EDITOR, The Tribune
Governor General C A Smith was appointed to his post in June 2019 by the former Free National Movement (FNM) government. His predecessor was Dame Marguerite Pindling, who was appointed to serve at Government House located on Mount Fitzwilliam in 2014, by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government. Dame Marguerite had replaced Sir Arthur Foulkes, who was appointed to the post in 2010 by the final Ingraham administration. Prior to Foulkes’ appointment, eight other distinguished Bahamians had served as governor general: AD Hanna, Paul Adderley, Dame Ivy Dumont, Sir Orville Turnquest, Sir Clifford Darling, Sir Henry Taylor, Sir Gerald Cash and Sir Milo B Butler. Cash served from September 1979 to June 1988; nearly nine years. His was the longest tenured reign. Sir Orville, who served from January 1995 to November 2001, was the second longest serving head of state. Sir Milo, who died in office in 1979, served the third longest.
In total, The Bahamas, despite being just 48 years old as an independent state, has had 11 governor generals. Our CARICOM ally, Jamaica, became an independent state 11 years before The Bahamas on August 6, 1962, via a bipartisan collaboration between the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration of Alexander Bustamante and the People’s National Party (PNP) and Norman Manley. This past August, Jamaica celebrated its 59th independence anniversary, with Sir Patrick Allen serving as governor general – a position he has held since 2009. He was appointed by the then Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, amid controversy concerning his strong ties to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Allen’s tenure has coincided with the balance of the Golding administration, that ended in December 2011; the PNP administration of Portia Simpson-Miller, between January 2012 to February 2016; and the first and current Andrew Holness JLP governments.
Despite being appointed under a JLP government, Simpson-Miller saw no need to remove Allen, as Jamaicans view the governor general post as politically neutral, while we Bahamians have politicized the post. This can explain why Jamaica has had only six substantive governor generals (with an additional two who served as acting) in its 59 years of independence. Allen is now in his twelfth year, which is over three years longer than Cash’s tenure.
Bear in mind that while Jamaica has a population of 2.9 million, The Bahamas has a population of only 400,000. The sheer size of our population means that the number of appointments to occupy the state owned mansion on Mount Fitzwilliam is disproportionate.
Moreover, another issue burdening Bahamian taxpayers is coming up with massive pension benefits for five retired governor generals. If Smith is retired by this PLP government, that number would probably increase to six. A governor general pension is, to the best of my knowledge, near the $100,000 range.
Jamaica, on the other hand, only has one retired governor general, Sir Kenneth O Hall. Both the FNM and PLP have burdened taxpayers with a costly post, in order to reward their faithful stalwarts with a lavish pension and enviable retirement benefits, while complaining about the Treasury being near broke. I am humbly calling on Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis to put an end to this unsustainable practice.
The Bahamas can no longer afford each new government, that is being elected every five years, to appoint a new governor general every term. One of the easiest austerity strategies Davis can implement is to simply not burden the Bahamian people with another unnecessary appointment to Mount Fitzwilliam to occupy a post that The Bahamas can do without.
October 11, 2021.