Former MP and Ambassador for The Bahamas, Cornelius A. Smith, spoke to the Rotary Club of Lucaya on Tuesday during their weekly meeting at the Ruby Swiss Restaurant on the Independence celebrated 43 years ago and the positives that followed, before today’s landscape with clouds building on the horizon forewarns of a recipe for disaster if not fixed.
Speaking on the topic – ‘Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow,’ the guest speaker stated, “1973 was a year of promise, a year of jubilation, excitement, expectation and of great challenge for every Bahamian.
“The year earlier, 1972, the people of The Bahamas voted convincingly for independence for The Bahamas and during the period between elections and July 10, 1973, the country as well as its citizens were being prepared for this new and exciting, but unchartered experience.”
Sharing that he along with the others who shared in the first Independence Ceremony in 1973 vividly remember the thumping hearts that were felt as pride swelled as the lowering of the Union Jack occurred and the Bahamian flag rose in the cool balmy breeze, Smith said it was “an experience I will never forget.
“Excitement was everywhere. Mothers, fathers and school children were excited about the opportunities that this new found freedom called independence was supposed to usher in.”
The former MP stated that as the country celebrates its 43rd year after independence, it is appropriate to take a good look at the national landscape to determine if the jubilation is warranted and expectations met.
Smith acknowledged that during the early years after independence, the visible trappings of independence were fulfilled. “In accordance with our new Constitution, Sir Milo Butler Sr. was appointed as the personal representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. At independence, we agreed to accept and follow the Westminster model of governance and ministerial form of government was established.
Former Ambassador Smith furthered that during the early years of independence, the country was very successful after setting up the Constitution and appointing Sr. Milo Butler Sr., as Her Majesty the Queen’s representative.
“The new and independent government hit the global arena of International affairs with lightening speed and we bust with pride as we took our rightful places as full contributing members of the important international and regional bodies.
“For the first time, Bahamians and not Englishmen represented us at the United Nations, the Commonwealth Nations, The Organization of the Americas, and CARICOM. We established Embassies, Consulates and Honorary Consuls,” Smith reminded.
At home, Smith shared National Insurance, a Defence Force, and College of The Bahamas were established and developed along with a cadre of professionally trained civil servants, and an upward mobile middle class.
Addressing the Rotarians, Smith furthered that on the economic front, the country moved away from being dependent on pot hole farming and fishing to an economy leading in Financial Services and a thriving tourist destination.
“Here in Freeport, we can boast of developing the largest deep water harbor and cargo shipment facilities in the region,” Smith acknowledged. “Our standard of living improved greatly where in this region only the U.S. and Canada can boast of having a higher per capita income than us,” Smith said.
After sharing the positives, the former Ambassador turned to the whirlwind of a downward spiral the country is presently experiencing.
Smith spoke of the D average education system, the brain drain, mothers raising children alone, alternative lifestyles, and the growing number of criminal gangs, violent crimes, robbery, rapes and murder.
“The fear of crime and criminality activities stalks our land and our citizens are worried about the future and quality of life issues,” the speaker continued.
Today’s landscape, Smith acknowledged, has clouds building on the horizon – a country characterized by, a slow-growth economy, an unstable high public debt level, rising unemployment, an increasing poverty level, a decreasing middle class, and an unusually high level of homelessness and hopelessness.
“This deadly cocktail mix is the recipe for the perfect storm that could ferment into social discord, disorder and national disaster. It is time for Bahamians of all walks of life and of all political persuasion to come to batten down the hatch and find workable solutions to reduce the impact of the impending storm,” Smith warned.
Addressing the Rotary president, Smith admitted Bahamians have been tempted to throw in the towel and give up; however, he urged the Rotarians to try to adjust their thinking as a sailor does when he, as a pessimist, complain about a lack of wind, while the optimist waits for the wind to change and the realist adjusts his sails. “You must adjust your thinking and options to meet the risk and opportunities that the future holds,” Smith encouraged.
Admitting that he wants to be excited about the 43rd Anniversary celebrations and the excitement, expectations and promise of our forefathers in 1973, he then laid out his dream. “A transparent and accountable government comprising of men and women who subscribe to the principle that government should be of laws rather than of men. Strict financial election laws which prohibits policy makers being held hostages to the highest bidder because of contributions made by individuals to a particular party or individual.
“Fiscal Responsibility legislation that would, force future governments to, live within their income. An independent Director of Public Prosecution. Deep and strong institutionalized democratic values with a system of elected local government throughout the Commonwealth.”
The former Ambassador’s dream for the future also included a more diversified economy, which exploits natural resources, a business-friendly environment that supports scientific research, technological developments and creative industries, an affordable National Health Program along with a social security system that leaves no man hungry, a place of meaningful growth where light industries, transshipment and logistics are maximized, and finally a country where the answer to young men’s problems are not by the barrel of a gun.
“A place where Bahamians everywhere would always have that yearning to return to and be proud to acknowledge that The Bahamas is the best little country to live, to work, to play, and to visit,” Smith added.
In concluding, the guest speaker invited the Rotarians to join in building the nation that is dreamt of, and left them with this message “Work like you don’t need the money; Love like nobody has hurt you; Dance like no one is watching; Sing like no one is listening; Live like this is paradise on earth; and Stand for something, otherwise you will fall for anything. Create a vision for your life and for your country and be determined, focused, passionate and hard working. Go forth and do good things for yourself, your family and your country.”
Published Thursday, July 14, 2016