The Government of The Bahamas commemorated 51 years of Majority Rule, Wednesday (January 10) with a Church Service at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, located on historic “Priory Grounds,” West Hill Street. The service was attended by Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, DCMG, along with Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis, Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. K. Peter Turnquest, Cabinet Ministers, Leader of the Official Opposition, the Hon. Philip Davis, other Members of Parliament in addition to senior government officials. The service’s programme reflected the call for unity and oneness in appreciation of the sacrifices made to make Majority Rule a reality for The Bahamas.
Religious leaders from various denominations joined Roman Catholic Vicar General, Father Kendrick Forbes, who served as the Chief Celebrant. In his first Majority Rule Day National Address, Prime Minister Minnis declared that Majority Rule crosses all boundaries of party, economic class, race and gender. “This defining moment and historic accomplishment do not belong to any one political party or segment of our people,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “Majority Rule belongs to all Bahamians. It crosses all boundaries of party, economic class race, and gender. We should celebrate this day as One Bahamas, as one people united in love and service to our Commonwealth. “As we celebrate 51 years of Majority Rule, we remember the core objectives of this movement – freedom, equality, and democracy for all Bahamians.”
Prime Minister Minnis said a series of “significant events” forever transformed the political and social landscape of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas leading up to Majority Rule on January 10, 1967. These included the Burma Road Riot in 1942, which the Prime Minister said was the beginning of a new political awareness in The Bahamas and the formation of the Progressive Liberal Party as the first national political party in 1953 with William “Bill” Cartwright playing a central role in the development of party politics.
Prime Minister Minnis said Sir Etienne Dupuch’s anti-discrimination resolution in the House of Assembly in 1956, also played a critical role as it was the catalyst for dismantling racial segregation in public places. Another significant event leading up to Majority Rule, the Prime Minister said, was the General Strike of 1958 “which resulted in much-needed changes to the country’s labor laws and electoral representation. The Prime Minister said in the 1960s some of what he called “the worst aspects of the corrupt electoral system” were changed and universal and adult suffrage came to The Bahamas with women voting for the first time in 1962. “So it was that in 1967 the Bahamian people finally voted out the oligarchy and opened a new era of democratic government. We call that day Majority Rule Day. It is a day that should be celebrated by all Bahamians because, among other things, revolutionary but peaceful changes had come to The Bahamas. “A system that had to end one way or another ended in a peaceful and orderly manner and of that, all Bahamians should be proud,” Dr. Minnis added.
The Prime Minister said Majority Rule did more than just bring an end to a “patently unfair electoral system” that prevented the majority of Bahamians from achieving true representation in the House of Assembly until January 10, 1967. “In the words of former Governor-General Sir Arthur Foulkes, one of those who served in the forefront of the movement for equality and social justice: ‘Majority Rule removed the last psychological shackles from the minds of many. I shattered false notions of superiority and inferiority; it initiated the fulfillment of the promise of universal access to education; it created the foundation upon which to build a society with opportunities for all.’
“As we honor this special day in our history, we must also honor the many men and women who sacrificed and struggled to make this day possible,” Prime Minister Minnis said. “Through their words the spoke for those who could not speak for themselves. Through their actions, they gave courage to the fearful. Through their legacy, these patriots serve as an inspiration for the nation, including for our children and young people,” Prime Minister Minnis added.