Last week, Hubert Ingraham delivered his resignation letter as Member of the House of Assembly for the constituency of North Abaco effective 31st August, 2012. He had announced that he would not serve as a mere parliamentarian during his concession speech after the results of the general election on 7th May, 2012 had come in. Most observers agree that his delaying the resignation to that date is for no other reason but to ensure that his preferred candidate, Greg Gomez, will by that time meet the residency requirements to be eligible to run in a by-election.
Today, the House of Assembly was in session, and Ingraham was set to deliver a farewell address to the nation. He wanted to do this early during the session, but when he saw that his address was only tenth on the agenda, he decided to leave and not make his speech. FNMs were outraged that their former leader, the country’s previous Prime Minister, was denied his right to speak. Only he wasn’t.
He chose to leave because the agenda did not suit his ego. He left the House of Assembly and he left the constituency of North Abaco, whose voters elected Ingraham on 7th May to serve a five-year term, without representation. If it had not been for his delayed resignation, his concession speech ought to have been his farewell address.
This is problematic, because this behaviour – and his resignation in general – both suggest that Ingraham’s running as a candidate in North Abaco was not for the representation of the people of that constituency, but merely a means to an end, which was getting a fourth term as Prime Minister.
In fact, this is where I see a difference between what is happening to Ingraham, and what people call payback for his resolving parliament before giving some members, such as Cynthia “Mother” Pratt, the opportunity to say their goodbyes. These were MPs who had served their full terms but decided not to seek reelection.
The House agreed to afford him the honour, as a former Prime Minister, to make a formal farewell address. Some say, he deserved a special sitting of the House, as was the case when Lynden Pindling said goodbye in 1997.
Ingraham’s legacy must not be underestimated. The current government would not lose face if it changed the course, overlooking the controversy that ensued today. However, in a democracy honours – of any kind – are bestowed upon people by the decision of others. Honours are not to be demanded for honours are not an entitlement.
In our democracy, we refer to politicians, at least those in the front row, as “leaders.” In reality, these leaders are (supposed to be) our servants. We recognise them for the services rendered, and while they may deserve special recognition, they deserve it for being first among equals.