At the Forest, Exuma — Fred Mitchell MP
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buy cialis times;”>Remarks by Fred Mitchell MP
Minister of Foreign Affairs
At the Forest, Exuma
42nd Anniversary Of The Independence of The Bahamas
On a really hot and sunny day way back 17 years ago in Mt. Thompson outside the 7th Day Adventist Church, the then MP for this area Elliott Lockhart, myself and several pastors stood on the beach side and took a picture to mark the then 25th anniversary of the independence of The Bahamas. I was then 39 years old. I am 61 now. I was a Senator then and in Opposition and I had come back to renew acquaintances with a people who I had been introduced to as a young politician on the make back in 1977 by George Smith and Livingstone Coakley.
I am a Minister of the Government today.
After that year, with perhaps a missing year or two, I have been back every year at this time. It is heartening to hear how many people remember it and that I do it. It is a hard habit to break and I am honoured and privileged to become a part of your ceremony every year.
My colleagues often ask why do I come to Exuma. My reply is always the same: the nation is not Nassau. This nation is an archipelagic one. If I had the power, the government would be dispersed to every island for this occasion so that the people can have a political representative of the central government on their independence day.
Last Sunday, I had the occasion to speak to the Bahamian community in Delray Beach. I reminded them that most of the founders of the country have left us. Those that are left have fading memories. It therefore falls to us to remember and pass on the stories of how we came to be where we are.
Independence was not and is not the panacea of all ills. It is easy in the light of history to think that it was better in Egypt than it is in the promised land. You all remember the story of the children of Israel, just before they got to the promised land, asking to go back to Egypt. There was of course no going back then and there is no turning back now.
Independence provided us with the ability to make our own decisions. We became and we are the masters and mistresses of our own fates. We have been left a good heritage and a strong tradition.
You have only to look at the faces of Rev. Irwin Clarke and Mary Dames as but two of the names of those who were there at the beginning. It is a strong tradition.
This year the celebrations in Exuma have been stepped up a notch with a new Administrator in the person of Neil Campbell and the dynamic team which now leads your local government under Chief Councilor Leonard Dames and amongst them is Alverez Ferguson who is a leader here in the Forest. I am honoured to be in the company of your Member of Parliament Anthony Moss and my friend, who himself is the son of one of the leaders of the independence generation L E Moss.
People give you the impression that when the British hauled down their flag and left the country on the Royal Yacht that they left a neat little package and told us go for yourself. My recollection is that they left a country that had been built almost from scratch by the Bahamian people themselves dating back from 1967 when the priorities changed and education became the number one item in the budget which continues today.
The British left us as a gift at independence the Police College at Oakes Field which they built for the princely sum of 800,000 dollars.
They told us go for yourself.
Today we have a thriving country with challenges to be sure but we have a high level of income and a generally healthy and well educated population and we chart our own course.
Today I sat in the Barber shop of Roosevelt McKenzie getting a haircut.
As people sat you could make certain general observations: people were confident; one of the leaders of the country could walk into a barber shop and not be hassled or afraid for security reasons; the children mixed with the adults without fear.
I asked the barber whether or not the little boys who came in who were all with bare feet whether this was bare feet because they had no shoes or barefoot by choice. He said they simply liked to run about without their shoes.
One youngster pushed his head into the shop and with an open smile, said to an adult sitting waiting for a trim: when you’re finished can I go with you. The man replied of course but remember I am going home because I have work to do. The boy broke out into smile. Teeth well- formed healthy. Feet healthy. No issues. No malformed bones. No polio to worry about.
That is completely different from The Bahamas into which I was born. When I was a youngster in school we were given a cup of milk every day to guard against calcium deficiency. Polio vaccinations were the order of the day. And everyone got a small pox vaccination with a scratch on your side arm. Most people of my generation have the scar to show for it. Today much of that has disappeared.
You shouldn’t make too much out of just sitting in a barber shop but the general observation is of a healthy confident population—from the youngest to the oldest.
That is the confidence that we want to continue to build. I was struck when I went to the supermarket right next door and I was helped to find apples by a little girl who said her name was Jessica. Jessica was really confident herself and when she took me to the place, she asked if that was all I was looking for. And to her young male friend as I was leaving she asked if he knew who I was. She didn’t look to be more than ten.
That is why George Smith, Livingston Coakley, Irwin Clarke, L E Moss, E J Rolle, Charles Clarke and John Marshall and countless others agreed that The Bahamas should be an independent nation.
Let me leave you with this. You know that right now the Prime Minister is in the midst of a difficult mediation to get the Bahamar project in Cable Beach in Nassau back on track. It is clear that the developer acted irresponsibly by seeking to remove the fate of that development out of The Bahamas to the courts of the United States of America.
You heard the Prime Minister explain his role and his response to the attack by the developer on Mr. Christie personally. The Prime Minister questioned the man’s mental state.
You remember the late Sir Lynden Pindling who faced off before the NBC journalists in the United States and how he dealt with them as they accused him of being involved in political malfeasance. He said: “you all mussy crazy”.
So one Prime Minister Lynden Pindling set the stage, the lawyers call it precedent. The language was different but the thought the same. You can’t come to The Bahamas and talk to our leaders anyway you like. You gatta be crazy.
That’s why we are independent. No one can come in our country and talk to us any kind of way. This is our country. Those how don’t like how we do things here are free to find the door. Friends are welcomed to stay. When you do business here, there must be decorum and a respectful way to behave.
In that independence generation, if Carl Francis or Arthur Hanna or Loftus Roker who served as Ministers of Immigration were faced with the developer in The Bahamas of that day, he would not have lasted the next day within the borders of The Bahamas.
These are of course different times, kindler gentler days.
But my predecessor in Fox Hill used to say: not only one woman born a crazy child. If you could play crazy, I can play crazy too.
So I wish you in Exuma all the best at this independence day. I congratulate you all for all that you have achieved. Let us continue to work for all the children so that they can grow up to be strong, confident and free.
God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.