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“I strove to be an agent for change,” says former PM

Denied the chance to deliver his farewell address in Parliament after 35 years in the House of Assembly, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham releases his speech via the media. 

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TheBahamasInvestor.com
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Tosheena Robinson Blair

A larger than life political figure, Ingraham headed three administrations during the 15 years he held the nation’s most important job.

Ingraham said that he had been promised the opportunity to speak early in the House of Assembly proceedings. The House was packed with FNM supporters, members of the media and members of the public all anticipating that the former Prime Minister’s address would be the first item topping the Parliamentary agenda.

After being told that he would be allowed to speak at some point later in the House proceedings, Ingraham packed up his things and left, releasing the speech to the media shortly after.

Hours after his Free National Movement (FNM) government was defeated in the May 7 general elections, Ingraham announced his resignation both as party leader and as the Member of Parliament for North Abaco, a constituency he had served for eight consecutive terms, beginning at the age of 29.

His resignation was an unprecedented move. Although, a long-held custom of various parliamentary democracies, Ingraham was the first defeated Bahamian Prime Minister to take such an action.

Former Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham at his final sitting

Former Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham (front row right) at his final sitting in the House of Assembly, ending a 35 year political career.

In a speech released to the media, Ingraham said: “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.”

“By leaving at this time, I wanted to afford my party the opportunity to move forward with new leadership and a fresh start. I remain confident in the future success of the Free National Movement.”

Ingraham came from humble beginnings having been raised in a small Family Island community where people got water from open wells, lit the night with kerosene lamps, had no paved roads and no telephones, and limited education facilities.

A “true political nobody” when he entered politics at the age 25, Ingraham says his career was filled with the highs of victory and the crushing blows of defeat.

During his time in office, his government ushered in sweeping changes that helped to not only deepen democracy, but also to modernize and transform the nation.

He outlined the majority of his government’s accomplishment in his speech. Among them were the liberation of the airwaves allowing private broadcasting for the first time; facilitating the introduction of modern communications including cable television and the Internet; computerizing the public sector; enhancing and increasing social welfare programmes for the needy; modernizing the Customs Department and lowering the average custom duty rate on imports; reducing the size of the House of Assembly by 11 seats; and establishing a resident Court of Appeal.

An Ingraham-led government also established the Bahamas Investment Authority (BIA) – a one-stop shop for investing in The Bahamas; modernized the financial services sector, strengthening its regulation and oversight; created the Securities Commission and the Bahamas Securities Exchange (BISX) unleashing the potential of a greater shareholding society; reduced the work-week from 48 to 40 hours; introduced minimum wage in the public and private sectors; improved protections and safety standards in the workplace; increased maternity benefits; and introduced familial leave in law for the first time.

His FNM government also expanded and upgraded public infrastructure throughout The Bahamas including the provision of basic public utilities such as water, electricity, and land and cellular telephones to Family Island communities, some for the first time.

Noting that the work of the House of Assembly is never finished, Ingraham expressed his hopes for continued progress on several fronts, including a reduction in the level of crime, a better educated and skilled workforce, a reduction in the rate of growth of government debt and a return to sustained economic growth, and the facilitation of a more efficient and productive judicial, legal and public sector.

“I was, during my 35 years in this Honourable House, in a hurry to modernize and transform our Bahamas. I did all that I could do every day to achieve better for all Bahamians,” said Ingraham. “I am pleased to have done as much as I have as soon as I did, to implement the pledges I made and to keep our commitments to the people of The Bahamas.”

Today, Ingraham said, The Bahamas is a different and a better place than it was when he first entered Parliament.

The former Prime Minister also delivered an apology of sorts to those who were troubled by his no-holds barred approach to governance.

“To the extent that some found my passion, and admittedly sometimes my impatience, difficult to comprehend, I express regret. In my drive to make ours a more perfect common good, I may have failed at times whether in word or deed,” he said. “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. I am proud of my service to the Bahamian people.”

The Bahamian people have now determined it is time for him to go, he added. “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.”

Ingraham’s resignation takes effect on August 31.

tblair@dupuch.com

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