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

Bahamas.gov.bs

Monday, January 19, 2015

High Bahamian youth unemployment, and resulting poverty and social inequality breed high crime levels in The Bahamas

Poverty Breeds 35% ‘No Graduate’ Rate


By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
nhartnell@tribunemedia.net



More than one-third of the poorest Bahamians fail to complete secondary education, helping to create what a former Cabinet minister yesterday described as a “stubbornly high” youth unemployment rate that must be reduced urgently .

James Smith, ex-state finance minister, told Tribune Business that the high jobless rate among Bahamians aged between 15-24 years-old, which hit 31 per cent in November 2014, was “structural” in nature.

He said the high rate epitomised the large gap between jobs that were available and the skill sets required by employers, with many young Bahamians not equipped to meet these requirements.

Apart from the “social fallout” caused by high youth unemployment, the former Central Bank governor warned that it also held back economic growth, because unemployed persons lacked the incomes to give them spending power.

The consequences are spelled out in a recent Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report obtained by Tribune Business, which identified high unemployment among young Bahamians, and resulting poverty and social inequality, as key factors behind the high crime levels.

The IDB report, on a proposed ‘Citizen Security and Justice Programme’, found that 35 per cent of 20-24 year-old Bahamians drawn from the poorest segment of society had failed to complete secondary school, compared to just 6 per cent of the rest of the population in the same age group.

Highlighting the startling inequalities in Bahamian society, the IDB report said: “The fact that most students complete secondary education but only half of them graduate (pass a final examination) is a worrying indicator of poor system performance.

“Available data shows that 35 per cent of 20-24 year olds from the poorest decile have not completed secondary education, compared to 6 per cent of the rest of the population of that age.”

While unemployment in the 15-24 year-old age group was slightly down in November 2014 compared to the 32.3 per cent peak hit in 2013, the IDB report left no doubt as to the consequences for Bahamian society.

“Research and evidence, show that a wide variety of risk factors contribute to the prevalence of youth violence, one of them being lack of attachment to school and the workplace during adolescence and adulthood,” its report said.

“In the Bahamas, youth unemployment has doubled from 14.9 per cent in 2001 to 32.3 per cent in 2013 for job seekers aged 15 to 24)”, a rate double that of the overall nation’s.

“Further analysis within the 15-24 age group shows that unemployment is particularly high among 15-19 year-olds seeking jobs (42 per cent versus 24 per cent for those 20-24),” the IDB added, highlighting the problems secondary school leavers face in finding immediate employment.

“Searching for jobs can be a discouraging process given that more than 50 per cent of youth remain unemployed for more than a year,” the Bank’s report said. “Idle young people (not in employment, education, or training) are particularly vulnerable to continued labour detachment, which may contribute to violent or anti-social behaviour.

“The employability of youth hinges critically on the level of education and skills attained to match demands from employers. Even though most students complete secondary education, only half of them actually graduate.

“Although there are not available measures of skill levels of unemployed youth, most employers report difficulties in recruiting job candidates because of insufficient specific skills (66 per cent), soft skills (24 per cent) and numeracy skills (12 per cent).”

Responding to the Department of Statistics’ Labour Force Survey, Mr Smith described youth unemployment as “stubbornly high” and “an area that really needs to be addressed”.

He identified the cause as “the gap between available jobs and the skill sets to meet those jobs”, and said: “Jobs being advertised are calling for skills a lot of young people don’t have, plus experience, because a lot of them have never worked before.

“The quick solution to that is really to identify and train the people, if they can, to reach the level of aptitude for jobs that is required.”

Besides the social impact, Mr Smith told Tribune Business: “It’s a restraint to economic growth. Young people joining the labour force at a sufficiently large rate, that keeps an economy going.

“I’m optimistic that over time most of these things will work themselves out.”

The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation (BCCEC), too, in a statement issued yesterday called for “more emphasis” to be placed on training and skills development in the Bahamian workforce.

“In the excessively fast pace world in which the Bahamas competes, things are moving at the speed of light and if individuals do not take the time to tool and retool themselves, they will get left behind,” the BCCEC said.

“Businesses are looking for people with drive and ambition who are able to produce quality work at an accelerated pace. Loyalty in the workplace experienced in years gone by is a thing of the past, and individuals who are high achievers are always looking for something that is more challenging and more gratifying.

“Therefore, it is also important for private sector businesses and the public service to be on the cutting edge of innovation and technology to ensure that they are also keeping pace with new developments and that they are able to attract quality employees in their businesses.”

The BCCEC added that industrial peace would also aid hiring, and called on employers and trade unions to negotiate reasonable settlements to outstanding issues.

Describing the Bahamian economy as “very fragile”, the Chamber said: “Trade unions, particularly in this environment, should remain cognisant of the vulnerability of workers and should ensure that their members remain employed through balanced demands tied with worker performance and the financial position of employers.

“Employee benefits will come, but the first rule should be that of survival in this current economic environment.”

January 16, 2015

Tribune 242

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Stem Cell Therapy Industry Launched in The Bahamas






The Right Hon. Perry G. Christie

NASSAU, The Bahamas -- Prime Minister, the Right Hon. Perry G. Christie, delivers a speech during a ceremony marking the official launch of the Stem Cell Therapy Industry in The Bahamas. The event was held on Wednesday evening, January 14, at Melia Nassau Beach Resort.  In 2013 the government passed the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Act 2013; and in 2014 the Stem Cell Research and Therapy Regulations were officially brought into force.  

According to the Prime Minister, the experts involved in the newly introduced industry will ensure the highest professional standards and best practices in this highly sophisticated biotechnology industry. Mr. Christie said that it is expected that with the introduction of this industry, The Bahamas would attract clients (patients) from many different geographical territories with the potential development of a significant associated Medical Tourism component.  (BIS Photo/Peter Ramsay)

January 15, 2015

Bahamas.gov.bs

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Bahamas national unemployment rate increases

Unemployment up

Survey says more than 30,000 without jobs


By KRYSTEL ROLLE-BROWN
Guardian Staff Reporter
krystel@nasguard.com


The national unemployment rate rose from 14.3 percent in May 2014 to 15.7 percent in November 2014, according to preliminary results of the latest Labour Force Survey.

The survey, which has a reference period of October 27 to November 2, 2014, shows that both New Providence and Grand Bahama saw increases in unemployment.

In New Providence, the unemployment rate grew from 15 percent to 16 percent, and in Grand Bahama it increased from 14.7 to 18.6 percent. The Department of Statistics also conducted a survey in Abaco, which recorded an unemployment rate of 20.3 percent.

Cypreanna Winters, the statistician responsible for the Labour Force Survey, said the results of the survey, which covered a six-month period, indicate that the labor force increased by 1.8 percent since the last survey conducted in May 2014.

“The labor force now totals 201,040 persons,” she said during a press conference at the Department of Statistics.

“There was an increase in both the number of employed and unemployed persons; however, the growth in the number of unemployment persons exceeded that of the employed.”

As it relates to discouraged workers, the number decreased nationally from 4,880 in May to 4,560 in November.

“In New Providence, while there was an increase in the number of discouraged workers, 22 percent, the reverse is noted in Grand Bahama where there was a decrease of 55 percent,” Winters said.

Officials believe the increase in discouraged workers in New Providence is due in part to last year’s layoffs.

“You had persons who were laid off during the course of the year and they would have become despondent,” Director of Statistics Kelsie Dorsett said.

In Abaco, where the total labor force was 9,800 at the time of the survey, there was an estimated 320 discouraged workers.

According to the standard definition of the International Labour Organization, discouraged workers are not considered unemployed as they have stopped looking for work because they feel there are no jobs available.

The survey shows that 31,540 people were listed as unemployed –17,145 women and 14,395 men.

A breakdown of those statistics shows that 24,110 people were listed as unemployed in New Providence, 4,725 in Grand Bahama and 1,990 in Abaco.

The results also show that 81,900 women were listed as employed and 87,600 men were listed as employed, for a total of 169,500.

Of that number, 126,545 were employed in New Providence, 20,645 in Grand Bahama and 7,810 in Abaco.

Winters noted that the unemployment rate for people ages 15 to 24 continues to be considerably higher than any other age group.

Youth unemployment nationally stood at 31 percent in November compared to 28 percent in May 2014.

Officials have attributed the high rate of unemployment among young people over the years to a lack of experience when entering a competitive labor market.

Since May 2012, 8,850 net jobs were added to the economy.

The number of people employed in May 2012 was 160,650 compared to the 169,500 employed in November 2014, the survey shows.

January 10, 2015

thenassauguardian

Friday, January 9, 2015

You can now sell Chinese Bonds ("Dim Sum" bonds) from The Bahamas

THE CECIL NEWRY INTERROGATIVE: CHINESE/BAHAMAS CURRECY HUB





Mr. Gilbert Morris
By Gilbert Morris


In the last 10 years, I have suggested:

a. That we have no financial centre, we are just a jurisdiction that offers some financial services, which are not coordinated (there is no Bahamas package), nor are they strategic, and we have not developed a legitimate or elegant means of defending even what we have.

b. I have argued for a reform of Bank of The Bahamas with a final phase being the JV with a Chinese Bank, where Bahamian Development Bonds could be offered to the Chinese Market, as a means of developing and extending a commercial paper market in The Bahamas; and so providing Bahamian business people access to credit beyond our plantation banking system. (This was also my advice to BVI and Cayman).
This announcement of The Bahamas being designed as a trading hub for the Chinese Yuan (renminbi) is something which myself and others (notably Mr. Shane Stuart - a Bahamian who has run Hedge Funds in Hong Kong for 20 years), have been suggesting for some time now.

It is NOT true that The Bahamas are amongst a very few nations selected. This is a Chinese Policy, not a Bahamian one. We did not go to them in 2005, as we should have (when I spoke with certain persons), to get a jump as the 3rd jurisdiction beyond Hong Kong and Singapore. This policy is part of the Chinese rightful rejection of the Bush administration's attempt to force Chinese currency re-valuation, and now China is embarking on a road to making the Yuan a global reserve currency. This "hub" status has been extended to Qatar; to Sydney, Australia 3 years ago; to Toronto and Paris, London and Frankfurt are already designated. The Bahamas are the first in the Caribbean Basin. (But think, given the relationships between Cuba and China and the coming Cuba demand for manufactured resources, Cuba is likely to be quite competitive in this area).

As such, 'hub' status is not a championship belt for The Bahamas. It puts us in a global race; which when we have had such opportunities we have wilted. You can obtain a hub status with nothing following up it. Now the question is: do we have the mind and the muscle to make something of the opportunity?

This therefore is the very worst time for Bank of The Bahamas to be in such a hellish state; since - depending on how the deal is written - The Bahamas will need a Yuan Clearing House in The Bahamas. Also, now would have been the time for BOB to establish a presence in China in a JV with a great Chinese Bank, such as China Industrial Bank or Commercial Bank of China or Bank of China. One has to observe the two way benefit independently: China will offer that trade finance can cover trade deals in Yuan deals, end-to-end. All payments and interest can be denominated in Yuan. This can reduce the costs of buy from China by 5-10% (Shane Stuart has a firm that facilities strategic purchases of credible Chinese products; since as a fund manager, he invested in the best Chinese firms).

You can now sell Chinese Bonds ("Dim Sum" bonds) from the Bahamas, and so it can diversify the financial services offerings (At least until some mediocrity from the CFATF tells us it is criminal and we capitulate before we understand). It means that firms trading in The Bahamas are better positioned to trade in Yuan with other Yuan hubs. (Honestly, Cayman and Bermuda, with their national banks are positioned better for this opportunity). So it is clear that China will benefit from this arrangement. The Bahamas can only benefit IF IT HAS A PLAN, since the Chinese will offer hub status to any nation in its drive to become a global reserve currency.

Having said all of that: This is the most significant move in 30 years in financial services for The Bahamas...but what is the plan?

Gilbert Morris - Facebook

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Value Added Tax (VAT) Implementation: A Titanic Failure

The Democratic National Alliance:



The first week of Value Added Tax (VAT) implementation has been a proverbial nightmare for both businesses and consumers around the country. As expected, this Christie administration has again failed at the execution of a major policy initiative; and has, in effect, betrayed the confidence of the people of this country, yet again!

After being promised a reduction in the cost of living, Bahamians now face drastic increases on even bread basket items while seeing no increases in their salaries and no economic improvement. After being promised Mortgage Relief, thousands of already struggling homeowners are waiting with bated breath for confirmation on whether or not VAT will also be added to their mortgage payments. After being promised transparency in governance, Bahamians are forced to navigate this new environment without one very critical legislative element: A FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT!

The last seven days have proven that this government was ill-prepared for the implementation of the new tax regime. Since January 1, both social and traditional media outlets have been flooded with complaints ranging from the apparent lack of consumer protection to the lingering confusions and frustrations felt by a business community struggling to find its footing in the still murky waters of the country’s Value Added Tax laws.

Rather than a seamless, well executed application of the new tax, incomplete and sporadic explanations from government officials have left many to interpret the laws as they see fit. In fact, what few mechanisms were put in place to educate the public and mitigate against the challenges surrounding the new regime have failed miserably. The Democratic National Alliance has received countless complaints from Bahamians who have reportedly been unable to reach anyone at the government sponsored VAT hotline, both here in New Providence and on Grand Bahama Island. And what happened to the proposed government agency that is to be responsible for the collection of VAT revenue? Or the naming of the VAT Comptroller? Certainly, these administrative issues should have been addressed long before the implementation date. Unfortunately, recent media commentary from the Minister responsible indicates this LATE AGAIN government is still working to finalize those details.

While disappointing, the government’s handling of the entire VAT process is unsurprising. From the very beginning, the legislation governing the process was challenged, overly complicated and faced countless delays. Instead of using those delays to its advantage the government squandered the additional time, releasing the still UNFINALIZED DRAFT of the VAT Regulations just days ahead of the actual implementation.

Without question, VAT implementation thus far has been a failure of titanic proportions and this government which claimed it was ready to govern ON DAY ONE, is allowing our country to slowly sink.

January 08, 2015

Democratic National Alliance - Facebook

Friday, January 2, 2015

Fred “Botha” Mitchell and the Birth of “Apartheid in The Bahamas”

An open letter from Fred Smith, QC to Nicki Kelly in response to her column appearing in The Punch on December 22, 2014



Dear Ms. Kelly,

At the outset, let me state, that I agree with Ms. Nicki Kelly. Both Fred Mitchell and Fred Smith QC plead guilty as charged; we are damaging the reputation of The Bahamas internationally. I love my country of citizenship, and I too regard this as regrettable, but sadly it is inevitable. There are always casualties in war and I lament that the reputation of The Bahamas is crumbling in this war of words.

But the reputation of The Bahamas is not what is at stake here; the Rule of Law and Human Rights are. I'm sure Ms. Kelly agrees that Human Rights matter more than reputation.

It is Fred Mitchell who has declared an all-out illegal war on the Constitution of The Bahamas by his November 1, 2014, Ministerial Edict against “foreigners”, in particular targeting Haitians and Bahamians of Haitian heritage.

Ms. Kelly’s summary of the “newly-devised policy” is simply inaccurate. Firstly, no new policy is necessary to stem “the flow of illegal immigrants into” The Bahamas. All that needs to happen is for the Immigration and Defence Force to do their jobs and to seal our porous borders. Secondly, Minister Mitchell does not have the lawful power to simply create new laws by policy edict. Only Parliament can pass new laws. Thirdly, the execution of this new policy has been outrageously illegal and unconstitutional measured by any democratic yardstick. Fourthly, there was, in any event, no need for it; it is a transparent political red herring.

Minister Mitchell has, without any shadow of doubt, cried “havoc, and let slip the dogs of war” on the The Bahamas and in so doing opened a Pandora's Box overflowing with xenophobic lynch mob mentalities. Minister Mitchell has ironically given birth to “Apartheid in The Bahamas” by singling out Haitians/Bahamians as objects of abject and acceptable state promoted institutionalized discrimination. Hats off to Fred “Botha” Mitchell!

It seems to be simply accepted in The Bahamas that “might makes right” and that ministers of government can just issue new laws by policy dictate. Perhaps, because many are presently clothed in the protective mantle of citizenship, they welcome and support the government’s propagandist use of the Immigration Department in making the “Haitian problem” the scapegoat for the ills which otherwise challenge our nation and contribute to the collapse of good governance.

I urge Ms. Kelly to recall however, that successive governments have used the touchstone of anti-foreign sentiment to keep the embers of xenophobia burning and to institutionalize discrimination (“Bahamianization”), abuse,oppression and complete disregard for most of the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guaranteed to all “persons” regardless of their place of origin,under our Constitution. The very Constitution that protects her Citizenship and her rights; in fact all of our rights!

You see, Ms. Kelly, thankfully, we do not have the tyrannical luxury to pick and choose those who do and those who do not have rights. That would be to accept the tyranny of the majority! Our Constitution protects the rights of all “persons” in The Bahamas; not just born in these islands of Bahamian citizen parents. In the process of British decolonization, the drafters of all the Constitutions in The British Commonwealth sought to protect the rights of minorities in the aftermath of independence by securing the protection of the Rule of Law to all persons; so that minorities or individuals would be protected against for instance, racial or ethnic purges. Despite these penned protections, in many former colonies, there were holocausts with savage genocidal results.

In the Bahamas, the word “Bahamianization” has been our sanitized epithet for state generated and sustained racial and ethnic discrimination. Our schizophrenic attitude towards, but ultimate hatred of foreigners, our racism, our xenophobia, our increasingly strident nationalism, our acceptance of discrimination, our blaming of Haitians or Bahamians of Haitian heritage for all our social ills, have increasingly lead to more inflexible divisions and appear to have fomented and justified state violence against the current Haitian scapegoat! Violence, takes many forms.

So before there is blind acceptance of Minister Mitchell’s illegal policy; the unlawful,vicious and inexcusable actions of some Immigration, Defence Force and Police officers in the execution of this Imperial Mitchell Ministerial Edict, I urge a study of Chapter 3 of our Constitution, as one would, being no doubt a Christian nation, study The Bible. So, please be assured, that my hearkening to that Constitutional script has nothing to do with my alleged “Haitian Heritage”(which I will address later). It is simply about being a Bahamian who has studied his Constitution, like our Christian nation studies The Bible. The Constitution is my Political Bible, as it should be for all persons in The Bahamas.

Yes,The war of words is regrettable. But in a civil society, if citizens are not to take arms up against a coercive or abusive government, they are left with only the pen; and thankfully, as history has often shown in the long run, the pen and word are mightier than the sword, as Jesus Christ, above all others has shown us. You, Ms. Kelly, are a consummate wordsmith and know well, the Power of your Plume!

I find it therefor regrettable that Ms. Kelly would seek to trivialize and devalue my freedom to express my views by attributing to them ill informed and false personal motives and thereby holding them to public scorn and ridicule.

Like Ms. Kelly, I too believe in the power of the pen. Yes, I am a Queen’s Counsel; and yes,my status may accord my words great currency. I chose my descriptions very carefully and very deliberately. I do not resile from any of my words. My descriptions of the government’s (for this is not about any personality fight between Fred Mitchell and Fred Smith; he is simply the envoy) actions are correct and accurate. Only, by minuscule degrees, are they qualitatively different from the worst aspects and perceptions of “terrorism, Auschwitz, similar interment camps, and Ethnic Cleansing”. But I believe in calling a spade a spade, and I will not be an international apologist for any government, FNM or PLP. Forty years of my professional life attest to that!

To me, the Constitution comes first, before nationalism or international reputation.

And, if my own Bahamian government is assailing rights internally, then as Minister Fred Mitchell glowingly did in leading the charge internationally against South African Apartheid and protecting Nelson Mandela, who together with Fred Mitchell and Sir Lynden Pindling, cried out to the international community from his South African jail to Boycott South Africa, then I too will use my pen and any pulpit which presents itself to call on the international human rights community to help prevent abuse within The Bahamas. I find it ironic that Fred Mitchell, the “Minister of Immigration”, would condemn and heap abuse on Florida Sate Representative Daphne Campbell when Fred Mitchell, the “Human Rights Activist” of a bygone era, also called for a Boycott of South Africa to stop Apartheid.

Joseph Darville and I are doing no more and no less that many freedom fighters have done over the centuries in condemning national abuse and seeking international help. If our reputation suffers during challenging times, so be it. Such internecine wars can be easily avoided by our governments if they respect fundamental rights. Good international reputation comes with good governance; and bad international reputation comes with bad governance. It’s as simple as that. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil in this world is for good men to say and do nothing. You, Ms.Kelly, as a “Lady of Letters” knows that!

Thank goodness we are a global economy and words now have greater international repercussions.

Minister Mitchell’s minions would better serve the reputation of The Bahamas, save tax dollars, earn tax dollars and respect the rights of thousands of people in The Bahamas by trolling through the tens of thousands of files at the Immigration Department on Hawkins Hill instead of creating high political drama with this manufactured immigration crisis. Document first; hunt the rest later!That approach would send a very clear, positive and good message to the world that The Bahamas is serious about human rights and the Rule of Law!

I note that Ms. Kelly assumed that there was no “scintilla of evidence” to support my criticisms. I am sure she simply did not have the facts at her disposal which I had. I am a citizen of integrity. I have been at the forefront of fighting for human rights for decades. I have never uttered a word without evidence in support. I am not a fool. I am not an alarmist. I am a lawyer. I am, as she says, a Queens Counsel. I am responsible.

Minister Mitchell did not have “the entire country behind him”; and even if he did, I have the Constitutional right to be the one dissident voice if I so choose. It’s called freedom of expression, guaranteed by Article 23 of our Constitution.

My expressions, as distasteful as the truth may be, do not make me a “traitor”. And neither do the weekly, strident and often singularly individual views expressed by Ms. Kelly in her columns. I read her column weekly; precisely because her views are different. Indeed, that is the only reason I buy The Punch! I respectfully embrace and celebrate her right!

Yes I do, thankfully, have flashbacks of my childhood in Haiti. And she is correct: The Bahamas is not Haiti. But thankfully, my early experiences have given me subjective, and my 40 years of training as a lawyer, objective perspectives. Hence the 40 years I have fought, to prevent The Bahamas from becoming a Little Haiti. I have no “vested interest” in maintaining any status quo. Despite the radio rantings of Ortland Bodie and Wendell Jones and their call-in guests, I am not Haitian and never was! I will come to that later.
I do not subscribe firstly to the idea that there is a "Haitian problem"; and even if there was one, I do not subscribe to the theory of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Ms.Kelly, in her nationalistic fervor and zeal, appears to be blind to the evidence which over the last few weeks and continuing has embarrassingly unfolded and been publicly and internationally paraded.

Perhaps a recap may persuade her that my utterances have not been “hysterical hyperbole”. Indeed, the fact that Minister Mitchell was driven to fly to appear before the Human Rights Commission of the OAS in Washington to defend his government in the face of the GBHRA’s expressed outrage over the abuses also attests to this.

I have been dealing with the Haitian Diaspora in The Bahamas since 1977. And I have not been alone. I am a part of The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association. Joseph Darville and I speak as one. Our Tactically Launched Hyperbolic Scuds (TLH Scuds) are informed by evidence derived from personal testimonies, observations, reports and testimonials from a host of victims and others who believe in protecting rights and who are out in the field fighting this abuse.

Let us examine what has been happening here.

In summary; spontaneously by ministerial combustion and without cause or necessity, the government publicizes an illegal Ministerial Policy that causes panic, with no basis in law for its creation (it was not enacted by Parliament) or the manner in which it is to be executed. A crisis is created! Apartheid is proclaimed; foreigners, especially Haitians, have less or no rights; people, including Bahamians, must carry original identity and immigration status papers around with them!

Instead of focusing its energies constructively on the thousands of applications for status and documenting thousands entitled to be registered as citizens, the taxpayers money is to be squandered and a reign of terror imposed. Confusion is to abound! The government threatens to repeat the many earlier painful pogroms. The collective memory of the persecuted is once again awakened. People are unnerved. Fright sets in. As has so often happened before,the message of terror has been proclaimed by Ministerial Edict. Yet again; a new policy! This time it’s Mitchell making his mark instead of Roker the Wrecker!

The Institution of the Government of The Bahamas has again declared war on an ethnic minority segment of the population: those of Haitian origin.

This is illegal. It is in breach of Articles 15 and 26 of the Constitution.

But that does not phase the government! After all, they are only “Haitians” and as Ms. Kelly says, Minister Mitchell “had the entire country behind him”; so who would care?

It was the politically appropriate time (two years before the next election) to declare “open season” on Haitians. Indeed, even Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, the FNM, and the DNA were marching in vigorous and strident goose-step declaring that they stood “shoulder to shoulder” with the government! Thus emboldened, Immigration and Defence Force officers simply wore green shirts instead of brown shirts!

People are indeed terrified. They know what is coming. It is not the first time. This is simply Roker Revisited! They fear for their families. They fear for their personal well-being. They fear for their freedom. They fear for their property.They are told that shantytowns are to be demolished. The Ministry of Works begins “marking” homes for demolition, just like the Nazis did to the Jewish homes, except the MOW painted red numbers and not red Stars of David on the doors to signal the imminent invasion. Homes, some of which have been there for decades, are illegally bulldozed to let them know that the government means business.

The initial Blitzkrieg is swift; highly effective, well publicized! Minister Mitchell, the consummate public relations man, knows how to play the media to his audience! People, even those with “papers” hide in the forests and bushes; families are torn asunder; they leave their children. They flee in overladen boats from Abaco; they are shot at by the Defence Force, and made to return. Raids (sorry “exercises” as Minister Mitchell calls them; certainly not “roundups” either) in the dead of the night, by dozens of Immigration and Defence Force Officers clad menacingly in battle fatigues as if going off to war or hunting terrorist guerillas. Daily raids (“exercises”) continue; well publicized. People who look too black (or too white for that matter) are seized; detained; illegal roadblocks are set up (sorry, I believe Minister Mitchell calls them “checkpoints”; that’s what they were called in Haiti as well under the dictator, Papa Doc).

With no scintilla of reasonable suspicion, as required by law, people are randomly questioned in public, hauled off public buses, homes invaded and searched, and if they have a foreign sounding name are seized and detained. Even white Bahamians in vehicles stopped at red lights are interrogated. The government proclaims (illegally) that people must be documented; people are required (illegally) to have “papers” on them; if they don’t they are hauled away like cattle cuffed in buses, cages and pens.When they do present them Immigration take all; refuse to give copies. Poor, underprivileged, often uneducated and politically powerless people are traumatized. Overnight, Apartheid in The Bahamas is born!

All of this is of course illegal. I urge Ms. Kelly to read the cases Smith vs. Commissioner of Police; Iffil; Merson;Tynes; Jean; Taylor; Mercidieux Exavier; Barlatier, Takitota and many others; some of which wended their way for affirmation of rights all the way to the Privy Council.

I am not making up the law when I speak or write. I am merely repeating what the law has been since Magna Carta and before! It is Minister Fred “Botha” Mitchell and his Shock Troops who are acting illegally, and shredding the reputation of The Bahamas as a country governed by the Rule of Law.

Imagine what foreign investors think? Recall that last year, the CEO of UBS Bank was a target of Bahamian Apartheid, seized at a “checkpoint”, “undocumented”, hauled off to our Concentration Camp, detained and eventually released.

The result? UBS Bank shut down! A small but affluent circle of employment and opportunity for dozens of Bahamians within the financial services industry evaporated!

This treatment has also been meted out to many other “foreigners” and indeed many Bahamians. I continue to emphasize that this is, of course, illegal. But I suppose, Ms.Kelly, that as long as it continues to happen to “others”, it is justified?

With the initial strike, 400 persons of suspected Haitian heritage, documented or not, legal or illegal, are hauled off. Over 300 are subsequently “processed” (a word which does not appear in our laws) and released; only 70 are “detained” at the Carmichael Road Detention Center, itself an illegal facility operating for years, since its FNM inception, without basis in law. It is not a “prison” under the Prison Act (governed by law), and is not a “Correctional Facility” (under the Correctional Facilities Act). It exists against every penal norm or international precept, managed and maintained by the accusers, i.e. the Immigration Department and the Defence Force, neither of whose Parliamentary Acts of creation give lawful warrant to run a prison or a Concentration Camp (the accepted definition of which, this facility fits).

There are no prison officers; there are no rules, no regulations; in fact no laws at all to govern activities there. This is so even according to Minister Mitchell himself. In fairness to the PLP, it was the FNM who created this monster. But they are both to blame for perpetuating its illegal and inhumane existence.

Conditions are harsh, inhuman and degrading; people are beaten in its barbed wire confines; property is stolen; rules are made up as they go along; the public are not allowed to approach to take pictures; there is a thriving black market in existence for bare necessities; people are kept in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions; it is winter and cool; there are no blankets; women and children crowd on top of each other on disgusting smelly urine stained mattresses on the dirty floors; for the men, there are often not even floor coverings to lay on; the toilets, such as there are for, at times, over 500 people are clogged, disgusting, overflowing and unusable; there is no toilet paper; human waste and filth slops around; the stench is appalling; a pregnant woman hemorrhages and gives birth in the camp, she hides; people have been held there for years without being taken before a court; they effectively disappear because there is no due process provided by law; a woman (married to a Bahamian citizen, with a spousal permit) is extracted by a senior immigration officer and repeatedly raped and forced to perform fellatio to be graced with freedom; people are fed scant and inedible food; the water is undrinkable; bottled water becomes expensive currency; friends and family must bring food and supplies for bare necessities and sustenance. Children are kept in the “Carmichael Concentration Camp” (CCC); a young lady, born in The Bahamas, who has her application in for her Certificate of Citizenship under the Constitution, is unlawfully arrested, shackled, manhandled, beaten, humiliated, detained, ridiculed and eventually released. But unlike the many victims, she speaks out! And for this she is, two weeks later again assaulted on the street, beaten, phone seized, and hauled away to the Concentration Camp, where I am now trying to obtain her freedom.

These are tips of the many icebergs! Minister Mitchell and his cohorts, of course, hold and maintain the official line and simply Deny! Deny! Deny!

None of the detainees are taken before a court of law as required by The Criminal Procedure Code or the Constitution. In breach of every known law they are illegally held over 48 hours, some for years! None are charged with any offence in a court of law; none are tried; none are sentenced. They are simply “detained”; as if that word invested the exercise with some lawful warrant! And then deported en mass in breach of the provisions of the Immigration Act; often without regard to the individual merits of any case.

Those who are released are made to feel it was by a miraculous act of God; and in the true spirit of the bullying,victimization and abuse, told not to make trouble or complain or speak out, lest their next permit is denied; or their permanent residence or citizenship application be rejected; or a family member or friend suffer the same fate. And when one does complain or cry out because of a rape, or a beating, one is publicly scorned and ridiculed in social media or by the Immigration Department PR machine – impliedly accused of prostitution, as if even that would justify the inhumane and criminal treatment. The public applauds! Thus are the victims and their families silenced; thus are the disappearances maintained; thus is the Fred “Botha” Mitchell Reign of Terror sustained for "the entire country behind him” to applaud it in all its manifest glory!

But make no mistake; whether I call it “Auschwitz in The Bahamas”, thus evoking the Nazi Camps, or The South African Concentration Camps for Blacks under Apartheid, or the USA Internment Camps holding American Citizens of Japanese heritage during the Second World War; the fact is, the Carmichael Detention Facility is a “Concentration Camp” with all the associated trappings of ethnic discrimination and cleansing, evoking terror in the persecuted by inhuman and degrading treatment and fracturing their community ties through intimidation, abuse and or mass deportations.

As Ms. Kelly well knows, the term “concentration camp” refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy. I am glad that my reference to “Auschwitz in The Bahamas” has had the desired effect of evoking emotion and thereby attention to this abomination and blight on the democracy of The Bahamas. Even Minister Mitchell recently acknowledged it was a concentration camp in a press release published in the Tribune on December 18, 2014. That was decent of him.

“Institutional Terrorism”, “Ethnic Cleansing”, “Auschwitz in The Bahamas” – hysterical hyperbole? I think not!

The Bahamas just hasn’t started killing Haitians yet; as happened to minorities in former European colonies like Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa.

But wait – perhaps Ms. Kelly may subscribe to the divine urgings of a Christian man of the cloth; Bishop Simeon Hall; who encourages the government to arm the Immigration officers; then we will see if I am an alarmist.

These recent Immigration and Defence Force raids have been nothing less than a “shock and awe” invasion of our body politic by Fred “Botha” Mitchell and his Storm Troopers!

I will continue to use every weapon in the craft of my penmanship to launch TLH Scuds in an effort to resist this unconstitutional, illegal and inhuman and degrading policy. The GBHRA does not have a force of hundreds of Immigration, Defense and Police officers at our arbitrary whim and disposal to dream up arbitrary new policies, conduct illegal raids and roundups; to beat people; to rape them; to separate families and children, to detain in the Carmichael Concentration Camp.

I am a proud Bahamian Citizen. I do not carry the passport of any other country. I have nowhere else to go. I intend on using my pen to the best and most effective means to protect my Bahamas and to prevent it going slowly but inexorably into a dictatorial slide.

As Ms. Kelly and so many others seem to take a delight in doing, I turn to my heritage; as if all of my efforts in promoting human rights in The Bahamas for 40 years can be thereby relegated to biased in consequence and thereby devalued of their merit.

Ms.Kelly is incorrect; my mother was not a Haitian Citizen. My mother was British having been born in Trans-Jordan in the Middle East. Her father’s family are descended from the proud Bedouin Hashemites; her mother from Armenia, the land of Noah! Her father and family emigrated to Haiti at the end of the Second World War. My mother never sought nor was given Haitian citizenship.

Like Ms. Kelly when she was born, both my parents were British Subjects. Ethnically she is an Arab. During my childhood years in Haiti I was raised in an Arabic social milieu of Syrians, Palestinians, Jordanians and Lebanese. I am proud of my Arabic heritage.

My Father met my mother in Haiti. She was at that time engaged to a Syrian. Singing the beautiful Bahamian lullaby, Big Big Bamboo Bamboo; he wooed her into his arms. He made sure my sisters and I also kept in touch with our British and Bahamian Colonial roots.I was not raised in a Haitian social environment. Not that there is anything wrong with that even if it had been so. Haiti has a proud heritage of culture and freedom. I consider myself privileged to have spent my childhood in Haiti.

I say the foregoing to dispel Ms. Kelly's suggestion that my “loyalty” should be suspect and that I am a “traitor” to The Bahamas. I grew up as an Arab and “blanc” foreigner, not a Haitian. As such we suffered discrimination at the hands of the Haitian social elite, military and Ton Ton Macoutes. My first cousin, who was the head of a human rights NGO, was assassinated for promoting human rights in Haiti.

So Ms. Kelly, you know not of what you speak. I hold no brief for the “status quo” or for “Haitians” in The Bahamas. As my 40 year track record shows, I hold a brief for human rights for all persons in The Bahamas – not just some! The Haitians just happen to be a repeat target and, having grown up in Haiti, I speak Creole and French fluently. This gives me a facility and ease in garnering hundreds of scintillas of evidence to permit me to know that of which I speak!

Like Ms. Nicki Kelly, when the Bahamas became independent, my father and I became citizens of The Bahamas, and not withstanding early application for immigration status by my mother, it took decades before she was granted permanent residency, despite the fact that her husband, daughters and son were citizens of The Bahamas.

That in and of itself is a scandal which successive Bahamian governments continue to perpetuate against people who have applied for immigration status. Ms.Kelly knows full well the interminable abuse visited upon thousands and thousands of people in The Bahamas over the last 40 years by the PLP and to a lesser extent the FNM, simply by having their files lost etc. Indeed Freeport, where I live, is dramatic testimony to that catastrophic folly of policy!

But let me put a marker here. I hold no personal grudge against the PLP on any immigration issues or otherwise. My criticisms have been as strident against the FNM as the PLP. Truth be told, over the decades the PLP governments have accorded me, my families and businesses respect and sensible accommodations on most immigration applications I may have made. And on the contrary, the FNM much less so. And I must also say that that such treatment of me by the PLP bears testimony to the fact that they respect freedom of expression, and despite all of my public criticisms of their activities they have not, to my knowledge, sought to silence me by victimization.

That being said, I urge Ms. Kelly to likewise respect my right to freedom of expression and reconsider her characterizations of my utterances as “traitorous attacks”. I am as Bahamian as they come!

I also urge Ms. Kelly to please re-read the Constitution, the Criminal Procedure Code, The Penal Code, and the Immigration Act – she will see who is acting illegally and who is indeed creating the real international damage to the reputation of our beloved Bahamas.

As I said, I have nowhere else to go and I will use every legal power within my means to support our Immigration officers and protect OUR Bahamas from illegal invasion by Haitians, but also, most importantly, from people in government who are willing to take people’s liberties, rights and freedoms away.

I am most grateful to Ms. Kelly for expressing her views, a right which I respect and which she continues to have but one which she may not have for long if those who have the power of the pen do not use it to check dictatorial tendencies, abuses of the rule of law, illegal actions by a government, and unconstitutional encroachments on our liberties at every turn

Thank God for people like Ms. Nicki Kelly, Mrs. Eileen Carron, Joe Darville, and in a past incarnation Fred Mitchell (the human rights activist with whom I had the privilege of working in years past) myself and others who continue to use the pen to show that it is mightier than the sword.

I urge Ms. Kelly to help to guard our rights jealously. For too long it has been the “foreigner”; today it is the Haitian foreigner and Haitian/Bahamian; tomorrow it may be you! I remind her of the words of Pastor Niemoller in Nazi Germany;

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I hate saying negative things about my country. I love OUR Bahamas. I firmly believe it is Better in The Bahamas than almost anywhere else in the world. But reputation abroad, does not trump Human Rights at home! Hence I will continue to fight for OUR Bahamas, to use my pen and to use hyperbole as and when I can to try and stop government illegality, abuse, and dictatorship.

Make no mistake: “policy” actions are dictatorial executive edicts with no warrant in statutory law passed by our legally elected Parliamentarians. Remember, Parliament passes laws and the Executive executes them. I repeat, there is no lawful authority for this "policy".

Here is a positive suggestion. Why not focus enforcing the Immigration Act with effective border enforcement? Immigration Officers are well within their rights to turn vessels away or escort them back to Haiti. What they do not have a right to do is violate the Constitutional rights of people who are already here, in a strategy that cannot solve the problem so long as the border remains porous.

Accordingly, why not start with improved border enforcement,whilst dealing with the thousands of outstanding applications for citizenship etc.in a deliberate, rational and humane fashion, while identifying alleged illegals on a case by case basis, as the Police do with any other alleged lawbreaker, and as the Constitution demands? Immigration officers have no greater powers than the Police. Immigration law, is like any other law on our books. It is not the Supreme law! The Constitution is.

The Immigration Department would face no criticism if they simply performed their duties according to law. There would be not a “peep” from the GBHRA!

Sincerely,

Fred Smith, QC
President, GBHRA
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