By 1977, there were any number of appropriate aphorisms that could have been used to describe the curious debacles, which arose out of various political party infighting, in the Bahamas. Political infighting, so soon after national independence in 1973, was always about leadership, and finding the right person to snatch political victory from Prime Minister Lynden Pindling.
Unquestionably, the annals of Bahamian political history are littered with the names of those who plotted, tried and failed to dethrone Lynden Pindling before his 25 year reign, as Prime Minister, came to an ignominious end.
The Free National Movement (FNM) was born out of political infighting within the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). And in 1977, political infighting within the Free National Movement gave birth to a new political party which almost ended the FNM for good.
In 1977, the blow to the Free National Movement (FNM) did not come from its main political rival, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). The sharp uppercut to the chin came from within. A brutish punch came from former FNMs, who had broken away to form their own political party, the Bahamas Democratic Party, the BDP.
ALL CHIEFS AND NO INDIANS – THE RISE OF THE BAHAMAS DEMOCRATIC PARTY 1977
The win at the election polls of 1967 took everyone by surprise. For the vast majority of negro Bahamians, and indeed poor whites, and coloureds at the time, it was wanted. Needed even. But, nevertheless, when it happened it was an unexpected surprise. Power was now in the hands of a short negro man, with one good eye, whose parents has come to Nassau as economic migrants. But Pindling who had a charisma that was not even possessed by kings. The people loved him and in turn, he loved them.
By 1969, the political power that had been galvanised under the stewardship of negro PLP Leader, Lynden Pindling, soon began to be slowly chipped away. Some who had once supported his leadership, now seemingly wanted the crown for themselves. Pindling’s direction for the country: the Bahamas for Bahamians; independence; and the continuation of casino gambling was quickly making him more political enemies than he realised.
The FNM Free National Movement, formed in 1971 by Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, former PLP Minister and confidant of Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, essentially amalgamated what was left of the (UBP) United Bahamian Party members and dissenting Progressive Liberal Party members in the House of Assembly.
By 1976, deep fractures from within the FNM itself, led to the formation of the Bahamas Democratic Party, spearheaded by Bahamian Attorney, Mr. J. Henry Bostwick.
In July 1977, by the time the very first general elections, after independence were about to be decided, the Free National Movement, was in shambles.
1977 General Elections
The 1972 general elections had been primarily decided on the question of national independence. Results from the ballots boxes across the islands gave the FNM, 9 seats, to the governing PLPs, 29 seats, in the House of Assembly.
(The Orlando Sun Sentinel, Tuesday 19 July 1977)
Five years later, as the new year of 1977 dawned, there were obvious signs that a significant fracture was happening within the FNM.
As July 1977 rolled in, and another general election dawned, only eight seats were not captured by the PLP Party.
Out of the now 8 opposition seats after the ballots were counted, 6 seats went to the new Bahamas Democratic Party, which at that time, was just seven months old.
The FNM was left with just 2 seats in the House of Assembly.
FNM Leader, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, in a tumultuous upset, lost his seat in the House of Assembly.
Of the 2 FNMs left in the House of Assembly in 1977, one member was Garnet Levarty representing Grand Bahama-Pine Ridge and the other member was Maurice Moore representing Grand Bahama – High Rock. There were no Free National Movement members for New Providence after the 1977 general elections.
(The Vancouver Sun, Wednesday 20 July, 1977)
The new Bahamas Democratic Party members were Sir Roland Symonette, the first Premier of the Bahamas representing his long held constituency of New Providence East – Shirlea, J. Henry Bostwick, representing New Providence East – Montague, Mike Lightbourne representing Abaco – Marsh Harbour, Norman Solomon representing Harbour Island – St. John, Ervin Knowles representing Cat Island and James Knowles representing Long Island- Clarence Town.
1978 The Honourable Sir Roland Symonette Retires From Politics Forcing A By-Election
The by-election of February 1978 was another shocking defeat for Cecil Wallace-Whitfield and the Free National Movement.
Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, having no desire to fight for the seat, because of an already overwhelming majority held by the PLP, and because the seat was in an area that the PLP had few supporters in, let the FNM and its offshoot party, the BDP fight it out.
Wallace-Whitfield, having lost his seat in the 1977 general elections, decided to run for the FNM in the Shirlea seat vacated by Sir Roland.
Wallace-Whitfield lost the race for the Shirlea constituency to Keith Duncombe of the Bahamas Democratic Party.
The vote spread was 974 BDP to 411 FNM.
(The Gazette, Sunday 26 February 1978)
BAHAMAS DEMOCRATIC PARTY DISAPPEARS INTO THE POLITICAL ETHER
At some point between 1979 and 1982 when the next general elections in the Bahamas took place, the quickly formed BDP, Bahamas Democratic Party, disappeared just as fast as it had appeared on the political scene.
The two FNM Members of Parliament, Maurice Moore and Garnet Levarity accepted the olive branch extended by J. Henry Bostwick of the Bahamas Democratic Party to merge to form the FNDM, the Free National Democratic Party. The FNDM became the second opposition group between 1978 and 1982.
The FNDM, Free Democratic National Party too had a short life on the political sphere in the Bahamas.
1982 General Elections
The 1982 general elections ended the Bahamas Democratic Party/Free National Movement’s love child the FNDM.
Attorney J. Henry Bostwick lost his seat the same year his wife, barrister Dame Janet Bostwick became the first woman elected to the House of Assembly of the Bahamas.
After losing his seat in the House of Assembly in 1982, J. Henry Bostwick was appointed to the Senate by the FNM.