NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Former Governor-General Dame Marguerite Pindling yesterday delivered an angry rebuke of Majority Rule celebrations that she felt shortchanged her husband’s legacy and her own involvement in the steps towards the country’s first black-led government.
The widow of Sir Lynden Pindling directed her ire at the leadership of the Progressive Liberal Party, namely its chairman Fred Mitchell, whom she accused of using the event as a “stepping stone”.
Dame Marguerite demanded an immediate apology from Mitchell from the podium during a wreath-laying ceremony at St. Agnes Cemetery.
“I come here today in respect of the work my husband has done along with his other fellow workers in this country,” Dame Marguerite said.
“And I don’t want anyone to use this to play him cheap because I will not stand for it. I’m sorry Mr prime minister I promised you I was gonna behave but I think y’all should know who I am by now. And you owe me an apology, and I expect Mr Chairman, right now.”
The country’s achievement of majority rule is considered one of the most significant historical events in the nation’s history, with many leading figures ranking the milestone second only to emancipation from slavery and the attainment of Independence.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Philip Davis yesterday noted that Majority Rule was the singular event in Bahamian history that “undergirds the formation of this modern nation”.
During his remarks at the 56th Majority Rule Day observance, Davis said the right of every Bahamian, to have a single, equal vote, is the “bedrock of our democracy”.
Yesterday, Dame Marguerite told the crowd that the leadership of the PLP was so excited “they forgot I existed”. She said that the then-leader of the PLP “didn’t know a thing” about South Andros until she told people that he was going to run against Cyril Stevenson.
“Because if we hadn’t put Pindling there, Stevenson would have won,” she said.
“Pray for me please because I’m feeling very. I don’t like what I see. Nothing happened until Pindling came on the scene.
Dame Marguerite said: “I just want to let you know, I’m alive, doing well, of sound mind, in good health, and waiting for all that is going to take place because I do not like it and I’m sorry Mr Mitchell. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I cannot contain it any longer because you’re using this as a stepping stone and I do not appreciate it.”
“We’re standing on his shoulders and the FNM who fought with him in the trenches. When the House of Assembly was dissolved in 196. Pindling was in London fighting the PLPs battle. When nomination day came, Pindling wasn’t even in the country to be nominated I had documents prepared in case the magistrate decided not to accept his name in his absence and I was ready with Cecil Wallace-Whitfield who was the then chairman of this party who took me down to South Andros, but thanks be to God the magistrate said it was ok, they will accept him in his absence.”
Both the PLP and the United Bahamian Party (UBP) won 18 parliamentary seats during the 1967 general election with Randol Fawkes siding with the PLP to form the first black-led government. Alvin Braynen, an Independent, became Speaker of the House.
In response, Mitchell remarked on the size of yesterday’s gathering compared to the ceremony held last year when the party was in opposition.
“If any apology is due, it’s due because of the goodness of our heart,” he said.
“It’s due because we wanted to pay tribute to your husband. And it’s due because we wanted to move with a quick pace to ensure that that memory is etched in the minds and the collective history of our country. No disrespect to you. I say we all are here to support you today. You remember when it was just you and I standing up here alone in this graveyard?”
Mitchell added: “But it makes a difference to be in government. And our prime minister led us to victory. So we are here in government today. One year later. Much better off than we were a year ago. I thank you for allowing this ceremony to go forward. And know that in our hearts, we love you. We support you.”