Tuesday, December 27, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Sir Clifford Darling Recalls Historic 1967 General Election in The Bahamas

REFLECTIONS: Sir Clifford Recalls Historic ‘67 Elections

By Candia Dames -
Nassau, The Bahamas

  - Governor-General of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas - 1992 - 1995In 1962, women voted in The Bahamas for the first time, but Sir Clifford Darling, who was among the 18 PLPs who won seats in the historic general election five years later, believes that many of those women voted for the white Bay Street Boys simply because they found them to be good looking.

The white minority at the time was also preaching the message that blacks couldn’t govern themselves.

Nevertheless, he said, change was in the air.

"We were very disappointed when we did not win the ‘62 elections, so we went back to the drawing board," recalled Sir Clifford, now 85.

"In ‘62 while we were campaigning to win the election at Clifford Park, the Bay Street Boys were Over-the-Hill buying votes."

After the disappointing election of ‘62, Sir Clifford said the PLP wasn’t the only ones who went back to the drawing board; the Bay Street Boys did so as well, plotting how they would stay in power.

But the days of the oligarchy were numbered.

Sir Clifford remembers, "It was a long struggle."

Sir Clifford, a former president of The Bahamas Taxi Cab Union, said the union played a crucial role in bringing about majority rule in the country 40 years ago.

A bit weary of island life in 1943, Sir Clifford – an Acklins boy – left New Providence and headed to the United States, but experienced another round of discrimination.

Upon his return to The Bahamas in 1946, he said he decided that something had to be done to break the system that existed in his home country.

It was at this time he joined the Taxi Cab Union because "it was the only organization in The Bahamas that was not afraid of the Bay Street Boys".

"I spent eight years educating taxi drivers that we have to change the status quo," he said.

By 1957, Sir Clifford had become president of the union and used the organization to push the cause for black Bahamians to become first class citizens in their country.

"There were problems all over The Bahamas where blacks were treated unfairly. Blacks couldn’t go through some of the front doors of the churches," he recalled. "They couldn’t get good jobs; they couldn’t eat in the restaurants on Bay Street."

Despite the push for equality, Sir Clifford said there was little progress initially and the majority continued to be oppressed by the minority. But with 1958 came the general strike, which he said paved the way for majority rule.

"I’m happy to see today that things changed because it was disturbing to me and many Bahamians when, because of the colour of your skin, you couldn’t get good jobs, even though you were qualified," he said.

On January 10, 1967, Sir Clifford and 17 other PLPs won seats in the House of Assembly, and the so-called Bay Street Boys won 18.

Sir Clifford said that when it had become clear that the PLP had persuaded Randol Foulkes and Alvin Braynen to throw their support behind the party, "It was a glorious moment for Bahamians."

"When we were defeated in ‘62, I was pretty sure we were going to win that election and I went down Bay Street – and they all know me – and they started laughing at me after we lost, so when we won in ‘67 I put on my best suit and I went down Bay Street and I said ‘Now, let them laugh at me now’," Sir Clifford said.

"It was a good feeling. For over 300 years the minority were ruling the majority, and I knew that that was wrong, so when it came to pass that the PLP won and we had majority rule, I was very happy and I give God thanks for that."

Forty years after the struggle for majority rule was won, Sir Clifford said blacks in The Bahamas have come "a long, long way" as have white Bahamians.

"Many of the whites told me that when the PLP came on the scene they were happy because there were just a few of the Bay Street Boys who were making a good living, and they monopolized most all of the businesses," he said.

"So when the PLP came on the scene [more] whites could make a decent living as well as the blacks."

Forty years after the struggle for majority rule was won, Sir Clifford said he is also disturbed by the behaviour of many young Bahamians, particularly the young men, many of whom are ending up at Her Majesty’s Prison.

These are Bahamians who should be leading productive lives and making their contributions toward building The Bahamas, said Sir Clifford, who noted that there were 60 homicides in 2006.

"We need to find a way of curtailing this crime," he said. "We need to find where these guns are coming from and we need to find a way to prevent the amount of illegal immigrants who are coming into the country. This is not doing good for the country, really."

Sir Clifford said if the illegal immigration problem is not adequately addressed, one day illegal immigrants would take over the country.

"And Bahamians would be second class citizens all over again," he said.

10 January 2007

Bahamas Blog International