BAHAMIANS went to the polls yesterday and showed the depth of their ingratitude to a man who had dedicated 35 selfless years to their service. Hubert Ingraham was a man who had taken over a country that had become a pariah among nations. A country regarded by the world as a "nation for sale", where drug lords flourished. The public treasury was bankrupt, Bahamians were out of work, the island had fallen to third world status with crumbling infrastructure -- the situation seemed hopeless in 1992.
But that year, as leader of the FNM, Mr Ingraham defeated the late Sir Lynden Pindling's PLP, and started the task of rebuilding a country that had little going for it. His first task was to reinvigorate the tourist industry - all government owned hotels were failing. His first success at restructuring was to attract the Kerzner interests back to the Bahamas - they had earlier taken a look and walked away. This conquest culminated in the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. Further investment quickly followed. Gradually the "nation for sale" tag appeared less often in newspaper articles about the Bahamas, until it eventually disappeared.
Mr Ingraham served two terms as prime minister (1992-2002) before being defeated by his former law partner, PLP Opposition Leader Perry Christie, who served for one term before being beaten by the FNM. Mr Ingraham was returned to power.
Shocked by the defeat, the PLP commissioned a firm of experts to investigate and try to discover what went wrong. The perception of corruption and weak leadership in the PLP were their conclusions.
Unfortunately for Mr Ingraham, but most fortunately for the Bahamas, it was Mr Ingraham who guided the ship of state when the world economy crashed, sweeping every country before it, including the Bahamas.
It was Mr Ingraham's tenacity, level head, farsight, and hard work that kept the Bahamas' economy from imploding as did the economies of so many other, larger, and more prosperous countries. Certainly times were tough for Bahamians -- loss of jobs and of homes -- but he did his best to cushion the blow. Compared to other countries, which were exploding in civil unrest all around us -- Greece being the prime example -- the Bahamas was weathering the storm. We do not think that a PLP government could have done the job.
One only has to look around the country, now on the verge of an economic comeback, to see the accomplishments of the Ingraham government, which had tremendous plans for the future if given another five years by the Bahamian people. But that was not to be.
There is no wound so painful as man's ingratitude. We fully understand, but deeply regret Mr Ingraham's decision to say to his people -- thank you, but no thank you, I have served you well, I can take no more.
Although his constituents re-elected him yesterday, he not only resigned as leader of his party, but he also decided not to take his seat in the House of Assembly.
Many think this was a grave mistake, but having been through this over 50 years ago with another outstanding man - who sacrificed his life and almost lost his business only to be rejected by the very people for whom he had made the sacrifices - we understand Mr Ingraham's decision.
In 1956, Sir Etienne Dupuch, publisher of this newspaper, standing on the floor of the House, was threatened with arrest for moving a Resolution to end racial discrimination in public places in the Bahamas. By the end of that week hotels announced that discrimination in their establishments was over. Other public places followed. Shortly afterwards Sir Etienne was defeated in a general election as the representative in the House of Assembly for the Eastern district. He was replaced by a plumber.
However, despite yesterday's loss, if one takes time to study the results it is obvious that constituencies were lost by only a few votes.
Yesterday we drove around various constituencies, including Grants Town. The stories we heard of vote buying in various places were mind-boggling. Some were told by the very persons who had been solicited, one of whom had succumbed.
We heard the stories of men who were offered bribes of $5,000, $10,000, as high as $15,000, to take off their red shirts, reject their FNM candidate and convince other FNM supporters to do the same.
We heard of a group of young men, who were only interested in money, not in the good of their country or the future of their families, who told the FNM candidate that they had planned to vote for him, but, so sorry, they could not turn down the substantial bribe. We heard of instances of yellow shirts being presented with money wrapped inside as an inducement to take off the red and put on the yellow. FNM's stood on the sidelines and watched. Names were called of the persons they claim were handing out the money.
We urge FNM's to stand up and - yes, once more for the sake of their country -- expose this evil. If not we shall all be guilty of silently acquiescing in a corrupt society. Are we to return so soon to being a "nation for sale"?
We at The Tribune thank Mr Ingraham for his many years of service to an ungrateful country, whose people we are certain will soon regret their decision.
We hope he will now enjoy his private life with his wife, children and grandchildren - also his favourite pastime -- fishing in this country's beautiful waters.