On July 10, 1973, The Bahamas became a free and sovereign country, ending 325 years of British rule and for years the national holiday has been celebrated with a cultural extravaganza in Grand Bahama on the Independence Park.
This year the 46th Independence’s main celebratory event on the island will be held under the theme, ‘United We Stand Bahamas … Together We Can’ at an earlier date – today Monday, July 8.
Independence celebrations usually take place on July 9 in both Nassau and Freeport, and therefore, would have been impossible for any of the country’s head of state, the prime minister, to attend celebrations in Grand Bahama.
Now, with Grand Bahama’s event moved up to July 8, this year, the Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis will fly to Grand Bahama to celebrate with Grand Bahamians.
Chairperson of the Grand Bahama Independence Celebration Committee Senator Jasmin Dareus, revealed the reason behind the celebrations’ date change.
“The Grand Bahama Independence Celebration Committee was informed that the new Governor General, His Excellency Cornelius A. Smith, who is Grand Bahamian wanted to celebrate with us and so, in the effort to host him and have him at this official function we will have to have it on July 8 so that he could be in Nassau for the national function on July 9. So that was the reason for the change, having the Governor General, the prime minister and members of the Cabinet here on Grand Bahama to celebrate here with us,” said Sen. Dareus.
She added that this change was made essentially to express the spirit of unity and it is historical, because the Governor General and prime minister has never celebrated Independence at the Grand Bahama Cultural Extravaganza before.
“It’s an epic opportunity; it’s history in the making for us to have him in Grand Bahama and in addition to the Governor General, it’s our Governor General, it’s Grand Bahama’s Governor General; so, I think that makes it an extra special occasion for us to have him here,” she added.
As a result of the celebrations’ date change, The Freeport News took to the streets to get the residents’ perspective on the change along with their general take on the nation’s Independence.
Rasheema Ingraham told this daily that throughout the calendar year two things seem to unite Bahamians in celebrating their history – Junkanoo and Independence.
“Other than that, we really don’t come together to celebrate the history of The Bahamas and what we have overcome since our Independence. That is one of the celebrations we have not really built to the point where it should really be something that we’re celebrating daily,” she said.
She furthered that knowing that there are tradition and customs with the Independence celebrations, like the Tattoo and other cultural events to bring in Independence on July 10; therefore, to change that for a small number of persons forgetting that all Bahamians take part in this seems unfair.
“When we make decisions like this, I know we’re making decisions to accommodate our leaders and we know that they have extensive work schedules, but we don’t want to take away the spirit of Independence; so, have we really explained to the Bahamian people why this is being done and how they will benefit from it,” she said.
Another resident echoed similar sentiments, noting that it takes away from the patriotism of the holiday.
She also shared that it may affect the attendance of persons who would otherwise show up on Independence Park that night, because they may have work and other obligations the following morning.
Everette Marshall said that the change made no difference to him and that going forward he would like to see Bahamians progress their mind set so that the country could progress.
“I think we’ve come a long way; we are 46 years old. But the problem we have is our people, our people cannot accept the fact that we need to stop saying ‘I – I’ and start saying what we can do to make things different,” he said.
Edward Gittens shared that the government officials must have a good reason for changing the date of the celebration. “Once it’s celebrated.”
Lloyd Powell expressed that he never really put emphasis on the Independence Holiday, he just “goes along with it.”
However, he is appreciative of it, particularly that the country is led by a prime minister rather than a Premier, because the people control their own destiny as long as there are “good people” in the House of Assembly to keep the country going.
Another resident shared that Independence should be celebrated going into July 10, because that is the official date.
He furthered that the prime minister, Governor General, Cabinet Ministers and other special guests are welcome to come, but that does not mean the celebration date should be changed.
He noted, “they can attend the celebrations in Grand Bahama this year and go to New Providence’s celebrations next year. It just will not feel the same.”
President of the Coalition for Concerned Citizens Pastor Eddie Victor, expressed his disagreement with the decision, noting that it was made simply to fit schedules of leaders.
“You need to change that. Grand Bahama is not lesser than any other place in The Bahamas. Have simultaneous celebrations at the same time on the same date, because it is only one date for Independence,” he said.
Victor added that the reenacting of the flag raising just before midnight is an important act of symbolism for that date and therefore, doing this on a different date does not make sense.
Pastor Lloyd Rolle of Bethel’s Deliverance Centre expressed that the change is inconsiderate of residents that have to go to work on July 9. “I don’t think it’s fair.”
Rev. Terrence Jones of Eternal Light Deliverance Assemblies of God thanked the GB Independence Committee for organizing the event once again and admitted that their hearts were in the right place in deciding to change the date of the celebration to accommodate dignitaries and Parliamentarians, but not the heads.
“If you’re going to do that I think you should consult the people that you’re going to represent,” he said.