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Edmund Moxey - A Man Of Conviction

LAST month, a new generation of politicians in the House of Assembly were given a bit of advice by a veteran who has lasted a long time, obviously because — whether right or wrong – he has carefully minded his p’s and q’s.

“I don’t know whether there is a difference in generational politics,” said V Alfred Gray, MICAL MP, as he was stopped by a Tribune reporter on his way to a Cabinet meeting, “but I think our approach to politics might be different and that too has a place in politics. The older generation might be a little more cautious and a little more careful in what they say and do because they’ve been around a long time. Politics is slippery. If you mess up, you could be out, just by being fast on your tongue.”

Obviously, over the years, Mr Gray has not been “fast” with his tongue. We hope that his constituents have not suffered from him holding his tongue in check rather than speaking out on their behalf. Anyway, he still has his seat in the House.

Ed Moxey, one of the originals in the 1967 majority-rule government of Lynden Pindling, had one burning ambition when he decided to enter politics — the upliftment of his people. A gifted musician, he dedicated everything that he had to this one goal. However, when he saw the vision turn from the people and morph into “one man’s dream”, he revolted. He failed to hold his tongue. Over the years, he and his family suffered, but he had not earned the nickname “Muscle and Guts” for nothing. He continued to speak out. He spoke out to the end. In a conversation recently he was planning to get together with us because he had “plenty more” to say. But, to borrow from the American poet Emily Dickinson, because Ed could not stop for Death - death kindly stopped for him.

He died peacefully during his sleep on Monday.

In paying tribute to Mr Moxey on his 80th birthday in March, Sir Arthur Foulkes, recently retired governor-general, recalled their days in the political trenches together. Sir Arthur was one of the “Dissident Eight”, who also left the Pindling government when it was believed the party had forsaken its reason for being.

“Those days,” said Sir Arthur, “it was not about personal ambition, the burning in our hearts was not about the achievement of position and riches. The burning in our hearts was about the salvation of people, and Ed Moxey passionately lived and breathed that every day of his life. ”

Sir Arthur recalled that Ed Moxey’s “dream was about the social, cultural, and economic development of his people… But what is so painful is that this dream that Edmund Moxey had for the upliftment and development of his people in that concept of Jumbey Village, that dream was strangled like an infant in its crib,” said Sir Arthur. “It didn’t succeed, it didn’t fail, it was crushed deliberately, and brutally crushed. And you know it is true that if you plant a certain kind of seed today, you will reap the fruit of that seed at some time in the future. One is sweet and the other is exceedingly bitter. And today because of the crushing, the brutal destruction of Ed Moxey’s dream, we Bahamians are paying the price.”

Earlier this year, Mr Moxey described his early disillusionment with his party.

In discussing government’s decision to ignore the people’s vote in what is now being called an opinion poll — although when it was first launched it was called a referendum — he felt a dangerous precedent had been set. Last year, a majority of those who voted had said “no” to web shop gaming. Government ignored the vote. However, the question of gambling, which for the PLP had started in 1967, has still not been settled.

Mr Moxey recalled the vicious campaign that his party — the PLP— had waged in 1967. It had told voters then that if the UBP was again returned to power, casino gambling would be introduced to Nassau. It was believed at the time — at least the Baptist ministers believed it —that if the PLP won the election casino gambling would be banished from the Bahamas. Although that year the PLP had won the government for the first time by a majority of one– winning by a landslide when another election was called the following year — casino gambling is still with us.

However, on December 12, 1973, there was a serious rift in the PLP when the question of casinos again raised its ugly head.

Former Finance Minister the late Carlton Francis, an ordained Baptist minister, as a matter of conscience was against casino gambling in the Bahamas. Mr Francis made it clear that his objection was a matter of conscience. Mr Francis did not believe that gambling was good for a young, newly independent country. The government did not give way. Mr Francis was forced to resign as Development Minister. His absence from the Cabinet was a void that could not be filled, Mr Moxey had said.

“I sat in the back of him in the House,” said Mr Moxey, recalling that moment of decision. “I saw when he (Mr Francis) wrote the note and put it in the hands of the PM.

“The prime minister could have torn it up, but he didn’t. Carl was a dedicated man and he had all of his ducks in a row and that’s when I knew that matters of conscience and integrity meant nothing to people who wanted to play politics.”

Mr Francis, a noted educator, could not get a job again in government service.

Marva Moxey, an Australian trained lawyer — trained in Australia because being Ed Moxey’s daughter she was denied a government scholarship in the Bahamas — told how her father was a part of the “parliamentary group that ushered in the so-called majority rule. I say so-called,” she said, “because even today the majority does not rule much less in 1967. We accomplished one man-one vote which was commendable, but the economic power was never transferred to the people; it only changed hands from the few white boys to a few black boys.”

She said it was not long after becoming the government that her father “recognised that the people of the Bahamas had been betrayed by the Pindling government”.

Because of his independent spirit and his failure to “guard his tongue”, it was proclaimed from a public platform that “Edmund Moxey will never work another day in this country.” This pronouncement was made against the whole Moxey family. They all suffered, but they all stood by their father and supported his spirit, which to the end spoke out for the betterment of his people.

Shortly after the PLP were defeated in 1992, after 25 years in government, a few PLP ministers came to The Tribune to apologise for the unfair way in which The Tribune had been treated by the Pindling government during those years. As they sat and talked we silently recalled the words of the late Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The ultimate measure of a man,” said Dr King, “is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

We recall a former PLP minister spotting us across a crowded reception hall at an official function shortly after his party’s defeat. Although friendly before his elevation to power, he went out of his way as a minister to prove to his leader that he was no longer a friend of The Tribune. That night he was free to revert to his former self. He rushed across the room, hand extended in friendship. We looked at the hand, and walked away.

We do not admire cowards. However, we had a lot of time for Edmund Moxey. Whether one agreed with him or not, one always knew where Ed stood at “times of challenge and controversy.”

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