Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Rule of Law and the Constitution Trumps Parliamentary Privilege in The Bahamas

Insight: A Simmering Constitutional Crisis Ready To Erupt

Frederick Smith QC says the separation of powers between executive and judiciary is being threatened by ‘capricious’ parliamentarians over the Save The Bays email row . . .

The judgement delivered by Justice Indra Charles in the Save The Bays email case last week is a watershed in the development of Bahamian Constitutional jurisprudence.

It is precedent setting and an historic judgement in Constitutional Law throughout the British Commonwealth.

The issues, the context in which they were raised and the current reaction by the Government, must give civil society in the Bahamas pause for careful reflection.

By mounting this case, the Plaintiffs - Save The Bays and Zachary Hampton Bacon III, the brother of Louis Bacon, one of my fellow directors - have made a great contribution to the continued development of the Rule of Law in the Bahamas for which they should be deservedly proud.

The fundamental issues

1 Do persons in the Bahamas have a constitutionally-protected right to privacy of their private email correspondence and financial information?

2 If so, did the Government, through Cabinet ministers Fred Mitchell and Jerome Fitzgerald, breach such rights inside and outside Parliament?

3 And if so, was this breach nonetheless protected by Parliamentary Privilege?

4 Does the Constitution of the Bahamas and the Rule of Law prevail in the governance of an independent British Commonwealth nation which has a written Constitution, or does Parliament under the guise of exercising Parliamentary Privilege, prevail?

5 Ultimately, is the Bahamas governed by Parliamentary Supremacy (as in England, which does not have a written constitution) or Constitutional Supremacy (as in the Bahamas, which does have a written Constitution)?

In determining the issues before the Court, a wide range of historical Constitutional principles and cases from throughout the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth were analysed and relied upon.

The ruling

The Court found that the Rule of Law and the Constitution “trumped” Parliamentary Privilege.

The Court held that Cabinet ministers and or Members of Parliament in the conduct of Parliamentary affairs and the Government in the guise of the Executive acting through Cabinet ministers inside and outside Parliament were not above the law.

The Supreme Court held that it had an exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate on and supervise breaches of the Constitution by the Executive and the Legislature. It held that Parliament could not divest the Court of supervisory original jurisdiction and it was for the Court and not for Parliament to decide on the scope and application of Parliamentary Privilege.

The Court held that, in the exercise of such jurisdiction, it was paramount for the Judiciary to be independent and free from interference by the Executive and the Legislature.

The MPs reaction

Despite this judgement, the Government MPs continued to press the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges to continue contempt proceedings against Supreme Court Judge Indra Charles, Frederick Smith, QC, and Ferron Bethell (both trial Counsel to Save The Bays). Other MPs, such as Greg Moss and even the Speaker of the House are aghast. Some are even proclaiming that the judgement is unenforceable.

Parliament had resolved in May to refer them to the Committee to consider whether they should not be committed for contempt of the “High Court of Parliament”.

If the House Privileges Committee proceeds any further a Constitutional crisis (which is currently simmering because of such resolution) will erupt like a volcano and its lava will melt the delicate constitutional construct of the Separation of Powers doctrine and respect between the Supreme Court and Parliament.

Crossing the Rubicon

Once the idea of the Rule of Law evaporates the Bahamas will descend into the ‘Rule of Might is Right’, where capricious daily dictates of policy by ministers hold sway. It is a thin veil between a country ruled by political Might as opposed to Law. That is why the MPs that are taking such umbrage at this judgement should be more reflective and celebrate it, not criticise it.

It is under appeal. There is a stay in place. I urge them to respect the process. I suggest the MPs calm down. At the Court of Appeal, the Speaker can file an Amicus brief on behalf of all Members of the House if he wishes. The Bar Association can do likewise. Even Mr Moss can do so. This is an important case. Lambasting the Judge in and out of Parliament is not civilised conduct.

Does the Bahamas wish to continue to be a Constitutional democracy governed by the Rule of Law, or will ministers Mitchell and Fitzgerald take us across the Rubicon as Julius Caesar did in the last days of the Roman Republic?

What Constitutional rights did the Government breach?

The Court held that the actions of ministers Fitzgerald and Mitchell in Parliament were attributable to the “Government” or “Executive”; they having acted as Members of the Cabinet and not simply as MPs in abusing Save The Bays and Zachary Bacon III. Accordingly, the Government was held liable for the breaches of their Constitutional rights.

The Court found that it was Mr Fitzgerald and the Government that had breached Save The Bays’ rights and not Mr Mitchell.

The Court found that the Government acted in breach of Article 23 of the Constitution, which protected Save The Bays’ freedom of expression and privacy by obtaining, possessing, reviewing and subsequently making disclosures of their private and confidential documents and information.

The Court also found that the Government had breached Article 21 of the Constitution, which protected them from illegal search and seizure of their property without their consent or under the authority of any law.

What did the Court order?

As a result the Court made three important orders.

1 The grant of a “permanent injunction” against the Government that “prohibits the further release or publication of any information contained in the private and confidential documents” of Save The Bays and Mr Bacon.

2 The “permanent destruction and or deletion of all electronic files and or records as well as the destruction of the hard copies of all documents within 14 days” of Save The Bays’ and Mr Bacon’s documents.

3 The Government to pay “vindicatory damages” to Save The Bays and Mr Bacon in the sum of $150,000. This is the largest award ever made for such Constitutional damages in the history of Bahamian jurisprudence.

The Court held that, because a case had not being made out against Mr Mitchell, the Court would not order the Government to pay the costs of the action.

The Government appeals

On delivery of the judgement, the Government immediately gave notice of its intention to appeal this to the Court of Appeal. Any outcome from that appeal is likely to be appealed by either side to the Privy Council.

The Government also applied for a stay of execution of the judgement pending the appeal and Save The Bays did not object

The appeal to the Court of Appeal is likely to be heard within the next six months and an appeal to the Privy Council thereafter is likely to be heard within nine months.

This was a major victory for the Rule of Law and fundamental rights and freedoms in the Bahamas.

It also vindicates Save The Bays and its directors and employees, who were very much wronged by the Government in abusing their right to privacy inside and outside Parliament. You may recall the political circus in Parliament in March when Government ministers and MPs made spurious and unfounded accusations against Save The Bays and individual directors and employees

They were embarrassingly ridiculed, mocked and pilloried with allegations that they were not a legitimate environmental non-governmental organisation; that they were involved in money laundering; and that they were a political organisation bent on destabilising the Government of the Bahamas.

Putting the case in context

This judgement must be put in context. The unwarranted, gratuitous and vicious adversarial reaction by the Government against Save The Bays came as a result of a Supreme Court action launched in March by a number of the directors of Save The Bays along with Reverend C B Moss against Peter Nygard (a major political financial and funder of the governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and Keod Smith for a dangerous hate and harassment campaign spanning years maintained by Messrs Nygard and Smith against them.

Why did the Government attack Save The Bays in Parliament for Peter Nygard?

The question remains: why did the Government savage and attack Save the Bays in Parliament when it had not sued the Government?

Its directors and Rev Moss had sued Peter Nygard and Keod Smith, not the Government.

On the contrary, the evidence was that Mr Nygard had maligned the Prime Minister. So, why was the Government spending the Bahamian taxpayers dollars to defend Messrs Nygard and Smith?

It is even stranger, given that to this day, neither Mr Nygard nor Mr Smith have filed a defence to the claim.

Mr Nygard’s political influence in the Bahamas is alarming and shocking. The fact that the Bahamas allows a non-citizen to hold such sway simply because he donates $5m or more to the election campaign of the now governing PLP party should cause all citizens of the Bahamas to pause and consider which direction they want the Government to take at this crossroads in the future of the Bahamas.

A mysterious pattern of behaviour

This continues a pattern of behaviour by the Government that remains mystifying - to say the least.

Each time Save The Bays or another environmental NGO such as ReEarth in the Blackbeard’s Cay dolphins case, or Save Guana Cay Reef at Baker’s Bay, or Bimini Blue Coalition, challenges a development on the basis that it is proceeding illegally, the Government rushes all the way to the Privy Council, each time spending the Bahamian taxpayers’ dollar to defend the developer instead of letting the developer spend its own money to defend itself.

Why is that? Why does the Government always defend unregulated development at the Bahamian taxpayers’ expense? What vested interest does the Government have in each development?

So, in this case, why was the Government holding brief for Mr Nygard and Mr Smith in Parliament against Save The Bays?

Why is the Government going to spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars to continue to seek to protect Mr Nygard and Mr Smith by appealing?

Why appeal the judgement?

To prove what? Does the Government really wish to win an appeal?

To boast internationally that the Government can unconstitutionally seize Save The Bays emails?

That the Government can unconstitutionally expose them in public?

That the Government cannot be held accountable because, by Parliamentary Privilege, MPs are above the organic law?

And to boast that the oldest Parliament in the New World has the power to jail a Judge and lawyers who take a case to court to protect Constitutional rights?

How internationally embarrassing will that be?

Banana Republic or Constitutional democracy?

Is the Bahamas to be regarded internationally as a Banana Republic? A rogue nation? A political pariah amongst states? A dictatorship governed by arbitrary and capricious ministerial dictate, swooning at Mr Nygard’s and every other developer’s altar of money?

This rape by the Government of Save The Bays’ right to privacy and public exposure of its private emails and financial information, coming in the wake of the disclosure of the Panama Papers, has already cast the Bahamas in an extremely negative and prejudicial light in the international financial services industry.

A score of anxious bankers have already met with and expressed concern to the Prime Minister and Minister of Financial Services, Hope Strachan.

What was in the emails?

And for what? What were the contents of the emails? Why was the Government making such a fuss about them? Why were the ministers so exercised? They were uncontroversial.

One contained a draft letter of complaint by Save The Bays to the Police about the Nygard and Smith hate campaign; the other contained a draft advertisement about Nygard Cay; another from the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association contained a draft press release about Mr Mitchell’s illegal immigration road blocks.

So what, pray tell, was so politically captivating and salacious about them? How did they convert into accusations of political destabilisation of the Government and money-laundering?

Why was the nation’s attention held hostage and transfixed in Parliament for days by ministers Mitchell and Fitzgerald painting a picture of alleged nefarious activities by Save The Bays on a canvas that did not exist?

If the actions of the Government had not been challenged and checked by this Court action, not only may the reputation of Save The Bays and its directors have been irreparably sullied and tarnished, but it also had the potential to cause the flight of much financial business and to detract from further legitimate investment.

The Government should celebrate this judgement

The Government should be proud of this judgement and celebrate it as a great day for the Rule of Law. It should not appeal it.

Parliament should end the simmering Constitutional crisis and withdraw its contempt resolution against the Judge and Counsel.

The judgment helps to promote the Bahamas as a stable democracy, where it is safe to do business and where people’s rights are protected by an “abiding respect for … the Rule of Law”, which is expressed in the Preamble to the Constitution.

The Government should divorce itself from Mr Nygard and Mr Smith.

A ray of constitutional hope

The Judgment demonstrates to the world that:

1 The Bahamas is a country that respects the Rule of Law;

2 The Judiciary is independent of the Executive and the Legislature;

3 Persons whose rights are abused in the Bahamas have recourse to independent Courts and effective redress;

4 The right to privacy of one’s private information is effectively protected in the Bahamas by the Constitution;

5 The Courts will vindicate and protect breaches of such rights.

Accordingly, the international financial services industry, which has confidence in the Bahamas as a legitimate jurisdiction within which to do business, can in the short term, be comforted in the protection of their confidential financial information by this judgement.

But not so if the Government appeals, wins an appeal, or jails a Judge and Counsel.

• Comments and responses to insight@tribunemedia.net

August 8, 2016

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


By Oswald Brown:

Ms. Daphne Campbell

As a young journalist working at The Tribune in the early 1960s, I learned a great deal from Nicki Kelly, who was The Tribune’s senior reporter at the time, covering primarily the House of Assembly and matters of a political nature. She is a magnificent writer and I thoroughly enjoy reading her columns in THE PUNCH twice a week. This excerpt from her "BETWEEN THE LINES" column on Monday, February 23, 2015, should be “must reading” for Fred Smith, Jetta Baptiste, Daphne Campbell and other critics of The Bahamas’ very sensible new immigration policy.


“FOR someone who says he is committed to defending the rights of Haitians in The Bahamas, human rights activist Fred Smith seems determined to inflame public sentiment against the Haitian community. Mr Smith, president of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, told a radio audience he sees nothing wrong with Bahamians of Haitian descent forming political parties to advance their interests.

“People have the right to freedom of association,” he said. “I see nothing wrong with people promoting self-interest in political parties for social benefits for different parts of the community. “Bahamians of Haitian descent are a large part of our society. So without doubt you will see people of that heritage as members of parliament and at the forefront of the political process,” he declared.

In the democracy that we purport to be, Bahamians of any descent should be free to participate in the political arena, so long as they are citizens of this country. In fact, such a mix should be encouraged, because it broadens the perspective of political parties. But Mr Smith is lighting a powder keg by suggesting Haitians form their own political parties specifically to advance their particular agenda to the exclusion of the national interest.

Such talk, considering the size of the Haitian immigrant population in this country, is bound to incite anti-Haitian sentiment among the rest of the population. With a population of some 370,000, the Bahamian economy cannot sustain the endless flood of immigrants from Haiti and the financial drain they represent on the country’s educational, medical, and social services.

The Immigration Department repatriated 4,628 foreigners last year, 3,814, or 82.4 per cent of whom were Haitians. This figure was 26 per cent higher than the 3.033 deported in 2013. So it is hardly surprising that Bahamians feel overwhelmed by the continuous influx of illegal Haitians into the country. Their frustration has been exacerbated by an unemployment rate hovering at nearly 16 per cent. Mr Smith should be careful, therefore, that in his thirst for publicity and delusional anxiety to martyr himself in pursuit of justice for Haitian-Bahamians, he does not deal their cause irreparable harm.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bahamians of Haitian descent in The Bahamas political arena

Smith: No Problem With Idea Of Haitian-Bahamian Political Party

Tribune Staff Reporter

HUMAN rights activist Fred Smith, QC, said he sees no problem with Bahamians of Haitian descent organising to form political parties, insisting that the country is on its way to this group of society emerging as parliamentary leaders.

Mr Smith, who is also the president of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA), told The Tribune yesterday that the stigma in the Bahamas that Haitians are of lesser value should be done away with.

He again chastised the Christie administration over its immigration restrictions maintaining that the government has encouraged a culture of hatred toward Haitians.

“Bahamians of Haitian descent are a large part of our society,” Mr Smith said. “So without doubt you will see people of that heritage as members of parliament and at the forefront of the political arena.

“I don’t see what is wrong with it. People have the freedom of association under the Constitution.

“I see nothing wrong with people promoting self interest in political parties for social benefits for different parts of the community.”

Mr Smith said it is time for the conversation in the country to focus on how immigration can create diversification.

He called on the government to follow the example of countries, including Canada and Korea; countries he said encourage different nationalities to contribute to shaping society.

“The Bahamas should have a different conversation. We should be saying yes to a form of immigration that creates diversity and multilingualism in the same way that Canada, Korea and China does.

“I think the Christie administration has done a great disservice. It is awful to be maligned and treated as second-class citizens.

“This kind of mentality that the Cabinet of the Bahamas is promoting is dangerous. We are hating our own people,” Mr Smith said.

He insisted that these latest comments should not be construed as supporting illegal migration.

Mr Smith and the GBHRA have been involved in an ongoing row with the government over its newest immigration restrictions. Mr Smith has likened the Carmichael Road Detention Centre to Auschwitz, a former Nazi concentration camp. He has also suggested that the Bahamas government is carrying out ethnic cleansing with the restrictions.

However, Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell on Monday shot back at those criticisms calling them a “highly personal campaign” against him.

“The question is this, which must be put to them: whose side are you on?” Mr Mitchell asked.

“The side of Bahamians and our national patrimony (or) are you siding with enemies of the country who would undermine the country’s security and well-being?

“These activists like to portray this as some poor migrants who are simply trying to make a better life, but increasingly this is a portrait of a sophisticated smuggling operation which is big business and in the process is threatening to swamp our country.”

With six more months to go in the fiscal year, repatriations conducted as of December 2014 have exhausted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration’s deportation budget.

Mr Mitchell has revealed that the Department of Immigration has spent around $1.7m to repatriate 4,628 foreign nationals in 2014.

February 18, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

The proposed Credit Reporting Bill 2014 and the Credit Reporting Regulations 2014

Central Bank Informs Public on Proposed Credit Reporting Bill

By Kathryn Campbell - BIS:

Wendy Craigg
Wendy Craigg, Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas, addresses the Information Session.  (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

NASSAU, The Bahamas -- The Central Bank of The Bahamas in conjunction with Bahamas Development Bank and Bahamas Mortgage Corporation hosted an information session on the proposed Credit Reporting Bill 2014 and the Credit Reporting Regulations 2014 at Melia Nassau Beach Resort, Cable Beach, Wednesday, February 11th.

Presenters included Wendy Craigg, Governor of the Central Bank of The Bahamas; Rochelle Deleveaux, Legal Counsel at the Central Bank of The Bahamas and Kevin Burrows, Senior Vice-President, CFAL.

According to the Governor, the purpose of the meeting was to inform the community of how the initiative will impact lending activities in the future and to inform customers and borrowers what to expect when the bill becomes operational. The credit bureau will be responsible for collecting information on consumers' borrowing and bill paying habits. The information is relayed to lenders to enable them to assess borrowers' credit worthiness.

The Governor opined that the planned introduction of the credit reporting system in The Bahamas is one of the most “transformational” initiatives in the financial sector.

She explained that a credit bureau is not only important for lenders, but it is also a utility to safeguard and help with the overall financial system. Operating without a credit bureau results in the lenders taking on “more risks,” she said.  “Experience has shown that persons are not always forthcoming about the total amount of debt they have,” she said. “They tend only to disclose what would allow them to qualify for the loan. So within our current system the person may obtain a loan from one institution and move on to another institution and this is within the formal working environment. Then they could get other consumer installment credit from the furniture store to the car store and none of the lenders are [aware of the scope of the consumer’s indebtedness]. This is so because there is no centralized system that allows for information sharing of credit.”

She said when individuals experience a downturn in the economy, loss of employment, reduced workweeks, they find it difficult to meet their debt obligations.

“It is only when the lenders have to reschedule the debts to more manageable terms that they get a better idea of the credit exposure of these individuals.”

The Governor noted that since 2005 there has been a “significant spike” in the level of loan arrears or bad debt. She said such high amounts place “stress” on the financial system and retards future lending.

“As the institution responsible for promoting the stability of the financial system, we have an obligation to ensure that the appropriate mechanisms are in place to mitigate any risks in the financial sector. The intent is not to prevent persons from accessing credit but through this information sharing session to support safer and more responsible lending,” she added.

February 12, 2015


Friday, February 6, 2015

Louby Georges on employment opportunities for persons of Haitian descent in The Bahamas

Descendants Of Haitians Finding It Harder To Get A Job

Tribune Chief Reporter

THE government’s new immigration policy has severely affected employment opportunities for persons of Haitian descent, according to activist Louby Georges, who charged that immigrants cannot fully comply with regulations because there is no supporting legislation.

With no legal framework three months after the policy was first introduced, Mr Georges, host of the Kreyol Connection, said affected persons have been fired and many remain in limbo because processing for the new requirements, namely the belonger’s permit, has not yet started.

“The Department of Immigration has an application form for something that does not exist,” Mr Georges said, “there is no such thing as a belonger’s permit.

“(Immigration Director William) Pratt told me in his office, he said ‘well to be honest the problem is that there is no legislation in place to support the belonger’s permit, so we are hoping that in the next two weeks we can present a bill to parliament and hoping it can be debated and then passed, and then we can start reviewing applications, and then we can start issuing (permits)’.”

“Persons are being laid off and fired as a result of an announcement made first on the floor of the House of Assembly from September 17, 2014. The official opposition is afraid to speak up on the issue because they don’t want to appear that they are siding with the Haitian community or siding with the immigrants,” he said, “because Bahamians generally think that Haitians or anything to do with Haitians is illegal or bad”.

Mr Georges spoke out against the immigration policy at a lecture hosted by the Bahamas Bar Association last week Thursday. He described the experience of persons born in the Bahamas of Haitian descent as “20 times” more severe than challenges faced by ordinary citizens, and charged that there were no measures to ensure that deported persons can access constitutional rights once eligible.

On November 1, 2014, the government introduced a wider immigration policy that, among other things, required every non-Bahamian living in the country to have a passport of their nationality with proof of their status to live and work in The Bahamas.

On Tuesday, Immigration Director William Pratt confirmed that the department has received many calls from concerned employers over the legal status of their employees under the new policy, adding that the matter is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Pratt stressed that it was not the department’s intention to jeopardise employment and encouraged individuals to seek assistance with his office for alternative options to secure a work permit.

“They are entitled to have a work permit, of course,” he said. “If they’re already employed and lived here all their lives, some employers have contacted us about persons in that category. Some of these persons, their citizenship is already before the board awaiting decision. So on a case by case basis, we wouldn’t object.”

Mr Pratt added: “Some people are already employed, Bahamians hired them based on their birth certificates. They were born here, grew up here, they were hired as Bahamians, but technically they are not. We will work on a case by case basis on those issues,” he added, “most of those persons their application is complete and they will be sworn in shortly.”

Mr Pratt explained that work and residency permits were always a requirement but over the years enforcement was relaxed. Since the new policy was introduced, he confirmed that “many employers” have called or sent letters to the department.

He added: “Those persons who are born in The Bahamas, according to our Constitution their citizenship is not automatic. So because of the constitutional law under the Immigration Act they require work and residence permits but over the years we never really enforced it, to the extent there were many persons who got jobs and were working and their application (was still being processed), but going on forward now, once this belonger’s permit comes on stream then it won’t be an issue because persons would have it from infancy.”

The resident belonger’s permit will give those born in The Bahamas who have a right to apply for citizenship under the Constitution some form of status while their application is pending, Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell said last December.

“It is only issued to the children of Bahamians whose parents got their citizenship pursuant to Article 3(2) of the Constitution and were born outside The Bahamas, or to those children whose parents were lawfully in The Bahamas and they were born here,” he said at the time.

February 05, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hubert Minnis is the most incompetent and incapable opposition leader

The horrendous disaster of Dr. Hubert Minnis


In the estimation of a veteran political observer, echoing a chorus of public outrage, “The country is going to hell.” To many, if not most, the Christie administration is a basket case of wheeling and dealing and questionable contracts; gross incompetence, woeful neglect of basic issues; massive borrowing and spending with little tangible to show for it; and a plethora of nausea-inducing misdeeds aside inaction, delay and outright failure.

The sticker shock of VAT continues to trouble consumers and businesses, with growing alarm that the government will go on a spending spree rather than seriously address matters of debt and deficit.

The government has failed to reduce the murder rate despite having repeatedly promised to do so. There is dissension in the police force and the minister of national security is blaming the force for the government’s failures.

There is chronic unemployment, with unemployment having risen again under the PLP and the unemployment rate higher now than in May 2012 when the PLP returned to office.

From BAMSI to the BEC bidding process to all manner of untendered contracts, there are questions of how, where and why certain public funds are being spent, alongside an arrogant disregard for transparency and accountability. Various ministers have mastered the arts of cupidity and conflicts of interest.

Meanwhile much of the state is poorly or non-functioning with many public amenities unkempt; abysmal service from various agencies because of a lack of oversight; and a general malaise in much of the public sector. Things are going from very bad to much worse. The ill-conceived Junkanoo Carnival festival seems in disarray, haunted by all manner of pitfalls, a potentially expensive fete of dubious cultural or economic value.

Atop all this is an out-of-control Cabinet, giving new meaning to the “all for me baby” philosophy of misrule, farcically led by a globe-trotting prime minister too weak to control his Cabinet but who sees himself, incredibly, as “a defining prime minister”.

It is so bad that some audiences are mocking the prime minister, snickering when he speaks, unable to contain their contempt for and incredulity at his empty and stagnant rhetoric full of bluster and boisterousness signifying precious little to nothing.

It should be a field day for the official opposition. It is not. The opposition should have gained tremendous traction. It has not. This should be a banner year for the FNM. It likely will not.

Perry Christie is the most incompetent and incapable prime minister since the advent of Cabinet government. His saving grace: Hubert Minnis is the most incompetent and incapable opposition leader.



In his bid to be elected FNM leader last November, Minnis and his forces spun a self-serving narrative that served him well. It was the whining narrative of the victim, a plea of self-pity that he hadn’t really been given a chance despite the obvious fact that he had been handed the leadership without a contest.

Despite the goodwill and help of many FNMs when he was chosen in 2012, a deeply insecure Minnis systematically alienated many who came to his aid. He had a convenient bogeyman, Hubert Ingraham, and bogeywoman, Loretta Butler-Turner, both of whom he demonized and conveniently used as excuses for his litany of failures which primarily account for the failure of the FNM to gain traction.

Though he was the major cause of disunity because of his secretiveness, insecurity bordering on paranoia, autocratic nature and non-collegial form of leadership, he convinced many that the source of disunity lay elsewhere. He excels at the politics of victimhood.

In order to seize greater control of the party he called a snap convention, ignoring certain constitutional procedures. Having won a convincing victory and with much of his slate in place, Minnis now had no more excuses. Curiously, soon after the convention one of his reputed supporters, veteran FNM Frank Watson, said something that surprised many. Watson warned that Minnis had six months to perform or there would be consequences.

After the November victory and the December lull has come the January disaster, with Minnis seemingly making a major blunder each week. If he’s this bad at the beginning of the year, the party will be in desperate straits as the months march on.

If many delegates believed that they elected a winner, they have been gravely disappointed. Some said that Minnis’ New Year’s address was one of his best. If that is the case, no wonder the party is in deep trouble.

During the convention campaign Minnis sought to make a virtue of his inability to master even the basics of the English language and grammar and to speak with some fluency.



We are being asked to believe that one of the basic requirements of political leadership, to be nominally articulate and to speak coherently, are irrelevant. Dr. Minnis is not merely a disaster in terms of speaking. He is also clearly incompetent when it comes to thinking through the most basic policy ideas. Speaking is not his only problem. He’s not much of a thinker.

The New Year’s address was painful for many Bahamians to watch. It was clumsy, lacklustre and devoid of passion. It failed to inspire, an essential task for leaders.

To quote one senior media figure, “Not only did he seem incapable of reading much of the text, there were also questions of how much he understood what he was reading.” His bumbling address was the least of his problems.

Next came the disastrous march on the Bank of the Bahamas (BOB) and Christie’s subsequent assault on Minnis in the House of Assembly, both of which have been painful for FNMs.

Any view that an inarticulate leader who can’t think on his feet will easily be elected because of supposed other qualities was dismantled as Minnis sat helplessly and haplessly glued to his seat.

Minnis was warned not to have the ill-advised march, the failure of which, given his modus operandi, he might try to blame on others. The rationale for the march was questionable, especially given the more pressing issues over which the FNM may have marched including crime and the cost of living.

The numbers looked awful and FNMs were embarrassed. The new leadership of the party failed to organize a healthy crowd. What is, and should have been projected as, an effective issue against the government turned into a colossal blunder. Then came Christie’s withering assault on the opposition.

FNMs were embarrassed and horrified as Minnis sat shell-shocked and deflated, absolutely incapable of mounting a defense or countering Christie.

What makes this even more egregious is the reality that Minnis does not now nor will he ever have what it takes to be effective in the House of Assembly. No matter how many cue cards a leader is given, that leader has to be able to think on his feet in parliamentary debates. Minnis is barely able to get through a prepared text much less perform in debate.



With several pieces of legislation having been debated in the House recently Minnis has been absent or has not spoken. If the idea is to avoid his risking exposure in terms of poor speaking ability, the opposition is courting disaster, as the necessity of his speaking on various matters is unavoidable. If he cannot speak without making a major blunder, there will be multiple disasters.

It is no wonder that a highly vulnerable Christie continues to deride Minnis, thanking his lucky charms that the latter is his main opponent, continually distracting from the PLP’s blunders.

Still in January Minnis created another seemingly monumental blunder in asking the politically attractive Heather Hunt to resign from the Senate. It may be a part of a brilliant move of which others are unaware, though, at the moment, this seems not to be the case, especially as Hunt is a rising star in the FNM and a high-profile female in the party.

Did Minnis inform all of his House colleagues about Hunt’s departure or were most of them blindsided, learning about the matter from other reports? Given his rationale for Hunt’s departure why was Senator Kwasi Thompson not also asked to resign? Was it a vindictive move and payback to Hunt who reportedly supported Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner in the leadership race?

Given his resounding victory in November and with his team in place, Minnis had an extraordinary opportunity to unify and reinvigorate the FNM going into a new year, especially given the state of the country and the depressing record of the PLP.

In the event, he called a conclave, an extraordinary meeting of the party, with a rich history in Bahamian politics. The party was to meet in special session to discuss critical issues relevant to the extraordinary times in which we are living.

After the Friday night opening session, Minnis arrogantly and dismissively absented himself from the conclave for all of Saturday, heading instead to Eleuthera to don a pharaoh’s crown and rush in a Junior Junkanoo evening parade leaving behind many in shock, including many who unwisely gave him a second chance to make even worse blunders. And we are only in January.


• frontporchguardian@gmail.com, www.bahamapundit.com.

January 29, 2015


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Correctional Intelligence Unit (CIU) at the Department of Correctional Services (formerly Her Majesty's Prison)

CIU to Help Reduce Possible Internal and External Threats to Prison

By Matt Maura - BIS:

The Hon. Dr. Bernard J. Nottage unveils the plaque commemorating the dedication of the facility that will house the new CIU on the grounds of the Department of Corrections, January 19.  Minister of State for National Security, Senator Keith Bell is at right. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

NASSAU, The Bahamas -- The establishment of the new Correctional Intelligence Unit (CIU) at the Department of Correctional Services (formerly Her Majesty's Prison) represents a more focused, interagency approach to security and intelligence in The Bahamas - especially at the Correctional level.

One of the primary goals of the Unit will be to help reduce possible internal and external threats to the Correctional Services, its facilities, staff and inmate populations.

At a dedication ceremony establishing the new CIU at the Department of Correctional Services on Monday, Minister of National Security, the Hon. Dr. Bernard J. Nottage said the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) must be aware of all threats within and outside of the institution that may disrupt its normal operations or threaten the safety and security of staff and inmates.

Effectively managing security threats at the Correctional Facility, Dr. Nottage continued, depends upon timely and precise information.

"The Correctional Intelligence Unit is comprised of personnel trained in observation and information gathering. They are tasked to continuously scan the environment inside the prison to produce information dealing with threats for the attention of decision-makers," Dr. Nottage said.

"This information (will) help correctional officers and other prison officials to foresee, control and even prevent the risks faced. The scope of intelligence gathered will also cover environments outside of prison facilities to give a broader picture of the threats from both inside and outside the walls of the institution."

One such threat is possible gang activity within the walls of the Correctional Services. Dr. Nottage said as the Royal Bahamas Police Force responds to criminal activities of gangs, more and more gang members will wind up at the facility.

"We must therefore take steps to ensure that the Services do not become a concentrated gang environment and recruitment centre for gang members," Dr. Nottage said.

"As you would appreciate, maintaining integrity in a public safety organization is essential to earning the respect of society. The Department of Correctional Services recognizes that unregulated activities of criminal enterprises pose a direct threat to public safety and the safety and security of the institution and undermine the public confidence of the Department to carry out its mission for the citizens of The Bahamas."

The CIU will be further charged with taking the necessary steps to maintain the integrity of the Department of Correctional Services and will be responsible for handling all serious offenses and allegations. The Unit will investigate both administrative and criminal matters relative to staff, inmates and even members of the general public whenever there is a vested interest with the DCS.

"The Unit is responsible for objectively conducting thorough, impartial and timely investigations to determine the validity of allegations," Dr. Nottage said. "The results of these inquiries may provide a basis for criminal prosecution, corrective administrative action, or both."

The National Security Minister said the establishment of the CIU is part of a progressive, interagency approach needed to more effectively address crime in The Bahamas.

"To more effectively address crime in our country, we need to embrace a 'whole of government,' coordinated approach to the challenges with which we are faced," Dr. Nottage said. "It is an approach that integrates, for example, the efforts of the Department of Correctional Services, the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, Customs Department, the Department of Immigration and the Port Department to achieve unity of effort toward a shared goal.

"We have sought to do this with the establishment of the Heads of Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA) in which the leaders interact regularly for the exchange of information and for the development and implementation of crime-fighting strategies and operations."

January 20, 2015