Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019
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McAlpine should emulate Carlton Francis by quitting frontline politics 

Dear Editor,

Free National Movement (FNM) member of Parliament (MP) for Pineridge Frederick McAlpine appears to be having a crisis of conscience regarding his membership of the governing party. By not attending the FNM mini rally in Freeport on February 22, McAlpine is probably telling himself that he’s not willing to sacrifice his religion on the altar of political expediency. McAlpine and Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis are not compatible. The Pineridge MP probably feels marginalized and humiliated because of his sacking as chairman of the Hotel Corporation in 2018. Moreover, McAlpine probably felt slighted over not being given a Cabinet post in 2017. Adding to McAlpine’s frustration is the fact that Minnis has repeatedly ignored his many public rantings about the FNM’s shortcomings. Minnis’ reticence in this regard is probably being interpreted by McAlpine as an indication that his leader considers him a political lightweight not worth engaging.

McAlpine stated to a local newspaper that the FNM event conflicted with a prior church engagement he had. FNMs are cynical of the outspoken MP. To them, his excuse for not attending the meeting, which featured Minnis as the keynote speaker, holds no water. His absence from the meeting further underscores his alienation from the FNM hierarchy. Whatever McAlpine’s grievances are, it is perhaps time for him to consider leaving frontline politics and the FNM. As a vociferous moralist, McAlpine appears to be in a very awkward position, when one considers that politics is a very dirty game in The Bahamas. The Pineridge MP should follow the example set by the legendary Carlton Francis, the first minister of finance in the first majority rule administration of the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling in 1967. Like McAlpine, Francis was also a pastor, albeit a Baptist. McAlpine is Pentecostal. As McAlpine has repeatedly been at loggerheads with Minnis, so had Francis been at loggerheads with Pindling, although for a completely different reason.

According to historian Michael Craton in the biography of Pindling, Colin Hughes remarked that casino gambling saved the tourism industry from complete collapse in 1970. Craton stated that by 1972, a million tourists were coming to The Bahamas to gamble in the casinos in Freeport and Paradise Island, contributing $4 million annually to the national coffers. One of the major campaign planks of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) leading up to majority rule was the immorality of casino gambling and the United Bahamian Party’s (UBP) support for it, with Sir Stafford Sands’ name often being bandied about as the catalyst for casino gambling at PLP rallies. The PLP courted the Baptist convention and its thousands of conservative members in order to unseat the ruling oligarchy. That is why Francis and many of his fellow Baptists felt betrayed and used when A.D. Hanna announced in the House of Assembly in November 1973 that the governing PLP would be taking over the casinos. Hanna also minced no words in castigating the Bahamian church for its seeming hypocrisy regarding gambling, arguing that they held raffles and played bingo. As a shrewd politician and Pindling’s right-hand man, Hanna wouldn’t have dared to berate the church prior to majority rule. The PLP desperately needed the backing of the Baptists. By November 1973, the PLP had already been in power for nearly six years. Hanna and co probably felt invincible, especially with UBP elements within the opposition FNM.

For Francis, casino gambling was a moral issue. To remain a member of an organization which planned on nationalizing casinos would be a major compromise on his part. He subsequently resigned from his Cabinet post, and defected from the PLP. Craton speculates in Pindling’s biography that Francis’ demotion from his finance portfolio may have also contributed to his disgruntlement with Pindling, much like McAlpine’s disgruntlement with Minnis over his removal from the Hotel Corporation. Francis and Pindling, as far as I am aware, never mended their fractured relationship. Francis would go on to aid and abet two outspoken PLP backbenchers, Oscar Johnson and Edmund Moxey, in either 1975 or 1976 and would go on to run as an independent candidate in the South Beach constituency in the 1977 general election in which he lost. My point in mentioning the story of Francis’ fallout with Pindling and the PLP is to highlight the eerie similarities between McAlpine’s current dilemma with Minnis and Francis’ convoluted and rocky relationship with the governing party of the 1970s. Rather than just continue to align himself with an organization that made decisions and drafted policies with pricked his conscience, Francis simply removed himself from the party. As mentioned earlier, he did run as an independent in 1977, but that was probably a moral crusade on his part against the Pindling government, which he felt betrayed Baptists. McAlpine should follow Francis’ example by leaving frontline politics and devoting himself to his church. There might already be temptations for him to rejoin the PLP. He shouldn’t. He will only encounter far more egregious issues in that party than the ones he has claimed to have encountered in the FNM.

McAlpine is clearly not cut out for Bahamian politics.

— Kevin Evans

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