Sir Lynden’s and the PLP’s entitled imperial court
During the 2012 general election, Sir Lynden Pindling’s widow took to the political stage as a part of the PLP’s strategy to use the late prime minister’s legacy to help the party secure victory. It is debatable how successful was the strategy.
In her appearances, Dame Marguerite sought not only to burnish Sir Lynden’s legacy, which is considerable, and much of which is admirable and contributed extraordinarily to national development.
But many in the country at large, including many PLPs, were dismayed by her tone and remarks which harkened to a darker period in the nation’s history.
Once again on vivid display was that entrenched entitlement and imperious mentality of the Pindling Court: Don’t forget what we did for you and never forget that you owe us.
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was chastised as a mere recipient of the favors and consideration of the court, who had supposedly turned on his political masters and benefactors.
It was a not-so-subtle reminder to party Leader Perry Christie and all other supplicants expected to offer life-long obeisance to the court.
Seemingly, the PLP is a Pindling-owned and branded enterprise merely on loan to various caretakers who are to be held accountable to the dynasty. All of which arises from an extraordinary combination of historical revisionism, mythology and hagiography.
At one of the rallies Dame Marguerite berated Ingraham for the way in which she felt he treated her husband after the latter left office. Missing was any reference to the effusive thanks extended to Ingraham by Sir Lynden’s oldest son Obafemi Pindling at the funeral of his father, and which Ingraham graciously declined to use in response.
What has stunned, grated on, and even enraged so many of this lament is Lady Pindling’s seemingly absolute dismissal of the degrading and vicious treatment of many Bahamians by Sir Lynden and his court during his 25-year reign.
It was a ruthless and vindictive era. Dissidents and opponents were to be destroyed. And, quite a number were destroyed.
Lukewarm supporters and half-steppers were reminded of the price of disfavor: a quick call to a bank to stop a loan, blocked access to a job or to a scholarship for a child seeking to go to college, denial of a work permit for a spouse, and a catalogue of indignities and injustices.
There was gross and constant intimidation and victimization including the callous deportation of foreign spouses resulting in exile or the ruin of Bahamian families.
Those who opposed certain policies or wrong-doings or the court’s greed and corruption were set for abuse and ridicule, including veterans of the movement like the champion of Bahamian culture Edmund Moxey and the brilliant Carlton Francis.
Francis was cruelly ridiculed by Sir Lynden from a public platform. He said of Francis who had participated in a public demonstration, “ ... And all I could see was suit!”, mocking a dying man thinned by the cancer ravaging his body.
Outstanding Bahamian educator and civil servant Leonard Archer fared even worse. After he participated in a demonstration by teachers, Lady Pindling publicly asked: “What are we going to do about Leonard Archer?” The next day he was fired by her husband “in the public interest”!
Tellingly, and of tremendous historical significance, more than half of those who formed the first majority rule government eventually left the PLP. Yet there is the laughable conceit within the PLP of its superior nationalism. It is a chauvinistic boast in a party given to all manner of chauvinism.
Even at the time when the Dissident Eight were leaving the party that they helped to build and contributed mightily to majority rule, Paul Adderley, then leader of the National Democratic Party (NDP), commented on their departure noting that the PLP was losing much of the soul of the party.
Decades later, following the death of Charles Maynard, a former PLP grandee remarked that the FNM is now the more progressive of the two major parties. Maynard’s father, Andrew ‘Dud’ Maynard, an undoubted nationalist who toiled long and hard for the PLP, recently noted that the party he once knew and supported had lost its way.
Parties of liberation and majority rule cum independence often lose their way, corrupted by temptations of extraordinary political and economic power. Examples abound across the globe. The PLP is but one example of the chauvinism and sense of entitlement that sometimes develops in such parties.
The boundaries between party and state are blurred. By example, what should be afforded an individual or a business as an opportunity arising from one’s rights as a citizen is twisted instead into a grant of favor by the party.
During the reign of Sir Lynden’s imperial court, many business people had to beg or bribe party officials for the grant of all manner of business licences and permits.
Independence leaders often become unaccountable and untouchable with their excesses dismissed. Further, the assets of the state are spoils to be divided with plundering zeal by select interests.
Soon after coming to office Sir Lynden effectively destroyed Bahamas Airways – after his own government had negotiated with a consortium including the hugely successful Cathay Pacific to make the local airline truly international. He summarily broke a prior agreement with Cathay Pacific by awarding certain routes to Bahamas World Airways, an airline conceived by his friend Everette Bannister and scoffingly referred to by many Bahamians as “the paper airline”.
In so doing he destroyed a golden opportunity for the country, resulting in the loss of an expanded local airline and causing a drain of approximately half a billion dollars from the treasury to keep Bahamasair operational.
Imagine what could have been done in terms of national development with half a billion dollars, not to mention a well-managed airline serving cities throughout the Americas. So much for being the party of superior nationalism.
The PLP did considerable work in advancing the national good. But many of the promises of majority rule were stillborn as the party abandoned a genuine nationalism for a pseudo nationalism that routinely touted and celebrated its liberation credentials even as it plunged the country into some of our darkest days.
That national nightmare involved a ‘nation for sale’ or lease to drug barons resulting in mass corruption, the destruction of scores of Bahamians who became addicted to crack cocaine or the easy money associated with the demon drug, and a ripping apart of our social fabric, from which we are still suffering up to this day.
Despite all of this, Sir Lynden and his court showed scant remorse. It is chilling and deeply disturbing still to read the Commission of Inquiry Report into this nightmarish period and to peruse some of the evidence given.
The PLP, the supposed party of superior nationalism, is today an oligarchy of special interests which uses the rhetoric and politics of nationalism to win elections with sloganeering such as “Bahamians First”, then governs mostly in its own interest.
This is the party in which one senior PLP bragged of selling off more land than the FNM, the party of the Great Mayaguana Land Giveaway, the party in which the two top senior leaders have a clear conflict of interest with an oil exploration company.
Having militantly opposed advancing the rights of women in terms of passing on certain rights of citizenship, the party holds a special session of parliament to brag about its commitment to women and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women attaining the right to vote.
There is a pattern here. The PLP, often quite effectively, employs the symbols and the narratives of nationalism to reinforce its credentials as the nationalist party. The FNM has often played into its hands.
Given repeated opportunities to make January 10 a national holiday, the FNM was often on the defensive, unsure of how to embrace and burnish its own commitment to a more expansive vision of the national good.
Sir Lynden and his court did not try to destroy the Dissident Eight and others in spite of who they were. The PLP tried to destroy them and to deny their nationalist credentials precisely because of who they were and what they represented.
It is a feature of the sociology of organizations, from churches to political parties, that dissidents have to be destroyed and branded as heretics and traitors when they call into question how the organization to which they were dedicated may have betrayed its ideals and the people they were committed to serving.
The old PLP lost its way long ago and the so-called ‘new PLP’ has failed to find it. The party remains dedicated to a certain chauvinism, on stark display at the recent election as the widow of the party’s longest serving leader reminded Bahamians of what it feels that the country still owes the PLP’s entitled imperial court.
September 19, 2013