ON the 2012 campaign trail to defeat the Ingraham government, then Opposition leader Perry Christie invited voters to recognise him as the bridge between the late prime minister Lynden Pindling and the “new generation of PLP leaders”.
Of late, the struts supporting that bridge have started to show signs of stress with two members already having fallen through, and at least two others wondering whether their loosening hinges will also drop them into the breakaway basket with their mates. This was the new generation of PLP leaders in whom Prime Minister Christie had high hopes for a bright political future.
Composing the “new generation” were Dr Andre Rollins, Renward Wells, Gregory Moss and Dion Smith.
Gregory Moss, Marco City MP, was the first to go. Born three years before the PLP won the government in 1967, Mr Moss declared that he was departing because he had a “problem with leadership”.
A week later, outspoken Dr Andre Rollins, who did not appreciate the manoeuvres of his government’s leadership to prevent him speaking during the Budget debate, closed his contribution with his resignation. “I would be a fool,” he said, “to call myself a PLP after the way I was treated in here tonight.” He too had jumped from the PLP’s political bridge.
When asked about Mr Moss’ criticism, MICAL MP V Alfred Gray, himself recently in political hot water over a constitutional matter, said the approach that the “new generation” politicians take is much different from the “older generation”.
“The older generation,” he explained, “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, these men were too fast on their tongue and spoke their mind on behalf of their constituents.
“This government,” Dr Rollins advised, “needs a unified political opposition if it is to have any chance at effectively governing our country between now and the next general election. It means, Mr Speaker, that egos must be checked and those who really mean this country well must put their differences aside and become a unified force if this country is to become the strong country we need it to be.
“This country will not be well served,” he continued, “by a divided and weak opposition, faced with a government prepared to run roughshod over dissenting voices and opposition groups.”
On the sidelines was Nassau Village MP Dion Smith, who said he is often described as a “rebel for expressing new generation views”, but, unlike his colleagues, has opted to stand by his party. He said he was focused on upholding the “core values and principles” of the party.
Mr Moss also wanted to stay with the PLP’s “core values”. He said that while he continues to subscribe to the political philosophy of former Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling, the PLP no longer has the philosophical underpinning that prompted its growth.
And George Smith, a former minister in Sir Lynden’s Cabinet, now considered a PLP elder statesman, also wants “more than anything else for the party to reconnect with its core values…”
But when these politicians talk about the PLP’s “core values” do they know what they are talking about? What were the PLP’s core values? Mr Moss comes the nearest to spelling out those values as the “political philosophy of former Prime Minister Sir Lynden Pindling”.
If these are the “core values” of which these men speak then no one who is not PLP — and even PLPs who are not privileged to be in the inner circle — would want to go back to those hellish “all-for-me baby” years.
The PLP were only in power three years when some of the party’s senior members were also questioning their party’s “core values”. They accused party leader Lynden Pindling of losing his political way by forgetting the party’s score sheet and following the path of a “one man’s dream”. It was the Pindling dream, which if you didn’t jump on board you were instructed to “cut bait and get the hell out of the boat”. His deputy Arthur Hanna echoed his words by telling those who were “not all the way” to “get the hell out of the way”.
Sir Lynden, who felt himself all powerful seemed not to realise that he had lost the plot, and was on a collision course with his most senior colleagues.
At 8 o’clock on the night of October 22, 1970 — only three years after their victorious 1967 election— Education Minister Cecil Wallace Whitfield presented himself at Government House to personally hand to Governor Sir Francis Cumming-Bruce his resignation from the Pindling Cabinet. Sir Cecil (as he later became) had told no one– none of his colleagues, not even his wife – of his plan. It not only shook Sir Lynden, who could not conceive of anyone daring such an affront, but it shocked the town.
At the time, the PLP were in convention at the Sheraton British Colonial. Sir Cecil left Government House and returned to the convention to drop his political bombshell.
The Tribune reported:
“And later in a dramatic and forceful speech to convention delegates he stood ‘10-feet tall’ as he told of his ‘grievous disillusionment’ with the party and how, during the week’s proceedings at the Sheraton British Colonial Hotel he had witnessed ‘the violation of truth and democracy’ — the very cornerstones of the free democratic system.”
“It is with a sad and heavy heart that I have to confess to you now that my conscience tells me that we have this week witnessed the violation of the principles of freedom and democracy and truth for which you and I and others fought so hard and which we have kept always in the conduct of our daily affairs.”
Before The Tribune went to press with the Whitfield report that evening there was a “Stop Press” announcement. It said:
“Orders have been issued by Telecommunications Minister Clement Maynard to the Broadcasting Commission that only the speeches of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Hanna and Finance Minister Carlton Francis are to be heard on ZNS Sunday.”
So before this new generation of political rebels get any deeper into their politics, they would be well advised to discover what their core values really are.
Those who suffered through 25 years of Sir Lynden’s “values” will not tolerate their return. Even Prime Minister Christie, who won the government in 2002, failed on his promise to introduce a “new” PLP. As a result, they were voted out in 2007, only to be returned in 2012.
In an interview shortly after his defeat in 1992, Sir Lynden had to ruefully admit that his party had lost touch with the people. He said he did not realise that the economic conditions were such that it would cost him an election.