WASHINGTON, D.C. — Her Excellency Dame Marguerite Pindling, Governor General of The Bahamas, unveiled a memorial bust of her late husband, Sir Lynden Pindling, the first Prime Minister of The Bahamas, during an impressive ceremony in the Hall of Heroes at the Organization of American States (OAS), 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W., on Thursday, April 20, 2017.
Sir Lynden’s son Mr. Obafemi (Obi) Pindling, Director of the Sir Lynden Pindling Foundation, delivered remarks at the historic event on behalf of the family. Mr. Pindling was accompanied to Washington by his wife Diane.
Also participating in the official ceremony were Senator the Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Attorney General of The Bahamas, who delivered the keynote address; His Excellency Dr. Elliston Rahming, Bahamas Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the OAS, who brought welcome remarks; His Excellency Nestor Mendez, Assistant Secretary General of the OAS; His Excellency Dr. Eugene Newry, Bahamas Ambassador to the United States; Mrs. Paulette Zonicle, Bahamas Consul General to Washington, D.C., who was the Moderator; and Rev. Dr. William Thompson, Executive Chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas, who said the invocation.
The Bust was sculpted by Bahamian artist Andret John, who was present to see his handiwork in marble unveiled. He later said that it was a dream of his “for many years to sculpt this national hero.”
Also present for the unveiling were Mrs. Sharon Brennen-Haylock, Director General of the Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Hon. H. Ricardo Treco, Bahamas Consul General to Miami; the Hon. Forrester Carroll, Bahamas Consul General to New York, and his wife Dr. Valencia Carroll; and Mr. Bobby Pinder, Cultural Attaché with the Consulate of The Bahamas in Atlanta, Georgia, who sang the National Anthem of The Bahamas.
In his welcome remarks, Ambassador Rahming referred to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life,” in which Longfellow intones, “Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and departing leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.”
“That is what brings us here this afternoon,” Ambassador Rahming said. “The indelible, immutable footprint of Sir Lynden Pindling has brought us together to etch into perpetuity a collective remembrance of and an everlasting tribute to a great Caribbean son who, to expand upon a line from Ted Kennedy’s eulogy to his brother Bobby, “saw wrong and tried to right it; saw suffering and tried to heal it;” saw a small island state and tried to enlarge it and empower it.”
Ambassador Rahming noted that just as “The Apostle Paul of old had the good fortune of sitting at the feet of Gamaliel, many of us gathered here today had the privilege of sitting, proverbially and literally, at Sir Lynden’s feet.”
“I believe that history would confirm that I rose from shoeshine boy to serve for four years as his Special Assistant; three years as Secretary General of the party that he led; a candidate in two national elections under his leadership and Opposition Leader in The Bahamas Senate having been appointed by Sir Lynden,” Ambassador Rahming proudly recalled.
He added, “And so I knew Sir Lynden up close. Not only is he the father of the island nation known as the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, he was a surrogate father to thousands of young, poor Bahamians in whom he saw promise and potential and therefore took a personal interest in our development and advancement.”
“We commemorate his achievements and celebrate his life today not just because he was in the vanguard of the fight for women’s rights; not just because he led us to majority rule; not just because he led us to Independence; not just because he built the modern middle class in The Bahamas; not just because he played a pivotal role in the release of Nelson Mandela and hence the dismantling of apartheid. We celebrate and commemorate him today not simply because of what he did, but moreso because of what he made possible for The Bahamas and ordinary Bahamians to become. That is his enduring legacy and his immutable epitaph.”
In his remarks, Obi Pindling noted that as the eldest of his parents’ four children, he could “truly and sincerely say that I have witnessed virtually all of my father’s political career and his dedication to serving the people of The Bahamas.”
“By way of illustration, in 1967, when the party of which he was Leader, the Progressive Liberal Party, was first elected to be the Government and our country attained majority Rule for the first time, I was a month shy of my eighth birthday,” Mr. Pindling said. “At that time, he had been Leader of the party for 11 years. When he retired from Parliament, where he sat and served for forty-one years, I was 38 years old. Consequently, it is not an understatement when I say that I have seen the highs and the lows of public life.”
He added, “Being the child of someone who became known as ‘The Father of the Nation’ gives one a completely different vantage point of the aforementioned highs and lows. I must confess, however, that the full significance of his standing and prominence in the history of The Bahamas and, indeed, in the history of English-speaking Caribbean leaders never hit home to me until after his death 17 years ago. In the years to follow, so many incidents occurred where numerous persons made comments about my father which truly opened my eyes. Of the many incidents, if you would indulge me, I will give brief details of just two of them.”
Recalling that his father loved Trinidad Carnival and indeed introduced him to the “greatest show on earth in 1986, Mr. Pindling said that “since then I have not missed Carnival ONCE.” About 10 years or so, he continued, “I landed at Piarco International in Trinidad and presented my passport to the Trini Immigration officer, who appeared to be in his 40s. He looked at it and said, “Hmmmm …… Lynden Pindling …… Bahamas. Are you related to the former Prime Minister?”. I said, “Yes sir, he was my father”. The officer then smiled and said, ‘He was a great man, one of the Caribbean’s Big 6.’ ”
When he quizzically responded, “Big 6?” Mr. Pindling said the Immigration Officer replied, “Yes, Big 6 Caribbean leaders — your father, Eric Williams of Trinidad & Tobago, Errol Barrow of Barbados, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Alexander Bustamante of Jamaica and Vere Bird of Antigua.”
“This stunned me because I had heard all the praises showered on him by supporters at home as well as all the criticism of him from political opponents at home, but this was the very FIRST time I had ever heard a non-Bahamian speak about my dad in such a larger- than-life, regional historical context to the point,” Mr. Pindling said. “To me, this was indeed a WOW moment.”
Mr. Pindling continued, “Whenever special events like today occur where some honour is bestowed on my father, whilst we, as a family, acknowledge the honour with immense gratitude, fondness and appreciation, we are the very first to acknowledge the indisputable fact that whatever he accomplished for the people of The Bahamas, he did not, and could not, do it alone. He was just one member of a very strong team of dedicated and faithful freedom fighters, male and female, who were all a part of a movement to uplift the masses. Those very same persons were those who elected him as Captain of the team. Again, as a family, we tip our caps to that entire team for without them, today would not be possible.
“On behalf of my beautiful, elegant 85-year-old mother, Dame Marguerite, who is present with us today; my siblings, Leslie, Michelle and Monique; my lovely wife, Diane, who is also here today; my parents’ six grandchildren, I wish to express our sincere gratitude to the OAS, the Government of The Bahamas and to each and every person responsible for making today possible. It is indeed, an honour and privilege for us to be here today and be a part of such a momentous occasion. Having referred earlier to the “Big 6 of the Caribbean” it is, indeed, hard to believe that my father is only the second person from the Caribbean Community to have a bust in the famous Hall of Heroes here at the OAS in Washington, DC. Again, another WOW moment.
“Over the years, my dad has received all manner of awards and honours both at home and abroad. I must confess, however, that I am especially proud to say that this honour today ranks if not at the top, very near to the top of them all. At home, it is somewhat expected that he would be shown love and admiration from those who support him. The cynics would say, ‘Well, what do you expect from his supporters?” However, when the international community, especially an organisation as prestigious as the OAS, pays homage, and gives recognition to his achievements, it is overwhelming, to say the least. It gives an even greater sense of pride and appreciation as it lends credence to the old saying, ‘It’s not what you think of yourself; it is more important what others think of you’.
“In closing, on behalf of my mother and the entire Pindling family, I wish to again say thank you to everyone responsible for making this day possible. TO GOD BE THE GLORY, great things he has done.
Assistant Secretary General of the OAS Mendez, in his remarks, highlighted some of the accomplishments of Sir Lynden during his long and distinguished political career, and described The Bahamas’ first Prime Minister as “a political giant and visionary who left an indelible mark upon the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and our region.”
Following the unveiling, a reception was held in the Aztec Patio of the OAS.
Dame Marguerite, accompanied by ADC Carlos Blatch and ADC Keith Ferguson, arrived in Washington shortly before 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday. She was met at Reagan National Airport by Ambassador Rahming and Ambassador Newry and was driven to the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Washington, where she stayed.
On Wednesday night the Governor General attended a reception for the United Way of the National Capital Area hosted by Consul General Zonicle at the Oxon Hill Manor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
On Thursday morning, Her Excellency and Attorney General Maynard-Gibson, who arrived in Washington Wednesday evening, paid a courtesy call on Consul General Zonicle at The Bahamas Embassy Consular Annex, 1025 Vermont Avenue, N.W.
The Governor-General and her delegation departed Washington Thursday evening.
Recognized as “The Father of the Nation,” Sir Lynden was Prime Minister of The Bahamas from 1967 to 1992. Shortly after he returned from Law School in England, he joined the newly formed Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in 1953 and was first elected to the House of Assembly in 1956. He became Parliamentary Leader of the party after Henry Milton Taylor, the then Chairman of PLP, was defeated in the 1956 general election and Pindling was elected the party’s Parliamentary Leader. He went on to win successive elections to the House of Assembly in 1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992 and 1997.
On January 10, 1967, the PLP and the governing United Bahamian Party (UBP) each won 18 seats in the House of Assembly, but Randol Fawkes (the lone Labour MP) voted to sit with the PLP, and Sir Alvin Braynen, an independent MP, agreed to become Speaker, enabling Pindling to form the first Majority Rule government in Bahamian history.
Pindling went on to lead Bahamians to independence from Great Britain on July 10, 1973. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983.
He retired from politics in 1997 and died three years later on August 26, 2000, after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer.