Thursday, May 3, 2012

...the shifting political sands in The Bahamas find Bahamian Prime Minister -Hubert Ingraham - facing a general election to win a fourth term in government for the governing Free National Movement (FNM) party

The Shifting Sands Of Bahamian Politics

Nassau, The Bahamas

 LADY PINDLING'S appearance at the PLP's Clifford Park rally Friday night - to "set the record straight" for her "PLP family" - brought back many memories of the upheaval created by the Commission of Inquiry into drugs. It also highlighted the shifting sands of politics.

In her talk to her political family, Lady Pindling deliberately avoided the fact that her late husband's anointed successor was fired by him from the PLP cabinet in the eighties. She wanted the gullible crowd to believe that it was only Prime Minister Ingraham who was given orders to "walk the plank."

She also wanted her flock to understand that not only did Sir Lynden anoint Mr Christie as his successor, but Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield also would have liked him to have been his political heir. Anyone who recalled those times would find this assertion almost laughable.

It is true that at the time both Mr Christie and Mr Ingraham were hedging their bets about their political future. They both agreed that they would continue in politics, the question was how? Join an existing political party or remain Independent?

After the Commission of Inquiry, they both expressed concern about corruption, which former PLP Loftus Roker had earlier warned was "rocking the PLP to its very foundations." Because of their position -- particularly Mr Ingraham's -- they were both fired from the Pindling Cabinet. Mr Ingraham was later expelled from the PLP, while Mr Christie at the last minute was rejected as a PLP candidate in the 1987 election. Both decided to go it alone, winning a decisive victory in the 1987 election, unopposed by the FNM. They were the first Independent candidates to do so in the history of the modern Bahamas.

They were both weighing the possibility of joining a political party. Mr Ingraham, the more decisive of the two, was not certain which route he would take. However, he knew the route he would not take. Mr Christie was not so sure. He said he was still "philosophically committed to those principles" that originally attracted him to the PLP. He was not talking with the FNM, but he was talking with the PLP.

And so when Sir Lynden dangled a Cabinet post in front of him, he could not resist. He had his future made, no more time wasting fighting for his principles in the trenches. He was secure at the top.

The Tribune at the time speculated that Mr Christie would go back to the PLP. For all the years he was in the political wilderness, no reporter could ever draw him out on his opinions. Mr Christie promised interviews that he never kept. When he did go back he said he told Sir Lynden on two occasions: "My brother, I hope you realise that my silence is a statement."

Is that the way we are today to interpret his silence on issues on which he should be vocal -- particularly the allegations of corruption in his own party?

Not so Mr Ingraham. He said he was sorry to see his law partner and friend heading back to the PLP ship. "But that's his right to do," he added. "

I determined a long time ago," he said, "that the ship was taking the Bahamas in the wrong direction and it continues to be my goal to stop the ship."

He closed his ears to Sir Lynden's siren song to come back on board.

Today, Mr Ingraham is still determined to stop the PLP ship. Mr Christie, on the other hand, continues to face what Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield described at the time as "one of his biggest hurdles" -- credibility.

Never far from the limelight, today's Fox Hill PLP candidate Fred Mitchell, who in those days headed his own political party -- the PDF-- demonstrated with placards outside of the House of Assembly calling for Mr Christie's resignation. He claimed that Mr Christie had broken his agreement with his supporters in Centreville by returning to the PLP. There were even PLP MPs who were upset that Mr Christie -- once the prodigal son-- had leap-frogged over all of them to a top position on his return to the fold.

Mr Mitchell felt Mr Christie was morally bound to resign his seat in Parliament when he decided to accept the Cabinet appointment.

Mr Mitchell maintained that Mr Christie had broken his political contract with his constituents who had returned him to parliament to oppose PLP corruption.

In the meantime, Mr Ingraham was still at war in the House with the PLP government for challenging the right of the Public Accounts Committee to "send for persons or papers" to do its work. Mr Ingraham was a member of that committee. He said that there was "crookedness" in the government's 1987 audited accounts, and that an attempt was being made to cover-up what was going on with the government's finances.

Today the shifting political sands find Prime Minister Ingraham facing a general election to win a fourth term in government for the FNM.

Meanwhile, Mr Christie, leader of the Opposition, hopes to replace him on May 7. As for Mr Mitchell -- whose dream was one day to become prime minister -- has himself returned to the PLP and serves under the man who he felt betrayed his supporters by returning to the PLP.

Politics is certainly a fickle throw of the dice.

May 02, 2012