‘Square Deal’ was the Progressive Liberal Party’s campaign slogan for the 1967 General Elections. For many, at the time, there was an implied elasticity, as to what Square Deal actually meant. A number of nationalities, were living in The Bahamas, under varying immigration statuses designed under the colonial system. They too were wondering what this new Square Deal amounted to for them.
For Bahamians however, its meaning was taken as quite specific. It was envisioned that they could then, look forward to a representative government, who would put Bahamian interests first.
What the PLP soon found out, was that what was in the interest of The Bahamas, and what was in the interest of Bahamians, sometimes diverged at a sharp, unbending fork in the road.
Lynden Pindling, in lead up to January 10th of that year, was apparently a great admirer of legendary U.S. Presidents, Franklyn Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt. They were presidents who governed during tumultuous times in America. Their history of governance is what inspired the PLPs ‘Square Deal’ campaign slogan. —-The Miami Herald TUESDAY 24 JANUARY 1967
As new Premier Lynden Pindling sat down for the first of many interviews, he spoke of the pressing concerns for his new administration.
Primary on the list of national concerns related to capital and labour. Specifically, how to draw in much needed foreign investment capital and equally, how rid the country of foreign labour, so that Bahamians, could have these much needed jobs.
Premier Lynden Pindling, garnered the early support of the community of Jamaicans living in The Bahamas. Pindling’s father was Jamaican, and had come to Nassau some decades back, as a policeman.
In August 1967, as the Jamaican community in the Bahamas celebrated their national day, they too were wondering what the PLP’s Square Deal meant for them.
Jamaican applauds ‘New Day’ and makes specific mention to watching closely the actions of the Minister of Labour
Freeport Shantytowns 1967
It’s really not surprising that the problem of illegally constructed dwellings and shantytowns, across The Bahamas, began long before 1967. Shantytowns were growing in Nassau and Abaco and Freeport for at least a decade.
Cheap labour from the southern Caribbean was given the green light by the Bay Street controlled House of Assembly prior to 1967. What is largely forgotten is that it continued under the new PLP government of 1967.
This cheap, unchecked labour, soon turned into an immigration, land and ramshackle dwellings nightmare.
Nevertheless, this southern Caribbean labour built the new city called Freeport, it built the hotel industry of Nassau and the agricultural industry of Abaco in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s.
The labour of Haitians, Jamaicans and Bahamians were employed in droves. Freeport became a tremendous migrant draw for those on work permits, as well as, illegal migrants coming to fill a plethora of available construction jobs.
Freeport was expanding by leaps and bounds. New construction had been going up for the better part of 10 years or so before 1967. Hotels, second homes for Americans and Europeans, swimming pools, exclusive communities and an incredible new city emerged from the bushes of Grand Bahama.
But, there was one big problem. Freeport was built using cheap unskilled foreign labour. Many of these foreign labourers decided to stay after the job was over.
It is not at all surprising that Freeport, Grand Bahama tried to do something about the shantytowns problem quite early on. A marvellous new city was being built and it couldn’t sit next to shantytowns.
Soon, it was realised that many had settled around the new city of Freeport. They squatted on unclaimed land and used discarded building materials from the Freeport construction sites, to built unlicensed dwellings. Settlements were springing up in the pine forests, just as Freeport was taking wings.
Inherited. Exacerbated. Overwhelmed, then Ignored – Immigration
Immigration was an inherited issue. By the time the PLP first came to power, illegal migrants, mostly Haitians, numbered well over an estimated 15,000 to 25,000. Nobody really knew for sure. What was known that the problem went from invisible to visible with the expansion of shantytowns.
It was a reality, that the Progressive Liberal Party, was able to do very little about, except for, trying to negotiate with the Haitian government to take back most of its people.
In the first six months of a new Progressive Liberal Party ‘Square Deal’ government, some 2,313 work permits were approved. These were approved under the purview of the new PLP Minister for Internal Affairs Jeffrey Thompson.
Work permits for 1,113 Haitians , 469 Americans, 247 English, 135 Canadians, 105 Jamaicans, 31 Cubans, 28 Italians, and 19 Germans were granted.
Lynden Pindling’s Square Deal of 1967, in terms of labour and immigration, and we can speak plainly here, was aimed at expelling white expat labour from The Bahamas. White expatriate labour, it was felt, by the Progressive Liberal Party was taking jobs that Bahamians were entitled to.
However, very early on, it was clear that the reality of what was in the best interest of The Bahamas and what was in the best interest of Bahamians made for difficult decision making.