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Bahamas

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The Right Honourable Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling, PC, 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. He was leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). He was also a Privy Councilor and knighted by the Queen in 1983.

He obtained a law degree from King's College London in 1952 and joined the fledgling PLP the following year as legal advisor.

Sir Lynden won an unbroken string of general elections until 1992, when the PLP lost to the Free National Movement. 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".

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Birth and education

Lynden Pindling was born on March 22 1930 to Arnold and Viola Pindling in his grandfather's home in Mason's Addition, Nassau, Bahamas. He grew up on East Street in Nassau and attended the Government High School from 1943-1946. At the age of 16 he took a job as a junior clerk in the Post Office Savings Bank before travelling to London to study law. He received a Bachelor of Law (LLB) from King's College London in 1952 and was called to the English bar at the Middle Temple in February 1953 and to 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 had joined the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) as its legal advisor and later became treasurer of the party and parliamentary leader.

On 5 May 1956, he 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.

Then PLP chairman, Henry Taylor, was defeated in the 1956 general election, and Pindling became the party's parliamentary leader over the dynamic and popular labour leader Randol Fawkes. He led the PLP from 1956 until his retirement from politics in 1997, winning election victories in 1967, 1968, 1972, 1977, 1982 and 1987.

He was elected to the House of Assembly on 10 consecutive occasions due, in part, to his ability to build a coalition with influential Bahamian clergymen, primarily Baptist pastors, such as H. W. Brown, R. E. Cooper, Sr., and A. S. Colebrook who became strong 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, "this 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!"

On January 10 1967, the PLP and the governing United Bahamian Party (led by Sir Roland Symonette) each won 18 seats in the legislature. Sir 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.

The Bahamas had previously been governed by an oligarchy of white merchants known as 'the Bay Street Boys'(and formally constituted as the UBP in 1958) who had suppressed the black majority under a system of segregation and racial prejudice similar to that in the southern United States.

Pindling went on to lead Bahamians to independence from Britain on 10 July 1973. He is considered one of the chief architects of the modern Bahamas, and is credited with achieving significant social change in a democratic and orderly process, as well as the introduction of social security measures and the formation of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.

Accusations of corruption

In 1983, NBC News aired a report that implicated the Pindling government in the protection of drug gangsters operating from Bahamian islands, particularly the notorious Carlos Lehder, a co-founder of the Medellín Cartel. Lehder had gained complete control over the small resort island of Norman's Cay in the Exumas, 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 Commission of Inquiry to investigate the drug trade and official corruption in the Bahamas.

A review of Sir Lynden'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) beat the PLP, even though Pindling retained his South Andros seat.

Legacy

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 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 Lynden Pindling International Airport in his honour. He is considered the 'founding father' of the modern Bahamas.

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