Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bahamas Government has suspended the consideration process for all oil exploration and drilling applications...

Govt suspends consideration process for oil exploration
Tribune Staff Reporter

GOVERNMENT has suspended the consideration process for all oil exploration and drilling applications until the country has stringent environmental protocols in place to mitigate against a catastrophic oil well leak.

According to Environment Minister Earl Deveaux, the new stipulation comes in response to British Petroleum's (BP) devastating oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico - which threatened fragile marine ecosystems and fishing industries - and the large volume of oil exploration applications inundating the government.

"The Ministry of the Environment has suspended consideration of all applications for oil exploration and drillings in the waters of the Bahamas. The ministry seeks, by this decision, to maintain and safeguard an unpolluted marine environment for the Bahamas notwithstanding the potential financial benefits of oil explorations," said a statement released by Dr Deveaux yesterday.

The release added that all existing licenses will be reviewed to ascertain any legal entitlement for renewal.

"We are not seeking to interfere with any existing licenses and the people who have licenses know of the policy. The recent events showed us that (a) oil if it is to be found, will likely be in the marine environment and (b) we want to maintain an unpolluted environment.

"And so before we explore for oil we want to have the most stringent environmental protocols in place," said Mr Deveaux when asked to clarify this point yesterday.

BPC Ltd recently partnered with Norwegian oil heavyweight Statoil to search for oil in some 2.5 million acres in Cay Sal Bank and hold five licenses for oil exploration. The government has not issued any licenses for oil drilling in Bahamian waters.

Environment Permanent Secretary Ronald Thompson said that while the ministry has yet to draft the necessary safety protocols, government will frame its future policies around existing ones from other countries.

"We haven't drafted any but there are ones that are in existence in other places where oil is currently being harvested or explored. We will in short order review all of those and come up with what we think will be the best (policies) for the Bahamas," said Mr Thompson.

Deepwater Horizon's oil rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers, and leaking an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil from BP's underwater well.

Yesterday's statement said that calamity underscored the need for precautions.

"Given recent events involving oil exploration and the efforts to prevent pollution, this prudent safeguard is essential to preserving the most vital natural resource of the Bahamas - its environment," said the statement.

Speaking to The Tribune, Mr Deveaux said more stringent protocols could have prevented BP's disaster. "Everything we learned about BP suggests that there were a few mishaps that could have been avoided," he said.

In May, Dr Deveaux said it would be "impractical and unreasonable" for the Bahamas to shy away from oil exploration or drilling as a consequence of the environmentally devastating oil leak off the coast of the US state of Louisiana.

"The world is not going to shy away from oil because of this accident. This is not the first or the last," he said at the time.

He also said earlier that proper management of resources would be vital to any oil discovery in Bahamian waters.

August 31, 2010


Monday, August 30, 2010

Perry Christie: Brent Symonette's utterances on his administration's immigration policy have been quite confusing

Guardian News Editor

The time has long passed for the Ingraham administration to articulate a clear and consistent immigration policy, according to Opposition Leader Perry Christie.

Christie's comments came in an interview with The Nassau Guardian after Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette, who has ministerial responsibility for immigration, said in a statement that apprehension exercises will resume September 1.

A day earlier, he had said there were no plans to restart apprehensions.

Christie said Symonette's utterances on his administration's immigration policy have been quite confusing.

"It seems to me that the deputy prime minister does not have a grasp of his portfolio, given the confusion that he is bringing about in the different statements that he is making as to the intention of the ministry(of immigration)with respect to illegal immigrants,"Christie said.

"It appears that he is now being directed by persons from outside of that ministry--either the Cabinet or some other force[perhaps]the prime minister--in terms of how he is looking in his pronouncements and there is a need to become more consistent in articulating the policy. And so that has resulted in a comical kind of development in one of the most pressing and urgent issues confronting the country."

Symonette faced similar controversy relating to his portfolio earlier this year when he contradicted Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's announced policies that undocumented Haitian migrants who came to The Bahamas after the January earthquake in Haiti would be charged before the courts with illegal landing.

Asked by The Nassau Guardian what would happen to a group of Haitian migrants who landed in The Bahamas not long after, Symonette said they would most likely be released.

Within hours they were taken to court and charged with illegal landing. The migrants were later repatriated.

Christie said there are various important reasons why a clear immigration policy must be outlined.

"It is very, very important that the country has articulated for it the policy of The Bahamas government with respect to the illegal immigration situation here in The Bahamas, especially at a time when we are discussing the proposed Baha Mar development, which contemplates thousands of work permits which already, I think, embraces the full understanding that immigrants are now a full part of the construction force in the country and that if we are going to in fact have the maximum benefit of a Baha Mar development, it has to take into consideration the government's policy as it is now working and as it will affect the construction industry,"he said.

"The Bahamas, faced with the level of unemployment, which is in itself related to the increasing crime, needs to have a clear, and coherent policy which we all can embrace and that is what we call upon the minister of immigration to do, to get it right with his colleagues and then come to the country and articulate a policy that makes sense to the country and one in which the community of immigrants who have become(legal)residents of our country can also themselves be a part of enforcing."

The Opposition leader recognized that successive administrations have been faced with the politics of immigration. He said immigration policies sometimes result in fear and concern and the loss of support among an increasing voting bloc--the Haitian community.

"This is a very difficult subject that at the best of times governments walk gingerly in dealing with issues relating to immigration, but it is an incredibly serious issue that will impact the future of our country and we need to have unanimity among the political directorate. There ought to be no division between the parties on what the policy of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas is,"Christie said."We need to be able to agree on an issue of that kind, to discuss it nationally and agree because it is an incredibly serious issue and one that is not going away. And the longer we take to be strong and bring our national will to bear on this problem it's going to continue to get worse, and we are going to rue the day that we delayed and procrastinated on having an immigration policy that can be strictly enforced with the concurrence of the population of our country."On August 16, Symonette issued a statement saying:"Persons who are found to be in The Bahamas illegally will be repatriated forthwith."

He said Thursday that in the interest of allowing illegal migrants who wished to leave immediately and voluntarily to do so, the government has allowed for a brief period of voluntary repatriation.

The current debate on illegal immigration was sparked by the change in immigration policy announced by the prime minister in the wake of the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince in January. But the immigration issue has long been a controversial one.

Under the Christie administration, then Blue Hills MP Leslie Miller had warned that the illegal immigration problem was a ticking time bomb.



Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brent Symonette: Illegal immigrant apprehension exercises will resume September 1, 2010

Brent Symonette: Illegal immigrant apprehension exercises set to resume

THE Department of Immigration will resume illegal immigrant apprehension exercises on September 1 after a grace period for voluntary repatriation ends, said Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Brent Symonette.

In a statement released recently, the minister aimed to clear up the "confusion" over his ministry's repatriation and apprehension policies while maintaining that he has always been consistent in his remarks on the issue.

"There appears to have been some confusion relative to comments I made in an interview with the media on August 25 as to the time frame for the resumption of apprehension exercises of illegal immigrants from the Republic of Haiti or any other country," said Mr Symonette, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister.

"On August 16, I issued a statement noting: 'Persons who are found to be in the Bahamas illegally will be repatriated forthwith'.

"In the interest of allowing illegal immigrants who wished to leave immediately and voluntarily to do so, the government has allowed for a brief period of voluntary repatriation. That period will end on August 31. Apprehension exercises will resume as of September 1, consistent with my statement of August 16 relative to the resumption of such exercises.

Mr Symonette said his August 16 statement reminded the public of the government's long-standing policy with respect to illegal entry into the Bahamas.

"Having regard to the recent heightened infringement of Bahamas immigration law, notice is hereby given that with immediate effect, all illegal immigrants are requested to leave the Bahamas voluntarily.

"All persons who are here illegally are in contravention of the laws of the Bahamas, and are advised to return to their country of origin or be subject to apprehension and deportation.

"I also wish to recall the humanitarian decision of the Bahamas in suspending for a short period both apprehension and repatriation exercises following the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January of this year," said the August 16 statement.

Since a cataclysmic earthquake devastated Haiti's capital city, the Bahamas has resumed repatriation exercises for illegal immigrants from that country.

Over the past six months, 772 Haitian and 183 Jamaican nationals have been repatriated to the Republic of Haiti and Jamaica respectively.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kenyatta Gibson has not been performing - say Nine out of nine Kennedy constituents interviewed

Is Your MP Performing: Kennedy Constituents Displeased With MP

Nine out of nine residents interviewed in the Kennedy constituency recently said their Member of Parliament, Kenyatta Gibson has not been performing.

While the constituents refused to give their names to the Bahama Journal, they minced no words when revealing that Mr. Gibson has made no positive changes in the community since he took his seat as the MP for Kennedy.

Some of the constituents had unique concerns, but whether their cry was that there are no programmes in place to assist the youth or that they need jobs, the nine constituents polled all agreed that Mr. Gibson is "never around."

"Kenyatta Gibson? I’ve never seen him around, and I’ve been living here since 1987. I don’t know if he happens to come around every time I’m not home, but all I can say is that I’ve never seen him in the area," said a man who only wanted to be identified as Mr. Mitchell.

Another constituent added: "Kenyatta? Well actually I don’t even know who he is to be honest. I’ve only heard the name from people around here. But me, I don’t know him. He’s not doing anything around here."

An elderly woman who has been living in the area for decades shared similar sentiments.

"He hasn’t done anything. Not a thing. The last time I saw him was when we put him in the House of Assembly and that was it. Since then I haven’t seen him," she said.

A second elderly woman who referred to herself as ‘Big Mama of Kennedy’ agreed and said she has not seen Mr. Gibson in the area since he became the MP.

While several of the residents simply complained about what Mr. Gibson is failing to do in the constituency, there were others who offered suggestions that they believe could make him a better representative.

"Just come around more often. Show your face and talk with the people; find out what’s going on with your constituents," a man who identified himself as Mr. Smith suggested.

"If you go riding around the area you will see children in the road. There’s nothing for them to do. I feel the MP should come up with some programmes or something for them to occupy their time and keep them from doing negative things," said a concerned constituent.

A young mother of one said the area’s main problem is the lack of jobs. She said Mr. Gibson should be doing what he can to change that.

"All of the young boys around here can’t find a job, and it’s been that way for years. I’m sure there’s some way Kenyatta can help them," she said.

Mr. Gibson resigned from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in January 2008.

A year later he crossed the floor to join the Free National Movement (FNM).

In the aftermath, many political pundits and parliamentarians criticised the move, accusing the Kennedy MP of committing "political fraud" and turning his back on his constituents.

While some people said the move played a part in their rating of Mr. Gibson, others said it had no effect.

"It’s a big concern of ours. He changed a whole party and didn’t even come around to explain anything to the constituents. Someone could have come around and said ‘this is what happened and this is why I made my decision’," said an enraged resident who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We found out about the whole situation from the television. What message does that send to us?"

Her neighbour, however, disagreed and added that as long as an MP has the people in mind his or her party choice should not matter.

"We should be voting for the man or woman we want to represent us. He has the right to choose what party he wants to be with. If I put you there to represent me, just make sure you do that. FNM, PLP or whatever…just represent me," she said.

For some constituents it is too late for Mr. Gibson to regain their trust, but others say there is still time for him to get his act together.

At the end of the day Kennedy constituents said they are ready for a representative – whoever it may be – who will make a change in the area.

August 26th, 2010


Friday, August 27, 2010

Optimistic that the Attorney General's office will eventually restore the confidence of Bahamians in their judicial system

New hope for the Attorney General's office
tribune242 editorial

OVER THE years there has been agitation -- especially from Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell -- for an all Bahamian judiciary.

Today the judiciary up to the level of the Supreme Court -- with the exception of a foreign magistrate in Abaco and another in Freeport -- is all Bahamian. However, it has never been in a worse state of confusion than it is now. The public has certainly lost confidence in the once honourable judicial system as cases mount, crime grows, and more criminals are returned to the streets because an early trial cannot be guaranteed them.

These are some of the many problems with which John Delaney, QC, the newly appointed Attorney General, is faced and which he eventually will have to solve. He has to track cases that should have been dealt with years ago, but were just allowed to slip under the blotter and get "lost." He has to deal with persons on bail who would probably be behind bars if their cases had been dealt with in a timely manner. However, because of an apparent lack of expert management in the office of the attorney general these persons with criminal records and pending trials are still roaming the streets and creating fear in the community.

In his contribution to the Budget debate in the Senate on June 23, Mr Delaney, after emphasizing that his department "has able and dedicated counsel at various levels for the prosecution of criminal cases, some of whom shoulder a disproportionate load relative to others at their level," pointed to his department's gravest problem. "However," he told senators, "an apparent inadequacy of senior managerial-level direction, control, operational focus and discipline over a number of years have left this department compromised in providing the appropriate level and quality of response needed to meet the demands it has faced and continues to face within the criminal justice system."

To get cases moving the Judicial Legal Service Commission appointed Mrs Vinette Graham Allen, a Jamaican, as Director of Public Prosecutions. Mrs Graham Allen, who has an outstanding record of managing and moving cases efficiently, took up her post this month. She has had senior management experience in Jamaica's Department of Public Prosecutions as its Deputy Director. She was Director of Bermuda's Department of Public Prosecutions, and Director and Principal of Jamaica's Justice Training Institute, where she was responsible for designing, developing, organising, coordinating and conducting training programmes in Justice administration.

She ran into difficulty in Bermuda where Bermudians were agitating for a local rather than a foreigner to head the DPP's department. As we understand it Bermuda has a similar problem to the Bahamas, and probably the efficiency of Mrs Graham Allen rattled too many slow-moving bones into unaccustomed action to get cases moving. Whatever the problem, when Mrs Graham Allen left Bermuda there were only 15 cases left of the 600 she found gathering dust on her arrival. This is just the kind of effort the Bahamas is looking for, and apparently, our Bahamian lawyers in the Attorney General's office also want this type of leadership and are cooperating with her so that cases can start moving through the system more efficiently. This is all the public wants -- there are too many unhealthy rumours about certain cases that have been pushed aside and seemingly forgotten.

It would seem that Mr Delaney's focus will be on current cases first to remove the concern of magistrates and judges over the question of bail. If the Attorney General's office can deal with accused persons without long adjournments, magistrates will no longer have to consider the length of time an accused has to remain in prison awaiting trial. There will then be no reason for magistrates to grant bail in serious cases.

Mr Delaney told the Senate that he was informed that 47 cases were processed for the year 2009 and 24 cases so far for 2010. "Giving the number of pending cases, on the one hand," he observed, "and the constitutional imperative of a fair trial within a reasonable period of time, on the other, the question of bail for persons charged with an offence becomes an issue." He said there were about 130 persons now out on bail for murder related offences.

"The processing of cases and the bail situation must be improved," he told the Senate, "and this government is determined to do all within its power to cause improvement."

It is going to take a long time because there is much to be done, but we are confident that Mr Delaney, with his new DPP, supported by deputy directors, Franklyn Williams and Garvin Gaskin, and their hard working legal staff -- a department of about 22 lawyers -- will eventually restore the confidence of Bahamians in their judicial system.

August 26, 2010

tribune242 editorial

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bahamas Immigration Dilemma

The Immigration Dilemma
Guardian Senior Reporter

Back in the 1980s when the name Loftus Roker, then minister responsible for immigration, was spoken in the Haitian community, it was done so in hushed tones with an underlying sense of impending doom.

Illegal and legal Haitian migrants, adults and children alike feared Roker. And for good reason.

During Roker's heyday many in the Haitian community referred to him as"Daddy".

And many of those same Haitian migrants were constantly looking over their shoulders, fretting that'Daddy'and his team of eager immigration officers might swoop in at any time or place at schools, at the hospital, at church, in the middle of the night and have them swiftly back on Haitian soil.

Just as many Haitians feared Roker, many Bahamians at the time considered him a savior come to rid The Bahamas of undesirable aliens who"messed up their own country and were now coming to take over ours".

Conversely, there were those Bahamians who viewed Roker's reign at immigration as one of terror.

The Roker style is not in practice today.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, when asked by a reporter a couple of years ago if the Department of Immigration should conduct raids'Roker-style', replied:"We are not of that ilk."

While there is no denying Roker's zeal and popular appeal at the time, in the end it should be noted that Roker was about as effective as every other minister of immigration The Bahamas has ever seen; which is to say that he was not very effective at all.

Nothing Roker did actually helped stem the tide of illegal Haitian migrants into the country. Illegal Haitian migrants as they have been doing for the past 30 years still flock to our shores today.

Fast-forward to the 21st Century, when just recently, Immigration and Royal Bahamas Defence Force(RBDF)officials(with some help from the United States Coast Guard)apprehended over 500 illegal migrants within several days.

Five-hundred Haitian men, women and children paid what would be considered a vast amount in their home country to cram like sardines into unseaworthy vessels, with little food or water and a high probability of drowning in a summer of record heat, in search of a better way of life.

One would recall the case of an alleged murderer reportedly of Haitian descent, who eluded police several years ago only to be recaptured upon trying to reenter the country at a Family Island port.

When recaptured, the young man reportedly told police that he had been hiding in Haiti, but things were so rough in that country that finding food on a daily basis was never assured. He reportedly told police that he knew that if he were imprisoned in The Bahamas, he would eat every day.

That a man facing the death penalty would reportedly utter such comments, also speaks volumes about our justice system, but immigration policies are the focus at the moment.

The point is that illegal Haitian migrants come here unabated, knowing the chance of being caught is slim and even if they are deported, they could always risk their lives again.

Many Haitians apparently believe they can enter The Bahamas almost at will. This may be because they are aware that like Roker, all immigration ministers in recent memory have subscribed to the policy of'round-up and repatriate'as the solution to the illegal immigration problem.

Round-ups(or apprehension exercises as the politically correct prefer to term them)alone have failed to solve the problem.

They are at best ineffective stopgap measures that have mainly been used as a publicity tool for the government.

But they are better than nothing.

How the administration of Prime Minister Ingraham has flip-flopped and mishandled the illegal Haitian migration issue since that devastating January 12 earthquake in Port-au-Prince would have been amusing to watch had the implications not been so serious.

First the government ceased repatriations and apprehension exercises in light of the earthquake. Then the government, in a move that prompted a firestorm of debate, released more than 100 illegal Haitian migrants from the Carmichael Road Detention Centre and gave the less than 60 former detainees who bothered to show up to register at the Department of Immigration, six months temporary status. To this day, the current status of those immigrants remains unclear.

From there the policy became even more muddled.

About two weeks after Ingraham declared the shift in policy, Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette(the substantive minister responsible for immigration)and the then junior immigration minister Branville McCartney had two different views on what should happen to a group of illegal Haitian migrants that landed in the Coral Harbour area of New Providence since Ingraham's announcement.

Symonette, who was interviewed as he was going into a Cabinet meeting, said the immigrants would"more than likely"be released.

Minutes later McCartney-who was not yet aware of what the senior minister had told reporters-said he planned to stick to the prime minister's previously stated policy of charging the immigrants with illegal landing before the courts.

Not long after that, Prime Minister Ingraham showed up and said that his policy of charging the immigrants still stood.

Ingraham's word of course superseded Symonette's and the immigrants were charged with illegal landing that day.

Little else was heard about illegal Haitian migrants since.

Now, after having done little for the past seven or so months, Symonette admits that there has been an uptick in illegal Haitian migration into The Bahamas and has urged that all illegal migrants turn themselves in to immigration officials to be returned home forthwith.

After Symonette communicated the words in English and Creole, a collective roar of laughter must have risen out of the Haitian community.

Does Symonette really expect Haitians who had come here illegally to all of a sudden do an about-face and volunteer to be returned home?

Surely not, considering that Symonette admits that apprehension exercises were still on hold and Director of Immigration Jack Thompson could up to last week give no firm timeline on when the exercises would resume.

And it is this ever-shifting, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants attitude as it regards Haitian migration since the beginning of the year that has conclusively shown that the current administration has never really had an actual workable plan with definable goals in place to deal with the issue.

And if we are mistaken and Prime Minister Ingraham and the Free National Movement actually have a plan in mind, then it seems that they lack the political will or courage to attempt its implementation.

Either way, this latest incarnation of the Ingraham administration, like all administrations since Independence, has failed the Bahamian people on the immigration front.

Ingraham's bark is worse than his bite

Some people criticize Ingraham for being too direct and gruff at times.

It's what some Bahamians would term as too"no manners".

Despite the'pit bull'persona Ingraham has generated, if you observe him carefully, you would see that at heart he is really a soft touch for those who find themselves particularly disadvantaged.

After Ingraham's 2002 referendum was rejected in spectacular fashion, he vowed that no more referenda would be held under his watch.

That referendum was rejected for numerous reasons: a terrible public awareness campaign; Ingraham's aggressive(and perhaps off-putting)selling of its agenda; an about-face by the Progressive Liberal Party(PLP), which voted for it in Parliament, but while on the campaign trail, advised Bahamians to shoot it down; and then there was the perception by many that the then government was trying to amend too much too fast.

If you watch the House of Assembly as intently as those in our profession do, you would sometimes catch Ingraham on the floor digressing in a retrospective manner about what he tried to do for women, for the tens of thousands of people out there who are technically Haitian but know no other home than The Bahamas.

Ingraham did try his best to bring some sort of major immigration reform, but in the end his best was not good enough and he seems to have still not fully gotten over that defeat.

But if that is the case, it's about time that he does.

The PLP not much better

True to form, the Opposition under the leadership of former Prime Minister Perry Christie has taken no clear position on the immigration issue since it once again became front and center earlier this year.

The Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)has sat idly by twiddling its thumbs in classic fashion, crying about non-consultation, hoping that the FNM will ultimately look so inept that the Bahamian people will give the party another shot at government.

Perhaps the issue is too big for the PLP, which has trouble making up its mind on various issues that have widespread implications--legalizing numbers, the marital rape issue, Baha Mar and Chinese labor to name a few.

The Opposition seems to be more suited to complaining about the landscaping of beaches, the direction of roads and the appointment of foreigners to public office.

Far be it from the PLP to actually propose an alternate immigration plan.

The only person in the Opposition who seems to have any focus on the issue is Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell, who while proposing no new ideas per se, at least has the issue on his radar.

Alas, Mitchell is even more of a soft touch than the prime minister.

Christie meantime has not shown a particularly keen interest in even acknowledging the problem.

Voices within the party that actually propose ideas about the issue such as former chairman Raynard Rigby are often met with derision.

That the PLP has not put the services of people as intelligent as Rigby(of which there are many in the party)to use in crafting a new national platform for the party, makes one wonder what, aside from ratifying candidates and throwing jeers at Cabinet members, has the party been doing for the past three years.

As the PLP learned when it was defeated amidst an economic boom in 2007, the Bahamian electorate is fickle.

The party must propose alternate solutions to the policies of the Ingraham administration if it is to set itself apart and regain the government.

Make the hard choices

Although the world and The Bahamas have made exponential progress in the past 30 years, little has changed since the 1980s regarding illegal migration.

The most notable immigration ministers since Roker have been Golden Gates MP Shane Gibson and Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney, both of whom resigned in the midst of their respective tenures.

Gibson, who was widely compared to Roker in his aggressive approach, resigned amid the Anna Nicole-Smith scandal.

McCartney reportedly became fed up that Ingraham found his stance toward illegal Haitian migrants too aggressive and flashy.

Since McCartney's departure we are now left with Symonette, who seems to have too much on his plate.

He is the deputy prime minister, the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of immigration.

Tens of thousands of illegal migrants perhaps sit in shanty towns across the country mocking Symonette's recent hollow threat.

Ingraham seems content to leave this issue to the next generation of Bahamians.

Meantime, The Bahamas immigration policy cannot be clearly defined and the Bahamian people remain adrift in a sea of uncertainty, much like the Haitian sloops that depart Port-de-Paix and Cape Haitien, filled with human cargo in search of a better life.

However, the major difference between us and them is that the Haitians at least have some idea of their destination.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Debate and division on 4,920 work permits for Chinese labour for the $2.6 billion Baha Mar Cable Beach resort complex heat up

PLP should be prepared for September 8
tribune242 editorial

SEPTEMBER 8th is D-Day for Baha Mar when parliamentarians will debate and vote on whether to approve 4,920 work permits for Chinese labour to build the $2.6 billion Cable Beach resort complex. The investment is backed by a loan from the Export-Import Bank of China. The resort will be constructed by China State Construction Engineering Corporation and the request for the permits comes from the People's Republic of China.

Legislators are caught on a cleft stick with this one -- a case of be damned if you do, or damned if you don't.

Bahamians have always been against foreign labour to the point that even the unskilled believe that as long as they are Bahamians - regardless of their lack of ability - they should get all jobs. However, today the economic situation is different. The construction business is down, Bahamians are desperate for work.

The question is are they desperate enough to suppress their grumbles and agree to these permits in order to stimulate the economy and find employment for themselves, or are they going to dig their heels in and say: "No."

According to Baha Mar if this project goes ahead it will create 3,300 temporary jobs for Bahamians during construction and 7,000 permanent jobs on completion.

We have always understood that wherever in the world Chinese investors build, they do it with their own labour. Looking at it from the Chinese point of view, their country also has to provide employment for their own people. It is their money which they invest in their citizens to create a project in a foreign land. On completion that project will then benefit the country in which it is located.

Mr Christie believes that the Chinese government -- with better negotiating skills on the part of Mr Ingraham -- could have been talked out of such an unusual request. Little does Mr Christie know. When these permits were first talked of the figures being tossed about were between 5,000 and 6,000 workers. If this is so to get the Chinese -- who we understand are adamant about their Chinese labour policy -- to drop down to 4,920 is a miracle in itself. However, if these permits are eventually agreed, with the exception of a handful of their top executives, everyone of them must return to China on the completion of the contract. This should be non-negotiable.

Mr Christie is agitated because - after many complaints of not being consulted by the Ingraham government -- he is now being asked to join that government in deciding whether these permits should be granted. For once he would rather Mr Ingraham let that bitter cup pass from him. He believes it is a cabinet decision, not his. However, what he must never forget is that if he had been more decisive in dealing with the Baha Mar development before he lost the government in 2007, there would have been no need for this debate. So not only is it incumbent upon Mr Christie and his colleagues to step up to the plate and vote on behalf of their constituents, but the PLP should recognise that what is being requested is unprecedented in Bahamian history. Therefore, voices from all segments of this country must be represented, and the only way to hear from the people is through their "representers."

We hope that Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell is not going to waste the time of the House by blaming Prime Minister Ingraham for losing the Harrah's Entertainment deal because of a statement he made in the House.

He must remember that the new owners of Harrah's -- as disclosed in a case before the Supreme Court of New York -- had decided to abandon the Baha Mar-Harrah's agreement before Mr Ingraham even spoke in the House.

Mr Mitchell must also be reminded of the January 25, 2006 letter of Sarkis Izmilian, CEO of Baha Mar, to Mr Christie, in which he stated that despite his (Izmilian's) "best efforts these past three odd years the Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas (the Christie government) has failed me." Mr Izmilian added that he was at that time considering whether "investing billions of dollars in this country is the right decision."

It must also be remembered that the Christie government was still negotiating with Baha Mar up to two days before the 2007 election, which the PLP lost. Mr Mitchell must also recall that, because of the many rumours spinning around at the time, there was no way that the Ingraham government could sign the Christie government's unfinished agreement without much investigation. He must especially remember the "secret" agreements in the contract about the land deals that the Christie government knew would explode in its face if it came to the floor of the House and the knowledge of the Bahamian people. Therefore, a scheme was devised so that the controversial land transfers would not have to be approved by the House -- certainly not before the 2007 election.

"The country is desperately in need of relief in respect to this dire unemployment situation," Mr Christie told the press after a party meeting over the weekend to decide the position they would take in the September 8th debate. "The question for us is examining in detail what the implications are, the impact on Bahamian labour, and the length of time of the work permits."

This is the issue. When September 8th comes we hope that both sides stay focused. Regardless of whether the Christie Opposition tries to muddy the waters with red herrings, sits mute, or stays away, the position they take will be judged on that momentous day.

August 24, 2010

tribune242 editorial

Obie Wilchcombe: ...the amount of foreign labour needed for the Baha Mar project is "politically toxic"

The PLP 'still want Baha Mar vote to be carried by govt'

THE Progressive Liberal Party has reportedly voted in favour of continuing to allow the government to carry the burden of whether or not the Baha Mar labour resolution is passed in the House of Assembly when it is brought before Parliament next month.

According to party sources who spoke to The Tribune yesterday, the PLP met and discussed the matter on Sunday night, and have stuck to their initial position that this vote will have to be carried by the current "FNM government."

On Sunday, PLP leader Perry Christie said the party will of course be directly influenced by the "complete urgency" to do something for the economy of the Bahamas.

"It is an increasing serious state of affairs that exists here. The country is desperately in need of relief in respect to this dire unemployment situation. The question for us in examining in detail the implications of whatever the number of work permits are, the impact on Bahamian labour, and the length of time of the work permits," he said.

Having financially backed the $2.6 billion investment, the People's Republic of China is also requesting some 4,920 work permits for Chinese labour for the construction of the project. These work permits will come before Parliament in the resolution on September 8 to be voted on.

Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly, Obie Wilchcombe, has already described the amount of foreign labour needed for the project as "politically toxic" - adding that the government is requiring Parliament to vote on the matter to avoid taking the brunt of what is expected to be massive public criticism in the near future.

August 24, 2010


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bishop Simeon Hall: The Bahamian people, by and large, have bought into the lie that only lawyers are best suited to sit in Parliament

Bishop Simeon Hall speaks out against electing lawyers to Parliament
Tribune Staff Reporter

BAHAMIAN voters should throw their support behind "ordinary" members of society instead of continuously electing lawyers to the halls of Parliament, said Bishop Simeon Hall.

The senior pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church reasoned that lawyers - many of whom profit from the "present culture of criminality" - cannot be expected to solve the crime problem or change the systems in place which have led to this "national nightmare."

He added that men and women who have proven themselves successful in community building and business would make better political candidates. While several lawyers are the architects of the nation's foundation, and have an indispensable role in nation building, Parliament needs more contractors, successful entrepreneurs, farmers and community builders to take the Bahamas to the "promised land," said the religious leader.

"It is time for the country's electorate to help in reducing the number of lawyers we have in our Parliament and allow more persons from the ordinary walks of our society to participate in our national debate," said Mr Hall in a statement released yesterday.

"There exists an urgent and immediate need for ordinary persons to represent the common masses. It cannot be expected that this national nightmare of crime will be (remedied) by the wisdom of one group. While lawyers, in the main, do not cause crime, they are the major beneficiaries of the present culture of criminality and this cannot be expected to do what is needed to change things."

"The Bahamian people, by and large, have bought into the lie that only lawyers are best suited to sit in Parliament," said Mr Hall as he called all political parties to choose ordinary persons with a reputation of community leadership for their election tickets.

The country needs fresh ideas and new perspectives in the national dialogue, he added, "if we are to change the status quo which sees ordinary persons on the edge of desperation".

August 23, 2010


Jerome Gomez and Dr Daniel Johnson confirmed as Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) candidates for the next general election

PLP confirm Killarney, Carmichael candidates

THE PLP has confirmed that the party will run financial services consultant Jerome Gomez in Killarney and Dr Daniel Johnson in Carmichael in the next general election.

According to a PLP release, Mr Gomez, a financial services consultant and former member of several Government boards, was ratified by the PLP's National General Council on Thursday evening as the Killarney candidate.

Meanwhile, Dr Daniel Johnson, a podiatrist, son-in-law of the late Sir Lynden Pindling and son of former MP for Cat Island Oscar Johnson, will run under the party's banner in Carmichael.

Presently, the Killarney seat is held by Dr Hubert Minnis, also Minister of Health, and Carmichael is represented by Desmond Bannister, Minister of Education.

Mr Gomez, 46, is the principal of the chartered accounting firm Baker Tilly Gomez and has previously worked at Shell Bahamas Limited and Barclays Bank in various positions.

He is the managing director of Gomez Corporate Management Ltd., a licensed financial and corporate service provider, and Gestfinanz (Bahamas Ltd.), a Bahamian licensed securities investment advisor.

As a Fund Administrator for the Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund, the government sponsored venture capital fund, the party noted that Mr Gomez has "had the privilege of providing hundreds of entrepreneurs with business consulting services."

Mr Gomez served for a period as chairman of the Hospitals and Health Care Facilities Licensing Board, deputy chairman of the Town Planning Committee and a member of the Real Estate Disciplinary Committee.

He is a graduate of St. Augustine's College and holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Finance from Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is married to Jean Gomez (nee Shannon) and is the father of five children.

The party did not release any further information about Dr Johnson.

August 23, 2010


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) change of heart on the Baha Mar deal and work permits for as many as 8,000 Chinese workers

Guardian Staff Reporter

The Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)may have had a change of heart as it relates to its stance on the controversial foreign work component issue surrounding the Baha Mar deal - which could result in as many as 8,000 Chinese workers being granted work permits.

Yesterday PLP Leader Perry Christie said despite indicating in June that the party would not involve itself in the decision to allow thousands of Chinese workers to receive work permits, he would do what is best for the country.

"We have since met with the principle shareholder of Baha Mar and we were briefed by the top executives of the company, Christie said. "We are meeting this afternoon to consider our position on the matter in anticipation of going back to Parliament.

"The Progressive Liberal Party is absolutely aware of the state of our economy--the deteriorated state of our economy and the urgency for there to be some kind of development.

"In that regard we are going to take a position based on the needs of the country. And we're not going to be tied to anything that I may have said in the past in regards to the work permits. We want to be able to provide a very concerted view on the matter. We(the PLP)begin meeting on the matter at our parliamentary meeting today(yesterday).

In June, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the approval of the "extraordinary" number of Chinese workers required to help construct the resort development would not be given without opposition support.

But at that time, Christie said the prime minister is "on his very own" as it regards deciding on the Baha Mar labor issue.

He said the PLP had not been given sufficient information on the deal and therefore would not involve itself. When speaking with The Nassau Guardian yesterday, Christie said he still has not spoken to the prime minister yet.

"I know representatives have met with the Chinese ambassador, and I don't know if the prime misinter has some special information to provide me with, but I anticipate that if he has new information that would be provided to me prior to our going to Parliament. I have not heard from him yet."

Ingraham met with Chinese Ambassador Hu Dingxian at the Office of the Prime Minister in Cable Beach on Thursday, to discuss the Baha Mar project.

Last week The Guardian also spoke to Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly Tommy Turnquest, who confirmed that the Ingraham administration intends to bring the labor resolution to Parliament on September 8.

The Guardian understands that since the announcement from the Cabinet Office late last month that the government of the People's Republic of China had approved the Baha Mar deal, Baha Mar officials have been meeting with officials from the prime minister's office to answer questions about the project.

Turnquest said the MPs would be allowed to express their views on the labor issue before the government makes a final determination.

If a majority of MPs take issue with that component, he said the government would have to take that into consideration prior to making its decision.

Turnquest said publicly that at the height of construction Baha Mar could have up to 8,000 foreign workers on the project.

Baha Mar has said that out of the 10,000 proposed construction jobs the project will create, at least 3,300 will be set aside for Bahamians. Eight thousand permanent jobs are also projected once the resort is completed.

The proposed Cable Beach development would be financed by the Export-Import Bank of China and constructed by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation.

If the project receives Bahamas government approval, Baha Mar's first course of action would be to award nearly $60 million of construction contracts to six Bahamian contractors, representing early infrastructure works needed to prepare the site, Baha Mar's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sarkis Izmirlian said in a press statement last month.



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Union of Tertiary Educators of the Bahamas (UTEB) members need a serious reality check

UTEB members need serious reality check
tribune242 editorial

WITH desperate parents having to transfer their children from private schools to an overcrowded public school system where there is now no room for them, we get news that members of the College of the Bahamas' teachers union are still not comfortable with their salaries.

At a time like this when hard working Bahamians -- who do not have the luxury of long summer vacations as do teachers -- are struggling to make ends meet and are forced to adjust to the realities of a tight economy, we have teachers, who should be leading by example, bleating about dissatisfaction with their own salaries. Where is the College to get the funds -- raise the fees of struggling students? These teachers should be thankful that they have a job - many Bahamians today are jobless, while others are out on the highway flashing phone cards for sale -- anything to make a few dollars to keep body and soul together. In the meantime, these elite teachers with full job security have the nerve to complain that they do not have enough.

"We feel like the salary package they have offered us really doesn't show us any respect as professionals," one union source told a Tribune reporter yesterday.

"It doesn't respect the work we do. We are talking about the persons who are educating the people who are driving national development.

"We think it really insults us what they have offered us and that they should rethink their position."

We wonder who was disrespecting contractor Charles Nottage who in better times could afford to send his daughter to a private school. Today he is faced with the reality that he can no longer afford this luxury for his child. Mr Nottage told The Tribune that for the past four years his daughter was in a private school. He dreaded the thought of having to move her to a government school, "but it is a necessity right now," he said.

However, he still does not "know what to do" because government schools are so overcrowded that he can find no place for her even there.

How are hard working Bahamians, who at present cannot afford to send their children to private schools, going to find the funds to pay teachers for higher education? If the COB union says the College Board is disrespecting its teachers, then who is respecting Bahamians like Charles Nottage who cannot afford private education for his child?

To make this statement about disrespect shows that these teachers have no sensitivity to the times in which we all live. They must be on a planet of their own creation. And yet people, like Mr Nottage, are willing to face reality and step down until conditions in the country change to give them an opportunity to again start their upward climb.

These are the hard working Bahamians who adjust to hard times and will survive. Those with the attitude of some of these teachers will be left floundering in their own importance. Eventually they get nowhere.

Earlier in the year the College announced that it could not agree to the demands of the Union of Tertiary Educators of the Bahamas (UTEB), which would amount to an average increase of $11,500 per faculty member.

The union had demanded a reduction in workload for its teaches with an increase in pay ranging from 16 per cent to more than 19 per cent, for a total salary increase of 17.5 per cent.

The union seems to have something backward here. Business people are accustomed to paying more for more work -- not more for less. These teachers had better be sent back to school to get their maths in the right order. "The union's $11 million financial package would immediately add $8 million to the College's already overstretched budget and over $3 million annually thereafter," the College said.

The matter went to arbitration with both sides agreeing that they would accept the arbitrators' decision.

The arbitration committee, headed by St Matthew's Anglican Church rector Father James Palacious, said that neither side of the dispute would get exactly what they wanted.

However, when it came to UTEB's financial package, said the arbitrators, it would have been "very reasonable under normal circumstances," however in the end the committee had to adhere to the "economic reality." The committee referred to budget cuts and a still struggling economy. The teachers did not get what they wanted.

Despite this in today's Tribune UTEB president Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson has announced, unless the union gets a signed agreement, it is reserving its right to take a strike vote on Monday when COB is scheduled to open after the summer recess. Do they not have a signed agreement because the salary packet offered fails to show the respect they think their due? Have they rejected it?

Should they strike and create chaos for students on Monday, the College should be closed for a week with no pay for teachers during this time so that they can get a glimmer of what the arbitrators meant when they said they would have to adhere to "economic reality."

We do not think that many Bahamians -- other than some politicians, who appear to be looking for any unrest upon which to capitalise -- will have any sympathy for Mrs Dotson and her UTEB.

August 20, 2010

tribune242 editorial

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bishop Simeon Hall: Illegal immigrants would not be in The Bahamas in such high numbers without the "complicity of some corrupt persons in authority

Immigration appeal 'may become joke'

THE government's appeal for all illegal immigrants to leave the country must be "substantive" or it will become a "joke", Bishop Simeon Hall warned yesterday.

Brent Symonette, acting Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, recently ordered all illegal immigrants residing in the Bahamas to voluntarily leave the country or face immediate deportation.

However, Bishop Hall, senior pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church, said the appeal must not only be given to Haitians and Jamaicans but also to Americans, Europeans and Chinese who he says have "corrupted the system by buying their stay here."

The bishop said: "All persons who compromise the immigration laws of the Bahamas must know that the majority of Bahamians are not prepared for them to have a free ride on the back of those who must work hard every day to build this country."

In the statement, Bishop Hall noted that "it is the government's responsibility to enforce all laws of the Bahamas, especially to protect our national sovereignty. Successive governments have promised during election time to deal with the overwhelming problem of illegal immigration in the country, yet it remains a vexing situation."

Bishop Hall also claimed that illegal immigrants would not be in the country in such high numbers without the "complicity of some corrupt persons in authority."

He added: "Illegal immigrants have corrupted many agencies in our Bahamas and this pronouncement by the Minister must have teeth or it becomes laughable."

August 21, 2010


Friday, August 20, 2010

The majority of Branville McCartney support is on the outside of his party - the Free National Movement (FNM)

Branville 'lacking Cabinet support'

ALTHOUGH widely considered to be a "popular Member of Parliament" by the voting public, FNM MP Branville McCartney does not share that same level of support among his former cabinet colleagues, The Tribune has been informed.

Out of a cabinet of 17 persons, sources close to the Bamboo Town MP said Mr McCartney could have the backing of possibly only "three or four" ministers.

This support, however, is said to grow when one considers there are a few "disgruntled" backbenchers within the party who would like to see a change in the party's leadership.

A senior FNM told The Tribune: "For right now, the majority of Branville's support is on the outside of the party. So his allies, within the organisation, will have to be in a wait-and-see mode. You don't want to be the man to put up your hand in support of him and draw back a stump."

Another voting delegate within the FNM said Mr McCartney would be wise to implement a "wait and see" position at this time, as he should not allow "outside influences" to move him before "the right time."

"In politics, timing is everything. Having political capital, and knowing what to do with it, are two completely different things. It is also very hard to remove a leader who all you can say about him is that you don't like his style. So ambition, in this instance, must learn to pace itself," he said.

Currently, if Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham were to step aside as leader of the FNM by the end of the year, the governing party could see a six-way race for its leadership post.

Among the names being touted as persons interested in becoming the next possible leader of the organisation are: Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette, Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing, Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, the chairman of the party Carl Bethel, and, of course, the former Minister of State for Immigration Branville McCartney.

August 19, 2010


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Higher taxes for the business community may erode investor confidence says The Nassau Institute

'Taxes hitting investor confidence'
Guardian Business Reporter

The Nassau Institute is pressing government to accept investor confidence may be eroded because of recent changes to public policies that have resulted in higher taxes for the business community.

It's among the most recent commentaries put forth by the group that advocates a free market Bahamas.

While the institute agrees that the U.S. economic downturn has serious consequences for The Bahamas, it believes there are things that can be done to help inject some enthusiasm into the entrepreneurial class-and introducing new taxes is not one of them.

"A government should not be destabilizing the business community with excessive taxation nor blindsiding them with rule/regulation changes that do not seem to be well thought out,"said a statement from the group."Yet The Bahamas economy has certainly had an abundance of new taxation and regulation in recent months.

"The government, while finally realizing their profligate borrowing and spending must be brought under control. It should also accept that investor confidence is rattled when they are not sure what public policies to expect next. So there is a delicate balance between"reasonable"taxes and rules/regulations and over taxing and over burdensome rules/regulations."

According to the institute, the public sector is now beginning to experience the devastating effects of these very tough economic times that the private sector has been under for two years now, and there are no easy political answers. It points to a recent article written by Dr. Robert Higgs, an economist, who asserts genuine economic recovery requires a substantial reduction of government expenditure, taxes and regulations, along with a credible government commitment to stay this less burdensome course.

The columnist believes it would give private entrepreneurs the confidence and time to generate prosperity; however, he said that anemic private employment tempts politicians to intervene even more in the economy, which heightens the uncertainty and discouraging investors further in a vicious cycle.

It's something the Nassau Institute agrees with fully.

"Recovery depends on private sector growth,"it said,"and shrinking the size of a government(expenditure, borrowing, taxes, regulation)that is now beyond the capacity of the private sector to support."



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Work permits for about 5,000 Chinese workers to help construct the $2.6 billion Baha Mar Cable Beach resort ... Yea or Nay Bahamians?

PLP MPs expected to represent their constituents
tribune242 editorial

IT IS agreed by both government and opposition that the Bahamas needs a major project at this time to revive the construction industry and get as many Bahamians back to work as possible.

However, an off-the-cuff remark by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham that if the Baha Mar project were to go ahead, Atlantis' Phase Four would not, has been interpreted by PLP politicians to mean that if Mr Ingraham approved Baha Mar, he would not approve Atlantis Phase Four. It is strange how two groups of people can hear the same remark, yet come away with different interpretations. When we heard Mr Ingraham's short statement it was obvious to us that what he was saying was that the market could not successfully sustain two large tourist developments. It had nothing to do with any approval either given or withheld by him.

The remark pointed to the astute tourist entrepreneur Sol Kerzner. It was obvious that Mr Kerzner, considering his options against a depressed world market, would have second thoughts about gambling at this time with the large outlay required by his Phase Four plans for Atlantis if Baha Mar were to go ahead with essentially the same product. Cancellation, or postponement seemed obvious.

Mr Ingraham later clarified his remarks. He agreed that the country needed a major project, but pointed out that currently it only had the manpower and infrastructure to carry out one major project at a time, be it Baha Mar or Atlantis Phase Four. "At the same time we can't have both; not simultaneously," he said.

However, before anything can be decided Bahamians have to agree on whether work permits should be approved for about 5,000 Chinese workers to help construct the $2.6 billion Baha Mar Cable Beach resort. We all know in the past that Bahamians have always protested foreigners being brought in for various projects, and so government has quite rightly said that this time -- the numbers required being so overwhelming -- that Bahamians will have to make the final decision. Therefore, the matter will be taken to parliament. But the Opposition has backed off. This, they claim is an Ingraham problem. They blame him for the Baha Mar-Harrah deal not going through -- forgetting that at the time of that deal it was their government that dragged its feet so long that Harrah's was sold and the new owners turned down the Baha Mar contract that was yet to be finally approved by the Christie government. The Christie-led Opposition, which if it had been more decisive could have clinched the Harrah deal before the sale, now say that Chinese labourers were not a part of the original equation and so it will have no part in the decision making on the floor of parliament.

The Opposition has always criticised Mr Ingraham for not consulting them or the nation sufficiently. He is now consulting the nation through the people's representatives, who now tell him that it is not necessary to bring the issue to parliament. But it is necessary. At no time has the Bahamas been faced with an influx of 5,000 foreign workers. Do Bahamians agree or not? The only persons who can answer this question are those MPs who they elected to parliament to speak on their behalf. If the people's representatives fail to do so, they have failed in their duty to their constituents, and there should be consequences.

Arguing that the Bahamian economy "desperately needs" the Cable Beach development, a former Bahamas Chamber of Commerce president urged Bahamians to vote out of office any MP who opposed the work permits. The Bahamas Contractors Association, in an effort to protect the Bahamian workforce, is preparing a three-tiered initiative to prepare construction workers and companies to bid for jobs when the Baha Mar construction starts. Baha Mar says there will be about 7,000 permanent jobs at the end of the construction and 3,300 temporary jobs during construction. Of course, as National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest says, "It also has to be factored in that this is a period of high unemployment and that has to be taken into account." He quite rightly believes that "members of parliament who represent the people of the Bahamas ought to have a say in an unusual labour component."

At the end of the day we hope that the BahaMar developers will have sense enough to go after different clientele and explore a different market to the Kerzner brand. However, it they plan to poach on Atlantis' guest list, and copy the One and Only identity, not only will Atlantis suffer, but so will the Bahamas because instead of growing, the overall tourist market will remain static. At present Sol Kerzner, a proven success in the resort business, provides secure employment for at least 2,500 Bahamians. In fact it is his enterprise alone that put the Bahamas back on the tourist map. However, if one resort starts to cripple the other, and the presence of Baha Mar fails to increase the market, Atlantis could start to cut back, which would leave Bahamians where?

This too has to be factored into the debate. This is no time for the PLP to play politics. Bahamians are the ones carrying the burden of their salaries during these lean times and so we expect them to justify their seats in parliament.

August 17, 2010

tribune242 editorial

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Haitian leaders appealed to their countrymen who are in The Bahamas illegally to comply with the Bahamian government's request to leave the Islands

Guardian Senior Reporter

Two Haitian leaders yesterday appealed to their countrymen who are in The Bahamas illegally to comply with the government's request to leave, however, they believe that a two-week grace period should have been implemented.

"I think it is too quick for the government to ask the people to leave immediately. They don't have any money so it is going to be hard for them to go back home. They need to get a special time like 14 to 21 days to remove themselves,"said President of the Haitian Bahamian Development Center Organization(HBDCO)Rodlin Joseph.

"I think it would be fair to give them time than to say leave now,"Joseph said.

His call for more time to be given to his countrymen came a day after the government issued an official warning to all illegal immigrants to leave the country immediately, or face immediate deportation. The warning came in response to the high influx of illegal immigrants, which climbed to more than 500 in recent weeks.

"Having regard to the recent heightened infringement of Bahamas immigration law, notice is hereby given that with immediate effect, all immigrants are requested to leave The Bahamas voluntarily,"said a joint statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Immigration over the weekend.

"All persons who are here illegally are in contravention of the laws of The Bahamas,(and) are advised to return to their country of origin or be subject to apprehension and deportation,"the statement said.

However, in an interview yesterday Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette said the government is not saying that migrants cannot stay in The Bahamas, just that they must have the proper documentation or they must leave.

"I cannot go to the United States and decide to sit there for six, eight, ten years without a work permit or a residency permit, and then turn round and say it is too soon. Persons who are flaunting the law know full well that they are suppose to have a residency permit or a work permit to be here,"Symonette said.

He added that the ministry has been calling on undocumented Haitians to get their status regularized, and that those who failed to heed the call must go home.

HBDCO Chairman Hellanian Butler said up to now the government has been lenient.

"I think that the people had a chance, even if they wanted to have themselves documented properly, they had time to do it. And I am more than certain that they haven't done that, so it is time to go home,"he said.

Joseph has acknowledged that the government has done its part following the earthquake, and now it is time for those who are in the country illegally to voluntary leave before being forced to do so."We are asking all those Haitians and Jamaicans who are here illegally to please assist this government in this matter. I think it is the best way to do so then the government would not force you. If you go voluntary you won't have any problems with the government but if you wait until the government tries to get you,(you)will not be able to come back to this country," Joseph said.

"If you go by yourself you will always feel free to come back to the country as a tourist. It is very good what the government has done for those Haitians after the earthquake, but it is time now to go back home,"he explained.

When contacted yesterday, Haitian Ambassador Harold Louis opted not to comment on the matter.

The number of illegal migrants captured in Bahamian waters during the first two weeks of August climbed to more than 500, according to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force(RBDF). It represents the largest number of migrants captured in a two-week period so far for the year.

The latest apprehension reported by the RBDF took place at the Exuma Land and Sea Park, where 57 Haitian migrants were spotted aboard a wooden sloop in the area.

Following the January 12 earthquake, the government was understanding and responsive by temporarily suspending its apprehension exercises with respect to Haitians residing illegally in the country.

While officials cannot determine exactly how many illegal migrants have entered the country since the exercises were relaxed in January, Symonette said some 772 undocumented Haitians have been apprehended on the high seas or have landed on various Family Islands.



Monday, August 16, 2010

FORCES with an "underhanded agenda" are trying to "discredit Nygard Cay" and "push Peter Nygard out of The Bahamas", says property mgr Eric Gibson

Claims that 'forces trying to push' Peter Nygard out of the Bahamas
Tribune Staff Reporter

FORCES with an "underhanded agenda" are trying to "discredit Nygard Cay" and "push (Peter) Nygard out of The Bahamas," according to an official spokesperson for the Canadian fashion mogul.

"The facts are that Nygard Cay has obtained all required permits; has worked within the Bahamas building system throughout 20 years of construction with the full blessing of every government department," said Eric Gibson, property manager at Nygard Cay.

He said the private residence of Mr Nygard was ready to employ more than 200 Bahamians, and invest between $50 and $70 million in the Bahamian economy, "as soon as it gets its promised lease and permits from the government."

In a telephone conversation Mr Gibson confirmed that Nygard Cay has no hotel licence, because the facility is "not in fact a hotel and has never purported to be one."

"Out of 20 years of operation, Nygard Cay was rented seven times as a private residence (a practice that is common in the Lyford Cay Community): two times as the wedding reception to Lyford Cay residents; it has hosted many church groups, charity drives, underprivileged children outings and been the venue and the centrepiece for countless community service drives such as Ocean Watch, to preserve the waters and corals of (the) Bahamas; and athletic fund raising, such as getting the Golden Girls into the 2000 Olympics, to name a few," said Mr Gibson.

"Nygard Cay has a private residence permit and has always and is continuing to operating under residency permit," he said.

The government has recently accused Mr Nygard of "unauthorised" expansions of his property over the seabed at Simms Point, Lyford Cay, where his property is located. This is now being investigated.

Last month, the Office of the Prime Minister issued a directive to Mr Nygard to remove structures erected on the land in question, and to reinstate the coastline at Simms Point. All government agencies were also advised not to approve any applications for construction on the land in question.

Since a fire destroyed much of the property last year, efforts have been made to restore the facility. Last month, Mr Nygard expressed "frustration" about waiting for various government approvals to proceed with his plans to rebuild. He estimated the fire caused "$50 million worth of investment."

At the time, it was revealed that expansion plans included a suspended cable bedroom that lowers into the ocean, a dolphin interaction attraction, and a programme allowing guests to visit the property's $2 million shark tank.

August 16, 2010


Nygard Cay is not licensed as a commercial property says Environment Minister Earl Deveaux

Earl Deveaux: Nygard Cay is not licensed as commercial property
Tribune Staff Reporter

NYGARD Cay, the private home of Canadian fashion designer Peter Nygard, is advertised as a "private luxury resort" with no hotel licence, according to government officials

Nygard Cay, sometimes referred to as Nygard Cay Resort, "is not licensed as a commercial property," said Environment Minister Earl Deveaux.

"My involvement and knowledge has to do with enforcement with every instance. We have always asked them to abide by the Physical Planning Bill, the Conservation of the Physical Landscape of the Bahamas Act, where they are required to get permits to dredge. Most of the dredging, except on one instance, has been unauthorised," said Mr Deveaux.

"Nygard has relentlessly acquired more land from its original boundaries. Compulsory demolition is an option. I think that process is unfolding. All of the government's options will be reviewed by the Attorney General's office," he said.

Documents obtained by The Tribune indicate Mr Nygard acquired his property in 1984 for about $1.7 million. The 3.25 acres was registered as a single-family residential property, according to Tribune sources.

Eric Gibson, property manager at Nygard Cay, confirmed that Nygard Cay has a "private residence permit and has always and is continuing to operating under residency permit."

He said, Nygard Cay has no hotel licence, because the facility is "not in fact a hotel and (we) have never purported to be one", and that "Nygard Cay is not conducting commercial activities."

Today, the Nygard Cay website advertises the property as a "private luxury resort" and a "unique private residence" with the facilities of a resort, which include: "replicas of Mayan temples, private tennis and volleyball courts, beaches, pool, disco club, state-of-the-art home theatre, and 20+ themed cabanas for (Mr Nygard), his family and many celebrity guests who wish to get away for a serene sabbatical."

A website promoting unusual villa and island rentals states: "For only $42,000 in 2008 your group of celebrities, executives, sports moguls or any person celebrating a birthday, anniversary, seminar, wedding, or vacation can have a trip of a lifetime. Special 4-hour dinners are available for $300 per additional person above 20 people. Special daily rentals in 2008 are $42,000 per day for the first 20 people and each additional person for a full day event will be $500."

Several websites on the Internet contain similar information about rental facilities and rates.

Mr Gibson said these "promotional websites" are not Nygard Cay sanctioned websites.

"In fact we have long time ago demanded for them to take it down, but we believe they have ceased business many years ago," he said.

Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, Minister of Tourism and Aviation (MOT), said the government does not promote Nygard Cay, because "it is not a licensed property." For the same reason he said, Nygard Cay receives none of the benefits of the Hotel Encouragement Act, such as being promoted by the tourism promotions board in the MOT. He also said he would be "surprised" if Nygard Cay had a restaurant licence or a night club licence.

Nygard Cay is known for its "extravagant parties." An exclusive group of Bahamians frequent the property on Sundays for the popular "pamper party," according to a former visitor. For years, Nygard Cay has played host to New Year's Eve parties for "A-List" celebrities.

"Anyone can wake up tomorrow and decide they are going to sell their property to people they wish to have visit and pay.

"People have bed and breakfast homes, villas, houses that they lease every day on the Internet. That is a global phenomena. You won't find it being promoted by or assisted by the Ministry because it is not a licensed property," said Mr Vanderpool Wallace.

Some websites advertise a five per cent Bahamas tax along with the per day rental fee for Nygard Cay. A Nygard Cay spokespersons said this information is contained on websites not sanctioned by Nygard Cay.

A Tribune source in the Ministry of Tourism said Nygard Cay does not pay a hotel room tax to the government.

It could "very well be a loophole" in the system, why Nygard Cay is able to promote itself as a "resort", when in fact it is not licensed as a hotel, said the source.

Since last year, under the amended Hotel Act, owner occupied rental homes are regulated by the government. In order to rent a private home to a "transient guest in the capacity as an operator of a hotel", an application has to be made for status as an "owner occupied rental home," said the Tribune source.

The legislation is up for review by the Bahamas Investment Authority, and not all of the regulations apply to owner occupied rental homes; however, at this time they are required to pay a hotel guest tax, as are all hotels, said the source.

Private homes owned by foreigners are governed by a tax structure determined by the Ministry of Finance and the Investment Authority. The permit issued states whether the property is residential, commercial, owner occupied or regulated by some other category.

"Those zoned commercial are given permits with the right to rent and conduct commercial activity. Those that are zoned residential have to convert to owner occupied to rent their property. Anyone renting their property must pay hotel guest tax," said the source at the MOT.

"If they wish to have owner occupied status then they have to go to the Authority, then the Ministry of Finance to determine their tax status and then to the hotel license department. Only those that have received finance approval based on their tax status can be registered."

Mr Vanderpool Wallace said the Bahamas government has always had a "higher concern," so the "resort" status of Nygard Cay has not been on the front burner. He said the "underlying problem" is the status of the use of the land, where Mr Nygard operates his facility.

The government has accused Mr Nygard of "unauthorised" expansion of his property over the seabed.

There is an investigation under way.

August 16, 2010


Sunday, August 15, 2010

PLP Kennedy showdown: Derek Ryan, Dion Smith or Keith Bell?

PLP set for Kennedy 'showdown'

THE PLP is reportedly set to have a "showdown" in the Kennedy constituency with three candidates said to be seeking the nomination to run under the party's banner.

Attorney Derek Ryan, Dion Smith, and former police superintendent Keith Bell are all reported to be working in the area after the PLP's former candidate Kenyatta Gibson crossed the floor to become an FNM Member of Parliament.

Of the three candidates, it is said Mr Ryan and Mr Smith are the two front-runners - with Mr Smith getting the majority of the party's inner circle support, while Mr Ryan has secured the support on the constituency level.

With reports reaching The Tribune that the third probable contender, Mr Bell, is also being considered to run for the party in St Cecilia or the Sea Breeze constituency - party sources have suggested he will, in all eventuality, be considered for one of the latter seats to help defuse this growing problem.

Initially it was also reported that PLP treasurer Craig Butler had displayed an interest in the seat but was overlooked when Mr Smith emerged as a possible contender.

Mr Smith's probable nomination has come under fire in recent days as political pundits speculate that his emergence on the political scene could have more to do with cementing the position of other "would-be leaders" within the party than his own actual nomination. This has raised fears in some quarters among the party that there could be a challenge to the leadership of the party's leader Perry Christie prior to the 2012 general election.

Having emerged victorious from a challenge to his leadership at the party's last national convention, senior PLPs have stressed that the PLP cannot afford to revert to a repeat performance of that time - as Mr Christie's focus should now be placed firmly on defeating the FNM in 2012.

August 14, 2010


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is Your MP Performing: Cynthia "Mother" Pratt has already secured herself a prominent place in the annals of Bahamian history say constituents

Is Your MP Performing: St. Cecilia Constituents Commend MP

Seven out of nine constituents polled in the St. Cecilia area say that their Member of Parliament Cynthia "Mother" Pratt’s performance in the area has been so noteworthy that she has already secured herself a prominent place in the annals of Bahamian history.

The Bahama Journal, which randomly polls constituencies each week, went out into the community yesterday to ask the residents if their MP was performing.

The Journal traveled from the St. Cecilia constituency office to as far as the corner of Bimini Avenue and Market Street and spoke with residents who were more than a little anxious to share just how well they feel the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP is performing in St. Cecilia.

John Thomas who has been a resident of the constituency for a number of years said Mrs. Pratt has done an "excellent" job over the years.

"She is doing a very good job and I love her. If she were to run in the next general election, she would definitely get my vote. We would hate to see her go." said Mr. Thomas.

Another resident shared similar sentiments.

"I cannot say anything bad about her. She has done a lot for the community and I wish her well in her future endeavors," the resident said.

"She is a good MP. She has brought about many improvements in the area, like paving roads. That was something that we really needed."

Mrs. Pratt has been the MP for the constituency for a number of years and residents say she has been very instrumental in helping poor children in the community.

"We really need her back. She has done a lot for the poor children. She has personally helped me get a job. She always encourages us [young people]. She will do whatever it takes to provide school supplies for children," said one resident who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Leroy King said that if it had not been for Mrs. Pratt many children in the community would not have the opportunity to go to school.

"During the school periods the children are given the basic supplies they need for school. I know that the children really love her because she is always there for them," Mr. King said.

While many of the residents were pleased with Mrs. Pratt’s performance there were two residents who said they felt she could do more.

"Personally, she has done a lot for me in the past. She helped me with my college education. However, she has not done anything significant in the community since I have been a community leader here. I would like to see her get involved with some of the positive things that is going on with the National L.E.A.D Institute," said L.E.A.D President T. Edward Clarke.

Another resident said that while he feels that Mrs. Pratt is doing a reasonable job, he would like to see her do something about the garbage problem in the area.

"What I would like to see her do is clean-up the loads of garbage around here. When there is garbage everywhere it attracts rodents and that is the problem that I have," said Mr. Roberts.

Mrs. Pratt has already announced plans to retire from politics at the end of her current term.

At last report, the PLP was processing at least four applications from candidates interested in representing the St. Cecilia constituency.

Mrs. Pratt previously served as deputy prime minister and minister of national security in the PLP administration.

August 12th, 2010


Friday, August 13, 2010

Hubert Ingraham is the Free National Movement's (FNM) best chance of winning the 2012 general election

FNM has 'best chance of winning with Ingraham'
Tribune Staff Reporter

THE Free National Movement was described yesterday as still having the best chance of winning the next general election with Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham at its helm.

Dismissing earlier reports that the party could stand a "better chance" of winning in 2012 with a "younger" candidate at the helm, a senior FNM strategist who spoke to The Tribune on condition of anonymity yesterday said that youth does not bring with it a very important factor -- experience.

"There can never be a comparison between Hubert Alexander Ingraham and the young Branville McCartney. Mr Ingraham was a cabinet minister in the Pindling administration. He was subsequently fired from that cabinet and went on to win his seat as an independent Member of Parliament. He then went on to become leader of the FNM and lead that party to a resounding victory at the polls in 1992 and 1997.

"What has Mr McCartney done in comparison? Yes, he was a Minister of Immigration -- which we all know is a very emotive ministry. But what has he done? What were his accomplishments during his tenure in Tourism? So before someone can come to me and say here is a man who is ready to become Prime Minister I have to ask them on what grounds they are speaking," the source said.

However, according to other well-placed FNMs, Mr McCartney's "experience" and tenure in the party does not factor in as much as his public appeal with independent voters. While they would admit that it is yet to be seen what level of support the young FNM MP could attract at a national convention, they feel certain of his public support -- especially with the growing number of young voters.

This demographic, The Tribune was told, may be more inclined to vote for a candidate with which they can "relate", versus the stereotypical "experienced based" argument. And, he said, considering the fact that the PLP will be putting forth a leader would be then in his late 60s in 2012 only adds to the appeal of the new "Branville campaign."

"It would be a landslide victory for the FNM with a young Branville at the helm versus Perry Christie. One is the embodiment of youth at its prime. One is the face of the young people; a change to future," he said.

However, the party's strategist, sees this argument in a totally different light.

"With Hubert Ingraham having been brought back by the people to lead them in 2007 it would be a slap in the face to the public for him to step aside now. It would the surest way for the FNM to lose an election in 2012; and that isn't even considering what such a move would do to his legacy as a politician.

"Just remember, in 2012 the national stadium will be built.

"The road improvement projects will be completed. A new straw market. Baha Mar will be coming on stream, and crime will be under control. Those will be tangible accomplishments that the people can see and feel that Hubert Ingraham would have delivered to them in only five short years. There is no comparison," he said.

August 13, 2010


Thursday, August 12, 2010

To Branville McCartney: Son, you must first learn how to follow before you can lead, or - You must learn how to obey before you can give orders

Learn how to follow before attempting to lead
tribune242 editorial

AT A TIME when this country needs all of its citizens to focus on pulling together to ride out a turbulent economic storm many have not ceased to be distracted by election fever.

Since the 2007 election hardly a day has passed without a reminder that the focus is -- not on the economy - but on the 2012 election. From what we hear -- other than a political clique, mainly PLPs who are yet to concede their 2007 defeat, and a group of young, inexperienced Turks in both parties who want to push their leaders out and take over -- the majority of Bahamians are sick of the political sabre rattling. They are worried about losing their jobs, their homes, paying school fees and utility bills -- at times like these the politicians are an unnecessary distraction.

The latest concern this week is that the FNM might not hold its promised national convention this year -- not because of tight party funds -- but because lawyer Branville McCartney might challenge Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham for the leadership.

According to a letter writer to The Tribune, signed by one who says he is an "FNM supporter to change", Mr Ingraham is a man who says what he means and means what he says. The letter writer knows that being a man of his word is Mr Ingraham's sensitive button and in his letter he is pushing it hard with much flattery.

Says the "supporter for change": "We all came to know Mr Ingraham to be a man to his word, in fact FNM came to respect him since he was a man who spoke truth and lived up to his word. We know him to be a man who 'said what he means and mean what he says'. So since he promised, live on TV, that we will meet in convention on November 4, we expect him to continue to be the man who spoke truth. The question of funding for the convention is a mute point because Mr Ingraham could have anything he wants done, when he wants it. The Eastern Road will comply."

It is true, Mr Ingraham is a man of his word. However, he is not a fool, and even a man of his word has enough sense to lower his sails and change tack when a situation changes and he realises it would be folly to stick to a promise made in better times. The letter writer is obviously depending on the Eastern Road to finance a few days of shaking colourful pom-poms, spouting a lot of hot air from a platform, stuffing themselves with free food and enjoying fun nights in hotel rooms. Eastern Road residents are mainly business people whose first consideration will be on the economic constraints necessary for the times in which we now find ourselves. If they are the ones expected to fund this useless bash, we hope they will lock down their coffers, go home and direct their spare cash to where it can be of more use -- helping the jobless among us. These are serious days, and a convention at such a time would be out of order. It is now time that some of these young Turks got some sense and settled down to getting some experience in nation building before continuing their useless chatter about what they are going to lead.

Mr Branville McCartney, a lawyer, is the man being pushed to the fore in the FNM ranks. There is a group who are playing to his ego and trying to make him believe that he is the future saviour of this country. He might well be. We know nothing about him except the usual curriculum vitae issued to the press, and the fact that for a short time he served, but later resigned from the Ingraham cabinet. However, we now invite him to think back on the days of Julius Caesar riding in triumph through Rome's ancient city. While the crowds shouted "Hail Caesar!" the little dwarf at his side constantly tugged at his tunic, and reminded him: "Remember Caesar, thou art only a man!"

Today Mr McCartney's flatterers are tempting him into believing that he has better insight into the needs of this country, after limited experience in politics, than a man who has had broad experience for more than thirty years, both nationally and internationally. Many interpretations can be put on why Mr McCartney resigned from the Ingraham Cabinet, but it indicates to us that when the going gets rough, or things do not go his way, his inclination is to abandon ship. His day for leadership might come, but in our opinion he is still lightweight in the political arena, and his time is not now.

It might do Mr McCartney well to shut out the noise in the market place and consider the advice given by Hamilcar Barca, a Carthaginian general and statesman, to his famous son Hannibal, who later crossed the Alps on elephants in a useless attempt to defeat Rome: "Son you must first learn how to follow before you can lead."

Another version is: "You must learn how to obey before you can give orders."

August 12, 2010

tribune242 editorial