By Erin Ferguson
Nassau, Bahamas – Having grown up as an Anglican, with the influence of a Baptist grandmother, I can remember sitting at her feet, and listening to her sing that old hymn, while exclaiming the phrase “LEST I FORGET”! The current political saga over these past few weeks has brought back the nostalgia of my grandmother’s singing; especially when analysing the unfolding “Battle Royale” raging within the Progressive Liberal Party.
The hymn is entitled “Lead Me to Calvary”. The focal point of the hymn is found in the chorus which states: “Lest I forget Gethsemane, Lest I forget Thine agony, Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary.”
Calvary in the Christian Faith is the apex moment of the faith; it is the place where the greatest sacrifice was made so that all sins could be forgiven. Calvary also represents the place where salvation and victory is won. It gave us the confidence to move forward into a bright future with the banner of righteousness and truth.
The PLP has brought about moments like these in its past like Black Tuesday in 1965, Majority Rule in 1967, and the Independence of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas in 1973, LEST WE FORGET! These defining moments demonstrated the party’s consummate understanding of the people’s plight, and its unrelenting will to sacrifice in order to yield the change needed at the time.
However, the song suggests that no matter how great our history or how monumental the sacrifice, it is our tendency as a people to forget. There is an inherent inclination to forget the agony, strife and love that are the precursors to true freedom and liberation.
And so the nostalgic memory of Grammy’s hymn LEST I FORGET, resurrects within me a simple question, has the nation’s oldest political party forgotten its own existential Calvary?
A brief survey of History would show that this party is one that has lived through agony, has shown great love for the people, and has had the ability and continues to embody the potential to lead the nation into a brighter future, LEST THEY FORGET.
I feel that it is incumbent upon me to draw your attention to October of 1973, at the 18th national convention, or the “Independence Convention” of the Progressive Liberal Party, Sir Lynden O. Pindling gave a speech entitled “The PLP: Past and Future” in which he outlined the plan and intent of the party’s own process of self discovery and self actualization and also the need of the party to remain relevant and press on into the future.
Sir Lynden O. Pindling is as clear as the gospel hymn in this “Calvary Moment” for the party, about the agony suffered to get to the present, the love needed for the people, and the appropriate way forward for the party in the future.
It is my sincere hope that after reflecting on this speech, PLP delegates, stalwart councillors, and members alike will begin to remember how it is that their party, the PLP, was expected from its very beginnings to symbolize the spirit of the Bahamian people, and to remain relevant to the people “In times like these when we need an anchor that holds and grips the solid rock”.
Excerpts from “The PLP: Past and Future”
“… Our Party has been through a great deal. It has championed every good cause; it has fought on every noble battlefield; and though we have lost our share of battles, we have never lost a war. Its crowning achievement was to lead our Nation to political maturity and independence. What now lies ahead?”
“We must not forget that the hopes and aspirations that we sought to fulfil were also those of twenty years ago. And we must not forget that twenty years is a long time during which many have come and gone and our revolutionary fervour might have dampened and waned.”
“Our Party, therefore, must not assume that it will find automatic support over the next twenty years in the oncoming generation. Their support has to be won like their father’s and mother’s was won. Yes, they do have free high school education but they take that for granted. That was a big deal for their parents but not so much for them. Yes, they can be a jet pilot, or a bank manager or Prime Minster; but so what? As far as they are concerned, in their country they are supposed to be able to become those things. Making it possible may have captured the imagination of their parents but it’s just one of those things to them.”
“This is a young Nation, whose population is young, whose population has young ideas and a new slate of goals to conquer. …This is a generation which has its own ideas about what it wants to do for the Nation and what it wants the Nation to do for it. Here is where the… work is cut out for our Party; here is where the real political action will be.
“The Progressive Liberal Party must not become a conservative party; we must not be afraid of change; we must not lose our radical zeal; we must continue to be progressive and liberal. New and better ideas arise each day, expectations run higher each day, so conservatism will herald the death knell of our Party. …To stay on top, this Party must find new causes to champion and new social injustices to eradicate. And we must champion these causes and eradicate those injustices even if we discover them amongst ourselves.” Keynote address to the Progressive Liberal Party’s 18th National Convention in the Freeport, the first one held on a Family Island and the first one in an independent Bahamas. – October 15th, 1973.
Excerpts of “PLP: Past and Future” taken from “The Vision of Sir Lynden Pindling In His Own Words”. Compiled and edited by Patricia Beardsley Roker and published by the Estate of Sir Lynden Pindling.