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A genuine leader

Published: Jul 07, 2014

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"A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus."
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tomorrow, His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes will demit office as the ninth governor general of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, a position that he has held since April 14, 2010. By any measure, Bahamians from all walks of life and from both sides of the political divide will attest that he is unquestionably the very best son of the soil to hold the highest office in the land since the founding of our nation in 1973. Therefore this week, we would like to Consider This… What will be Sir Arthur’s legacy?

The youthful years

Arthur Alexander Foulkes was born in Matthew Town, Inagua, May 11, 1928, son of the late Dr. William A. Foulkes and Julie Foulkes, nee Maisonneuve.

He was educated at public schools in Matthew Town and in Nassau and first worked at The Nassau Guardian as a linotype operator and proof-reader. He then joined The Tribune as a linotype operator in 1948 and took up journalism under the tutelage of editor and publisher Sir Etienne Dupuch, who made him a reporter and later appointed him news editor of The Tribune.

Political career

Sir Arthur was one of the founders of the National Committee for Positive Action, a think-tank and activist group within the PLP which supported the leadership of Sir Lynden Pindling and contributed significantly to the achievement of majority rule.

He drafted the PLP’s petition to the United Nations Committee of 24 (on decolonization) and was a member of the Delegation of Eight that presented the petition in 1965. Sir Arthur wrote many political documents over the years, contributed to the manifestos of both major political parties and drafted the first platform of the Free National Movement in 1971.

Sir Arthur was founding editor of Bahamian Times, the official organ of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) from 1962 to 1967. He selected as its motto a quote from American emancipation crusader Frederick Douglass: “Without struggle there is no progress”. That newspaper played a pivotal role in the campaign for majority rule which was achieved in the general elections of January 10, 1967.

Noted for his stirring oratory in the 60s, Sir Arthur was elected to Parliament in 1967 and served in various political offices over the years, including minister of communications and minister of tourism in the PLP government.

Under his leadership, the Ministry of Tourism recorded impressive gains in 1969. It was also on his ministerial watch in 1968 that a Bahamas-based airline, International Air Bahama, flew to Europe for the first time and he was instrumental in enabling black Bahamian stewardesses to work on international flights not only to America but to Europe as well. As minister of communications, he presided over the complete Bahamianization of the management of BaTelCo, the national public telephone corporation.

Sir Arthur was one of the Dissident Eight who rejected the leadership of Sir Lynden in 1970 and broke away from the PLP, forming the Free PLP. In 1971, he was a founder of the Free National Movement. He was appointed to the Senate in 1972 and 1977 and reelected to the House of Assembly in 1982.

During his public career, Sir Arthur attended many international conferences and, in 1972, was one of four opposition delegates to The Bahamas Independence Constitution Conference in London. He drafted the opposition memorandum for the conference and was primarily responsible for the drafting of the preamble to the Bahamian Constitution.

In the 1970s, when opposition forces in the country seemed hopelessly splintered, Sir Arthur, together with others, initiated arduous negotiations which finally resulted in a united opposition under the leadership of Sir Kendal Isaacs in time for the 1982 elections.

Later, he was a columnist for The Guardian and The Tribune and, from 2002 to 2007, resumed his popular column, “To The Point”, in The Tribune.

Sir Arthur, the diplomat

In 1992 Sir Arthur entered the diplomatic service of The Bahamas as high commissioner to the United Kingdom and ambassador to France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the European Union (resident in London).

He represented The Bahamas to the African Caribbean Pacific Group in Brussels, was permanent representative to the International Maritime Organization and also Doyen of the Caribbean diplomatic corps in the United Kingdom. He also founded Friends of The Bahamas, a London-based association.

In 1999 he was appointed the first Bahamas ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and ambassador to the Republic of Cuba, both nonresident posts.

In 2001 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) by Queen Elizabeth II and on April 14, 2010 he became the nation’s ninth governor general.

A profound and perpetual legacy

Sir Arthur served as an exemplary head of state. He is first and foremost a nationalist, whose credentials as such were unquestionable and unassailable. He is one of those individuals who can unquestionably be described as one of the "fathers of the nation" or "heroes of the revolution". He is a nationally unifying force and his short tenure as governor general was devoid of any hint of the profound partisan divisions that are present in so many facets of Bahamian life.

Notwithstanding his reservations regarding the timing for independence for The Bahamas, he is without question a powerful proponent for national freedom and strong supporter of state sovereignty.

Sir Arthur is the kind of unique Bahamian who has managed to stay the course and rise above the fray, keeping his ideals and beliefs constant and unwavering in spite of the storms that sometimes seethed around him. In short, he has become an example of how an active and politically passionate person can also be a force for harmony and common sense across the great political divide.

There is no doubt that he will demit office far too soon, only four short years after assuming the highest position in the land. There is also no doubt that, unlike so many others in public life, he has chosen to depart on his terms and his timetable, at the pinnacle of his public profession.

Sir Arthur’s humility, his deep love of and for The Bahamas and Bahamians, his enormous depth of knowledge about the land and people of his birth, his eloquent and elegant employment of the English language and his globally-informed world view are but a few of the elements that have crafted the person whom we have come to know as our ninth governor general.

As he travels through the gates of Government House and descends Mount Fitzwilliam on Tuesday, July 8 one last time as our governor general, and is driven through the streets of New Providence on his way to a place of placid retirement from active public life, the smile that will likely grace Sir Arthur’s face will be one of contentment and great satisfaction.

He will be pleased that, as he demits office, his legacy is fully and eternally ensconced and embedded in the annals of Bahamian history – a legacy that symbolizes all that is good about The Bahamas: our courage in adversity, our capability to withstand and overcome hardship, our dignity in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges and our innate kindness and graciousness toward our fellow human beings, no matter their race, religion, economic status or political persuasion. History will recognize Sir Arthur Foulkes as a governor general for the ages.

• Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis and Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in parliament. Please send your comments to pgalanis@gmail.com.


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