Under the theme, ‘Past Present and Future,’ the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) hosted a Majority Rule Symposium at the Kevin G. Tomlinson Academy yesterday – Wednesday, January 9.
Speakers for the event included Cynthia Donaldson, who fought with the Women’s Suffrage Movement; former Minister for Grand Bahama, Dr. Michael Darville; PLP Deputy Chair, Robyn Lynes and Former Minister of Tourism and MP for West End and Bimini, Obie Wilchcombe.
The evening was a time of awareness as well as a celebration for those who shaped and moulded the country and Wilchcombe challenged Bahamians to continue to fight for change.
“We have had two revolutions in our country, thus far. We have had a quiet revolution, which led to Majority Rule and we have had a social revolution, which came in 1969 … all part of what was envisioned by Sir Lynden Pindling.
“The social revolution came after the visible division, when Pope John Paul II came to The Bahamas and Sir Lynden said he wanted to borrow his words.”
Wilchcombe quoting Sir Lynden said, “we will assist the poor, heal the sick, guide the youth and bring peace to every heart.
“Whether we know it or not, we have been a part of a revolution and whether we accept it or not, we have been a part of a revolution that has gone from stage-to-stage,” said Wilchcombe.
“That is why we are where we are. Through this, every single person in this room, every single Governor General in this country past and present, every single prime minister in this country past and present, and every minister would not have been able to ascend the offices had it not been for Majority Rule.
“Singularly, the most important accomplishment in our life, without the nation’s founding founders giving birth to a nation, we would not have had Independence.
“You must understand that when we review what has happened over the many years, the question is what has happened to us and where is our voice?”
Wilchcombe continued, focusing on Women’s Suffrage Movement and how they fought for the rights of gender equality.
“When we listen to the suffrage movement and what they did, the fact that they came together as FNM or UBP, it didn’t matter what they were at that time –the women came together.
“They came together and drew a body that would see women getting the rights to vote and also causing men to get the rights to vote to that particular age.
“When we look at what is happening now and the difficulties we face in The Bahamas, I believe that those that lead us today don’t have an appreciation of the journey that we have travelled,” exclaimed Wilchcombe.
“They don’t understand at all the steps that were taken, and so therefore they will do things not understanding that how it will impact the journey, how does it impact the movement, and how does it impact our nation.
“Everything we do reflects on today, and the mistakes we are making today as we did yesterday. We want to get beyond this, and if we don’t cause it to be better, the argument presented by those who don’t want to see change, will persist.
“I’m sitting back trying to figure out, when are we going to fight again, when are we going to raise our voices again, and when are we going to stand again.
“We can talk about this stuff all the time, but then what is next, the fulfillment of the movement is to continue it. It is to make things happen,” he added.
Wilchcombe said that as a civilian commemorating Majority Rule is not a one-time awareness.
“I celebrate Majority Rule every day, but Majority Rule must be celebrated by our thought, our word, our action, what we do, what we educate and by talking to our people.
“There are 40,000 Bahamians living below the poverty line and that is majority rule. Our job is to constantly work for the change, and fight for change.
“We have to look at the paradigm every day, we have to adjust where we must, and we have to make the change,” said Wilchcombe.
Speaking to the educational system and economic empowerment, Lynes, spoke on the future. “Someone said, in this society, Bahamians find themselves in a contradiction for a socio-economic point of view.
“We live in a society where the minority controls and dictates whether that is directly or indirectly the lifestyle of the majority of the poor and those of this country expressed Lynes.
“When we talk about true economic empowerment, we have to look within and not without.
“I love foreign direct investment just like everybody else, but you have to understand something very simple; when people come in your country and invest your money they are doing you no favor.
“The reality of it is, we are getting the pennies in the dollar, but for us as Bahamians, we need to create opportunities sensitized to our own investments for me and you,” said Lynes.
“Why can’t we own hotels and why can’t we get crown land to bring major investments in the country of our birth,” he asked. “We keep talking about economic empowerment, as if it is something we have to fight for.
“The problem with my generation is that we are in a house we did not build, and it’s like we are accustomed to things that our fore- mothers and forefathers only dreamed to have, and to see.
“Majority of persons who were not able to afford education were going to school until age 10 and 11 and they were being taught by 13 and 14-year-olds who not only just finished school themselves.
“When you had to take the common entrance examination and you had to be at a certain level for you to even enter into school, then it means that if you weren’t able to afford proper education, you couldn’t pass the exam.
“All of these were ‘BARS,’” said Lynes.
“The entrance examination for Government High School was very hard and challenging. Could you imagine that only 18 - 25 students were getting in at a maximum.
“So, look at how high the threshold had to be, and we changed all of that. Today in our Bahama land, because we have 158 Government schools educating over 50,000 students.
“The truth of the matter is that, that is a great accomplishment, but is it more quantitative than it is qualitative. What is the level of our education that our children are getting in these 158 schools?
“We vowed as a party coming into power in 1967, we vowed that education would be more accessible than it has been.
“We promised that it would be a right and wrong privilege and it is, but now the focus has to be on the quality of education and our approach to it.
“We know we have serious problems in our schools, and we know we have serious issues in our schools, even in the way we teach.
“So, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars on education, but post Majority Rule, are we getting value for our money?
“But the thing about it is that our children are graduating and are not even qualified to enter the workforce in any instances.
“Those that are qualified continue to stay in countries where they study, because proper employment in their professional field is either scarce or unavailable.
“When I started to think about the future, I asked myself the question, Majority Rule, now what?
“It can be argued that Majority Rule 1967 is one of the most important days of our history, because without it, Independence would still be a distant thought.
“We have to change the way we educate our people, we don’t learn the same way, and we don’t gravitate towards information the same way.
“We have everything we need in this country to succeed, but for some reason we still have this fear when we can’t do it on our own. The opportunities are already there; we just need to move forward,” concluded Lynes.