|The Right Honourable
Sir Lynden Pindling
|1st Prime Minister of the Bahamas|
10 July 1973 – 21 August 1992
|Governor General||Milo Butler
|Preceded by||Position Established|
|Succeeded by||Hubert Ingraham|
|Born||22 March 1930
|Died||26 August 2000
|Political party||Progressive Liberal|
The Right Honourable Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, KCMG, OM, PC, JP (22 March 1930 – 26 August 2000), is regarded as the "Father of the Nation" of the Bahamas, having led it to majority rule on 10 January 1967 and to independence on 10 July 1973. He served as the first black premier of the Colony of the Bahama Islands from 1967 to 1969 and as Prime Minister of the Bahamas from 1969 to 1992. He was leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) from 1956 to 1997 when he resigned from public life under scandal.
Pindling won an unbroken string of general elections until 1992, when the PLP lost to the Free National Movement (FNM) led by Hubert Alexander Ingraham. He 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
Pindling was born on 22 March 1930 to Arnold and Viola Pindling in his grandfather's home in Mason's Addition, Nassau, Bahamas. Pindling's father was a native of Jamaica who had earlier immigrated to The Bahamas to join the Royal Bahamas Police Force as a constable. He studied at King's College London.
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By the end of 1953, Pindling had joined the newly formed Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) as its legal advisor. In 1956, he became Parliamentary Leader when the PLP Chairman and de facto leader, Henry Taylor (later Sir Henry Taylor), was defeated in the 1956 general election. Pindling was elected the party's Parliamentary Leader over the dynamic and popular labour leader Randol Fawkes (later Sir Randol).
On 5 May 1956, Pindling married Marguerite McKenzie (of Long Bay Cays in Andros at St Ann's Parish on Fox Hill Road in Nassau). The following month, he successfully contested Nassau's Southern District constituency in the 1956 General Election. Thereafter, he would win successive elections to the House of Assembly in 1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992 and 1997.
On 27 April 1965 (a day known in Bahamian history as "Black Tuesday") Pindling delivered a speech in the House of Assembly In a dramatic turn of events, Pindling ended his speech by taking the Speaker's Mace and throwing it out of a window onto the street .
On 10 January 1967, the PLP and the governing United Bahamian Party (led by Sir Roland Symonette) each won 18 seats in the Assembly. Randol Fawkes (the lone Labour MP) voted to sit with the PLP, and Sir Alvin Braynan, an independent MP, agreed to become Speaker, enabling Pindling to form the first black government in Bahamian history.
Pindling went on to lead Bahamians to independence from Great Britain on 10 July 1973 amid controversy. He introduced social security measures in the form of the National Insurance Scheme, and the formation of the College of The Bahamas, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, among many others.
See also Elections in the Bahamas.
In 1966-67, on the urging of concerned Bahamians, the British government sent a Royal Commission of Inquiry to Nassau to investigate charges of widespread corruption in the Bahamian political system. The four-man commission was headed by Sir Ranulph Bacon, who had recently retired as deputy commander of Scotland Yard. The commission reported that the United Bahamian Party, previously in government, had been a front for mob-affiliated American casino interests, and that former Prime Minister Roland Symonette and influential Tourism Minister Sir Stafford Sands, and some others, all received large payments from the casino and resort businesses they had permitted to operate. The commission also found, however, that Lynden Pindling, during his campaign, had been funded and aided by U.S. casino operator Michael McLaney in the expectation that Pindling would permit McLaney to operate in the islands. Because of the report, Pindling broke his link with McLaney, but was not himself prosecuted. Certain prominent mob figures, including Dino Cellini, were exiled from Bahamas, but the casino operations continued. Pindling told the commission that U.S. interests had first approached him with evidence to implicate the UBP in corruption, which led to the royal commission.
In 1973, during a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigation of corrupt offshore finances, Mob elements accused Mike McLaney and his associate Elliott Roosevelt of having offered a contract to kill Pindling for reneging on the deal. This plot was discredited, but new elements of the control of the Miami Beach based, Meyer Lansky led syndicate over Bahamian business and politics emerged, as well as details of Mr. McLaney's dealings with Pindling, which included cash, aircraft, boats, and a campaign headquarters on Bay Street.
In 1983, a report entitled "The Bahamas: A Nation For Sale" by investigative television journalist Brian Ross 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.
Lehder boasted to the Colombian media about his involvement in drug trafficking at Norman's Cay and about giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs to the ruling Progressive Liberal Party, but Pindling vigorously denied the accusations, and made a testy appearance on NBC to rebut them. However, the public outcry led to the creation in 1984 of a new Commission of Inquiry to investigate the drug trade and official corruption in the Bahamas.
A review of Pindling's personal finances by the Commission found that he had spent eight times his reported total earnings from 1977 to 1984. According to the Inquiry: "The prime minister and Lady Pindling have received at least $57.3 million in cash. Explanations for some of these deposits were given... but could not be verified."
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 or call an early election. Even with the commission's report fresh in voters' minds, he led his party to another election victory in 1987.
However, in 1992 the opposition Free National Movement (formed by anti-Pindling factions in 1970) bested the PLP in the General Election, even though Pindling retained his South Andros seat. The FNM was formed in 1971 by a union of the so-called "Free-PLP" and the United Bahamian Party. The Free-PLP were a breakaway group of eight MPs from the then governing Progressive Liberal Party. This group, which was known as the "Dissident Eight," led by the popular Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, was on the center-right of the PLP and unhappy with what it saw as creeping dictatorial tendencies within the PLP Government.
After Pindling's defeat in the August 1992 elections, new Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham "strongly rejected the idea that Sir Lynden or any member of his Government should be extradited to the United States to face possible charges. Witnesses in the trials of both Carlos Lehder, a founder of the Medellin drug cartel in Colombia, and Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, the deposed Panamanian dictator, testified to payoffs to Sir Lynden, and some United States officials have long recommended that he be indicted on drug-trafficking charges."
The FNM won a second landslide victory in 1997 and Pindling retired from politics shortly afterward. He was succeeded by Perry Christie. Three years later, on 26 August 2000, Pindling died after a prolonged battle with prostate cancer. He was buried on 4 September 2000 in a full state funeral. There is also a large body of opinion which suggests his activities in the 1980s tarnished his image badly. In 2006, Nassau International Airport was renamed Lynden Pindling International Airport in his honour.
- New York Times, 20 April 1967, and NYT 25, 26, 28 August 1967, and other NYT reportage.
- New York Times, 19 September 1973, and other NYT reportage.
- New York Times, 22 August 1992.
- Progressive Liberal Party web page
- Tony Thorndike, "Obituary", The Guardian (London), 28 August 2000.
- Jayson Blair, "Lynden Pindling, 70, Who Led the Bahamas to Independence", New York Times, 28 August 2000.