NASSAU, Bahamas — Sir Arthur Foulkes was sworn in as the eighth Governor-General in an Independent Bahamas during ceremonies at Government House Wednesday morning.
“Today I promise to do my best to live up to what…the Bahamian people would expect from one holding this high office,” he said.
His wife Lady Joan Eleanor and children accompanied him. Senior government officials, family, friends and well-wishers packed Government House ballroom for the event.
“Your love of country, dedication to duty make you a most deserving Bahamian son to occupy the high office of Governor-General,” said Prime Minister Hubert A Ingraham. “We offer you our full loyalty and affection.”
Moments earlier, outgoing Governor-General the Honourable Arthur D Hanna met briefly with Prime Minister Ingraham, inspected the royal guard of honour, received a booming 21-gun salute, and rode off into private life in a government vehicle.
Secretary to the Cabinet, Anita Bernhard, read the Royal Commission appointing Sir Arthur as the representative of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, in accordance with Article 32 of the Constitution. Prime Minister the Rt Hon Hubert A Ingraham signed the Commission.
Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett administered the oaths in which Sir Arthur swore to “be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors according to law.”
He received a sustained standing ovation.
With men in their traditional scissors-tail suits, and ladies in their latest fashions, Bahamians marked the occasion with the full pomp and pageantry of the British colonial setting, including colour parties from the Royal Bahamas Police and Defence Forces and their bands.
“Rituals and ceremonies are designed to protect values, to speak to us in ways that are sometimes more effective than words,” said Sir Arthur, “and to celebrate our good fortune as inheritors of this rich Bahamian patrimony.
“The ceremonies and rituals surrounding the swearing in of a new Governor-General and the opening of a new session of Parliament speak to us about our democracy, about the right to be governed by our own elected representatives.
“They speak to us about the continuity, about our institutions, about our parliamentary democracy, about its peaceful evolution over nearly 300 years.”
He paid tribute to the “awesome example” set by his predecessors in office.
Prime Minister Ingraham hailed the “important role” Sir Arthur played in bringing about political and social change.
“For more than five decades you have been a commanding presence and your contribution has been of great magnitude,” Mr Ingraham said.
“You rose out of Matthew Town, Inagua, and cut your political teeth in the struggle for majority rule.”
A journalist by profession, in 1967 he was elected to Parliament and the following year appointed to serve in the Cabinet as Minister of Communications then as Minister of Tourism.
He was one of the founders of the Free National Movement in 1971, the now governing party in the Bahamas.
He was appointed to the Senate in 1972 and 1977, and re-elected to the House of Assembly in 1982.
Sir Arthur was one of the four Opposition delegates to The Bahamas Independence Constitution Conference in London in 1972.
When the FNM was elected the governing party, Sir Arthur entered the diplomatic service of The Bahamas as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (resident in London) and Ambassador to France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the European Union.
He represented The Bahamas to the Commonwealth in London, and the African Caribbean Pacific Group in Brussels, was Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization and also Doyen of the Caribbean diplomatic corps in the United Kingdom. He founded Friends of The Bahamas, a London-based association.
In 1999 Sir Arthur was appointed the first Bahamas Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China and Ambassador to the Republic of Cuba. He is a founding member of the China Bahamas Friendship Association.
In recognition of his service to the country, in 2001 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, by Queen Elizabeth II.
Since 2007 he served as Director General of Bahamas Information Services, the Government’s information and news agency, and was designated to act as Deputy to the Governor General on every occasion His Excellency was absent from The Bahamas.
“Your appointment as Governor-General was an easy decision to make in my judgment,” said Mr Ingraham. “Your appointment comes following nearly 50 years of political struggle and national contribution of the highest order.
“In particular you must be credited with playing a pivotal role in the creation of a viable two party system in our country, failing which our democracy would have been much diminished.
“For what you have so far contributed to our country, we express our lasting gratitude. For what you shall contribute to our nation and to our lives, we thank you in keen and confident anticipation.
“We are confident that Your Excellency will be an excellent ambassador to the world, wherever your distinguished presence may appropriately promote our country’s cause.”