Licec Bastian and Delvardo Emmanuel
What started off as a bright Monday morning eventually turned into a sad and gloomy
day. Monday, September 25, 2023, will be etched in the annals of history with the
sudden death of Minister of Social Services, Information and Broadcasting, veteran
journalist Obediah Hercules Wilchcombe.
A government is now mourning as condolences and tributes poured out on the
shocking passing of the long-time Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Parliamentarian
who held the seat as Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and Bimini for a
combined total of nearly 20 years (two years to go in the current sitting of
The now late Minister was found unresponsive in his home in West End, Grand
Bahama and eventually rushed to the Rand Memorial Hospital where he was
As the late Mr. Wilchcombe, at the time of his death, was leader of government
business in the House of Assembly and a substantive minister with a portfolio, he is
entitled to a full state funeral. It is understood that the state funeral will be held on
Friday, October 13, at Pro-Cathedral of Christ the King in Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Shock waves rippled through West Grand Bahama and Bimini and the wider Bahamas
on news of the late minister’s passing.
And it was a shock as the M.P had had a busy weekend; he attended a memorial for
the late George Smith over on Exuma on Friday past, and on Sunday evening attended
the Progressive Liberal Party’s women’s branch meeting on Grand Bahama.
Not long after word began to spread about the minister’s demise, The Cabinet Office
released a statement: “The Cabinet Office wishes to inform the general public, with
profound sadness, of the passing of The Honourable Obediah Wilchcombe, Minister
of Social Services, Information and Broadcasting; Leader of Government Business in
the House of Assembly, and Member of Parliament for West Grand Bahama and
Soon after, Prime Minister Philip Davis, along with Education and Technical and
Vocational Training Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin, and Minister of State in the
Office of the Prime Mininster Myles LaRoda arrived in Grand Bahama. The
delegation viewed the body of Minister Wilchcombe at the Rand and then Prime
Minister Davis addressed a crowd of PLP supporters at the party’s headquarters in
Prime Minister Davis in a statement of condolences remarked that “Obie’s untimely
passing is very shocking and very sad. Even though he has achieved much in his many
years of public service, he still had so much more to offer.
“During the past two years, he served with great distinction as Member of Parliament
for West Grand Bahama and Bimini and Minister of Social Services and Urban
Renewal. He was recently appointed to take on the additional portfolio of Information
and Broadcasting,” Prime Minister Davis said.
Prior to his life in politics, Obie Wilchcombe was a journalist and broadcaster with the
country’s leading media house at the time, the Broadcasting Corporation of The
Bahamas (BCB). His career began in 1975 and spanned more than 25 years.
“We remember well his many innovations, such as being the first to report a story, not
from behind a desk, but walking and talking to the camera. This personal touch
reflected the easy, intimate style with which he addressed everyone.
“He was resolute and courageous in his reporting and his defence of the Fourth Estate.
He is perhaps the only journalist in the country to have been sent to prison for refusing
to reveal his sources, an episode that continued to traumatize him many years later,”
the prime minister said.
Minister Wilchcombe rose through the ranks, at the BCB including Deputy Director
of News, News Director, and Assistant General Manager.
Prime Minister Davis also spoke to Wilchcombe’s career in politics and highlighted
areas that he would most likely be remembered for.
“Although he formally began his political career in 1994, his political roots ran much
deeper. His parents helped to establish the PLP branch in Grand Bahama, and he cut
his teeth writing speeches for the Father of the Nation, Sir Lynden Pindling. His
relationship with Sir Lynden was one which he treasured, and which continued to
inspire him throughout his life.
“He will likely be remembered most for his two stints as Minister of Tourism,
where his visionary initiatives, such as the introduction of Sports, Religious, and
African-American Tourism, significantly enhanced the tourism product of The
His contribution to the development of the film industry was exemplary, and the
success of this policy was evident when two of the top three films of 2006 were shot
in our beautiful nation.
“His favourite phrase, “One Love”, exemplified his worldview, symbolising unity,
compassion, and a deep love for humanity,” Prime Minister Davis said in his
Paying respects to their colleague, Cabinet Ministers shared their found memories.
Minister of Labour and the Public Service Pia Glover-Rolle said their relationship
spans more than a decade and described him as a mentor.
“Becoming a candidate and then becoming a member of parliament, our relationship
continued as he was a mentor to me.
“We met frequently, speaking about the way forward, speaking about development
and mentorship of young people.
“He was respected across party lines; he was fair; he was somebody that always
believed in, giving your best,” Minister Glover-Rolle said.
Minister of Transport and Energy Jobeth Coleby- Davis said the passing of Mr.
Wilchcombe is not only a great loss for the PLP but for the country and young
National Security Minister Wayne Munroe also remembered his colleague, whom he
said will miss particularly as sat next to each other in the House of Assembly.
“He was a man who always spoke from his heart”, Minister Munroe said as recalled
one of his very last moments with Minister Wilchcombe.
“I last saw him speaking at the relaunch [and], rebrand of ZNS, and his address
showed the passion of somebody who had been in broadcasting, who had an
appreciation for what broadcasting was in the past, had become and what it could be.
“He always spoke about what we could be as a people and he never lost hope,
regardless of how vexing a situation could be.
“I remember when he spoke to me about the young girls who were trafficked, and his
passion that we not only had to bring the perpetrators to justice, but his focus was
always, what do we do about the people who are hurt”.
“He always sought to address the hurt,” Minister Munroe recalled.