Diplomatic Notes

The evolution of Bahamian politics

It is 2021 and elections will be held before May of 2022. The Bahamas faces another election where decisions have to be made by the Bahamian population. This upcoming election is interesting in that we are seeing evidence of shifting in the way the electorate evaluates and responds to political parties. To understand where we are, I have dusted off memories of my political journey and taken a rear and front window view to explain where we are and anticipate what may be forthcoming.


FREEDOM ERA

Pre-1967, Black people were essentially slaves and chattel, unequal in their own country, the result of global colonialism perpetrated by European countries in this hemisphere. In other hemispheres, the colonialists were different – and at one point in time, both western and eastern Europe were under Arab/Muslim colonialism. The newfound knowledge of the atrocities of colonialism led to active, aggressive push for change. I was just a young boy, but I was a part of the freedom fighters. My cousins are A.D. Hanna and Barbara Pierre who were both active in the fight and in the forefront. I remember being paid to take down UBP (United Bahamian Party) signs. The Freedom era was just about freedom and other issues were secondary. Freedom came in 1967 and a new era began.


INDEPENDENCE ERA

After a few years, challenges arose within the PLP (Progressive Liberal Party). The freedom fighters split on the issue of independence and other more personal internal issues regarding leadership. This was a tumultuous time. I was, again, in the center of the war. Still a young man, I was now divided between the PLP and FNM (Free National Movement) because most of the gangsters were with the FNM and I was in the building when they were cleaning guns, snorting cocaine and planning attacks. I was there playing dominoes with Barry Major and was one of the young men who helped Poker Humes escape the law and go into hiding. This was a very divisive time but eventually independence was achieved, and things got back to normal.


ROOTS AND ROADS ERA

With independence having been achieved, the two parties fought along racial and colonial lines. The PLP reminded Bahamians that they brought freedom and took control from the Bay Street Boys. The FNM countered that the PLP were themselves racially motivated and wanting to exclude white Bahamians from governance. This era was interesting, as whenever debates arose about who was right and who was wrong, the Roots series would appear on TV and Bahamians of the pre-1967 generation would rally to ensure that the oppressors never regained power. I remember working as a civil servant and traveling to the Family Islands. I would ask my host why some roads were paved, and some had huge potholes. My host laughed and said if you didn’t vote right, you got no roads.


THE VOTE THEM OUT ERA

Eventually, the younger generation began to tire of Roots and roads, and demanded something other than a reminder of the past. The governing party at the time had many accomplishments, but was mired in continuing corruption allegations, and the younger generation began to say we need more. The parties at that time had become accustomed to buying appliances and doing things just before the election to swing the young voters, and it had worked so well for so long, there was no need to change tactics. The MP (Member of Parliament) and government as “sugar daddy” had played out, and voters wanted substance.

Eventually, it was no longer about who did what – it was about change, and thus, the vote them out era arrived. Voters in The Bahamas decided if the party that was voted in did not live up to expectations, they would be voted out. Both the PLP and FNM experienced the vote them out wrath as elections showed wide landslide swings in one direction or the other.


THE DELIVER AND DON’T TRY TO SWING US ERA

Now, we are in a period where millennials are voting, and younger voters are coming onstream. They have been jaded by both parties’ promise of change and they are now saying you better deliver, or you are gone. Younger voters are not just concerned about colors and slogans, they now want to see a vision that includes them. They want to benefit from the natural resources that have been squandered or under-utilized. This era is the era where there is pervading doubt about both parties and the younger voters want to see real change and real accountability and transparency. In my conversations with many young people, they do not want to vote for either of the major parties, but they realize that the fringe parties do not have the support to change election outcomes, so many are in a quandary.


WHERE ARE WE HEADED

There have been many advances in thinking about elections, but some of the old ideas are still pervasive. The idea that your MP must stop by your house personally, or buy you something, is totally unrealistic. It would actually take about 10 to 13 years for an MP to visit each home in their constituency, if they visited one family a day, 365 days a year. We need to change our thinking and focus on ideas that will achieve the objectives of a better Bahamas, rather than which MP stopped by for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. Paving the road or fixing up the community is simply the MP taking taxpayers’ money and doing what should have been done long before an election. There is no applause due for using the public purse and claiming some special altruism.

Hopefully, this election will be closer to the destiny of ideas, vision and track record being the determining factors as opposed to simply repeating the same old rehashed ideas. We are evolving but are we there yet? No, not yet.

• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to pastordaveburrows@hotmail.com. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange. 

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