Bahamas Marks 40 Years of Independence

Above: GG Sir Arthur Foulkes raises the Bahamian flag (BIS Photo)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

The Bahamas marks the 40th anniversary of its independence on Wednesday.

It was 40 years ago that the Bahamas severed its colonial ties with Great Britain, though retaining Queen Elizabeth as head of state.

That came after a few whirlwind decades during which the Bahamas’ founding fathers helped achieve universal adult suffrage in 1962 and then overcome the rule of the so-called “Bay Street Boys,” the the white minority oligarchy that ruled the country.

The Progressive Liberal Party won the country’s elections in 1972, and, at the end of that year, a Bahamian delegation met with British government officials to agree on an independence constitution.

Governor General Sir Arthur Foukes remembered July 10, 1973, when thousands of Bahamians sang their own National Anthem, “Lift Up Your Head to the Rising Sun Bahamaland,” for the first time, after Prince Charles handed over the instruments of independence to the country’s first Prime Minister, Sir Lynden Pindling.

“The Bahamas has the Constitution of a modern parliamentary democracy, which has served us well for 40 years and will, I believe, serve us well for the next 40 and beyond,” Foulkes said this week.

The Governor General told citizens this week that one way to celebrate national pride was to protect the Bahamas’ environment — both on the country’s beaches and in its businesses.

“The environment is also the business of each and every one of us,” he said. “There is an African saying which goes like this:  “If each would sweep before his doorstep, the village would be clean.”

He also urged Bahamians to “rediscover” their roots of civility, respect and good manners.

“Many years ago the world discovered that the beauty of The Bahamas was not only in its natural environment but also in its people.  We were always an exuberant people, but also a kind and gentle people, a people who pride themselves on having respect for one another and for ourselves, a people with good manners,” he said. “In the same way we have rediscovered our music, let us also rediscover our Bahamian roots of civility and respect and good manners.  They are all a part of our culture.”

The Bahamas is one of five founding CARICOM countries to achieve reach more than years of independence, along with Guyana, Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad. The latter two marked their 50th anniversaries of independence last year.

Of course Haiti, which joined CARICOM in 2002, achieved its independence in 1804.