‘A great political sin’
PLP’s integrity defended after Ed Moxey’s name invoked in House
The late Edmund Moxey died without ever receiving a formal apology for all the wrongs against him.
“There is a lot of healing that needs to be done, and not for the sake of Edmund Moxey, but for the nation,” his son, Pastor Mario Moxey told National Review.
“We need to turn the corner in this country for reconciliation.”
At Moxey’s funeral on August 1, Prime Minister Perry Christie suggested the former Coconut Grove MP might have been taken for granted.
“Looking back now, as inevitably we do on an occasion like this, we see all too clearly and perhaps a little late, that Edmund Spencer Moxey was a true visionary when it came to cultural development and community uplift,” Christie said.
Moxey was among the PLP members who ushered in majority rule when the party won the 1967 general election.
The victimization Moxey and his family suffered received renewed attention after Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins decided to dedicate his contribution to the constitutional referendum debate to the former parliamentarian whose dream of a cultural village died decades ahead of him.
“We must first and foremost acknowledge the truth, and in the honor of that man, that champion who I recognized earlier, I believe that as a young politician, recently joining the Progressive Liberal Party, and when I made my maiden speech I said we should atone for the sins of the past,” Rollins said.
“One great political sin that was committed, Mr. Speaker, is that we politically and financially eviscerated the late Mr. Edmund Moxey, because of his views and because he was perceived as a threat.
“Mr. Speaker, it has relevance to what I say today because when we stand to our feet and we speak in a fashion that appears to be contrary to that of the party line, there are those who give orders to politically destroy and do damage to that individual, for no reason other than the fact that they espouse independent views.”
Rollins’ decision to invoke Moxey’s name during the debate, brought into focus certain shameful aspects of the PLP’s past.
“It was not long after becoming the government by the people and for the people that daddy recognized that the people of The Bahamas had been betrayed by the Pindling government,” his daughter, Marva Moxey, recounted a few months ago in a tribute to her father.
“All of the plans and programs that were to be implemented to ensure people empowerment, urban development and community building were soon abandoned by the government.
“In particular was our cultural heritage, which would have given us a strong sense of identity and independence to grow and develop ourselves in a meaningful way.”
Marva Moxey also recalled that her father “was made an example of the price to pay for being a bold, outspoken, independent thinker”.
She said, “As promised, every time daddy got a job playing music in one of the hotels or elsewhere, someone would call and threaten the establishment with the canceling of work permits for their foreign workers.
“So having to choose between their top executives and daddy, daddy would be released and sent home brokenhearted and discouraged. This happened job after job in spite of the fact that he was qualified and a Bahamian.”
After detailing the victimization endured by the Moxey family as a result of the position taken by her father, Marva Moxey said, “Despite our personal biases and party commitment, it should be underscored that this whole matter of hurting others who do not subscribe to our political philosophy is unwarranted and indeed inhumane.”
While awakening the injustices suffered by Moxey, Rollins also awakened the ire of Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell and the prime minister.
Moxey’s family must have watched with great interest as Mitchell said on the floor of the House of Assembly last Monday that the “other side” of the story has not been heard.
Some wondered if this was an attempt to denigrate Moxey’s legacy.
Mitchell did not tell “the other side”, except to recount the night of the long knives, when several PLPs, including Moxey, lost their nominations ahead of the 1977 general election.
“Much was said about and I went to a funeral and I heard a lot about the history of what the Progressive Liberal Party did to one of our fallen soldiers. I would only say this, that it is important, Mr. Speaker, to hear the other side,” Mitchell said.
“My view also is in some cases it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, to not open up old wounds and to leave the bones buried where they are.”
Mitchell pointed out that much of what transpired over nominations in 1977 was precipitated by events in August 1976 when the then leader of the Progressive Liberal Party sought to move the Public Disclosure Bill in the House.
There was a temporary majority of the opposition, the speaker put the question and the bill was defeated. Moxey, at the time a parliamentary secretary, voted to kill the bill and was fired by Pindling.
The House was prorogued and the bill reintroduced.
“When the nominations came up in 1977 [seven] people lost their nominations,” Mitchell noted.
“Among them was the late Mr. Edmund Moxey. The chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party at the time was Mr. Hubert Ingraham, and I’m saying that those who know the history should just hear the other side. You don’t have to believe it, just hear the other side.
“…There’s been a lot said about what we did and didn’t do. The point is that no one in here had any responsibility for what happened. The only person that I recall by report who spoke for anyone to save their nominations that night was the right honorable member for Centreville (Perry Christie) and I believe that had to do with Mr. Franklyn Wilson who for other reasons not connected to those [also lost his nomination].”
George Smith, the former Exuma MP, recalled however that there were others who stood up for the people losing their nominations.
“I was saddened that one or two people who I was particularly close to were not being nominated,” Smith told National Review.
Mitchell said the relevance of recounting this bit of political history was that the PLP was “attacked” during the course of the recent debate on the constitutional amendment bills.
“And I’m simply saying I’m defending that integrity and making this general point, sir… This is a rational organization. This is a rational organization.”
Prime Minister Perry Christie also distanced the current group of PLP politicians from the victimization Moxey suffered.
“Mr. Speaker, I have been here for 40 consecutive years in public life and the issue arose, Mr. Speaker, as to the member determining that he would wish to dedicate his speech in a special way. That’s fine.
“But any implication to suggest that anyone on this side of the House had anything to do with what is perceived to have happened to Ed Moxey, it would be entirely incorrect, wrong, unfair and unacceptable to me as leader of the Progressive Liberal Party,” said the prime minister as members from his side pounded their tables in agreement.
“I want to go further. These same people who make up the elected members of the Cabinet at the request of a member of the Moxey family, Mr. Speaker, have agreed to make an unprecedented contribution, rightly so, to that family, these same members.
“And let me say this, Mr. Speaker, these members just agreed to lift him up as one of 41 iconic contributors to the cultural development of this country, and it’s important we do that to position fairness in this debate.”
The prime minister added, “There is no one in The Bahamas who can speak to my relationship with Ed Moxey and that’s a relationship that began probably before the member for Fort Charlotte was born, and there is no one in this country that could point to anyone in this Parliament and say they had anything to do with victimizing or discrimination against Ed Moxey, and I want them to look at the members in this Parliament.”
Christie also said that before Moxey’s death he expressed in writing that he wished the country to move on from what happened to him.
“Ed Moxey wrote in his personal hand a position as to the spirit that he had when he knew he was being challenged with this health,” the prime minister said.
“I actually said at the [funeral] service I was going to request the speaker to read it into the record of the House because it was an uplifting account of a man who himself felt he may have been battered by the forces in public life, but he said the country must come together, put that behind it and move on, and he believed that he was living at a time where he was giving witness to the fact that those who were in government today would have no interest in pursuing what he perceived to be the kinds of attacks that he experienced.
“So he himself had moved on beyond the words that were intended to divide and that would have caused pain on this side of the House.”
The story of Edmund Moxey and the discrimination he faced after his falling out with the PLP leadership will long after his death speak volumes about what ought not happen to independent-minded politicians, or anyone who offends the powers that be.
For the PLP, it is an ugly piece of history; the kind of treatment we all hope no one else has to experience.
August 25, 2014