A reflection on political retirement
The early months of 2012 have been dominated by the general election. It will be the eighth general election in an independent Bahamas. Of the seven we have had, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) won four and the Free National Movement (FNM) won three.
But before a single vote is cast this time around, we will say goodbye to some long-serving politicians. After the votes are counted we will say goodbye to even more of them.
For those who lose the nomination fights to come, and to those who lose the various constituency elections, a graceful exit would be a better conclusion to a long career than whining, complaining and hostility.
No one should assume that there is a career in politics. What should happen is men and women with talents and successes should offer themselves for public service for a period. The people then select the best of the best and those individuals should do their best to improve the community they serve.
No elected official should want to serve a lifetime in politics. In fact, for talented and successful people there should be an urge to go back to the private sector or to private life. So when that time comes, through the loss of an election or nomination fight, exhaustion or whatever other reason, saying goodbye should not be hard.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham seems to agree with this perspective. He summed it up well in the last sitting of the House of Assembly for 2011 on December 13.
“My hope is that those who seek public office will consider it a duty and responsibility to serve and not to gain a personal advantage,” said Ingraham.
“Conversely, individuals should come to accept that not being elected to Parliament will not be a disadvantage.
“They can expect to be treated fairly whether in or out of office. It is very important for a democracy to have as its underpinning that if you get elected and you are unelected that you can live in a society as any ordinary person.
“You can live [by] rules that are clearly established, that you can be employed, that your children can have access to whatever availabilities to society, and that no one will be out to get you because you have served in politics.
“And it is my hope that we will move along those lines in a more evident way.
“If we don’t evolve to that level, we will continue to produce governments with members who will fight tooth and nail to be in government because they fear being out of government.
“And you should never fear being out or in. You ought to do the best you can while you are in and when you are out, you ought to feel like you can live a normal life and be bound by the same rules you put in place while you are in.”
Being able to depart graciously also sets a good example for future generations. It demonstrates that power is something to be shared. Countries that are at war or in a constant state of upheaval are in such states because powerful factions cannot share power.
The political system is also renewed when new minds enter. Those who were born during the World War II years, and who were raised during the Cold War years, should now be seeking to leave politics, handing power over to those who came of age during the Internet years.
So for those who will be sent home from the political scene in 2012, be not afraid or saddened. You were never supposed to be there forever.
Mar 24, 2012