EDITOR, The Tribune.
Former attorney general and financial services and investments minister in the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration of former Prime Minister Perry Christie, Allyson Maynard-Gibson, has informed The Nassau Tribune that she has started her very own blog. Perhaps borrowing PLP Leader Philip “Brave” Davis’ idea for his 2009 deputy leader campaign slogan, which was dubbed Be Brave, Maynard-Gibson’s blog is named BeBoldBahamas.
According to the former PLP minister, the blog will cover a number of topics. BeBoldBahamas, in all likelihood, will be used as a blogosphere platform to garner political currency for a former PLP minister who craves relevancy, and who also may be entertaining ideas of mounting a political comeback. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s famous phrase about man being a political animal aptly describes Maynard-Gibson, as well as tens of thousands of Bahamians. I believe Maynard-Gibson engaged in a bit of historical revisionism during her Nassau Tribune interview, when she opined that Sir Milo B. Butler, the first Bahamian governor general, is the father of the financial services industry.
Maynard-Gibson probably loathes the idea of giving former United Bahamian Party (UBP) Tourism and Finance Minister Sir Stafford Sands the credit for being the architect of the financial services and tourism industries. Both the PLP and Free National Movement have built upon these two critical foundations. No credible Bahamian historian would accept Maynard-Gibson’s assumption; for it is tantamount to saying Dr Martin Luther King Jr, not George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, is the founding father of the United States, because he led the charge against racial discrimination in that country. There seems to be a concerted effort to erase from the memory of the Bahamian people the significant contributions made to this country by Sir Stafford.
The Bahamas is a democracy. Consequently, we are all entitled to our own opinion, but not our own facts. Maynard-Gibson is another in a long list of second generation politicians. Her father, the late Sir Clement T Maynard, who led the Professional Staff Union in the 1960s, was a loyalist of the late Sir Lynden O Pindling. Due to his unflinching loyalty to Pindling, he was made government leader in the Senate and was appointed to the first ever PLP Cabinet without a portfolio, after Majority Rule in 1967. After winning a seat in the House in the April 10, 1968 general election, Maynard was reappointed to the Cabinet, this time as Minister of Works. Incidentally, Sir Milo was appointed Minister of Health and Welfare in the first Pindling government. After the 1968 election, he was appointed Minister of Labour. Pindling took on the portfolio of tourism minister in 1967. He appointed Carlton Francis as minister of finance. The mere fact that Sir Milo was not appointed to finance is evidence that Pindling never viewed him as a financial expert or the father of the financial services sector. In Michael Craton’s biography of Pindling, Sir Lynden acknowledged Sir Stafford’s role in establishing The Bahamas as an off-shore banking haven. Craton also acknowledged Sir Stafford’s massive role in establishing The Bahamas as a tourism mecca in the post World War II era in his groundbreaking volume Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People. Sands headed the Development Board from 1949 to 1964, the year The Bahamas achieved self-government. Under Sands’ able leadership, tourism became a year-round industry, rather than just being seasonal.
Both of Sands’ seminal contributions to The Bahamas were also referenced by Sir Randol in The Faith That Moved the Mountain. Two of the three leading black Bahamian politicians in the 1960s were at least honest enough to give credit where credit was due when it was to their advantage to distort the historical facts, seeing that both suffered political persecution under the UBP regime that Sands played an important role in.
After the fallout from the 1984 commission of inquiry and the purging of the Pindling Cabinet of disloyalists, Maynard was made minister of foreign affairs and tourism. To emphasise just how loyal Maynard was to Pindling, it must be stressed that he replaced A D Hanna as deputy prime minister. Like other anti-UBP ideologues who lived in the pre-Majority Rule Bahamas, Maynard-Gibson is probably interpreting Bahamian history with her racial blinders on. Her rationale for Sir Milo being the father of the financial services sector was that he fought to end discriminatory practices of the banks in the 1940s and 1950s. Both Sir Lynden and Sir Randol Fawkes mentioned Sir Milo fighting on behalf of black Bahamians to work in the banks on Bay Street. Both of them accompanied Sir Milo in the 1950s when he went into Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to protest its longstanding discrimination against black Bahamians. In fact, Sir Randol stated in The Faith That Moved the Mountain that one Mizpah Wallace, a graduate of Government High School, became the first black Bahamian teller at RBC in 1956 due to Sir Milo’s civil rights efforts. Sir Milo contested the Western District of New Providence by-election against the eccentric Canadian-American billionaire Sir Harry Oakes in 1938, after the venerable A F Adderley was promoted to the Legislative Council. Butler was soundly defeated, due to Oakes’ unabashed voter buying. According to historians Michael Craton and Dr Gail Saunders, as a successful merchant in the black-belt communities, Butler’s credit at RBC was stopped, due to mounting pressure from the Bay Street Boys. This was a clear case of political victimisation. With the ongoing Great Depression in the United States, Oakes provided the Colony with a much needed financial shot in the arm. Thousands of black Bahamians were in his employment, as the investor purchased large swaths of land in New Providence for development. The Bay Street oligarchs couldn’t allow Butler to upset the apple cart. The son of Frances “Mother” Butler, who founded the relief organisation the Mother’s Club in 1929, Sir Milo, like prominent Ballot Party members R M Bailey, S C McPherson and C C Sweating in the 1920s and 1930s, and like the late Bahamas Democratic League MP Sir Etienne Dupuch in the 1950s, fought hard against discrimination against black Bahamians. Not taking anything away from Sir Milo or the PLP, but there were many other courageous non-PLPs who shed blood, sweat and tears in the great struggle against the Bay Street Boys. Bahamians who were born in the post-majority rule era may not be aware of this.
As a champion of the black masses, Sir Milo also played a significant part in the Burma Road Riot in 1942, and in the events on Black Tuesday in April of 1965, when he tossed the two hour glasses through the window of the House of Assembly. As one of the first PLPs to have been elected to Parliament in 1956, Sir Milo’s spot in the Bahamian political hall of fame is well deserved. I will not contend with Maynard-Gibson’s contention about Sir Milo’s role in helping to end discrimination against black Bahamians in the banks or helping to bring about majority rule. Where we part ways, however, is her unsubstantiated assertion that Sir Milo, and not Sir Stafford, is the father of the banking industry. She stands to gain absolutely nothing by attempting to revise Bahamian history.
January 14, 2019.