Events Have Put The Bahamas In The Spotlight
Besides the signing of the Nassau Agreement on December 22, 1962, a number of events have put The Bahamas at the centre of the news of the world for brief moments of time, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell said.
Minister Mitchell was speaking on Friday, December 21, 2012 on Blake Road at the ceremony commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Agreement that took place between President John F. Kennedy of the United States and Prime Minister Harold MacMillan of the United Kingdom.
The Nassau Agreement enabled the United Kingdom to be outfitted with American manufactured Polaris missiles as part of a wider North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) deterrent force during the Cold War.
Minister Mitchell said that as an “amateur historian” of the country’s policies of the 20th and 21st century, and looking toward the 40th anniversary of the county’s independence, he believes that part of the retrospective on who Bahamians are should look and examine those events which put the country at the centre of international life.
“One event was the fact that the former King of England and Emperor of India David Windsor abdicated and then came to The Bahamas as Governor in 1940 and stayed here until 1945.
“During that time Sir Harry Oakes, reportedly the richest man in the Empire, lived here and was murdered here on July 7, 1943. The murder was never solved and next year will be the 70th anniversary of that murder.”
Minister Mitchell said, “It would be an interesting time to look back and examine the kind of Bahamas we had in the age just before I was born and just before the advent of the era of party politics in The Bahamas.
He also noted that the Burma Road Riots that took place in 1942 “changed the social face” of the country.
“We are sitting at the end of Burma Road as we speak today,” Minister Mitchell said.
“I think we ought to do a symposium on that period as part of our observances on our 40th Independence Anniversary next year.”
He explained that another time where The Bahamas was at the centre of events was when the deposed Shah of Iran lived on Paradise Island for three months, while he looked for a permanent home.
“The then Secretary of State for the U.S. Henry Kissinger, who now vacations in The Bahamas annually, called the late Sir Lynden Pindling, prime minister at the time in 1979, and asked if the ally and friend of the U.S., the Shah could live here for that time.
“It was not universally accepted and there were demonstrations in town about it. But there was a palpable excitement.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister noted several other events that put the country in the spotlight such as Sidney Poitier winning the Oscar in 1963; the Beatles vacationing in Nassau and Sean Connery, then the star of the James Bond films, choosing Nassau as his hang out and it is now too his permanent home.
Also, U.S. Representative from the Harlem District Adam Clayton Powell visited Bimini frequently and Dr. Martin Luther King writing his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in the Marshes of Bimini in 1968.
“All of these events helped to shape who and what we are as a country today. The mix of descendants of Africa; some brought here as slaves; others as artisans from the West Indies; others set down as liberated Africans; others fleeing the poverty of Haiti together with the Europeans who settled here; the Americans who fled their country after the revolution and the wealthy who came here in the 20th century to protect their wealth and enjoy the climate and to live in privacy. That is part of what The Bahamas is in our 40th year,” Minister Mitchell said.
By Llonella Gilbert
Bahamas Information Services