Friday, August 19, 2011
Stating the ‘facts’ on urban renewal
The Ministry of Labour and Social Development, which has responsibility for the urban renewal program, has taken note of the references to the urban renewal program in a press release by the Progressive Liberal Party issued on August 17, 2011 under the caption, "FNM not in control of crime, failed to fund urban renewal," and in the stories in the print and electronic media, and it issues the following statement in response.
Firstly, the ministry wishes to inform the public that in New Providence, eight urban renewal centers were operational under the former government in the following communities: Fox Hill, Kemp Road, Nassau Village, Englerston, St. Cecilia, Farm Road, Bain and Grants Town and Fort Charlotte. None of these centers were closed by the government and six, including the Nassau Village center, continue to operate from the same location as they did under the former government. A ninth center was opened in Pinewood Gardens in 2008.
In Grand Bahama, six centers were operational under the former government, all of which are still open and four continue to operate from the same location as they did under the former government. A seventh center was opened in Seahorse Village in 2008.
Secondly, there has never been any failure by the government to fund urban renewal. Funds for the program have been allocated on a annual basis since 2007 as follows:
• 2006/2007 - $2,450,000
• 2007/2008 - $2,500,000
• 2008/2009 - $3,000,000
• 2009/2010 - $2,800,000
• 2010/2011 & 2011/2012 - $2,301,822.
The current allocation was based on the pattern of expenditure over the previous years.
The urban renewal program continues to operate a number of community based programs.
As has been the case for the past three years, all of the centers in New Providence held a summer program for children in July 2011 at a public school in the community where the center is located. Almost two full pages of photographs of some of the activities of the camps were recently featured in the print media. In Grand Bahama, the camps were held for two weeks during the month of July 2011.
All centers in New Providence and Grand Bahama continue to operate afterschool programs during the school year, and since May 2011 a number of teachers have been engaged as tutors in an effort to enhance the quality of instruction.
Similarly, a number of qualified musicians have been engaged as band instructors for New Providence and Grand Bahama to enhance the competence of band members. In Grand Bahama, the Royal Bahamas Police Force still provides assistance with the bands.
In Grand Bahama, as an extension of the urban renewal sewing program, a school uniform sewing workshop was introduced in August 2010 to provide instruction to persons in the making of school uniforms under the direction of a trained seamstress.
The workshop was a tremendous success and the 2011 workshop is currently in progress. In Grand Bahama, an employability skills program is also offered, which provides instruction for unemployed persons in a number of areas, including office procedures and computer applications.
The urban renewal program continues to partner with other government agencies, including the Department of Social Services, the Department of Environmental Health Services and the Royal Bahamas Police Force for the delivery of services and the operation of programs. Joint activities include, community walkabouts to identify problems and the means by which they can be addressed.
The program also continues to partner with community based organizations. For the past several years, a church in Nassau Village has served as a home base for the band as is the case with Ft. Charlotte. A number of churches also serve as meeting places for the senior citizen's associations. The ministry wishes to remind the public that a comprehensive report on the urban renewal program was tabled in Parliament in October 2009.
The ministry acknowledges with appreciation the continued support of communities where urban renewal centers are located for the program and the public and private sector partners who assist with the implementation of programs.
The Ministry of Labour and Social Development
Aug 19, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
To Messrs Keith Bell and Dion Smith, Mrs. Hope Strachan and company: Urban Renewal 1.0 is still live until the public is fully appraised about its dirty secrets under the Perry Christie administration of 2002-2007
If Urban Renewal was so great, wonderful and rewarding under the Christie administration – [2002-2007], why did the respective communities and their so call concerned residents, business owners and pastors abruptly ceased to be active and kind after the PLP lost in 2007?
The award winning programme under the Christie government has proven itself to be an elaborate gravy train and a hoax.
I have been with the government’s Urban Renewal Programme since 2008, and I have found out that in the respective districts of which we serve, they are filled with people who are chronically dependent on the administration for their every need. They are not interested in togetherness, and doing excellent things for themselves and their neighbors.
Divisiveness is the order of the day, and politics is the official religion and driving force in the lives of dwellers in the respect Urban districts.
Pastors are too political to notice that their constituencies and flock need them; and residents are too occupied with messing-up one another, instead of being industrious and considerate citizens.
We in the Urban Renewal Programme are essentially community facilitators. We are in the particular areas to help residents to better themselves and their surroundings. We are not room service waiters; nor do we subscribe to the notion that Bahamians must be spoon fed by their Members of Parliament and government.
Our vision is to make a lasting impact on those to whom we serve, and to motivate them to be enduring citizens of the peace and prosperity. When we would have moved on, our desire is to leave in place durable programs like the after school initiative, the seniors association, the employment assistance scheme and others that are eternally embraced by the various communities, and their motivated and useful residents.
When the PLP lost the general election of 2007, almost everyone involved with Urban Renewal, and helping their communities in a so called positive light just vanished in the thin air.
It’s wickedness and corruption on the part of those individuals; especially pastors!
This is the reason why the country is in its deplorable state; people today are not genuine and most of us are only concerned about ourselves period.
Now, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is talking about Urban Renewal 2.0 if they win the next general election. Not so fast Messrs. Keith Bell and Dion Smith, Mrs. Hope Strachan and company.
We have not finished talking about Urban Renewal 1.0 yet.
Why is it for example, that certain police officers were given their walking-papers after the Free National Movement (FNM) won the 2007 general election for their unacceptably corrupt contributions to the Christie award winning Urban Renewal Programme?
Why is it that every bank account concerning the award winning Urban Renewal Programme was closed by May 03, 2007 by crooked operatives? How much money was involved and what happen to those funds?
Yes, Urban Renewal 1.0 is still live until the public is fully appraised about its dirty secrets under the Perry Christie administration of 2002-2007.
Caribbean Blog International
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Evil prevails when good men do nothing is indeed a fact of life. In The Bahamas - we could see, hear, smell, touch and taste the wickedness which surrounds us; yet good men are numbed on the sidelines.
Good men have been out of commission for a while in our nation. The mounting murder rate is an example; it is a symptom of a sick and decomposing society – and the good people appear paralyzed to bring about relief to a suffering homeland.
There are killings on the domestic and criminal front, and life is becoming cheaper than expired food selling below market value on a grocery store’s shelf.
Human, gun and drug smuggling are big business in which no government to date has been able to get a handle on; and corrupt civil servants and other crooked citizens are living big-time on their proceeds – and nothing fruitful is being done to really stop such illegal activities which are destroying the moral fabric of our beloved country.
Good men are in a deep sleep in The Bahamas.
Selfishness is the order of the day, and black people seem to be the new oppressors of black Bahamians. We talk to each other with the greatest of disrespect; and hate, jealousy and envy look to be the prevailing culture.
We pass each other by without opening our mouths to say something constructive, and we treat God’s breath as if we are in control. We love our cars and other possessions more than we value our brothers and sisters.
We abandon our elderly folks without mercy, and we don’t give a damn about their welfare.
We allow illicit drugs to poison our children, and the drug dealer is still considered in higher regard than pastors, policemen, politicians and the law.
We invite the guns in to our communities, and when people are killed by them – we become dreadfully outraged.
Children are being nurtured by a diet of television, computer games and the Internet; and we see it as the ideal way to show our love for them.
Many Bahamian youngsters are literally on their own from birth, and we are shockingly surprised and disappointed when they would have committed serious offenses in their youth, or become a murder statistic because of their underworld dealings.
Wake up good men.
Bahamian males are abandoning their children in mass numbers, and although they don’t know if their offspring is dead or alive, hungry or starving – they brag about the amount of children that they have with the various women, whenever the topic is up for discussion by their buddies of like minds.
Our national grade point average along with about 50% of our students leaving school without diplomas is reflective of the youths’ desire to be mediocre and careless citizens, thereby jeopardizing their future and that of the country. Good men remain silent while decay sets in to a people in crisis.
Let’s do something now to turn things around for the better, good men of The Bahamas.
Caribbean Blog International
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
It will be difficult for Branville McCartney's Democratic National Alliance (DNA) to win the next general election... The country has been locked in a political duopoly for some time... The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM) are the only parties many would consider voting for
We are nearing our next general election. Thus far the opposition parties have been active agitating and campaigning. The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) is attempting to make a mark its first time out. From his public proclamations, DNA leader Branville McCartney thinks he has a real shot at being the next prime minister of The Bahamas.
It will be difficult for McCartney to win. The country has been locked in a political duopoly for some time. The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM) are the only parties many would consider voting for.
It is necessary, though, to explore the options if by some magic the DNA does well.
There are currently 41 seats in the House of Assembly. A party would need to win at least 21 seats to have a majority government. If the DNA wins a chunk of seats along with the two main parties, other type of governments would have to be considered.
Most Bahamians are familiar with coalition governance – as currently exists in the United Kingdom. Under this form of government parties with seats come together to form a majority government with the party or parties with fewer seats receiving a negotiated number of cabinet posts and other appointed posts in exchange for adding support to the main party or group of parties.
Assuming the PLP and FNM have more seats, McCartney would be courted aggressively and offered the world by each party for his support.
The other possibility would be for a minority government to be formed. In this scenario one of the parties that won a large number of seats, but not a majority, would have to convince the governor general that it could govern. The convention usually is that the party with the largest number of seats without a majority gets the first chance to form a minority government.
What then happens is that the minority government has to govern by consensus. At each confidence vote in the elected chamber of the Parliament, that government could be defeated because the combined opposition would have a majority. However, minority governments make accommodations on each confidence bill, ensuring that enough of the opposition supports the measure. This prevents the government from being toppled.
Negotiation is crucial in minority government situations. These government, though, are unstable and usually short-lived. In Canada minority governments last on average around a year and a half. Canada had minority governments from 2004 up to earlier this year when the Conservative Party won a majority.
If the DNA can win some seats, McCartney will have some tough choices to make. In such a situation it would probably be wise for him not to align himself with either of the two old parties. If many Bahamians take the leap of faith and ‘go green’ at the next general election all of the followers who wanted to vote for the DNA, but were too scared to, would likely come on board at the following election.
Getting into bed with the PLP or FNM would damage McCartney’s message. How could he be different or represent change by either returning to Hubert Ingraham or embracing Perry Christie?
If the people support this third party in any meaningful way Bahamian politics will be forever changed. McCartney does not need to come anywhere near to a majority to become, at least for a few days, the most powerful man in the country.
Aug 15, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
The reason your power goes off so frequently is that Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) — not too long ago a profit-making corporation that came to the brink of financial collapse last year — has been repeatedly subjected to the poor policy-making decisions of previous government administrations
By Juan McCartney
Guardian Senior Reporter
At a press conference earlier this year, Bahamas Electricity Corporation officials said they expected no load shedding to take place this summer.
After the hottest summer in recent memory, and the failure of BEC to prevent repeated instances of prolonged load shedding, many people now look skeptically at anything uttered by management at BEC.
The blackouts have also left Bahamians calling for the head of BEC general manager Kevin Basden. But Basden, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical power from Oklahoma State University, and has worked at BEC for 30 years, is not to blame.
At least, not for what happened this summer.
If one wishes to attribute the state of BEC, which up until a few months ago was flat broke and near failing, to anyone in particular, then one need look no further than the usual suspects involved in floundering state enterprises — the politicians and their appointees.
The reason your power goes off so frequently is that BEC — not too long ago a profit-making corporation that came to the brink of financial collapse last year — has been repeatedly subjected to the poor policy-making decisions of previous government administrations.
Why so many blackouts?
Without money, BEC was unable to stick to its maintenance schedule and overhaul the nine diesel generators at its Clifton Pier plant and the seven gas turbines at its Blue Hills plant before summer began.
Without proper maintenance, some of the generators — as most mechanical equipment tend to do — eventually failed.
BEC was unable to meet the demand for electricity, and on more occasions than many would care to remember, had to institute a systematic shutdown of certain areas of New Providence for several hours. These shutdowns are also called ‘rolling blackouts’.
BEC officials have estimated the cost of servicing the generators at the Clifton Pier and Blue Hills plants at $30 million.
All the generators that have failed are located at the Clifton Pier plant.
The diesel generators require overhauling each year, according to BEC general manager Basden, who also told National Review that they have not been properly serviced in four years.
Basden said that the gas turbines require servicing every three to four years. He said they had also not been serviced in four years.
BEC was $30 million in the hole when its fiscal year ended at the beginning of October last year.
The majority of parts required for an overhaul must be ordered 12 months in advance.
BEC was so broke at the end of its last fiscal year and had such a dismal track record, that the companies that make these parts insisted on payment up front. BEC simply did not have the money.
Many of the parts for the overhaul of the diesel generators will arrive in August, according to BEC executive chairman Michael Moss.
He also said that parts for the overhaul of the gas turbines would continue coming in up to the end of December.
Moss pointed out that some of the overhauls at Clifton Pier have begun, but the technicians who service these generators would not begin work until all the parts were on site.
Why is BEC broke?
Progressive Liberal Party chairman Bradley Roberts has promised that if his party should form the next government, there will be a commission of inquiry launched into why the Bahamas Electricity Corporation is in its current financial state.
The PLP would do well to save taxpayers’ time and money by admitting the obvious, which is that for the past 50 years politicians have meddled in BEC’s affairs to the point that the state-run power provider can barely function on its own.
And both the PLP and the Free National Movement are culpable.
BEC’s decline really started in 1993, when the then Ingraham administration decided to stop paying BEC for streetlights and made the corporation absorb that cost.
Then in 1994, the Ingraham administration imposed what amounts to a 10 percent tax on fuel BEC imports.
Making a bad situation worse was the FNM government’s decision to not allow BEC to pass that cost on to customers.
The Ingraham administration also imposed a seven percent stamp tax on fuel imports. BEC is allowed to pass that on to the customer.
BEC’s profits took a serious hit because of those decisions and the corporation steadily made less money.
That move set the corporation up for the knockout which came in 2004 when electricity rates were reduced across the board and the way BEC was allowed to charge customers was fundamentally changed by the Christie administration.
Roberts and then BEC chairman Al Jarrett have repeatedly denied that the rate reduction negatively impacted the corporation’s finances, but the data proves them wrong.
In 2004, the Christie administration decreased some residential customers' rates by 10.4 percent and other residential and small commercial consumers' rates by five percent.
That same reduction exercise also reduced large commercial customers' rates by seven percent.
BEC claims that not only did the rate changes affect its bottom line, but two other government decisions also cut heavily into its profits.
Prior to 2004, BEC was able to charge the highest maximum demand recorded by a commercial customer in a particular month for a period of 11 months after that month.
During that reduction exercise the number of months BEC could charge that high demand figure was scaled down to six.
In addition, the 2004 exercise required BEC to pay a three percent interest rate on all deposits, but the corporation was not given the power to penalize customers for late payment by withholding that interest, as is the case with many other utilities in the region.
In 2004, BEC was still a viable operation when it earned a profit of $14.16 million.
BEC's records show that in 2005 it made a profit of $15.306 million.
But $14 million of that profit came from the sale of BEC’s shares in Cable Bahamas.
In 2005, BEC only made $1.306 million profit from its operations.
BEC actually lost $2.916 million in 2006.
In 2007, the corporation lost $21.23 million
In 2008, BEC lost $16.015 million
In 2009, BEC lost $26 million.
In 2010, BEC lost more than $28 million.
Last year, BEC raised rates by about 5.25 percent across the board and stopped paying the government for street lights.
Those two moves were expected to generate about $24 million for the corporation.
BEC also started passing the extra 10 percent fuel tax on to customers.
Moss said the corporation is now on track to make $7 million profit when its fiscal year ends in October.
That is just a general overview of the state of BEC’s finances. There are hundreds of millions of dollars behind this picture that have been shifted, begged and borrowed to keep the corporation afloat.
BEC moving forward
Moss and Basden claim that a generation assistance plan which asks businesses that use a large amount of electricity during peak hours will remain in effect until rental generation units can be installed.
The fact that the rental units were not installed sooner as was promised, is mainly the fault of management but could be also due to BEC’s bad credit.
The owners of these units wanted to be paid upfront and insisted on guarantees from European financial institutions before they would ship them.
But that doesn’t change the fact that rental units could have been ordered earlier.
Moss and Basden have made promises that the situation will improve — promises they have both made before.
While there have been some critically good decisions made by the government regarding BEC, there are several decisions the current Ingraham administration has made in running the corporation that have been a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.
The most glaring would be the repeated decisions to have mass reconnections for thousands of disconnected customers.
These moves tug at the heartstrings and make for good political fodder, but are impractical and costly.
For now, Bahamians must accept the fact that electricity rates will remain high in The Bahamas.
The country has no coal and does not drill for oil or natural gas.
There is no nuclear or hydroelectric power in The Bahamas, and the cost of solar power on the level that BEC would need to implement it is prohibitive.
Wave generation and wind technology could be explored, but that will take time, and of course, money.
That means that the country is stuck importing Bunker C diesel fuel — one of the most toxic types of fuel on earth.
More Bahamians would do well to learn better conservation techniques. Simple things like not running your water heater all day and replacing traditional light bulbs with energy-saving ones are a start.
Also, BEC conducts free energy audits on homes. People should seek to take advantage of this.
And for those who can afford it, installing solar panels on homes is also a good idea.
As far as the future of BEC, the Ingraham administration appears to have saved the corporation from doom for the time being. We will see how this plays out over the next few years.
If the PLP returns to power it will hopefully give the corporation some time to heal before it starts meddling again. But if history is any indicator, that is a doubtful prospect.
However, if any government is really serious about BEC, it will do what it knows needs to be done and privatize it.
After all, governments should regulate corporations not run them.
Aug 15, 2011
Sunday, August 14, 2011
...the positive assessment by the IMF of The Bahamas' economy came as a breeze of fresh air in the fug created by recently depressing world economic events
By SIMON COOPER
THE news of the positive assessment by the IMF of the Bahamas economy in The Tribune on August 8, came as a breeze of fresh air in the fug created by recently depressing world economic events. I for one must admit to being decidedly unimpressed by the American President's snide remarks directed towards Standard and Poor who had been warning him for months.
From where I sit, Barack Obama almost sounded like a Republican himself. He appeared disinterested in the fact that at least some Americans are questioning their country's credit worthiness, and unconcerned with the way the markets went into free-fall when it turned out that America the Free no longer has an open-ended budget.
All feedback works the same way in terms of what might be done with it. One can learn from it, reject it, or put it into one's metaphorical pocket to think about it later. Perhaps the President of the World's richest nation will think again about the "poor" assessment his country just received? Perhaps he won't? Time will tell, as it invariably does.
I personally think America woke up to a whole new world this week. It no longer has an unlimited credit card, and its Asian creditors are no doubt seeing it in a whole new light too. Given that Republicans in power are unlikely to tax the companies more that contribute to campaign funds, they will remain more inclined to cut back on expenses. Obama has blocked meaningful domestic cuts. To my way of thinking, this leaves the option of cutting back on America's paternalistic role beyond its borders, no doubt to the delight of some.
Fortunately for the Bahamas we are reasonably well-insulated from the current mess, and for this we have to thank Hubert Ingraham for his foresight (for the record I am a political atheist). Our plans to jump-start our island economy are funded by improving fiscal revenues, as opposed to American handouts with proverbial stings often in their tails.
But America may also cease receiving the free lunches that the western world has been serving it. We have perhaps been too long prepared to follow its lead wherever it would go, and to jump as high as it required. This is good news in the sense that for long-lasting world stability, no single nation should be too powerful. Think of the chaos when the USSR imploded. If the American economy is on the wane, it needs to be let down gingerly.
I wrote this controversial column not to knock America or Americans for whom I have the greatest respect. I wrote it to point out that our island nation's glass is at least half full, and I guestimate far more than that. We are on the right track as the IMF has said. As a businessman I say bravo for the business opportunities that must follow.
Res Socius was founded by Simon Cooper in 2009, and is a Business Brokerage authorised by the Bahamas Investment Authority. He has extensive private and public SME experience, and was formerly chief executive of a publicly traded investment company.
He was awarded an MBA with distinction by Liverpool University in 2005.
Contact him on 636-8831 or write to email@example.com
August 12, 2011
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Erin Greene - human rights activist: It is important for me to educate people about the constitution and the citizen’s constitutional obligation to the country... and to other citizens and people resident or present in The Bahamas
BY SONIA FARMER
NG National Correspondent
For Erin Greene, human rights activism is a way of life. Though she is often called upon to comment on gay rights issues, what most may not realize is that she fights for many who struggle for their voice to be heard in The Bahamas—including, but not limited to, women, immigrants, children, the disabled and the incarcerated.
“I use the title human rights activist the most because the principle behind it is you have to acknowledge that my rights don’t exist without your rights,” she explains. “We can’t talk about animal rights if we are not talking about women’s rights—our rights are the foundation upon which all rights are granted.”
This is reflected in the amount of NGO organizations she has contributed to, including the Rainbow Alliance of The Bahamas; Pride Bahamas; CARIFLAG Bahamas (Caribbean Forum for Lesbians, All Sexuals and Gays); Bahamian-Haitian Solidarity for immigration rights; and the Bahamas Human Rights Network.
Her interest in this spans beyond simply their individual agendas—it settles instead upon teaching people about tolerance in their communities.
“It is important for me to educate people about the constitution and the citizen’s constitutional obligation to the country and to other citizens and people resident or present in The Bahamas,” she says.
However, gaining justice for these marginalized groups, she points out, requires open-mindedness, which can only be gained through education—which is exactly what she does. Erin is a big believer in educating oneself about social issues as a way of debating them—an appreciation she developed from her upbringing.
“For my mother’s peers and that generation and generations before that, education was important. Whether you went to college or not, you were always learning,” she explains. “I was entrenched in a culture of appreciation for education. So I think as a culture and as individual community, we have stopped emphasizing the importance of education, so we have lost the idea of education as empowerment and we simply see education as a requirement for a job.”
The problem arises, she says, when one believes they can hold a debate about serious human rights issues when they know simply a fraction of the language and information. They forego book leaning, and by doing so, devalue themselves and their cultural development.
“The one book that is in every Bahamian household is the bible, and Bahamians know it inside out, they reference it, they’ve memorized it,” she points out. “So we are not a people incapable of learning, but we are a shallow people, and you have a group of people who think they have the ability and academic or scholarly authority to interpret the bible, and they don’t engage the actual academic education.”
“Likewise, they read a paragraph of a book in a field of many books and they believe they have the scholarly authority to interpret that information without any other information in that field, without even speaking to another person in that field—they just know what it is,” she continues.
Yet the unfortunate state of education has come to be due to a large and seemingly unmanageable series of events and cultural norms that Erin believes we must examine closely. Factors such as lazy parenting whereby we discourage curiosity and a culture where we discourage public critique, breed children who don’t know how to learn, and coincidentally adopt passionate standings on social issues that were realized through ignorance and partial research.
The responsibility falls not only to the government but to the community to bring back that appreciation of education and culture of learning in order to hold significant debates about issues pertaining to our humanity.
“Civil society has not invested enough in institutions of learning, education and empowerment,” she points out. “We need a tax right away, we need to legalize a national lottery right away if not only to create a special ACE (Arts, Culture and Education) tax and we as a people need to put our money where our mouths are and really fund, because the books aren’t there, the resources aren’t there.”
It is in this larger framework of shortcomings that Erin hopes to step in and individually help educate people completely in a subject—whether it is immigration rights, women’s rights, gay rights, or disabled rights. Justice and equal footing can only begin with understanding and compassion, and so she practices these in her daily interactions as a mouthpiece for those who desperately need one in a culture of ignorance—whether the people listening are ready to accept the realities of their world or not.
“People will do what they want. That’s what makes the world work,” she points out. “I think as part of the human experience, if you can respect that and honor that, when you can wrap your ego around that, then you can begin to learn about a world where everybody deserves rights, and there’s no question about whether people deserve rights or not. Even within that, you can’t force that realization upon anybody. It’s that’s a thing that people come to themselves at different times in their lives.”
It’s a tough path for anyone to take, battling against what can be at times outward hatred to dispel stereotypes and encourage understanding, but again her upbringing taught her about education as the key to helping people.
“I was raised in a culture of volunteerism and community awareness,” she says, and indeed, Erin’s work as a teenage councilor in the Methodist Youth Summer Camp, Bible Schools and the Police Force Summer Youth Program helped her gain awareness and appreciation for teaching people interesting and relevant life skills and understanding.
But it wasn’t until she came back from her college studies and identified as gay, becoming part of Pride Bahamas, that she became a spokesperson for gay rights issues through that group—which soon expanded to include human rights in all of its forms.
“It all spiraled out of control from there,” she laughs. “I’m at the point now that everything I do now has some form or level of activism in it. But I think it’s because I’ve learned that as an activist, as an artist, and an entrepreneur, whatever you do in The Bahamas, you’re doing that work and you’re also doing the work of building a culture of appreciation for what you do. So if I’m doing gay rights work, or if you’re doing animal rights now or environmental work, half of your work is building a culture of appreciation for human rights.”
Two major ways she is able to build this appreciation is by way of her work as an artist and through her well-known humor. Her artwork, such as the fringed tie Junkanoo objects in her exhibition “Jux-Tie-Position” examine our relationships to culture and sexuality, and emphasizes cultural discourse as a means to social activism.
Yet Erin is truly able to create a culture of open-mindedness and appreciation for human rights by educating people through her use of humor. She used to perform stand-up pieces during the open-mic nights Express Yourself, and for four years has been involved in the improv troupe Da SPOT for about four years now, which in itself is a social commentary-based sketch group. She also runs the radio show “The Culture of Things” which is now in its second season. Humor is a powerful tool for Erin to use because it dissipates any passionate situation, and makes serious issues relatable.
“Humor is one of those necessary attributes that allows you to see, that rewires the brain to be able to see without getting mad or upset,” she says. “It’s subversive. It is an act of civil disobedience. Because people don’t realize you’re talking about serious stuff and their radar is down, their force field is down, and you’re able to put it into their heads and when they’re at home and in a more comfortable space, they’re able to really think about it.”
In the end, just as she proclaims, all of Erin’s efforts go towards developing some sort of social consciousness. To Erin, The Bahamas has moved forward rapidly with the world but has done little growing consciously. She hopes that by continuing to compassionately, honestly and otherwise hilariously educate those willing to listen, The Bahamas can become a community and part of a world that creates safe spaces for those who are part of a vulnerable community.
“People deserve rights because they are human beings. We all deserve rights. Its not even that we deserve them—we have them— it just that we deserve the respect of those rights,” she explains. “I wish us the wisdom to look back to the past, the courage to stretch our arms out to the future and the compassion to share the present with everybody around us.”
Aug 08, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
Although the public is clamouring for government to start hanging those now on death row, the law has to be followed and so far the Privy Council rulings are almost cutting down the hangman's noose
WE AGREE with Security Minister Tommy Turnquest that it is going to become increasingly more difficult to hang convicted murderers.
Although the public is clamouring for government to start hanging those now on death row, the law has to be followed and so far Privy Council rulings are almost cutting down the hangman's noose.
In 1993 the Bahamas discovered that a hanging could not be carried out because the Privy Council had earlier ruled in a Jamaican case that it was inhumane for a prisoner to wait more than five years on death row for their sentences to be carried out. After five years a death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Ever since then clever lawyers have protected their clients by court delays stretching past the five year limit.
Then in 2006 the Privy Council ruled that mandatory death sentences were unconstitutional. Each case had to be considered on its individual merits before sentence could be passed.
However, the Privy Council decision in the Max Tido case, in which 16-year-old Donnell Conover was brutally murdered, has almost ended capital punishment in the Bahamas. The Privy Council sent Tido's case back to the Bahamas appeals court saying that it was not a murder that warranted the most extreme punishment of death. It was returned "for the imposition of an appropriate sentence." The angry reaction here from both religious and civic organisations was to give the boot to the Privy Council, and do it our way -- "hang 'em high."
However, despite the Privy Council ruling the government is working on draft legislation that will target prolific and repeat offenders and outline specific categories of murders.
Nevertheless, it was Mr Turnquest's view that whether it be the Privy Council in London or the judges in the Caribbean "more and more jurists are going to find more and more obstacles to put in the way of governments from carrying out capital punishment." That, he added, is the "reality of life."
Therefore, he said, the concentration should be to get "those prolific killers, those prolific offenders, behind bars and off our streets." In the case of murderers, life imprisonment should mean "life until death do us part."
As we have already suggested in this column those who have a life sentence should be turned into useful citizens -- even though they are behind prison walls. A large acreage of Crown land should be opened for them to farm, thus allowing them to make a contribution to this country's food supply. Between our local farmers and the prisoners this country could be almost self sufficient in fruits and vegetables. This would certainly take some of the burden off our foreign reserves.
However, there has recently been a turn of events in England with regard to capital punishment that is worth watching. And it will probably get more traction now that young hoodlums are thumbing their noses at police and setting London and other regions on fire just for the hell of it. The British are fed up with lax laws and are demanding more punishment for law breakers.
The British government -- in a move to bring democracy directly to the people -- has installed a new site for e-petitions allowing the public to have their issues debated in Parliament provided they get enough support online to do so. Restoration of the death penalty is now a burning issue. The traffic on the site was so high on this subject -- more than 1,000 people a minute -- that the site broke down. It was not designed for such heavy traffic.
"We are getting 1000 unique visits a minute - this is equivalent to nearly 1.5 million visits a day and is far more than the old ePetitions site on Number 10 ever received," said a government spokesman in apologising for the breakdown.
The restoration of capital punishment now looks as though it is going to be one of the first items for debate on the Commons' agenda. It will be the first Commons vote on capital punishment since 1998. The last hangings in Britain were in 1964.
Although British Prime Minister David Cameron does not think that "in a civilised society like ours that you can have the death penalty any more," Priti Patel, MP for Witham in Essex, felt that such a debate would "provide a good opportunity to talk about the failings of our existing criminal justice system." So many victims of the "most horrendous and heinous crimes," he said, "have no sense of justice."
He echoes the words of Donnell Conover's father who on hearing the Privy Council's decision on Tido's future said: "It is really sickening -- I feel as if there is no justice in the world for a victim's family."
August 10, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Bahamians should monitor closely the economic events in Europe and the United States. Several European countries such as Spain, Portugal and Italy are having trouble managing their debts. Other European economies such as Ireland and Greece have already been bailed out; but may still need additional help again soon.
There are fears that a European debt crisis could emerge creating conditions similar to the financial crisis of 2008, which led to the most significant recession since the Great Depression.
As Europe tries to fix itself, and there is no easy solution, a bitter debate in the United States over debt and spending rages. The U.S. has a debt to GDP ratio of around 100 percent that is growing. Conservatives want to see deep cuts to entitlement spending. Liberals want to maintain the social programs they think support a just society
The U.S. and Western European countries had high levels of debt before the financial crisis. The amount of money states used to support their economies after the crisis, however, significantly increased those debt levels. Now, tough decisions have to be made. The old levels of spending can no longer be supported. If they are maintained, collapse will eventually be the result.
The problem is that in modern states people have come to believe that they have the right to every benefit under the sun. Many think they should have free health care, free education, unemployment benefits, pensions, etc. In previous good times when these things could be afforded, politicians kept piling on benefits and giving subsidies to appease voters and financiers.
The time has now come in the Western World to roll back these ‘gifts’ and rethink the role of government.
In truth, people do not have the right to any benefit or gift from the state. The whole idea of rights is too based on religious thinking and assumptions on what ought to be bestowed to humans by a mysterious divine source.
Countries, communities and social groups can only provide the level of entitlements that can be afforded. Governments can and ought to act as back stops for the downtrodden if they can afford to so do, and not otherwise. So, if you live in oil rich Norway, then the sky is the limit. That state can afford to spoil its citizens.
When you live in a developing society with a debt to GDP ratio approaching 100 percent, there is little the state can do for you.
Government should function first and foremost as a regulator. Its job should be to ensure that fair and open marketplaces exist, through which citizens can make a living. Government should also work to ensure the safety of the common area from internal and external threats.
Beyond this, all the other benefits a state could offer should be based on the resources at its disposal, after consultation with the people.
Under this mindset, it becomes easy for a country to make decisions as to the cuts necessary for growth in the economy to return. Wasteful programs and subsidies, to the poor, as well as to the rich, must be cut across the board in the West in order for taxes to be reduced and for the private sector to have more space to expand. Unnecessary and onerous regulations also need to be removed, creating a more favorable atmosphere for entrepreneurs to take risks.
Here in The Bahamas we are burdened by more and more regulations and by a large and inefficient public service. Our solution, it seems, to the down times is to continue to impose more regulations and to pay the public sector come what may and to borrow and borrow to so do. We cannot keep this up forever.
It is obvious what needs to be done. But it will not be done until people here abandon the idea that a welfare state, by what ever name, is the answer.
Aug 10, 2011