The Bahamas 41 Years after Independence By His Excellency Eldred Bethel High Commissioner for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas
It hardly seems like 41 years have passed since I had the great honour and privilege to have been one of the three Presenters on Radio Bahamas announcing to the world that a new Nation had been born.
On the night of July 9th, 1973, I stood in awe and witnessed the lowering of the Union Jack and the raising of the Bahamas Flag.
Just before midnight on Tuesday, July 9th at Clifford Park in Nassau, Bahamas, with some 50 thousand people watching, a nervous silence fell as two police sergeants -- in charge of flag detail, wrestled with history. When the Union Jack was lowered and the new gold, black and aquamarine coloured Bahamian flag hoisted, three hundred years of British rule had ended.
At mid-morning the following day Prince Charles presented Prime Minister Lynden Pindling the constitutional instruments. Accepting the document on behalf of the Bahamian people the Prime Minister said: “This document will be greatly treasured and carefully preserved. It will be publicly displayed as a constant reminder to living Bahamians and Bahamians yet unborn, that the universal principles embodied therein constitute a sure foundation in which to build a stable, orderly and flourishing society which will function smoothly and efficiently in a self-regulatingpeaceful evolution and quiet revolution”.
After five days in The Bahamas the Sailor Prince sadly set sail aboard HMS Minerva. On leaving he summed up his visit as follows: “After five such memorable days in the Bahamas, I find myself leaving Nassau with the utmost reluctance. Where ever I have been in the last few days during the independence celebrations I have met with consistent warmth and kindness from everyone and felt instantly at home among such happy people. I would like you to convey my profound gratitude to all those who worked so hard to make the independence celebrations the success they were. This is a good omen for the future happiness and progress of the new Bahamas and I shall watch with interest and affection the development of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. although I have not had time to collect much sand between my toes i leave with enough grains to make me want to return as soon as I can and I also leave with rhythm and warmth in my soul’.
In the four decades since Independence our nation has undergone many changes in its social, cultural and economic development. There have been the ups and downs, but we have been able to cope with the adverse situations. On the social side, the upward mobility of men and women has been accelerated. On the cultural side, Bahamians are proud of their music, dance, speech and cuisine. On the economic side, the middle class has expanded and there are many new housing developments throughout the archipelago. Under Prime Minister Perry Christie’s leadership, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is revitalizing alliances and forming new partnerships based on mutual respect and mutual interest.
July 10, 1973 marked the culmination of an era of the greatest political advance for the people of The Bahamas since the landfall on these islands by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
On behalf of my wife, Dawne, and the staff of The Bahamas High Commission, may I extend to the Bahamian Diaspora in the UK and Europe a Happy Independence Day.
May God bless The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.