A people betrayed, says Ed Moxey, of the Pindling years

THE PANACEA to all this country's social problems is Urban Renewal, PLP-style. The constant cry of the PLP is that the FNM came along, stole the PLP's idea, destroyed it and, in so doing, opened a Pandora's box of destruction for these islands. Everything, including escalating crime, both in the streets and in the schools, can be blamed on the elimination of the PLP's novel idea -- Urban Renewal. For their part, the FNM maintains that although police patrols were removed from the school campus, the structure of urban renewal was not destroyed, but rather improved upon and broadened. In all honesty, the idea of urban renewal cannot be claimed as being the brainchild of either the Christie or Ingraham administrations. It preceded both by many years. In fact, Urban Renewal in the broadest sense of the word was the brainchild of Sir Stafford Sands, the creator of this country's tourism and financial industries. In a conversation with Sir Stafford shortly after the UBP lost the government to the PLP in 1967, he assured us that he was leaving a financially healthy government. All the PLP had to do, he said, was to sit on their hands and let all his party's plans go through and the country would be in good shape. However, if they got itchy fingers and started tinkering, everything could collapse. Sir Stafford Sands was a five-year planner. A brilliant, and well organised man, he always worked on a five-year plan. So when the PLP came in, they would have found that tourism conventions, and functions had been booked for five years into the future and the Public Treasury was financially sound. Sir Foley Newns, the able colonial British administrator, who had worked with Sir Stafford as Cabinet Secretary from 1963, was kept on by the PLP until 1971, just one year short of Sir Stafford's five-year programme. Slippage started after he left. Sir Stafford, the Minister of Finance in Sir Roland Symonette's government, with the approval of his colleagues, commissioned a Development Plan of New Providence Island and the City of Nassau in the summer of 1966. Working through the United Nations, Columbia University's division of Urban Planning in its School of Architecture was engaged to do the work. What resulted was a magnificent, detailed, beautifully presented transformation of this island -- down to where every underground pipe was to be laid. It also provided for population growth. It was unfortunate that it was completed and returned to the Bahamas in the spring of 1967 after the UBP had been voted out of office. However, every member of the House of Assembly received a copy. And there it died. "If it had been implemented," said Mr Moxey in his documentary, "the plan would transform over the hill, in particular the Grants Town community, installing a sewer system, and laying out the city centre, in a way seen only in Grand Bahama and Mathew Town, Inagua. There would be green spaces and bike paths, and streets dedicated to the children of New Providence." About 13 years later, Arthur Hanna, then deputy prime minister, explained the reasons for the plans not being considered. He said it was because "there was no cost assessed for the implementation of the plan; no one was identified to pay the cost, and there was no suitable organisational administrative mechanism for translating the plans into reality". On that statement alone -- exposing both incompetence and lack of imagination -- the PLP government should have been fired. A master plan had been put in the their laps, and they were waiting for a fairy godmother to show them how to use it. The UBP government's urban renewal plan was introduced by Ed Moxey, a former member of the PLP Cabinet at that time, in his documentary, which had its premier showing on Sunday night in which he recorded his personal sacrifices to try to save Jumbey Village for the upliftment of his people. In the end, he lost the battle, but not his integrity -- although Sir Lynden also tried to take that from him. In his documentary Mr Moxey told how Sir Lynden had betrayed a trusting people, and the price that he personally had to pay for having an idea that dwarfed his party leader's myopic thinking. Last night, Mr Moxey in speaking of Sir Stafford's plans, which preceded his own vision for Jumbey Village, had this to say: "It is unfortunate that the Urban Renewal Study and programme initiated by Sir Stafford Sands for the black masses of Bahamians was trampled under the feet of our leaders and advocates of the Quiet Revolution in 1967. "It is like I said 25 years ago, the revolution was betrayed and after 45 years of majority rule our people over the hill still live in substandard conditions using outside toilets and water pumps. Oh, my Lord, what a shame!" Is this the unsound bridge that Opposition Leader Perry Christie has invited Bahamians to cross with him into the future? We hope not.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment