport of boxing. In 1974, at the Central American and Caribbean Games, hosted by the Dominican Republic, The Bahamas won one medal. Nathaniel Knowles, a middleweight amateur boxer, won a silver medal. Apart from putting The Bahamas into the medal count, Knowles made history. The medal was the first one for the country in amateur boxing. The next year, a young man whose given name was Everette Ferguson, climbed into a boxing ring in Paris and stormed through, defeating World Boxing Council junior Middleweight Champion Miguel de Oliveira. By the eleventh round, Oliveira’s corner men had seen enough and Ferguson, known the world over as Elisha Obed, got the title. It was the first authentic world championship for his country. That was 38 years ago. To this date no other Bahamian has won a title of official ‘world’ caliber. Sherman ‘Tank’ Williams, the present heavyweight champion of The Bahamas, has captured a number of regional titles. Edner


Dr. Norman Gay.

Cherry and Ray Minus Jr. won several regional titles as well. Jermaine Mackey, Meacher Major and Elkeaner Saunders have been one-time regional titleholders. Minus Jr., Steve Larrimore and Mackey joined Brennan in the Commonwealth champions category. On the amateur front, from the days of Knowles during the early 1970s, The Bahamas developed a good number of quality boxers, the best of the lot being Larrimore, Taureano Johnson, Valentino Knowles and Carl Heild. During the 2000 decade, The Bahamas was the top amateur boxing country in the Caribbean.


Around the time the independent nation called The Commonwealth of The Bahamas was born, four Bahamian lads, Cecil Rose, Charles Thompson, Osborne Lockhart and Michael Thompson were building a legacy in Florida at Miami Jackson High School. Their final season, 1973-74, was incredibly dominant. The Jackson Generals (or Jackson 4 + 1) romped to a 33-0 record inclusive of the Florida State AAA Championships. Along the way they defeated teams regularly by as many as 30 points. Michael (later changed to Mychal) Thompson and Lockhart ended up at the University of Minnesota. Rose and Charles Thompson opted for the University of Houston.

Mike Rolle.

Mychal Thompson, who was the conservative, solid player on the Jackson team while the other Bahamians were more popular and flamboyant, blossomed into an All-American as the best player with the University of Minnesota Gophers. In 1978, he made history of a special kind. Not only was he the first Bahamian to be drafted to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA), he was the first player overall and also the first foreign-born to be drafted No. 1. Thompson went on to have a lengthy career (13 years) in the NBA that culminated with two championships (198788) in the uniform of the Los Angeles Lakers. Thompson’s son Klay is a starter with the Golden State Warriors and another, Mychel, signed contracts with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks Then, there was Rick Fox. He is a bit of an enigma to some Bahamians. His father, Ulric, is a born Bahamian while Rick was born in Canada and is listed in most places as a Canadian. Yet his connection to this country is strong and many ignore the circumstances and think of him only as ‘Bahamian’. In 1991, after playing at the University of North Carolina, he was drafted No. 24 in the first round by the Boston Celtics. He played for the Celtics until 1997 before going to the Lakers to finish his career. By the time he retired, he had upstaged Thompson by one in the championships department.

Fox was a member of three Lakers championship teams (2000-2002). On the national scene, during the 40 years of independence, unfortunately the program declined. There was a time, 1975 to be exact, when The Bahamas was poised to make strong inroads in the region and world in basketball. The country was the accepted best in basketball in the Caribbean. Now, we have slipped nationally and other nations such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the U.S. Virgin islands have become better.


Edison Armbrister, Wenty Ford, Will Culmer and Antoan Richardson were the Bahamians who played in the Major Leagues post independence. Before them, Andre Rodgers and Tony Curry made it to the pinnacle of the game. There have been scores more who played professional baseball at some lower level. The game has endured a depressing stage of controversy for practically the last three decades. The Bahamas Baseball Association, once the ultimate

baseball organization, gave way to the Bahamas Baseball Federation. That body had most to do with the national development of the sport during the impasse.

International Sailing

The Bahamas has won five World Sunfish Championships post independence. Pierre Siegenthaler captured the prestigious honor in 1973 and 1977, and Bahamian-born Donnie Martinborough reigned supreme in 1983, 1985 and 1988. In 2012, young Paul de Souza got into the act and won the Junior World Sunfish crown. Siegenthaler and Martinborough maintained The Bahamas’ reputation in international sailing. Young de Souza is leading a host of new generation international sailors who are looking capable of fully restoring the reputation of The Bahamas against the best the world has to offer.

Sloop Sailing

This category is the other sailing dimension in The Bahamas. It’s a local ‘signature’ sporting feature. Over the years the names that made significant contributions to the progress of sloop sailing

Tonique Williams-Darling in the winners circle after taking the gold medal in the women’s 400m final at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The Bahamas at 40


40 YEARS OF ‘SPORTS POWER’ have been many. Reference is to Rolly Gray, Fred Finley, Loren Knowles, Hezron Moxey, Kingston Brown, Ed Bain, Jack Longley, Herbert Bain, Mark Knowles, Lundy Robinson, Cassius Moss, Eric Gibson, Rev. Gentry McPhee, Buzzy Rolle, and Sheldon Gibson. There have been a lot more. The sport got a huge lift around the turn of 1980 when the Marlboro Series was staged for a short period annually at Montagu Bay. The local sailors got to compete alongside and against the likes of international skipper Ted Turner. This period, although short, was significant because our Bahamian sloop sailing got into the international spotlight. From a purely local perspective, Cassius Moss, Eric Gibson and Eleazer Johnson have been driving forces that kept the sport popular.


The Bahamas Football Association has evolved as a presence regionally. The BFA has produced quality national teams. They, in most recent times, have performed in a manner that has the country right on the verge of a breakthrough into the top ranks of the Caribbean. Known mostly for having an administration that stands out in the region, the BFA’s competitive side is now coming on stream. In recent times, a young U-17 women’s team made it through to the final round of the Confederation of Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Qualifier for the World Cup. Our men’s team advanced and beach soccer is experiencing a revolution. The BFA program is solid.


Like baseball, this sport is suffering through a down period. Once the top country in the entire Caribbean and Central

American region, The Bahamas is now not considered a softball power on any level. This is a far cry from the nation that during the late 1970s was undoubtedly a world elite, having reached as high as a third place ranking in both men’s and women’s softball. Pitching, that was once the core of Bahamian softball, has fallen off badly.


This sport has enjoyed some glorious periods during the 40 years of independence. It started with Leo Rolle and John Antonas climbing to the top of Caribbean tennis by becoming Brandon Cup Champions. They continued to represent The Bahamas well into the independence era. Later, they made way for Roger Smith and Mark Knowles who took the country to the highest Davis Cup height of group one. Both went on to play the world circuit in singles and doubles. Knowles is the king of Bahamian tennis to date. In doubles, he has done well, winning three doubles grand slams (Australian, French and U.S. Opens), plus a mixed doubles championship at Wimbledon. There is a cadre of female players on the rise, such as Simone Pratt.


Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace emerged out of a group of solid Bahamian swimmers (over the years) to become one of the world’s best. She became a multi-NCAA champion in the short sprints. Vanderpool-Wallace won two Central American and Caribbean Games gold medals (50m butterfly and 100m butterfly); two CAC silver medals (50m freestyle and 100m freestyle); World Championships (Short Course) bronze medal in the 50m freestyle; and relay medals, the most important being the 2007 Pan American 4x100 medley relay bronze.

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

Bahamian tennis great Mark Knowles.

Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace gestures after competing in a women’s 100-meter freestyle swimming heat at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.


That was accomplished with Nikia Deveaux, Alicia Lightbourne and Alana Dillette. In 2004 at the Athens Games, Deveaux made history by becoming the first Bahamian female to represent the country in Olympic swimming. Jeremy Knowles was easily the top male swimmer post independence.

From left, The Bahamas’ Golden Knights of Michael Mathieu, Demetrius Pinder, Ramon Miller and Chris Brown celebrate winning the gold medal in the men’s 4x400m relay at the London Olympics.

Fred Sturrup.

The Bahamas at 40


The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

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Second graders from C.W. Sawyer Primary School pick books to read.

EDUCATION: A FEW VALUES FOR THE FUTURE MAKIA GIBSON Without a doubt, our forefathers developed a system of education that has elevated The Bahamas above many countries in our region and in the wider world. It is of note, that a great achievement of majority rule was a laser-like focus on providing access to a sufficient quantity and quality of education to meet the intellectual, moral, emotional and physical needs of all. Forty years hence, The Bahamas has much to celebrate and as a country, we can be proud of our educational record. An examination of the successes of the Silent Generation (those born between 1925 and 1945) and in particular, the Baby Boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, illustrates the rapid development of Bahamian cultural and academic society, spawning world-class professionals, many of whom marshaled The Bahamas into independence and who continue to lead our country today. Education in The Bahamas can certainly boast a period of success that has served, for a long time, as the backbone of an economically and socially strong Bahamas. It is also clear, though, that this success has waned, and that we are perhaps

witnessing an erosion of the social and economic strength we once enjoyed. Certainly, the realties of terrorism, global recession and a seemingly increasing number of devastating natural disasters have played a role in our national decline. Despite these external influences, it would be irresponsible to ignore the internal saboteurs of nepotism, corruption and unaccountability that have led to our education system, once the hallmark of Bahamian success, no longer reigning as a national symbol of pride.

What we know

We know that national development is highly correlated with the quality of education a country is able to provide its citizenry. We know that high levels of literacy and numeracy correlate with high levels of innovation and entrepreneurship. We also know, based on the public response to education in recent times, that Bahamians want a high performing and high producing education system. If we want to improve education in The Bahamas, we have to engage the issues, openly and honestly. We have to evaluate our national position and build

public consensus on the way forward. Indeed, the Bahamian culture is growing from a place of placid conformity to a new reality of active engagement. Therefore, it is no longer appropriate to formulate and ‘send down’ solutions developed in hallowed halls. Indeed, it takes active consensus building and large-scale public participation to return our education system to relevancy and success. Jack Welch, the controversial yet widely acclaimed former CEO and chairman of General Electric, wrote a book about his time at GE entitled “Winning”. As the chairman and CEO of the once biggest corporation in the world, he offers many real world lessons from which we can extrapolate and in turn, ignite a meaningful conversation about educational improvement. Jack Welch highlighted several attitudes/values for success, which are highly applicable to education.

Value 1: Candor

Success demands candor. Imagine an employee who goes through his career with a less than candid supervisor constantly evaluating his performance as outstandThe Bahamas at 40


EDUCATION: A FEW VALUES FOR THE FUTURE ing. Imagine this employee being transferred to another department, or getting a new boss, a candid boss, who evaluates his performance as mediocre at best. Suddenly, the employee finds himself having to make countless corrections and needing remediation. Whatever the dynamic that led to the actions of the less than candid boss the employee has suffered a career damaging setback and will have to dig deep to achieve true excellence. Consider for a moment the countless learning opportunities missed by the employee whilst under the less than candid boss’ supervision. Imagine the lost potential not only for the employee, but also for the work environment as a whole. Likewise, if all the public gets are starched coats and coiffed hair giving platitudes about the state of Bahamian education then we miss a priceless opportunity to engage the issues with a variety

of constituents who together can help to build momentum for positive change. Candidly, The Bahamas still relishes the old-fashioned system with a deep hierarchy and its concomitant inefficiencies and disconnectedness. Small committees decide the path and the ‘minions’ must follow – even if the evidence suggests that the path leads to certain death. To create change, one must engage an organic process by creating an environment of inclusion, effectively eliciting ideas from all team members. Jack Welch posits that building candor into the operations of an organization creates an idea rich environment, and maximizes efficiencies by getting all stakeholders to represent and defend their respective points of view – candidly and in the open. To create improvement, then, we have to be candid. Not only because candor gives all constituents the best chances for personal success but also because it

is a better way of ensuring that the best ideas get considered for system success. Being candid means being honest, valuing integrity, for maximum individual and system growth.

Value 2: Differentiation

Jack Welch’s view of differentiation is perhaps his most controversial. In differentiation, he offers that each year an organization should divide its staff according to 20-70-10. That is, identifying the top achieving 20 percent, the middle achieving 70 percent and the bottom achieving 10 percent. He posits that organizations should lavish their top achieving 20 percent with bonuses and incentives and that much effort should be put into ensuring that everyone else in the organization knows about the rewards. He continues that the middle 70 percent must be motivated and inundated with professional development – especially considering that

Students of Early Childhood Development Centre. The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013


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The Bahamas at 40


EDUCATION: A FEW VALUES FOR THE FUTURE they make up the majority of the workforce, and in acknowledgement that this group’s productivity is crucial to success. As for the bottom 10 percent, Welch simply suggests that they be managed out of the organization as quickly and humanely as possible. Differentiation, too, requires candor. This approach, notwithstanding its obvious limitations, has some merit in education. All schools, even high performing ones require supports. The 20-70-10 rule then can be used to identify schools, and in turn determine the type of intervention/support necessary from the ministry inclusive of staffing expertise and other budgetary allocations. I must stress that I am not suggesting a simple school classification system to archaically pigeon-hold schools with no definitive accompanying action. What is being proposed is that 20-70-10 can itself be an improvement plan – each designation having clearly defined action steps, goals, outcomes and a rigorous time frame with sufficient builtin support to cause progress. The ultimate goal of Welch’s differentiation is to ensure that the organization

is groomed for success by celebrating the best in a big way, with a laser-like focus on improving the middle, and after some effort to coach the bottom – phase them out.

Value 3: Boundarylessness

Welch uses this word to describe GE’s unrelenting pursuit of best practice. He speaks of teams of GE employees visiting the plumbing giant American Standard, Wal-Mart, and Toyota to engage in the strategies and processes that made them successful in specific areas. Imagine, even the most successful corporation in the world at the time adopted a global outlook, monitoring the best practices of other corporations and having the courage to forge partnerships to learn how to improve its own practices. Imagine if schools in The Bahamas actively engaged in this process – sharing the best and brightest ideas, candidly, with each other. Imagine if as a matter of course, schools studied global best practice and forged partnerships with the best in the world and made it a priority to visit. Imagine the impact of a large-scale infusion of energy and new ideas into The

The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

Bahamian education system – where the maturity exists to embrace the necessary changes. The world is undergoing a massive economic and socio-political change – quickly moving from the industrial revolution mindset – to something we haven’t quite seen before. In the best cases, school systems around the world are out ahead of this wave of change, sculpting their young minds to take advantage of the unknown new reality. Candidly, in The Bahamas we are not. However, there is a lot that we can do to accelerate our improvements and enhance our agility as a school system. The first course of action is to engage the issues through the pain with candor. Differentiate the constituents – all of them, no political or social favorites get excluded. Then, pursue boundarylessness with unrelenting diligence. Having had the opportunity to visit Finland in November of 2012, its political and education leaders shared one of their abiding philosophies that might be a good lesson for Bahamian education. It’s a simple one: “Education is too important to be a political issue.”


The Bahamas at 40


The Nassau Guardian | 40th Independence Anniversary Supplement | 2013

The Bahamas 1973 - 2013  
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