TO THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THE PRIME MINISTER
& MINISTER OF FINANCE
AND MEMBER FOR CENTREVILLE
THE RT. HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE
Wednesday, 9th January 2013
January 10th, which falls tomorrow, is a day in the national calendar that belongs to all Bahamians, black and white, rich and poor, young and old, city dweller and Family Islander, and, yes, PLP, FNM, DNA and independent alike. It belongs to all of us.
January 10th should be commemorated and celebrated by all of us because it represents one of the most singular moments in our evolution as a people.
Indeed, Mr. Speaker, with the exception of Emancipation from Slavery in 1834 and the attainment of Independence in 1973, there is no event of greater consequence and historical importance than the attainment of Majority Rule on January 10th, 1967.
Indeed, there are some persons, most notably our Governor-General, Sir Arthur Foulkes, who have long been on record with the view that the attainment of Majority Rule is even more historically significant than either Emancipation or the attainment of Independence.
There is much to commend that point of view because in truth January 10th, 1967 represents the moment of transition from the old Bahamas to a New Bahamas; from minority government to Majority Rule; from an oligarchy to an authentic democracy founded on the principles of true universal adult suffrage; principles which only achieved expression in The Bahamas on January 10th, 1967 – forty-five (45) years ago tomorrow.
January 10th represents one of the highest peaks in the historic – and still ongoing – struggle of the Bahamian people for economic empowerment, for equality of opportunity, and for social justice.
It was an enormously important milestone in a continuing journey that was begun centuries ago when some anonymous slave struck the first blow for freedom in our land.
That same journey continued with slaves like Pompey in Exuma and Black Dick in Cat Island who, with others, in the early 1830’s, struck their blow for freedom and for justice against the most overwhelming odds.
The journey continued with pioneers like Stephen Dillet, Thomas Minns and John P. Deane who struck their blow for racial equality when in 1834, following years of agitation and struggle for the right to vote and the right to stand for election, they won election to the House of Assembly – the very first men of colour to do so in our history.
The journey continued with fearless warriors like James Carmichael Smith who, in the 1880’s, struck his own blow by agitating for a more just and equitable society. He did so both as a Member of this Assembly for the Western District of New Providence and as a tireless advocate outside the House for black empowerment and social justice.
The journey continued in the 1920s, and 30s and 40s, with men like W.P. Adderley, Etienne Dupuch, T.A. Toote, Leon Walton Young, C.R. Walker, Milo Boughton Butler, and Maxwell Thompson, who, each in his own way, struck a major blow for a better Bahamas.
The journey continued in the 1950’s with men like Clifford Darling and Clarence Bain; H.M. Taylor, Cyril Stevenson and William Cartwright; and Randol Fawkes who, as the Father of the trade union movement, galvanized the labouring masses.
Most pivotally of all, the historic journey, of which I speak, continued in the 1950’s and 60’s with Lynden Pindling, and that mighty band of brothers and sisters who joined with him to fight for a new Bahamas and to help build a new Bahamian, upward-striving and free.
These men and women who fought so hard with Sir Lynden to make Majority Rule possible included the likes of A. D. Hanna, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Carlton Francis, Randol Fawkes, Doris Johnson, Georgianna Symonette, Eugenia Lockhart, Arthur Foulkes, Clement Maynard, Andrew “Dud” Maynard, Paul Adderley, Orville Turnquest and all the many others who played their part, be it for however long or short, be it however great or small, in advancing the progress of the Bahamian people through organized protest and political struggle.
I salute all the persons I have named and my colleagues and I give thanks to Almighty God for having sent them our way at a time in our history when we needed them most.
And the struggle continues still. It continues with persons of my generation and, of far greater significance for the future, it continues with the younger generation that is so ably represented in the halls of Parliament today on both sides of the political divide.
The struggle that culminated in the great victory of the PLP on January 10th, 1967 and the concomitant attainment of Majority Rule endures. It remains unfinished. Our work is never done.
But however that may be, we still pause and use these anniversaries to remind ourselves of the greatness and importance of January 10th, 1967 in the annals of Bahamian history, and to re-commit ourselves to the spirit of struggle and of sacrifice that guided those who came before us and who made January 10th 1967 possible.
Let us therefore remind ourselves, as January 10th dawns once again, that the chains of the Bahamian people were broken on that day 46 years ago. And with our hands thus unchained, we stretched forth those hands for the first time in the New World to hug and hold the freedom that had been won at such great cost by the struggles of so many.
We remind ourselves of that today even as we re-commit ourselves to the unfinished struggle that lies before us.
In closing, let me say that in the same way that Emancipation Day and Independence Day are observed as public holidays in The Bahamas in recognition of their surpassing historical importance to us as a people, it is my very firm conviction that January 10th should be observed in exactly the same way.
I therefore commit myself and my Government to making January 10th a national public holiday during our present term in office, and to do so, moreover, as early in this term as is practicable.
May the example of courage and sacrifice that guided our forbears in the struggle for Majority Rule continue to inspire and guide all of us in the years ahead.