Lynden Pindling was good enough to get them all to the Promised Land. The Promised Land of historically significant political victory, that is. No one else could have, and they all knew it. None of them had what Pindling had. Like Stafford Sands, in his era, there was just something about the combined force of personality and power, that drew people, to a handful personalities, who in their time, would go on to change the course of Bahamian history.
Pindling’s energy, likability and political acuity, drew the grassroots voters to him.
But soon after, reaching the Promised Land, too soon really, the ‘led’ began to have aspirations of their own.
No sooner had the PLP walked into a new chapter of Bahamian history, when some wanted to snatch the rod and staff of leadership, out of Pindling’s hands.
Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, PLP Chairman and Minister of Education, was handsome. He was a smart, energetic and ambitious man. All excellent qualities for a leader. As early as July 1969, it was evident that Wallace-Whitfield was making ready to cause a political hurricane in the PLP Party.
Wallace-Whitfield wanted what Pindling had in 1969. Adoration, power, and the love of the people which followed Pindling’s every step. It was indeed something to watch. But not everyone fancied watching the show.
Whitfield soon began to make his move to snatch leadership out of Pindling’s hands.
It began with a speech to the Chamber of Commerce complaining about the budget handed to his Ministry of Education.
A meagre $5 million dollars, Wallace-Whitfield surmised, was not enough to achieve the big plans he had for the Ministry of Education.
“They know only too well that whoever foolishly seeks power by riding on the back of the tiger eventually ends up inside.”
Prime Minister Lynden Pindling – Keynote address to the progressive liberal parties 18th National Convention in Freeport, the first one held on a Family Island and the first one in an independent Bahamas. October 15, 1973
Allies to Enemies
How Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden Pindling, and his PLP Party gatekeeper, Chairman, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, moved from political allies to bitter political enemies, was mind-bogglingly swift, cataclysmic and painfully final.
When Cecil Wallace-Whitfield crossed the aisle, to take on Pindling, he went with intimate insider knowledge of the inner workings of the Party. When Whitfield crossed the aisle, he took seven other PLP House Members with him. He also took the confidence of the UBP Members in the House, all in a collective bid to take down Pindling.
The Pindling – Whitfield adversarial battles, would come to change the political landscape of the Bahamas forever.
Their battle, would result in the dissolving of the UBP and the formation of a new political party, the FNM, The Free National Movement.
1967 Wallace-Whitfield Protected Pindling’s Back
The PLP (Progressive Liberal Party) victory at the election polls in January 1967 stunned everyone. To some abroad though, it was cataclysmic. There were major deals in place which depended on the continuity of the UBP (United Bahamian Party) Government. Important hotel and casino gambling agreements had already been made. Deals for land acquisition and far reaching international handshakes had already been consigned to the confirmed pile. Britain and America quickly sent their spies crawling all over the Bahamas, gathering intelligence on everyone associated with the PLP. Not only were governments spying on the PLP, others who had big financial interests, were trying to anticipate Pindling’s next move as well.
In 1967, there was no way of knowing how influential or destructive how all these shadowy stakeholders would be.
For Pindling and the neophyte PLP Members of Parliament, political power was new, like discovery both ends of a rainbow. Political power was seductive, many would be charmed by its illusory promises of fame. Most of all though, political power in 1967, created many enemies for Pindling. They would be fierce and lifelong adversaries for the new black Premier of the Bahamas.
On Wednesday January 11, 1967, newspapers around the world were carrying the election story. Both chairman and leader are carried on the shoulders of supporters the night before as election victory was seemingly within their grasp.
“The party chairman, Cecil Wallace Whitfield, like Pindling a young lawyer educated in England was carried about the hotel on the shoulders of his followers. His white wife kept repeating, “What a day, what a day.” “
(The Miami News, Wednesday January 11, 1967)
By September 1967, Wallace-Whitfield was proving himself as party Chairman and Pindling protector. It was Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Chairman of the PLP and Minister of Works testifying before the Commission investigating gambling in The Bahamas, who accused the British of spying.
Wallace-Whitfield charged that all the PLP leaders were being spied on, including the new Premier Lynden Pindling.
(Tampa Bay Times, Wednesday 06 September, 1967)
Intelligence spies had already uncovered all the sordid and complex business deals of the UBP. They knew about the mafia connections with the Mary Carter Paint Company and the organised crime connections linked to a casino in Freeport.
What the spies were after now, was Pindling. By all appearances, PLP Chairman Wallace-Whitfield was guarding Pindling’s back.
1968 Wallace-Whitfield Openly Challenges Pindling… But why?
After the decisive victory at the polls, Pindling could now finally create a government mandate, which would turn the resources of the country toward disadvantaged blacks. Rather than giving them the fish, he wanted to teach them how to fish. Or at least, that was the plan. To accomplish his mandate, education became a top priority for the PLP.
H. G. Wells famously wrote that“Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe.” Pindling knew that the catastrophe had already happened for blacks in the Bahamas. What he was trying to do, in 1967, was to play catch-up in the race.
The portfolio for Education was initially given to the number two man in the Party, A. D. Hanna, in 1967. Hanna boasted about the $7.2 million dollar budget and all that was going to be done.
(The Guardian, London, Wednesday 21 June 1967)
In a cabinet reshuffle, in 1968, the portfolio for Education was taken from A. D. Hanna and given to Cecil Wallace-Whitfield. Wallace-Whitfield’s Education budget was cut to $5 million by Minister of Finance Carlton Francis. Carlton Francis held a Masters degree in Math from Edinburgh University.
There was something about this which upset Wallace-Whitfield deeply. It triggered a discontent that would not go away.
Did he feel that he was being sidelined?
Did Whitfield figure that his talents were being wasted, by putting him in a less than exciting area, like Education?
Whatever it was, Wallace-Whitfield decided to make his feelings known by airing his disgruntlement in public. In a speech made before Chamber of Commerce, Whitfield made mention of the budget of $5 million not being enough to accomplish everything he had planned for Education. The unusual comments which seemed to attack the judgment of Pindling and Finance Minister Carlton Francis, didn’t go down well within the Party.
Then, Whitfield went on the attack. He set his sights on Ministers Warren Levarity and Jeffrey Thompson.
In November 1968, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield threatened to resign if Pindling didn’t fire Levarity and Thompson for ineffectiveness and incompetence.
Levarity, son of a Jamaican policeman like Pindling, was rumoured to have had a drinking problem. He was first Minister for the Out Islands. He was relieved of his duties as Minister of Transport over an airline application to the government.
Jeffrey Thompson, once an articled student at Pindling’s law office, then law partner became Minister for Internal Affairs with responsibilities for Immigration.
Wallace-Whitfield’s observations about Jeffrey Thompson may have stemmed from statements made by Thompson over the Haitian crisis in the Bahamas. Upon returning from talks with Duvalier in Port-au-Prince, Thompson made a flabbergastingly wrong statement. He said that since his talks with Duvalier, illegal Haitian migration in the Bahamas had abruptly stopped. This was far from the truth. In fact, it seemed Thompson has acceded more assurances to Duvalier than the Bahamas had gotten.
(The Morning Call, Friday January 12, 1968)
By mid-year 1968, Wallace-Whitfield had been closely observing the performances of Levarity and Thompson as Ministers. He didn’t like what he saw.
Cecil Wallace-Whitfield threatened to resign if Pindling didn’t get rid of, as he saw it, the dead weight of Levarity and Thompson.
At the PLP Convention, in December 1968, after Pindling won the vote of confidence by Party Members, he dared Cecil Wallace-Whitfield to resign. Pindling called Whitfield’s bluff during a speech at the convention.
Whitfield declined to resign and fell back in line. But for only a moment.
(The City Times Monday December 2, 1968)
Pindling and Wallace-Whitfield seemed to have settled their differences by the closing days of 1968. Seemed to…
(The Palm Beach Post, Thursday 12, December 1968)
UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS AND THE CEASAR COMPLEX
It must be said that the PLP fought an early battle between idealism and reality. Despite the highest levels of education and good old fashioned common sense held within the membership of the PLP, in the early years, after achieving majority rule, there was an equally high level of over-ambitiousness and naïveté. So many promises had been made. So many people were asking for assistance, jobs, housing and opportunity. Every island was crying out for development and help.
The people wanted swift, overnight change. The PLP promised it.
All of it was nigh on impossible. They wanted growth, development and infrastructure to appear out of thin air. They wanted banks to hire blacks as tellers and cashiers. They wanted to stop land sales to foreigners. They wanted to force hotels to hire blacks as more than just porters and maids. They went to Freeport to demand jobs for blacks in the Port Authority. They wanted the British expats teachers gone out of education and replaced by Bahamians. Even expat secretaries were soon put on notice as to the statuses of any impending work permits. They would all soon be cancelled.
(The Palm Beach Post Thursday 13 March 1969)
Education was a top priority, but there were few qualified Bahamian teachers. The country needed more university educated Bahamian professionals ready to take the reins in industry, before the foreign expat teachers could be sent packing. Reluctantly, the PLP soon found that they had to hire more foreign teachers while Bahamians went to school to became teachers.
(The Palm Beach Post Thursday 13 March 1969)
With the power to make radical change at their fingertips, some no longer wanted to be backbencher MPs.
Everyone wanted a Ministry.
Everyone wanted their chance to be Leader.
A Cesar complex was spreading through the ranks. Some wanted greatness thrust upon their shoulders, sooner rather than later.
1970 Wallace-Whitfield Calls For No Confidence Vote for Pindling
From 1968, Wallace-Whitfield’s discontent had been growing increasingly. In 1970, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield quit the PLP in spectacular fashion. He bypassed Pindling and delivered his letter of resignation directly to the Governor.
This was entirely out of proper protocol.
Whitfield also called for a no confidence vote. Pindling survived it by a 19-15 spread. Those who voted against him were all seven of the UBP and eight of the 29 PLP Members of the House.
(The Miami News Friday, 27 November, 1970)
(The Courier-Journal Sunday Morning 14 March 1971
1971 – Wallace-Whitfield calls Pindling a dictator
(The Miami News Tuesday , 03 August , 1971)
1971 The Evolution of the FNM – The Free National Movement
When Cecil Wallace-Whitfield resigned he took seven other PLPs with him. They formed the Free PLP Party. The 8 former PLPs became known as the Dissident Eight.
By August 1970 the House of Assembly consisted of 21 PLP Members, 8 Free PLP Members and 7 UBP Members and one Labour Member.
(The Miami News Wednesday, 04 August , 1971)
By December 1970, secret plans were being drawn up for a new coalition Opposition. Wallace-Whitfield was in talks with the remnants of the Bay Street Boys. The seven UBP House of Assembly Members and the eight Free PLP Members, join forces to defeat Pindling and the PLP.
They call their new political party, The Free National Movement.
The Free National Movement prepare themselves for the September 19th., 1972 General Elections for which the central question of National independence is put to the people.
(The Guardian, London Friday, 15 September , 1972)
1972 – The General Elections Tuesday September 19, 1972
FNM PARTY LEADER, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield LOSES HIS SEAT
On 19th September 1972, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield’s big gamble had failed. His FNM campaign, which centred on a platform against national independence for the Bahamas, had failed. Not only did it fail as a platform, but it cost Wallace-Whitfield his seat. He lost to Bruce Braynen of the PLP.