Juicy government leaks only truly began with the PLP government in 1967. Don’t believe me? Well, consider that, for the better part of five decades, the Bay Street elite and their tightly controlled House of Assembly, managed to get away with all manner of dirty water dish washing and not even a turnip of gossip ever made it to the newspapers.
Imagine that, right there in Nassau where everyone could see, the United Bahamian Party named a whole new, man-made cay, Kelly Island, after one of its Cabinet Ministers, and not one soul, dead or alive, objected. You see how power can go to your head! Hubris! Thank goodness it was renamed to Arawak Cay.
Then, there were the islands, and hundreds of thousands of acres of crown land leased up for longer than Columbus has been dead or land sold cheaper than a bunch of bananas in a bag, and not a sausage of contention, not one begrudging drip of inside information, ever made it to the newspapers.
But in 1967, all that changed. In 1967, it was ‘dog eat your lunch” all day long
Politics is an adversarial exercise. When government administrations change, and if you’re on the side of the political party voted out, it’s often like that Bahamian expression ‘dog eat your lunch.’ In other words, everything that you did while in office, becomes fair game to expose or ignore.
All incompetencies, dodgy dealings, winked eyes, questionable connections, all the undotted, uncapitalised letters and dangling disjunctive participles, found in the government books, are fair game to the winning political party to expose. This, dear readers, is a time honoured political tradition in all democracies.
There is only one big problem in dropping rumour bombs in the political arena. For a politician especially, not everything can be made public in a direct way. Sometimes, you need unwitting messengers.
Juicy government leaks often must be extruded through the long pipe of rumour and innuendo. And as anyone knows in The Bahamas, any slight innuendo or Freudian slip can turn into a whole three piece chicken meal with a cold soda, before you can say ‘boy you hear that so and so and so and that…’
In 1967, someone waited until former Premier Sir Roland Symonette, leader of the Opposition UBP, was off the island to start a scandalous rumour.
This rumour resulted in some 700 people taking cutlasses, pickaxes and shovels to Symonette’s large parcel of land between East Street and Soldier Road. The land was large enough that 700 people were staking out 50 x 100 plots because they heard a rumour that it was available to anyone who wanted it, as long as they cleared it down themselves.
Another 38 acres of land also claimed by squatters belonged to a company called McPherson and Brown.
After the dust had settled and the squatters where shushed off the man land, questions turned to who could have started such a rumour.
Yes, many wondered who could have had access to the Land Registry in 1967, after the PLP won. This member of the Government who called the police, to say that they heard something, was probably the guy who started it.