Sir Roland Symonette Honours Decision 'Inexplicable'

Sir Roland Symonette

Sir Roland Symonette


PLP CHAIRMAN Fred Mitchell.


Tribune Staff Reporter


THE decision to award the late Sir Roland Symonette with National Hero honours was branded as “bad,” “inexplicable” and “unlawful” by PLP Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell, who on Friday condemned Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis for his defence of the move.

In a statement circulated by the Official Opposition Friday, Mr Mitchell said the Prime Minister’s recent rebuke of the PLP, where he seemed to agree the party is playing the race card in its argument against the appointment of Sir Roland, signalled a “new low.”

Mr Mitchell, the Opposition’s appointment to the National Honours Committee, contended the Prime Minister’s actions are “ the last refuge of a scoundrel,” insisting that Dr Minnis “has lost the argument” and now “has to go there.”

Dr Minnis, in speaking to reporters on the issue Thursday, said it would “appear” the PLP was playing the race card.

Seeming to brush the entire dispute aside, Dr Minnis said: “I don’t go down that road. We must move beyond colours. So, I don’t see people like that.”

Responding on Friday, Mr Mitchell said the PLP has never made its opposition on the matter racial.

Mr Mitchell argued: “First, as far as we know Roland Symonette was a man with African ancestry.”

Expounding on the point, he said: “So to quote the Deputy Prime Minister Peter Turnquest when he was accused of being racist in tax policy, the PLP can’t be racist talking about Roland Symonette since we who have voiced objections are talking about a man who shares our common African ancestry.”

Mr Mitchell also claimed that there are many other “white men” who could qualify for the honour, but were passed over by the selection committee.

“This is not about race,” Mr Mitchell said. “This is about the acts of a man who opposed the creation of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”

According to the former Fox Hill MP, much of Sir Roland’s political will and effort was used up in his opposition of many of the founding tenets of the Bahamas.

“He opposed majority rule,” Mr Mitchell said.

“He opposed the lowering of the vote to 18.

“He opposed the vote for women.

“He opposed the implementation of the labour and social security systems.

“He opposed the fair drawing of boundaries.

“He opposed independence.

“Every step of the way he did not want this to be a nation,” he added.

Mr Mitchell continued: “A National Hero is the hero of a nation. Sir Roland Symonette did not want this nation. He gave aid and comfort to a group that wanted to break up the nation. Now he is being rewarded as a hero of that nation.”

“Dr Minnis has certainly taken leave of his senses and good judgment,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a second statement released on Friday Mr Mitchell also condemned recent comments by Free National Movement Chairman Carl Culmer on the issue, imploring his political counterpart to read a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s slavery novel ‘Uncle Tom's Cabin.’

In the statement, Mr Mitchell asserted that Mr Culmer continues to say, “dumber and dumber things.”

Referring to claims by Mr Culmer, where he accused the PLP of oppressing generations of black Bahamians through its political ploys and practices, Mr Mitchell said if there was a law against spreading misinformation - Mr Culmer would now be in prison.

“This is a classic example of what is known as Uncle Tomism,” Mr Mitchell said. “That means you blame the slaves for being in their condition and you get one of their own to say so.”

He continued: “How could a modern Bahamian, presumably educated in our country as a result of the policies of the PLP; whose island elected representatives of the PLP to take the country into independence; who benefitted from a senior job in a public corporation as a result of PLP policies; who lives in a free nation because of what the PLP did; whose very own FNM leaders were once PLP, speak such total and complete nonsense.”

“Instead of seeking to fix Grand Bahama with five FNM MPs and three Senators, he is spinning falsehoods.

“Mr Culmer should go sit in the graveyard in Savannah Sound and weep for his sins,” he concluded.

The first recipients of the country’s National Honours were announced on Independence Day, with the top honour of the Order of National Hero awarded posthumously to Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Milo Butler and Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield and Sir Roland.

The announcement, specifically the selection of Sir Roland, has led to national debate over the criteria for selection, with scores of political, religious and national figures using their respective platforms to either condemn or back the choice.

On Thursday, retired Bishop Simeon Hall called for a stop to the debate, which he called “retrogressive.”

Bishop Hall, who serves as pastor emeritus at New Covenant Baptist Church, said despite the negative cases now being brought up about Sir Roland’s legacy, he knew first hand of many of his positive deeds.

“Sir Roland heard me preach one summer, struggling to get back in college and he paid one year’s tuition for me,” he said. “So for me, he will always be my national hero.”

Additionally, Bishop Hall called on the country to recognise that, just as Sir Roland did, many of the country’s founding fathers had “a dark-side.”

However, he said despite their alleged negative acts; “the good they did outweighed the bad.”

And added Bishop Hall: “Some of our black leaders had their own graveyards, figuratively speaking.”


hrysippus 6 days, 18 hours ago

Well, of course, anything Mr. Frederick Mitchell has to say on this matter must be taken very seriously. Ha Ha Ha...……..


Alex_Charles 6 days, 17 hours ago

I agree with Mitchel but I do not support his party nor it's previous and current leadership.


jamani2 6 days, 16 hours ago

An award is reflective of the sum total of a person's life, not just where he stood at a pivotal moment in history. Yes there were people on both sides of the nationhood debate. My own father did not feel the time was right for the Bahamas to become an independent nation. However, once the Bahamas became independent, there was no one in this country that a more proud Bahamian than my dad. He went on to become a living, walking, breathing encyclopedia and history book of the Bahamas. By the way, Sir Roland Symonette was a great friend to my dad. My dad could walk into any one of his stores--I remember he sold, among other things, Electrolux refrigerators--and walk out with anything he needed. Of course he would always pay on terms. I can still remember my dad, a poor farmer and fisherman from the out island sitting in Sir Roland Symonette's office laughing and talking for hours. To him, he was not a white Bahamian and my dad, a black Bahamian. They were just two proud Bahamian men who, in their own way, loved their country and wanted to do whatever to help it succeed. If we were to judge politicians for having changed their minds on issues, they would all be branded as scoundrels. Sir Roland Symonette deserves the highest honor for his many contributions to Bahamian society. Apart from injecting race into this issue our Bahamian politicians of today need to stop being "small" and narrowminded.


jamani2 5 days ago

Certainly: -Rose from modest means to become an educator and advocate of education -An entrepreneur and highly successful business man -First prime minister of the Bahamas -Longest serving parliamentarian in Bahamian history -Leader of the opposition, UBP

Though not necessarily accomplishments, -He was knighted by the queen for his outstanding contributions to the Bahamas -His portrait is on the Bahamian $50. note.



TalRussell 6 days, 16 hours ago

Ma Comrade Freddy has lick'd too many sugarier Popsicle's. I can see labeling Pop Symonette with 'lick d brush' but it's stretch paint Pop as a man 'lick'd' with African ancestry... Lots narrow racial pathways you'd have pass though for Pop's be the first Eleutheran African. Time get Comrade Freddy back on Sugar Free Popsicle's. I don't remember reading anywhere where Pop's citizenry economic opportunities ever really felt threatened for lil bit he was lick'd... although Sir Stafford shared hardly ever expressed different viewpoint of Pop's. Pop's was Sir Stafford's connect to the natives.


Well_mudda_take_sic 6 days, 6 hours ago

Minnis has taken note of how easy it was for him to divert the public's attention away from his decision to increase VAT by 60%. Most of you posting to The Tribune website will have your attention similarly diverted away from the much more serious issues of the day when Minnis decides it's a good time to play his next race card - PUTTING SIR ROLAND'S FACE ON OUR ONE HUNDRED DOLLAR BANK NOTE!

And by the way, how many of you noticed that nearly all of those 'honoured' were or are politicians? Yes, indeed, Minnis truly believes only the 'politically elite ruling class' in our society are deserving of a 'national honour'. Here we have clear proof that Minnis is little different from Pindling, Ingraham and Christie. The rest of us plebes are only good for paying the taxes that allow Minnis and his elite political friends and their family members to live and travel like British Royalty. What a cruel joke on the Bahamian people!


EasternGate 6 days, 6 hours ago

Why this piece a shit don't flush itself!


DDK 6 days, 6 hours ago

Naming Nassau International Airport after LOP could be labelled “bad,” “inexplicable” and “unlawful”.


TalRussell 6 days, 5 hours ago

Comrade DDK, Pindling flung open the gates. Pop's Symonette was part of an elite small group of all me;;s who collectively tried but failed at keeping the gates forever shut in the faces of island of colony's majority.


K4C 6 days, 5 hours ago

What a piteous county the Bahamas has become race race race, the Bahamas is mired into it's 3rd world quandary, nothing has changed


pablojay 6 days, 5 hours ago

I read somewhere that the vote in the House of Assembly on independence was unanimous, which meant that Pop voted for it.So if he was against it initially,as were many other Bahamians, of all colour i might add, then it shows his love of country, since he saw that was the way it was going, he was prepared to go along and give it his best shot to make it work. We must remember that Sir Milo approached him about starting a bank that would give black Bahamians a"fairer shake" than the others big banks at the time and so Pop started Commonwealth Bank, offering Sir Milo shares in it, which made their two families the biggest shareholders.I do not think that Sir Milo was the only one that he could have asked to join him but that was Pop. A late friend from Exuma told me that his father had died, owing Pop a lot of money ,which made his mother a "nervous wreck",because she had no way of repaying it.Pop came to the funeral, offered his condolences and afterwards came to their house ,sat down in the living, pulled out a handful of receipts and said",Mrs. Ferguson , you know your husband owed me a lot of money",then after tearing them up,he again said,"Your husband is gone and so are the bills,don't let anyone come to you and say that i sent them to collect some money from you!" He said that after consoling his mother who was still crying , Pop told her that she knew how to contact him if she needed anything, wished them well and left for Nassau.


TalRussell 6 days, 4 hours ago

Ma Comrades, this conversation is not about how much Pop loved his country, his kindness, how much he contributed his Homeland - nor should it be about his financial generosity. ---- all have been acknowledged with few challengers.......it is solely about Pop's or any others elevation Hero status coming from ranks politicians.


sheeprunner12 6 days, 3 hours ago

What no one has discussed is that there is really NO differences between the social and political elitism attached to these "Bahamian" titles as compared to the British titles .......... The PM used to dole out the foreign awards ....... and he is doling out the local awards.

If these were honestly decided upon by a non-partisan independent Honours Committee, many of those names on there would not really be on there ........ To make them worthwhile, no more than three awards per Merit, Distinction, Bahamas categories should be given out each year ....... and ONE Nation and Hero named every THREE years.

We are just throwing our "pearls to swine".


sheeprunner12 6 days, 3 hours ago

We are again missing the point ........... the modern Bahamas began with the settlement of Eleuthera in 1648 ......... Some in that colonial age put their lives on the line to defend these islands ........ but we seem to be stuck with the Pingdomite view of history of this country now.


bogart 6 days, 1 hour ago

While all dis black white ....arguements goin on ......I gon hav one drink to Pops as pore as I is become.....pore people can appreciate dis one fella comin from one small corner a Leutera.....Current....he being 1 of 9 chillren....pore people know bout dis too ....gets some 6 years a schoolin.....runs an becomes one MP in the ...Colonial system.....at da age of 26-27 years old....was a rum runner bootlegger...buy land and lends money oit to people who couldnt borrow from banks under Colonial times.. to gets homes to own....gets dis he becomes leader ..and gets Knighted by the Queen too !!!..married 3 times....country starts tourism...biggest still today...banking...gambling...pore people appreciate dese jobs...and evrn resigns when he had to....and get dis serves da longest of any MP ...52 years !!!!...an gets dis even leaves the cointry wid money in da Treasury......muddoes dred...! an all did coming from one fella from Current...wif 6 years of schooling....!!!!! ....an on da odder side we has plenty ..politicians...wid hifalutin education...lawyers...doctors...accountants...who been goverin and leaving country big time in debt...broke ....pore people catchin hell callin it good times......gats to raise my cup to Pops....wid 6 years of schoolin ..heres to lookin at you Pops.!!!!!


jamani2 6 days ago

Much respect, Brother!


All4me 6 days ago

Bogart... Well said... That's what you call starting from the bottom. Good story.


John 6 days ago

They just couldn’t find no living White peoples to give the award to. Simple as that. So they have to resort to digging up dead peoples graves. So sad!


UserOne 5 days, 21 hours ago

Tribune please stop running stories about what Fred Mitchell has to say. His opinions are biased and negative and of no interest to most people.


bogart 5 days, 21 hours ago

While I been looking at how Pops wid he 6 yesrs of formal education manages to do all dese tings an wid Ministers in he govt like Sir Stafford Sands father of Tourism hotels Lucayan Hotel, Kings Inn casinos development of Freeport changes from pounds to dollars overemployment plenty people wid 2 an 3 jobs and leaving money in Treasury.......it is ironic....that after Pops 52 years serving da country.....in less time ......45 years....all dese educated politicians ...run da country up on da blocks ...causing the populstion to owe some $8,000,000,000.....dats $8 billion dollsrs in da hole....muddoes dred.....one more bottle of rum..heres looking at you Pops


TalRussell 5 days, 20 hours ago

Ma Comrades, sometimes you just need to own things, and say them out loud. From its inception the red shirts as a party have whitewashed their true identity. They are exactly as Minnis comes across.... doubling down Pop's elevation is not what they should be wanting to own 45 years after Independence and 50 years after Majority Rule. Might explain why they're rattling at their mandate's governing ribs cage.


John 5 days, 17 hours ago

If you could honor Pop Symonette with he rum running record, then honor Sebas Bastian and Craig Flowers with their numbers racket and Austin ‘King Snake ‘ Knowles and Samuel ‘Ninety ‘ Knowles with the same honors. None did no more than the other. Minnis it is your puppet masters that are playing the race card and NOT the PLP! And I dare you (or them) to prove me wrong!


Well_mudda_take_sic 4 days, 4 hours ago

Only lame-brained individuals like you John could subscribe to the fundamentally flawed and uncivilized principle that one wrong justifies and deserves another wrong. You clearly have never understood the biblical saying "an eye for an eye", which simply means the punishment must fit the crime. Your own very warped view of "an eye for an eye" is that one crime deserves another. Get a life!


licks2 2 days, 2 hours ago

Nobody can prove you wrong there fella. . .it takes some reasoning power to be proven wrong. . .YOU WILL NEVER BE PROVEN WRONG!!!!


John 5 days, 17 hours ago

Correction Austin Ossie’ Knowles


John 5 days, 17 hours ago

If you Hubert Minnis, Prime Minister of The Bahamas, cannot bestow the same honors on Craig Flowers And Sebas ‘Bas’ Bastian and Samuel ‘Ninety ‘ Knowles and Austin ‘Ossie’ Knowles that you want to bestow on Roland ‘Rum Runner ‘ Symnonette, then either you withdraw the honors and/or you Hubert Minnis resign as prime minister. And it will be the people’s time this time!


Greentea 5 days, 17 hours ago

John you are right. Making this about black and "Bahamian" white is a distraction. The man was a rum runner, opposed nationhood, somehow owned vast swaths of Nassau from Coconut grove to South Beach. Rum running is the same as drug running, is the same as illegal numbers - etc. Based on this logic Sebas and Flowers are nationaI heroes too- especially since they seem to do much more than than the Symonettes ever did. I want the decision makers to list the contributions these men made to the development of a modern Bahamas. Exemplary things that no one can argue. Whether they were nice people and gave a hand out here or there means absolutely nothing to me. I think we will find that none are truly deserving. Just because you decree- don't make it so.


hrysippus 5 days, 5 hours ago

GreenTeat is woefully ignorant, stupid, or just likes posting lies. Rum Running cannot be compared to Drug smuggling. Rum Running by Bahamians, or British as they then were, was quite legal and broke no laws of the land. Drug smuggling however is illegal. D- education at work or the usual PLP lies being generated.


Greentea 5 days, 16 hours ago

And one more thing- I think those women who helped get out the vote in 1967 should have been named the first national heroes. I am embarrassed to say I can't remember their names but a Ms. Bethel made a movie about them a few years ago that I saw. Now that story gave me immense pride in the country . I think that should be the criteria for national hero- selfless acts of bravery/courage/vision that moved the country forward. The national heroes CAN'T be politicians. Besides Edmund Moxey- few have attempted anything on a national scale intended to enrich the soul of our people. The so called Westminster system they were throwing around a few weeks ago, erases that possibility. And frankly after 45 years 8billion in debt, social decay, violence, environmental degradation, intense dumbing down of the population and a lack of national standards and accountability- not a single politician can honestly be called a national hero- white or black.


truetruebahamian 5 days, 15 hours ago

Freddy should stop sniffin' under his own tail and give someone due far greater reverence praise and accolades as are well deserved. I hope that he can understand this small worthy piece of input.


John 5 days, 9 hours ago

And what about persons like Dr Earl Farrington. Someone who spent practically all of his life in the hospital saving lives or doing surgery to make people healthy or whole again. And many others like him in the field of medicine, in education, in religion persons on the police force or the defense force. Persons with life long dedication And untainted.


TalRussell 5 days, 4 hours ago

Ma Comrades, like so much other things from we past - the Rum Running history of Pop Symonette and others have been quietly brushed aside. The always contentious relationship between Pop Symonette and Sir Stafford Sands - along with Pop's gained wealth gained through Rum Running would makes interesting case study in itself. There is no denying that without Pop and Sir Stafford appearing on the local scene, the colony of islands may never have become the crown jewel of the Caribbean. Estimates in the day has it that at anytime there were as much as "Ten Million Dollars’ worth of whisky" stored in those rickety old liquor shanties on Bay Street. The profits that poured out them bottles whisky did well for the bank balances one Pop's Roland Theodore Symonette. I keep preaching that we may need return our past ways to save these hereto colony of islands from itself and its $8 BILLION debt load. Talk has it that Pop's Rum Running loot was so cash flow lucrative that he boy Brent - still be countin’ he Pop's gold... all I might add was "legally lawful" under colony islands British Law - Pop's even had agents in London, England.


CaptainCoon 4 days, 20 hours ago

that's just good business, unlike that crook Ping that allegedly was somewhat involved in cocaine trafficking.


jamani2 5 days ago

Someone above, challenged me to name the contributions Sir Roland Symonnette made to the Bahamas. I thought I would also list them here for all.

Rose from modest means to become an educator and advocate of education -An entrepreneur and highly successful business man -First prime minister of the Bahamas -Longest serving parliamentarian in Bahamian history -Leader of the opposition, UBP

Though not necessarily accomplishments, -He was knighted by the queen for his outstanding contributions to the Bahamas -His portrait is on the Bahamian $50. note.


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