Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Alcoholism and other drugs abuse in The Bahamas

Alcoholism – The Hidden Scourge
The Bahama Journal Editorial

That we live in a place and in a time when drugs and alcohol abuse is rampant is the commonsense of the land.

And for sure, the time has come for those who lead to address this problem; since it is the one problem that relates directly to the problems we now have as regards public safety.

What we know for sure is that if this and other problems are to be resolved, those who have the power to tax and authorize spending, should – if only for ‘conscience-sake’ understand and live up to their social responsibility – that being to help the alcoholic and drugs addict get up from under the rubble.

But as we appreciate so very well, most Bahamians just seem not to get it when they are told that, there is [in truth and in fact] a vitally important connection to be made between public health and public safety.

And so what we have is a situation on the ground where practically everyone we know seems content to obsess themselves with the murder count and nonsensical conversations as to what the police should be doing about the so-called crime problem.

In the interim, some of these people ignore the fact that, there are certain social practices that lead directly to what is perceived as the “crime problem’.

Highest on that list of practices would be the indiscriminate and often profligate consumption of liquor, other spirits and a nasty mix of other drugs, licit and illicit alike.

In this regard then, we would suggest that, Bahamians of all strata and all other social conditions, routinely use alcohol as part of their family and community rituals; and for sure, even as very many of these people consume alcohol because it tends to lubricate social intercourse; few of them understand that use can and does sometime lead to abuse.

In addition, abuse sometimes slouches into a full-fledged medical crisis – alcoholism.

Here we suspect that, this problem is far more widespread than many people might recognize and that it may very well help explain the horrendous impact, drugs and alcohol have as regards impairing a person’s judgment; and thus and thereafter the carnage on our streets that comes with all those car crashes that maim and kill so very many people.

In addition, there are all those other instances when intoxicated men and women - with inhibitions lowered – routinely resort to this or that besotted display of so-called masculinity; with this or that knucklehead vowing that he can –as the saying goes- hold his liquor.

Here as night follows day, the person in question poisons himself; this is what intoxication is all about!

And so, there you have it, some of the more god-awful actions are thereafter committed by people who are lurking somewhere or the other on the borderline of insanity – as induced by not only alcohol; but this drug in combination with ganja and pharmaceuticals..

In combination, these produce a veritable witches’ brew of concocted nastiness.

It is this nastiness that leaves families in distress; threatens public safety and which – in and of itself – can be associated with the problems now facing those charged with ensuring public safety.

It is always cause for the greatest distress for us as we visit this or that community or settlement throughout our archipelago when we come across men and women whose lives have been left ravaged and ruined by drugs and alcohol abuse.

Indeed, whether reference is made to some of the settlements in Eleuthera, Exuma, Andros, Abaco, Acklins, Crooked Island – or islands and cays further away – the fact remains that there are far too many of our men and women who are being destroyed by alcohol.

But even more tellingly, as alcohol ravages family life; despoils community and otherwise threatens to upend national development; few people seem to know what is to be done about the matter at hand.

As a necessary consequence of this failure, we now have a situation on our hands where –as the price is totted up – the conclusion beckons that, those who can do something about the matter are either blind to it and its implications; or that they could care less.

Here suffice it to say that, we are absolutely convinced that, the government in concert with its social partners and other interested stake-holders can and should wake to the reality that – if left unchecked and therefore unaddressed – the alcoholism scourge will continue to undermine most of their other efforts.

Evidently, there is a role for the government to play in dealing with this twinned crisis – one where there must be a keener understanding that when a person has been felled by alcoholism or by some other drugs abuse; they need help.

That effort should be led by the government; and thereafter supported by all other right-thinking Bahamians and residents.

November 30th, 2010

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace... The Free National Movement (FNM) new Man and Standard bearer in the Fort Charlotte constituency

Source: Vanderpool-Wallace a front-runner in Fort Charlotte constituency bid
Guardian Staff Reporter

Minister of Tourism and Aviation Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace is reportedly considering running in the Fort Charlotte constituency during the next general election.

The constituency is currently held by former Education Minister and Attorney General Alfred Sears. Sears has been the MP for that constituency since 2002.

A Source within the Free National Movement has revealed to The Nassau Guardian that Vanderpool-Wallace is one of the front runners in the race to get the party’s nomination.

“He will most likely be chosen as the candidate for that area,” the party source said.

When asked about the possibility of him running in the Fort Charlotte constituency, without outrightly denying it Vanderpool-Wallace told The Nassau Guardian that he has not “made any official declarations.”

He mentioned, however, that his mother lives in the constituency and he often visits the area.

Vanderpool-Wallace has never ran for a constituency seat. Before moving into front line politics he served as director general in the Ministry of Tourism for 12 years. He has had a long and distinguished career in tourism in both the public and private sector of The Bahamas and in the region.

Vanderpool- Wallace also served as secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). He has also served as chairman of the Management Committee of the Bahamas Tourism Training Center, as a director of both the Central Bank of The Bahamas and the Bank of The Bahamas, and as chairman of the Hotel Corporation of The Bahamas.

Vanderpool-Wallace was appointed to the Senate in 2008. He has served as the tourism minister since then, taking over from Neko Grant (now Minister of Public Works).

Sir Michael Barnett, now chief justice was the last FNM candidate in the Fort Charlotte constituency during the 2007 elections. He lost that bid to Sears.

It is unknown whether Sears will be seeking re-election in the area.



Monday, November 29, 2010

Justice Anita Allen is absolutely deserving of her promotion to President of the Court of Appeal

This Time, Every One Got it Right
The Bahama Journal Editorial

Like others who would like to be on the right side of things for as long as this is humanly possible; we say without cant or equivocation that, [and here, however this wonderful thing was done] the fact now remains that, all who had to weigh in on the decision to have Justice Anita Allen elevated to the high post of President of the Court of Appeal, have all gotten this one -- this time around-- quite right.

We too congratulate this fine jurist, who in a life-time of dedicated service has also been wife and mother – and confidante par excellence to some whose path she crossed.

We also thank her husband, the Hon. Algernon S.P.B. Allen for the part that he has clearly played –as husband and as life-long friend to his ‘Nita’.

Yet again, we insist, this good friend of ours is a jolly good fellow; and a nation-builder in his own right; and so today, we wish the Allen and Bethel families as we weigh in with deserved kudos to Senior Justice Allen on her assumption of her new post.

She is absolutely deserving of this promotion.

For her part, Justice Allen indicated that, she was humbled as well as uplifted by the outpouring of congratulations and by the confidence placed in her by the appointment.

And she stated - "I assure the Prime Minister and the people of the Bahamas who seek justice before the Court of Appeal that my colleagues and I will dispense justice in accordance with the highest judicial standards…”

And ever gracious, Justice Allen thanked her predecessor in office by noting that; "I offer my thanks to my predecessor in office, Dame Joan Sawyer who has given long service to the judiciary. I congratulate her for her efforts in cultivating the relationship between the Bahamas and the Privy Council and for enhancing the delivery of justice in the Court of Appeal through computerization and other innovations…"

As the new president also suggested, “Let me state emphatically that the collegiality and necessary interaction between the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal must be restored and nurtured. There must never be an appearance of an adversarial stance between the two courts… they must be complementary to each other while exercising separate jurisdictions."

In addition, she indicated that, "I believe the establishment of a judicial council or judicial studies abroad which has as its function the provision of judicial education is also timely and will improve the quality of justice in our Bahama land.

"We already have a cadre of judges, retired judges, registrars and magistrates who are trained at the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute in Halifax, Canada, and who can assist in the development and implementation of judicial education programmes."

We second this motion; and yet again –as we learn from recent media reports - “New Court of Appeal President Anita Allen called her appointment to the head of the Bahamas' appellate court the "culmination and exclamation point of a lifelong love and passion for the law."

Here we can also note that, “Judge Allen, formerly a senior justice of the Supreme Court, was sworn in [this Friday past] as the new president of the Bahamas Court of Appeal at a brief ceremony at Government House attended by about 300 guests.

As Judge Allen so rightly stated – “There are defining moments in one's life, and certainly, today is one of them for me. It is the culmination and exclamation point of a lifelong love of and passion for the law…"

How very beautiful; and here we repeat for deserved emphasis, ““There are defining moments in one's life, and certainly, today is one of them for me. It is the culmination and exclamation point of a lifelong love of and passion for the law…"

And indeed, there are those defining moments in every life; where some taken do lead to a life of service; grounded in love for a nation and its people.

By the same token, there are times in life when once embarked on the wrong road – the word everywhere blares out the words, No Exit.

Evidently, the moral in the tale – as illuminated in Justice Allen’s poignant words is that, we should all take time to know better than better how the time one has been allotted will be spent.

Therefore, you must be ever so careful once this choice of path ahead confronts and begs for decision.

Anita Allen took a road that has led to the pinnacle of success in her vocation; and so today, we attest and affirm that, we are in fullest agreement with the nation’s Chief when he says that, Justice Anita Allen was "well qualified and suited to be elevated to the Court of Appeal."

Yes and of course, yes – this fine Bahamian is eminently qualified for the post that is now hers.

November 29th, 2010

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The history of the Baha Mar project

The history of the 1,000 acre Baha Mar project

AFTER years of manoeuvering over the 1,000-acre Baha Mar project on Cable Beach, the Ingraham government (in its own words) has finally made sweet lemonade from the sour fruit left on the table by the Christie administration.

In April 2005 the newly formed Baha Mar Development Company (owned by a Lyford Cay-based property developer named Sarkis Izmirlian) bought three aging hotels on the Cable Beach strip with a $200 million loan from the Bank of Nova Scotia. The venerable Nassau Beach was subsequently closed, while the Crystal Palace and Cable Beach Hotels were renovated and re-branded.

That same year Baha Mar concluded an agreement with the Christie administration for a $1 billion-plus development, including several hotels, a casino, retail village, convention centre, expanded golf course, and beach and pool amenities. Ironically, had the project got underway when it was supposed to, it would have opened in the midst of the Great Recession - with potentially devastating consequences.

Side agreements to the 2005 agreement included deferred taxes that could later be paid in instalments, a $20 million marketing contribution from the Ministry of Tourism, and a commitment to upgrade the airport and other infrastructure.

There was also an agreement to transfer to the developer hundreds of acres of both Crown and government land on Cable Beach worth an estimated $150 million.

However, Baha Mar proved unable to raise $400 million in capital, show evidence of further financing, produce detailed plans, or attract world class partners by the agreement's stated deadline of October 2006.

With an election approaching, the Christie government scrambled to revive the project. And by early 2007 it had been reorganised as a joint venture with Harrah's Entertainment. The planned capital spent more than doubled to $2.6 billion (along with more than a quarter billion dollars in government concessions) and promoters were hailing the project as unprecedented in scope and character.

The revised project included a larger casino, double the meeting room space, and 1200 more hotel rooms.

But despite "vigorous negotiations" a deal could not be finalised before May 2007. And when the electoral dust had settled, Perry Christie was replaced as prime minister by Hubert Ingraham, who immediately launched a review of the project.

Although the new government eventually decided it would abide by the 2005 terms, Baha Mar insisted on further negotiations, according to the prime minister. And by February 2008 he unveiled a supplemental Heads of Agreement that trimmed some of the concessions given three years earlier.

"There is high expectation by the Bahamian public about the Baha Mar project," Ingraham acknowledged in March, 2008 during passage of a parliamentary resolution to authorise the transfer of public lands to the developer. "We will do all we can to facilitate it, but I do not want to oversell it."

March 2009 was the new deadline set for the government's conditions to be met so that the deal could be finalised. But long before that could happen, Harrah's got cold feet due to the economic downturn and pulled out of the partnership, putting the whole project in jeopardy. Unable to obtain regular financing in the capital markets, Baha Mar turned to the cash-rich Chinese government to save the development.

Earlier this year, China's Export-Import Bank agreed to arrange $2.5 billion in financing, and Beijing's state-owned construction corporation signed on to build the project, which will feature six hotels and add 3,500 hotel rooms and condos to the country's current inventory of 15,000 - more than half of which in Nassau.

Following the prime minister's recent trip to China to firm up the details of the construction arrangements, the House of Assembly unanimously passed a government-sponsored resolution to approve the project, including the unprecedented issuance of up to 8,150 work permits for non-Bahamian construction workers.

After talks with the Chinese, Ingraham was able to announce that he had doubled the share of business for Bahamian subcontractors, with more than construction 4,000 jobs now on offer, and that some $8 million would be spent on training programmes for Bahamian workers.

"We put down some benchmarks, like the $400 million in Bahamian contracts, and said if they accepted our terms we would approve the project by the end of November," the prime minister told me.

"We always disclose the terms of deals - not like the PLP when they signed the 2005 Baha Mar Heads of Agreement with a confidentiality clause, and contemporaneously issued side letters containing larger exemptions from taxes and committing even more public money in violation of the (phase three) deal they had agreed with Kerzner two years earlier."

In fact, this last point has proven to be the only remaining fly in the Cable Beach lemonade.

The prime minister does not accept that the current Baha Mar deal violates the guarantees to Atlantis developer Sol Kerzner that no subsequent investor would get more favourable terms. Kerzner's complaint focused on the ratio of Bahamian to non-Bahamian construction workers, presumably because Baha Mar will benefit from a cheaper, more skilled, and more productive labour force.

"Among the many requirements that the government imposed (on us) was a strict rule that at least 70 per cent of the total construction labour force would be Bahamian. However, this new (Baha Mar) deal will constitute a complete reversal of (that) standard," Kerzner said angrily.

The prime minister's response is that "the government will review Kerzner's claim and seek to resolve all issues."

The question of whether the Bahamas can accommodate thousands of new hotel rooms opening at the same time is another issue for Atlantis.

"The reason is that the tourism infrastructure needs to catch up to additional demand.

"Airlift is not going to grow and develop in one day just because another 3,000 luxury rooms are opened. And I think that is very critical...and not easily done," Managing Director George Markantonis told The Tribune recently.

The Baha Mar project will get underway before the end of this year, with contracts awarded to Bahamian firms. The China State Construction & Engineering Company should begin work by the spring, and the project could be substantially completed by 2014.

In response to market concerns, Baha Mar has agreed to stagger the opening of the new hotels over a five-month period stretching into 2015, and close the Crystal Palace Hotel during renovations.

According to the Chinese, the project relies on being developed, marketed and operated as a single phase "to induce demand that would not otherwise exist for a series of standalone hotels."

They point out that the Hyatt, Morgan's and Rosewood hotel companies are investing $62 million of their own money into the project, and note that the airport will be redeveloped by the time Baha Mar opens. Expectations are that the tourism market will have rebounded by then.

Another issue that has received somewhat less attention in the media is the provision of water and power for such a massive project being built and brought on stream at one time. As we all know, these commodities are relatively scarce on New Providence these days, and there are fears that our infrastructure will be further strained in the short-term.

In fact, BEC will need to generate an additional 25 megawatts of electricity to accommodate the projected power demand for Baha Mar.

And the developer is supposed to cover the cost of a new BEC substation, as well as build a central sewerage system, and a reverse osmosis plant for potable water.

Although there was understandable shock and dismay when Baha Mar's requirement for such a large foreign labour component first became known, public opinion seems to have quickly moved to accept the inevitable - no doubt fully motivated by the recession.

For example, in June of this year the PLP said it would not involve itself in the decision to allow thousands of Chinese workers into the country and seemed determined to let the government twist in the wind. But only two months later they were singing a different tune, based on the state of the economy.

And from the sense of jubilation conveyed by the government since the Baha Mar deal was approved, it seems that the studied scepticism of the past few years was aimed not only at getting the best deal possible in a difficult environment, but also at drawing the opposition into a full embrace of the project's current framework in order to minimize the obvious political risks.

As one well-connected insider told me: "I'm sure there was some political thinking involved, but for the most part it was to get a doable deal."

What do you think?

Send comments to


Or visit www.bahamapundit.com

November 24, 2010


Saturday, November 27, 2010

The issue of crime will dominate public discourse until Bahamians vote for a new government in 2012

The use of deadly force and the crime fight
thenassauguardian editorial

The political parties are piecing together crime platforms for the election campaign, which started when Hubert Ingraham announced on November 7 that he would seek a fourth term as prime minister. We hope they find advisors who can help them. The issue of crime will dominate public discourse until Bahamians vote for a new government. The public will need to hear solutions from both major parties, not just idle talk.

We advocate tough responses to those seeking to disturb the peace.

The Bahamas has drifted too far over the past three decades from being a peaceful set of islands to being islands racked with fear and anxiety. We will set a third homicide record in four years this year. And with no measures in place yet to stop the trend, it is likely there will be a fourth homicide record in five years come the end of 2011.

A part of the crime fight is improving the quality of police investigations, case management by prosecutors and increasing the number of criminal courts to hear cases. The government is working on all these measures.

Another equally significant part of the crime fight is the war on the streets.

Hardened hit men, armed robbers, rapists and armed home invaders exist in The Bahamas. They have destroyed the lives of so many Bahamians over the past few years. These crimes have led to much fear and anger. Honest Bahamians want someone, or some group, to push back in their defense.

Walden Mitchell, on Monday night, shot a police officer; several days before he had shot at and assaulted others. In an operation then led by the police to capture and arrest Walden Mitchell the police, in the course of their duty, shot and killed Walden Mitchell.

He reportedly sent a message to police that he was armed and ready.

In an editorial earlier this week we commended the police for doing their job. In doing their job Walden Mitchell was shot. We called on the police to just do their job. If as a consequence a criminal is shot, so be it. Some have misunderstood our position in this regard and we apologize for any misunderstanding. We are not calling for extra-judicial killings.

Section 103 of the Penal Code allows for the use of deadly force by citizens or law enforcement officers in the capture and detention of someone who has committed a felony.

Section 107 of the Penal Code authorizes the use of deadly force for the protection of self and others in connection with the following crimes: Treason, piracy, murder, manslaughter except manslaughter by negligence, robbery, burglary, housebreaking, arson of a dwelling house or vessel, rape, forcible unnatural crime and dangerous or grievous harm.

When criminals are on the streets of our islands armed with weapons with the intent to harm citizens, police have a legal responsibility to intervene. In this intervention the law allows officers to use deadly force. No right-thinking citizen should have a problem with this. It is the law.

When police use legally appropriate force against criminals, society usually applauds their effort. Complaints usually only arise when police are unnecessarily and inappropriately heavy-handed in carrying out their mandate. Police must protect citizens against those disturbing the peace.

The proper use of force by police has an effect. It lets criminals know that there is an immediate consequence to harming citizens. It lets criminals know that if you are riding around our neighborhoods armed and searching for an innocent mother to rob, or a hardworking father to molest, police are not afraid to apply the law to you.

The breakdown of the criminal justice system has had consequences in The Bahamas. Many fear the law less than they used to. The ongoing reforms hopefully will speed up the prosecution process so that once placed in the system, justice can be meted out in a timely fashion.

We just ask that criminals be found and dealt with appropriately according to due legal process.

The Bahamas is at a crossroad. Some do not seem to realize this. Either we return to being an orderly society or we become like some other societies and countries that have already gone too far.


thenassauguardian editorial

Friday, November 26, 2010

Straw vendors need to face reality

It's time for straw vendors to face reality
tribune242 editorial

OVER THE years the politicians - especially PLP politicians -- have mollycoddled straw vendors to the point where they think they are extra special -- and possibly, in some cases, above the law.

In fact they are special -- over the years there have been many hard working, outstanding citizens among them who have produced fine sons and daughters who have become leaders in this country.

However, when it comes to obeying the law and respecting society's rules, they are no more special than any other Bahamian. No matter what they might think, no matter what special concessions they believe the government might owe them for their loyalty, they are not above the law.

As a matter of fact all any government owes its citizens is a duty to create an atmosphere in which they can live, work, play and develop their God-given talents to support themselves and their families. The rest is up to them.

Many of the poor among us believe that because they are poor, the laws should be bent for them. "Man, gimme a break, I's jus a poor man!" This poor man exists under the radar, manipulating the law to the end of his existence. But there is the poor man, who recognises that despite his poverty, he has worth and ability. He rises above his poverty, works hard, develops his talents, aims for the stars and is happy if he reaches the tree tops. At least he has dragged himself up from poverty, and achieved on the right side of society.

However, Mrs Esther Thompson, president of the Straw Business Persons Association -- and a reverend, no less -- on Wednesday urged her members to get their act together, because the war over the straw market "is on." The war is on with whom?

Mrs Thompson, and about a dozen of her followers, were angry at the new rules announced by Works Minister Niko Grant at Wednesday's roof-wetting ceremony for the new straw market.

The object of the rules is to take the new market to a higher standard of excellence from which Bahamian crafted straw work can be sold. Mrs. Thompson seems to think that the vendors have ownership in this new market and are going to run it as they see fit.

Well, we have some startling news for her. The market is owned by the Bahamian people -- it has been built with taxpayer's money. Straw vendors have no monopoly over it. If they want to pay a small rent and move into a stall, willing to obey all the rules of the market, they will be welcomed. If not, then as free citizens they can find their own outlet from which those who wish can continue to flaunt the law by selling counterfeit merchandise, and risk facing their own day in court. Mr Grant announced that only Bahamian goods will be sold in the market. Counterfeit goods -- for which nine Bahamians were arrested in New York in September -- will be strictly prohibited. Vendor licenses will be restricted to Bahamian citizens, and rental charges will range from $200 to $250 a month; $46 to $58 a week or $6.50 to $8.20 a day -- very modest rents when one considers the high rates paid by other Bay Street businesses.

The new policies and guidelines, said Mr Grant, are expected to assist "in the more effective and efficient management of the new Bay Street straw market."

Mrs Thompson declared the vendors' intention to defy the rules -- she was encouraged by her supporters' lusty cheers. She then made this alarming statement:

"Whatever comes through customs, that is what straw vendors are going to sell," she declared. It would seem that the time spent by nine of her members in the hands of the law in New York has not taught her a lesson. The arrested Bahamian vendors with their counterfeit goods, who could have spent years in a federal prison in the US, got off lightly -- only one of them had to make restitution for her illegal purchases. The others are under various lengths of supervised probation. It is questionable as to whether they will be allowed back in the US. Mrs Thompson's declared position on the matter certainly will not help their cause.

The arrested vendors admitted that they knew that the goods they were purchasing -- Gucci, Prada, Dolce, Gaban, Juicy Couture and others, picked up from New York's flee markets -- were not only counterfeit, but illegal. However, according to their skewered thinking - supported by Mrs Thompson-- once they got them through Nassau Customs and paid duty on them, they were somehow sanitised of their illegality and ready for legal sale in what is meant to be Bay Street's straw market.

Mrs Thompson wants to put the onus on the Customs officer to determine whether vendors' goods are legal. This is most unfair. If the goods are illegal, and the vendors purchased them with the full knowledge of their illegality, then they are the only ones guilty of an illegal act. They cannot compromise an innocent customs officer. We hope no other Bahamian reverend tries to make a fool of the law in this fashion.

Also if these vendors can spend so much money on these New York trips, bringing back garbage bag loads of illegal goods, then surely they can pay the reasonable rents asked by government to help maintain a first class straw market on Bay Street.

November 26, 2010

tribune242 editorial

Thursday, November 25, 2010

“…carnage unleashed…”

Rough Cut
By Felix F. Bethel
The Bahama Journal

What I am trying to say is that something is dreadfully wrong in this place where the police can apparently get away with killing people who – for whatever reason –cross them.

Something has got to be wrong when the people are afraid of the police. And as far as I am concerned, the people are afraid of the police because of the fact that far too many people have been killed at the hands of the police.

And as far as I am concerned, far too many police officers are allowed to carry guns/ and for sure –as the record attests and confirms – far too many law-abiding citizens are losing confidence in the men and women to whom they should be looking for protection.

Another Thursday and –yet again- one day closer to the time when Jesus will come and put an end to all this damned foolishness.

What I’m trying to say is that I am sick and tired of all the killing; sick and tired of all the lies I am told –day in and day out.

And Lord knows - I am sick and tired of all those fine citizens – who even as they call for justice on behalf of some lost soul- are writhing in the coils of bloody vengeance.

In one telling instance, a fine Christian lady told me that if she ever had the opportunity she would use it wisely; and that she would lynch the man who killed her grandson.

When I tried to explain that this would make her a killer, she dismissed me and all that I had to say, noting that I was too smart for my own good, with all that God-talk in my head and in my mouth.

But since she is still my beloved sister in Christ, my fervent prayers continue for both this woman and her family; and so, even as I note this or that in aid of helping bringing peace to this troubled land that is mine; I tell you that, another Black man is now dead.

Take note that, Sharmoco Newbold is dead; having been wasted – some say- by a police man.

In time, we might all have some idea; some bit of information concerning why he had to die as he did when he bit the dust as he did, this Saturday past.

But in the meanwhile as we await the coming of that day when truth is revealed; take note that, having thought deeply about the matter on today’s agenda, I am prepared to argue that, this land that is ours is an infernal kind of place – an archipelagic necropolis; a place where Death reigns and lurks; triumphant with the results of carnage unleashed.

Having thought deeply about the matter on today’s agenda, I am prepared to argue that, this land that is ours is an infernal kind of place – an archipelagic necropolis; a place where Death lurks and for sure, our land has become –inch by bloody inch - a place where thugs in uniform routinely kill unarmed citizens.

Indeed, today’s exotic-erotic Bahamas is a hellish, messed up kind of place. It is a place where you can get killed for apparently no real reason.

It is a fact that, "The shooting death of 18-year-old Brenton Smith has raised questions as to whether the armed members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force have adequate firearms training to ensure they react properly to high-pressure situations or whether some are "trigger- happy" officers whose first instinct is to pull the trigger.

Now know that, "It was just before 8 pm on a warm summer's evening -- on the cusp of the country's 36th Independence anniversary -- when the 2008 graduate of St Augustine's College walked with a friend through a popular shortcut used by many in the Kemp Road area. The path led to the nearby City Market food store on Village Road.

"He was in a hurry to flag down a jitney before it got dark and warned his friend not to make him late for his younger sister's singing recital. "But he never made it there…"

As I now imagine things – even as Brenton tried to find his way to his sister’s recital, the death angels hovered about in the immediate vicinity of that food-store that had been robbed in that same time as Hector Brenton just happened to be passing by.

The rest of the story is simple enough – Brenton was laid low by police gun-fire.

Today, Brenton Hector Smith is still dead.

The police officer who killed him is alive and well and working as a police officer. And from all that I currently suspect, this officer is armed.

While I have no basis on which to pin a judgment or opinion to the effect that this man is dangerous; I hope that his path and mine never cross.

Or to be a tad more charitable, I hope to see him on the Judgment Day – and then only so that I can get an opportunity to get the real story as to how it came to be that Hector Brenton Smith was destroyed -as he was – where he was on that fateful night when a police officer was man enough to kill him. Even now, some of my fellow-Bahamians do verily believe that Hector Brenton Smith was killed in cold blood.

For my part, I just do not know a thing about this.

What I do know is that a Coroner’s Jury did last Thursday – on a Thursday just like this one – did say that it was unanimous in its conclusion that the police officer with the gun had acted in his own self-defense when he apprehended that his life might be at danger; thus that one blast that sent Hector Brenton Smith to thy kingdom come – on a one way ticket to Oblivion. And so, that is how it is done in today’s stinking Bahamas.

I am today so very sorry for my people.

And on the basis of all that I know and believe – based on my faith in a Risen Savior- I am sure that I will see this student of mine on that day when Gabriel gets set to blow his trumpet.

I am also certain that the man who killed him will bow and confess to God Almighty for what he did when he did what he did on that fateful night when he shot the shot that felled the boy who was trying to find his way home through what he thought was a short-cut from one dead end road to another crime-infested street.

Little did Brenton know that the route he took was that one that would take him – in a flash of fire and in the stench of his own shed-blood – to that place where the dead congregate.

And the preacher-man said some days later: dust to dust and ashes to ashes and another young man’s remains were returned to the earth.

The same kind of thing happened for Jermaine Mackey’s family when they had to bury what was left of him in the aftermath of his death by police gun-fire on St. James Road in the Eastern District of this infernal island.

And then, there was that now-notorious case of a young man who was known as Sharky, but whose real name was Deron Bethel – this case being the one where –as he sat in his car and as he tried to get away from what was clearly a bad scene unfolding – he was shot through the heart.

He bled to death.

And even now, his mother grieves for the man-child who emerged – head-first- from her womb. Today this woman is grandchild to her dead son’s child – my God-son –Deron Bethel, Jr.

And still, blessed are the peacemakers.

November 25th, 2010

The Bahama Journal

The Parliament’s decision to unanimously approve Baha Mar’s request for 8,100 work permits is troubling...

Decision to approve Chinese work permits troubling

At the risk of prejudicing my views on this matter, let me remind your readers that “a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush”.

The Parliament’s decision to unanimously approve Baha Mar’s request for 8,100 work permits is troubling because it appears that all of the relevant factors were not considered or even known.

At the outset, I want to make it clear that Baha Mar has the right to invest whatever amount it wishes, wherever it wishes and whenever it wishes within the confines of our laws.

I also believe that consistent with the tenets of our capitalistic economy, Baha Mar has the right to make good and bad business decisions. It is not right, for instance, to deny approval of a Bahamian project on the basis that it would create a glut of room inventories in the marketplace, even though one would expect investors and their financiers to have regard for that possibility.

The labor issue is a significant problem not only because it robs Bahamians of maximizing their benefits from the project, and not only because on its face it puts Atlantis at a disadvantage, but because it represents a business deal that apparently could not be financed if the financier were not afforded certain privileges.

During Atlantis’ multiple phases, the government thought that it was in the best interest of the Bahamian people to require Atlantis’ labor component to be at a certain level. Undoubtedly, that imposition caused Atlantis to engage labor at a higher cost than it would if that condition did not exist.

A few years later, in order to ensure that financing is secured for a project, the government has decided to allow Baha Mar to engage almost three times the number of foreign workers as Atlantis. That circumstance means that Baha Mar is able to construct its facility at a lower cost than Atlantis.

That places Atlantis at a significant competitive disadvantage since the cost of construction drives capital requirements, financing costs, room rates and ultimately profitability. Whatever one’s opinion with respect to Atlantis and Baha Mar, one has to at the very least appreciate that this is a legitimate concern for Atlantis.

Indeed, it really ought to concern all of us since this state of affairs creates uncertainty in the minds of current local and international investors as to whether the government might change the playing field and render their business models not feasible.

This is a very dangerous matter and should not be brushed over in our effort to cause Baha Mar to happen. Atlantis’ investment is already in the ground — it is what it is. A decision by the government should not be the event that renders it less competitive — not in a capitalistic environment.

Some persons have criticized the agreement between Atlantis and the government. However, it needs to be remembered that businesspersons must seek to guard against the kind of risk that Atlantis faces today. Perhaps one is saying that such a deal is not in the country’s interest. The fact is though that no reasonable government should be afraid to execute such a deal since no reasonable government would wish to jeopardize a major investment project.

That said, I believe that the government has a moral responsibility to not grant a better deal to Baha Mar. Foreign and local investors must be able to trust that the government will ensure that the playing field is level at the time of their investment and after as well.

No investor, local or foreign, would wish to invest in an environment of uncertainty. This situation could jeopardize future investments in The Bahamas.

Indeed, Sir Sol Kerzner has already said that Atlantis phase four is unlikely. Already, therefore, the cost of granting Baha Mar 8,100 permits to construct a $2.6 billion hotel is $1 billion in future investments. The question is how many other projects will be deterred?

Moreover, if Atlantis’ phase four project were to reflect the Bahamian labor component that was imposed on it several years ago, they are likely to have engaged 3,500 Bahamians, the same number that Baha Mar will hire.

I also found it rather revealing that the labor cost allocated to the 3,500 Bahamians that Baha Mar intends to engage is $200 million over four years. That equates to $275 per week inclusive of national insurance and other benefits.

What is equally striking is that having increased the Bahamian component by $200 million, the Chinese labor component remains unchanged. Assuming that information is complete, and frankly there is no reason to believe that the Prime Minister was complete, then it simply means that Bahamians will be given contracts to procure materials. Assuming such materials are required to be sourced in China, then this amendment constitutes nothing.

What is more, if it is true that as the Prime Minister suggests, the additional $200 million is intended to move Baha Mar’s cost closer to Atlantis’, then what is the incremental cost of the Baha Mar development?

Now let’s say that Baha Mar makes the argument that its total development cost was not lowered as a result of the favorable labor allocation. That is quite possibly true, but does that make the government’s situation any better? Perhaps not.

Here is why: It is indisputable that the Chinese government’s decision to provide the financing is based on the excessive work permits and the sale of materials for that project. Therefore, the inducement takes place broadly at the level of financing, not at the level of project development cost.

That makes Atlantis’ argument even more compelling since in that instance the issue is not merely the competitive disadvantage that is driven by development cost, but the entire project. In other words, if in the absence the incremental incentives the Chinese would refuse to finance the project, the government has unwittingly given Baha Mar a financing advantage. Atlantis can therefore argue that the entire project represents an abandonment of the agreement, not just the additional labor and land cost that they incurred. Even commercial banks can argue that this deal places a competitive bar on them that they cannot reach.

I do not seek to carry water for Atlantis, much less commercial banks. I simply believe that it is essential for us to consider the consequences of the decisions we make.

The fact is that this arrangement has far reaching consequences. I only wish that the Christie administration and the Ingraham administration had not messed up Baha Mar’s original plans so badly. They owe Izmirlian, Atlantis and the Bahamian people an apology and even their resignations.

I now wish to consider a related but slightly different matter. Bahamians will recall that during the various construction phases of Atlantis, many persons argued that it was inappropriate to grant Atlantis all the incentives that were given. Undoubtedly, there were smaller investors, Bahamians and others, who felt that their business models were being threatened by the Atlantis subsidies or perhaps they felt that they should have received similar incentives, for whatever reason.

I believe a strong argument can be made by those who were aggrieved. That points to the fact that we need to have clearly defined concessions/incentives in order to create a level playing field and remove uncertainty and arbitrariness from the process. The latter leaves too much room for abuse and under the table dealings. Furthermore, deals should not be made in secret and persons who benefit in any way as lawyers, developers, etc., should not vote in our Parliament on these specific matters.

• Lynden Nairn is a Chartered Accountant, and president of Colina General Insurance.



Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Something is dreadfully wrong in this small nation of ours.

Sadly, much of that new information has to do with one bloody report after another concerning this or that person who has been victimized.

We who remain standing tally the number of our neighbors, family and friends who make up that number that is to be given those who have been left terrified, injured, maimed or dead.

This is no way to live.

We have begged and we have prayed in order to find out what – if anything – is to be done.

To date, no one has come up with adequate answers to any of our persistent queries; and here our leaders seemed to have lost their way in a miasma of lies, half-truths and placeboes.

And for sure, we look askance at the argument that, this kind of feral excess can and should be expected as part of the so-called modern way of living in an urban center.

We also say no to that infernal strategy that calls on those who lead to blame those who follow when all hell breaks out.

Here take note that, one of the more interesting facets of what it means to be human has to do with the fact that people will – for the sake of their own sanity – routinely concoct stories that purportedly explain the presence of evil in their midst.

Hardly ever do they blame themselves.

Indeed, there is always around some ready scapegoat on which we just as often dump much that troubles us.

And so, it currently arises that some of people –particularly the police- believe that they can somehow or the other pacify angry citizens by way of this or that pleasant walk-about.

Interestingly, when word first got out concerning this Saturday past’s street-level melee; there was apparently a concerted effort to paint a picture that would depict Bain Town people in a most positive light; inclusive of the life story of the dead youth, Sharmoco Newbold.

Here some who spoke out would have the public believe that this youth-man’s persona was somewhere to be located between that of an officer and a gentleman.

While this person might have indeed been such; this fact in and of itself must take second place to whatever is found to be the case once all the facts are in.

Idle speculation whether it takes the guise of lies told in order to cover up this or that; narratives and other species of conjured up stories aimed at ‘explaining’ how things might have happened; or sweet talk designed to make people feel good.

However you take it, none of this can help in a situation where what is needed is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

Indeed, nothing really matters.

By way of timely reminder, some three years ago, information came our way to the effect that, a 47-year-old woman was shot in the face during a daring daytime robbery.

As we recall, she was put on life support.

But surely, what matters today as it surely mattered then, was still the need for the public to know that while crime hurts; denial might hurt just as much.

“…This horrible incident indicated that no one is safe in the country and the quality of life is in decline. "Someone unknown left the victim where she had been hit. A bullet remains lodged in her neck.

“Police said Ms. Lori Francis had just exited the Royal Bank of Canada on John F. Kennedy Drive and entered a truck when the incident occurred…”

And for sure as we vividly recall, “According to Andrea Francis, her sister was conscious and had undergone surgery, but was on life support because she was having trouble breathing on her own.

“Today we grieve with these victimized people…”

Paradoxically, we also grieve for those who allegedly did the deed that left this woman washed and drenched in her own blood.

We do so because these two men are of this land and are striving in these times. That they may also be lunatics who are armed and dangerous attests to the fact that they too are enmeshed in a feral culture that glorifies greed and violence.

These men were not born criminal.

They were made such.

It is this fact of life that explains so how we are where we are as a people. Equally so, it suggests a way out of the mess; that way being the one that begs us to put more money into social services like health and education.

Because we have not done near enough; the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost.

November 25th, 2010

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Hubert Ingraham, Crime and the FNM’s 2012 election chances

Ingraham, crime and the FNM’s election chances
thenassauguardian editorial

The focus of the entire country appears to be on crime. Bahamians are concerned that we are days away from a third homicide record in four years. More and more Bahamians are either telling stories about being victims of crime, or of close friends and relatives being attacked or robbed.

Hubert Ingraham is seeking a fourth mandate. If successful, it would mean he would have ruled this archipelago for 20 years. In 1992, few would have dreamed he would attempt this based on his criticism of Sir Lynden Pindling’s long 25-year stay.

If he is to reach the mark of 20 years as prime minister, Ingraham has to fight through a crime problem that cannot be won by executing a well thought out communications strategy. He and the Free National Movement (FNM) will need successes in 2011.

There appear to be two main problems, on the response side of the equation, fueling the crime surge in The Bahamas.

On the one hand, the national system of prosecution has become dysfunctional. When crimes are committed there must be competent investigations by police, efficient case management by prosecutors and proper trial management by the judiciary.

Our police have not been producing the best cases, our prosecutors have prosecuted little and we do not have enough criminal courts.

The government seems to agree with this analysis.

It has changed leadership at the Royal Bahamas Police Force and at the Department of Public Prosecutions. It is also providing the funding and legislative change necessasry for more courts to begin hearing cases.

But for these changes to lead to the desired results, there must be someone with the strength of will present overseeing the justice system as a whole to ensure they work. That person would also need to have the capacity and energy to ensure other necessary reforms occur.

Both the FNM and the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) have a laissez faire attitude towards crime. The parties assume that the bureaucrats can deal with the problem. The parties must realize they cannot. Many of the institutions of government left by the British have not been evolved by our post-Independence leaders.

In fact, through years and years of cronyism, they have been eroded. Wholesale reform is needed. And a leader, passionate about the problem and competent enough to fix it, must be found.

The second problem relates to the state lack of willingness to use the necessary type of force when faced with crisis. On Monday night police shot and killed Walden Mitchell, 38, in the rear of the Grove Police Station.

Mitchell had gone on a little crime spree of sorts in the days preceeding his death. This included trying to kill a police officer. Police sourced also said Mitchell sent them a message that he was armed and ready.

What police did in response was what needed to be done. Mitchell was found and eliminated. There are others who need to be found and eliminated.

If the state would use those same officers who so skillfully eliminated Mitchell to find and eliminate some of the hit men, armed home invaders and robbers that are wrecking havoc in The Bahamas, the crime rate would begin to decline.

The state is not as feared as it used to be. People are rioting in front of police stations and attacking senior police officers. People are breaking into police stations and courts. Our leaders must find the courage to sanction what is necessary to push back against those who only understand force.

The saving grace for Ingraham and the FNM is that the PLP has no answers to the crime problem and the electorate knows this. However, voters usually voice their frustrations against incumbents. If “Papa” is to win his forth term, maintaining the status quo on the crime front will not work.

The PLP has the luxury of issuing statements rambling on and on about the crime problem because it is not in power. The FNM has to deliver solutions now because it is the government.


thenassauguardian editorial

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

When Police Shoot and Kill

The Bahama Journal Editorial

We live in a time that seems to suggest that there is a war going on out there; with the police pitted against some of their fellow-Bahamians.

With this in mind, today we suggest that, the time has come [and perhaps, some of that same time might have already come and gone] for those in charge of the Royal Bahamas Police Force to be up and doing with coming clean with all they know concerning matters that now routinely lead to the death of this or that civilian.

And for sure, as one incident yields to another in what seems to be a spiral of criminal and police instigated violence – some Bahamians are beginning to tire of what they say happens to be high-handedness on the part of some police officers.

While we are certain that policing is peculiarly stressful in these very hard times; we are also quite sensitive to complaints coming in to the effect that, police officers sometimes do overstep their legal boundaries.

Indeed, such has been admitted by any number of law-makers and bureaucrats who speak knowledgeably about the so-called ‘bad apples’ in uniform.

Here reform is badly needed; and for sure, there is also some indication that, the time might be ripe for the high command in the police force to review its policies concerning who should or should not be armed while on routine patrol in our heartland communities.

And so today, [and like a host of other Bahamians]; we are all ears as the police make it their business to come forward with a fully plausible set of explanations as to how and why it came to be that a young Bain Town man who was said to be gambling on the side of a street now finds himself quite dead.

We need some answers.

Indeed, while we are not quite sure as to precisely what did go down in Bain Town this Saturday past, when a young man died [purportedly at the hands of a policeman]; we are nonetheless prepared to suggest that fear played a major part in skewing the perception of both the policeman and the man he allegedly killed.

As one man tried to run away from the police; he was felled by a bullet coming his way from the muzzle of a policeman’s service revolver.

In time, the rest of this story will be told.

But for now, take note that, something has gone so badly awry in this land that, police and the citizenry are seemingly locked in a mire of mutual incomprehension.

Evidence in support of this conclusion comes from any number of sources; some of these inclusive of reports attributed to the police and to some of our citizens, particularly from any number of people who live in our heartland communities.

On the one hand, we have situations and circumstances where police are convinced that this or that neighborhood is said to be infested with drug dealing, street-level prostitution and a host of other so-called ‘deviant’ activities.

And for sure, there are all those other reports that are proud to report that, while there are problems arising in some of our heartland communities; none of them reaches that level of panic as suggested by some observers who might have other ideas.

Here suffice it to say that, we are absolutely convinced that much that we hear about what is happening in these communities is comprised of a tissue of lies, some stereotyping and a host of gross generalizations.

Evidently, this juxtaposition neatly explains how –in case after bloody case – the police shoot someone or the other who – on examination – turns out to be somebody’s good child.

But for sure, in a situation where fear prevails, misperceptions will and do arise. And so today, we have a situation on our hands where fear, dread and criminality run rampant; with some of our adolescent youth little more than, rapists in the making; murderers in training and thieves in their infancy.

This they do when they are called to provide bail for this child or that child who is –as the saying goes – held in the protective custody of the state.

Something is dreadfully wrong with this picture.

Clearly, then, nothing real or good can come from this latest outrage so long as the police and the people are seemingly at loggerheads.

Here we go further as we note that, things can only go from bad to worse in this land of ours so long as some of our youth [particularly some of those young men who live in the so-called ghetto] see the police as part of an oppressive Babylon.

By the same token, our police officers must come to the realization that, things are not as bad in these heartland communities as some of the stereotypes surrounding them might, would or could suggest.

November 24, 2010

The Bahama Journal Editorial

...it will take the people, being of one mind and one focus – to bring an end to the terror of crime in our Bahamaland

Where are we headed as a nation?
thenassauguardian editorial

When three lives can be taken senselessly, seemingly without cause or pause, what does that say about us as a ‘Christian’ nation? When a man is at home and another boldly enters his “castle” uninvited, armed with an illegal weapon and snuffs out his life; when a teenager and a relative is at a birthday party celebrating the milestone of a friend, and a knife is plunged into his chest, stopping his breath; when a woman, just completing an eight-hour work shift, walks out to the parking lot and is accosted by an assailant, who not only steals her money and shoots her, but drives from the scene in her car?

What does that say about us as a ‘Christian’ nation?

In the past two, three years it appears as though persons pulling the triggers in this country have been overtaken with an irrational mindset that is spiraling out of control. Many organizations have begun programs to curb their behavior, but to no avail. The police have launched countless initiatives, beefed up patrols and acquired new equipment. However the crime wave and criminality continues to build and as the essence of those transgressions permeate the atmosphere, pent up tension and frustration are beginning to forge themselves in the minds of the victims.

Just over the weekend residents of Bain Town, New Providence assembled themselves as “one group”, a force against the police. Rocks, bottles and other missiles were thrown and the innocent, including media personnel and clergymen were hurt in the process.

It may not of been the intent of the residents to do bodily harm to anyone, however, restrained frustration and anger over what they believe is their situation of disadvantage boiled over and there had to be a point of release.

Their action maybe an isolated one, but be assured people throughout this country are living time bombs waiting to explode. But before The Bahamas develops a criminal reputation internationally, the people must unify themselves in the fight against crime.

Earlier this year Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham called for a day of prayer, many were surprised by this move, but if Grand Bahamians would take their minds back to the year of the “Five Missing Boys” it was not until the men of the cloth called for a time of fasting and prayer that the predator revealed himself. Cordell Farrington walked into the Central Police Station and confessed that he committed those crimes.

However, that did not happen until the people came together with one voice, believing and focusing on the perpetrator being exposed.

So, the prime minister was on the right track calling for a day of prayer. Maybe he should consider declaring another such proclamation as 2010 nears its end, with the country having recorded 85 murders thus far, only two under the murder count of 87 for 2009.

There are five weeks left in 2010, where are we headed as a ‘Christian’ nation when lives are being taken senselessly; when families are afraid to rest at night in fear of some unscrupulous bandit invading their home; when women are afraid to water their grass after sunset and when children cannot stand at the bus stop without the fear of being hit by a stray bullet?

This country must no longer be held hostage by those who have apparently lost their conscience and respect for life.

Where are we headed as a nation?

The terror must stop and it will take the people, being of one mind and one focus – to bring an end to the terror of crime in our Bahamaland.


thenassauguardian editorial

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And Now, the People Speak

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Like others who work in media, we are always left gladdened when those who lead avail themselves of the services people like us package and deliver to a people in need of having access to information and commentary germane to all aspects of the people’s right to know.

In this regard, kudos are due this nation’s prime minister and his parliamentary opposite for the manner in which they have sought to bring the public into their debates about matters currently on the minds of the Bahamian people; here whether the reference made has to do with economic, social or cultural concerns.

Indeed, we make this point as we note the obvious; this being to the effect that, all roads political now run in that direction where the voice of the people will be heard in free and fair elections; and where as we are led to believe, the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie hopes to be squared off against the Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham.

In turn, these two men can expect the arrival of any number of other men and women who believe that the Bahamian people should choose one of them. And so, the time will come and the people will choose; and as they make up their minds, some of them will search out information that might help them. Here they will turn to media for this or that quantum of relevant information.

For as long as we can remember there have been those people who would –if they only could- fix this or that game. Such a crew of people can be found wherever and whenever games are there to be played.

Sadly, this is how some Bahamians would love to see happen in the political game that is operative in a fledgling democracy such as ours. The good thing here is that Bahamians need have no real fear; this due to the fact that, there is information galore available; much of it aimed at getting at the real truth behind this or that stated event or policy. This truth is evidently not lost on the men and women in the hierarchy of both the Progressive Liberal Party and its parliamentary opposite in the guise of the ruling Free National Movement.

Both parties are led by men who have been around long enough to know that the press has a vitally important role to play in helping preserve and grow our involvement with the role democracy can play in providing a people with governments that are truly theirs.

That we live in a democracy is sometimes treated as if this was obvious. Nothing could be further from the truth; the fact being that we live in a society where democracy and the rule of law are seen to provide guidelines and framework for the conduct of the people’s business.

And so the point we make is to the effect that, while we aspire to both democracy and the rule of law, there will always be some temptation or the other that might conspire to have those who lead stray away from that high mark where transparency, accountability are the known coins of the realm. But even as some politicians might wish to do as they see fit in a fledgling democracy such as the one we currently have; they do so at their peril.

Indeed, there is evidence galore to support the conclusion that, whenever they had to do what they felt was right, the Bahamian people have made their voices heard in no uncertain way.

This they do when they have a chance to sound out on relevant issues of the day on radio or by way of other media that are currently ubiquitous – as in the case of information mediated by way of the Internet.

Such is the power of this medium that any who believe that they could or should try to get away with any foolishness had better think again.

And for sure, we note –albeit in passing- that long gone are the days when media could be controlled by this or that political party – such being the necessary result of living in a time when the production, packaging and dissemination of information [political and otherwise] can be done by a broad cross-section of the citizenry.

And so, media matters all the more to men and women who would lead. None of this should however be read to suggest that, the day of the so-called mass rally is over; instead what we are suggesting is that, as the voting population expresses itself politically, some of them will gravitate to media that are close and intimate; while others will search out for other venues and other experiences.

But no matter the medium or the forum; the Bahamian people will speak and they will have the last word for all who would lead them anywhere!

November 23rd, 2010

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sir Sol Kerzner and the Baha Mar deal

Kerzner's concerns on Baha Mar project
Tribune Staff Reporter

A NEW day is dawning in the Bahamas. An entity that was once only talked about will soon become a reality on Cable Beach - Baha Mar.

At an estimated value of over $2.6 billion, it is considered by all estimates to be a monolithic project. To some it is considered a monstrosity that will consume all that was here before it. To others it is a golden egg.

To the chairman and CEO of Kerzner International, Sir Sol Kerzner, it is something else altogether.

Last week, Sir Sol made a rare appearance in the local press by issuing a statement to the media on the impending approval of Bah Mar.

In his statement, Sir Sol said that while they welcomed any project that would enhance and improve the tourism sector in The Bahamas, "the proposed terms of the Baha Mar project violates the Kerzner Heads of Agreement with The Bahamas." He promised that Kerzner International would discuss with the Government how to address this "breach" in their "most favoured nation" clause.


Since this statement there has been much talk in the press about what exactly a most favoured nation clause is. According to the Minister of State for Finance, Zhivargo Laing, a MFN classification is an internationally established economic principle, centrally recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which seeks to establish a level playing field between mutual parties.

"The term is counter intuitive," Minister Laing explained.

"The name suggests that you treat the entity with MFN status more favourably than others, but what it really means is that you treat everyone alike; you don't treat anyone more favourably," he said.

Based on the MFN principle, if one MFN entity is granted special Customs rates, for example, then all MFN entities should be granted special Customs rates. The specific rates would be established by government policy or law.

In the case of the Bahamas, the Hotels Encouragement Act addresses the issue of concessions, while allowances for labour are specified in government policy, he said.

In order to establish whether a breach of MFN privilege exists, Mr Laing suggested one would have to assess a competing agreement "in its totality" and not compare a single line item. He said the question of a breach is "not so simple from the government's point of view."

In fact during the Prime Minister's wrap up on the Baha Mar debate he said, "I do not concede that we would be in breach of the deal with Kerzner. The relationship between the Bahamas and Kerzner has been mutually beneficial," Prime Minister Ingraham said.

Sir Sol, however, has taken the conversation to another level when he revealed during a teleconference with the press last week that if Baha Mar were to be approved in its current state the jobs of over 8,000 employees at Atlantis could be put at risk.

"It seems to me pretty ridiculous in this current environment, even if the economic environment were a lot better to look to come in and double the current number of rooms overnight. It seems to me pretty irresponsible. I also believe that one should take into account that we have 8,000 people working with us, and if this were to move forward the likelihood is that people's jobs would have to be threatened. It is just impossible, practically impossible to double the size of the market.


"As we said in our statement, last year was a tough year and occupancy was under pressure. Well guess what, this year is even tougher. So it seems pretty ridiculous to me that these folks are wanting to move forward," he said.

And move forward they have. The Baha Mar labour resolution was passed unanimously before the House of Assembly (36 voting for, with four absent), which allows for 8,150 foreign workers, but no more than 5,000 at one time to be employed on the Baha Mar Cable Beach project.

Following this unanimous vote in the House of Assembly last week, Baha Mar's senior vice-president of external affairs, Robert "Sandy" Sands said that construction for the single-phase $2.6 billion Baha Mar development project could break ground as early as January, pending the close of the Export Import (EXIM) Bank of China loan.

Contractors have already been chosen for the first six construction packages, totaling $60 million, which will include the new Commercial Village contracts and the new West Bay Street.

According to Mr Sands, the initial payout will cover construction contracts and also includes numerous Bahamian architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, suppliers and many other related parties who will participate in these first six contract packages.

Prior to the approval of this massive project, Sir Sol said that he did not want to speculate on what he would do if Baha Mar was approved without at least the development being "phased" in as his Atlantis properties were. Now that the project has been pushed through the proverbial pipeline, the question remains: What will Atlantis do in response?

Addressing these concerns, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham informed the nation that he was confident that Sir Sol's concerns about Baha Mar could be resolved satisfactorily.

He also publicly proclaimed his respect and gratitude for Sir Sol's contributions to the country, adding that he will do anything in his power to ensure the Atlantis product remains successful on Paradise Island. However this commitment, he said, does not mean he will not be fair to other developers.

"We were always concerned, when we came to office that there was nothing in the Baha Mar deal that would have given them a better deal than Kerzner. I think I can say that the thing that ticked Kerzner (off) more than anything else is a statement by Perry Christie to the effect that Baha Mar only wants to get what Kerzner got," said Mr Ingraham on the radio show Issues of the Day.

"There is no question in my mind of my high regard for Sol Kerzner and what he has done for the Bahamas. I was berated by many when he came in 1994 and what he has done for the Bahamas has transformed our tourism industry.

"He has provided us with 2,000 more jobs than he committed to, he has a very successful project on Paradise Island and I will do all I can, for as long as I can, to ensure that his project is successful."

"That has nothing to do with whether I will be fair to anybody else. (But) I will not knowingly give anybody else a better deal than Kerzner got," stated the nation's chief.

During his live radio interview, Mr Ingraham also accused the former Christie administration of engaging in secret deals with Baha Mar by promising them concessions not included in their contract.

He said these secret concessions are part of what government is trying to renegotiate.

"The PLP government gave Baha Mar a deal over and above what they signed in the contract. So on the same day that they signed the contract they issued what was called side letters offering Baha Mar more.

"We tried to pull those things back. We are now doing an analysis to see the extent to which we have been successful, we think we have been somewhat successful in ensuring that there is equity and balance between the two."

Hopefully this "equity" and "balance" between the two resorts will eventually allow the two properties to complement each other, without there being any cannibalism in the marketplace, he said.

However, this appears highly unlikely if both hotels will be aiming for the same dwindling number of "high-end" visitors.

At this stage it is not easy to dismiss Atlantis' concerns as a mere fear of competition when one considers that our air arrivals have not actually been booming over the past few years. With a global recession still wreaking havoc on our tourism industry, no "expert" is willing to guess on when things are expected to turn around in that sector.

Maybe, like the haunting voice in the Hollywood film "A Field of Dreams," if Baha Mar builds it, the tourists will come.

November 22, 2010

Tribune242 Insight

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham: I will not knowingly give anybody else a better deal than Kerzner got...

PM responds to Kerzner’s claims
Guardian Staff Reporter

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said yesterday that he is not concerned with the statements made by Kerzner International’s Chairman and CEO Sol Kerzner that thousands of jobs may be at risk as a result of the Baha Mar project.

Kerzner told reporters on Thursday that the 8,000 jobs at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island would be placed in jeopardy if the government approves the Baha Mar project in its current form.

“It’s a deal that makes no sense,” Kerzner said. “It’s a deal that could be harmful to the people of The Bahamas and certainly to future investors and indeed ourselves.”

Kerzner has also argued that the deal between the government and Baha Mar violates the most favored nation status clause his company agreed to with the government in successive agreements.

Under these agreements, no investor should receive more favorable terms with the government than Kerzner’s company.

Ingraham said he thinks the issue with Kerzner will come to a satisfactory conclusion.

“I have many discussions with Mr. Kerzner,” said Prime Minister Ingraham, who was a guest on Love 97’s radio talk show Issues of the Day. “I think that we will resolve this issue satisfactorily. I think so.”

Despite the public criticisms of the Baha Mar deal by Kerzner, the House of Assembly unanimously approved the Baha Mar resolution on Thursday.

The company is seeking 8,150 work permits for non-Bahamian construction workers. The government brought the resolution to the House in order to get the ‘blessing’ of members before it finally approves the project, likely by the end of the month.

“We were always concerned that when we came to office that there was nothing in the Baha Mar deal that would give them a better deal than Kerzner, ”?Ingraham said yesterday. “I think I can say that the thing that ticked Kerzner more than anything else is a statement made by (Progressive Liberal Party Leader) Perry Christie to the effect that Baha Mar only wanted to get what Kerzner got. And he (Kerzner) was of the view that Baha Mar was getting more than him. And he was very hurt that Christie would make such a statement.”

Ingraham said Kerzner is concerned about Baha Mar’s lower construction labor costs, as compared to his company’s construction labor costs. Baha Mar will be mostly using Chinese labor to build its resort. Kerzner used more Bahamian labor at his property, increasing costs.

According to Ingraham, Kerzner is also concerned about the sum Baha Mar paid for the land the development is located on.

Ingraham said one of the reasons why they insisted there had to be a substantial increase to the contract value for Bahamian contractors was to help to offset any question about Kerzner’s concerns.

As a result of negotiations between Ingraham and the Chinese, and subsequent negotiations between the Chinese and Baha Mar, subcontracts to Bahamians in connection with the Baha Mar project will increase from $200 million to $400 million.

Ingraham said he wants to be sure that the government is not giving Baha Mar a better deal than Kerzner.

He added that when the Free National Movement (FNM) government negotiated a deal with Baha Mar in 2008, it did not give Baha Mar some of the concessions the Christie administration had agreed to.

“They issued side letters offering Baha Mar more. We tried to pull those things back. We think we have been somewhat successful ensuring that there is equity and balance between the two,” Ingraham said.

In response to criticism that he treats Kerzner with more regard than he does other developers, Ingraham didn’t shy away from the relationship he shares with the hotel developer. However, he added that all developers are treated fairly.

“There’s no question of my high regard for Sol Kerzner for what he has done for The Bahamas,” Ingraham said adding that Kerzner provided The Bahamas with 2,000 more jobs than he committed to.

“I will do all I can for as long as I can to ensure that his project is successful, but that has nothing to do with whether I will be fair to anyone else. But I will not knowingly give anybody else a better deal than Kerzner got,” he said.

Ingraham added that the Baha Mar project is only going forward because of his government.

He said there was no means by which Baha Mar’s CEO Sarkis Izmirlian could get the funding from the Chinese unless the government gave the Chinese the go ahead.

China Export-Import Bank (China Eximbank) is extending a $2.45 billion loan to Baha Mar.



Sunday, November 21, 2010

Streets, Suites and Social Parasites

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Sadly and regrettably – this weekend past was like most we have experienced over the course of the past two decades and more; being dreadfully the same as thugs and other social parasites went out their business of looting, shooting, raping and killing.

For some of these people – the crimes begin on Thursday; are rampant on Friday and come to full throttle on Saturdays.

And so, it was this weekend past; the Princess Margaret’s Hospital was awash in blood; people wailed as their loved ones were rolled in on gurneys and stretchers; and one or two others stood in mute horror as the remains of this or that person were rolled away.

Saturday’s crescendo witnessed the death of a youth in Bain Town and the presentation of a tableau that show-cased Rambo-styled police-officers; armed to the teeth and [evidently] ready for some action.

Thankfully and mercifully, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade was in place and brought calm to what could have been a scene of bloody carnage. He is to be thanked for the maturity he brought as he spoke to a distraught community of men, women and youth – residents in that heartland community.

We listened in as he underscored the importance of label and interpretation whenever an event transpires and which attracts the attention of the police.

Here the Commissioner went to some lengths to make the point that no riot had taken place in Bain Town; and that while a youth was killed, there was never any reason for anyone to interpret neighborhood anger and regret [and even rage] as precursors to a riot.

Evidently, it is important to note that the Commissioner himself - as a product of Bain Town- knows the heart and spirit of that community better than most of his peers in the field of policing – and very many others, inclusive of some of our policymakers.

None of this should be taken to suggest that the Police Commissioner is enveloped in a thicket of illusions; indeed, to the contrary – there is every suggestion that, Ellison Greenslade’s calming presence made a major difference to a situation that could have been seriously ugly.

Evidently, this man’s hands are full with what happens to be his mandate; to help rid this society of the handiwork of any number of people who can and should be described as thugs and parasites run amok.

Here we would suggest that, as in any other occupation, there seems to be a species of division of labor in the ranks of those thugs and parasites who bedevil the rest of our society; with that division of labor consisting of those men and women who specialize in selling guns and ammunition; the men who rape; the men and women who rob others; those who specialize in home invasions; the rapists; those who specialize in abusing girls and boys and [of course] those who kill and get away with this most dastardly of crimes against the human person.

And then, there is that very special category of criminals – those medical practitioners and their patients who [as we are told] routinely abort fetuses alive in the womb.

This work is routinely and euphemistically described as ‘a procedure’. In instance after instance, the procedure is little more than a slick way of covering up the deliberate killing of that being who would – in the fullness of time- have become a living, breathing human person.

That this act is invariably illegal in The Bahamas underscores its violence and further serves to illuminate how coarse things have become for so very many Bahamians.

Evidently, these people are fulsomely deserving of the epithet, ‘thugs and assassins’.

This is how they should be described, notwithstanding their elevated social status as professionals.

Simply put, their crimes stink to high heaven!

And to be quite honest about the matter at hand, there are instances where – as we have been told- some of this nation’s most successful criminals routinely out-think, out-maneuver and who are able to baffle the police. These are the criminals who have succeeded.

Yet again, some of these people are well-educated; with some of them being lawyers, doctors, accountants, nurses, teachers and other so-called respectable people.

Some of these criminals work from the safety of their suites; thus having the safest of distance from the ruder and cruder kind of criminal whose work is done –as it were- in the raw.

While these criminals are the ones who are seen on a daily and nightly basis; there is reason to believe that some of these hard men and women are in the indirect employ of some of the hard men and women who do their stuff from on-high.

It is this aspect of that matter that involves thugs and social parasites that should also engage the urgent attention of Police Commissioner Greenslade and some of his officers.

November 22nd, 2010

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham insists that the Government of The Bahamas will not concede a breach of contract that Kerzner International is alleging will be made - if the Baha Mar project is approved

PM: Govt will not concede breach of Kerzner contract
Guardian Staff Reporter

The Government of The Bahamas will not concede a breach of contract that Kerzner International is alleging will be made if the Baha Mar project is approved, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham insisted last night during his contribution to debate in the House of Assembly. The House unanimously passed the resolution to move forward with the Baha Mar project late last night.

Ingraham urged that Kerzner International, owners of the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, should outline why it thinks The Bahamas has breached the ‘Most Favored Nation’ (MFN) clause in its agreement with Kerzner, and put it to his government.

“On behalf of the government, I do not concede that we have breached our agreements with Kerzner,” said Ingraham.

“I await receipt of the particulars of Kerzner’s claim which we will review and determine.

“We always honor our deals. And the arrangement with Kerzner is no exception.”

Kerzner charged in a press release issued Wednesday that the government of The Bahamas has given the Baha Mar developers more favorable labor terms than they received during the development of Atlantis, which violates the MFN clause.

However, Ingraham insisted last night that Baha Mar has not been offered certain concession given Kerzner during their development phases.

He argued that The Bahamas over the years has been just as good to Kerzner as Kerzner has been to the Bahamian people and economy.

“The entry of Kerzner in The Bahamas has been good, indeed very good for The Bahamas,” said Ingraham.

“Kerzner has created as many as 2,000 more new and additional jobs to that required under the terms of the various agreements concluded with the government.

“Kerzner’s impact on training – whether of workers involved in the construction of its various resort properties, or for workers engaged in the operation and maintenance of Kerzner’s properties is clearly evident. The impact of Kerzner International – of Atlantis, the Ocean Club and the Cove, with their themed park, marina, etc, is also evident.

“Yes, Kerzner is good for The Bahamas. It is also true that The Bahamas has been good to Mr. Kerzner.

“It has not been a one way street. The relationship has been mutually beneficial.”

The prime minister also lamented the fact that it took more than six years for Kerzner to bring its concerns to the table, which he insisted cannot stop Baha Mar’s development now.

“I note that Kerzner International is late in expressing its concern with the Baha Mar project; having not voiced those concerns in 2005 when the dimensions of this project would have been very widely covered in the Bahamian press, nor in 2007 when my government made the details of the various agreements concluded with Baha Mar public in this place,” he said.

“I believe, Mr. Speaker, that the horse has left the barn. I am fully confident that this honorable House will signal its approval for this project to proceed.”

Ingraham also took his alloted time in Parliament to reaffirm Baha Mar and China State Construction’s (CSC) commitment to increasing the amount of subcontracted work for Bahamians from $200 to $400 million, and creating an $8 million training program for construction workers, $1 million of which is to be a cash injection at the approval of the project.

Baha Mar and its Chinese partners have also agreed to develop a permanent training and service academy that will prepare Bahamians for the resort properties’ opening and beyond, Ingraham said.

He tabled e-mails and a letter from CSC and Baha Mar bolstering their support for these services.

According to him, the net benefit of this deal for Bahamians and the Bahamian economy far outweigh the counter-arguments to such a large development.

Baha Mar released a statement last night, following the government’s passage of the resolution, thanking it for its support and ensuring that, following their receipt of the final government approvals, they will commence the project by awarding contracts immediately to Bahamian contractors.

The development’s Chairman and CEO Sarkis Izmirlian said his company is dedicated to the project and the economic benefits it promises to The Bahamas.

“The Baha Mar team is delighted with today’s unanimous vote by Parliament,” he said.

“We are dedicated to delivering to The Bahamas this world class destination resort and the immediate and long term economic benefits, both from its construction and operation.

“The government and the Bahamian people are placing their trust in us, not just to have Baha Mar succeed as a business enterprise, but as importantly for Baha Mar to be a productive and exemplary member of the Bahamian community.

“Succeeding for The Bahamas is the key to Baha Mar’s success. This is what Baha Mar is about, and this is the guiding principle with respect to how we will run our business.

“We look forward to the tremendous positive benefits that Baha Mar will bring to The Bahamas.”



Perry Christie - Opposition Leader says: ... if the government considers itself a partner in the deal with Baha Mar, it should have dealt with the alleged breach with Kerzner outside of the House of Assembly

Christie: Issues with Kerzner should have been resolved first
Guardian Staff Reporter

Leader of the Opposition Perry Christie admonished the government during his contribution to debate in the House of Assembly yesterday, for not moving to resolve their apparent breach of a ‘Most Favored Nation’ (MFN) clause with Kerzner International, before bringing the Baha Mar resolution to Parliament for a vote.

Christie said if the government considers itself a partner in the deal with Baha Mar, it should have dealt with the alleged breach with Kerzner outside of the House of Assembly.

According to him, when the government was made aware that Kerzner considered the allowance of 8,000 Chinese workers for the Baha Mar project a violation of MFN, the prime minister should have met with them to resolve the issue before yesterday.

“It looks like there is antagonism in the product, serious difficulties in the product, where the government is making a decision to breach an agreement,” said Christie.

“Because, if we are saying that we are going to approve it (Baha Mar) and he (Sol Kerzner) is saying we are in breach of it (MFN), Parliament should suspend itself, since we have been asked to come to this point to have a determination made as to whether or not we are in breach.”

According to him, the matter of a breach of contract is “a matter to do with partners” and “not to do with public relations of a government”.

He said he was taken aback when Member of Parliament for Marco City, Zhivargo Laing read the press statement in the House of Assembly that was issued by Kerzner International outlining what it considered to be a breach of MFN.

“I was shocked yesterday,” he said. “This (MFN breach) is essentially a major legal matter that has exercised the minds of lawyers here in the attorney general’s office and the Queens Counsel of England.”

Christie also used much of the beginning of his alloted time in the House to respond to the government’s accusations that his party was not an effective government when they were in power and with regard to the Baha Mar agreement.

He got extremely testy with his colleagues across the floor yesterday, reminding them to act like parliamentarians while addressing the House and each other, as Bahamians look to them as a good example.

“We are coming to a time in the country where we have to be careful that we do not begin applying in our country retribution and reaction,” he said.

“That is not good for this country and our leadership in this country must exercise the greatest care as we move forward, dealing with people's reputations.

“Recognize that as best we can, we will try to avoid the snaring remarks and try to focus on the issues at hand.”