Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has declined the invitation by the Free National Movement Executive Council to serve a third term, bringing to end public perception that he intended to extend the two five-year terms in government that he promised the electorate he would serve.
In a national address Thursday night via ZNS TV-13 and Radio Bahamas, the Prime Minister disclosed that he informed the Central Council of the FNM that should he lead the party into the upcoming general elections, and the party is reelected, he shall demit office, voluntarily, by August 2002.
This, he said, will mark the end of his 10th year as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
"I said that I wanted to serve no longer than 10 years," Prime Minister Ingraham said. "On this promise, as in others, I will keep my word. After all a man is still only as good as his word. I am not prepared to offer to serve in the office of Prime Minister for more than 10 consecutive years."
On August 19, 1992, Hubert Ingraham led the FNM into a landslide general election victory, toppling the Progressive Liberal Party 26-year reign. The FNM was returned to power following the 1997 general elections, winning 34 of the 40 seats in the House of Assembly.
"Leaders ought never to cling to office to the stultification of young ambition and young potential," the Prime Minister said.
He said while not achieving all that he wanted for "our beloved Bahamaland," the FNM has made a valuable and decisive difference.
A very appreciative Prime Minister said he was deeply grateful that things are much better now for Bahamians, than they were at the start of his first term in office.
"As I near the completion of my second consecutive term in office," the Prime Minister said, "I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude that the Bahamian people have given me the privilege to serve our country in the office which I so deeply honour."
He thanked the masses for the chance to create opportunities and improve their living conditions and standards, to positively impact upon the condition and circumstances of children, the aged, the marginalised, the poor, the unemployed, the victimised and the neglected, and to remove to the extent possible, the differences that separated the Bahamian people into competing groups.
The Prime Minister also thanked Bahamians for giving him the opportunity to enhance the necessary infrastructure, improve employment for persons in all sectors, and for introducing the long-promised local government.
He said he was gratified to have led The Bahamas during this period of transition, and that Bahamian children can look forward to a much brighter future than was the case at the start of the last decade.
"It also gives me untold satisfaction that our Bahamas is no longer regarded
as a pariah by others in the world," the Prime Minister said, "that we no longer attract the offensive labels and feel the scorn which our country suffered and endured in the past."
Upon his election in 1992, the Prime Minister pledged that his government would introduce a culture of transparency and accountability in the conduct of the public's business.
"I have kept my word," he said. "We're in the ninth year of 'Government in the Sunshine' in The Bahamas."
The Prime Minister boasted of breaking the government's monopoly on broadcasting; there is now cable TV, and seven privately-owned radio stations.
And he said that the country is proud that the most economically powerful nations in the world have recently endorsed the integrity of its financial services sector.
"In the international community of nations, the image of our Commonwealth has never been better," the Prime Minister said. "In the countries of the developing world, the people of The Bahamas have never been more admired and envied."
He observed that the partnership between the government and Bahamians is uniquely productive one.
"I could not have asked for stronger support, wider participation, or deeper commitment than has been given so freely by the vast majority of the Bahamian people," he said.
He said he was convinced that if a leader is unable to achieve his plans in 10 consecutive years, he will be unlikely to take his country on an upward curve thereafter.
And as he approaches the end of his second consecutive term, he has received invitations from his Cabinet, parliamentary colleagues, members of the FNM Executive Committee and Central Council, and from the wider society to serve a third term.
"I believe, however, it is important to honour a commitment, to keep a promise and fulfill a pledge," the Prime Minister said. "This is important for all of us, especially our children. It is important too, that the outside world should respect the integrity of our commitments."
He said he was grateful to the FNM for its confidence in asking him to stay on longer, but that he is unable and unwilling to break his pledge to voters.
The Prime Minister also said that he has every confidence that there exist, within the membership of the FNM, persons with the capacity to provide leadership at every level.
"I am equally confident that such capacities exist in the wider Bahamian society," the Prime Minister said.