Monday, February 28, 2011

Loretta Butler-Turner: ...much work to do in The Bahamas to increase women and girls participation in the field of education, training, science and technology

The Bahamas reaffirms commitment to gender equality and advancement of women


EVEN while lauding progress on gender equity in education and employment opportunities, Minister of State for Social Development Loretta Butler-Turner said that with the rapid advancement in information and communication technology (lCT) shaping the global environment, there is still much work to do in the Bahamas to increase the level of participation by women and girls in the fields of education, training, science and technology.

Mrs. Turner was addressing the 55th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which convened at the UN under the theme "access and participation of women and girls in education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women's equal access to full employment and decent work." During her address, Mrs. Turner reaffirmed the commitment of the Government of The Bahamas to globally recognized goals for access for women and girls to education and employment and urged the elimination of gender barriers in order to empower women and girls to fully participate in the scientific and technical global environment.

The minister said that the Educational and Employment Acts of The Bahamas ensure equal educational rights for boys and girls and full employment and decent work for men and women.

"Increasingly girls are pursuing subjects that have traditionally been regarded as 'male' subjects in response to the changing demands of the local labour market," she reported.

"One of The Bahamas' success stories in promoting non-traditional educational training and employment opportunities for young people is the establishment of The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI), which has seen greater numbers of females seeking careers in agriculture, construction engineering, electronics, and automotive and electrical engineering and technology."

Mrs. Turner also pointed out that a significant number of women currently hold high-level administrative and faculty positions throughout the educational system of The Bahamas, including several leading associate and assistant professors in the natural sciences and environmental studies and some who have served as Chair of the Natural Sciences Division at the College of The Bahamas.

"While these are notable achievements, I am well aware that this is not enough," the minister said. "With the rapid advancement in information and communication technology (lCT) shaping the global environment, we still have much work to do in The Bahamas to increase women and girls participation in the field of education, training, science and technology. An overwhelming number of female graduates are still inclined to pursue careers in the humanities, social sciences, and judicial fields."

February 28, 2011


Sunday, February 27, 2011

ZNS, while still having advantages over other news outlets, has been failing in its mandate to “inform, educate and entertain” the public

Does ZNS deserve a dime?

Corporation’s restructuring yet to bear fruit

Three months after the government released 80 people from the ZNS Network in a controversial restructuring exercise, ads running on the Parliamentary Channel declare that the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas (BCB) is now seeking to hire reporters and other employees.
ZNS still appears to be critically challenged and the public has a front row seat to witness whether the recent restructuring would indeed result in an improved operation.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham cannot coast forever on the fact the he liberated the airwaves after he first came to power nearly 20 years ago. It is perhaps why the administration has taken the action it says would lead to improvements at the state-owned corporation.

When Ingraham initially became prime minister, media-wise The Bahamas was in the dark ages after decades of the ZNS broadcast monopoly.

Many years of mismanagement and inappropriate intervention by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) — which has no moral authority to lecture anyone on what has happened at ZNS — left many Bahamians misinformed and pretty much beholden to government for whatever scraps of information it would offer about its achievements.

As far as public transparency, things have gotten somewhat better in the years since.

However, as far as making substantive information freely available, the Free National Movement and the PLP leave much to be desired.

Politicians still use ZNS as a tool for propaganda, asserting their own importance and efficiency as often as possible.

It seems as if the politicians’ view is that the primary function of ZNS is to show how much they are doing for the very people they ask to pay for the state broadcaster.

ZNS’ financial situation

A recent report by the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) noted that levels of public funding for ZNS are low by international standards.

In 2009/10, the corporation’s unaudited total income was $14.7 million. Of this, $6.2 million, or 44 percent of the total, was derived from commercial means, according to URCA.

The government provided a public grant of $8.5 million, representing the other 56 percent of ZNS' income over the year.

For the financial year 2010/11, the corporation’s public grant was slashed in half and now stands at $4.25 million.

According to URCA's research, the government grant in 2009/10 was the equivalent of spending $28 per person in the country.

URCA said that compared to PSB spending in 18 other countries, The Bahamas came in on the low-end of the scale.

URCA said other countries showed a per capita spend of around $40 to $60, and in some cases $80 to $110 per head on PSB.

ZNS, while still having advantages over other news outlets, has been failing its mandate to “inform, educate and entertain” the public.

Just looking at the information aspect of its mandate, ZNS has a long way to go and has been lagging for quite some time.

Staff changes

In 2009, ZNS radio anchor and reporter Julian Reid left the editorial department to work in programming.

He hosted a monthly show about the environment, ‘The Bahamas Naturally’.

Charlene Ferguson became the regular morning news anchor.

A few weeks before the corporation’s spectacular meltdown in November, long-time reporter Sherman Brown was forced to resign from the corporation after being caught up in some controversy involving the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and Canadian fashion designer Peter Nygard, who lives in Lyford Cay.

As part of the restructuring, Ferguson and Reid were let go.

Marcellus Hall, who was a sports editor, claimed he found the way ZNS handled the downsizing to be distasteful, so he voluntarily accepted a retirement package.

Jerome Sawyer, unquestionably the most qualified broadcast television talent at ZNS, was removed as anchor and from news altogether and given a one-year contract at a severely reduced salary to produce a show called ‘The Sawyer Report’.

Keishla Smith became the national television news anchor.

‘The Sawyer Report’ does not always air consistently, apparently because the studio space Sawyer was given to do his new show is now occupied by the new set for ‘The Bahamas Tonight’ evening newscast.

Sawyer also apparently has few resources to do his show, which is still no excuse for the irregularity of the broadcasts.

With Ferguson gone, Altovise Munnings, who was hired at ZNS about midway through 2010, is now responsible for the radio news and required to do TV reporting, which is normal in the industry.

Beverly Curry was removed as news director and offered the post of director of the Parliamentary Channel. She decided to accept a retirement package instead.

It is reported that she has since returned and accepted the job she was offered during the restructuring.

Anthony ‘Ace’ Newbold, who was formerly deputy general manager of the Parliamentary Channel, replaced Curry as news director.

Opal Roach and Betty Thompson were returned to news reporting from Parliamentary Channel duties.

Vaughnique Toote, a TV and radio reporter, was moved to the Parliamentary Channel.

She lasted less than two months and now works for The Nassau Guardian as the main news anchor for Star 106.5 FM.

So ZNS lost four reporters, one news anchor, and a sports anchor in the space of just a few months.

Now, after the frenzy that was the restructuring exercise, the BCB is looking for people to fill several positions.

In the meantime, reporters continue to host various shows.

Clint Watson has been hosting a news week-in-review program for some time now.

And Shenique Miller has been hosting the seasonal weekly show ‘Press Pass’ for more than a year now, although it is said to be heavily censored.

Since ZNS axed Julian Reid, reporter Giovanni Stuart has been hosting ‘The Bahamas Naturally’.

Syann Thompson also has a monthly culture show going on.

As ZNS added those responsibilities to some reporters, it has also increased the frequency of its radio and TV updates.

As part of the restructuring, ZNS recently abruptly stopped the national broadcast of television news from Grand Bahama.

The claim was that the cost was too much to bear, even though it was less than $100,000 per year to carry the broadcast.

That price does not seem exorbitant when one considers the value of properly informing the wider population on what is going on in the northern region.

ZNS also reportedly has an unwritten policy that ‘The Bahamas Tonight’ should not feature crime too prominently.

This sentiment was echoed by pastors at a recent press conference with police.

Apparently, the feeling amongst pastors and police is that the media sensationalize crime.

Anyone who cannot see how bad the crime problem is must be considered delusional and not allowed to make major decisions.

If the issue is not constantly highlighted and the police pressured to continually push back against criminals, the situation would only worsen.

ZNS also has a bad habit of making most stories about Cabinet ministers.

These high-ranking officials are important figures, but usually the story only tangentially involves them. It does not always begin and end with them.

And if the story is about the minister, tough questions should be asked.

As a result of all that has happened, ZNS has painted itself into a corner.

If ZNS does not correct itself very soon, the public may begin to doubt the veracity of information it broadcasts.

Now what?

ZNS Executive Chairman Michael Moss has rightly stated that ZNS has to be free of political influence. That might not happen anytime soon. The current prime minister seems unwilling to do this.

The PLP has slammed Ingraham for the downsizing.

If Perry Christie returns to power, it is unclear if he would rehire the laid off workers despite the drag on public finances.

Evidently, this mantra about the BCB being released from a political choke hold and transformed into something similar to what we see in industrialized countries has yet to bear fruit.



Saturday, February 26, 2011

Teen pregnancy appears to have gone wild in The Bahamas

The effects of teenage pregnancy

THE social issues we now face in the Bahamas are due, in part, to the large number of children who are having children. Teenage pregnancy appears to have gone wild!

Teenage pregnancy is a major contributing factor to the social disintegration our country now faces. In the Bahamas, we are shifting from one generation to another too speedily, and thus resulting in a nation of poorly socialized, ill-mannered brats who are disgruntled and intent on ruining any thread of public harmony.

The term teenage pregnancy refers to any teenage girl who falls pregnant during her adolescent years. Teenage pregnancies carry a social stigma, lead to poorly educated adults, increase poverty and harmfully affect the lives of the children being born. In a report by the Save the Children organization, it was found that every year, about 13 million children (worldwide) are born to teen mothers under age 20, primarily in developing countries. According to local statistics, the percentage of births to teenage mothers lingers around 13 per cent of the national total.

Just last week, as I left a law firm on Dowdeswell Street, there walked a contingent of young girls, wearing baby-blue outfits (presumably students of the PACE--Providing Access to Continued Education--programme) and speaking garishly, all with protruding bellies. These youngsters were on average between ages 13 to 16. I recall one of them telling the other how she couldn't wait to have her baby, leave the PACE programme and return to regular school.

According to the PACE Foundation website, the PACE programme was initiated by Nurse Andrea Elizabeth Archer in 1970 and "has sought to pioneer ways and means to address the problem of teen pregnancy, and, in its many years of existence, has certainly impacted the lives of numerous teens and their babies."

The website says: "Over the years, it would have provided assistance to more than 3000 teenage mothers, helping them to complete high school thus ensuring them a better chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and hopelessness. However, PACE continues to face numerous problems that affect its functionality. Entry into the PACE programme is voluntary and available only to first-time teen mothers. However, less than half of the nation's first-time mothers enter the programme yearly.


"The aim is to intervene in the lives of more first-time teen mothers with a view to ensuring that such girls achieve a minimum of a high school diploma, and preventing further pregnancies until they have achieved independent means by which they can care adequately for all their offspring. At present, our children are at risk of growing up in economically disadvantaged circumstances and with mothers who are ill-prepared for parenting and, in fact, need parenting themselves. The cost of ignoring this problem is great; therefore it demands our immediate attention," the Foundation's website read.

It further stated that "(a) principals of government secondary schools are reluctant to allow teen mothers re-entry into regular school for fear that they will have a negative influence on fellow students, both female and male; (b) the programme remains fragmented, as services such as antenatal care and others are offered in different locations; (c) there are no facilities for emergency housing or for on-site childcare; and (d) the programme is generally under funded."

The PACE programme nobly states the view that in accordance with article 23 of the Education Act 1996 "school is compulsory age between the ages of 5 and 16, underscoring that no citizen is more entitled to education than the other." The programme asserts that "it is further understood that education is important for the purposes of nation building and directly improves the standard of living and full development of human beings. With the existing make up of the economy of our country, there is little possibility of economic survival of a young teen with a child to support."

Indeed, the government, and private sector entities and citizens, must see to it that worthwhile programmes such as PACE are properly subsidized.

How can values be taught when there are 20-year-old mothers with children in primary school?

Our national conscience is surely in smithereens when we now have 32-year-old grandparents and it is being viewed as relatively normal due to its growing prevalence!

Today, our country is plagued by a spree of abhorrent crimes and senseless murders, most likely due to an absence of role models, poor social skills and a lack of values. How can ethics be taught when many of the children born are being parented by boorish youngsters?

The spate of violence at our public schools is again another example of our society's failure to confront many of the underlying social problems, instead simply choosing to adopt a reactionary approach to problem solving while hardly ever proposing credible, tangible solutions. It appears that many Bahamians have become desensitized and are of the view that if an issue is not directly affecting them, why care? We must adopt a proactive approach confronting an issue before it mushrooms and/or arrives at our doorsteps.

The PACE Foundation holds even more compelling views about the impact of teenage pregnancy upon society, stating:

"Owing to the fact that the mothers are single and have limited education, their children are at increased risk of growing up in poverty. Inadequate education also correlates with diminished awareness of the importance of proper health care, regardless of the fact that prenatal care, delivery, and childcare are free at government health institutions. Failure to access this care translates into more complications of pregnancy, low birth rates and increased incidences of morbidity and mortality in children of adolescent mothers."

Societal issues such as teen pregnancies, gang-banging and any other misdeeds, stem from a breakdown in the family, a lack of supervision, external influences and an erosion of our moral code.

In the Bahamas, there is usually a considerable age gap between adolescent girls and the men who impregnate them, with such marauding chaps typically being lousy predators in their late 20s or much older. Many school girls from adverse family environments seek the affection of older men, who are usually sought to fill a void left by an absentee father. Locally, it's assumed that many of the men engaging in relationships with underage girls are those who interact with them daily, that is, persons such as bus drivers, neighbours and even some professionals who ensnare them with money or a joy ride in a posh vehicle or some pie-in-the-sky promise. Some Bahamians would be surprised by the number of young girls who are enticed by men driving cars with flashy rims and a loud sound system!

In his song "Brenda's Got a Baby," the late rap legend Tupac Shakur famously stated what has become the norm in the Bahamas when he said:

"Now Brenda's (and one can fit any other name here) belly is getting bigger

"But no one seems to notice any change in her figure

"She's 12 years old and she's having a baby

"In love with the molester, who's sexing her crazy..."

As it relates to the protection of teenage girls from predators, the legal protections against sexual abuse and indecent assault must be stiffened, a database of paedophiles and sex offenders must be established, ankle bracelets tracking these predators must be used and, moreover, some good old fashioned parental love would go a long way.

Teenage pregnancy is a social epidemic that, if not effectively addressed, could further ruin our already volatile society. Frankly, sex education and Planned Parenthood programmes must be developed and further promoted and there must be greater community and parental support to curb the incidences of teenage pregnancy.

In the United States, schools are encouraging abstinence while certain community and religious groups are promoting virginity pledges. In Holland, sex education is a part of every school's curriculum, the media advances public discourse and health-care professionals--at all levels--are prudent and discrete about such matters. Why can't the same approach be taken locally?

Further, the PACE Foundation also states that:

"For the period from 1996-2000, 72.1 per cent (2599 of 3604) of the total hospital discharge diagnoses for adolescent females were complications of pregnancy, hinting at the impact of the teen pregnancy on the national health care budget. Over this same time frame 331 abortions were recorded in this age group. The breakdown is as follows: 14.4 per cent spontaneous, 0.8 per cent legal and 84.9 per cent unspecified."

In the Bahamas, children born to teen mothers are often poor academic performers, social deviants and high school dropouts. Without positive influences and constructive intervention, it is very likely that the daughters of teen mothers will become adolescent parents themselves and that the sons of teen mothers will, more often than not, serve time in prison. Unfortunately, the children of teen mothers or households with absentee fathers, many times become societal miscreants, that is, the problematic, community menaces with behavioral issues that began during their formative years.

Our collapsing society will only be built up when children are once again cultured and taught that "manners and respect will take you throughout the world!"

February 25, 2011


Friday, February 25, 2011

Continuing budget deficits and the national debt... Bahamas

The mid-term budget
thenassauguardian editorial

The prime minister and minister of finance has presented to Parliament a statement on the fiscal affairs of the country for the six month period ending 31st December, 2010. It seems clear that the country is still being severely challenged on the fiscal front and the economy has yet to emerge from the depths of the global recession.

The most important budgetary item, total revenue, is trailing estimates by $50 million despite the tax hikes and the improved revenue administration announced at the start of this current budgetary cycle.

That outcome is not surprising when one considers that in our economy, our major source of government revenue is customs duties, which are determined by the level of imports, which in turn is determined by employment levels and tourists arrivals.

Unemployment is in the mid-teens, according to the latest available figures which have not been released since 2009, and air-arrivals — the most important tourist category — is seemingly stagnant at 1.3 million; a figure that has hardly changed in two decades.

From a policy perspective, it seems clear that efforts to boost tourist arrivals (by air) and at the same time expand employment opportunities are of critical importance going forward.

Although the budget statement gave a hint of cautious optimism regarding the outlook for economic growth and development over the short term, it is difficult to overlook the ominous threat to that growth also contained in the statement in reference to the almost 24 percent increase in gas prices at the pump and the 37 percent increase in the surcharge applied by B.E.C. to our electricity bills.

It would appear that the consumer, who continues to buckle under the more than $1 billion in loan arrears at the bank (mostly in mortgages), will continue to face serious financial challenges for the rest of the year.

The mid-term budget permits, among other things, for Parliament to approve by way of a supplementary expenditure Bill any additional funding that is needed for specific line items in the original budget. In this exercise, an additional $10 million was needed for the e-government initiative; $18 million is earmarked for payment to the utility companies; nearly $4 million for the police; and another $4 million for medicine.

On the Capital Budget side, $5 million went to Broadcasting Corporation and some $8.8 million to the Water and Sewerage Corporation. These cost-over runs are partially offset by under-spending on other items.

What is somewhat surprising about the listing, however, is the absence of any additional funding for Bahamasair, which is usually at the head of the line when it comes to government hand-outs. The expenditure items, both recurrent and capital, are largely within the estimates which were earlier approved by Parliament and given the fixed nature of the major items, Personnel Emoluments (wages, salaries, gratuities and pensions) that is not surprising but it is cause for concern in the face of sluggish revenue performance and the historical stance taken by successive governments not to make any major adjustments to staff levels in the public services sector.

The combination of sluggish revenue performance and rigid expenditure levels, which have become hallmarks of government’s budgets, could only lead to continuing deficits; deficits which are invariably financed by further additions to the national debt, which at an unprecedented 56% of GDP, is approaching a threshold that should be of paramount concern to all of us, especially the younger generation who no doubt would have to pay it off sometime in the future.


thenassauguardian editorial

Thursday, February 24, 2011 there any hope of revolution in The Bahamas?

What can we learn from Haiti and Egypt?
Tribune Staff Reporter

"Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage."

- Ambrose Bierce, American journalist, satirist.

I found this quote on the e-mail signature of Philip "Brave" Davis, deputy leader of the Progressive Liberal Party. Tribune editor in chief, Paco Nunez, once used the same quote as his e-mail signature.

I thought it unsurprising in the latter instance since Mr Nunez also has on his desk a quote from another American journalist, satirist H.L. Mencken that says a journalist is to a politician as a dog is to a lamp-post. But on Mr Davis' signature, I thought it was a classic case of something hidden in plain sight.

Like this timeless quote, Egypt this month lifted the veil on a fundamental nature of politics: it is dirty and deceptive; it is stubborn and it is life altering. What we also saw was an example of what is possible when people awaken, when they are slapped into consciousness and demand accountability from the public masqueraders.

Some Bahamians have already been swept up in the Egyptian revolutionary euphoria, but less their nobleness and naivety lead them astray, they should know, it takes a lot more than rhetoric to make a revolution.

As the Egyptian story unfolded over the past few days and weeks, there was something eerily familiar about the plot. That is because Egypt faced a test that Haiti last took in 2004, and we invigilated it from across the waters. How well Haiti passed is still up for debate, and as the dust settles on the Egyptian streets their results are being tallied.

Both stories, as well as the "pro-democracy movement" that is rippling across the Middle East, have lessons to teach us, about the nature of our politics and our people.


The Indonesian people, who themselves are familiar with people's revolution responded to Egypt's news with cautious jubilation, advising the Egyptian people that the hard part had only just began. Revolution is a temporary moment. It is the gust of wind represented by the hurricane, and its seasonal occurrence is nowhere near as sure or firm. Egyptians now have the task of reconstructing a government and giving birth to the national dream.

Democracy is hard work and revolution does not guarantee evolution. Revolution is a critical spark, particularly needed to achieve quantum leaps, but it is unstable and it is transitory. Evolution is the process of growth and development in all things as they transition through the cycles of life and death.

The world wishes Egyptians well as they strive towards their highest ideal. They will need our best wishes and much more. Given history, and the nature of politics, success is a Sisyphean task, and no modern democracy has accomplished it successfully yet. Really: where in the world has democracy truly given birth to the national dream?

The truth is we live in an unsustainable way that is in direct conflict with our very desire for success, whether it is measured by democracy, freedom for all, the end of hunger and poverty, national unity, justice, racial equality, social equity, peace and stability, the pursuit of happiness, independence, whatever the dream.

Yet we must trod on in faith and do our best. Egypt showed us that people are capable, and sometimes driven, to exerting their people power to bring about a revolution. However, most times political electorates are like blind sheep being shepherded and the political directorate is like an abusive lover. In their natural state, and even after a revolution when the dust settles, people most often find themselves beholden to their leaders and powerless in the evolutionary process of governance and nation building.


Last week I heard Fred Mitchell, Fox Hill Member of Parliament ask a group of supporters, how we would get young people like Andre Rollins, PLP freshman, National Development Party absconder, their "Egypt moment." That was not surprising to hear, politicians are notorious band-wagonists. But what of this "Egypt moment": what does Egypt and Haiti have to teach us?

First of all, people are rightly amused when they hear politicians talk about revolution. Egypt teaches us that the nature of a true people's revolution is that it is not given to the people. The people make and take the power. In the midst of the revolution political leaders are made virtually irrelevant.

The popular uprising in Egypt was not led by its political opposition. It was a youth movement, wielding people power. This made it infinitely more difficult for a negotiated solution to have emerged, because such a movement has no allegiance to the establishment and little respect for any authority, but its own vision of democracy and freedom. It was not surprising that the people refused to negotiate with President Mubarak. There was no trust in his authority.

Ironically, the military turned out to be the only institution that held public confidence. And it is the military now tasked with the responsibility of bringing about democratic reform, until constitutionally mandated elections are held.

Despite our faith in the electoral process and representational politics, political leadership is no substitute for people power or military power for that matter. We would definitely be telling a different story today if the popular uprising witnessed in Egypt was a movement born of the political opposition. Our next door neighbour Haiti shows us why.

In 2004 a CARICOM team, of which the Bahamas was a party, travelled to Haiti to meet with political actors and help negotiate a resolution to the political unrest threatening the country's stability. During the 2004 protest movement there were calls for President Jean Bertrand Aristide's resignation.


Joshua Sears, director general at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said there was a stand off between opposition forces, who "decided Aristide had to go", and supporters wanting the constitutional process to be respected. President Aristide's term was to expire in 13 months.

"They couldn't wait 13 months; they wanted to kick him out. The situation had reached a point where the violence had increased; instability had overwhelmed institutions; there was a social breakdown of law and order. If the parties don't agree there is no chance of any kind of abatement of the violence and for the constitutional process to be respected," said Mr Sears.

Insight into the backdoor dealings raises so many questions about the uprising that threatened the nation's stability and the stability of those with interests. What really happened in Haiti seven years ago? Was it a true people's revolution? Was it a controlled opposition? Was it a political mob that had passed its breaking point?

Egypt showed us a modern day example of a true people's revolution. Haiti brewed a different stew: there were too many sticky political fingers in the pot. I am inclined to think, in the case of Haiti, the decisions made by the various political actors served political and economic ends more than the interests of the people. The three most often do not coincide.

I could be challenged that the uprising was not a true people's revolution, but here is why it feels right.

Political leaders make decisions based on their desire to win political competitions, most notably in the form of elections. Competition is the foundation of modern democracy, and the rules of politics are the same as the rules of a capitalist enterprise. It is a dog eat dog world and it literally is a fight to the top.

Why do you think the Free National Movement and the PLP when they have their political hats on are always fighting? Look at the rhetoric they use, the tactics they employ: the mass of supporters who turn out to political rallies appear as an unruly mob ready to go to war.

These people are beholden to their collective political identities for a number of reasons: pure intent, historical obligation, familial connection, miseducation, ignorance, and selfish interests. Politicians take advantage of them regardless of the reason, because the thing about politics is; the leadership has to be in control. They have to maintain the ability to manoeuvre the mob. So a popular uprising with loyalty to political leaders is in fact a controllable entity.

Naturally there is a breaking point for this type of opposition movement. It is kept in check by the nature and intent of its leaders and most times we can count on our leaders to use their power for the greater good of the few people they can't fully control, in other words affluent people or those with perceived influence.

Based on the nature of politics, I am inclined to believe Haiti's 2004 uprising was a political opposition capable of being led; that good men chose to do nothing allowing evil to prevail. Unlike President Mubarak who eventually caved to the will of the people and stepped down, President Aristide refused to be moved short of being kidnapped, which he said he was.

President Mubarak had seven months left on his term; Aristide had 13. In the case of Egypt, I am certain the people would have asked themselves: why should we respect the constitutional process, which should serve the will of the people, and wait seven months for an election, when for decades Mubarak has governed with little respect for the constitution or the people?

Somehow, President Mubarak must have been convinced that the protest movement was no small fraction or fringe group. It was an honest representation of the people's will. I would imagine President Aristide did not have those same feelings.

Still, President Aristide had many choices that could have demonstrated a commitment to the constitutional process and respect for the will of the people. President Aristide insisted he serve out his term, as President Mubarak originally wished to do; he could have chosen to stepped down immediately as President Mubarak stalled in doing.

Unlike Mubarak, who had no choice of running in the next election because the public's trust was so corroded, President Aristide could have stepped downed voluntarily and offered himself again in the next election. A win that time around would have decidedly silenced the critics. He could also have asked to stay, but chosen to call an early election.


Colin Powell once intimated that President Aristide had become arrogant and unreasonable with his allies, and probably his people, which endeared him to neither. I would not venture as far as to compare him with President Mubarak, but I am inclined to believe Aristide had on his mind holding power at all cost for the sake of his personal pride and dignity.

President Mubarak has demonstrated that while history will mark his inglorious departure as a personal failure, it will write an inspiring story of his country. Egypt, a Muslim land, is without a doubt the new beacon of hope for freedom. Egypt's final colonizers still govern its lands, but get this: the beacon of light has returned to Africa.

Haiti in 2004 had no such story to tell. With American and French fingers deep in the pot, and Caribbean interests contending for influence, Haiti had its internal politics to deal with and its external politics. Stability was more important than democracy for the Bahamian government, as well as the French and American governments. Instability would mean a migration influx for the Bahamas, and economic losses for the Americans and French.

So what happened? Aristide somehow ended up on an American government jet headed to the Central African Republic. Aristide's' ouster was the lowest common denominator of agreement between the greatest number of influential forces: external interests and the internal political opposition. One could say the people never determined Aristide's fate: their revolution was hijacked.

President Aristide went to Jamaica from the Central African Republic and then on to South Africa, where he was granted asylum. We will never know if he was really kidnapped by the United States or if he left voluntarily. I think it is probable he was pressured under the threat of being otherwise killed.

At the end of the day, our best hope for knowing what really happened is probably Wikileaks. Short of that it will be a perpetual, he said she said game between self-interested parties. What we do know is that President Aristide's stronghold was proven to be untenable, and his departure did not lead to national solidarity.

This brings us back to my starting point: politics is dirty, deceptive, stubborn and life altering. So much is placed in the hands of our political directorate, but in the midst of their game playing, their manoeuvring of economic interests, we can never be sure if they really do right by us. And yet we give them chance after chance after chance, never stopping to think that the usefulness of a politician has an expiry date.

Do our leaders do their best to make a positive impact in our lives or do they just do enough to stay in the game? Are they morally, spiritually or intellectually capable of knowing the difference?

These are questions for all of us to contemplate, because the actions and inaction of our leaders can change the course of history. The whole world felt the impact of America's warmongering President George W Bush.

There is no doubt, the political instability in Haiti has robbed its people of so many opportunities. For all of its natural wealth, the financial resources of its wealthy elite, its strong intellectual foundations, rich cultural heritage and prized historical legacy, Haiti should want for nothing.

Unfortunately this is not the case. And the turbulent conditions in Haiti combined with our own political game playing have thwarted attempts at building a meaningful relationship between next door neighbours.

I imagine there is some genuine interest, but as Mr Sears explained, it is not an easy road. The repeated interruption of democratic rule over the years has made relationship building, for example, a tightrope to walk.

"In one of the negotiations we had, I think it was with Jean-Robert Estimé, foreign affairs minister, when he left, two weeks later he was out of office. In fact, once we had to deal with six to seven foreign ministers in the space of four years; it was not easy," said Mr Sears.


Regime change, at almost any cost, has been ingrained in the way "they solve their problems," said Mr Sears. Virtually every political leader is dead or outside the country.

"These are intelligent people. They know continued instability is the consequence of unilateral interruptions of the democratic process. You never give the country a chance for those issues to be set aside. That is a dangerous phenomenon we have witnessed," he said.

With all the lessons we have to learn from Egypt, Haiti and global politics is there any hope of revolution in the Bahamas? I think the odds are against us and the status quo will be our accepted condition for some time to come.

After all, we recently had an Egypt opportunity, to use the phrase loosely, and we squandered it. I think it can be summed up in the story of the day the Prime Minister was driven from the House of Assembly burning tyres with no seatbelt on.

Barring the mass rally, the biggest demonstration of BTC unions was their march to Parliament Square. That was the day Parliament ended early; members of the governing party went fleeing and members of the opposition jumped on the bandwagon.

The actions of our leaders was predictable, but that day I watched in astonishment as the people cowered to the might of the state on two fronts. The people amassed in Parliament Square on the street to the west and on the bleachers to the north. They were cordoned off by police barricades and police officers. At one time, the frontliners made a move to push through the barricades and march to the House. They were successful, to a point.

When the "revolution" started, half of the people fled to the bleachers; they held their position in the comfort of their distance; they divided the opposition. Those were no Egyptian revolutionaries. The efforts of the frontliners was so concerted that had the people stuck together, they would have surly overpowered the flimsy cohort of police and made it to the House.

Sadly, they succeeded only in pushing through to the middle of the road. What they demonstrated was their lack of conviction and their powerlessness. A union member who had broken through the barricades, said: "They have y'all corralled like a bunch of animals. That is how they have you. Y'all look like a bunch of animals." It was true. The police knew this, and they also knew how incensory it would be if the people realized, so they told the protester to "stop that". They had their greatest momentum that day and they broke.

In Egypt the people were prepared to die for their cause and many of them did. Those who survived stepped into the shoes of the dead without hesitation: themselves prepared to go all the way. There was no shortage of conviction or cohesiveness.

The other telling incident that day had to do with union's action to the PLP opposition. When the House of Assembly was adjourned, PLP members of parliament congregated at the site of the demonstration. They did not cross the barricades to join the union members; instead, they hijacked the moment. They assembled their own impromptu press conference by the south side bleachers and sidelined the unions and all their members to put on their own show. Of course the media spotlight shifted to them, and after all of the sound bites and video footage was collected the PLP left. Again, that was expected.


The unions, they tried sheepishly to compete for the spotlight, shouting over their bullhorns to the corralled mass of sorts.

People tend to forget: the government is comprised of the ruling party and the opposition.

After all, an ineffective opposition makes for an ineffective government.

The PLP opposition is no real friend to the unions and they should have told them so.

Some of the present union leaders admit; had they been in power under the PLP administration, they would have opposed their "bad Blue Water deal" back then as well. But the unions allowed their movement to be hijacked on that day. Egyptian revolutionaries they are not.

In the weeks and months ahead, the world will see what Egypt makes of its revolutionary moment. In the meantime, I am sure, politicians and wannabe revolutionaries across the world will continue with their trite use of the Egyptian moment to further their personal objectives. The true revolutionaries, hopefully, will look beyond the rhetorical gimmicks for the real lessons of Egypt, Haiti and all of the movements, past and present.

February 21, 2011

tribune242 insight

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We are Bahamians first whether we're black or white

Mrs. Nicki Kelly on the "dilemma for PLP's racist faction
Rick Lowe

Mrs. Kelly had a very thought provoking piece in her column for The Punch, Between The Lines, yesterday as usual.

She raised the valid point that the PLP now have two "white" candidates in Ryan Pinder and Clay Sweeting as well as Dr. Andre Rollins who has a white mother and a black father and this might be upsetting for the PLP's racist faction.

I wonder if the political class believe the Bahamian people think no further than race when they are voting?

Surely the population thinks about public policy, and whether it is good or bad for the country, more now than ever before?

If the "PLP's racist faction" can upset their parties apple cart because they have two white candidates and one half white standard bearer, the party does not deserve to win the government until its leadership casts them out or at least has the guts to face them down and explain they now live in 2011 and there is no room for that in their organisation.

We are Bahamians first whether we're black or white.

February 22, 2011


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The political silly season has begun

The political silly season
thenassauguardian editorial

It appears that the political ‘silly season’ has already begun. A general election must be called by May 2012, which is well over a year away, but in political campaign terms the election might as well be right around the corner.

Last week, the Progressive Liberal Party held an anniversary victory rally in the Elizabeth constituency — no doubt a teaser to the larger, more extravagant shows that in recent years have become synonymous with Bahamian elections.

The PLP also welcomed former National Development Party candidate Dr. Andre Rollins back into its fold with great pronouncement.

And the PLP, the Free National Movement and the National Development Party continued to trade insults and accusations over the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to Cable and Wireless.

The major parties seem to have already kicked into high gear, releasing a plethora of statements almost on a daily basis; the PLP has started ratifying candidates; and local politicians are using the internet in increasing numbers.

So far, the political landscape is showing all the usual trappings of an election campaign.

The politics of personal destruction reigns supreme in this political culture. And while it did not start yesterday and is not particular to The Bahamas, it’s a culture that a maturing electorate is growing tired of.

There are myriad issues facing our country, and the Bahamian people deserve to hear how each party plans to address these issues.

We saw a record-breaking murder count last year; our public education students continue to perform poorly; our healthcare system is stretched; and the illegal immigration problem is still largely out of control.

There is also the pressing issues of job creation to mop up the high unemployment rate.

It should not be good enough for a political party to reveal its strategy for the country in a ‘manifesto’ or ‘plan’ released days before the election.

Voters should have the opportunity to carefully consider what positions the different political parties take on substantive issues, within a reasonable time, before marking their X.

There is the obvious politicking that takes place over the course of the campaign, but local politicians need to spend less time on personal attacks and more time addressing the real issues.

It is time for a new type of politics, one that focuses on urgent national priorities rather than narrow interests, and one that helps to hold our elected officials more accountable for the many promises made from the rally podium.

Voters want politicians with ideas and energy, who have thought deeply about the issues and are committed to making a change for the better, even if it means making tough, unpopular decisions.


thenassauguardian editorial

Monday, February 21, 2011

A lot of what Mr. Errington Watkins had to say in defence of Mr. Branville McCartney makes sense

Mr. Errington Watkins on Mr. Branville McCartney

By Rick Lowe

A lot of what Mr. Errington Watkins had to say in this Letter to the Editor in defence of Mr. Branville McCartney makes sense.

For example, he rightly claims; (a) it's Mr. McCartney's Constitutional right to seek to be Prime Minister of The Bahamas, (b) a politicians generosity with other peoples money should concern us all, (c) Mr. Hubert Ingraham is an astute politician, and (d) every FNM has a right to attempt to become head of that party.

Where Mr. Watkins, a self described floater, gets it wrong is when he suggests that a member of a political party should take on his colleagues in the court of public opinion.

Mr. McCartney is no doubt intelligent, ambitious, likeable and more, but that does not matter when you might have publicly offended the very ones you hope will help you achieve your goal within the political organisation you're aligned with.

Many PLP's are no longer in its ranks, and many FNM's are no longer welcome there as a result of taking their colleagues on in the press rather than winning them over quietly within their ranks. There is also the obvious point that one needs to be aligned with a major political party to become the country's Prime Minister. But of course Mr. McCartney has the right to leave the FNM, join the PLP or another party or remain a legitimate independent (i.e. not an independent that relies on a major political party not fielding a candidate against them).

In the final, maybe Mr. McCartney has every right to berate his colleagues in public, but as P.J. O'Rourke once said; "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences."

February 19, 2011


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Defining the Concept of National Youth Service (NYS) in The Bahamas

National youth service
thenassauguardian editorial

There are some ideas many claim to understand but which few actually do, such as national youth service (NYS), which the country should better define before moving ahead with any new initiatives that bear the name, but have little resemblance to more authentic models of NYS.

In defining an idea, it’s clarifying to acknowledge what it isn’t. Efforts to rehabilitate non-violent juvenile offenders or provide alternative programs for school-age youth the public education system is unable “to handle” have been wrongly defined and mislabeled as national youth service.

Military and penal oriented programs are not examples of NYS. The former Youth Empowerment and Skills Training Institute (YEAST), for all its merits and problems, is similarly not a form of NYS. Despite criticisms, those who initiated, built and supported YEAST deserve our gratitude.

While successive governments have spoken eloquently of the importance of NYS, they have failed to define the concept. But, despite this lack of clarity, there has been an enduring effort to provide our young people with opportunities to contribute to the common good through community service.

This spirit has produced fine programs such as the Girl Guides, Kiwanis’ Key Clubs and an impressive list of private efforts to develop character and promote active citizenship among our youth.

But these laudable programs are also not NYS. National youth service by its definition is more broad-based, involving significant numbers of young people.

Whether we realize it or not, the country has already developed a form of NYS, namely, the mandatory community service program in our public and most of our private secondary schools.

This is an example of having a good thing and not recognizing its goodness, especially with regards to the thousands of hours of service thousands of Bahamian youth have already given to the nation.

But this good idea, yet underdeveloped program, is quite flawed in terms of its mission, direction, oversight and effectiveness. We have to make this good thing even better by holding these school-based programs to a higher standard and providing them with clearer guidelines and better management and accountability.

While there are other forms of NYS that can be geared towards college and post-college young people, and should be thought through, the country already has a national youth service infrastructure, namely, our junior and secondary schools filled with all of the nation’s youth, to whom we can provide myriad citizenship building and community service-learning experiences.

Our national challenge is not to launch new programs that check-off some box called national youth service, but to take what we already have and dramatically revise it so that the promise of NYS, already realized in some form, can more accurately fulfill the idea and ideals of a national youth service of which we have long dreamed.


thenassauguardian editorial

Friday, February 18, 2011

In every way and in every segment of life the Bahamian's value system has certainly changed

The Bahamas' changing value system
tribune242 editorial

WE HAVE had several calls about our editorial of February 11, which for the first time revealed the name of an anonymous letter writer, whose identity excited political circles in 1962, but for 49 years remained a mystery. Today, few people would be interested in our mystery man, but in the political turmoil of the sixties, a British editor was threatened with prison for refusing to reveal his identity.

However, with the death of Paul Bower on January 24, memories of those few days in the Magistrate's Court in October, 1963 came flooding back. For several years speculation continued about the letter writer. Today, when it no longer matters, and few would care, we realised that we were now the last living person who knows the letter's author. For the sake of history we revealed it in this column on February 11.

The calls that we have received as a result of that column, were not about the mystery writer, now unmasked, but about the fate of Paul Bower when he refused to give the court the writer's name. No, he did not go to prison as threatened by Magistrate John Bailey, who when off the bench was one of his best friends.

The case ended suddenly when the Guardian owners decided to pay the plaintiffs' damages, and rescue their man from the edge of the cliff. Magistrate Bailey had refused the Guardian leave to appeal his decision of name or prison.

Mr Bower, who was Guardian editor from 1958 to August 1962 (two months before the case came to court in October), asked the magistrate: "What would happen should I refuse (to reveal the writer's name)?"

"You would be in contempt," the Irish magistrate replied.

"What would be the consequences?" Mr Bower pressed. "A fine or a prison sentence," the magistrate shot back.

"Ten days in Her Majesty's prison!" LB Johnson, one of the six PLP plaintiffs, demanded loudly. This exchange was followed by a luncheon adjournment. By the afternoon the case was over, Mr Bower had missed the arrow, the plaintiffs had their damages, and letter writer Bert Cambridge was still a mystery man.

Guardian lawyer James Liddell had argued that not only was the plaintiffs' complaints vexatious, but that what was being complained of before the court was the letter and its content, not the identity of the writer. But the plaintiffs were not buying that argument, nor was the magistrate. In a few weeks time there would be a general election, which the PLP were confident of winning - in fact they lost. Racism was a heavy card being played at the time, and the six PLP plaintiffs -- all lawyers - wanted to know which white man would dare question their integrity in an anonymous letter. What they did not know was that the writer was, like themselves, a black man, a former politician, whose character Mr Bower had described in glowing terms in court. Several of the plaintiffs were Bert Cambridge's friends. In fact he had given music lessons to one of them. Bert Cambridge's Orchestra was the hottest band in town in the twenties and thirties, and music was his career.

But what we find most interesting is the change over the years in public values. In those days it was seldom that one sued a newspaper for defamation, and anything over £100 in damages was certainly unheard of. And so for "An Open Letter to Mr Paul Adderley," published in The Guardian on August 21, 1962 the six lawyers -- Paul Adderley, Loftus Roker, Lynden Pindling, AD Hanna, LB Johnson and Orville Turnquest -- each asked for £100 for the damage perceived to have been done to their reputations, plus costs, which in those days would have been minimal.

However, thanks to the influence over the years of America's legal system where it almost pays to do oneself an injury in a public place and walk away with millions awarded by the courts, Bahamians have adjusted their opinion of their own worth.

In 1962, Orville Turnquest who became the Bahamas' Governor General, was not bloated up with his own importance. He obviously felt well compensated with £100 for the slight he had felt was committed against him. If he had known that it was his old piano teacher, he probably would have slapped him on the back, had a good laugh and they would have gone off to make music together.

However, today we see some of these complaints, many of them vexatious, and the value -- starting in the thousands --that persons put on their own worth and we wonder where they are coming from.

In every way and in every segment of life the Bahamian's value system has certainly changed.

February 18, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dr. Andre Rollins: I have decided to act now to follow my convictions and to proudly join the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP)

Former NDP chief Andre Rollins joins the PLP

ORTHODONTIST and would-be parliamentarian Andre Rollins has joined the Progressive Liberal Party after tendering his resignation to the National Development Party.

The former NDP chairman said it was his belief that Bahamians wanted to see a change in the nation's politics, however the expectation had been placed on the already established political parties as opposed to political newcomers.

Dr Rollins said: "It is my strong conviction that it is neither wise, nor practical, to continue pursuing the development of a new political party in an environment of scarce resources and weak public demand, where prospects for success are long-term at best and with so much at stake in our nation's immediate future."

Dr Rollins said while he shared the idealism of many concerning the imperfections of the major parties, he appreciated the importance of pragmatism in strategically solving national problems.

Dr Rollins added: "It is still my belief that Bahamians want to see change in our nation's politics, because they realise the critical role that government must play in correcting the now regressive course of our national development."

Last year, Dr Rollins was one of five candidates fighting to represent Elizabeth Estates, securing 49 votes.

Shortly after the by-election, Dr Rollins was courted by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and former PLP first lady Dame Marguerite Pindling, who invited him to join their parties.

In July, Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell expressed his desire to see Dr Rollins cross over to the PLP after his performance in the country's first political debate, a week prior to the by-election.

At that time, the orthodontist maintained his membership in the NDP.

In yesterday's statement, Dr Rollins encouraged the leadership of the NDP to consider the viability of merging with the PLP.

He said: "Just as I believe in our nation's potential for greatness, despite our present shortcomings, I am also confident that notwithstanding the PLP's imperfections, this groundbreaking party still possesses the capacity for change."

Dr Rollins added: "Whatever the party's ultimate decision, they know that I shall respect their right to proceed as they deem best, yet hold out hope that we will be of one accord; but I have decided to act now to follow my convictions and to proudly join the PLP."

February 17, 2011


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) cries shame on The Bahamas government for accepting an offer that is clearly below market value for the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC)

BTC political row worsens
The Nassau Guardian News Editor

Parties hit out over $210M deal

The sparring over the government’s decision to sell 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) has intensified, with the two major political parties arguing over whether the majority of Bahamians support the deal.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) said yesterday that its parliamentary caucus has embarked on a thorough and comprehensive review of the BTC and CWC transaction, and will be releasing regular positions on each component of the transaction.

“The PLP has clear and unequivocal objections to the commercial terms of this transaction, and more specifically the purchase price and consideration the government, and the Bahamian people, will realize from the sale of this prized national asset,” the party said in a statement.

The government has agreed to sell 51 percent of the shares of BTC to CWC for $210 million plus taxes.

“However, when one looks more closely at the terms of the transaction as set out in the share purchase agreement, it is clear The Bahamas government is receiving far less than $210 million, and it is equally clear that whatever the government eventually receives is far less than the value of 51 percent of BTC,” the PLP claimed.

“The Bahamas government is obligated to leave at least $15 million in cash in the company. Furthermore, The Bahamas government is obligated to fund pension liabilities in the amount of $39 million. Taking into account these obligations of the Bahamian government, the most the government will receive is $156 million for 51 percent of BTC.

“The PLP objects to this and cries shame on the government for accepting an offer that is clearly below market value for BTC. In fact, the Financial Times pointed out that the $210 million purchase price was below the industry average; certainly $156 million is significantly below market price for 51 percent of BTC.”

Meanwhile, an argument has intensified over the level of support the government has on the privatization issue.

An earlier statement released by Elizabeth MP Ryan Pinder on behalf of the PLP said the party takes exception to the Free National Movement’s practice of “misleading the Bahamian public on the support for the BTC sale to Cable and Wireless.”

“The PLP proposes that the majority of Bahamians are against this specific sale of BTC. The PLP has committed itself to a series of statements and position pieces that will clearly note our objections to the BTC sale, focused on different objections,” Pinder said.

“The PLP is also committed in these releases to educating Bahamians as to the shortfalls of this proposed sale of BTC. The PLP demands that the FNM be honest and straightforward with the Bahamian people on this give away of the people's asset, BTC.”

But the FNM shot back in a statement last night, saying as support for the opposition’s position on the partnership to create a new BTC with Cable and Wireless continues to erode, it has begun to panic and continues to ignore the voices of the majority of Bahamians.

“The opposition says that it ‘proposes that the majority of Bahamians are against this specific sale of BTC’. Rather than proposing, the FNM has taken note of two surveys over the past two weeks which have shown the surge of support for the creation of a new BTC. One survey was conducted by a private group (Consumer Voices Bahamas) the other by one of the dailies,” the FNM said.

The FNM noted that in The Nassau Guardian’s online survey 4,563 people responded. The question was whether respondents supported the PLP’s decision to reject the deal.

“It appears that the voices of these thousands of Bahamians and many others are of no consequence to the PLP, which now seeks to substitute its own faltering position for that of the majority of Bahamians,” the FNM said.

But Pinder said in his statement that a previous FNM release and associated polls “misrepresented” the views of Bahamians.

“The unscientific polls focused on whether privatization was a good idea, and not [the] real issue that concerns the majority of Bahamians, which is whether this sale to Cable and Wireless under the proposed terms tabled in the House of Assembly last week is a good deal,” he said.

The FNM insisted however that support for the deal continues to grow among Bahamians.

“We believe that after the House of Assembly debate on BTC’s future, that many more Bahamians will support the new partnership, as misinformation and incorrect information are countered with the facts, which will shed more light on the fiction promoted by certain narrow interests,” the FNM said.



Tuesday, February 15, 2011

BTC unions lose court battle to block the sale of 51 % stake in Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC)... [Ordered to pay costs]

BTC unions lose court battle
Guardian Senior Reporter

Supreme Court Justice Neville Adderley yesterday threw out a court action filed by Bahamas Telecommunications Company unions seeking to block the sale of a 51 percent stake in BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC).

The Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union (BCPMU) were seeking an injunction to stop the government from selling BTC.

Attorney Maurice Glinton, who represented the unions, confirmed to The Nassau Guardian that they plan to appeal the decision. He could not say at the time when the necessary documents would be filed.

In his ruling, Adderley said the BCPOU and BCPMU and their trustees lacked the legal capacity to institute and maintain the action in their own names.

“Hence the action is a nullity and so the granting of an injunction pending its hearing does not arise,” Adderley said.

“Alternatively, the evidence has not disclosed that any of their private legal rights are being infringed or threatened or need to be enforced or declared, as they have not established an interest recognized by law as being direct and substantial enough in the subject matter of the action to give them locus standi to commence the action to claim the remedies set forth in the writ.

“For the foregoing reasons, I strike out the writ and dismiss the action.”

Adderley also ordered that the unions pay costs in the matter.

In their writ, the unions contended that the government has no authority to sell BTC because an act of Parliament made the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (BaTelCo) a self-owning and self-sustaining entity.

Their claim is that consequently the divested assets are now held by BTC in trust for BaTelCo.

Adderley said there is no express power in the Industrial Relations Act that gives unions the capacity or power to sue for declarations outside their statutory objects.

Adderley said even if they had the capacity to sue for the matters in question, he considered whether they had a legal interest to sue for the relief claimed.

Last week, the government signed a shareholder’s agreement and a share purchase agreement with CWC, and Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham tabled the memorandum of understanding between the two entities in the House of Assembly along with related documents.

Yesterday, BCPOU President Bernard Evans said the ruling has in no way halted the union’s efforts to stop the sale of BTC.

“We never really rested all of our efforts on this court case, even though we knew we had good grounds and it is a landmark case. But we never wanted to leave any stone unturned. We will continue to do our stuff because this is not over by a long shot,” Evans said.

“We are going to fight this on all fronts. Whatever it takes, we are going to take our time and get to it.”

Evans shot down claims by the Free National Movement that the majority of Bahamians support the sale of BTC to Cable and Wireless.

“I saw in the paper where the FNM government believe that they have the majority of the people, they keep putting us in the minority. Well the day of reckoning is coming when we will know who has the majority,” Evans said.

The deal between the government and CWC calls for the shares to be sold for $210 million, as well as a stamp duty of $7 million. Eventually, 25 percent of the shares in the company will be offered to Bahamians, the government has said.



Monday, February 14, 2011

The majority of Bahamians approve the sale of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (C&W)

Competition toughened Cable & Wireless
tribune242 editorial

YESTERDAY'S Gleaner reported that Cable & Wireless Jamaica, trading as LIME Jamaica, "continued its financial haemorrhaging in the December quarter, posting a $1.3 billion loss for the three-month period, nearly triple the $351.4 million of a year earlier."

Despite this its managers continue to look on the bright side, insisting that they are on the verge of turning the company around.

According to The Gleaner, Jamaica LIME has been in "retreat for the past decade since it lost its monopoly in Jamaica's telecommunications market."

"That's what happens to monopolies," said a Bahamian who is close to the situation. LIME Jamaica was doing the same foolishness as BTC because it felt secure in its monopoly, he said, then Digicel, an Irish company with dirt cheap rates, came in and ran it out of business.

It was this lesson from fierce competition that forced Cable & Wireless into the efficient company that it is today with Digicel waiting in the background to meet it head on in the Bahamas when the floodgates are open to competition.

One can now understand why the Bahamas government has offered and C&W - having learned from its Jamaican experience -- has accepted the three-year protection cover from monopolies for BTC's cellular service.

If it were not for this three-year period to build BTC up to meet competitors, the Bahamas' Telecommunications Company would crumble under the strain. C&W, on the other hand, although stumbling in Jamaica is prospering in Barbados and Trinidad.

But there is no room for hubris. There is much to be done to get BTC in a position to meet the competition, and for three years the BTC staff, who are interested in their company, will have an opportunity to prove that they are not among those who deserve to be made redundant.

In an interview with the Jamaican Observer last year, Digicel CEO Colm Delves, said that Digicel looked at the Bahamas, but was not interested in just having a stake in BTC, and so it decided "to pass on that."

"What was being offered there was a stake in the existing operator," said Mr Delves. "We think that when liberalization takes place there, then that will be the appropriate time to enter that market."

So in three years time Digicel and others might be the wolves at the door. Cable & Wireless will have to have BTC ready to meet the challenge and regardless of what Mr Evans, Mr Carroll and their unionists claim, they are babes in the woods, ignorant of the hungry sharks waiting in the world of competition to devour them and BTC.

Judging from the various polls, street talk and radio talk shows, the majority of Bahamians approve the sale of BTC to C&W.

They want better service, more choice, cheaper cell phone rates, access to mobile TV and the ability to phone the Family Islands as a part of the Bahamas, not as foreign islands with overseas charges.

Bahamians are weary of the oft-repeated fiction that they own BTC. Ownership implies having some stake in the company. Although as tax payers they underwrite staff salaries, they cannot even demand good service.

With the sale of BTC Bahamians will eventually be able to buy shares in the company and have share certificates to prove that finally they do own a piece of BTC.

Although Bernard Evans, BCPOU president, claims that unionists are against the sale of BTC, there are unions that have refused to join in his protest.

Many are particularly upset after his reckless threats promising unrest similar to the violence in the past few weeks in Egypt.

Mr Evans has asked Bahamians to have patience with BTC because the public's services "will be affected somewhat" because of the union protest.

Mr Evans seems to forget that Bahamians have exercised years of patience, grudgingly tolerating their high prices and indifferent service.

Now that Bahamians see a way out and a deliverer on the horizon, they are ready to jump ship.

Patience is at an end.

February 14, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We remind the government of its specific pledge made in 2007, as it relates to establishing a Freedom of Information Act

Freedom and access to information
thenassauguardian editorial

Within weeks of coming to office in 2007, a new FNM Administration led by Hubert Ingraham and guided by a Trust Agenda committed itself to greater democratic governance.

The tabling of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company sales agreements between the government and Cable and Wireless Communications was an example of this commitment, and was in keeping with the prompt freeing of the broadcast media from state control during the FNM’s earlier term in office.

We trust that the Free National Movement government means what it says. Accordingly, we remind the government of its specific pledge made in 2007, as it relates to establishing a Freedom of Information Act:

“Accountability and transparency in government are fundamental to our code of beliefs, a code that includes the right of the people to access information regarding the processes of governing. In support of such openness, legislation will be placed before you for the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act.”

This top billing and decisive language suggested immediate action.

So, what is the state of this pledge? Enacting such legislation near the end of the current government’s term would not seem to be consistent with the FNM’s trust agenda.

Many other countries in the region are either in the process of drafting or have already implemented Freedom of Information laws. Around the world, more than 60 countries have enacted FOI acts.

Freedom of information has long been recognized as a foundational human right ever since the United Nations General Assembly declared in 1946 that, “Freedom of Information is a fundamental human right and a touchstone of all freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated.” Since then, the Organization of American States and the Commonwealth — The Bahamas being a member of both — have also endorsed minimum standards on the right of information.

A FOI law has the potential to promote greater transparency and accountability and also facilitates greater public participation in the government’s decision-making process. Empowering citizens with the legal right to access information of their government’s activities can strengthen democracy by making the government directly accountable to its citizens on a day-to-day basis rather than just at election time.

Legislation to provide more freedom or access to information is not an end in itself.

An outdated public service culture run by civil servants who would often prefer root canal surgery rather than press scrutiny will not quickly become more transparent because of the passage of a bill.

Moreover, a media culture that is often sloppy and lazy in its coverage of government and political affairs will also not suddenly become more enterprising. Still, such legislation is a means to various ends. It is a part of a framework of legislative tools that can help to promote a more accountable and transparent public service culture.

The debate on, enactment of and training in the details of such legislation may help spur politicians, civil servants and journalists to provide citizens with the freedom of information needed to make freer and more informed decisions.

Outlawing discrimination does not end prejudice. But it puts that prejudice on notice that discrimination is against the law. Legislation to ensure greater public access to information will not in itself ensure a more open public service culture. But it puts that culture on notice that such openness is an essential component in good and effective governance.

We trust that the FNM will live up to its word and will be supported by the Opposition, who also committed itself to similar legislation.

As of now we are agnostic regarding the details of such legislation. But we have faith that such landmark legislation is not only necessary, but long overdue.


thenassauguardian editorial

Saturday, February 12, 2011

We are absolutely convinced that the Bahamian people [private and public] should have been allowed to retain majority control of BTC

Those In Opposition to a Deal
The Bahama Journal Editorial

There are times in life when principle kicks in and when you do what you must do based on what conscience dictates.

Today we reiterate our opposition to what seems a deal well on its way toward being signed, sealed and delivered.

If things go as the current administration has planned, Cable and Wireless will – in short order – take possession of the majority stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation.

Clearly, then, this will not be the end of the matter concerning this corporation, Cable and Wireless and all of what went into making this deal a signed reality.

As the public has been told, there will be continuing opposition to the deal by Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition and from any number of unions.

Opposition Leader Perry Christie has already indicated that [in the event that his party prevails in the next general elections] he would renegotiate the terms of the BTC sale.

This is his and their right.

In addition, some of the unions are adamant that there should be no deal; with one union leader grandly proclaiming that he and his followers are preparing to make of Rawson Square and its environs some sort of Little Egypt.

While hyperbole might have its place in social life; we counsel caution when it comes to making pronouncements that might be construed as being of an incendiary nature.

There is today every likelihood that, this issue will continue to be debated, mulled and chewed over as part of whatever passes for debate preceding that date when the Bahamian people will vote in free and fair elections.

In and of itself, this is all part of the way we do things in a democratic, law-abiding nation; A deal is a deal and as some of us know, a deal becomes a very real deal once it is signed, sealed and delivered.

The details of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the government and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) for the sale and privatisation of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) has [ finally] been revealed by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

As we also know, the government is on tap to sell 51 per cent of BTC to CWC for $210 million. Barring some perfectly unforeseen occurrence, this deal will be consummated.

Whether it should be so completed is another question altogether, or as it might be put colloquially, this aspect of the matter is surely a horse of a different colour.

As regards the deal that will be consummated, there is now agreement as regards how C&W will work with the government and the management of BTC to finalize a business plan for BTC; this as movement is made towards addressing its plan for the modernization of telecommunications throughout The Bahamas.

This deal should have been dealt with differently. In addition, we are absolutely convinced that the Bahamian people [private and public] should have been allowed to retain majority control of BTC.

We know that we are not alone in this view.

As we counseled on another occasion, "… all Bahamians who are patriots should rise – as if they were one man- in opposition to any deal that would deny the Bahamian people majority control of entities such as BTC…"

Indeed, like so very many other Bahamians who disagree with the current administration’s on that matter which involves giving Cable and Wireless a 51% per cent stake in BTC, we do so based on our studied conclusion that this deal is not in the best interests of either BTC or the Bahamian people.

We rush to assure the public that our difference with the current administration has next to nothing to do with any position that might seem to be –at least on first blush- barking up the same tree.

That other Bahamians are so minded only reminds us that, there are times in life when an administration can be out of touch with a socially [and perhaps, politically significant bloc of opinion.

While some who oppose the deal may be doing so because they fear some of its implications and ramifications, moving forward, we are where we are based on principle.

In the ultimate analysis, then, this is as good as any a basis on which we wish to stand firm.

Out of firmness comes character.

February 10, 2011

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Friday, February 11, 2011

What's the exact amount (net) that represents the proceeds of the sale of Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC)?

What are we getting and what were we paid for BTC?
thenassauguardian editorial

The deal is done. It is finished. The Bahamas Telecommunications Company or at least the majority of BTC, 51 percent, has been sold to Cable & Wireless Communications and The Bahamas will soon be a part of the LIME telecommunications network.

On the surface, it would appear that for dispensing with 51 percent of BTC, Bahamians could expect to receive, over time, the following features which presumably the existing Bahamian management and staff of BTC are unwilling or unable to deliver:

• expanded services for smart phones (Blackberry, iPhones) at “reasonable” prices and faster mobile services to deliver music and television to handsets;

• increase in the number of places Bahamians can go to receive phone services;

• purchase pre-connected phones at retail outlets;

• standard prices for daily cellular services and no more long distance charges for calls made locally;

• better roaming and faster broadband services;

• more connectivity for the Family Islands and more efficient services for small- and medium-sized businesses;

• easier to understand billing services and up to 36 percent reduction in costs per minute over the next three years; and

• spending on community projects including support for Junkanoo; a “center for excellence”; opportunities for Bahamians to work in the rest of the Caribbean (movement of labor has arrived); and increased services to our major economic sectors, tourism and banking.

In addition to the improved services on our existing network, CWC will reportedly pay to the government $210 million plus another $7 million in stamp duties for 51 percent of BTC.

Should we deduct from that figure the unknown amount of net cash value in excess of $15 million at the date of sale that CWC is allowed to take out of BTC?

Should we also deduct the $39 million that the government (Bahamian taxpayer) has agreed to place in the “Feeder Trust” which would presumably cover the shortfall in BTC’s existing pension plan?

It would be useful and enormously transparent if someone would let the public know the exact amount (net) that represents the proceeds of the sale of BTC.

And while you are at it, let us know how the Treasury will fare in future without the $96 million in dividends paid to it by BTC in 2009, if we are to accept a recent report published in the local press.

We would be among the first to agree that there is a need to improve the services performance of BTC but we find it difficult to accept that the above list of services cannot be provided by the Bahamian workforce.

We find it equally difficult to accept that the best way to improve services would be to sell the majority of shares to a regional carrier which, in addition to collecting two percent of total revenue for its intellectual property (despite being the majority owner) would most likely make all major decisions involving the local company in its far-away regional headquarters in the Caribbean. A regional carrier would most likely remit much-needed foreign exchange out of the country in the form of dividends and profits.

And above all, we most certainly hope that our Caribbean friends, who may hold equity (shares) in LIME are not indirectly holding shares in BTC before Bahamian residents are allowed to do so.


thenassauguardian editorial

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm delighted that Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) will be out of the government's hands and looking forward to great things to come

I'm just delighted that BTC is sold
By Rick Lowe

If there is one policy I agree with the FNM on is their intention to divest the public corporations.

I am also glad that there does not appear to be any cronyism in their decision.

The comments like we're being re-colonised as a result of the big white bogeyman buying BTC or the government caused BTC to be like it is, or the union president being quoted as threatening to turn "The Bahamas into a small Egypt" and bear with us as we interrupt your phone service for example are simply out of step with the real world.

The racist comments aside, on the one hand the government is the problem with BTC, but they want the government to hold on to it. For what? So they can continue to interfere and hand string the corporation?

Now let's look at the third comment for a moment. Saying,'We'll turn country into small Egypt' is most inappropriate. The Bahamas is a parliamentary democracy and Bahamians do not wish to turn to a dictatorship for an example of how a country should be.

The fourth comment that Bahamians should bear with them as they disrupt the phone services that people rely on for emergencies or to make a living is nothing short of disrespectful to hard working, law abiding Bahamians throughout the country.

If I were able to bend the ear of those opposed to CWC/LIME buying a 51% stake in BTC, I would suggest that they re-group and start putting their resources and business plans together to enter the market as a cellular provider when the market is liberalised in three years.

Few of us want to resort to violence to achieve our ends in tis day and age, and besides didn't Sir Lynden figuratively lead us out of Egypt in 1967?

That's intended to be funny of course, but The Bahamas has come too far to be set back with that behaviour.

In the final, I'm delighted BTC will be out of governments hands and look forward to great things to come.

February 10, 2011


Dion Foulkes - Minister of Labour accuses BCPOU President Bernard Evans of promoting social unrest and seeking to destabilize the government and the economy of The Bahamas

Unions promoting 'social unrest'
Guardian Senior Reporter

Labour minister hits out over 'small Egypt' comment

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes has accused Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) President Bernard Evans of promoting social unrest and seeking to destabilize the government and the economy.

It came after Evans on Tuesday threatened to turn The Bahamas into a “small Egypt” as a result of the government signing a deal with Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) to purchase a majority interest in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company.

“The security of thousands of Bahamian jobs depends on political and social stability,” Foulkes said in a statement released by the Free National Movement Communication Unit.

The labor minister urged Evans to withdraw his “offensive comment and apologize to the Bahamian people.”

But Evans said yesterday, “I will do no such thing.

“What I said was those persons in Egypt who rose up against oppression, against a dictatorial type of governance, were very peaceful in the beginning when they started. It was only [in] the latter days when the armed forces and/or proponents of (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak started to [have] confrontations with those persons that it became out of hand.”

On Tuesday, as he stood on the steps of the Churchill Building, Evans warned of industrial action.

“I see now the police are putting up barricades again as if they are preparing for animals, but the will of the people is the strength of the people,” he said at the time.

“I guess if The Bahamas is ready and if the government is ready to see a small Egypt, then they are going to get it.”

Yesterday, Evans added that by nature, Bahamians are very peaceful people.

“I have always been very cordial and very peaceful, so I don’t know why the minister would want to insinuate that we are trying to wreak havoc on the community or on this nation. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Evans said.

Blasting the “small Egypt” comment, Foulkes noted that many people were killed and hundreds injured in Egypt in recent weeks.

“To urge members of the BCPOU to engage in similar behavior in The Bahamas is unbecoming of a union leader,” he said.

Evans — who has been threatening industrial unrest for weeks — went a step further on Tuesday, apologizing to the Bahamian public for the disruption in services he said will come.



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) business plan outlines 36% reduction in per-minute phone rates within three years

Lower phone rates for BTC customers
Guardian Business Reporter

CWC business plan outlines 36% reduction in three years

BTC customers can expect to see a 36 percent reduction in per-minute phone rates within three years of Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) taking control of the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (BTC), but the price reductions should commence within the first year.

Prime Minister Hubert A. Ingraham tabled the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the government and CWC in the House yesterday, which outlined the commitments between the two parties.

During his communication, the prime minister disclosed key aspects of CWC’s five-year business plan, submitted by CWC as one of the requirements of the MOU. Several matters directly related to customer costs were addressed in the business plan.

“CWC’s plans will reduce the present rates significantly within the next three years, starting with the first year of operations here in The Bahamas,” Ingraham said, later adding, “It is not just about price reductions. It is also about value for money. We expect consumers and businesses in The Bahamas to be pleased with a new array of products and services that CWC will introduce — that is to say, more services for less cost.”

Around noon yesterday, ahead of the tabling of the MOU, the government and Cable and Wireless signed a share purchase agreement and shareholders agreement governing the terms of CWC’s acquisition of 51 percent of the shares of BTC for a consideration of $210 million plus $7 million stamp tax. During that signing, the prime minister said that the completion of the transaction is expected to occur around the end of March 2011. CWC would then take responsibility for the management and operation of BTC under terms defined in the shareholders agreement.

Under the CWC business plan, BTC customers within The Bahamas calling the Family Islands will no longer have to pay long distance charges when using a mobile-to-mobile connection. There will also be a simplification of billing schedules. The practice of charging different prices for cellular services based on the time of day the call is made will also be eliminated under the business plan.

CWC’s five-year plan also promises ‘reasonable prices’ for smartphones, such as the Blackberry, Android and iPhone. Customers using smartphones will also be able to take fuller advantage of features such as mobile banking, television, and other types of content delivery.

The plan also outlined a number of additional improvements, including better roaming arrangements, faster broadband, more connectivity, consolidated billing, Pay TV, and increased outlets to access BTC services. The prime minister said these would be delivered “while achieving an up to 36% reduction in the cost per minute of both prepaid and postpaid services over the next three years, before cellular competition begins.”