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Bahamas Signs Two Historic Pieces of Legislation
By Betty Vedrine, BIS
Oct 12, 2013 - 6:10:17 PM

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Pictured seated at Government House during the signing of two historic pieces of legislation Oct. 11, from left Front row: Dame Marguerite Pindling, Sir Orville Turnquest, Lady Ingrid Darling, and Arthur Hanna. Pictured from left second row: Elwood Donaldson, Maurice Moore, Lady Fawkes, George Smith, Sean McWeeney and Mrs. Cyprianna McWeeney. (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)

Nassau, The Bahamas – In what can only be deemed a first for The Bahamas, two historic pieces of legislation have been signed into law.

On Friday, October 11, just days before the celebration of the first National Heroes holiday in the country, Prime Minister, Perry G. Christie presented the bills to the Governor-General for signing. The bills —  one to sign into law the Majority Rule (Public Holiday) Act 2013 which will make January 10th an annual public holiday in The Bahamas, commencing with January of next year and the other to sign into law the much heralded National Heroes Act 2007.  This legislation will formally establish “National Heroes Day”.

The first National Heroes Day will be celebrated this coming Monday, and thereafter on the second Monday in October of each year as a public holiday in The Bahamas.  In addition, this same Act will also establish the formal machinery for the selection and recognition of National Heroes. National Heroes day replaces the former ‘Discovery Day’, which was also previously known as ‘Columbus Day.'

Prime Minister Christie said that the “attainment of Majority Rule on January 10, 1967, stands with the Emancipation from Slavery in 1834 and the attainment of Independence in 1973 as one of the three most consequential events in the whole of Bahamian history.”

“Historians may continue to argue among themselves as to how these three seminal events should be ranked in order of importance but as for myself I share the view that has long been espoused by many of our nation’s leaders, chief among them, His Excellency, the Governor-General, who, for many years past, has been saying publicly that when one objectively traces the evolution of human society in our country, there has never been a more consequential, a more fundamental, or a more transformative change than the attainment of Majority Rule,” said Mr. Christie.

Mr. Christie said that January 10, 1967, significantly changed the life and history of the country and in almost every respect, marked the transition from the ‘old’ to the ‘new’ Bahamas and replaced minority government with majority rule.  He also pointed out that it also brought about a ‘much deeper psychological’ shift, which was “more transformative than a change in the political regime.”

“In addressing this aspect of the matter, I can do no better than to repeat what I said about it on Wednesday past in the House of Assembly:

“Majority Rule was a singular moment of liberation for all of us.  It liberated black Bahamians from a system of political oppression and economic and social deprivation.  It opened up instead a new door of opportunity and equality for all.  But it was a liberating experience for white Bahamians too because it freed them from a morally corrupt ideology based on race and privilege.  By holding out the promise of a truly democratic society that was colour-blind and dedicated to the principle of equality, our white brothers and sisters were liberated from a psychologically debilitating and morally unsustainable construct”.

“So, January 10th, 1967 was and shall forever remain one of the truly transformative events not only in Bahamian history but in the development of the psyche of the Bahamian people as well,” said Mr. Christie.

Outlining the historical events, which led to majority rule in The Bahamas, Mr. Christie named some of the key individuals who were instrumental in this transformation. To this end, he gave a roll call of honour listing those persons which included: Milo Butler Senior, Milo Butler Junior, Curtis McMillan, Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, Jeffrey Thompson, Jimmy Shepherd, Clifford Darling, Anthony Roberts, Uriah McPhee, Lionel Davis, Carlton Francis, Clarence Bain, Scherlin Bootle C.B. Archer, George Thompson, Preston Albury, Henry Bowen, Livingston Coakley, Raleigh Butler, Joseph Ford and Lynden Pindling. In addition, he added the names of Randol Fawkes and  A.R. Braynen.

Mr. Christie said that the fight for majority rule and freedom for all Bahamians transcended political party lines and continues even today. He said that although some persons may have stood for majority rule but lost in their candidacy, he also wished to name those persons which included: Elwood Donaldson, Arthur Foulkes, Edmund Moxey, Arlington Butler, Arthur D. Hanna, Loftus Roker, Warren Levarity, Maurice Moore  and George A. Smith.

Mr. Christie also thanked the National Heroes Committee members for their contribution. He extended special gratitude to Reverend Canon Sebastien Campbell.

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