Friday, April 30, 2010

Ex-Progressive Liberal Party vice-chairman Melissa Sears is the focus of repeated attacks by PLPs on the Internet and in the political sphere

PLP 'bid to smear ex-chief'
Tribune Staff Reporter

PLP operatives are allegedly continuing a vicious smear campaign against one of their own colleagues, The Tribune has uncovered.

Having recently resigned from her post as vice-chairman in the Progressive Liberal Party, Melissa Sears has become the focus of repeated attacks by PLPs on the Internet and in the political sphere.

In their messages, some party supporters have sought to sully the former vice-chairman's reputation and have gone as far as to cast a cloud of suspicion over her friendship with a sitting FNM Cabinet Minister.

Yesterday, a source close to Ms Sears actually distanced himself from the party's official messaging on the issue, claiming he did not want his planned statement on the matter to be associated with what "the rest of the party" was seeking to do.

Ms Sears, he said, will make any statement she feels is necessary if and when the time comes.

In the meantime, however, the vice-chairwoman's resignation is continuing to be used as a political football among two of the most prominent warring camps within the party.

The attacks against Ms Sears has left some within the organisation to question the amount of damage this issue will ultimately inflict upon the party.

It has also left others calling for a shift in the messaging of the PLP and a "much needed change" in the way "sensitive matters are handled."

As it relates to the attacks on Ms Sears' name The Tribune was reliably informed that a current PLP Member of Parliament was the actual genesis of those reports.

In fact, we were made aware yesterday that an operative within the party was successful in transmitting a lurid text message to the Cabinet Minister's cellular phone seeking to disguise the message as a legitimate one from the former vice-chairwoman.

This message, it was said, would then have been posted online to embarrass Ms Sears and the Minister; destroying any possibility for the fledgling politician to ever return at any level of influence in the PLP.

It is understood that this message, has been forwarded to the relevant authorities to ascertain its origin for further investigations.

These attacks, along with others, have left some right-thinking PLPs disgusted with the way the party has handled the resignation of Ms Sears.

Instead of seeking to coax the party supporter into re-thinking her decision, it was said that some within the organisation immediately went on the offensive and tried to "ruin her politically."

Speaking with The Tribune yesterday, Erin Ferguson, the political commentator and TV show host said that having known Ms Sears for a few years as a native Grand Bahamian himself, he was disappointed in the way the party was handling this "great young talent."

"This is just another example of the PLP displaying their ability to misuse and mishandle excellent young talent in the Bahamas.

"Melissa Sears has shown she is grounded in family, church, and community, and she is certainly a woman that serves as an example to any young woman as to how to go about serving your country as a good citizen. It's unfortunate in my opinion that she has been put through the political wringer of the PLP," he said.

Mr Ferguson added that countless other young people have been put through this unfortunate process and many others have refused to even engage these political parties as it is an "absolute waste of time."

April 29, 2010


Thursday, April 29, 2010

National Drug Prescription Plan in Dispute

Drug plan in dispute
By CANDIA DAMES ~ Guardian News Editor ~

The National Insurance Board and the Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association have failed to reach agreement on the government's National Drug Prescription Plan, with a major disagreement erupting over markups for the drugs that will be a part of the scheme.

"You can't ask business owners to sign their own death certificates," said Dr. Marvin Smith, who heads the association.

The government plans to implement the national plan through NIB in August to increase access to cost-effective drugs for certain conditions. During the initial phase of the plan, patients who qualify will be able to fill prescriptions at no cost to them from participating private and government pharmacies.

Thousands of Bahamians who qualify for the plan are waiting for it to start. The plan is a key campaign promise of the Ingraham administration, which has touted it as a crucial initial element of a national health insurance program. The drug scheme's beneficial schedule will include prescription drugs and specific medical supplies deemed necessary by an attending physician for treating a chronic condition of a plan participant.

But NIB has so far failed in its efforts to get the Pharmaceutical Association onboard.

Smith said the nearly 50 pharmacies that are members of the grouping still have concerns about the markups that would be allowed under the plan, and will not participate under the current proposal.

He told The Nassau Guardian that NIB is proposing a 45 percent markup for drugs that cost at under $5; a 35 percent markup on drugs that cost between $5 and $25 and a markup of 25 percent on drugs that cost over $25. Added to the costs of the products would be a $3 dispensing fee per drug.

"There is no way that pharmacies can support, in this first phase, any markup that they're proposing," Smith said.

He said the pharmacies would not be able to survive under that proposal because they have numerous overhead costs that must be taken into consideration.

The association is proposing a 45 percent markup on pharmaceuticals that cost under $20; 40 percent on drugs that cost between $20 and $40 and a markup of 35 percent on drugs over $40. Under the association's plan, the dispensing fee would range from $3 to $5.

"We're not asking for excessive markups," Smith said. "We're saying let's get it to where people can survive, get it to where businesses could be steady and stable. That's all we want."

NIB Director Algernon Cargill said the plan will go forward even if an arrangement cannot be worked out with the Bahamas Pharmaceutical Association.

"We've negotiated markups based on a scientific review of similar plans throughout the region," Cargill said. "While our markup is at the highest level of all the similar plans that already exist in the region, we believe that markup allows for a fair and reasonable return based on the anticipated 35,000 new clients in the first phase and 100,000 in the final phase of the National Drug Prescription Plan.

"In our view, the markups that approximate 50 percent allow for a reasonable return and also allow for the pharmacies to provide for a high level of service to clients that ordinarily would not have visited their pharmacies because they primarily now go mostly to public pharmacies to receive their prescription drugs."

He noted that several pharmacies have already embraced the plan. Cargill said these include Walk-In Medical Clinic pharmacies; Betande Pharmacy; Lowe's Pharmacy; People's Pharmacy and Centerville Pharmacy. He said Wilmac's Pharmacy is also signing on.

According to Cargill, the contracts are flexible and pharmacies that sign them can opt out at any time without penalties.

"We are happy that we have a representative group of pharmacies in order to move the plan forward," Cargill said.

While Cargill admitted that no Family Island pharmacy has signed on as yet, he said the prescription drugs for Family Island locations will be available at public clinics.

He also said the biggest challenge with launching the plan right now is identifying the wholesalers who will provide the drugs to the participating pharmacies.

Cargill stressed, "The National Insurance Board is not insisting that all of the pharmacies sign on to the plan. We want the pharmacies that want to work in partnership in providing better health care services to Bahamians in The Bahamas and can do so with a reasonable profit."

But Smith told The Guardian, "Do you really want a plan that says only the giants who can afford to operate at a loss maybe a bit longer than other people are going to be involved? All that would do is deplete the sector of small businesses and if you only leave the giants then the government puts itself at risk because they would be the only ones who can actually pull a power play on the government. You need the small business persons."

He said, "We want to partner with the government in this initiative. We want this plan to work."

The initial phase of the plan will include NIB pensioners; people receiving invalidity benefits; minors 17 and younger and all full-time students up to 25.

During the later stages of the plan, a new addition to NIB contributions will be initiated to cover the plan.

April 29, 2010


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PLP chief Melissa Sears 'offended' by party leader - Perry Christie's remarks

PLP chief 'offended' by Christie remarks

PLP CHIEF Melissa Sears quit her job as vice chairman because she was "offended" by verbal remarks made by party leader Perry Christie, The Tribune learned last night.

As speculation mounts surrounding her departure, it is being reported that she decided to resign following a meeting in Grand Bahama.

According to sources very close to the matter, Mr Christie was in Grand Bahama to rally the party's machinery sometime earlier this month. At this meeting, it was claimed, he made the point that he had "no time" for Ms Sears -- who was in earshot of the remark.

Although the comment was admittedly "harsh", one PLP source explained that the party leader was sending the message that he was aware of Ms Sears' alleged allegiance to other would-be leaders within the organisation.

"She was a known anti-Christie during the PLP convention and even before that. So he had to let her know that he was aware of that fact. In this (political) climate you have to do what you have to do," the source added.

When contacted for comment on the matter, PLP chairman Bradley Roberts said he doubted that Mr Christie would make such a remark, and directed The Tribune to speak to the party leader directly.

However, repeated attempts to reach Mr Christie proved unsuccessful, and messages left were not returned up to press time last night.

While Ms Sears' alleged allegiance to one faction or the other is not known officially, it has been reported that she was a staunch supporter of PLP deputy leader challenger Obie Wilchcombe who came to her defence in yesterday's Tribune.

In that article, Mr Wilchcombe said Ms Sears was an "outstanding young woman" who still has a career in politics.

"She is an outstanding orator and has her hands around the issues facing people. She believes in people and has committed herself to helping the least amongst us. Her decision does not mean her political life is over or her relationship with the PLP," said the West End and Bimini MP.

However, a former leadership candidate during the PLP's 51st National Convention in 2008, Paul Moss, said the PLP has to address the fact that the party is losing good and qualified persons "left, right, and centre."

Having resigned from the PLP himself, Mr Moss asked the public to question why "good partisan people" are incapable of having a voice and even staying with the party.

"The party's inability to have introspection to prepare itself moving forward to being the alternative to the government, they have not done that. They are trying to win at all costs. And I don't think that is going to work, even against a third party," he said.

April 27, 2010


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bahamas Government considers strong action to adequately address the disposal of carbon-polluting items such as motor vehicles, tires and appliances

Environmental levy would be beneficial, minister says
By JIMENITA SWAIN ~ Guardian Senior Reporter ~

The government is serious about taking strong action to adequately address the disposal of carbon-polluting items such as motor vehicles, tires and appliances, Minister of the Environment Dr. Earl Deveaux said yesterday.

The pledge to impose environmental levies was made recently in the Speech from the Throne.

Under the proposal, a $150 levy would be tacked on for an imported vehicle less than three years old and $200 for a vehicle over three years old. Fifteen dollars would be attached to washing machines; $15 to dryers; $10 to televisions and $10 to mattresses, among other items.

"At this point the levy will go into a special account and that will help defray the cost of eventual disposal whether it be to export it, to recycle it or to compress it or compact it," Deveaux said.

"You will have a dedicated stream of funding that would enable you to dispose of this thing that eventually needs to be disposed of."

A major concern at this point in New Providence is maintaining the landfill to make use of the 50-year life cycle, he said.

He added that the landfill should be managed in a way so that there could be income generated from recyclable material, which in essence would extend the life of the landfill.

The aim is to convert the waste to useful energy, Deveaux explained.

He noted that in 2003 the government approved a tipping fee at the solid waste facilities.

"That tipping fee was imposed on all solid waste coming into the New Providence facility and when that tipping fee was approved in the regulations, the schedule actually had attached to it another set of items that would attract an environmental levy," Deveaux explained.

Those items included, washers, dryers, refrigerators, microwaves, vehicles, all type of tires from cars, trucks, and motorcycles, the minister said.

"There is a schedule attached to each of them that indicates a cost for disposal. The idea is that when these items are imported into the country, brand new or used, attached to the cost of importing would be a levy that would be used to dispose of them when they are eventually disposed of," he said.

There are any number of derelict vehicles around New Providence and unless the market is good, he said the cars simply litter the landscape.

"When the fire broke out at the [derelict vehicle facility] a few months ago there were 400,000 tires there. Unless we have a means of converting them to energy of some sort or recycling them in some way, they harbor mosquitos, rodents and are a real issue to the public health," Deveaux said.

"...When somebody's refrigerator, washer, dryer, or any appliance reaches its useful life, many of them end up in the back of yards, many of them end up in the forests, some of them that are collected end up at the dump."

April 27, 2010


Monday, April 26, 2010

Melissa Sears resigns as a Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) vice chairman

Melissa Sears resigns as a PLP vice chairman
Tribune Staff Reporter

RISING star in the Progressive Liberal Party, Melissa Sears, has resigned her post as vice chairman of the PLP.

Bradley Roberts, PLP chairman, said he received a resignation letter from Ms Sears on April 20. The letter did not indicate the reason for her resignation, and Mr Roberts said he has yet to speak with her to gain further insight into her reason for resigning.

Ms Sears made an impression on the PLP leadership in 2008 when she delivered a speech at the party's convention. She was voted into office during the October 2009 PLP Convention.

"Melissa is an outstanding young woman who has a career in politics. She is an outstanding orator and has her hands around the issues facing people. She believes in people and has committed herself to helping the least among us. Her decision does not mean her political life is over or her relationship with the PLP," said Obie Wilchcombe, West End Member of Parliament. Ms Sears endorsed Mr Wilchcombe for deputy leader of the party when he contested the seat last year.

"She was the bright star of the (2008) convention and demonstrated then her tremendous oratory skills and her passion for people and her courage and determination as a fighter, which is required in front line politics," said Mr Wilchcombe.

Ms Sears had been touted as a potential candidate for the PLP in Marco City, Grand Bahama. This seat was formerly contested by Pleasant Bridgewater, against the FNM's Zhivargo Laing.

Ms Sears grew up in Marco City, but Mr Wilchcombe said she would be a qualified candidate for a number of Grand Bahama constituencies.

He said she had never written to the party to express interest in being a candidate, or applied formally. However, the party had been trying to encourage her.

"We have over the years sought to convince her to be a candidate. There comes a time when a party must recruit and look for the best and the brightest and she has proven that she is prepared to serve and not to be served. So she is one of those persons who we certainly would love to see carry the banner and be a standard bearer," said Mr Wilchcombe. "I believe this might be considered by some a bump in the road or a step backward, but I don't see it that way."

April 26, 2010


Sunday, April 25, 2010

An estimated 85-90 per cent of the engineering work on major Bahamas-based development projects goes to foreign firms

85-90% export 'guts' engineers
Tribune Business Editor:

An estimated 85-90 per cent of the engineering work on major Bahamas-based development projects goes to foreign firms, the Bahamas Society of Engineers' president telling Tribune Business yesterday that "the wholesale export" of such services "absolutely guts our entire industry".

Robert Reiss, who is also principal of Islands by Design/Reiss, said qualified Bahamian engineers were still being denied the opportunity to fully participate in their profession through the continuing tendency of both local and foreign developers, plus the Government, to look outside this nation on jobs that Bahamians can do.

"One of the key elements of my platform, a key tenet, is the fact that I want the Bahamas Society of Engineers to support the implementation of the Professional Engineers Act and Board and, beyond just the Act, supporting securing and keeping Bahamian engineering jobs for Bahamians," Mr Reiss told Tribune Business.

"For too long and too often, our engineering work in the Bahama goes to foreign firms. It's fine if there's a need for specialist expertise, but there's a wholesale export of our money, our opportunities. The dollars and the opportunities for Bahamian engineers, who have gone abroad to school to get qualified, to participate in our profession get exported. It absolutely guts our entire industry."

Emphasising that "this situation of having Bahamians do Bahamian engineering work is not insular or inward-looking", Mr Reiss said the drive to ensure qualified Bahamian engineers obtained work they were qualified to do would "improve our economic engine" by keeping dollars at home.

Mr Reiss, who has been heavily involved in water and wastewater treatment engineering work in the US and abroad, told Tribune Business: "Even though I'm Bahamian, I see the companies I compete against and beat in foreign locations very smoothly get work off the Government that I even have difficulty in getting shortlisted for.

"I would easily guess that 85-90 per cent of the engineering work on major development projects is done by foreign engineers."


Mario Bastian, the Bahamas Society of Engineers' secretary, added that the Government was just as big a culprit as developers when it came to denying Bahamian engineers opportunities on projects they were perfectly qualified to perform.

Local expertise and knowledge would be harnessed on many projects by using Bahamian engineers, Mr Reiss argued, and the passage of the Act and set-up of the Professional Engineers Board, with its registration requirements, is viewed as a tool to aid this goal.

The Act requires foreign engineers to obtain a certificate of temporary registration from the Professional Engineers Board when working in this nation, and also joint venture with Bahamian engineers when working on major projects in this nation.

The Board, and the requirement that Bahamian engineers (and their foreign counterparts) be registered in all the disciplines they perform, will enhance consumer protection by letting Bahamians know exactly what an engineer is qualified to do, plus enable the sector to be self-regulating and put certification standards in place.

Mr Reiss praised developments such as Albany, the National Sports Stadium and the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) redevelopment for allowing Bahamian engineers to play a key role on those projects.

April 23, 2010


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The cost of justice in The Bahamas

The cost of justice
Tribune Staff Reporter

IN THE BAHAMAS most people have come to accept that getting a lawyer or being a lawyer involves a lot of money. The recent election court battle that saw a court for just under two weeks hear arguments by some of the country's top lawyers about which votes could be counted in the Elizabeth by-election was a relatively swift process - and yet it is now said that FNM candidate Dr Duane Sands, who was not the victor, is being asked to pay $150,000 in legal fees. This represents a mere quarter of the overall price tag for the services of the teams of lawyers who worked on the case.

Even for a successful professional, making such a payment is no mean feat. It is, however, the price he had to pay to obtain the services of a good lawyer, and having lost the case, the added expense of having to pay the legal fees of his opponent, the PLP's Ryan Pinder -- now the Elizabeth MP.

Access to justice and the "protection of the law" to which the Constitution entitles us has a price tag -- and a hefty one. It is because of this, and a lack of political will, that this "fundamental right" has remained consistently unavailable to many Bahamians, regardless of their social status.

Last Wednesday, Bahamian high society turned out in their hats, pearls and coat tails to hear Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes describe in the Speech from the Throne the government's new legislative agenda -- the laws it intends to enact and the changes it plans to make.

The agenda was touted as one of "modernisation and reform" and indeed if it is accomplished, the Bahamas will be better off. However, to the disappointment -- although not great surprise -- of some, the promise made in the government's 2007 election manifesto, "A Matter of Trust", that a statutory legal aid programme would be implemented in The Bahamas, was not mentioned.

This did not come as that much of a surprise to this writer, as an e-mail exchange with Attorney General John Delaney had already confirmed that the government's position now is that the promise of legal aid in this FNM term is one that "the prevailing economic climate" means the government "cannot execute at this time."

"This position may be reviewed when revenue permits," said Mr Delaney.

However, I would argue that enhancing access to legal aid in The Bahamas should be a critical priority for the government and society.

A lack of access to legal advice and representation is a problem that confronts too many Bahamians today. It too often does not mean finding a way to pay the bill, like Dr Sands, it means they cannot protect their basic rights because they cannot hire a lawyer in the first place. People of all ages are being dispossessed of generational land, abused, robbed, and thrown away in prison because of their inability to afford good legal advice and representation.

And while there is no empirical evidence to directly support this deduction - in part because the Bahamas does little social research - it is my belief that anyone with commonsense can only conclude that these violations must feed into the cycle of crime and violence we see gripping The Bahamas today in a way that should cause us to open our eyes and do something about it.

The argument for legal aid is not a purely theoretical one. When a person is left hopeless, aggrieved and frustrated by their inability to get redress for a legitimate problem they face they are more likely to take matters into their own hands, or take out their frustrations on a weaker member of society, like their child. Meanwhile, a person who commits a violation and does not get his or her comeuppance is more likely to go on violating. Most Bahamians will have known someone in this predicament.

The cost of legal aid can be offset against the minimized costs of fighting the crimes that may result if people don't get it, or the unemployment benefit that someone will need if they are wrongfully convicted of a crime and lose their job, or the medical treatment they will need if they remain in an abusive situation. It will help promote peace and order, which is arguably cheaper than instability.

In The Bahamas today, the only time a person who needs the assistance of, but cannot afford a lawyer, is given one free - facilitated by the government - is when he or she is charged with a "capital" crime to be tried in the Supreme Court and is considered destitute. Facing the removal of their liberty for a significant period of time, they will be appointed a legal defender from a list of private lawyers known by a judge to be willing to take on cases "pro bono" that is without a fee.

However, they only get access to the lawyer after they have been arraigned. What about when they are being detained or questioned? This can be a harrowing and intimidating experience for any person and in many countries the idea that a person would go through this without a lawyer who knows their rights is totally contrary to fairness and justice. There continue to be allegations of individuals being beaten or otherwise harassed in police custody and one can fairly imagine that this may contribute to the possibility of false confessions. Just last week I was told of the case of a man who was picked up for questioning as a witness in connection with a crime and kept for two days without food or water at the Central Detective Unit. A good Samaritan attorney went to check on him and found him almost "delirious". He was eventually released onto the streets of Nassau, having been picked up in a Family Island and brought to New Providence with no money and no personal identification, and told he was "free" to go home. The - by all accounts - innocent man had been treated as if he were a known criminal, likely because he had no lawyer by his side when he was taken into police custody.

Free legal defense is certainly not available under the present system for people charged with non-capital crimes, which make up the majority of all crimes for which people are tried and which can also carry hefty jail terms.

Large numbers of such individuals come before Magistrates in the Bahamas on a daily basis and can be sent to prison without so much as a murmur in their own defence. It might comfort us to think that each of those individuals is a hardened criminal who deserves everything he or she gets - but what if they were falsely accused? In the wrong place at the wrong time? What if they were you, your brother, sister or child? Even if they committed the crime, are they not entitled to the services of an attorney who can ensure that they are not punished beyond what they are due? If they are a child, or an adult with the mind of a child, should we not seek to afford them the protection of someone who can look out for their interests, only assuring that they get their just deserts under the law - nothing more, nothing less.

The US State Department, in its annual human rights report, has commonly acknowledged that Bahamian legal observers and human rights activists believe that where defendants come before a judge to be tried without an attorney "this lack of representation risked hasty convictions on the basis of unchallenged evidence, particularly in the case of poor or illiterate defendants."

In this sense, a lack of legal aid contributes to the perennial problem of overcrowding at the prison and the demand for tax payer funds to support the existence of those incarcerated in two obvious ways: Firstly that those charged and awaiting trial on remand, if without legal counsel, are less likely to see their case "moved through the system" as swiftly as someone who can afford such representation, and thus may remain on remand for longer, and secondly, because those without legal representation are more likely to - as the State Department records - be swiftly convicted once they do come before the court, perhaps even for crimes they did not commit.

In 2008, when I spoke to then Minister of Legal Affairs and attorney by profession, Desmond Bannister, on the subject of the concerns raised by the US State Department on lack of access to legal aid in The Bahamas, he noted that "any practitioner in law" would have to agree.

Legal aid is not a revolutionary concept. In countries like the US and the UK, and even in many of our fellow Caribbean nations, legal defence is provided in a more expansive form under the auspices of the state. Public defenders are made available in the UK from the point of arrest and interview, to trial, in all criminal matters at all court levels. Civil legal advice is also available.

A glance at the website of the U.S. Legal Services Corporation, which describes itself as "America's Partner for Equal Justice" since its founding in 1974, provides an insight into the kind of critical assistance people can get through a government legal aid programme - assistance that relates to the most fundamental aspects of their existence.

"Legal Aid gets loans modification for couples facing foreclosure", "Back wages secured for workers in overtime case", "Legal Aid saves home for elderly victim of credit card fraud", "Veteran no longer homeless" are some of the headlines on articles highlighting the work of the LSC, which came about after the U.S. Congress determined that "there is a need to provide equal access in the system of justice in our nation for those who seek redress of grievances" and that this should be done through the provision of "high quality legal assistance to those who would be otherwise unable to afford legal counsel."

Today in the Bahamas we are faced with the troubling irony that despite having more than 1,000 persons called to the Bar - access to good legal representation for the majority of Bahamians is as rare as ever.

Both the present and the last government, those led by Hubert Ingraham and former prime minister Perry Christie, have overtly recognized the need for a legal aid programme in the Bahamas. Both included plans to set up such a programme in their election manifestos of 2002 and 2007.

After three years in office, Perry Christie appointed a Legal Aid Commission in 2005 to look into the adequacy of the legal aid that existed already in the Bahamas, what needs there might be, and to propose how a more expansive programme could be implemented.

The Commission, chaired by Rev. William Thompson, then President of the Bahamas Christian Council, which had attorneys Peter Maynard and Arthur Dion Hanna Jr, both long time proponents of legal aid, as members. Mr Maynard had operated one of the country's longest running monthly legal aid outreach programmes through his private practice, Maynard and Co., and had written extensively on the subject at the international level. Mr Hanna, is the Director of the Eugene Dupuch Law School's Legal Aid Clinic. Both worked diligently for some time toward producing a report on the matter.

After being appointed in 2005, the committee was given six months to complete the report.

In the same year, Ian Morrison, writing in a report compiled on behalf of the Inter American Development Bank on Legal Aid in the Bahamas, said that the outcome of the commission would be critical to any success in moving forward the provision of legal aid.

In his report, the Canadian attorney outlined the needs that exist for legal aid in The Bahamas throughout various areas.

Outlining criminal law needs in the Supreme Court, Mr Morrison noted that while defendants are given access to legal representation if they are put on trial in the Supreme Court and can't afford a lawyer, this system of representation still has "serious inadequacies." He notes: "At this point the accused has likely been in custody some time, has been interrogated and gone through a preliminary inquiry without access to an attorney." In the magistrates courts, he records his finding that no legal aid provision is available despite the fact that people accused in the magistrates court can "still face significant periods of imprisonment and the volumes of people getting tried in the magistrates court are much higher than in Supreme Court."

The attorney further documented the needs that exist for legal aid in other areas, including: family law (documenting that "the need is particularly acute for women leaving or trying to leave abusive relationships"); juvenile matters ("children and youth in conflict with the law are not automatically entitled to counsel. Some informants felt that legal aid in Juvenile Justice matters was an important unmet"); land/property issues (Morrison notes that land title is a "pressing problem" and people for whom generational land may be their "only significant possession" are being subject to "fraud on title or sharp practices to dispossess them or prevent them from receiving the real value of their land") and for prisoners (the US State Department regularly comments in its annual human rights report on the Bahamas that lack of access to legal counsel, which the Bahamian Prison Reform Commission estimated to affect at least 60 per cent of all inmates in 2003, contributes to "excessive pre-trial detention" as individuals do not have an advocate to push their case forward).

Mr Morrison also referred to how the archipelagic nature of The Bahamas meant that one of the "greatest challenges to legal aid services" in the Bahamas is geographical. "Many of the poorest people in the country live on the outer islands and have no effective access to any of the services available in New Providence," said Mr Morrison.

He finally states: "If the government of the Bahamas decides to establish a statutory legal aid programme, the scope and nature of that programme will determine to what extent existing needs will be met and where opportunities for supplementation will lie. If the work of the Legal Aid Commission does not lead to political action, then the need for an options for non-governmental services will be very different. Clearly, there is a huge amount of unmet need under the current system (or lack thereof), and this will not be addressed without substantial additional resources," he cautioned.

Five years on, we have seen neither the establishment of a statutory legal aid programme nor any attempt to put "substantial additional resources" into the non-governmental legal aid system.

Asked in 2008 where the government stood on legal aid and what its plans were with regards to implementing it, then minister of legal affairs Desmond Bannister told this newspaper the government "would not wish to pre-empt" the Legal Aid Commission's findings.

However, through recent interviews with the Commission's Chairman Rev. Thompson, Mr Hanna and Mr Maynard, The Tribune has discovered that it has been over three years since Rev. Thompson, called a meeting of the Commission. A draft report lays gathering dust somewhere in the attorney general's office, left unconcluded due to reported disagreements between the Commission's members over what its conclusions should be.

Both Mr Maynard and Mr Hanna, when contacted by The Tribune, expressed their view that the report was of great import and the need for legal aid remains great.

Each gave their own view of why the commission's work has thus far failed to come to fruition.

"I am so frustrated," Mr Hanna told The Tribune. "The whole thing - where we were and where we ended up is so strange. When we started out we were in real academic pursuit. We investigated all kinds of things. But somewhere along the line we changed course. I wasn't part of the changing course. I didn't make the noise I would usually make. We got diverted and I blame that on the Commission itself, not on the government," he said.

Mr Hanna cited disagreements between himself and Mr Maynard over what recommendations the final report should contain as the reason for the stalemate.

"Compiling the report took a toll on me," said the lawyer. "I don't intend to do anymore writing. I think it's unfair. I think they should get a ghostwriter to look at it and come to a consensus."

In the three years since the commission last meeting, Mr Maynard has remained busy at the local and international level pushing forward the pro-bono agenda. His firm, Maynard and Co, facilitates a legal aid clinic once every month where Bahamians with legal problems seek free advice.

He authored the International Bar Association's Pro-Bono Declaration which was accepted unanimously by the International Bar last year in Buenos Aires, Argentina. "It talks about pro-bono work and the necessity of it," explained Mr Maynard.

His "Pro-Bono Declaration" also speaks to the fact that even where a national bar association is active in ensuring its members provide some pro bono services to their communities, such activities "do not purport to replace the obligation by a government to support the human rights of its people by providing legal aid or counsel," Mr Maynard explained.

Mr Maynard, a former Bar Association President, added: "I'm not sure what's holding up the report. I've noticed some omissions in it and I'd like to see those things that are omitted in it, and I'm prepared to put them in if necessary. But I'm not the Chair, I'm just a member."

The Commission's chair, Reverend William Thompson, who is responsible for calling meetings of the Commission, somewhat surprisingly said he too was "disappointed" the commission did not conclude its work and was not quite sure why it did not. "We definitely do need a legal aid system," said Rev. Thompson. "That's why we went about our work with such tenacity."

As the government continues to wait on a report whose authors have not sat down together in three years, we are today no closer to ensuring that the average Bahamian with a salary of $200 a week has as much ability to see their rights protected as a top earning Bahamian, notwithstanding pronunciations of commitment to upholding this ideal by those with the power to do something about it.

Of course, Legal Aid is not the be all and end all of society's problems - people need legal help because things have already gone wrong - but it is an important human rights issue that affects so many Bahamians' quality of life directly, and can affect each of our lives indirectly when we live in a society that allows its weakest members to be violated and to go on violating without recourse because of their status in society. What is most ironic and sad that in many ways it is those who often most need legal advice have the least access to it.

There is, however, one bright light amongst the bureaucratic and political darkness on this issue: the Eugene Dupuch Legal Aid Clinic. Housed in a small office in Oakes Field, the Clinic is in fact primarily intended as an instrument of education -- the place where second year students taking their Bar course go to get hands on experience of being a lawyer. And it is, according to the students, an excellent but steep learning curve. As the only institution that has offered free legal advice and representation to indigent Bahamians on a consistent basis - doing so for the last ten years - its director, tutors, pupils and students have taken a hefty caseload and moral burden onto their shoulders over the years.

Each student regularly takes on up to 20 cases - on matters ranging most commonly from women and children's issues like divorce, child maintenance and abuse, to land matters, labour matters and criminal cases. These students have handled a wider variety of legal issues in their first few months at the clinic than many lawyers will see in a lifetime and it puts them at the top of the list when it comes to case load per student for all law schools in the Caribbean - where, for example, in Jamaica and Barbados the legal aid clinics operate in a system where a government legal aid programme also exists. Under the guidance of committed tutors like attorneys Clive Guy and Elsworth Johnson, along with current acting director, former Justice Jeanne Thompson and director Dion Hanna (on sabbatical), the students work diligently to push these matters forward while simultaneously studying and working towards their final year exams.

Social services, the police, Members of Parliament, and even lawyers themselves who find their clients can't pay their fees, all send people to the Clinic for help.

Mr Johnson said: "You get women who've been battered, boys and girls who've been abused in our society, people who have land issues, registered conveyancing, generation property issues. You wouldn't have this whole issue where people are being dispossessed because you'd provide a way for them to get these properties (if there were more access to legal aid). But instead you have people being constantly dispossessed. And that's not even looking at the issues with the police or with personal injury matters."

Clive Guy talks about the "dilemma" he and the students feel when members of the public come in with serious matters, even when the Clinic is faced with funding shortfalls and has as much as it can handle on its hands.

He said: "There's a tremendous demand for legal aid. The problem we've been having at times is that our students have case loads of up to 20 to 25 cases. Now with all your other work and doing that, you can understand why that became quite a strain."

"But when someone comes in impoverished and they want help, really this is it when it comes to access to justice. This is not something that you do because it's a nice thing to do, you do it because it's essential. When you're talking about peace, order and good governance in society, having a legal structure where anyone regardless of your position in society, your ethnic background, can have free and just access to the court, legal aid becomes an essential pillar of that," said Mr Guy.

Because of a shortage of financial resources - the Clinic is funded by the law school - and given the huge demand for the service they provide, Mr Johnson estimates that as many as 80 per cent of the people who come into the clinic who do in fact appear to have cases have to be simply turned away. They may be put on a waiting list and contacted later in some cases, but they cannot be helped then.

Mr Johnson and Mr Guy have politely suggested that given the extent to which, not only is the clinic providing a valuable civic service, but to which even government agencies like Social Services and lawmakers such as parliamentarians themselves refer individuals to the clinic - aware of the assistance it can provide - it would only be fair for some additional resources to be channeled their way.

"The resources are very little but a lot is done from the clinic so it shows the potential if the clinic had (more money)," said Mr Guy.

Such funds could help pay the small, but in some cases insurmountable fees required by the Princess Margaret Hospital, for example, in cases where people have been injured on the job or in a car crash and are seeking compensation. The lawyer must review the medical records, but if the client can't afford to obtain them to start with, there's not much that can be done.

While the students work diligently for no financial reward, it is in some cases simple obstacles like finding money to pay the filing fee for a legal document in court which can stop a matter in its tracks. Meanwhile, based in Nassau the Clinic - although it does occasionally take up family island matters and takes its students to the islands to do clinics - is difficult for people in the out islands to access (its director, Dion Hanna Jr, is currently on Sabbatical writing an entire book focusing on the question of access to legal services for family islanders).

Some cases, which have a good chance of success, have to be turned away so that others that are considered an "emergency" can be dealt with immediately.

"The policy is that if a lady comes in and there's a serious matter where you've got to go get a protection order or a child issue that is urgent we have to respond to that," explained Mr Johnson.

Mr Johnson, a passionate advocate of legal aid who is in a better position than many to speak of the need for an expansion of legal aid in the Bahamas, says that the role of legal aid in a society boils down to "the rule of law or the rule of the jungle."

"If you want a 21st century administration of justice system legal aid has to play a critical role. These governments should be ashamed of themselves. I don't think they're really serious about the real issues that affect this country because if you come into legal aid you will see everything. Children that have been abused, men, women, people who have housing issues, people who just can't access the law. Almost everything is governed by the law. "

"Legal aid in our society is that valve that allows people to access the justice system so they have some degree of confidence in and they don't go and then take matters into their own hands. There is an urgent need for it," he said.

The challenge for students is not just to make sure they get good grades in an intellectually-demanding subject, it is to deal with the reality of funding limitations at the Clinic.

"We are limited in terms of our supplies - for example we only have two computers (for around 35 students who must spend considerable amounts of time typing up legal documents). We are limited in terms of space. We are here every day of the week, except Wednesday, when students go to court. We need material to work with. When the centre gets full we don't have enough interviewing rooms. If it's an ordinary day and persons must wait around, when it gets really full there are only about two rooms and persons are standing because there are no seats to sit down. The place is already small, then it becomes very cramped and very tight. For me that's the hardest part," said a second year student.

Law pupil Ambrosine Huyler, who came back to the Clinic after passing her law exams said her two-year experience there has "really opened (her) eyes to the need in our community for a national legal aid programme."

"Although the legal aid clinic has tried to assist as many persons as it can we just cannot assist everyone who walks through this door at this time because we don't have the funding to do it.

"Most of the people who come here are unemployed, referred to the clinic by the court, many of them have been women seeking divorces, so they don't have their husband to rely on. There are so many different types of matters and we just don't have the funding, so there's a waiting list and unless the case is one that is urgent sometimes you just can't take it on."

"A lot of times you have instances like that where your hands are tied. You want to help a client but we don't have the funding here. I feel a great weight because you would want to help everyone who works through the door," explained Ms Huyler.

The Eugene Dupuch Legal Aid Clinic wasn't always the only place people could go on a consistent basis to seek cheaper or free legal advice or representation. The Bahamas Bar itself, which governs the legal profession and to which all practising lawyers in the Bahamas are members, used to do more than it does today by most accounts. This is despite the fact that its ranks have swelled in the meantime - by over 300 more lawyers in the last three years to over 1,000.

In his IADB report, Ian Morrison notes in 2005 that the Bahamas Bar "made a commitment" to facilitating increased pro-bono activities by its lawyers, but the "overall commitment appears to be less than at some points."

Mr Morrison adds that while the Bar Association did operate a legal aid clinic in the past, which was faced with "heavy demand", the clinic is "no longer operating at much capacity."

All the more depressing is one of the reasons for this: Mr Morrison claims the Bar Association administrator at the time expressed their "reluctance to make referrals...because of complaints that lawyers to whom clients were referred charged fees or did not otherwise act in accordance with the pro bono understanding" - in other words, needy people were getting short changed.

"Although the BA does formally endorse and encourage pro-bono work by its members, this is not currently reflected in much organized pro bono," the Canadian lawyer said. He noted also the fact that many Bahamian lawyers, for several reasons, have tended to specialise in commercial law over other areas, which would put the burden of pro-bono for criminal work on a relatively small number of lawyers.

The Tribune was unable to reach current Bahamas Bar Association President Ruth Bowe Darville, who became President last year, for comment on where the BA stands on legal aid at present although anecdotal evidence suggests not much has changed since 2005.

If you ask Mr Hanna, he feels the fact that the Bar Association is not more active in encouraging and facilitating pro-bono work by its members is less to do with a lack of organization than a lack of character on behalf of some Bahamian lawyers.

"I don't think the legal profession has reached the stage of maturity where they are willing to sacrifice," said Mr Hanna.

Nonetheless, Mr Johnson sees it as important that lawyers should "give back" to the community that provides so much wealth and opportunity for many of them.

"You make your living from the community so you should give back. It doesn't take much. A lot of times people just want advice. Sometimes you just have to say I hear your concerns and your issues and you don't have a case," he said.

Mr Hanna goes a step further, proposing that if lawyers do not want to "give back" through the provision of services rendered, they should pay a fee to the Bar Association every year towards the cost of some other lawyer doing so. Such propositions were among those considered by the Legal Aid Commission of which he was a member.

One can understand the arguments of a politician against instituting a legal aid system in The Bahamas today. For one, it will be costly. The Bahamas is a developing country where many citizens experience situations that could ultimately put them in a position to need legal advice. Under a government funded system, people will have to be hired and paid to provide that advice to those many people. Meanwhile, we are already experiencing backlogs in our judicial system. If free legal advice and representation were available, more cases would go to court (because more people would gain access to the system) and cases in court might take longer to adjudicate, because a person who has a lawyer is less likely to be quickly dispatched to prison or to have their matter quickly ruled upon without all the relevant facts being raised and considered.

It is likely that with some of these factors in mind, the Government has said it doesn't have the money to institute a legal aid programme now. I would put the issue another way: With everything considered, can we afford not to do so? The basic rights of our people remain but words in a document that has little relevance to them if we do not provide mechanisms for their enforcement and those whose rights are trampled under foot can often become hopeless and helpless - which can be a dangerous thing.

If we cannot afford to implement an entirely new system, why not provide more funding for systems that are in place - like the Eugene Dupuch Legal Aid Clinic. Or push for the completion of the Legal Aid Commission's report so that preparation can be made to take progressive steps when "revenue permits"? At present this writer found that there is "nought but the sound of gentle silence", as former Justice Jeanne Thompson put it, to be heard with regard to any progress on the issue.

The onus of providing legal aid could be shared more fairly by the Eugene Dupuch Legal Aid Clinic, the Government and the Bahamas Bar Association if the members of the latter of these two institutions would step up to the plate on the issue. An excellent starting point for further progress would be the completion and consideration of the Legal Aid Commission's report.

April 19, 2010


Friday, April 23, 2010

Ryan Pinder misses first chance to vote as a Member of Parliament

Ryan Pinder misses first chance to vote as MP
Tribune Staff Reporter

DESPITE enduring heavy criticism for having voted in the United States but never in the Bahamas, Ryan Pinder has yet to cast a vote in his homeland - missing his first chance as the newly-elected MP for Elizabeth.

Mr Pinder is again taking flack for his voting record, this time because he passed up the opportunity to formally support the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Bill in Parliament on Wednesday.

The MP defended his absence yesterday, saying he had a previous engagement, and pointed out that he expressed his support for the Bill during the House debate, describing it as a "fundamental component" of achieving the results he promised to his constituents during his campaign in terms of training small business development.

He went on to declare his intention to vote "every time" in the House of Assembly; however the FNM were quick to point out that so far, the new MP's parliamentary voting record stands at "0 for 1".

Carl Bethel, the FNM chairman and MP for Seabreeze, said he and some of his colleagues had planned to stand and applaud Mr Pinder when it came time for the House to take a vote on the Bill.

He said the MP was noticeably absent from the lower chamber, which led to an outburst of laughter from the governing side.

"We were ready to stand and cheer," Mr Bethel exclaimed. "Because finally he would have voted in the Bahamas. But alas we were denied that privilege.

"We can only hope that before this legislative year is over, Mr Pinder would have exercised his constitutional right," Mr Bethel quipped.

Addressing the chairman's remarks, Mr Pinder said he intends to vote "every time" he is required to in the House of Assembly. However, as for Wednesday's session, the Elizabeth MP said he had a previous speaking engagement that was set "a long time before the legislative session was set out."

"I support the BTVI Bill, and I have expressed that in the House and would vote in favour it. So I don't understand what (Mr Bethel) means. I wouldn't understand why they would jump up and down on a piece of legislation. It sounds juvenile to me and certainly sounds like they are preoccupied with Ryan Pinder and not the business of running this country," Mr Pinder shot back.

However, the MP's former rival for the Elizabeth constituency said that it appears Mr Pinder's priorities are not in the right place.

Dr Duane Sands said: "I think it's a bit disappointing that after waiting such a long time for representation, at the first opportunity that the people of Elizabeth would have a chance to have their voices heard on an important vote, their representative was not available."

Looking forward to the rest of the legislative year, Dr Sands said he hoped the people of Elizabeth's concerns would attract more attention from their MP.

Speaking on the matter before the vote, Mr Pinder told the House he supports the Bill, and hoped it wasn't "too little, too late".

He said: "I support it, Mr Speaker, because I promised my constituents, the good constituents of Elizabeth that I am a 21st century politician, focused on training and small business development.

"This Bill is a fundamental component to achieving these goals, short term and long term.

"This Bill is the crux in developing the skills labour necessary to build today's Bahamas and to ensure economic expansion on a sustained basis from among a segment of our society who may never get the opportunity to travel beyond these borders for tertiary education. So on behalf of the good people of Elizabeth, I lend my support to this Bill which is long overdue."

April 23, 2010


Dr Bernard Nottage: ... "far too many Bahamians" leave school without the necessary skills either to join the workforce or go on to further education

School leavers 'in skills crisis'
Tribune Staff Reporter

SOCIETY is in crisis as "far too many Bahamians" leave school without the necessary skills either to join the workforce or go on to further education, MP for Bain and Grants Town Dr Bernard Nottage said.

Speaking in parliament yesterday, the MP suggested the Bahamian population is "not as literate as we claim to be" and an "urgent review" of the education system is in order.

He went on to claim that the education system must be "placed in the hands of visionaries and social reformers" if it is to play the socially transformative role that is necessary to help The Bahamas escape the "disastrous" situation it finds itself in.

Dr Nottage made his comments in the context of the debate in the House of Assembly on the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute Bill, which seeks to deliver independence to the technical training school by incorporating it and placing it under the governance of a Board made up of public and private sector-based individuals.

The Government introduced the Bill as one which will enhance the reputation of the institution and cause it to create graduates who are more relevant to today's economy.

Dr Nottage "congratulated" the Government on the Bill, welcoming the fact that it removes political interference from the administration of the institution after 61 years of its existence, but said it must be looked at in the context of the Bahamian educational system as a whole.

The PLP MP said that despite successive governments investing an "extremely large" proportion of the country's national income on education and expanding enrollment over the years, the country's "national patrimony and wealth" is being "squandered as more and more Bahamians pass through a system which does not effectively prepare them for the mastery of their environment in our Bahamas."

He lamented that "quantitative" rather than "qualitative" improvements have been made to the system.

"Having once been the railroad to social mobility and liberation" education in The Bahamas is in need of "urgent review" and a "broad range of innovations," said the MP.

Illustrating his point, Dr Nottage suggested the Bahamas is "fooling itself" when it comes to its levels of educational literacy as many people lack basic knowledge when they leave school.

"We need to look carefully at general and basic literacy. We know the truth tells us we are not as literate as we claim to be, particular at mathematics and elementary understanding of science, which is absolutely necessary for success in today's economy," he said.

Referring to the "poor or unsatisfactory BGCSE results" which have hovered at a D or D- average for some time, he said these "are nothing less than the festering tip of an even greater problem."

"Far too many Bahamians leave school prepared for neither further education or for the workplace. And I say now as I said a decade ago disaster looms - in fact disaster is here...because of our failure to take decisive action."

"It is my deep-seated belief that Bahamian society is in crisis," he continued.

He linked this situation to a "too long" existing tendency to study problems but not act, mentioning in particular the failure to implement the recommendations of a 1992 report on the post secondary education system which he suggested could have helped the country avoid ending up in the position he claims it now finds itself in.

"As we go forward education can play one of two roles. On the one hand it can reflect and enforce and reproduce the existing social order with all of its injustices and failures and its tendency towards chaos or we can place the educational system in the hands of visionaries and social reformers and it can be used as a major weapon for social transformation.

"I'm sure all of us would choose the latter but it does requires us to give up some of the reigns and some of the control, allow those who are best suited to doing so to run these systems."

He said that it is with this need for politicians to step back from the decision-making process as it relates to education that he supported the BTVI Bill, which increases the independence of that institutions as it relates to its curriculum, hiring, student admissions and awards, among other things.

April 22, 2010


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Branville McCartney: I wouldn't want to be a Cabinet minister anymore

By JASMIN BONIMY ~ Guardian Staff Reporter ~

Former Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney said yesterday he would not be seeking another Cabinet post even if the Free National Movement wins the next general election.

McCartney resigned from Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's Cabinet on February 28. The Bamboo Town member of Parliament said he has no regrets about leaving the post.

"From the political point of view I would like to see the FNM win the next elections," McCartney said. "They have done a tremendous job and their work is not finished. I wouldn't want to be a Cabinet minister anymore but of course I would be there to assist in any way I can to help the party to win the next election."

McCartney added that giving up his time-consuming post has allowed him to concentrate on other areas of his life.

"It's been going good," he said. "I've been spending a lot of time in Bamboo Town and as you can see there are numerous things going on in Bamboo Town. I've had a lot of time to spend with my family, fishing, and traveling. So it's been good."

Sources close to McCartney said he had been planning to resign since January, but stayed on because he didn't want to hurt the FNM's chances in the Elizabeth by-election in February. The party's candidate Dr. Duane Sands lost by three votes to the Progressive Liberal Party's Ryan Pinder.

Shortly after he announced he was stepping down, McCartney told The Nassau Guardian that despite his resignation he remained committed to the FNM and would continue to be loyal to the leadership of Prime Minister Ingraham.

Now weeks after he resigned, he said there has been no backlash from the decision as he continues to share a cordial relationship with his FNM peers.

"You have a right to resign," he said. "It may have been a shock to some persons but for me it was well thought out. I haven't received any tension from any of my former Cabinet ministers, the prime minister or any officer of the party. It's been very cordial."

McCartney reiterated that he believes the FNM is the party best suited to govern the country through tough economic times

And while McCartney would not say if he was eyeing the FNM's top post, The Guardian understands that he has been considered by some people as a front-runner for the leadership of the FNM in the future.

"I want to continue to serve the country to my best at a position where I can speak from my heart and speak to what I think is best, good and right," McCartney said. "So I'm at a good place right now. So whatever comes we will see."

April 22, 2010


Gaming advocates want full gambling reform

Tribune Staff Reporter

GAMING advocates are applauding the government for its decision to consider legalising the popular Bahamian pastime of playing "numbers".

However, some are of the opinion that government should go even further and reform the Gaming and Lotteries Act to also legalise casino gambling for all Bahamians.

"I think legalising the numbers game is a step in the right direction of course, but it is just one step. As an international person myself I have a lot of friends and guests who come here and go to the casino. It is embarrassing as a law abiding citizen to have to walk through the casino with my hands in my pockets," said Lincoln Bain, equal rights advocate, media personality and entrepreneur.

Mr Bain said the Bahamian public should not be fooled into thinking a referendum is needed to decide this matter.

He said Section 67J of the Lotteries and Gaming Act, which states that the minister responsible has the power to "make regulations regulating and restricting the admission of persons on premises licensed under this Act", is proof of this.

"The minister can wake up and say Bahamians can gamble. Only people making $50,000 per year can gamble; only Bahamians who have never been bankrupt, or Bahamians who have not been diagnosed with a gambling problem. He can also blacklist persons who are deemed unfit," said Mr Bain.

Last week the Free National Movement said the its council and parliamentarians favoured legalising gambling as it would bring major financial benefits to the government.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the government was consulting on the matter, although no final decision has been made.

Local advocates, like the Bahamas Gaming Reform (BGR) agree. In a press statement, the committee noted the new regulations could generate thousands of jobs and millions in incremental revenue for the government.

"In spite of the heavy sighs of relief from many quarters of the country, anything short of complete reform (permitting Bahamians to be stakeholders and players in our casino) will be an affront to Bahamians and only deepen the social divide as foreigners will again be afforded more privileges in this country," said Sidney Strachan, BGR spokesperson.

"With any progress there is going to be adverse affects. Hotel developments have a negative side. Progress always brings that. I am waiting on someone to show me any other country in the world where the entire moral fabric of the country was broken down or where there has been less productivity as a result of gambling. I am not sure where those people are getting their data from," said Mr Strachan.

The GBR has not been granted an audience with the prime minister, although representatives said they have spoken to Minister of Tourism and Aviation, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the minister responsible for gaming.

While the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA) supports the concept of a national lottery and the legalisation of the numbers business, it is maintaining its opposition to total access to casinos for Bahamians.

"The BHA believes that gambling can and should be supported and expanded. We have presented a variety of positions to the competent authorities in government on gambling.

"The primary areas would have a direct incremental impact on the competitiveness of our business and allow access to new games and items present in international markets," said Robert Sands, BHA president.

Some of the recommendations made by the BHA relate to the Gaming Board's approval processes and initiatives to allow junket representatives, entertainers, and permanent residents with a certain level of net worth to gamble.

Mr Bain said there should be one moral standard for gambling. He said if the churches believe gambling is wrong they "should be in front of the casinos picketing".

"There should not be a law that allows some people to gamble but not all. There would not be a law to allow tourists to smoke marijuana and prohibit Bahamians, or for tourists to run the red light and not Bahamians. The whole law is ludicrous and reminiscent of the 1950s and 1960s segregation area," said Mr Bain.

April 21, 2010


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Government to issue four numbers licences

Govt to issue four numbers licences
Tribune Staff Reporter

LOCAL number operators will reportedly be asked to put up a $5 million cash bond before they are issued with one of what is reported to be only four issued licences.

As the government is currently mulling over whether or not to legalize the local lottery business, reports have started to surface as to how regulators would go about issuing licences for an industry that is already flooded with large and small scale operators.

Currently, there exists four main local number houses - FML, Asue Draw, NWS and Island Luck - that make up the majority of sales in New Providence and in most Family Islands, with eight smaller number operators filling in the gaps. Of the four larger entities, FML remains by far the most dominate force on which other, smaller, number houses "bank" their daily tickets as insurance against any possible "big hit" for a given day.

With the daily payouts having dropped in the past week from $900 to $800 for the dollar played during the Early Miami, Early Chicago, and Early New York lottos, local number operators have expressed their fears that the government could be "unfairly" manipulating the requirements to "price out" the majority of the current operators.

Currently it is being rumoured that each number operator would be required, along with the $5 million bond, to pay out to the government a certain percentage of their annual rake as a "fee", along with the actual cost of the licence which is said to be anywhere in the "six figure" range.

Also, it is being said that in their initial discussions on the matter it has already been proposed to limit the possibility of licences to "three or four", instead of a full-scale opening of the current market.

This report, however, is being frowned upon by many "smaller" number operators who fear that these requirements are being "hiked out of proportion" to limit access to the market, or in fact even open it up for "other more politically connected persons" to enter the field.

Speaking with The Tribune yesterday, one small number operator said that he fears he will not be able to stay in the business as there is no way he could come up with $5 million.

"That price is ridiculous. I've been in the business for a little while, and I want to remain in the business. Right now I have 32 people employed and for me to come up with that big bond, I could never make that.

"I don't feel that they should only give certain people a licence and kick everybody else out. If the government wants us to contribute $10,000 for every six months from every number house, that should be enough. Or whatever fee they want to impose, but to knock everybody out and only give a certain set a licence, that isn't fair. I don't see how the government could do that," he said.

While the government through Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has voiced its support for discussions on the matter of legalizing the industry, there has been little to no further discussion since.

In fact, when The Tribune attempted to reach a number of officials at the Ministry of Finance on the topic, we were informed that "no one" at their offices would be authorized to speak on "that issue" at this time.

April 21, 2010


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

FNM's Women's Association distances itself from senior FNM women's letter to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham

FNM's Women's Association distances itself from letter to PM
By CANDIA DAMES ~ Guardian News Editor ~

The Free National Movement's Women's Association made it clear yesterday that it had no part in a letter written to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham late last month by a group of senior women in the FNM.

As reported by The Nassau Guardian yesterday, the women who wrote the letter had been trying to cause the appointment of former FNM minister Janet Bostwick as governor general.

The group of senior women also raised concerns about the "disappearance" of FNM women from prominent positions in national life.

The Women's Association said it respects the sole right and privilege of the prime minister to appoint the governor general and congratulated Sir Arthur Foulkes on his appointment to the highest office in the land.

"During his many years of distinguished public service, Sir Arthur helped to pave the way for the greater equality of all Bahamians, including that of women," the association said.

The FNM Women's Association acknowledged "the tremendous" record of Prime Minister Ingraham on behalf of all Bahamian women, including when his efforts were at times unpopular.

"This includes his appointment of women to many significant posts, as well as landmark legislation on a variety of issues related to the ending of discrimination against women," the statement said.

"The FNM Women's Association is proud of our own record and that of the broader FNM with regards to the empowerment of our Bahamian sisters. We will continue to advance the cause of women and families. In this regard, we will also continue to promote excellent female candidates for national office. We will do so as a united group, committed to the great ideals of our party and the values of our founders."

Former FNM Minister Theresa Moxey-Ingraham, who spoke in an interview with The Guardian yesterday, also recognized Sir Arthur's contributions to the party and the nation and stressed that the women who wrote the letter respect him highly and were not attacking him.

The letter was written more than two weeks before his appointment was announced and never mentioned his name. Moxey-Ingraham along with former MPs Italia Johnson (also the first female speaker), and Jaunianne Dorsett and other women in the party signed the letter.

"Sir Arthur has his place in Bahamian history," Moxey-Ingraham said yesterday. "He has his place in the building and forward development of our party and has his place in the hearts of all Bahamians. This was never meant to be an attack on him or his achievements in any way - not at all."

Explaining why the group of women wrote the letter to Ingraham, she said, "As a part of an organization we feel very strongly the need to express our opinion on any matter that is of relevance to our party. We've earned our place and earned the right to speak and we thought it important to do so. We didn't necessarily think we would change his (the prime minister's) opinion. In fact, as we all know, the appointment in many, many instances is the prime minister's appointment and we knew that an appointment had already been made. We felt the need to express how we felt about it."

Moxey-Ingraham said it is unacceptable that there is only one woman in Ingraham's Cabinet — Loretta Butler-Turner, minister of state for social development.

"We had a particular level of national profile and national prominence that has been diminished to a significant degree," she said. "Any empty FNM seats in the Senate have not been filled by women. The two ladies who departed from the Cabinet (Elma Campbell and Claire Hepburn) their positions were filled by men.

"Again, [this is] nothing to do with the achievements or the accomplishments of the men who filled those places. The whole idea though is that if we're talking about a nation where equality is of value then special effort needs to be made to bring women to levels of national prominence, and we are concerned about that in general."

Moxey-Ingraham recognized the role Ingraham played in the advancement of women in The Bahamas, but said the group who wrote to him wants affirmative action for women.

"We were very appreciative that he did respond and what he claimed in the letter is true; those are historical facts. He played a great role in promoting women to positions of prominence, positions of high responsibility and under his first administration women were highly prominent..." she said.

"We still want more. There is so much more to be achieved. Women have so much further to go and they will not be able to get there if they cannot at least get to the first step which is somebody acknowledging that you are worthy and worthwhile [to] move forward."

Asked to expand on the group's claim in its letter that Prime Minister Ingraham had callously dismissed a request for an audience with him, Moxey Ingraham said, "We consider ourselves serious enough. We consider our service serious enough and worthwhile enough to be granted an audience with the party leader... When you get the message back that indicates 'you're not important enough. I can't be bothered with you', that doesn't make you feel very good as a founding member, a prominent member, a serious, hard-working contributor over the years to a party.

"And from a party leader it left us very disappointed."

Moxey-Ingraham said she felt insulted and was not satisfied with the prime minister's response as he did not provide any assurances that this affirmative action will be adopted moving forward.

April 20, 2010


Monday, April 19, 2010

Privy Council could hear review of [Elizabeth by-election] Election Court decision

Privy Council could hear review of Election Court decision
By KRYSTEL ROLLE ~ Guardian Staff Reporter ~

The review of the Election Court decision handed down last month, validating all of the protest votes in the Elizabeth by-election, could go to the Privy Council, Attorney General John Delaney told The Nassau Guardian recently.

The Office of the Attorney General is currently conducting a review of the decision, which was handed down in favor of the Progressive Liberal Party and its Elizabeth candidate Ryan Pinder on March 23.

"We're having a look to see what avenues might exist with respect to any possibility of having a judicial review with respect to the point of law to the ruling," Delaney said last week.

"Of course there is the position on the statute that on the election court there is no appeal from it. So it's analysis that is presently being done. We'll have to take a look to see whether it is possible to have a review sometime by the Privy Council.

Hours after the decision of the Election Court, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the Office of the Attorney General will review the ruling.

The justices validated all of the five protest votes cast in Pinder's favor in the February 16 by-election, resulting in him winning by three votes.

But Ingraham indicated that the Free National Movement has concerns about the reasoning behind the decision.

"We were surprised by the reasoning for the decision of the Election Court," Ingraham said. "It is outside anything we have known up to now as to the meaning of our law. We will therefore have the Office of the Attorney General undertake a review of the decision so that determinations can be made as to the extent to which any consideration ought to be given to either amending the law or calling upon a higher court to determine the validity of the reasoning issued by the court.

"It is our purpose and intent to ensure that orderly, fair and predictable elections are held in The Bahamas."

Delaney told The Guardian that the review could result in recommendations for changes to be made to the law.

"If there is to be a review, the venues might be a review of a point of law or sometime akin to a judicial review type thing," he said. "But it's really premature for me to speculate on that at this time because, as I said, we're just taking a look to see about possibilities in that connection."

In the Speech from the Throne read on Wednesday by newly-appointed Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes, the government pledged to bring legislation to amend the Parliamentary Elections Act.

An official from the Office of the Attorney General told The Guardian that the review would be done in short order.

The official, who did not want to be named, said the review would be conducted to determine what, if any amendments needs to be made to the Parliamentary Elections Act.

"The government asked that we conduct a review and in short order, whatever changes if at all would be communicated to Cabinet and Cabinet would seek to have those changes, if such are recommended to legislation, whatever legislation in the form of an amendment, would be brought to the House of Assembly."

He stressed that a judicial review is not the same as an appeal.

"An appeal might make certain findings, it might overturn certain things that may exist," said the official. "A judicial review or reference makes findings but there is nothing that can be done. So the review can determine that the decision made was not in accordance with the law but it can't overturn the decision or ruling made."


Time to be realistic about gambling

tribune242 Editorial:

TO GAMBLE or not to gamble, that is the question.

Former prime minister Perry Christie believes that to legalise "the numbers business" in the Bahamas would have "enormous implications" for the tourism industry as well as "deep social implications."

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has met with the Christian Council, which really represents the Baptist voice, a voice that is rigidly against gambling in any form -- as a matter of fact it is a tenet of their religion. However, there are other churches -- the Catholics in particular -- that use a benign form of gambling - bingo and raffles -- to raise funds to help operate their schools and various other organisations.

From time to time the police have raided the various numbers houses -- including the largest one of all, the Flowers enterprise-- vowing that as long as gambling remains on the statute books they are going to enforce the law and stamp it out.

And then there are the people, who are making a fool of them all. The numbers game has become a part of their religion, and police or no police, law or no law, they intend to play the numbers. Why even police officers have been seen at the numbers window waiting to take their chance. And we know of Baptists who have asked for birth dates, hoping that playing those dates will flip a few extra coins in their pockets.

Meanwhile, crime grows in our communities and society needs protection. There are not enough police officers to go around, so the Christian Council will have to make up its mind and face reality. Do these men of the cloth want the police to chase the numbers man, and his patrons, or the gun-toting criminal who breaks into their homes, steals, rapes and murders? A realistic choice has to be made.

The Council is adamant that gambling should be stamped out, rather than legalised and controlled. The numbers racket has been allowed to go on far too long in this county, so long that even a police state would find it impossible to suppress it. If government listens to the Council, nothing will be done and the street corner numbers racket and Flowers' more sophisticated operation will continue to flourish. The people will continue to make a fool of the law, and the police will be stretched thin in trying to chase both the harmless and the vicious criminal. It is now time that the Christian Council faces reality.

In discussing the matter in the House of Assembly this was Prime Minister's Ingraham's realistic view of the situation:

"Now, Mr Speaker, this society on a Sunday morning, you go to the gaming houses, to Flowers and those places, and it is like a bank on payday - government payday. They are set-up like a bank, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of places. Well, either we believe that it is illegal, or we believe that it should be legal," said Mr Ingraham.

"I told the commissioner of police last week, that it seems to me that we are unable to enforce that law, and that I was going to give consideration to legalizing the numbers business. Of course he didn't support me in that thinking, but the reality is that it is not an enforceable law. And the society is doing it everyday. There is webshop here, and a webshop there, all over the island," said the prime minister.

The phenomenon of webshops - gaming houses - have now spread across the Family Islands, noted Mr Ingraham, to places such as Abaco, Exuma and Bimini. He said of the phenomenon, "it's nationwide."

As it cannot be controlled, then manage it, and tax it to the point that its revenue can benefit all of the Bahamian people. Education, the medical facilities and sports all desperately need an infusion of funds to improve their services to the nation.

In Barbados, for example, the national lottery is made up of the Barbados Olympic Association, the Barbados Cricket Association, the Barbados Turf Club and the National Sports Council.

It was announced that GTECH Holdings Corporation has a management agreement to operate and manage the Barbados Lottery. During the 18-year agreement GTECH expects to generate revenues between $80 and $100 million.

Can one imagine what government could do with such funds?

The Bahamian people have already decided the issue. Regardless of the law, they intend to play their numbers. It would be better for all of society if this game of chance were decriminalized, taken in out of the cold and controlled by the laws of the land.

April 19, 2010


Ranking Women in the FNM have expressed alarm to PM Hubert Ingraham over the "disappearance of FNM women in prominent levels of national life"

FNM women hit out
By CANDIA DAMES ~ Guardian News Editor ~

Several senior women in the Free National Movement have expressed alarm to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham over the "disappearance of FNM women in prominent levels of national life", and said they are offended by his "callous dismissal" of their recent bid to meet with him to discuss the appointment of a governor general.

The women said they had recently become "very concerned" about several matters related to the functioning and public face of their party.

They failed in their efforts to convince the prime minister, who heads the FNM, to appoint former Cabinet minister Janet Bostwick to the high post.

Instead, Ingraham chose Sir Arthur Foulkes, who was sworn in last Wednesday.

In a letter dated March 29, 2010, the women wrote to Ingraham that they wished to express their opinions on the appointment that had been looming.

Their letter came before any announcement was made regarding Sir Arthur's appointment.

"Miss Italia Johnson (former Speaker of the House) reported to us that upon asking for an audience with you on our behalf, you told her that you had no need to be 'lobbied' on the matter," the women wrote.

"We write to express our extreme disappointment and dismay regarding this response and to say that we are offended at your callous dismissal."

Johnson and former FNM MPs Theresa Moxey-Ingraham and Jaunianne Dorsett were among the women who signed the letter to the party's leader.

The women said, "We have always considered ourselves much more than mere lobbyists in this great organization. In fact, history will reflect that from its inception, we have all played pivotal roles in the growth and development of this party and that we have successfully performed in every role.

"...We have worked diligently at every conceivable level of this party with the exception of leader, and we have carried our fair share of the burdens, responsibilities and blame that has gone into the building of a strong and successful political party.

"We are offended by the very term 'lobby'."

The women said they believe the appointment of Bostwick, an "iconic" woman in the party, to the office of governor general "is an opportunity for our party to regain some of the political prominence we enjoyed as an organization which respects and celebrates the contribution of women."

They said that in recent years, what had been perceived as a 'golden age' of prominence for FNM women in public life has turned into a wilderness period.

The women said that their numbers in Cabinet have been reduced; their numbers in the Senate have been reduced; few women have been appointed as chair or deputy of major public boards and committees, and true progress and prominence for the women in the party appears to have been stalled and "we have been dismissed and cast aside."

But in a response dated April 8, the party's leader failed to agree that FNM women were being cast aside.

"Each of you have held office in either our party or in governments which I have been privileged to lead between 1990 and 2002 and again from 2005 to the present," Ingraham wrote.

"You are no doubt aware that my dedication to equality of the sexes is not transitory nor politically motivated but rather fundamental to my belief system.

"I have never appointed women to positions of leadership or responsibility so as to appease a political faction or pander to any group. Women who serve in my administrations are held to the same standard as are their male colleagues. I have seldom been disappointed with the commitment of women to getting the job done and done well."

Ingraham told the women that he shared their view that Bostwick is worthy of every accolade that the party and government can offer, given her long years of service to the party and the party's cause of national political reform and social and economic advancement for Bahamians.

"Mrs. Bostwick was a valuable member of my Cabinet for 10 years," he noted.

"You should be aware that Mrs. Bostwick is fully aware of my personal high regard for her and of my gratitude and appreciation to her for her service to our party and to our country."

Ingraham said, "One of my greatest disappointments in public life has been my inability, and that of our party, to cause the majority of the adult Bahamian population to support the equality of the sexes in law and in practice.

"I am totally committed to the promotion of women and women's rights in our country. As the father of four daughters I can have no other view..."

Ingraham also said no one regrets more than he the dearth of women elected to the House of Assembly in the most recent general election.

"Indeed, it appeared as if we as a nation took a step backward when so many qualified and dedicated women offered by us to the electorate were rejected at the polls in 2007."

There is currently only one woman in Ingraham's Cabinet — Loretta Butler-Turner.

The only other female FNM MP is Verna Grant, who represents in Eight Mile Rock.

The Progressive Liberal Party has three female MPs — Cynthia 'Mother' Pratt, Glenys Hanna-Martin and Melanie Griffin.

In his letter to the FNM women, Ingraham said the fight to gain wide support and recognition of women must be fought in every corner of society.

"The victory will not come from political appointment but from genuine acceptance of women as viable political leaders," he said.

Referring to the controversial Marital Rape Bill, Ingraham said, "Since 2007 we have not been able to build a groundswell of support to afford married women the same level of protection against abuse by a spouse that is extended by law today to prostitutes."

The prime minister outlined his role and that of his administration — past and present — in advancing the cause of women in The Bahamas, including the appointment of the first female governor general and first female Speaker of the House of Assembly.

He ended his letter to the FNM women by advising that he proposed to appoint Sir Arthur governor general.

"Sir Arthur, who sacrificed much and who suffered long and hard in the political trenches of our country, all in the interest of furthering the cause of the Free National Movement, is now in his 80s," Ingraham wrote.

"I do not believe that we can properly postpone national recognition of his life work and sacrifice. He is most deserving of this tribute of respect and I trust that he will have the full support of the senior women of the Free National Movement."

In addition to the former female FNM MPs, the March 29 letter to Ingraham was signed by Patricia Johnson, Margaret Rodgers, Erma Williams and Althea Sands.

Apart from the "disappearance" of women in prominent positions in national life, they did not elaborate on any other concerns in their letter to their party leader.

April 19, 2010


The Bahamas needs tax and spending reform

By Youri Kemp:

I was listening to the news just recently, where Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who also is the Minister of Finance, said something to the effect that he would not lean against anyone broaching the issue of taxing the illegal numbers racket in The Bahamas, by virtue of taxing the internet cafés that are reportedly "fronts" for internet gambling businesses.

Educated at the Bahamas Baptist Community College; St Thomas University and The London School of Economics and Political Science, Youri Kemp is a Management and Development ConsultantHowever, I'm not quite sure how easy it is to tax the numbers racket through internet cafés in The Bahamas. For starters, you have to have them recognize that they are, in fact, running illegal gambling out of internet cafés -- considering that the authorities have not been able to produce solid evidence in order to prosecute anyone allegedly gambling in these establishments.

Secondly, what about the internet cafés that are legitimate internet cafés? Can't tax them... can you? Lastly, if I am running an illegal gambling racket through an internet café, then why would I want to pay taxes to the government for something I have been getting away with for so long?

Even if you put the work out for companies to bid on a national lottery, you still would be left at square one with the internet cafés that run the numbers racket and their subsequent prosecution.

It is no easy task and good luck to the persons tasked with sorting it out.

More importantly, however, if we have come to a point where we are speaking in open forum about taxing the numbers racket, seriously, it signifies that the government feels that The Bahamas is at a juncture where it needs meaningful tax reform for government revenue; the government, clearly, is not generating enough internal revenue in order to meet its obligations now; and that the prospects of meeting the debt service, is very bleak with the current system of taxation.

To be very blunt: the government has to tax. However, the term "tax reform” isn't necessarily supposed to have a negative connotation or stand for a pejorative slight of hand.

The word "tax", does evoke personal sentiments for obvious reasons and the word "reform" -- especially used by politicians -- is a code word of sorts for the refocusing of entitlements and simultaneously as a buzz word for business persons, which signifies more and unnecessary regulation. Which to business people means more time away from their business and more time dealing with a governmental agency with mentally challenged employees.

To be fair, government employees aren't mentally challenged -- although some who look like they shouldn't be makes one wonder -- and everyone doesn't understand what reform signifies -- either which way -- and no one wants to pay more taxes.

The truth is, however, The Bahamas government is in debt to over 40 percent of GDP -- with a widening deficit. Another clear fact is that The Bahamas doesn't have any streams of government revenue, other than from import taxes (where it gets over 50% of its revenue), National Insurance contributions, revenue from public corporations and government agencies and also through forms of public service charges and real estate; i.e., vehicle registration and real property tax.

Conversely, the Bahamas's tax to GDP ratio is about 18 percent. Which isn't that bad, considering Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad is at 32, 27 and 38 percent respectively. But, The Bahamas isn't just like any other Caribbean country -- we do things a little different.

Firstly, we don't produce many agricultural products for mass consumption in The Bahamas, neither do we have a large export sector in terms of people involved in exports, away from the concentrated profits some firms make.

Another concern that compounds the lack of efficient and beneficial dynamism in the market place as it relates to an optimal and targeted tax mix is the reliance of import tariffs for government revenue.

While The Bahamas does not produce over 80% of what it consumes, and with the tax system as basic as it is, it has to tax imports heavily. As a consequence, this puts consumers and more importantly, low income consumer, at a disadvantage as the tax burden is disproportionate to what they spend on taxes in relation to what larger corporations and high income earners pay. For example, a 50 percent flat tax on all consumer goods means more to someone who makes $20k per year than someone who makes $100k per year and a flat rate for business licenses, means more to the small business person than it does for a large corporation.

Moreover, large industries such as banking and shipping, are virtually untouched as it relates to taxation -- no capital gains or corporate tax. Even the export of fisheries products is untouched as they relate to export taxes.

Some may argue that these low taxes are the reason why these industries are so dynamic and successful. However, there is more to a successful enterprise than just low taxation -- location, barriers to entry and diversification, comparative and competitive advantages, come first and foremost for a successful enterprise.

More importantly, inequitable or no taxation, can be more destructive than high taxation. For political reasons, the need to keep such high-end entitlements incentivises corruption. Also, with regard to adequate funding for social programmes, people wishing to engage in such specialised enterprises face high entry costs that the consumer and subsequently the state ultimately must pay for.

Those additional barriers,decrease the tax base as persons begin to spend more of their disposable income in an effort to obtain the training and skills necessary to compete in and for what the marketplace offers, in addition to the high cost of private investment into such specialised enterprises.

What makes it worse is if the perception of risk through sacrifice made by individuals does not facilitate for the full cycle completion on endeavours. Or, the high cost for entry is private market based (cost for capital investment and cost for private education), where the government does not have a progressive, optimal tax mix and that tax mix model is not synergised to assist with the equitable development of the industry at all levels.

When such market failures occur, the government must spend on socio-economic policies that develop infrastructure and human capital.

Through all of this, I must state that the issues are more complex than just taxation. We need more bang for the buck and a re-engineering of our socio-economic programmes, in addition to doing more with respect to meaningful tax and spend policies that encourage economic growth, as well as lowering the private and public entry barriers to enterprise and skills training.

Before we begin the discussions on what forms of taxation we should have -- VAT, excise taxes, etc... -- or what types of spending we must endeavour, we must begin to frame the minds of citizens and add to the conversation of what the economic importance of tax and spending reform is and what that means to us all, as I hoped this article addressed.

April 19, 2010