By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
TODAY could be recognised by the government as a national holiday as early as next year, Prime Minister Perry Christie told the House of Assembly yesterday.
He dubbed January 10 a day that “belongs to all Bahamians” which should be commemorated and celebrated by everyone because it represents “one of the most singular moments in our evolution as a people”.
Mr Christie said: “In the same way that Emancipation Day and Independence Day are observed as public holidays in the Bahamas in recognition of their surpassing historical importance to us as a people, it is my very firm conviction that January 10 should be observed in exactly the same way.
“I therefore commit myself and my government to making January 10 a national public holiday during our present term in office, and to do so, moreover, as early in this term as is practicable.”
With the exception of the aforementioned dates, the prime minister said, there is no event “of greater consequence and historical importance” than the attainment of majority rule.
“Indeed, there are some persons, most notably Governor-General Sir Arthur Foulkes, who have long been on record with the view that the attainment of majority rule is even more historically significant than either emancipation or the attainment of independence,” Mr Christie said.
“There is much to commend that point of view because in truth January 10, 1967 represents the moment of transition from the old Bahamas to a new Bahamas; from minority government to majority rule; from an oligarchy to an authentic democracy founded on the principles of true universal adult suffrage; principles which only achieved expression in the Bahamas on January 10, 1967.”
Today represents “one of the highest peaks” in the historic and still ongoing struggle for economic empowerment, for equality of opportunity and for social justice, he said.
“Let us therefore remind ourselves, as January 10 dawns once again, that the chains of the Bahamian people were broken on that day, 46 years ago. And with our hands thus unchained, we stretched forth those hands for the first time in the New World to hug and hold the freedom that had been won at such great cost by the struggles of so many,” Mr Christie said.
“May the example of courage and sacrifice that guided our forbears in the struggle for majority rule continue to inspire and guide all of us in the years ahead.”
Forty-six years ago today was an “enormously important milestone” in a continuing journey that began centuries ago, he added, naming slaves like Exuma’s Pompey and Cat Island’s Black Dick who “struck their blow for freedom and for justice” in the early 1830s.
Mr Christie paid tribute to pioneers Stephen Dillet, Thomas Minnis and John P Deane, who were the first black men to win election to the House of Assembly in 1834.
He recognised James Carmichael Smith who in the 1880s “struck his own blow by agitating for a more just and equitable society” as MP for the western district of New Providence and as a “tireless advocate” for black empowerment and social justice.
Men like W P Adderley, Etienne Dupuch, T A Toote, Leon Walton Young, C R Walker, Milo Butler, and Maxwell Thompson continued the journey in the early 1900s and “struck a major blow for a better Bahamas,” Mr Christie said.
And the journey continued still with men like Clifford Darling and Clarence Bain; H M Taylor, Cyril Stevenson and William Cartwright; and Randol Fawkes – “who as the father of the trade union movement, galvanised the labouring masses”.
The prime minister added: “Most pivotally of all, the historic journey, of which I speak continued in the 1950s and 60s with Lynden Pindling, and that mighty band of brothers and sisters who joined with him to fight for a new Bahamas and to help build a new Bahamian, upward-striving and free.
“These men and women who fought so hard with Sir Lynden to make majority rule possible included the likes of A D Hanna, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Carlton Francis, Randol Fawkes, Doris Johnson, Georgianna Symonette, Eugenia Lockhart, Arthur Foulkes, Clement Maynard, Andrew ‘Dud’ Maynard, Paul Adderley, Orville Turnquest and all the many others who played their part, be it for however long or short, be it however great or small, in advancing the progress of the Bahamian people through organised protest and political struggle.”