The house of assembly and denial of basic human rights

by: Joseph Darville, Vice President, GB HRA

No guns, no arms, no pipe bombs, no hand grenades, no pressure cooker explosives!

Bearing no arms, no guns, no pipe bombs, no hand grenades, no pressure cooker explosives, a group of our young, intelligent, wise, caring and concerned students of the College of the Bahamas, honorable citizens of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, were unceremoniously, almost forcefully, barred from entering THEIR House of Assembly a few weeks ago. Even though that incident grieved, pained and shocked many of our people, especially the young, I have hesitated this long to comment, hoping to hear some regret expressed in the Honorable House of Assembly, by WHOMEVER, lamenting this dictatorial, despotic action perpetrated by SOMEONE, against young, gentle, wise, conscientious citizens of our so-called " FREE NATION." 

These young students are our future leaders who will one day sit in that same House, and they will lament what had been meted out to them by their elders. Some of those same students would have voted in the last election and enabled some of those same members of Parliament, including the Honorable Speaker, to sit in the House to do the work of the people. The annals of history, therefore, will not look favorably upon such action against non-violent, genuinely concerned, young citizens.

I have contemplated all possibilities and scenarios as to what would have initiated such a dramatic, unwarranted and capricious move against young persons. For over forty years as a teacher, guidance counselor and high school principal, I never once, in spite of having to deal with cantankerous, aggressive and even violent young students, thought about, much armed myself, hid myself, or called for the arm forces to handle any situation. Armed only with unconditional love for them, I had nothing to fear. So now we have to have the armed forces shielding grown men and women from a handful of youthful gentle souls? In the name of the Good Lord, what are we saying to the nation? Fearless Sir Lynden would have walked up to that group, and welcomed them with possible words: " My brothers, my sisters, my sons and daughters, please follow me into the sanctuary of this honorable house and I will hear you pleas." 

Pray tell me what are our so-called leaders, including the Prime Minister and the Honorable Speaker afraid of? Could it be fear and trepidation of the truth. Young persons came bearing a question, and they only expected the truth to be told. So was the truth and nothing but the truth available in that Honorable Place? If these elected men and women are genuinely doing the work of the people, what have they to fear? If they are not secretly divesting our future generation of their God-gifted heritage, for a pot of porridge, what are they paranoid about? If they are earnestly seeking ways for full employment of our thousands of young graduates this summer, and not wasting time debating the establishment of another holiday, when tens of thousands are now on necessary and permanent holiday, then why are they on edge?

For the good of this nation, and its international reputation as a democratic state, reparation is still possible and demanded for that reprehensible act of denial of their fundamental right. No apology should be sought or given; the damage has been done. What is needed then is for the Speaker to invite this group into the hallowed halls of Parliament, having first heard their concerns, and address them with the dignity they deserve. In speaking with a number of these young persons, this is what I am told: they simply are seeking a reasonably affordable tertiary education; they want to have a job available upon graduation; they want to be assured that they are not second class citizens in their own country; they wish to revel in the fact that they are the inheritors of a free nation with leaders who listen to and appreciate the wisdom invested in the young.

To paraphrase what we all know: the quality of a nation is predicated upon the way it treats its children. In this regard, we can assess ourselves as disqualified. In the one place reputed to be the sanctuary of constitutional basic human rights, the House of Assembly, it is therein, distressingly, that their fundamental human rights were denied. At that moment, I could envision a good number of our forefathers almost arising from their graves wondering what had become of the country for which they braved all odds to elevate it to nationhood.

Forty years ago, I was the proud and honored national parade coordinator for the multitude of school children, teachers and administrators, from the length and breadth of this nation, on the eve of July 10, 1973, who assembled on Clifford Park to celebrate the raising of our Bahamian flag, to usher in an independent nation. What joy, unity and genuine celebration! Today, however, sadly, many of our young see no reason to celebrate forty years of independence, for they feel more enslaved now than ever in our history.

We, and our Parliament have precious little time before July 10 to reverse this sentiment and send an unequivocal message of truth, caring and concern accompanied by a dramatic demonstration of concrete ways to bring a sense of hope back into the hearts and minds of our people, especially the young. If they exit the halls of secondary and tertiary education this summer with no means to support themselves and their families, we only set them up to fail, and many to resort to criminal activity. If we deny them this basic necessity, we are morally to blame for their antisocial behavior.

We, as a nation, have a moral obligation to set them on a path, armed with certain tools and opportunities to earn an honest and honorable living. I would recommend that we postpone the grand celebration of this fortieth anniversary of independence, defer it to the fiftieth, and spend the allocated funds to establish gainful employment for our youth. What an opportune time to work on a ten-year national plan based upon the principle of establishing the best little democratic, free and independent country on earth, where all inalienable rights are guaranteed, honored and practiced. Then we will have much to celebrate!

Then on another note, if we wish to rename another holiday as Majority Rule Day, then rename Boxing Day, which is only the celebration of our slave days, when we ate the leftovers (" boxed crumbs" ) from the masters' tables on the day after Christmas, after our forefathers would have royally served their masters. That is one day about which we need not be reminded.

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