The Bahamas doesn’t need lectures in political democracy – it can give lectures. For three hundred years now, and counting, many little remembered and altogether forgotten voices, have echoed their ideas, in the nation’s House of Assembly. This represents our treasured democracy.
During debates in the Assembly, some hear only arguing but, they are not really listening. A drama of Shakespearean proportions plays out every time the House meets. In truth, consensus, in such broad terms as politics, is rarely arrived at without some measure of acrimony.
We forget after all, that these men and women are but mere humans, tasked with august endeavours. Their presentations, adversarial exchanges, jeers, grumbles, guffaws and sharp witted retorts – all represent a political exchange which underscores Bahamian democracy.
In 1967, in those first precarious months after so much incredible political change, much could have gone awry. Much was predicted to go awry. In the end, it didn’t. Politics continued. Democracy survived.
Caution must be noted however. Woe betided the utterances of those Members of Parliament, the ones too clever, for their own good and certainly even for their compatriots. Being upbraided for grammar began a long time ago. Being chided for history and associations, well that began, since the days of Woodes Rogers.
Milo Butler’s “seclusively segregated” draws guffaws from UBP then Cecil and A. D. Hanna, Arthur Foulkes and Clarence Bain jumped in
To this very day, nothing draws more jeers, in the House of Assembly, than fumbled presentations, creative verbiage and odd, made up words.
In 1967, Milo Butler was big man. He was a physically imposing person – with all the accoutrements of presence, including a booming voice, and flair for the political verbiage needed in debate.
When Milo stood up, government side of the House, to talk about the the social realities of Paradise Island, he created a new phrase “seclusively segregated.”
Butler turned heads.
This first utterance, of a completely new phrase, “seclusively segregated” drew a few hearty guffaws and smirks from the Opposition United Bahamian Party.
When Bobby Symonette, former Speaker of the House and son of former Premier Sir Roland Symonette, rose to his feet to say that Butler needs to be become a ‘consultant’ for Webster’s Dictionary for his created phrase.
Well, that’s pretty much all it took to light a fuse, on the damp match of what was supposed to be a dull morning’s debate on how best to approach the problem of beach erosion.
Cecil Wallace Whitfield, A. D. Hanna, Arthur Foulkes, and Clarence Bain all jumped in to catapult their retorts across the aisle.
Cecil Wallace Whitfield reminded the honourable member Bobby Symonette, that it was his father, former Premier Sir Roland Symonette, who invented the word ‘irregardless’ right there in the House of Assembly.
Arthur Foulkes, MHA, remarked…
Arthur D. Hanna, it was couldn’t contain himself. He jumped to his feet. When he heard the word ‘consultant’ he couldn’t let that one go. What he said, ultimately had the both side of the House of Assembly laughing.
“Unable to contain himself, the government’s most flamboyant speaker, Deputy Premier Arthur Hanna was on his feet. “Consultant?” asked Hanna. And where is the king of consultants today?
HE DIDN’T have to say he meant Sir Stafford Sands, whose consultants fees from gambling interest helped bring the downfall of the old government. Sir Stafford hasn’t sat in the Assembly since the PLP took power. Both sides of the House were convulsed in laughter”
It was UBP Assemblyman John Bethell who most irked the PLP members. Bethell charge the government was trying to wreck tourism and cited the new $1 million a year casino tax as example.
Arthur Foulkes answered back.
“If the casinos can afford 1 million in consultants fees to Sir Stafford Sands why can’t they afford the tax?” asked Foulkes
ANOTHER SAID it was unbecoming for Bethell to spend his vacations in the Republic of South Africa.
Clarence A. Bain
Not all the complaints against the UBP were so frivolous.
“They sit over there day after day cackling and chuckling” complained PLP Assemblyman Clarence Bain “It’s amazing to see mighty man fall and grasp at little things.”
“It burns their souls to see us in power,” said Foulkes. “They would prefer to bring everything down in this country with them.”
“Shame, shame” came the cries from the PLP benches.
Then they all laughed and Bobby Symonette went over to talk to Premier Lynden Pindling privately about went to recess.