|The farewell that wasn’t|
Guardian Senior Reporter
Published: Jul 30, 2012
While the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the departure of former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham from the House of Assembly after he was not allowed to deliver his farewell speech when he wanted to last Wednesday certainly made for good political theater, it was also a massive missed opportunity.
Despite the Progressive Liberal Party’s belief that precedence should be given to what every single Cabinet minister had to say about how the government’s first 100 days in office are shaping up prior to that self-imposed benchmark, there were many thousands throughout the country who wanted to hear what Ingraham had to say to a country he has served for many years; and from which he has gained much and more.
Ingraham also missed a once in a lifetime opportunity by not waiting to deliver his speech despite the unnecessary delay.
He had a duty to give that speech, and once delivered, it would live on forever in the Hansard of the House.
Now, July 25, 2012 will be remembered for the farewell that wasn’t.
When Ingraham delivered his resignation letter to Speaker of the House Dr. Kendal Major on July 19, it marked the end of his 35 years as a member of Parliament.
Three and a half decades he described as “filled not only with the highs of victory and accomplishment, but also with the lows of defeat, dismissal from Cabinet in 1984, and recent defeat at the polls for the party I led”.
“In office, I always did my best. And I worked tirelessly,” Ingraham remarked.
He detailed his rise from campaign general at 25 years old to national chairman of the PLP at 28, and being elected to the House at 29.
Ingraham, who left the PLP in later years and eventually led the Free National Movement to control of the government in 1992, 1997 and 2007, also regretted that he couldn’t lead his party to another victory.
“While many will comment now and into the future on the reasons for my party’s loss, I accept full and unreserved responsibility for our defeat,” he said.
Ingraham, who displayed little confidence in the current Christie administration the week before, also took time to wish the PLP well.
“I congratulate the governing party on its recent election victory. Our system works best and is most vibrant when the minority accepts the electoral victory of the majority, and agrees to cooperate with, though not always agree with, the majority, in the service of the common good,” he said.
“Inherent in this acceptance of the right and responsibility of the majority to govern, is a necessary reciprocity. This reciprocal responsibility required of the majority, is that the minority will be treated fairly, and that their rights will be respected and not infringed upon.
“I also remain confident that the ideals and customs of this House and of our democracy will flourish, nurtured by the good men and women who serve here, a free press, a strong civil society, and an eternally vigilant people, in whose House of Assembly it has been my privilege to serve.”
Ingraham, after thanking the people of North Abaco for their continued support, also went on at length to describe the many upgrades and improvements the country experienced under the FNM.
He also acknowledged the role of the public service in making what he achieved possible.
But there were many things the former prime minister said he would like to see achieved by his successors, such as: “Achieving full equality of the sexes in law and custom; realizing more focused education and training programs and outcomes required to better equip Bahamians with the skills needed to realize their potential in a 21st century global economy; a reduction in the level of violent crime and the enhancement of a more peaceful and nonviolent society; a reduction in the rate of growth of government debt and a return to sustained economic growth; a more fully developed network of youth and human development programs inclusive of effective social intervention measures, and a focused attention to public health; a more efficient and productive judicial, legal and public sector; sustained and continuous police training at all levels including enhanced investigative skills; ongoing measures to protect and preserve the nation’s environmental and cultural heritage; the establishment of an Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission and related efforts to even further deepen our democracy, and the coming into effect of the Freedom of Information Act and related efforts to make government even more transparent and accountable.”
He added: “These are attainable goals on which I believe we enjoy considerable national consensus. This notwithstanding, success on these fronts will only be possible if we are able to continue to rely on the selfless service of men and women of character in the House of Assembly.
“And so, as I depart, I encourage Bahamians from every walk of life to come forward to participate more fully in the political life of our country.”
But Ingraham noted that political service is not for the faint of heart.
“In truth, some thick skin will be helpful as this is not a profession for the thin-skinned or easily offended,” he said. “What I have always found, however, is that service to and for the Bahamian people is reward in and of itself.”
Ingraham noted that today The Bahamas is a different and a better place than it was when he first came to Parliament, and expressed his gratification at having assisted in the transformation.
“I leave Parliament with the conviction that I have given my best; indeed I have given my all in the service of the Bahamian people,” he said.
“I have ducked no decision that I believed to be in the interest and to the benefit of the Bahamian people. I have always accepted the convention of our parliamentary system that, whatever might have been done in the name of the government, the buck stopped with the prime minister.”
Ingraham also talked about his famous fiery nature.
“To the extent that some found my passion – and admittedly sometimes my impatience – difficult to comprehend, I express regret,” he said. “In my drive to make ours a more perfect common good, I may have failed at times whether in word or deed.
“I express regret for those failures as well as any work left undone on behalf of the country I love with every fiber of my being and every ounce of my energy.”
The former prime minister also thanked his party, his parliamentary colleagues for all that he was able to accomplish.
“The Bahamian people in their majority have now determined that it is time for me to go. I accept their decision. And I thank them for the confidence they previously reposed in me for 15 years as prime minister of The Bahamas,” he said.
“I could end my remarks no other way than in thanking those dearest to me who have sustained me in my public life.
“I thank my wife Delores, my children and my entire family for their unwavering support during my political career. Without their love and support my national service would not have been possible.
“In the immortal words of gratitude by Shakespeare I say to my family and to all the Bahamian people, ‘I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks’.”