Thursday, June 30, 2011
WikiLeaks - 2003 confidential U.S. Embassy in Nassau cable: “Challenges of Illegal Migration; Can The Bahamas Manage?”
U.S. cables question The Bahamas' capacity to manage illegal immigration
BY ERICA WELLS
NG Managing Editor
When the United Nations last week urged countries with high Haitian refugee populations to stop repatriations, the highly emotional and contentious issues surrounding The Bahamas’ own immigration challenges once again took center stage.
The U.N. argues that the conditions in the impoverished country continue to be “precarious” since the January 2010 7.0 magnitude earthquake. The Bahamas, which temporarily halted repatriations to Haiti following the earthquake, says that if a formal request is made, it will be taken under consideration. Illegal Haitian migration places a heavy burden on the local economy.
It’s an issue that is always there but the approach to tackling the country’s immigration issues — largely surrounding Haitians — has been an obvious challenge for successive governments due in large part to limited resources and some would say, a lack of planning.
The Bahamas’ challenge of illegal migration was a topic of a 2003 confidential U.S. Embassy cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.
The cable, headlined, “Challenges of Illegal Migration; Can The Bahamas Manage?” addressed the need for The Bahamas to add a mass migration contingency component to its ongoing natural disaster planning.
The cable stated that the Department of Immigration was unprepared for mass migration.
Then Director of Immigration Vernon Burrows admitted to Nancy Iris, Deputy Director for the Bureau of Population, Refugee and Migration (PRM) who visited Nassau from October 13 - October 17, 2003 that “migration is a scary issue for us. We can’t handle more (migrants) than we already have,” according to the cable.
At that time, the Carmichael Road Detention Center had the capacity to house 500 migrants indoors, with enough land to erect tents to provide shelter for an additional 500 detainees. At the time there were just under 200 people being detained, the majority being Haitians and Cubans.
“If there should be a sudden increase in these numbers, there is no GCOB (Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas) plan for how to attain the additional food, beds, or shelter.
“Burrows suggested that GCOB has no contingency plan for a spike in migration, although this was disputed by other government officials who claimed that a draft plan is under preparation.”
The cable also noted the “complexity and inefficiency” of processing asylum requests in The Bahamas.
Once one of the few trained senior immigration officials has completed the interview, the information is sent to UNHCR in Washington for an assessment of the case. Their recommendation is then forwarded to the Department of Immigration, who then passes it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Cabinet approval.
According to the cable, the senior immigration official who spoke with Ms. Iris admitted that this is a slow and laborious process, especially given that the final designation must be made by Cabinet, “an unusually high level of decision making for such a determination”.
“The senior official told Ms. Iris that where Cubans are automatically pre screened for asylum, Haitians must request the interview. Few Haitians actually request an interview for asylum, perhaps because they believe their efforts would be futile,” according to the cable.
“Haitians are also at a disadvantage in the interview process because there is no full-time Creole-speaker at the detention center, and despite relatively high Haitian' migrants' rate of illiteracy, there is limited help in filling out the requisite forms for seeking asylum. For calendar year 2002, only four migrants were given refugee status, according to Bahamian officials.”
The cable also noted that the Detention Center used to house illegal migrants appeared inadequate in terms of space and services given the number of detainees housed there.
“Children held at this facility are given no access to education even if their length of stay extends for several months. Limited healthcare, restricted access to outside communication and legal advice, difficulty in obtaining toiletries and necessary clothing, and small food portions are the main complaints from migrants.
“Should the Detention Center ever receive a large increase in its numbers, (an official) admitted that the sewage and plumbing systems, security and the current food distribution method would be woefully inadequate.”
There were also concerns of an uprising should the migrants' numbers increase, as various ethnic groups of different languages and cultures are held in the same dorms at a time.
A political mine field
A U.S. Embassy official concluded in a separate cable that the bottom line for The Bahamas on Haiti “is the fear of mass migration and doing anything that might trigger an outflow”.
This concern was highlighted in a Confidential 2003 cable headlined “Bahamas Unlikely to Pressure Aristide.”
While then Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell acknowledged problems with democracy in Haiti at the time, he made it clear to U.S. Embassy officials that The Bahamian government preferred continued engagement with President Aristide to any type of public confrontation.
“Mitchell’s main concern is doing whatever he can to slow down illegal immigration from Haiti — a key domestic political imperative — and he has been fruitless pursing an immigration accord with the Government of Haiti for several months,” according to the cable.
The cable noted that Mitchell in particular made conclusion of an immigration agreement his top foreign policy priority.
“Our sources in the Immigration Department tell us the negotiations are not going well, stalled over Haitian insistence on an amnesty for the 30,000 – 100,000 Haitians already in The Bahamas (most illegally),” stated the cable.
“Such concession would be suicide for Mitchell in the xenophobic Bahamian political landscape. “
According to the cable, the pursuit of that agreement and any other means to slow down migration would continue to push any concerns for democracy and human rights into the backseat.
“While The Bahamas will remain engaged on Haiti, the Christie government will resist any effort to put real teeth into any diplomatic effort to Pressure Aristide, preferring (endless) conversation and dialogue to the alternative,” the cable stated.
A thorny issue
The issue of Haitian migration obviously goes beyond the country’s capacity to deal with a mass influx, or the political fallout of such an event.
The topic of illegal immigration and how to stem its flow and impact on the country spurs heated discussions.
Author and playwright and Nassau Guardian columnist Ian Strachan recently wrote in his East St. Blues column that the Haitian “problem” is shaped by a number of factors.
“Haitian migrants are a crucial source of cheap, reliable, motivated labor, particularly in the agricultural sector. Increasingly, however, as the middle class shrinks and the ranks of the Bahamian working poor swell, there is growing resentment toward Haitian immigrants and their children because they are now competing for jobs deemed above their social station,” Strachan writes.
“Where once a Haitian only worked as a gardener, farmer, grounds keeper or “handyman”—work young Bahamian men have looked down on for the past forty years—they are now working at gas stations, in hardware stores, and gaining employment as masons and carpenters, jobs Bahamian men have dominated. Many a Bahamian contractor prefers Haitian immigrant labor to Bahamian, not simply because it is cheaper, but because it is better.
“There is also the real and perceived strain on national services, such as education and health care, created by the immigrant influx. And there are national security concerns, fed by the fear of Haitian immigrants ‘violent’ people. Added to this are Bahamians’ fears of cultural erasure, and political/economic displacement due to the perception of Haitians as a lurking enemy intent on ‘taking over’.”
Well-known businessman Rick Lowe, in a recent letter to the editor wrote that the approach to finding a permanent solution to the country’s immigration issues has been “lackadaisical”.
Lowe offered the following suggestions:
• Policing of illegal immigrants who are here must be improved.
• Legalize the status of many of the Haitians who have been here for generations.
• Provide property rights for the squatters and figure out how to phase their status in so they can eventually become full citizens or leave voluntarily.
The U.S. Embassy cables also note the sensitive social issues connected to the Haitian population in The Bahamas.
“Bahamians strongly resent the social cost, cultural impact, and crime linked – in popular stereotypes certainly – to Haitian immigration. These sentiments are confirmed in contacts with government officials, political activists, especially the youth, and NGO leaders who interact with both communities,” the Americans observed in a cable.
“Haitians are thought to impose disproportionate demands on inadequate social services, primarily health and education, due to the higher birth rate in the Haitian community.”
These issues, the Americans observed, have the potential to explode someday in The Bahamas if constructive policies are not introduced to further integration.
Immigration is a national issue that will no doubt top any administration’s national agenda and will require some tough and politically tough decisions.
Jun 27, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) has denied former Member of Parliament, Whitney Bastian a nomination to run in South Andros as its candidate in the upcoming general election
By PAUL G TURNQUEST
FORMER Member of Parliament for South Andros, Whitney Bastian has been denied a nomination to run for the Democratic National Alliance in the upcoming general election.
According to Mr Bastian the DNA felt that he would be more of a "liability" rather than an asset because of his storied past, having been placed on the "restricted list" of the United States of America.
The DNA has been getting lacklustre reviews from observers for the choice of candidates they have selected so far. The decision to reject Mr Bastian is seen as a surprise considering his popularity in South Andros.
Still without a US Visa to this date, Mr Bastian said that he has never sought to have himself removed from this list after he was charged and later acquitted of a drug offence back in 1987.
"This Visa issue is a simple thing. My position to them was that, in fact this was an issue that came up sometime ago. I said you don't need a Visa to go to the US. You can go on your police record, and my police record is clean. If you are charged with any offence you are put on the restricted list. And since that was an issue, and since I have no issue with that I presented them (the DNA) with my clean police record.
"But unless you apply to be reinstated, a Visa is not automatically given to anyone. I was told in the same breathe, that the nomination decision had to be unanimous and they were so sad that they could not get everyone to agree. They feel that I would not be an asset to the organization, and instead I would be a liability," Mr Bastian said.
Attempts to reach the leader of the DNA, Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney for comment on Mr Bastian's nomination were unsuccessful.
As a former MP who has held the seat of South Andros before, Mr Bastian said that he can accept the DNA's decision for what it is, but vowed that he will continue to campaign and run in the area as an Independent.
"I am not going to hit the roof, or get into a fight with anyone. I have run as an Independent before and won, and I will run as an Independent again. But I only held on because Branville asked me to hold on and be a part of his team. But it looks like someone else is running the party now because this is not what we discussed initially," Mr Bastian remarked.
"I don't know who is advising Bran, but I don't think they know what the hell they are doing. But Bran is the leader. I respect him and I have never done anything to undermine his position. And I will do nothing to undermine that position and you will never hear me talking bad about Bran and his organization, but there are some things that need to be fixed, but over time I believe they will be fixed," he said.
June 29, 2011
Hubert Ingraham’s inclusive social vision
To compare the social vision of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham with that of the Catholic social tradition is not to suggest that they are identical. But they do bear a resemblance which led to collaboration between the prime minister and the late Archbishop Lawrence Burke, S.J., on a variety of ground-breaking social initiatives.
Bishop Burke, a Jesuit, was never seized by the hackneyed theology of those religionists who view politics and statecraft as inherently corrupt. “He understood modern life and the challenges of those responsible for the conduct of the business of state... ” He saw government as an indispensable means of advancing the common good and often preferred dialogue and private persuasion over hectoring and haranguing national leaders.
This does not mean that he did not have a prophetic voice. He famously and publicly chastised a now sitting member of Parliament for the latter’s comments related to the illegal migration of Haitians to The Bahamas. Bishop Burke’s response was swift and unequivocal, emanating from a first principle that ordered his social witness and mission and efforts in the realm of social justice.
It is the same principle or lodestar that has guided Hubert Ingraham’s ethic of care and compassion and his extraordinary social agenda: the defence of the dignity of the human person. Guided by this principle, Mr. Ingraham has expended political capital and energy combating inequality, prejudice and discrimination while expanding social and economic justice and mobility.
What is remarkable for a man of his age and times is that he has fiercely resisted the temptation to stigmatize various social groups or to pander to the baser instincts of some in The Bahamas who seek to maintain old prejudices or to scapegoat others.
The country often acknowledges those women from Dame Dr. Doris Johnson to Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson who have enhanced women’s rights. Along with them, any hall of fame honoring champions of female equality must include Hubert Ingraham.
He has appointed or facilitated women attaining high office in government, including an unprecedented number of women to senior cabinet portfolios, and the first female chief justice and governor general, as well as senior posts in the public service.
Mr. Ingraham’s successive administrations instituted sweeping social legislation to secure greater opportunity for and to advance the equality of women and their children. As Hubert Ingraham was acting vigorously and boldly to improve women’s rights, there were some who conspicuously and in a self-congratulatory manner made speeches, travelled the globe and even collected awards for supposedly being champions of women’s rights.
When the courage of conviction was needed both of these evaporated in the face of political opportunism by some. It was Hubert Ingraham who was the profile-in-courage and proved to be more committed to feminist ideals when it came to amending the Constitution to make Bahamian women equal to men in the automatic transmission of citizenship to their children born to a non-Bahamian spouse.
Sadly, the party of Dame Doris Johnson failed to redeem itself on this glaring constitutional omission. It was the PLP who, at the Independence Conference in 1972, did not support the FNM’s progressive view that Bahamian men and women should enjoy equality in all things including this citizenship question.
During a break in the formal talks in London, when a senior PLP leader was pressed by an FNM delegate on the matter, the flippant response was that if Bahamian women got such a right, they would then want the right to use the men’s bathroom.
In the 2002 constitutional referendum, the PLP seemed on the verge of correcting a mistake it made three decades earlier, initially voting in favor of the citizenship question in the House of Assembly. But rank and hypocritical opportunism hijacked the remnants of progressive and liberal ideals that were calcifying in a party that abandoned the struggle for equality for Bahamian women on various fronts.
Returned to office in 2002 with the promise of constitutional reform and purportedly ardent female and male proponents of women’s rights and equality in the Cabinet, the PLP for a third time failed to do the right thing constitutionally on behalf of Bahamian women.
Then came the matter of proposed domestic rape legislation. Last week in a speech at a celebration luncheon for the 30th anniversary of the Bureau of Women's Affairs, Prime Minister Ingraham noted:
“It is an unfortunate and painful reality that when one seeks to equalize conditions that are glaringly offensive, the effort sometimes fails to attract support from those who would benefit.
“This was most recently demonstrated, for example, by the public debate which arose around my government’s initiative to extend protection in law to married women who may be abused by their husbands.”
“Indeed, it appears that many in our society, both male and female, are not yet convinced that women are equal; instead stubbornly holding on to outmoded and long discredited 19th century social mores and laws which regarded women as chattel, incapable of making their own decisions and unqualified to vote, own property or defend themselves against the decisions of male relatives.”
While it is disheartening that such a regressive mindset still pertains among many, the sickening reality is those flamboyantly dressed in progressive garb, who mercilessly exploit such regressive mindsets for political advantage.
Refreshingly, the PLP has been more progressive on removing discrimination against gays and lesbians and protecting such persons. It was the Pindling administration that decriminalized consensual sexual acts between gay people of consenting age.
In 1998 when a cruise ship with gay passengers travelling to Nassau stirred up the fire and brimstone and scapegoating and hypocrisy of some religious leaders and other belligerents, Hubert Ingraham made one of the most courageous and progressive responses ever by a Bahamian prime minister. It read in part:
“I have been chilled by the vehemence of the expressions against gay persons made by some in our newspapers and over our radio talk shows. Admittedly, there have also been expressions of reason and understanding on this matter on the editorial pages but these have been largely lost in a sea of bitter, poorly-reasoned diatribe.”
He pressed further:
“I do not believe that the future of The Bahamas will be placed in danger because chartered cruises by gay persons are permitted to continue to call at Bahamian ports. The future of The Bahamas is not threatened by foreign persons of homosexual orientation. Homosexuality is not a contagious disease; and it is not a crime in The Bahamas.
“Insofar as family life is concerned, studies conducted in developed nations around the world, most notably in North America and Western Europe, maintain that homosexuals are born and raised by well-adjusted loving heterosexual parents; and that well-adjusted homosexuals have given birth to and raised well-adjusted heterosexual children. While research has not been conducted in The Bahamas, the results would very likely be quite similar among Bahamians.
“An individual’s right to privacy is a basic human right cherished by all people. It is a right which citizens of democratic countries expect to be respected by their government.”
One of the modern additions to the Catholic social tradition was a more pronounced and articulated option for the poor which placed the needs of the poor more deliberately at the heart of Roman Catholicism’s witness on social and economic justice.
Hubert Ingraham’s unrelenting, expansive and dogged focus on responding to the poor and promoting social and economic mobility grew out of his own life story and remarkable personal and public journey.
From helping to stimulate job creation to social development efforts in housing, education and health care, he has uplifted thousands of our poorer citizens. His massive increases in social assistance and landmark social legislation has helped to alleviate the burdens of poorer Bahamians whose daily struggles and ambitions he knows by lived experience.
In his person and his policies he has upheld the dignity of poorer and vulnerable Bahamians. While it is easy for some to caricature him because of his sometimes gruff personality, history will recall that he responded in a more Christian manner to various matters of social concern than some of his supposedly Christian critics including some religious leaders who presumed to be able to read the heart and soul of Hubert Ingraham.
History will also recall that his record of care and compassion will be measured in countless deeds, not the rhetoric of those who talk about compassion but whose records pale in comparison.
Moreover, Hubert Ingraham has enacted a more progressive and socially liberal agenda than those who cloak themselves in progressive rhetoric easily abandoned at the altar of greed and political convenience.
When a then former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham retires he will be able to go fishing, at peace with his record and his conscience that he significantly advanced the cause of social justice and progressive politics. Even some who now cuss or criticize him on a regular basis may eventually do some soul searching and reflection. And, maybe they will accord him the recognition that is his due for creating a more progressive, tolerant and just Bahamas.
Jun 28, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Every time an issue with Haitians comes up, it reminds us all how lackadaisical we've been over the years with finding a permanent solution to the illegal Haitian situation in The Bahamas
BY RICK LOWE
CONDITIONS reportedly remain so bad in Haiti that the UN asked several countries, The Bahamas included, if they would stop sending illegal Haitian immigrants back home for a while.
Apparently The Bahamas Government's position is to continue with repatriation efforts until further consultation with Haitian officials.
Every time an issue with Haitians comes up it reminds us all how lackadaisical we've been over the years with finding a permanent solution.
It seems impossible to prevent illegal landings with our limited resources. And our vast area of open water doesn't help. It's easy enough for interceptor vessels to pass sloops and other boats with loads of people looking for a better life entering our territorial waters without seeing each other out there.
So we have two problems. Illegal immigrants arriving on a daily basis and those many Haitians that have lived here, and in many instances, contributed to our country that have no status.
Now comes the hard part. How do we solve these issues?
It's very easy to say we'll stop the boats coming here. But how realistic is that? It seems we have to do a more effective and consistent job of "rounding the recent entrants up" and sending them back. And this is also easier said than done. The Immigration Department can circulate photos of their "raids" every day, but details of the entire process and its effectiveness is what's important. Not press releases.
With regard to those illegal Haitians who have been here for generations we must consider giving them status and property rights of some sort. And they do not have to have the right to vote initially.
We were fortunate to be born in a relatively rich country where opportunity is available for advancement as a general rule. At least the majority of our poor population still seem to live better than most of Haiti's population. So somehow, we have to get past the emotions of this subject, even if only for a short while to arrive at some useful positions to move this issue from the stalemate it has become.
So here are a few recommendations as thought starters:
Policing of illegal immigrants that are here must be improved.
Legalise the status of many of the Haitians who have been here for generations.
Provide property rights for the squatters and,
Figure out how to phase their status in so they can eventually become full citizens or leave voluntarily.
June 27, 2011
Monday, June 27, 2011
WikiLeaks U.S. Embassy cables Nassau: Brent Symonette - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs had encouraged “informal back-channel communication” with U.S. Embassy personnel, apparently because he had little faith in civil servants
BY CANDIA DAMES
NG News Editor
When it came to office in 2007, the Ingraham administration was greeted by a recalcitrant civil service that was so bureaucratic and inefficient in its operations that the new government felt it was in the midst of a “hostile takeover”, according to cables obtained through WikiLeaks.
In several cables, the Americans highlight concerns about unhelpful civil servants, bureaucratic frustrations and inefficient operations.
In a 2003 cable, a U.S. Embassy official wrote: “The Bahamian civil service has honed sloth and delay disguised as deliberation and consensus-building to a fine art.”
In a 2007 cable, another official wrote that the new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette had encouraged “informal back-channel communication” with U.S. Embassy personnel, apparently because he had little faith in civil servants.
“He explained that the new government was effectively in the midst of a ‘hostile takeover’ of the bureaucracy and that it would take time for them to get a handle on the machinery of government.
“He told the Charge that we should not assume that information provided to ministry staff — or diplomatic representatives abroad — would get to him.”
As a result, Symonette suggested weekly or bi-weekly meetings with the then Charge d’ Affaires Dr. Brent Hardt to review priority issues so he could ensure necessary follow up.
“The charge welcomed the suggestion and expressed his appreciation for the openness and commitment to action on key issues,” said the 2007 cable.
“The foreign minister also noted that in his role as DPM, [Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham] wanted him to be a troubleshooter who could delve into issues that cut across ministerial portfolios.
“In contrast to former PM (Perry) Christie's consensus-oriented government, PM Ingraham's government will be top-down, and Symonette has offered us rare access at the top. This access and the open lines of communication suggest that an already close bilateral relationship will get even better under Ingraham's and Symonette's stewardship.”
In a cable written in 2008, a U.S. Embassy official commented on restructuring efforts in certain public service departments, as well as announced Cabinet changes.
“The reassignment of so many senior civil servants along with the Cabinet reshuffle may indicate that the Ingraham administration is completing its hostile takeover of the recalcitrant bureaucracy left over from the previous government,” the cable said.
Those changes came as the global economic crisis began to take hold and The Bahamas was starting to feel the effects in a major way.
“The greater concentration of portfolios in the hands of the prime minister and deputy prime minister also indicates a firmer grip on the reins,” an embassy official wrote.
“High-profile new government initiatives on sustainable energy, tourism, and education, continue to reflect the key importance of the [Government of The Bahamas’] relationship with the U.S.
“They also come in the face of painfully high energy prices for consumers and a rapidly softening tourism economy, leading to increasing insecurity about jobs.
“Visitor arrivals have declined even more steeply than usual in the traditional off-season, according to newspaper reports and anecdotal evidence, leaving premier Bahamian tourist destinations nearly empty and hotels struggling to fill rooms.
“The fractious opposition lacks a coherent social program or a response to the current, unfavorable economic trends.”
Jun 27, 2011
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham seems more concerned about women's rights in The Bahamas than many Bahamian women, who appear quite content to continue to walk a few paces behind their men
PRIME Minister Ingraham resurrected the issue of women's rights at a luncheon given last week to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Bureau of Women's Affairs.
Mr Ingraham seems more concerned about women's rights than many Bahamian women, who appear quite content to continue to walk a few paces behind their men. Although women are no longer -- as they once were -- classified on our statute books with "children and lunatics" -- their children still cannot claim Bahamian nationality if their husband is not a Bahamian. However, the irony of the matter is that illegitimate children of a Bahamian woman are Bahamian citizens even though the children's natural father might be a foreigner -- and even though they might be born outside the Bahamas. So any child who wants Bahamian citizenship is better off if his mother is unmarried. Also, as in Common Law a child's nationality follows that of the father, children of Bahamian men married to foreign women, are also Bahamian -- regardless of where they are born.
The only children left out in the cold -- and at the discretion of the whim of a politician -- are the legitimate children of a Bahamian mother and a non-Bahamian father.
Make sense? Not to us, but if the rejection of the referendum to right an obvious wrong is to be the yardstick, its seems that illegitimacy has more status in this country than legitimacy. And given a chance by the Ingraham government in a free vote on February 27, 2002 it was the women themselves who rejected the referendum, and decided to remain unequal.
Of course, it was the PLP Opposition that muddied the waters and confused the electorate. The PLP apparently thought that the defeat of the referendum would be a defeat of the Ingraham government at the polls -- which it eventually was.
On the floor of the House -- and led by then Opposition leader Perry Christie -- the PLP did a most interesting two-foot shuffle. Having had an inordinate amount of time to consult with the government on the proposed referendum, which Prime Minister Ingraham assured them would not include any issue with which they disagreed, and after a five-day debate in the House on the proposed referendum, 39 of the 40 MPs voted "yes" to the referendum. All questions that were to go to the public for its vote, the Opposition on the floor of the House had agreed.
However, when it came time for the public to vote, the PLP -- again led by Mr Christie -- ordered their supporters to vote "no."
Surprisingly Mrs Alyson Maynard Gibson, at that time PLP MP for Pinewood, threw out the red herring that a "yes" vote for the referendum, which would make Bahamian women equal to their menfolk, would create a "marriage of convenience" market in the Bahamas. Why should it be more of a marriage of convenience for Bahamian women than for Bahamian men? Apparently she had no answer.
If Mrs Gibson had looked carefully at the 1973 Constitution and the proposed change, she would have known that this was not true. The nationality amendments to the Constitution were to make Bahamian women equal, not give them more rights than Bahamian men.
But all that did not matter. We have never seen or heard such jiggery-pokery as the PLP pulled during that referendum. It had become so political - PLP vs FNM -- that in the end the real issue was lost. As a result Bahamian women remain second class citizens -- and they have only themselves to blame.
"We put in our Constitution," Mr Ingraham said at the time, "a provision that gave to Bahamian women who had children outside of a marriage more rights than a Bahamian woman who was in fact married."
And so it remains today. It's now up to Bahamian women to do something about it.
About a year later -- by now Mr Ingraham had lost the 2002 election and Mr Christie was Prime Minister -- we attended a wedding at which Mr Christie was also present. The date was May 30, 2003. The place-- St Anselm's Church, Fox Hill.
Outside of the church we introduced Mr Christie to a Bahamian woman from an old and respected Bahamian family who had married a foreigner and whose children were left out in the cold by the defeated referendum. We brought the matter to his attention. He gave her his most affable smile, and, never at a loss for words, assured her that on his watch all wrongs would be made right. He said he knew that Mr Ingraham could not get the referendum through, but he, Perry Christie, certainly could. As Prime Minister he intended to do so.
That conversation took place eight years ago. Since then the young Bahamian man and his foreign wife, whose wedding we attended, have had four handsome Bahamian boys -- one of them born in England. Mr Christie was prime minister for five years and today the children of Bahamian women, whose husbands are foreign, are still out in the cold.
From the day of that conversation no more was heard from Mr Christie's quarter about women's rights, nor about doing something about the referendum that he helped scuttle.
June 27, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Ruth Bowe-Darville - President of the Bahamas Bar Association says: Bahamians who suggest abandoning the Privy Council as a final court of appeal are “treading in very dangerous water.”
NG Senior Reporter
President of the Bahamas Bar Association Ruth Bowe-Darville has expressed concern over recent calls for the country to move away from the Privy Council as a final court of appeal in the wake of a controversial ruling on how the death penalty should be applied.
Bowe-Darville said Bahamians who suggest abandoning the Privy Council are “treading in very dangerous water.”
“Criminally, it’s one thing. Civilly, when you’re dealing with financial matters and the economic impact of it, litigants who come before our court, they need that assurance that there is some place of last resort that is independent and seen to be independent,” said Bowe-Darville while appearing as a guest on the Star 106.5 FM program “Jeffrey” on Thursday.
“Litigants who come before us with multi-million-dollar cases and they see us as a great financial center, they need the assurance that the Privy Council is there,” she said.
Last week, the Privy Council quashed the death sentence of murder convict Maxo Tido and ruled that the gruesome murder of 16-year-old Donnell Conover in 2002 did not warrant a death sentence.
When police discovered Conover’s body, her skull was crushed and she was badly burned.
But the Privy Council, while recognizing that it was a dreadful and appalling murder, said it did not fall into the category of worst of the worst.
Tido was sentenced more than five years ago.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced in the House of Assembly on Monday that the government intends to bring a bill to Parliament before the summer recess to deal with “the question of the imposition of the death penalty in The Bahamas”.
The legislation would outline specific categories of murder.
Bowe-Darville said the government has to address the question of the death penalty through legislation, but has to be careful not to offend members of the international community.
“I think the question of the death penalty needs to be addressed. I think the country is torn by it because we’re in the throes of this crime epidemic as people have labeled it,” she said.
“People believe that the sentence of death and the implementing of the sentence is going to solve the problem — rightly or wrongly.
“The debate is wide open. Whether the passage of legislation will resolve the problem is yet to be seen, but we need to address it, not only for our own national or domestic needs, but the addressing of the death penalty issue also has international implications for us. It also has economic implications for us.”
Bowe-Darville said Bahamians must remember that the country is “a small fish in a very big pond.”
“The wider community out there with whom we interact internationally, they’re not for the death penalty and have long not been,” she said.
“We interact with them for trade; we look to them for funding. And so we have to consider those implications as well. [Certainly the prime minister] would have considered our greater good and he would consider our interaction with the wider world as well when the legislation comes forward.”
Jun 25, 2011
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Perry Christie - the Opposition leader says: ...while he recognises the sensitive plight of the Haitian people, the Bahamas' predicament as a transit point between Haiti and the United States should be taken into consideration when discussing deportation policies
By CELESTE NIXON
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION leader Perry Christie said the global community needs to be made aware of the Bahamas' unique and burdensome position when it comes to Haiti.
Responding to the United Nations call for the government to extend measures that will allow Haitians to legally remain in the country, Mr Christie said that while he recognises the sensitive plight of the Haitian people, the Bahamas' predicament as a transit point between Haiti and the United States should be taken into consideration when discussing deportation policies.
He said: "The United Nations and the world need to understand the burden the Bahamian people have carried on this issue if only because of our proximity to Haiti and as we are seen as a window to the United States."
As a result of the deplorable conditions that persist 18 months after the deadly earthquake in Haiti the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) has recently appealed to the Bahamas and other countries to take measures to allow Haitian immigrants to legally remain outside their country.
Mr Christie said that while there should be an official response to any call of action by the United Nations, the government should also ensure the international community has a full understanding of the immigration situation in the Bahamas.
He said it must be made clear that because of the country's limited resources, the Bahamas will always need help in this regard, particularly through bilateral arrangements.
Mr Christie said: "We are always prepared to do the right thing with respect to our neighbours, but it must be understood that in that process, the Bahamas needs all the help it can get as we carry the brunt of the nationals of Haiti coming to and remaining in the country."
PLP MP for Fox Hill Fred Mitchell added that the party will be contacting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to gain a better understanding of exactly what the United Nations is requesting, in an effort to help determine the best way forward.
June 24, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
WikiLeaks: ...U.S. Embassy cables document the unsuccessful diplomatic maneuvers made over two administrations to get a go-ahead for liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines from Florida to The Bahamas
By CANDIA DAMES
NG News Editor
A series of U.S. Embassy cables document the unsuccessful diplomatic maneuvers made over two administrations to get a go-ahead for liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipelines from Florida to The Bahamas.
One of the cables obtained by The Nassau Guardian through the whistleblower organization WikiLeaks said that in 2009 AES Corporation proposed constructing an LNG pipeline from Ocean Cay near Bimini to New Providence at no cost.
According to a former AES representative, when this idea was presented to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, the PM said he “wouldn’t be pushed into doing it.”
AES eventually decided to forgo this idea due to technological challenges and associated costs, the 2009 cable said.
The cables show aggressive steps taken by companies like AES in an effort to convince, first the Christie administration, and then the Ingraham administration to approve the project.
In 2005, AES representatives met with then U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas John Rood to discuss the status of their proposed $650 million LNG project.
“AES expressed its frustration at the inability to get a final decision from Prime Minister Perry G. Christie, whom they claim is delaying a decision in an effort to get them to withdraw so he will not be blamed for the project’s failure,” a U.S. Embassy official wrote in a cable.
“AES is the current front-runner to get the LNG project. Opposition has centered on the impact any possible environmental damage would have on the Bahamian tourist industry.”
The government at the time was also considering a pair of competing proposals for an LNG facility and pipeline in The Bahamas.
Both projects would have included an import terminal, a re-gasification plant, and an undersea pipeline to South Florida, in addition to other support infrastructure.
The AES project called for the construction of an LNG facility on Ocean Cay near Bimini.
The cable claimed the AES officials met with the ambassador “to provide an update on their LNG proposal and to request assistance in dealing with an indecisive Christie Cabinet.”
However, other cables show that AES officials were equally frustrated by the Ingraham Cabinet’s failure to make a decision on the project in a timely fashion.
At the 2005 meeting with the ambassador, AES representative Aaron Samson said the company had already spent more than $55 million on the project, and noted that an agreement in principle had been signed, “and the prime minister will not speak to them because there are no other requirements that AES must satisfy,” the cable said.
“AES officials are especially frustrated with Bahamians and complained that although they have visited an operating AES LNG plant and seemed to be convinced of its safety, they now fail to speak out in favor of an LNG plant on Ocean Cay,” the embassy official wrote.
The official said that at an earlier meeting, David Davis and Ronald Thompson of the Office of the Prime Minister said that in their opinion “LNG is dead”.
The cable noted that then Minister of Trade and Industry Leslie Miller, the government’s chief proponent of LNG, estimated that the project would generate approximately $40 million in average annual revenues over the course of 25 years, for a total contribution to the Public Treasury of nearly $1 billion.
The project was also expected to create about 450 jobs during the construction phase and 25 to 35 permanent positions.
The cable noted that Minister Miller had alleged in a radio interview that the environmental group Re-Earth’s opposition to LNG was getting more media attention than it normally might because the group’s leader, Sam Duncombe, is white.
“Had this been a regular Bahamian of a hue like you and I, it would not have been tolerated or she would not have gotten the coverage that she has certainly gotten,” Miller was quoted as saying.
The cable also documented the nasty exchange on Cat Cay between Miller and Cat Cay investor Manuel Diaz.
A protracted debate
In the comment section of the cable, the embassy official wrote, “The consideration of the various LNG proposals typifies the slow and opaque decision-making process of the Christie government.
“Government ministers have been promising a decision ‘in a few weeks’ for nearly two years.
“Even for the consensus-driven society of The Bahamas, the LNG debate has been long, protracted, and increasingly bitter.”
The embassy official wrongly predicted, “In the end a cash-strapped Bahamian government may be forced to make a decision about an LNG facility so it can start collecting the revenue the project will generate.”
In another 2005 cable, Christie told Ambassador Rood he did not want the Cabinet to touch the LNG issue while he was recovering from his stroke.
“He acknowledged that certain Cabinet members — Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell; Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe and Transport Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin — were resolutely against LNG, but that many others saw the benefit the project would have for The Bahamas,” the cable said.
“The PM gave his assurances that LNG ‘would be dealt with’.”
But it never was before the change of government in 2007.
The Americans’ hope that LNG would be approved under Ingraham also turned out to be wrong.
After a courtesy call on Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Brent Symonette by U.S. Charge d’ Affaires Brent Hardt in 2007, an embassy official noted in a cable that Symonette was against approving any such projects.
In June 2007, Phenton Neymour, state minister responsible for energy issues, noted that the new government had not had time to address the LNG issue “but he signaled that the door was still open to eventual approval.”
“Views on LNG within the new Cabinet are quite diverse, with some ministers known to be strongly opposed and some in favor,” an embassy official wrote.
“Having provided the initial approvals for LNG development back in 2002, however, the FNM will certainly take a close look at whether to move ahead with what would be an important new economic direction that would help diversify the tourism-dependent economy.
“Energy prices are very high in The Bahamas and the embassy continues to encourage the government to explore alternative sources of energy.”
Recognizing though that LNG was not a priority for the Ingraham-led government, AES officials planned to review other ancillary projects on Ocean Cay including a rest stop for cruise ships and reopening mining operations on the island.
A source close to AES told The Nassau Guardian that while the project was never officially taken off the table, it is not now being aggressively pursued.
Jun 24, 2011
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Brent Symonette - Immigration Minister: ...repatriation of illegal Haitian immigrants will continue as normal, unless extremely dire conditions were highlighted in Haiti
By TANEKA THOMPSON
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE United Nations has issued a plea to the Bahamas not to deport Haitians due to the conditions which remain 18 months after the deadly earthquake.
The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) appealed to the Bahamas – and other governments which have repatriated Haitians since the disaster – to extend measures which will allow the immigrants to legally remain outside their country.
Despite the call, Immigration Minister Brent Symonette said repatriations will continue as normal unless extremely dire conditions were highlighted in Haiti.
"Given the current situation in Haiti, UNHCR and OHCHR are urging governments to renew, on humanitarian grounds, residence permits and other mechanisms that have allowed Haitians to remain outside their country," said UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards at a press briefing in Geneva.
The UN said despite recent elections and ongoing reconstruction efforts, Haiti is still debilitated by the earthquake and cannot ensure adequate protection for some vulnerable returned citizens such as unaccompanied minors, disabled persons, people with health problems, victims of trafficking or of sexual abuse.
"The appeal calls on governments to assess Haitian cases on an individual basis and to pay special consideration and refrain from returning to Haiti persons with special protection needs, and to prevent situations where returns can lead to family separation," said Mr Edwards.
An estimated 680,000 earthquake survivors live in 1,000 tented camps in Port-au-Prince and other affected areas while an unknown number live outside Haiti, he added.
According to international reports, the recent appeal came after news that countries, including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Brazil and the United States were deporting Haitians.
Yesterday, Mr Symonette said the Bahamas' policy on repatriation remained unchanged and added that he did not know of any new developments that will impede the country from deporting illegal Haitian immigrants. Still the Government will continue to monitor the situation in Haiti, he said, and make adjustments to its immigration policy where warranted.
"When I return I will review the (UN's) declaration.
“Our stance has always been to uphold Christian values and not (repatriate) in situations that would be inhumane, but there has been nothing that happened yesterday or today which would have necessitated this issue," said Mr Symonette who is in Jamaica for a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"We will continue to review the situation in Haiti, we will be in contact with our ambassador on the ground in Haiti and I will discuss the matter further with the Haitian ambassador here," said the St Anne's MP.
Returns of illegal Haitian immigrants will continue in the meantime.
"The detention centre is not at the state in the moment to require repatriation.
“If for instance we find a vessel with 90 people on board in Inagua the situation will be reviewed at that point and more than likely those people will be repatriated, all things being equal," said the minister.
The Bahamas briefly suspended round-ups and repatriation of illegal Haitian immigrants after the January, 2010, earthquake which killed nearly 300,000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
The US deported 375 Haitians in the 2010 fiscal year, which ended in September, after a short suspension following the earthquake.
The country has said it plans to deport approximately 700 immigrants with criminal records to Haiti this year.
June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
WikiLeaks: A U.S. diplomatic cable described Bahamian culture as one that “celebrates heterosexual prowess”, while still proclaiming its “overt religiosity.”
BY JUAN McCARTNEY
NG Senior Reporter
As many Bahamians remain divided on the issue of gay rights in light of a recent United Nations Human Rights Council vote, some of them may find U.S. diplomats’ views on Bahamian sexual attitudes telling.
A U.S. diplomatic cable obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks described Bahamian culture as one that “celebrates heterosexual prowess”, while still proclaiming its “overt religiosity.”
”Bahamians also wryly acknowledge their compartmentalized religious beliefs, commemorated in a popular Bahamian ballad recounting the shortcomings of the ‘Sunday Christian’ who weekly repents their previous six days of sinfulness,” the cable asserted.
Bahamians who came out publicly against gay rights were also described as more “loud” than “violent.”
This opinion was espoused shortly after plans were announced to protest the arrival of thousands of gay cruise ship passengers and their families in Nassau on July 16, 2004.
The passengers were traveling on ‘The Norwegian Dawn’.
When news of a counter-protest by gay rights organization Rainbow Alliance at the same time and location was also announced, U.S. officials asked Bahamian law enforcement personnel to commit extra resources to ensure the safety of American tourists.
But the cable noted that The Bahamas has a “peaceful culture where the fire and brimstone generally stays verbal rather than physical.”
However, despite the feeling that those planning to protest were merely posturing, the U.S. Embassy still prepared meticulously for any unrest, monitoring media coverage of the upcoming events.
In preparation, officials at the U.S. Embassy also made contact with the Ministry of Tourism, former Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) president Dr. William Thompson and now retired Anglican Archbishop of the West Indies Drexel Gomez.
“The newly-elected (BCC) had been taking a more modulated stance on many issues since taking office, including homosexuality, than did the previous administration,” claimed the cable.
“When contacted…on July 14, Reverend Dr. Thompson…said that he stands by his ‘don't ask, don't tell’ policy,” the cable reported.
The cable claimed Thompson said the council welcomed anyone to The Bahamas but did not want visitors to “push their beliefs” on Bahamians.
According to the cable, Gomez told a U.S. Embassy official that he saw "no advantage or benefit" to demonstrating against the visit.
The cable said that then Prime Minister Perry Christie found himself “between a rock and a hard place on this controversy.”
“He owes his election to the active intervention of the conservative end of the Bahamian Protestant religious spectrum. He also knows that 60 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) depends on tourism,” the cable noted. “The (conservative) churches who were his main backers in the last election expect some payback.”
The cable further commented: “The Free National Movement opposition is enjoying watching him squirm and doing its best to tighten the screws by repeatedly calling upon him to take a principled stand.”
There was a moderate protest when the cruise ship arrived, but there were no notable developments.
The Bahamas recently came out squarely in favor of the right to choose sexuality being a human right and the U.N. decision to condemn discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Jun 22, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
NG News Editor
As politicians in The Bahamas craft their strategies ahead of the next general election, an examination of U.S. diplomatic cables on the 2007 poll may prove instructive.
One May 2007 cable said the Progressive Liberal Party held many advantages going into that election.
“It was a well-financed incumbent, held 29 of the 40 seats in Parliament, and boasted of a strong economy, job growth, and billions of dollars in new investments,” wrote a U.S. Embassy official.
“However, the PLP made a tactical error by focusing the election on the personalities of the two party leaders.
“Unlike former Prime Minister (Perry) Christie, (FNM leader Hubert) Ingraham is decisive — so much so that many blamed the FNM's 2002 election defeat on ‘Hubiggety’ Ingraham's imperial attitude.
“By focusing on personality, the PLP allowed the FNM to hammer away at the themes of trust and efficiency.”
It is not clear which official wrote that particular cable, but the name of Brent Hardt, then charge d’ affaires, is attached.
The cable noted that Ingraham, also known as ‘The Delivery Boy,’ is famous for his blunt honesty and his ability to deliver on his promises.
“This contrasted favorably for voters with Christie's reputation for tardiness, lack of control over his ministers, and inability to make tough decisions.”
The U.S. Embassy official wrote that the PLP's campaign theme —"So Said, So Done" — only served to highlight its own lack of action on outstanding electoral promises.
The cable said the FNM's theme — "It's About Trust" — resonated with a populace frustrated by Christie's scandal-plagued MPs, and the FNM buttressed this theme with pledges of open government and anti-corruption legislation.
The FNM's victory came also from its superior party organization, the cable said.
“In a 2005 conversation with the charge, PLP chairman Raynard Rigby had praised Ingraham's skills as a grassroots campaign organizer and predicted a tough fight for the PLP if Ingraham resumed party leadership,” the cable wrote.
“Rigby's prediction came true, as the FNM's party machinery was the driving force during the election. FNM constituency workers were electronically connected to headquarters and its detailed electronic maps and databases, with clear plans for house-to-house outreach and a unified approach to national advertising.”
The cable added, “Even on election day, FNM election workers coordinated like cogs in a well-oiled national machine while PLP workers labored, constituency by constituency, with little evident coordination.”
In a pre-election meeting, Ingraham told the embassy that Christie was a likable man and gifted speaker, but he was the last person you would want to organize a government.
“The prime minister's office was notorious inside and outside the government for its inefficiency and disorder,” the cable said.
“The PLP's inability to organize itself effectively for the election clearly flowed from the top.
“In fact, Christie's indecisiveness kept him from calling an early election, when the FNM was in leadership crisis and Ingraham still had one foot in retirement.
“Instead he waited until the last possible moment and thereby allowed Ingraham and the FNM the maximum time to get their feared organizational machinery in gear.”
The cable said demographic shifts also played a key role in the election.
“Traditional PLP seats in the low-income center of New Providence and traditional FNM seats on the beachfronts were fairly secure for each party,” it said.
“However, as The Bahamas has developed and as income and education levels have risen, constituents have moved from the traditional PLP areas into new middle-class areas.”
This shift has expanded the potential FNM base and eroded traditional loyalty to the PLP as the party of independence among those who view the FNM agenda as better suited to middle-class sensibilities, the cable said.
As a result, the FNM took most of the battleground districts with mixed constituencies, it added.
Another key demographic change was the large increase in young and first-time voters who are less tolerant of traditional Caribbean handout politics and want their representatives to deliver good governance, it added.
In fact, perceptions of poor PLP performance in government dogged PLP candidates, the embassy official wrote.
“While the FNM candidates discussed their plans to develop local government and improve services, the PLP candidates were forced to defend their sketchy record,” the cable said.
“In many cases, constituents were fed up with poor trash collection, bad roads, and perceived indifference of the parliamentary representatives to their concerns.”
According to the cable, these three winning factors — demographic shifts, national party organization and a focus on good governance —framed an election of differing campaign styles and parties with differing core values.
“The PLP is still the party of Lynden Pindling, the father of Bahamian independence whose later years were tarnished by allegations of drug-related corruption,” the embassy official wrote.
Rooted in the working-class neighborhoods of The Bahamas and quick to evoke issue of race, the PLP continued to campaign in the Pindling era style of perks for constituents, the cable said.
“The FNM victory reflects a politically maturing Bahamas, focused on modern governance and a more integrated, national approach to politics that clearly attracted younger and middle-class voters towards the party.”
The official noted that the 2007 race was the closest in decades and said “the PLP is well positioned to be a strong opposition in Parliament.”
Jun 20, 2011
WikiLeaks: Perry Christie, the United States Embassy in Nassau diplomatic cables on The Bahamas and the Leadership issue
BY BRENT DEAN
NG Deputy News Editor
A journey through the files in the archives of The Nassau Guardian on Perry Christie confronts the investigator with the privileged life of a man who has done much, seen much and been a key part of the history of the modern Bahamas.
He was a favorite of Sir Lynden Pindling; he was a senator, member of Parliament, Cabinet minister and prime minister; he married one of the more beautiful women ever produced by these islands.
Despite all this, Christie has a problem – a big problem. Some in his party, his good friend Hubert Ingraham and a significant part of the electorate find him to be a leader who has great difficulty steering an organized and disciplined ship.
The release of the leaked diplomatic cables from the United States Embassy in Nassau by WikiLeaks revealed that diplomats from the richest and most powerful nation in the world shared the same view.
In a tight election, such criticism does not help. And that criticism was not the Americans parroting Free National Movement (FNM) propaganda. It was their view based primarily on their engagement with Christie and his government from 2002 to 2007.
For powerful politicians, being told the truth by those close to you is rare. Everybody wants something from ‘the chief’. So, they tell him what he needs to hear to keep him happy in order to get what they want.
What the Americans said about Christie is what his friend Hubert Ingraham says about him publicly and privately. What the Americans said about Christie is also what many of his supporters and party officers say about him in secret during conversations with journalists.
With such a range of people, PLPs and FNMs, thinking that the labels ‘indecisive’, ‘late’, and ‘disorganized’ truly describe Christie, he needs to pause and consider why they all have come to this view.
Many of the scandals and gaffes the PLP has endured during its last term in office, and during this term in opposition, result from the lack of fear and respect of Christie and his opting not to level hard punishment swiftly against some of those he leads.
Despite the crime problem in the country, despite the down economy, the PLP and Christie will only win the next general election if Bahamians think he has changed.
Christie, simply put, must search within himself and be stronger, more organized, more focused and more aggressive than he has been since he assumed leadership of the PLP in 1997 if he seriously wants to be PM one more time.
If the Valley Boy with the beautiful wife, the beautiful home and the beautiful life continues to think the criticisms of him are just believed by a few, that denial will allow Ingraham to steal one more contest from him, forever relegating Christie in the history books to being the one-term PM who could never come back.
When diplomats from our closest ally, after engaging with you for years at the highest levels, speak of your leadership style with ridicule and condescension, shouldn't that be a wakeup call for change?
The American view of Christie in the cables
Sitting and talking once to a PLP who knows Christie well, the question was posed to him, “Why does Christie wait so long to resolve some situations, allowing small problems to escalate into crises?”
The PLP sighed and replied, “Christie is intelligent and he is usually aware of the scope of an issue. However, he has a problem. He likes to be liked, does not like to be disliked and he too often wants to be all things to all people.”
Christie's indecisiveness, or hesitance to make quick tough decisions as the PLP described it, is not due to lack of capacity. That supporter thought the nice guy simply had an aversion to coming to conclusions that disappointed or angered others.
Throughout the diplomatic cables on The Bahamas, the Americans touch on this issue of leadership and decisiveness. That PLP member was kind in his analysis of Christie. The Americans set feelings aside in their internal correspondence.
“Christie has a well-deserved reputation as a waffling, indecisive leader, who procrastinates and often fails to act altogether while awaiting an elusive consensus in his Cabinet,” said a cable in April 2007.
The Americans acknowledged that Christie was capable. That issue was not in question.
In a February 2004 cable on Christie’s role in negotiations on Haiti the Americans said that while his decision-making style may be "protracted and indecisive" Christie was also an "impressive, dynamic, charismatic and ebullient presence."
Ingraham, Christie’s friend and former law partner, regularly pokes at this issue of decisiveness when he talks about the PLP leader publicly, and apparently privately too.
In the recent budget debate, while chiding Christie for being ‘late again’ for not delivering his party’s recommendations for amendments to the country’s election laws, Ingraham told Christie to his face that he “is not” a leader.
In a 2003 conversation with U.S. diplomats, according to a cable, Ingraham fleshed out his thoughts on Christie’s leadership style.
“He (Ingraham) said that he believes Christie is a good man and well intentioned, but criticized his leadership style,” said the cable.
“Ingraham said, ‘Perry has always been indecisive, and will always be indecisive. It's just the way he is. He can't change.’ He also alleged that Christie had no real vision other than a general desire to improve social programs, and nothing he really wanted to accomplish.”
In an interview with The Nassau Guardian earlier this month, Christie defended his legacy.
He said he was disappointed as a public official that U.S. Embassy officials seem to have taken on FNM propaganda about him.
“Anyone who sat around that table would know that I was in charge of my Cabinet, and that whether it’s foreign affairs or any other subject, that I would have been very assiduous in understanding all of the issues,” he said.
Christie has been officially in charge of the PLP, in and out of government, for about 14 years. No one has suggested that he is not in charge of the organization. What he must prove is that he can use that authority to take charge of the host of characters in his party who have a wide range of competing interests.
A divided house shall not stand
The PLP and the FNM have been closely divided since the 2007 general election. The FNM won that contest by fewer than 4,000 votes after nearly 139,000 votes were cast.
In the February 2010 Elizabeth by-election, FNM candidate Dr. Duane Sands was ahead by two votes after counting concluded. PLP candidate Ryan Pinder won the seat after the Election Court allowed five votes in his favor.
A reasonable examination of the 41 constituency seats in the country could break down the current political landscape as follows based on the current constituency boundaries: there are nine safe PLP seats; eight safe FNM seats; five seats that lean FNM; five seats that lean PLP and 14 swing seats.
It is likely that significant negative perception of Christie, as revealed by the study done by the Greenberg group for the PLP after it lost in 2007, remains a major factor behind the PLP being unable to break clearly away from the FNM and win a landslide majority during these difficult times for the country. A fourth murder record in five years will be set this year and the country is not clearly and definitively out of the recession that started after the financial crisis of 2008.
In private conversations, some PLPs feel trapped. They know this is an election they should win, but perceptions of Christie by the electorate are problematic. And because the party is set up to allow leaders 'god-like' power, Christie cannot be moved.
So these PLPs, in many instances, publicly praise Christie and savage him in private conversations. In fact, some speak worse of Christie that they do of Ingraham.
They do this because they do not believe in their leader. They merely say they do to advance their own desire to return to power under the banner of the PLP. The public senses this duplicity. It is yet another barrier to PLP success.
Christie should not read this commentary as an attack on him. He should read it as the truth those close to him may not be willing to present to him.
In the twilight of his career, Christie will be 68 in August, the PLP leader has to address this confidence issue surrounding his leadership.
Through action, and not just talk, he must demonstrate to his party and country that he can be a strong leader. He can do so by presenting a firm bold vision via his party's manifesto as to where he will lead the country if re-elected; he can do so by expelling the next PLP who embarrasses the party through gross misconduct; he can do so by not running candidates who travel around the country talking about him in private, and in semi-public venues, in derogatory terms.
In the 2007 general election, Ingraham said he was a grandfather and that he had changed from his overly aggressive, confrontational and sometimes hostile ways. He knew then, as he knows now, that Bahamians for the most part do not like those parts of his personality. Christie has his weaknesses too. For him it is critical to reform.
Being satisfied with your legacy
After being fired from Sir Lynden Pindling’s Cabinet in 1984 along with Ingraham, Christie was reappointed a minister in Sir Lynden's last government in 1990. At a rally in April that year, Christie said, “…when you support the person who will be elected, you will also be supporting his judgement.”
He was right. And the issues of leadership and judgement will be the things Bahamians evaluate when they examine Christie and Ingraham one last time (it is unlikely that Branville McCartney will make much of an impact his first time out as a leader). The PLP would like to run away from these issues, but it cannot.
For Christie the stakes are high. Going into the general election at 68, he will likely never have another chance to be PM again if he loses this race. He would then be confronted with never being able to change a legacy he thinks is incomplete.
Christie can win. He is liked by many people. But he must take on what is likely issue number one for the PLP: his leadership style.
The issue cannot be ignored or shuffled around. Bahamians want to know if the Valley Boy can be a different man.
Jun 20, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
Perry Christie's response to a US Embassy cable obtained by whistleblower Wikileaks: ...he (Christie) never considered resigning as PLP chief over Kenyatta Gibson's departure from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP)
By TANEKA THOMPSON
Deputy Chief Reporter
KENYATTA Gibson's departure from the Progressive Liberal Party "meant nothing" to Opposition leader Perry Christie who told The Tribune he never considered resigning as PLP chief over the ordeal.
In fact, Mr Christie said he was relieved to turn over a "problem" Member of Parliament - whose notorious Cabinet "fight" hurt Mr Christie's image - to the Free National Movement.
The Farm Road MP's comments came after a newspaper claimed the veteran politician considered stepping down in the wake of Mr Gibson's exit - and an earlier election court case defeat - based on a US Embassy cable obtained by whistleblower Wikileaks.
Mr Christie dismissed the cable as mere speculation crafted around political fodder of 2008.
"This is absolutely a figment of someone's imagination. I never told that to my wife, my children, never told it to my best friend, never told it to the people in the political organisation that I lead," Mr Christie told The Tribune yesterday.
"No one who is close to me could say that," Mr Christie said. He added that he did not forge close relationships with American diplomats in 2008, the year Mr Gibson left the PLP, and did not discuss his political future with them.
Although he conceded Mr Gibson's exodus was a blow to the PLP and to his image, Mr Christie said he redeemed himself after he won 84 per cent of his party's vote in his re-election bid at the party's 2009 convention. He added that the PLP's victory in the 2010 Elizabeth by-election was another redeeming factor which strengthened the party.
"The whole Kenyatta Gibson thing meant nothing to me. In fact I thought I had transferred a problem I had to the FNM and I thought 'God bless them'. I went on to the (PLP's) national convention and scored a very successful victory and went into the by-election and won."
The PLP leader conceded he paid a "political price" for not demanding that Mr Gibson and former Mount Moriah MP Keod Smith leave the party after having a scuffle in the Cabinet room in 2006. Despite opposition in some quarters, both men were nominated to represent the party in the 2007 general election. Mr Gibson won over FNM newcomer Michael Turnquest while Mr Smith was defeated by National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest.
"At the end of the day there is no doubt that I suffered as a result of what people perceived to be my response to the fight in Cabinet. Clearly after the fight there was a body of opinion that felt Kenyatta nor Keod Smith ought to be nominated to contest the seats (in 2007).
"I paid a price on Kenyatta so when he left I would have been disappointed that someone I made that commitment for (resigned) but that happens in politics and we moved on to demonstrate that the party has grown stronger as a result of it."
The men were not booted from the party because Mr Christie believed in second chances. He claimed that the altercation was just a heated moment that was exaggerated by political opponents.
"The fight I think was intensely blown out of proportion. I had always had a commitment to the redemptive power of a second chance. (From all accounts) it was one of those sparks that took place and everyone moved on.
"Politics being what it is, it was near election time and the FNM blew it up. When we reviewed the matter our opinion was they should not be disqualified," Mr Christie said.
June 18, 2011
Sunday, June 19, 2011
WikiLeaks cables: Perry Christie, the opposition leader planned to resign from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) if it was unsuccessful in its Election Court challenges that followed the 2007 general election - according to a U.S. Embassy diplomatic cable written in 2008
BY CANDIA DAMES
NG News Editor
U.S. Embassy official says 'backstabbing' plagued PLP govt
Opposition Leader Perry Christie told a U.S. Embassy official that he planned to resign from the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) if the party was unsuccessful in its Election Court challenges that followed the 2007 poll, according to a diplomatic cable written in 2008.
The official wrote that Christie indicated that “he would stay on only as long as the PLP had a realistic chance of being named the victor in the contested seats.”
It is unclear which embassy official wrote the cable, but then Ambassador Ned Siegel’s name is at the end of the document.
Following the 2007 general election, the PLP through its defeated candidates challenged three seats: Pinewood, Marco City and Blue Hills.
It lost both the Pinewood and Marco City challenges. The Blue Hills challenge was dropped.
Leslie Miller, who ran for the PLP in Blue Hills, said he considered the challenge a waste of time, as elections are not won in court.
After the Pinewood loss, and Kenyatta Gibson’s resignation from the PLP, the American diplomat speculated in the 2008 cable that Christie was about to step down.
“For the foreseeable future, the PLP will be distracted and consumed with its ongoing internal disarray and lack of direction,” the official wrote.
“The party convention, if and when it is held, may not resolve even the leadership crisis....With this defection (Gibson) and the FNM victory in the first court challenge, it is likely that Christie will now step aside unless the factionalism is so strong that no consensus can be reached on a successor.”
In the 2008 cable, the embassy official wrote, “Gibson’s resignation is a big nail in Perry Christie’s political coffin.
“It will intensify pressure for Christie to step aside for new leadership. It also eases political pressure on the FNM, which is expecting to win ongoing court challenges to three seats by the PLP.”
The embassy official expressed the view that Gibson’s “attack” on Christie after his resignation from the party was ironic given that he was one of the MPs involved in a high-profile fight in the Cabinet Office while the PLP was in office.
“Christie’s unwillingness to replace Gibson fed the image of his indecisiveness as a leader, and of the PLP as a party without internal discipline,” the cable said.
“Christie no doubt feels personally betrayed for having stood by Gibson only to have Gibson bite his hand.”
The cable added: “The resignation has laid bare the fractional lines in the party, with the party’s official website now being used to criticize other members, and those members in turn publicly criticizing the party’s own website.”
The embassy official wrote that Gibson’s resignation undermined the PLP leadership’s post-election strategy of contesting the three seats.
“The resignation, which was accompanied by a blistering exchange with the PLP leadership, is a blow to the embattled PLP leader, former Prime Minister Perry Christie.”
The official opined at the time that Gibson’s resignation was certain to reopen debate about Christie’s record and the need for strategic changes following the PLP’s “shock election defeat” in May 2007.
“The unexpected resignation has bared to the public the infighting and backstabbing that had plagued the PLP during its time in office and has only intensified following the PLP’s loss,” the cable said.
“The turnabout in parliamentary fortunes eases pressure on the FNM government as it struggles to deal with daunting challenges of crime and stagnating tourism numbers.”
The U.S. Embassy official also wrote that Gibson’s surprise resignation not only upset the PLP’s post-election strategy, but further undermined the already “weak position of PLP leader Perry Christie who, like the rest of the party, was reportedly blindsided by the news.”
The official noted in that 2008 cable that Gibson’s resignation came only days after the PLP’s spokesman on foreign affairs, Fred Mitchell, sought to downplay in a media statement the liklihood of any leadership challenges at the next PLP convention.
“On the contrary, Gibson’s strategically timed announcement on the eve of the anniversary of the PLP’s achievement of Majority Rule in 1967 added insult to injury by upstaging the party’s commemoration,” the official said.
“It has also intensified questions about Christie’s viability as opposition leader.”
But at the party’s convention in 2009, Christie crushed his opponents, winning more than 80 percent of the votes cast for party leader.
RELIEF FOR EMBATTLED FNM
The 2008 cable characterized Kenyatta Gibson’s resignation as a relief for the “embattled Free National Movement”.
“Striking like a thunderbolt out of a clear blue sky, news of Gibson’s resignation came just in time to become the top story on evening news broadcasts and morning newspaper headlines, pushing all other current affairs aside,” the official wrote.
The cable added that the media splash handed the FNM a bit of unexpected relief after months of pressure from negative crime stories and unfavorable tourism numbers, coupled with stinging opposition attacks over both.
“The FNM’s presumed courtship of another MP whose allegiance to the PLP may be shaky, Malcom Adderley, may also return to center stage,” the official wrote.
“Speculation about Adderley’s loyalties returned to the forefront recently after Prime Minister Ingraham reappointed him to a two-year position as chairman of the Gaming Board, the sole PLP member to hold on to such a position after the May 2007 elections.
“While the urgency of such an effort might wane, the prospects for another defection cannot be ruled out.”
Adderley resigned from the PLP and Parliament in early 2010, triggering the Elizabeth by-election, which was won by the PLP’s Ryan Pinder.
In a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, Christie said some of what the American diplomats attributed to him was inaccurate, and their characterization of him as weak and indecisive was also wrong.
Christie said the leak of the cables is a lesson to public officials that they need to be more disciplined in how they deal with foreign diplomats.
Christie added that he had no concerns that the cables would negatively affect him politically.
Jun 17, 2011
Saturday, June 18, 2011
A FATHER, grieving over his dead daughter, yesterday condemned this country's highest court for restoring hope of a full life to the man who had brutally murdered her nine years earlier.
On Wednesday London's Privy Council removed the noose that had threatened the neck of Maxo Tido. Instead it sent him back to the Bahamas' Court of Appeal to fix an "appropriate sentence" for a murder they recognised as "appalling," but "not one which warrants the most condign punishment of death."
Tido was the first condemned man sentenced to be hanged by a judge after the Privy Council ruled that no longer could a jury's murder conviction result in an automatic death sentence. Rather a judge now had to consider the merits of each case and decide whether the evidence was such as to warrant death by hanging.
Supreme Court Justice Anita Allen ruled that the brutality of the 16-year-old girl's death merited no mercy for her killer-- he was to hang by the neck until dead. The Advisory Committee of the Prerogative of Mercy agreed, but stayed his execution until he could appeal to the Bahamas's highest court -- the Privy Council.
The results of this decision means a life sentence for Tido. However, it is now up to our legislators to redefine the meaning of "life" in cases such as this. In future "life" should no longer mean 25 years with good behaviour, but full life, with the prisoner leaving his cell only when the undertaker arrives to take him to the graveyard.
The dead girl's father warned that the Privy Council's decision could lead to vigilante justice if people continue to lose faith in the judicial system.
Unfortunately that faith has already been lost and, at least among the criminals, vigilante justice is on the rise.
National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest attributes 44 per cent of this year's murders to drugs. As the drug dealers squabble among themselves and settle their own scores with the gun, they are assisting the judicial system in clearing cases from the court's calendar.
For example, about two weeks ago a man accused of murder was released on bail by a judge. His trial was still pending. A week later he was dead -- shot by another who is "well known to the police," also presumably out on bail.
A few weeks ago a young man was shot in his hand in Fox Hill. If his tangled web is traced back a couple of years, two feuding factions can be found to be the root cause. They will probably gun it out until no man is left standing on either side. One side taking retaliatory measures against the other has resulted so far in at least three violent deaths in this case. This today is what is happening on our streets -- vigilante justice is alive and well.
A police officer commented a few days ago that last weekend was a quiet one on the crime front. He attributed it to the police's new strike force, which had rounded up at least 100 persons for various offences before the holiday weekend.
Opposition politicians like to accuse government for not taking crime seriously. This is nonsense. The government is doing its best, the police are doing their best, the community, where the problem lies, is yet to step up to the plate.
Opposition politicians claim they have the answer to reduce crime. If they have a secret weapon, they are guarding it closely. As far as the PLP are concerned Urban Renewal is the balm that will heal all. It had no healing charm when the PLP were in power, it would be interesting to know what makes the PLP think that it will be any different if they were returned as the government. They are trying to make the public believe that the Ingraham government killed Urban Renewal when it came to power. A redesigned urban renewal programme is still in place, however, it is no longer PLP-style.
The truth is no one --certainly no political party -- has the answer to how to reduce crime. The will of an angered people resolved to restore morality to their communities is the only power that can turn the tide. Until that day comes, the criminals will call the shots.
There are those who maintain that the death penalty is the most effective deterrent to crime. Others say it is life imprisonment. No one knows the answer. Proof hangs in the balance on either side of this complex question. When human nature is involved there is no answer that fits all.
The answer is not to rid ourselves of the Privy Council -- it is too important to this nation in many other ways. However, it is now up to Bahamians to make certain that when persons are convicted of such heinous crimes, all hope of returning to society is removed forever. This is probably the cruelest of all punishments.
June 17, 2011
Friday, June 17, 2011
WikiLeaks United States Embassy cables: Embassy officials viewed the cozy relationship between Foreign Affairs Minister Brent Symonette and then Charge d'affaires Brent Hardt as a major plus in convincing The Bahamas to be more supportive of U.S. positions on the world stage
NG News Editor
United States Embassy officials viewed the cozy relationship between Foreign Affairs Minister Brent Symonette and then Charge d'affaires Brent Hardt as a major plus in convincing The Bahamas to be more supportive of U.S. positions on the world stage, according to cables obtained by The Nassau Guardian through WikiLeaks.
One of the cables described Symonette as “a reluctant foreign minister”.
Symonette was also described as “a frank and open interlocutor” for the embassy and “a good friend”.
“In recent years, he has been a valuable contact on political and economic issues,” said the 2007 cable.
“He and the charge (Brent Hardt) — whose residence is next door to Symonette’s — enjoy a close personal relationship reinforced by family friendships.”
The cable added, “The charge enjoys direct access to Symonette, and expects that the new professional relationship will benefit from the outstanding communication they enjoy.
“The charge has found Symonette to be direct, pragmatic, and generally pro-U.S., though a staunch defender of Bahamian national interests.”
The cable said Free National Movement (FNM) insiders had predicted that former Bahamian Ambassador to the U.S. Joshua Sears would be named foreign minister.
“Asked last summer by the charge about his potential portfolios in an FNM government, Symonette dismissed the idea of serving as foreign minister, saying he could not see himself for hours in ‘endless, unproductive meetings with CARICOM officials,” said the 2007 cable.
“However, with Sears losing his race for Parliament, and with Symonette’s experience as opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, he and the prime minister apparently had a change of heart.”
The cable said Symonette’s appointment as foreign minister is “a best-case scenario” for the United States.
“[Prime Minister Hubert] Ingraham’s decision to tap his deputy prime minister, a known friend of the U.S., as minister of foreign affairs reflects Ingraham’s understanding of the importance of the U.S. relationship and Ingraham’s commitment to making it work for both sides,” the cable said.
“It may also have reflected a recognition that Symonette’s extensive web of local business activities could have created conflicts of interest with other portfolios, as was the case with the airport contract in his last administration.
“Symonette also had little interest in positions such as minister of works, repairing roads and installing stoplights.
“Symonette’s pragmatism, openness to the U.S. and our views, and direct channels of communication with Post promise a stronger, more productive relationship than under the often brooding, sensitive, and aloof Fred Mitchell.”
The embassy official wrote that Symonette will also strongly support the Unites States’ core counter-drug and migrant interdiction programs.
“His Bahamian nationalist focus may lead to a more pragmatic direction in foreign affairs that abandons former Minister Mitchell’s penchant for world travel, building distant ties with India and China, and activism in the Non-Aligned Movement.
“Given his avowed skepticism of the value of CARICOM, we expect Symonette will keep Bahamian engagement with its neighbors to the minimum necessary for good relations.
“With Bahamian national issues dominating his focus, regional and big picture international issues will likely fade as priorities. As a result, we expect The Bahamas’ flirtation with Cuba to cool, potentially reducing Bahamian presence in Cuba from an embassy to a consulate.
“We also hope that Symonette’s pragmatic orientation will lead to greater receptiveness to concluding a Proliferation Security Initiative Agreement — which had languished over the past year with the indecisive PLP government.”
The embassy official noted that Symonette is a successful businessman and a former attorney general and minister of tourism in previous FNM governments.
“Symonette, whose father was the last pre-Independence premier of The Bahamas, is one of a handful of white Bahamians who have remained engaged in post-Independence Bahamian politics,” the cable said.
Symonette was described as a “no-nonsense leader with limited tolerance for inefficiency.”
“We can expect him to be a strong partner for the U.S., who will be more decisive and more inclined to support U.S. positions than his predecessor,” the cable said.
“As he is new to international diplomacy, we have an opportunity to shape his perceptions early on priority U.S. concerns such as a Proliferation Security Agreement and U.N. human rights issues.”
The embassy official wrote that the appointment of Symonette as DPM and The Bahamas’ representative to foreign governments was seen in part as Ingraham’s response to the Progressive Liberal Party’s effort to play the race card during the campaign against Symonette and the FNM, whose roots go back to the white-dominated United Bahamian Party (UBP) of the pre-Independence Bahamas.
“Brent Symonette’s UBP heritage has been a political liability, and became a focus of PLP campaigning leading up to the elections in the overwhelmingly black Bahamas,” the cable said.
“While safe in his wealthy eastern constituency, some public perceptions of Symonette have inescapably been tied to issues of race and [his father’s] minority rule legacy.
“The PLP went out of (its) way to exploit his father’s past — with mixed successs.
“The FNM victory in the face of PLP charges that Ingraham intended to turn power over to Symonette, who would then ‘turn back’ to the era of racial discrimination, suggests a growing political maturity among a majority of Bahamian voters for whom such racial politics had limited traction.”
The cable noted that Symonette was defiant of PLP campaign efforts to marginalize him because of his race and legacy.
“In fact, Symonette derives extra motivation from his desire to ensure that all Bahamians, black and white alike, can participate in the political life of The Bahamas,” the official wrote.
“His willingness to face the barrage of PLP attacks in a political campaign and to stand up for his father despite a difficult legacy are telling of a highly motivated and strong-minded politician.”
The official wrote that Symonette was voted deputy leader reportedly to help balance the fiery Ingraham with his calm, thoughtful demeanor in the 2007 general election.
“Symonette’s deep ties with the Bahamian business community and access to local investors contributed to his appeal to the party faithful,” the cable said.
“...Among the wealthiest individuals in Bahamian politics, Symonette reported $56 million in net worth in required pre-election disclosures.
“However, those disclosures reportedly do not include interests held in trust or partnership, and some estimate Symonette’s wealth to exceed $250 million.
“Symonette nevertheless lives modestly and supports many causes without fanfare and behind-the-scenes.”
Jun 16, 2011