By RUPERT MISSICK Jr
IT IS a little known fact that Sir Lynden Pindling actually lost a vote of no confidence, albeit in the seclusion of a secret PLP parliamentary meeting in Andros, a year before the May 13, 1970, motion in the House of Assembly that would lead to the breakaway of eight MPs from the then governing Progressive Liberal Party and the eventual formation of the FNM.
According to Majority Rule era MP Edmund Moxey, the lack of confidence in the direction Sir Lynden was taking the party followed “ridiculously” soon after the 1967 general election win.
As Mr Moxey recounted the story, it was easy to see how the vote of no confidence against Pindling in that secret conclave and a near backbencher revolt two years before it, could have laid the foundation for Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Arthur Foulkes, Warren J. Levarity, Maurice Moore, Dr Curtis McMillan, James (Jimmy) Shepherd, Dr Elwood Donaldson and George Thompson, a group later known as the “Dissident Eight” to breakaway from the government.
Mr Moxey pointed out that the backbenchers who were elected in 1967, with the exception of Curtis McMillan (who Mr Moxey said joined on the eve of the PLP’s victory), sacrificed greatly to keep the party going.
Prospective MPs were not given much in the way of finances to run their campaign.
“There were several of us who were elected who felt that the party winning would have brought them some kind of advantage because of that,” Mr Moxey said.
The top brass of the PLP, however, did not suffer financially in the way their party colleagues did, Mr Moxey said, pointing out that the likes of Sir Lynden, AD Hanna and Randol Fawkes were relied on heavily by the people of the community and never had to forgo work for the sake of the party.
Also, working for themselves, these men never had to be concerned about being victimised.
“When you joined the PLP you were a public enemy. I got victimised in that I was working for Bahamas Telecoms and after 1960 despite being recommended several times for a promotion, I couldn’t get it because of the political stance I took. Eventually I had to leave and work for BOAC,” Mr Moxey said.
Among the list of Mr Moxey’s names of persons who risked their economic future on the PLP, Sir Arthur Foulkes’ looms great.
“He risked so much and they had to know that. Arthur was the type of fellow who threw everything down and dedicated himself to the party and its message, and his family caught hell,” Mr Moxey said.
Right after the 1967 election, Mr Moxey said that the backbenchers saw a nearly immediate change in the party leadership. Barriers began to form between cabinet members and the rank and file MPs.
“By that time everything was cut and dry. They raised their walls and each of them set up their little kingdoms and that’s where I could see the party going off course,” he said.
Mr Moxey said that the backbenchers came to the conclusion that the government was not acting in the best interest of the people by limiting the decision making and policy planning to that isolated group. This move, at the very least, Mr Moxey said contravened the espoused philosophy of the PLP.
“We preached from Inagua to Abaco that we would establish a party for the people and by the people. If the back benches were excluded from the policy decisions, then the people were immediately shut out of government and that created a serious problem in the party.
“When I heard the speech from the throne in 1967, I cried because we believed after listening to the speech, we felt it was a furtherance of the same old UBP policy,” he said.
When he questioned the party’s lack of inclusion and consultation, Mr Moxey said the response he received was that the system didn’t demand it.
By the end of June that year, Mr Moxey held a meeting of backbenchers at his home and they all came to the conclusion, that they would all demand that the leadership be more inclusive in their decision making.
“I told them if we don’t take a stand the country was going to end up on the rocks. This was six months after the revolution. It was ridiculous that we found ourselves at this stage so early in the game.
“While we were still in the meeting, one of the backbenchers called Sir Cecil and told him, ‘Listen man we have to do something because the fellows ready to revolt’.
“Clifford Darling did the same thing and went to the Prime Minster and then Pindling went on a witch hunt to find out who was there and so on,” Mr Moxey said.
By the time 1969 rolled in, the former MP said that the country’s first prime minister’s “one-man band tendencies” started to show.
That year, Sir Lynden fired Warren Levarity from Cabinet and moved to replace him with Dr Doris Johnson. It was after these decisions that cracks in the relationship between the MPs and Pindling began to reveal themselves.
“We later found out that he fired Levarity because he wouldn’t allow Pindling to direct the contracting of the post office building,” Mr Moxey said.
There were 15 MPs to Sir Lynden’s ten cabinet ministers who opposed Dr Johnson’s appointment and the group had planned to confront the prime minister at the parliamentary conclave that was being held at the Small Hope Bay resort in Andros.
“We had a briefing at 2pm to discuss the agenda and the first thing Sir Lynden said was ‘Gents, I have bad news for you. I had to fire Arthur (from his post as Minister of Tourism) today,” Mr Moxey said.
The group later found out that when Sir Arthur’s flight arrived at the airport in Andros, Sir Lynden had George Smith meet him and give him the news of his dismissal and that he would meet his letter of dismissal when he returned to Nassau.
“Arthur turned right around and went back to Nassau. But with Arthur’s firing, you know what that did? It created an opening for a minister. Now you have 15 fellows who are thinking that they could get the job, thinking it could be them. So no one made a move then, no one said anything,” Mr Moxey said.
He said he had no doubt Sir Lynden knew what the group was planning because after dinner and the evening session, Sir Lynden went from door to door to reassure himself with the backbenchers.
“The next day, the first person to speak was Livingston Coakley then Elwood Donaldson. Coakley went through the motions and said that they were dissatisfied and what we were unhappy about, then Elwood told Pindling that there were 15 members who, unless his attitude changed and he removed Dr Doris Johnson from that appointment, we would have to move a vote of no confidence ‘because you have no confidence in us’.
“Dr Donaldson sensed that there was reluctance on some of the fellows we had in the cage, so he moved quickly. ‘You can put the motion now. If you think I am joking,’ he said.
“Pindling put the motion and there was one or two sitting down and Simeon Bowe went so low in his chair he was on the ground. We defeated Pindling, but he didn’t move, he didn’t acknowledge the vote, totally disregarded it.”
Conspicuously absent from the meeting, however, were two heavy hitters, Deputy Prime Minister AD Hanna and Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield who did not arrive until a day later.
“Arthur and Sir Cecil knew we had the numbers and I believe they felt that something was going to happen they were showing Pindling they were with us and they were not going to protect him,” Mr Moxey said.
After the conclave, Sir Lynden changed the dynamics by reducing the number of backbenchers and appointing three new ministers - Simeon Bowe, Anthony Roberts and Livingston Coakley. Now Sir Lynden would have 13 minister and 12 backbenchers.
Because he was not included in the group that eventually broke off from the PLP, Mr Moxey said he could not say conclusively how much these events factored in the Dissident Eight’s departure. However, he said, it further sealed the direction of the party for decades to come.
“It was like a brain drain on the party. A lot of talented people were no longer in the PLP between the firings and leaving. We were drifting toward that rock I spoke about before,” Mr Moxey said.
• To be continued.