Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why Did Sir Stafford Sands leave the Bahamas?

So why did Sir Stafford leave? editorial:

WHY DID Sir Stafford Sands leave the Bahamas?

This is a question still debated today. The question is often answered with an air of great authority by those who haven't a clue what they are talking about. Anyone who lived during the sixties, but were not a part of the PLP brotherhood, would be a fool to ask such a question. They all knew what it meant to be ostracised, victimised, denied jobs reserved only for followers of the "Chief", and verbally abused. Many of them, both black and white, packed their bags and left.

Even Krissy Love, host of the radio talk show "Issues of the Day", whose topic was the dispute over Sir Stafford's image being put on and then taken off the $10 bill, admitted that her family was one of those who also left the Bahamas during that period. In the sixties, she said, her parents could not deal with the way black people were being treated by the new black regime. Yet, Sir Stafford Sands, a white man, is called a traitor because he also left, only to return in death. Krissy wanted to know if her family would be tarred with the same "traitor" brush. The caller to her show fumbled, but did not answer.

Another caller, following the same trend of thought, felt that if a person were a part of a defeated government, then left the country because they were displeased with the loss, that person would be the traitor. At times when we listen to some of the callers to these radio talk shows, we often wonder what God was thinking when he was so stingy in his distribution of common sense.

It has been said that when Sir Stafford left for Europe he swore he would never return to the Bahamas. That is not true.

On the floor of the House when the Speaker read Sir Stafford's resignation to members, Sir Lynden denounced him, charging that he was "obliged to run" from the Bahamas because he was a "total embarrassment to his party." That also was not true. On another occasion, Arthur Hanna, recently retired governor-general, declared that Sir Stafford left because "he wanted nothing to do with a country run by blacks." Again not true. It was a claim made against a man, who unlike his social peers, did not attend the then exclusive all white Queen's College as a student. He was educated with black students at Government High School -- the same school later attended by Lynden Pindling. Sir Stafford had made it clear that he had every intention of returning home every year. "I will always be available to work for the party during the time when I am in Nassau each year," he said.

Around the 1967 election Sir Stafford was not a well man. A chain smoker, he suffered from a serious bronchial condition. In April of that year he spent six weeks in Miami for treatment of his problem. That was three months before he announced his resignation from the House. But soon after the PLP became the government in January of that year, a reign of terror had been started against Sir Stafford.

In May his wife had had enough. She made a statement in The Tribune that their home, "Waterloo", was not for sale. She said she was "sick and tired" of the harassing calls she was receiving. She wanted her tormentors to know that she and her husband were not selling their home, but intended "to stay and reside in it."

Up until the day of his resignation from the House, Sir Stafford, who had given up his law practice mainly for health reasons, had every intention of spending his winters in the Bahamas. And so, he didn't leave because he was a traitor, he was driven from his country by a hate-filled, racist government and its supporters. He no longer felt safe in a country for which he had worked so hard, but which his tormentors unjustly accused him of "raping."

On the floor of the House another uncouth member of the PLP accused Sir Stafford "and his gang of gangsters and hoodlums" of causing Bahamians to suffer. "He should be brought back here, put into a barrel of tar and rolled into a pit of fire for what he has done to the people of this country," said the PLP member from the floor of the House. This was one of this country's new legislators speaking.

No wonder there was a lot of unease in the country.

No wonder Sir Stafford and so many others-- both black and white -- packed their bags and left.

Just before their election victory, Sir Lynden had told the foreign press that if the PLP won the 1967 election his government would retain Sir Stafford as Minister of Tourism.

Their bitter anger over the years probably stemmed from the fact that they had lost their prize -- a prize that they had planned to use and abuse.

Five years after his resignation Sir Stafford died of cancer in the London Clinic in England.

There are Bahamians who maintain that he never came back to the Bahamas. He certainly came back to a Bahamas that he had no intention of ever leaving. He came back in a casket and is buried in the family plot in St Matthews cemetery.

There were callers to the Krissy Love show who wanted to know if Sir Stafford had any family left in the Bahamas. The answer is yes. This is his daughter's home, and the home of one of her two sons, Sir Stafford's grandson. They both live and work here. For them this is home, as it was home for their father and grandfather. And the vitriol that is now being spewed by the ignorant against the man they feel gave so much of himself to his country, brings them great pain.

May 12, 2010