Brotherhood beyond politics
After Dr. Bernard Nottage lost his bid for leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), he resigned from the PLP in 2000 and went on to form the Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR), which mounted an unsuccessful challenge in the 2002 general election.
Nottage was joined in that noble effort by Charles Maynard, Phenton Neymour and others.
Maynard became the party’s deputy chief executive officer. Neymour became its training officer.
Though the CDR did not accomplish its goal – to win the government of The Bahamas – the path taken by its leaders was one of intrigue.
Eventually, they went along different roads: Nottage went back into the arms of the PLP, and Maynard and Neymour were embraced by the Free National Movement (FNM), eventually receiving FNM nominations and becoming members of the last Cabinet of Hubert Ingraham.
All three of them have since completed their earthly sojourn.
Neymour died on Monday night, four and a half years after he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
He was 53. Nottage died a year earlier at 71. He too had cancer.
Maynard died on August 14, 2012 of a suspected heart attack while campaigning in North Abaco ahead of a by-election. He was 42.
After Maynard’s death, Neymour said the two had shared a special relationship – one that extended beyond politics.
“Charles Maynard and I began our journey together,” Neymour said in a Tribune article.
“We both attended Queen’s College, and I have known him for almost 40 years. We were always friends, as were our families – my father was friendly with his father from our high school days.”
As young adults, Neymour and Maynard were both active in the PLP.
The two took part in various initiatives while in the PLP, including the Centre for Positive Change, along with Nottage.
That initiative became the germ of the Coalition for Democratic Reform, when the three men broke away to form a new party, that article noted.
Neymour and Maynard joined the FNM together in 2006.
“We ran together, we did everything together,” Neymour said in 2012.
“His passing has been very difficult for me, because I’ve always had him by my side.”
When they were side-by-side in the CDR, it had been the view of Neymour, Maynard and Nottage that there was room for a third party in The Bahamas.
In February 2001, Nottage told a civic group, “We are in this for the long haul, and we are willing to go it alone.”
Nottage, a former minister in the PLP government, was the MP for Kennedy, a seat he won as a PLP candidate.
In 2001, it was Nottage’s view that the CDR had established itself as a “viable alternative” to govern The Bahamas, and the party prided itself on affording the Bahamian society a greater diversity of opinion and commentary.
Nottage at that time criticized some political commentators who tried to sell the “dishonest notion” that there was no room in Bahamian politics for a third party.
“Third parties operating democratically and responsibly enhance the democratic process,” he said.
“They offer citizens more choices.”
During a CDR press conference in February 2001, Maynard boasted that the CDR was capable of “attaining and retaining” the government of The Bahamas through the legal political process and that the CDR had raised the hopes and expectations of the Bahamian electorate by being a party of ideas and issues.
“As we move closer to our goals, we feel confident that whenever the next election is called, we will be the government of The Bahamas,” Maynard said.
In October 2001, when the CDR announced Neymour as its candidate for South Beach, he was described as “a very personable and jovial individual with a strong sense of commitment to his country and countrymen”.
As a political advocate, he was seeking not only to improve the quality of life of all Bahamians, but also to increase the involvement and effectiveness of the major institutions that affect the lives of Bahamians, such as the church, family and government.
Neymour felt that one of the best ways to do this was through providing avenues for the active participation of all Bahamians in processes that directly affect them.
An engineer by profession, he said The Bahamas had been dominated by self interest for too long.
At the time, Neymour also charged that it was essential that Bahamians recognize, promote and hold firm to their responsibilities for the development of the nation.
Neymour said, “For far too long this country has been dominated by self interest.
“Important issues related to jobs, wealth and education are played out in which one group’s gain is another group’s loss.
“For this reason, I am convinced that political leaders in those other parties, especially Hubert Ingraham, have scrupulously avoided having a real plan of action for the equality of all Bahamians and true participatory governance, either because they are not smart enough – which I doubt – or because they don’t want us to leave the political plantation.
“And for these reasons, it is essential that Bahamians recognize, promote and hold firm to their responsibilities for the development of our nation.”
Ahead of the 2002 general election, the CDR formed a union with the Bahamian Freedom Alliance followed by an amalgamation with the People’s Labour Movement to create the Coalition + Labour.
“We have put aside our individual agendas in pursuit of what we regard as the common good,” Nottage said in March 2002.
Nottage said he resigned from the PLP because he was no longer able to fulfill his political objectives within the body.
“The option that I had available was either to get out of politics altogether or seek to serve the public through another medium,” he said, adding that he still enjoyed a good working relationship with the PLP’s parliamentary team.
The CDR + Labour coalition got two percent of the vote in the 2002 general election – a disappointing showing for the grouping. It won no seats in the House of Assembly.
Nottage pulled in only 499 votes out of the 3,467 in his constituency. Most of the CDR candidates fared even worse, receiving fewer than 100 votes out of a 3,500 average.
Still, the CDR pressed on.
In August 2002, Nottage refuted claims that the party had disbanded.
“The party has never been abolished,” he assured.
In September 2002, Nottage was elected unopposed as CDR leader.
While in the CDR, Neymour and Maynard advocated on many core issues.
In 2004, the two called on the Christie administration to move immediately toward the introduction of campaign finance reform.
This came after claims by Iranian businessman Mohammed Harajchi that he funded the PLP during the 2002 campaign to the tune of $10 million.
Maynard said because the PLP took money from Harajchi and failed to say how much was donated, the good name of The Bahamas, as well as the government, was being compromised.
The two were not only critical of the governing PLP, but also the Free National Movement, led at the time by Tommy Turnquest.
In March 2003, Maynard said the FNM was clearly not united.
“…The FNM looks so weak because they can’t criticize what they left in place,” Maynard said.
By 2004, there was speculation that Nottage was giving up on the CDR.
After Prime Minister Christie appointed Nottage as observer on a CARICOM mission, Neymour said in April 2004, “The speculation that the appointment of Dr. Nottage as an observer has caused some excitement among his supporters, some of whom may have hoped that this appointment would lead to a more significant position in the current government, is not held by myself or, in my opinion, representatives of the members of the CDR.”
But in November 2005, Nottage left the CDR in a surprise departure, returning to the PLP, which had been his long-time political home.
He made a dramatic entrance at the PLP’s 49th national convention.
Maynard, who became acting leader of the CDR, advised that the CDR would move on, despite losing Nottage.
“Our membership is intact,” Maynard said on November 20, 2005.
After Nottage was sworn into the Christie Cabinet in February 2006, Maynard said the party was making plans for the 2007 general election and was looking toward the future.
“We are very proud of Dr. Nottage,” he declared.
“As you know, he led us for six years of existence, and during that time we learned a lot from him.”
But by April that year, The Nassau Guardian was carrying the headline, “Tensions in CDR”.
Maynard dispelled rumors of trouble in the camp, however.
“I am the leader of the party, and Phenton is the chairman,” he said.
“The leadership of the party in terms of myself, Mr. Neymour and the rest of the management council are focused towards our immediate goals, and we are not going to be distracted by anybody.”
Two months later – in June 2016 – the CDR folded into the FNM.
The Guardian’s headline of June 12 read: “FNM in shock merger”.
“It’s not a coalition with the FNM,” Neymour declared.
“We have joined the FNM. There is only one party now.”
Maynard, meanwhile, said the merger would bring back “good governance to The Bahamas”.
In the years that followed, each man in his own way – Nottage, Maynard and Neymour – continued to contribute to the development of The Bahamas through political involvement.
For a brief few years, their efforts aligned on a shared path.
Though their CDR did not survive, it propelled them into new arenas where their legacies were crystalized, and they continued to build upon their vision for a Bahamas with a more engaged and dynamic democracy.