Expanding the tent
“Irrespective of any political party, I am a supporter of good people who want to do something for the society.” – Kapil Dev
Since the May 2017 general election, there have been several momentous developments in the body politic. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) witnessed Mr. Christie’s resignation as party leader, marking the end of 20 years in that position, followed by the announcement of a new leader. We have mourned the untimely death of a former minister, long-time friend and veteran politician, and we have also observed the arrest of two former PLP politicians.
There are some who have prematurely announced the death of the PLP. There are, however, many others who are hoping for its radical transformation into an even stronger political force, reminiscent of its former glory years.
Therefore, this week, we would like to Consider this… Does the PLP have the capacity to expand its political tent to become more inclusive of a larger number of diverse persons from a wider constituency of the population?
A rich legacy
The PLP, which was formed in 1953, has a rich tradition and an even richer legacy of achievements on the journey of nation-building.
For most of its history, the country’s oldest party was directed and driven primarily by a handful of leaders. However, in both the Pindling and Christie administrations, the party was largely influenced by its leaders, who were always considered first among equals.
There are some who maintain that one of the primary reasons for the split that occurred in the PLP after the early days of Majority Rule was the transformation of Sir Lynden Pindling into what some of his colleagues considered to be a maximum leader. The split initially led to the formation of the Free PLP, which morphed into the Free National Movement (FNM) in 1971, just four after years after Majority Rule.
The party organization
The hierarchy of the PLP, in recent years, has remained stagnant, lacking a progressive vision and mired in the cult of personality of the party leader. Because the PLP blatantly ignored its constitutionally mandated directive to hold annual national conventions, none were held between 2009 and 2017. Therefore, the same officers who were elected in 2009 remained in place until the convention that was held earlier this year.
This resulted in stagnant leadership by the party leader and chairman, neither of whom demonstrated the visionary insight that was urgently needed to replenish and reinvent the party’s archaic ideas and practices during the eight years when neither person was challenged in a convention. We believe that this violation of the party’s constitution resulted in stagnation and that shortage of fresh, new ideas enormously contributed to the PLP’s devastating defeat at the polls on May 10.
It’s time for a change
On the heels of its decisive rejection at the polls on May 10, the party leader did the right thing by resigning his office. The chairman, who we maintain was equally responsible for the PLP’s rejection, should have followed the party leader by also resigning.
But, like so many who refuse to understand when it is time to go, the party chairman has held onto his position. He refuses to do the honorable thing by handing over that office to another person. Besides sending a signal to the Bahamian electorate that he, too, accepts responsibility for the party’s defeat, this would demonstrate that the party wants to make room for new leadership, new ideas and a new vision.
The chairman simply does not get it. He refuses to appreciate that the electorate also rejected his brand of leadership and that the party cannot begin the process of rebuilding, renewal and rejuvenation as long as he remains in place.
In response to calls for his resignation, the party chairman has reverted to his typically belligerent ad hominem response, insinuating that those who have suggested that it is time for a change are either outdated or inactive in the party’s activities and are agents who seek to harm the party. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Reform, renewal and rejuvenation
There is an urgent need for the PLP to immediately renew and rejuvenate itself if it intends to attract new persons and to re-energize its base that has been discouraged by the devastating defeat. There are several specific actions that the party can take to accomplish these objectives.
First, the party must complete its scientific assessment of why it lost the last election by encouraging the consultant who has been commissioned to complete this exercise. It is important for the report to be made public and for the party to honestly discuss and debate its findings.
Secondly, the party must undertake an honest assessment of what is required to reorganize itself and return to a vibrant institution. While this might be painful to some, it is necessary.
Third, the party must reevaluate its vision for a 21st century Bahamas. It must revisit its core values and determine how to modernize those values to make them relevant for a modern Bahamas.
Fourth, the party must reach out to the young voters, who it has generally ignored over the past five years, with a view to embracing and incorporating their ideas, insights and perspectives.
Fifth, the party must be willing to accept constructive criticism from anyone who is prepared to offer it, especially about how the party should be reorganized by critically assessing its personnel at every level of the organization.
Sixth, the party must reinforce its commitment to weeding out corruption, misfeasance and malfeasance at all levels of its organization, but particularly it must commit to scrupulous vetting of the candidates who will run in the next election.
Seventh, the arty must reestablish, re-energize and reinvigorate its constituency branches throughout the country.
Eighth, the party must organize itself into a robust, modern political organization that is dedicated to understanding the changing needs of the electorate and providing solutions as to how those challenges will be confronted and resolved.
Ninth, the party must review its constitution with a view to limiting the power of the party’s leader, particularly regarding the appointment of stalwart councilors. This will insure that never again will the party be mired in the cult of personality of a leader who could lead the entire organization in a disastrously destructive direction.
Tenth, the party must encourage a culture of openness and accountability. It should establish an effective communications directorate that will regularly report to the public regarding the changes that it is making to overcome its deficiencies.
Finally, the party should make it patently clear that it not only welcomes but also has a significant place for all Bahamians, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.
The Progressive Liberal Party began as a progressive, liberal political organization. It started as a party that embodied the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the neglected, the downtrodden and the underprivileged. It was a party that believed in uplifting a people so all could have an equal opportunity for advancement in our society. It must return to those former glory days.
The PLP must convince the people that it does not and will not tolerate corruption on the part of anyone associated with it.
Finally, the PLP must radically change the view that it is a party that encourages inequity and exclusion. It must become and be seen as a party that is prepared to invite and include all Bahamians from all sectors of our society in its ranks.
In so doing, the PLP will once again be able to offer itself as a political organization with an expansive tent where all are welcome. In so doing, once again the PLP will regain the strength that comes only from having the talents, knowledge and contributions of a membership as diverse and varied as the population of our country. In so doing, the PLP will become relevant to those who rejected it as they see how dynamic a force it can be, once again, for the good of our nation.
• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.