Leadership, A Matter Of Trust

Pierre Dupuch

“Leadership, a Matter of Trust” is probably the best campaign slogan being displayed for the upcoming election. It tells you everything about the organization and the people leading it.

After all, what is life or an organization if you cannot trust it? Trust is the essence of good stewardship and of life.

When Sir Kendal Isaacs was leader and Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield Chairman, I along with the other members of the FNM, could take their word to the bank. It was easy to work with them; you knew at all times where you stood. They never double crossed you. In the front lines in war, in politics or generally in life you must “trust” your leader.

But trust in a leader is earned, not decreed. With Sir Kendal and Sir Cecil I would trust them with my life. I was always taught that this is how one reacted to a real leader.

Although I was never keen on Hubert Ingraham’s brash attitude, he was the Leader and I recognized that all people have their shortfalls, so, like with Sir Kendal and Sir Cecil, I trusted him.

And then came the 1997 elections. The boundaries were to be cut. We all anticipated changes to our boundaries. Hubert called us all in, one at a time to discuss the possible changes. Then came my turn. Armed with all the reasonable possibilities I went to his office. To my utter surprise he said to me, “well Dupuch I’ve decided to give you a clear run. Your boundaries are to remain the same, no changes, the same.” You could have blown me over with a feather!

Thanking him, I said to him that the organization of my election was in my briefcase and offered to help the new, less experienced candidates.  He said, “No, just wait until you hear from me.”

Our last meeting about the boundaries was held in the Cabinet Office. Each district was reviewed; mine was left alone. And then it happened. Hubert Ingraham said, “Now I’ll make my last changes to the boundaries, and there will be no questions.” He strode over to the map on the wall and said, “These are the new Shirlea boundaries.”

My mouth dropped as he drew a completely new Shirlea, putting me into areas in which I had almost been killed years before. I said “but Mr. Prime Minister … ” He said, “I said there would be no questions, meeting adjourned.” With that he left the room and signed the order.

It was obvious, I had two choices: accept the new boundaries or drop out of politics. At that point, I knew the Prime Minister thought I’d drop out, but later I sent him the message, “I’ll take it.”

Like an angel from heaven came Dr. Mary Ritchie who took over the management of my campaign and, along with my fantastic team, we won the election. Hubert had been beaten, and he didn’t like that.

But more important, it became clear that Hubert Ingraham could not be trusted. Nevertheless, I decided to stay on but to watch him. After all, he had promised he only wanted two terms and this was his second term.

In 1992, the people of The Bahamas had become tired and fed up with the PLP Administration, which had been in power for twenty-five years. The people wanted a change; they did not want a long term Prime Minister. Ingraham saw this as an opportunity and took it. He promised the people that he wanted only two terms. That clinched the election for the FNM.

And now, 2002 was fast approaching. His second term was coming to an end. It became obvious to me that his promise of only wanting two terms had not been honest. He wanted to have a third term.  He and his cronies tried everything. But we kept his feet to the fire.

During the first ten years of Ingraham’s administration, concerned FNM MPs approached me about a coup to get rid of him. My answer was always that we promised him two terms and we should not break our word. According to the Bahamas Constitution, “The Leader” of the party that has the most seats in Parliament would be called in by the Governor General to form the Government.

With this in mind, we could not elect a new Leader at the FNM convention and at the same time give Ingraham a full two terms. So the positions of “Leader Elect” and “Deputy Leader Elect” were created. The plan was devised to change the Party’s Constitution at the Convention which would make these two positions a legal part of the FNM’s constitution. It would spell out in the constitution how these positions would work and at what time they would “kick in.”

This would give Ingraham a clear two terms and a mechanism whereby a new Prime Minister would move smoothly into place.

At the last minute Ingraham balked. The positions were never ratified by the FNM Convention, but Ingraham remained Leader. The two positions were filled with much fanfare but not ratified. So technically, they did not exist and were merely a sham. The occupiers of those positions, Tommy Turnquest and Dion Foulkes, knew it. Had the FNM gotten the majority of seats in that election, the Governor General, by law, would have had to ask the “Leader” of the party to form the Government.

Yes, Hubert Ingraham was the “Leader” and the positions of Leader Elect and Deputy Leader elect did not legally exist. Ingraham would have had a third term.

Dishonest? Deceitful? You be the judge. This was the second time that I thought he had lied and could not be trusted.  A trend seemed to be developing.

We trusted him when he told the nation that he would “never, ever sell 51% of BTC to outsiders.” Yet, he sold 51% to outsiders. It appears that he had not told the public the truth. This was three times and counting.

I am told that he didn’t sell BTC; he gave it away. Years ago the politicians stayed out of the running of BTC (then Batelco) and it was a cash cow for the Government.  When money was needed to run the country, it was obtained from the profits of Batelco. The new owners now take the profits out of the country. Where’s the cash cow now? What’s left to help pay the Government’s ever increasing debt that has mushroomed under Ingraham’s leadership?

In the game of baseball, three strikes and you’re out.

Yes, leadership is all about trust.

May 7th will tell the tale.

By Pierre V.L. Dupuch
April 23, 2012