Government officials, including Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister Senator J. Kwasi Thompson; Minister of Financial Services, Trade, Industry and Immigration Ellsworth Johnson; Ambassador the Hon. Maurice Moore joined the faculty and students at the St. George’s High School for a special ceremony in observation of Majority Rule Anniversary (Friday, January 10) on Thursday, January 9 in the school’s auditorium.
Thompson, who served as the featured speaker for the event, told the audience, “I believe that one if the most effective descriptions of Majority Rule Day was given by Sir Arthur Foulkes.”
He added that according to Foulkes, a bill was signed for an Act to make January 10, Majority Rule, a holiday. Majority Rule Day officially became a public holiday in 2014. It commemorates The Bahamas gaining majority rule for the first time on January 10, 1967, symbolizing the promise of equality, a level playing field and fair play for all Bahamians.
On January 10, 1967, a snap election was called by the ruling United Bahamian Party (UBP), in an effort to stop the momentum of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), led by the late Sir Oscar L. Pindling. The country was shocked late that night when the results showed an equal number of seats (18/18) for the PLP and the UBP.
This tie was broken when Alvin R. Braynen, a white man, who represented Harbour Island, accepted Pindling’s offer to be Speaker of the House and Randol Fawkes, the lone Labour candidate to win, threw in his lot with the PLP and became the Minister of Labour.
Four days later when Pindling was sworn-in as Premier and invited by the then Governor to form the new government. For the first time in Bahamian history, blacks were afforded the noble opportunity to lead this country.
Majority Rule is considered one of the nation’s greatest achievements.
“Despite having already abolished slavery in The Bahamas, there was still a lot of racial tension in the country prior to 1967,” Thompson continued.
He noted that up to that point, many black Bahamians still experienced discrimination and did not have true representation in the House of Assembly. Prior to 1967, blacks were not allowed in some churches or had to sit back in others. They were not allowed in some banks, such as the Royal Bank. Some theatres were used to them such as the Savoy on Bay Street; they could not dine in some restaurants was denied. There were schools such as Queen’s College and Government High, which were for the privileged class.
Due to the ‘property vote’, many blacks were disenfranchised; many owned no property. Women were out of the picture; they were not allowed to vote. Top jobs were reserved for whites such as permanent secretaries, commissioner of police, head of the Anglican Church, governor.
Thompson stated that Foulkes referred to Majority Rule as a second emancipation. This propelled the country into a new era where future generations could truly prosper.
“These great leaders made sacrifices that shaped the political nation,” he said.
He added that today citizens live in a Bahamas of equal opportunity thanks to the sacrifices of Bahamian forefathers like Alvin Braynen, Sir Lyden Pindling, Randol Fawkes, Warren Levarity, Arthur D. Hanna, Georgianna Symonette and Sir Milo Butler.
Thompson furthered that now, young Bahamians can take on any profession they choose as long as they work hard to achieve it. “You have the capability to be anything you want in life, and you have the freedom to pursue it.”
He told the students that their career options were limitless. “Remember how privileged you are to be Bahamian.”
Thompson encouraged the students to do their best to accomplish their goals and fulfill whatever dream they have.
“Continue to work hard, continue to put God first and if it is in God’s plan and will, you will achieve it,” he said.
St. George’s Principal Keith Barr thanked the special guests for supporting the event and wished the students a happy holiday.