I would be grateful if you would be kind enough to publish this open letter to Simon of Front Porch of The Nassau Guardian. Thank you!
Hon. C A Smith
THE TRUE KEEPERS OF THE FLAME
As a mark of respect for our many years of friendship and the high regard which I hold for the high ethical journalistic standards which you have followed in the past, and in part was responsible for propelling you to the distinguished status as one of the finest journalist in this country, I am providing you with this advance copy of this open letter which is being submitted for publication.
This open letter to Simon of FRONT PORCH is written in direct response to Sir Arthur Foulkes who hides his identity by masquerading under the non-deplume “Simon”, “Bahama pundit” and whatever other names he gives himself in The Nassau Guardian and his letters to the press.
Dear Sir Arthur (oops Simon)
It pains me to have to publically respond to your viscous and unwarranted attack on my character in your opinion column in The Nassau Guardian of June 2nd 2016 by suggesting that my right to have and to share a political view that differs from yours in my support for Dr. Minnis as leader of the FNM is motivated by the hope for personal benefit and or gain.
For the more than fifty years that you and I have struggled together to institute, maintain, deepen and broaden democratic principles in our country, and watching from up close how fiercely you personally fought for the right of all persons to hold and to express their views without fear or favour, I am deeply disappointed that you have chosen to abandon such a basic tenant of democracy, violated your own conscience and publically attacked me on my God given right to hold a view that differs from yours.
Sir, because of what I learnt from you, I will always defend and respect your right to hold your views without ascribing improper motives and I expected no less from you but sadly you proved me dead wrong. In ascribing an improper motive to my decision to support Minnis because it differs from yours is nothing short of character assignation and gutter journalism which is unacceptable coming from someone of your long earned reputation. I expect nothing less than an unreserved public apology from you.
Let me be clear. I support Dr. Minnis for the very same reason that you have supported every elected government of The Bahamas for the last fifty years and that is because he was constitutionally elected on two separate occasions by an overwhelming majority of the FNM delegates in convention. The place to elect a leader is in convention not in the newspaper. The era of coup d’ tat is over and should never ever be contemplated in a democratic organization
For the record it is my considered opinion that the six MPs and others, who by their public utterances and ill-considered actions, are seeking to highjack the FNM party by continuing to undermine a duly elected leader have confirmed to me that they have little or no respect for the party’s constitution, its elected officers, the officers and members of their FNM Constituency Associations, our party supporters and the general public.
To my mind the treacherous actions of “The Six” also call into question their respect for the Bahamas Constitution and our Bahamian people in their blind campaign to remove Dr.Minnis at all costs. Their ultimatums, threats and “call to action” demonstrate their confusing efforts to undermine and destabilize the FNM party as these actions continue to erode public support for both themselves and our FNM party.
Their undemocratic, self-serving and nonsensical behavior falls far short of the legacy, traditions and commitment to democracy which are the hallmarks of the true keepers of the flame; a flame which, by the way, you along with others ignited, and which they are now busy incessantly throwing water on while publicly bemoaning concealing and denying their despicable leaks and threats.
As an active participant in the history of Bahamian party politics you must be acutely aware of the dangerously destructive path being followed by “The Six” which if pursued will only lead to a breakup and split from the FNM party as has happened on at least two occasions within living memory.
Their threats and undemocratic bullying and public bickering and constant leaks of internal party business to the press is killing the hope of the majority of Bahamians who yearn for a desperately needed change from this cruel inhumane and deviously corrupt PLP administration.
Your fancy words and slick attempts to rewrite history and glorify “the six” who have utterly failed to respect the decisions of the ultimate authority of the party do not alter the fact that the FNM party has a Constitution which all keepers of the flame must abide by.
It is a truism that those of us who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The script which “The Six” are now following has been followed before with disastrous consequences for our party. We remember well when in 1976 you exercised your democratic right to differ from some of us and skillfully used your superb writing abilities and your silvery oratory skills in leading the charge that successfully maneuvered the overthrow of Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield as FNM leader and resulted in a fractured party and a severe humiliating defeat for the FNM and your new BDP party at the polls. This panful experience moved P. Anthony White to pen these words of advice:
“No doubt again much pain and political fracture could have been avoided through consultation and open argument around the table, with egos checked at the door, and party generals and political middlemen kept at bay. For years in The Bahamas far too often around the political executive table and in the trenches there is mindless warring which dilutes the organization’s forward battle thrust, and especially at times when there is a desperate need for all hands on deck, and fully accountable. The ancient writer Thucydides presented an account of a battle during the Peloponnesian War which occurred on a beach during the invasion of Sicily by the Athenians. That confrontation took place at night, and the attacking army became so disoriented that in the darkness some of the soldiers were actually killing each other. There is a lesson there for politicians and political organizations who cannibalize inside their groups because they often confuse friend with foe, lashing out left and right, sometimes ignorantly, often with sinister deliberation, seldom pausing to ponder the possible effect on the cause at hand.
That has, over the many years, been the sad case in both the PLP and the FNM, both as government and as opposition. Back in the 19th century, the English poet Matthew Arnold commented on such a situation, no doubt drawing on the battle account rendered by Thucydides centuries before, whilst honeymooning with his bride near Dover Beach, Kent in England, penned the classic poem, DOVER BEACH…….Far too often in The Bahamas have political battles been lost because supposed allied soldiers war on darkling plains like ignorant armies clashing by night . . . for what it’s worth.”
Again I quote from the white boy:
“Back in 2001, when Mr. Ingraham took the decision that he was ready to step down from the FNM leadership, he caused the party to hold a special convention for the election of a leader-designate. Of the three principal candidates vying for that post – Tennyson Wells, Tommy Turnquest and Algernon Allen – Mr. Turnquest emerged as the winner. There was a great deal of bitterness in parts of the political camp of the FNM, which was at the time still the government of The Bahamas. That bitterness, and sometimes outward criticism of the party’s leadership, coupled with the issue of the February 2002 Referendum, conspired wickedly to energize the opposition PLP to mount its biggest and most expensive and flamboyant election campaign ever.
The FNM government lost the February 2002 Referendum, and on the heels of that defeat, in the May 2002 general elections, to a great extent because of division and disgruntlement in the party, and not necessarily at the rank and file level, the FNM went into and lost the 2 May 2002 general elections.”
The lesson for all of us who claim to be “children of Sir Cecil” and keepers of the flame is to check our egos and personal agendas at the door of the Convention in July and come prepared for wise and tolerant dialogue. Only in this way could we avoid further possible fracture and what could be disastrous results for us and our Bahamian people in the next general elections.
My record as a keeper of the flame is long and unblemished. When Sir Lynden Pindling at a PLP party convention invited those of us who dared to have an opposing view to “Cut bait or get the hell out of the boat” I was there, and I got the hell out of the boat
On the following night of the convention when Sir Cecil Wallace Whitfield resigned from the Cabinet of The Bahamas I was there.
On the Sunday afternoon when we were brutally attacked by the goon squad of the PLP for our right to hold an opposing view it was I who chaired the meeting.
On the Friday evening at a meeting at Mary Star of The Sea church hall in Freeport, when you coined the phrase “All together” which later became the rallying cry of the Free National Movement, I was there.
In 1970 when the Free National Movement contested the Bye Elections in The South Andros Constituency and opposition voices were almost wiped out to be consigned to the dustbin of history and silenced forever I was there
At South Ocean Club when the thrust of your verbal knife was so deadly that Sir Cecil turned to you and was heard to say “Et tu Brute” I was there.
In 1992 when The Free National Movement finally ushered in an era of real democracy, opened up the airways and institutionalized the right for all Bahamians to express their differing points of view both you and I were there.
Sir Arthur, during the half a century of our acquaintance, friendship and brotherhood you earned my respect as the champion of the right to have, hold and express differing points of view and so you must understand how painful it is for me when I now realize that my champion of free thought and free speech has taken the cowardly way out and stooped to new lows by hiding behind a non-deplume (Simon) to suggest that I am betraying my political roots and the proud legacy of the FNM for personal benefit.
This begs the question what personal benefit do you expect in return for your betrayal of all that you fought for in respecting our right to differ? I do not and will not ever deny you your democratic right to hold your wrong opinion of my decision but you do not, I repeat do not, have the right to hide behind a non- deplume while you besmirch my character. This is a cowardly act.
It is painful to see you having to resort to such unethical journalistic tactics in the twilight of such a long, distinguished and statesman like life as yours. Yours is a rich legacy my friend. Please do not let the epithet on your grave be “Here lays the body of Sir Arthur Foulkes, KCMG a true Bahamian statesman who betrayed his long held principle of defending to the death the individual’s right to free thought and so he died as Simon the coward”
C. A. Smith
Former Cabinet Minister and former Ambassador