Setting the record straight on majority rule 

Dear Editor,

Yesterday, we celebrated Majority Rule Day, a well-deserved public holiday.

I was disappointed and then annoyed to read the editorial “Observing Majority Rule Day” which appeared in the Friday, January 7 edition of your newspaper.

It contained a number of jaw-dropping untruths, for example:

“We live in a society where the minority rules the majority.” That lie appears twice in the piece!

Later, it states, “The Bahamian Parliament…seemingly passes laws that burden the average Bahamian and gives more power to the wealthy among us,” another fabrication.

It is not lost on me, and no doubt on countless other Bahamians, that your editorial writer is likely a beneficiary of the fruits of the 1967 general election which caused a seismic shift in the economic and social trajectory of the lives of the overwhelming majority of Bahamian citizens of all races.

The Bahamas government ushered into office in 1967, and every subsequent government elected pre- and post-independence, PLP and FNM, have been elected by the majority of registered voters equitably assigned to constituencies.

The allegation that the minority today rules the majority in The Bahamas is untrue, a falsehood, in simple language, a lie.

I am stunned that the writer of the editorial is not keenly aware that in 1967, the racist owners of the paper for whom he or she now pens editorials, stood firmly in lockstep with the minority government of The Bahamas which held office solely as a result of the crude gerrymandering of electoral constituency boundaries.

That practice ensured that the majority of eligible voters in the country were confined to a minority of large constituencies in New Providence. Meanwhile, numerous constituencies existed in the more sparsely populated Family Islands where many poor Bahamians were easily induced to support the minority government whether through outright monetary bribes or by in-kind favored treatment by the government.

In 1967, there were 38 constituencies: 17 in New Providence and 21 in the Family Islands. The PLP won 12 of the New Providence seats and six in the Family Islands. The UBP won four seats in New Providence and 14 in the Family Islands.

Of the 18 seats won by the PLP in 1967, eight would become the founding constituencies of the FNM which was formed in 1971. Shortly thereafter, a ninth PLP member of Parliament also joined the FNM.

To think of a Black editorial writer at The Nassau Guardian at that time was unimaginable. To have witnessed that newspaper’s evolution to its position today when virtually its entire managerial leadership and professional staff is Bahamian is a testament to the success of majority rule.

The social and economic policies put in place by the first PLP government and expanded upon by subsequent governments of The Bahamas created the basis for the transformation of The Bahamas from a small colonial outpost to a politically stable and relatively prosperous independent country.

The explosion in the size of the Bahamian middle class after 1967 and the creation of a significant professional class of Bahamians who populate positions of responsibility throughout the public and private sectors today are all the fruits of majority rule. This is no small accomplishment.

Your editorial rightly quotes Sir Arthur Foulkes, one of the two surviving founders of majority rule in the country; the other being Maurice Moore, on the subject of majority rule. What Sir Arthur penned in 2013 remains accurate.

The general election of 1967 was the culmination of the labors of enlightened and forward-thinking Bahamians of all races that may be traced back to at least the Burma Road Riots of the 1940s and encompasses the Suffragette Movement in the 1950s and the creation of political parties, notably the PLP in 1953, the UBP in 1958.

Very markedly, majority rule was the culmination of the evolution of the labor movement in the country, a movement that promoted not only the right for decent wages and conditions of employment for all, but which fostered a mindset that ordinary folk were not to be neglected or ignored.

That there remain some inequalities in our country, as exist in virtually every other country in the world, cannot detract from the historic achievement of majority government, political independence, and economic progress in The Bahamas since 1967.

Finally, the responsibility to keep Bahamian history alive should not be relegated to the classroom alone. The editorial writer, if he or she were to peruse the social studies curriculum of Bahamian school children, will find that the story of the Bahamian march to more inclusive governance, greater economic equality, and toward greater respect for the rights of all citizens, regardless to race, class or religion is well entrenched.

Pride in one’s history begins at home, is strengthened in school and in religious and civic organizations; importantly, it must be reinforced by society. In that, journalists and newspapers have an important role to play.

My suggestion for The Nassau Guardian, a paper of record, is that it guard against editorial writers spewing falsehoods. Opinions proffered not underpinned by facts, if deemed worthy of publication by the paper, might more appropriately appear as an opinion piece accompanied by a rebuttal.

The Corrector

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