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Pindling

Pindling

[pind-ling]
Pindling, Sir Lynden Oscar, 1930-2000, prime minister of the Bahamas (1967-92). The son of a policeman, he received a law degree (1952) from London Univ. As leader of the Progressive Liberal party, he represented the large black majority in the Bahamas and became the country's first prime minister of African descent when his party won a close, but surprising, victory (1967); in elections the next year his party won by a solid majority, and its position in power was subsequently reaffirmed. As prime minister, he emphasized public aid to education and the continued attraction of foreign investment, international banking, and tourism. He led his country to independence within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1973. Despite investigations into possible links between Pindling and the drug trade and into bribe-taking allegations during the 1980s, he remained popular for many years. He was knighted in 1983.
Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, KCMG, OM, JP (22 March 1930 - 26 August 2000) served as the first black Premier of the Colony of the Bahama Islands, 1967-1969 and as Prime Minister of the Bahamas, 1969-1992, as leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). He was also a Privy Councilor and knighted by the Queen in 1983.

A lawyer by profession, he obtained a law degree from King's College London in 1952. In 1953 he became both a Barrister of the Middle Temple and an attorney of the Bahamas.

Called the Black Moses, Pindling was the longest elected leader in the Western Hemisphere until 1992 when the PLP lost its first election in 25 years. Pindling conceded defeat with the words "the people of this great little democracy have spoken in a most dignified and eloquent manner, and 'the voice of the people, is the voice of God".

Birth and education

Lynden Pindling was born on 22 March 1930 to Arnold and Viola Pindling in his grandfather's home in Mason's Addition, Nassau, Bahamas. Pindling grew up in East Street in Nassau.

Pindling attended Government High School (GHS), in downtown Nassau from 1943-1946. After completing high school, Pindling took a job as a junior clerk in the Post Office Savings Bank. He was 16. Pindling worked at the bank until 1948 when he traveled to London to study law. Pindling received a Bachelor of Law (LLB) from King's College London in 1952. Pindling was called to the English bar at the Middle Temple in February 1953 and the Bahamas Bar in June 1953.

At his call to the Bahamas Bar, Pindling dedicated himself to the service of the Bahamas and the Bahamian people 'within and without the realm of pure law', demonstrating his eloquence but also revealing his political agenda.

Political career

By the end of 1953, Pindling joined the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) as its legal advisor and later became Treasurer of the Party in 1954 and Chairman in 1963.

On 5 May 1956, Pindling married Marguerite McKenzie (of Long Bay Cays in Andros at St Ann's Parish in Fox Hill Road in Nassau. The following month, Pindling successfully contested Nassau's Southern District constituency in the 1956 General Election.

The PLP party chairman, Henry Taylor, was defeated in the 1956 General Election. His defeat resulted in Pindling's election as the party's parliamentary leader over the dynamic and popular labour leader Randol Fawkes. Pindling led the PLP from 1956 until his retirement in 1997. He led the PLP to election victories in 1967, 1968, 1972, 1977, 1982 and 1987 and was elected to the House of Assembly on ten consecutive occasions. Pindling's success was due, in part, to his ability to build a coalition with Bahamian clergy, primarily Baptist pastors, such as H. W. Brown, R. E. Cooper, Sr., and A. S. Colebrook who became heavy supporters of the PLP and its policies.

On 27 April 1965 (a day known in Bahamian history as "Black Tuesday") Pindling delivered a speech in the House of Assembly accusing the government of the day of gerrymandering. In a calculated move to drum up popular support and shock the establishment, he took the Speaker's Mace and threw it out of a window onto the streets (where PLP supporters had gathered) exclaiming, "[t]his is the symbol of authority, and authority in this island belongs to the people... Yes, the people are outside, and the mace belongs outside, too!"

Thus, on January 10th 1967, the Progressive Liberal Party led by Lynden Pindling obtained eighteen seats in the General Election -- while the United Bahamian Party (led by Sir Roland Symonette) also obtained 18 seats. Sir Randol F. Fawkes (being the lone Independent Labour MP) voted to sit with the Progressive Liberal Party, enabling them to form a government. The other Independent, Sir Alvin Braynen accepted the position of Speaker in order to maintain his neutrality. Pindling thus led the Bahamas to black majority rule in 1967, becoming the Bahamas' first black Premier. The nation had previously been governed by an oligarchy of white merchants known as 'The Bay Street Boys' who had suppressed the black majority under a system of segregation that has been compared to the southern United States and South Africa. Pindling led the Bahamas to independence from Britain on 10 July 1973 and is considered the architect of the modern Bahamas, through initiatives such as basic social security, and housing projects as well as negotiating major tourist developments.

Pindling was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1983.

Accusations of corruption

In 1982, a report entitled "The Bahamas: A Nation For Sale" by investigative television journalist Brian Ross (journalist) was aired on NBC in the United States. The report claimed Pindling and his government accepted bribes from Colombian drug smugglers, particularly the notorious Carlos Lehder, co-founder of the Medellín Cartel, in exchange for allowing the smugglers to use the Bahamas as a transshipment point to smuggle Colombian cocaine into the US. Through murder and extortion, Lehder had gained complete control over the Norman's Cay in Exuma, which became the chief base for smuggling cocaine into the United States.

Pindling vigorously denied the claims made in the NBC report, and made a testy appearance on NBC to rebut them. However, the public outcry in the Bahamas over the report led to the creation in 1984 of a Commission of Inquiry to look into the matter. Pindling briefly retained the famous trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey to represent him before the Commission. In the Commission's final report, several members of Pindling's cabinet were severely criticized but none were ever actually charged with crimes as a result. Of Pindling, the Commission's report stated that in the years leading up to the Commission, he had spent sums vastly in excess of his income without incurring any debt or providing any satisfactory explanation of where the extra money had come from. However, the Commissioners failed to find any evidence that Pindling had taken bribes, and did not recommend that he be charged with any crime.

It is an indication of the level of Pindling's popularity in the Bahamas at the time that, despite the scandalous claims made against him in the US media, he never felt the need to resign his office or call an early election to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate. Even with the commission's report fresh in voters' minds, he led his party to another election victory in 1987.

However, in the 1992 General Elections, the Free National Movement (FNM) beat the PLP, even though Pindling regained his South Andros seat amidst serious allegations of nepotistic abuse of the state-owned companies and involvement in drug-trafficking. Nevertheless, a nationwide personality cult still reveres him as "the Father of the Nation."

Legacy

Pindling retired from active,powerful politics and leadership of the PLP in July 1997 and was succeeded by Perry Christie. Three years later, on 25 August 2000, Pindling died after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer. He was buried on 4 September 2000. Pindling continues to be revered by many as the most dominant figure in Bahamian politics. In 2006, Nassau International Airport was renamed in his honour.

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