August 19th 1992: The day of deliverance

Aug 19, 2022

On Wednesday, August 19th 1992 – 30 years ago, deliverance came to a nation crying to be set free from its growing fascist tendencies that had been nurtured by a regime that had long lost its way.

Leading the masses to deliverance, was a commanding but compassionate voice in the person of Hubert Alexander Ingraham. At 45, Ingraham with his customary charismatic charm and with a genuine message that resonated with the Bahamian electorate- convinced the Bahamian people that indeed – Now is the time!

The victory on that historic date was indeed a moment of rebirth for a nation with a tarnished name and a fragile democracy.

Ingraham and his dedicated Free National Movement government moved swiftly to confront the many ills facing the archipelagic nation. With fresh change and new policies on the horizon – many Bahamians were confident that indeed there was now – Government in the Sunshine! (the opening of parliament in 1992 was literally in the sunshine, as the new administration would begin a new tradition of holding this legislative ceremony out in ‘public’ parliament square as opposed to the usual custom in the tiny hidden Senate chamber).

The first Ingraham administration, 1992-1997, was perhaps the finest single term of any government, and when the annals of Bahamian history would have been written, there is no doubt that this period would receive high marks and quite possibly leave other periods of government wanting. (That said, the other terms to follow under Ingraham, 1997-2002 and 2007-2012, would also prove stellar governance).

In this historic first term, the Ingraham administration addressed the multitude of challenges relating to the crumbling infrastructure in the Family Islands, needs that had been neglected for decades. Within the coming years, communities who had never had the joy and convenience of electricity would become electrified. New schools, 400 miles of new roads, new clinics and many other amenities were repaired or newly constructed.

Working to loosen the brakes of the economy that had come to a screeching halt in the waning days of the Pindling administration, the new FNM government worked tirelessly to get Bahamians back on the employment line. With new policies in place to grow the economy and brokering a historic deal with Kerzner International for the development of what would become the mega hotel and resort – Atlantis, the Bahamas was well on its way toward economic recovery. By the time the term ended, Bahamians were back to work with the creation of 14,000 new jobs.

Many commonsense policies were introduced replacing archaic practices, such as the year-round licensing of vehicles and driver’s licenses, linking them to birthdays rather than a single month, eliminating long lines and delays.

Moving away from the previous administration’s totalitarian practices, Prime Minister Ingraham and his team moved speedily toward strengthening democracy on all fronts. True local government was introduced in 1996, a move that led to the decentralization of government and granted a degree of autonomy to Family Island residents who would now hold the authority to make decisions that would impact the future of their communities.

The PLP’s grip on government’s monopoly of the airwaves was finally broken as citizens were granted licenses to operate private radio stations and eventually private TV stations.

In an effort to promote ‘Government in the Sunshine’ and bringing parliamentary democracy closer to the people, proceedings of the House of Assembly would be broadcast live on television and a parliamentary channel would be created.

Promoting the deepening of education, new high schools were built, and the government raised the minimum statutory school leaving age from 14 years to 16 years. This move not only kept our youth in school, but it kept some of them off the streets for longer periods, giving them better opportunities found in the classroom.

Only over a decade removed from the internationally headlines “A Nation for Sale”, Ingraham’s new administration was warmly welcomed by the international community and with a breath of fresh air and by the end of the term, the good name of the Bahamas was restored, and foreign investors were lining up to invest in this new Bahamas. The bureaucratic red tape was removed and a new era with ease of doing business in the Bahamas was finally here.

The hallmark of the new Ingraham administration promoted transparency and accountability and bringing the Bahamas into the modern age.

In these short paragraphs, I have only scratched the surface of monumental achievements made by Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham and his team during this historic first Free National Movement term.

With the advancement of democratic principles, by the end of the term, Bahamians felt the full benefits of citizenship- freedom of expression without fear of victimization.

As mentioned earlier in this piece, ‘this single term will receive very high marks after the annals of Bahamian history would have been written’ – the Bahamian people by a vote of 57% in the following election cycle in 1997 concurred and rewarded the Ingraham led FNM government with a second term capturing 34 of the 40 seats in the House of Assembly.

Hubert Ingraham led this period in our history. He was a leader and Prime Minister guided his by firm conviction in the promotion of democracy ideals, the unbending principles of honesty and fairness in government, he catapulted our country to new heights and a new beginning.

As time marches on, there can be no doubt, nor an ounce of hesitation- that the Rt. Hon. Hubert Alexander Ingraham has contributed mightily to the advancement of our nation and his policies have indeed stood the test of time.

In a short list of our nations greatest leaders throughout the centuries of parliamentary democracy – Hubert Ingraham will shine brightly among them and it can be strongly argued that he tops the list.

From humble beginning in Cooper’s Town in Abaco- raised by his grandmother ‘Mama Lizzie’ to the Premiership of the country- Ingraham has given us a story that is to be celebrated. His story combined with the long 20 year struggle of the Free National Movement to ultimate victory.

That is why we celebrate August 19th; a story of perseverance on all fronts.

And 30 years later we celebrate DELIVERANCE and REBIRTH!

Written by: Jeremy T. Sweeting

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