ADDRESS BY THE RT. HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE AT NGC

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ADDRESS

BY

THE RT. HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE

TO

THE NATIONAL GENERAL COUNCIL

OF

THE PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY

May 15th, 2017

 

Stalwart Councillors, Mr. National Chairman and Party Officers, Members of the National General Council, Ladies & Gentlemen:

 

I began my life in politics way back in the early 1960’s when I became the youngest member of what was known as the radical wing of the PLP, a group that called itself The National Committee for Positive Action.

 

I was just a young lad back then but the inspiration of warriors in the Party like Lynden Pindling, Arthur Hanna, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield and Arthur Foulkes, among others, filled me with a great desire to play my part in the surging struggle for Majority Rule. And so I did.

 

A little later, after going off to the University of Birmingham in England to read law, I conceived the idea of a radical pressure group to agitate for fundamental political, economic, and social change in our country. I convinced my dear friend, B.J. Nottage, who at the time was studying Medicine at Aberdeen University in Scotland, to join with me in this venture.

 

The result was the formation of a group called “UNICOLL”.  Launched in 1966, it later evolved into what became known as UNICOMM. It was unquestionably the most consequential political think-tank and pressure group of its time. And out of it many of our nation’s future leaders emerged as well.

 

After I was called to the bar, I threw myself, mind, body and soul, into politics. I did so under the banner of the PLP and played my part in the historic movement for Independence, including the tumultuous General Election campaign of 1972.

 

In 1974, I made my initial entry into Parliament when I was appointed to the Senate for the PLP.  I served our Party there until 1977. That was the year – 40 years ago this year – that I was first elected for what would turn out to be eight (8) consecutive terms as the Member of Parliament for Centreville under its various name-changes.

 

It was not until May 10th – Wednesday of last week – that I was defeated for the first time in what I had earlier announced would be my last election campaign.  Based on the recount, I lost my bid for re-election by a mere 4 votes.

 

Despite that loss, I am thankful to the people of Centreville for having given me their support so faithfully over the course of 40 years – longer than any other person has ever served continuously as a member of parliament for the same constituency in our country’s history.

 

And just for the record, although I am advised that that there are good grounds for doing so, I will not be taking the Centreville election any further; there will be no petition to the Election Court.  Instead I accept the result of the Centreville election.

 

In so doing, I extend my congratulations to Mr. Reese Chipman and wish him every success as the new MP-elect for Centreville.

 

I also re-affirm what I said on Wednesday night, namely, that I accept the will of the Bahamian people, as expressed in the results of the General Election as a whole. I therefore wish our new Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert Minnis, and his government every success in tackling the onerous challenges that lie ahead. I am a PLP but I am first and foremost a patriot who wishes my country well at all times irrespective of which Party is in power.

 

I also extend my thanks to the many thousands of Bahamians who, against great odds and obstacles, still saw their way clear to throw their support behind the PLP last Wednesday. I know how difficult it must have been for many of them to do so. I am grateful for their support and deeply moved by their loyalty to our Party.

 

I extend these same sentiments to my colleagues in the PLP who stood shoulder to shoulder with me, either as candidates or as campaign generals and workers. I am grateful for your many sacrifices and for your loyalty and support not only during the campaign but all through the years.

 

I reserve for special thanks the Stalwart Councillors and other members of this National General Council who have been by my side for the 20 years that I was given the honour of leading our Party. You always had my back. You were always there for me. I thank you for your loyal support and for your wisdom and guidance and, most especially, for your unstinting love all through the years of my leadership.

 

I save the best and most important for last – for Bernadette, my dear wife of 43 years, our children, and our family, words cannot convey the depth of my love and appreciation for you. I know how much this whole election experience has impacted you. I only wish that I could have spared you the outrageously false and vicious lies that were propagated against you all through the campaign. Forgive me for not being able to protect you from these vile assaults.

 

As for those who voted against us, or who did not come out to support us at the polls, I want you to know that I hold no bitterness toward you. On the contrary, I think I have a much deeper understanding now of what many of you were saying to us.

 

It is important to our Party that it understands the messages of the electorate. We need to come to terms with the mistakes we made and humble ourselves before the people with an admission of our failures even as we speak of our successes. This is critical to the re-building of our Party.

 

Our Party has responded to this challenge of re-building before and I am supremely confident that our Party shall do so again.

 

I recall most poignantly in this regard the great defeat our Party suffered in 1997, winning only 5 seats out of 40 in the General Election of that year. But who can forget that just five years later, we came storming back, under a new Leader, winning a 28 seat victory in the General Elections of 2002.

 

Going back even further in time, we can recall that in 1965, when our Party was in opposition, four of our parliamentary members broke away, later forming a new party – the NDP – under the leadership of the late Hon. Paul Adderley.

 

That reduced our numbers in the House to just 4 members – the same number we have today. And yet in less than two years we won the government for the first time with our historic victory in the General Election of January 10th, 1967.

 

So, we have been in this place before. And we have been there more than once. We can win again just as we did in 1967 and in 2002 after coming back from a decimation of our numbers in Parliament.

 

So, I want you too keep those historical precedents before you as you set about re-building the Party.

 

There is another part of the nation’s recent political history that should give us great encouragement as well. It is this: we have not had a two-term government now for 20 straight years. Every single General Election since 1997 has produced a government for just one term. This means that the historical odds favour a return of the PLP in the near future – but only if we do the right things to re-build our Party to prove itself worthy once again of the trust of the Bahamian people.

 

We did this most notably after our crushing defeat in 1997 out of which came an authentic “New PLP” as we proclaimed it then. And as I have said, and say again, in just five short years we rose from the ashes under new leadership to once again lead our nation.

 

Mr. National Chairman, Fellow Councillors:

 

During the course of my four decades in the House of Assembly, I was given the great honor to lead our nation as Prime Minister for two non-consecutive terms: from 2002 to 2007; and again from 2012 to May 2017.

 

I can never thank the Bahamian people enough for having accorded me that signal honour, not once but twice. I shall forever be grateful.

 

I was also given the high honor of serving in various PLP administrations between 1977 and 1992 as a Minister holding diverse portfolios, including Tourism, National Insurance, Agriculture, Trade & Industry. I gratefully record my thanks and appreciation of the late Sir Lynden Pindling and the people of The Bahamas for having afforded me these opportunities as well.

 

Looking back on my service to the people of The Bahamas over all these many years, I am moved to say this: to the extent that I was able to improve and strengthen our nation and its people during my time in Parliament or in government, whether as Prime Minister, as a Minister of the Government, or as the Leader or as a member of the Opposition, I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to do so.

 

Equally, however, let me say this: to the extent that I failed to meet the expectations of our people in any respect at any time, I am truly and deeply sorry.

 

In the current climate, so soon after what was, by most accounts, the most acrimonious General Election in recent memory, I cannot, and do not, expect a balanced assessment of my successes and failures. That would be asking too much, too soon.

 

It is nonetheless my prayerful hope that when, many years from now, the verdict of history is rendered on my service to the Bahamian people, the good that I did will be seen to outweigh the bad.

 

I am particularly proud of the transformative things that I was able to introduce during my time in public life, particularly during the term in office just ended.

 

Things like:

 

  • NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE which, more than anything any government of The Bahamas has ever conceived before, promises not only to improve, but to actually save the lives of thousands of Bahamians for generations to come. Yes, there is still a long way to go with NHI, but at last we have now put in place the essential parts of a functioning system that will – provided it isn’t scrapped – stop poor, struggling Bahamians from dying simply because they have no health insurance. I’m really so very proud of what our PLP Government did to bring us closer to that reality through National Health Insurance.

 

  • URBAN RENEWAL is another innovation of which I am especially proud to claim as part of what I hope will be my enduring legacy. This programme, much replicated now around the world, has done so much to re-engineer community upliftment and inner-city support for the young and elderly alike, while, at the same time, broadening the involvement of law enforcement agencies in a way that inspires greater public confidence in them as agents for good.

 

  • BAMSI is another innovation that fills me with pride as I look back on my accomplishments tonight. We have talked a great deal about economic diversification and self-reliance over the years but BAMSI, with all its growing pains, bears every promise of finally bringing us to a realization of these long-held aspirations. BAMSI has, at the same time, awakened the sleeping giant of Andros so that it can better actualize its vast potential for the development of our agricultural and marine resources.

 

  • The National Training Agency is another innovation that I was proud to introduce during our term in office just ended. Already more than 3000 Bahamians have been trained to take up well-paying jobs in our economy as they become available.

 

  • Tax Reform is another area of achievement that we can look upon with pride. I am only too well aware that VAT has been an exceptionally painful thing for ordinary, struggling Bahamians to contend with in their daily lives. But it was absolutely correct for us to bring in VAT when we did. Without VAT, our nation’s revenue system might well have sunk. Instead, with VAT, and thanks to VAT, we now have a greatly expanded revenue base that will better enable us to meet the financial costs of public administration, including the civil service payroll, debt-service and support for our vital national institutions well into the future. Where did the VAT money go? The new administration will soon find out that every penny earned from VAT went straight into the Consolidated Fund and came back out to meet the same three things I just mentioned : the financial costs of governance (including the civil service payroll), debt-service, and support for our vital national institutions.

 

The National Development Plan is another innovation that I’m so very proud of.  Thanks to this, we now have for the first time in our history a comprehensive blueprint for the systematic development of our nation over the next 25-30 years. In place of the knee-jerk, ad hoc model for national development we have followed all through the years, we now have a rational, clearly thought-out plan to guide the government of the day, be it PLP, FNM or anybody else. This, I believe, is going to be positively transformative for our nation in the years ahead – provided we stick with it and follow the plan. It is a roadmap for sustainable progress for generations to come.

 

Securing our Borders is another major objective that we were able to bring great success to in our term in office just ended. In particular, with the expansion of the fleet of the Royal Bahamas Defense Force, we are now achieving major success in curbing the encroachments of foreign fishermen in our waters while at the time making us much more effective in intercepting migrant-laden vessels.

 

Taking Control of our Airspace is another vitally important thing that happened during this last term in office. Not only does this fortify our sovereignty over our airspace but it also provides the framework for substantial new revenue streams from the commercial use of our airspace.

 

  • The modernization of the National Flag Carrier’s fleet is another achievement during our term in office of which we should feel very proud.

 

  • The Agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines for a brand new 200 million dollar port in Grand Bahama is yet another accomplishment that we should feel proud of having introduced on our watch.

 

  • Saving Baha Mar is the 11th and final accomplishment of my administration that I should like to mention tonight. In saving Baha Mar, we have helped create a new and major source of employment and entrepreneurial empowerment for our people, especially our young.

 

The list of accomplishments goes on and on, particularly in the areas of educational development and Foreign Affairs, but time does not permit a comprehensive litany of all that we did to advance the interests of our country in ways that will only become evident in the months and years ahead once all the noise has died down and a serious, balanced study of our administration is undertaken.

 

Mr. National Chairman, Fellow Councillors:

 

Having said what I have, I come now to this:

 

  • I accept full responsibility for our Party’s defeat in the General Election of May 10th, 2017.

 

  • I also accept, without reservation, that the best traditions of our democracy, no less the impulses of my own conscience and value-system, dictate that I resign as the Leader of our Party. This is the correct and only thing for me to do from both a political and moral perspective.

 

  • I ask you all, please, to respect the finality of my decision. It is absolute and irrevocable. And it is the right thing to do.

 

  • Accordingly, I hereby resign as the Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party with immediate effect.

 

And so, tonight, my beloved fellow Councillors of our great Party, I bid you farewell as your Leader. I have run my course. I have finished the race. The time has come for me to move on.

 

I have given my entire adult life to the service of the Bahamian people. There have been ups and downs along the way but all in all, I’ve had a good run, and helped a lot of our people along the way. I wish to God that I could have helped more but God knows that for all my faults and failings as a Leader and as a man, I tried my best to do the best that I could do for the Bahamian people, my people, the best people in whole wide world.

 

It is therefore with deepest love and undying gratitude that I say to you once more, thank you so much for everything that you have done for me and for our Party all through our many years together.

 

I pledge my support for our Party and for its future leadership. I make this pledge without equivocation.

 

My prayers go with you as you continue your political journey and may Almighty God continue to watch over you, and direct your steps, as you set yourselves now to the re-building of our Party under new leadership.

 

I love you all.

 

Thank you and good night.