Friday, September 30, 2011

Former senior officers of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) - Messrs Paul Thompson and Errington “Bumpy” Watkins blamed the government or the judiciary for the country’s overwhelming crime problems

Former policemen blame govt, judiciary for crime problem

By Chester Robards
Guardian Staff Reporter

Two former police officers who retired as top brass policemen have separately blamed the government or the judiciary for the country’s overwhelming crime problems.

Paul Thompson, who retired from the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) as an assistant commissioner of police, insisted that the long delays in The Bahamas’ court system are to blame for the delays in justice and therefore crime on the streets.

He said that during his time on the force the court system handled criminals much differently than it does today.

“If you were a hardened criminal and the magistrate knew you have convictions previously for the crime you are charged with, you weren’t getting bail,” Thompson said.

“The problem with the court is the long delays with cases taking three to four years to reach court.

“You are going to have a problem with witnesses remembering things, you are going to have problems finding the witnesses — they may have relocated — then you have given the accused people the opportunity to approach those witnesses over that period of time and there could be threats, intimidation and that kind of thing.”

Former police deputy superintendent and politician, Errington “Bumpy” Watkins, insisted that the government is to be blamed for the level of crime in the country. He lamented, however, that the police force is continuously blamed for crime.

“The crime, mind you, is due to the politicians,” he said.

“The poor policemen carry the blame. Police don’t get the appreciation they deserve from the public and this is a fact.

“While you guys are sleeping and enjoying yourselves at night we are out there with the criminals being shot at and being stoned and what not.”

Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest recently suggested that some judges have contributed to the crime problem because they are too lenient in the granting of bail

The government is the constant target of political criticisms for the increasing crime problem.

Thompson insisted that during his time as a part of the RBPF, officers were faced with crimes involving knives, razors, shotguns and eventually sawed-off shotguns.

However, he said the criminal element has upped the level of violence with the consistent use of guns.

“Today it’s very violent,” he said.

“We didn’t have the technology they do today, but the men of (my) era had the courage, the integrity and the follow up. They never stopped looking and we benefitted a lot for the courts at that time.”

Sep 30, 2011


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mr. Arthur Dion Hanna Jr has overstated his case against National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest for his remarks "criticising and vilifying the judiciary"

tribune242 editorial

ON THIS page today - in the Letters to the Editor column - Mr A Dion Hanna, the lawyer son of former governor-general AD Hanna, criticised National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest for his remarks "criticising and vilifying the judiciary". He accused Mr Turnquest of blaming the judiciary for "the state of murders in the country" today.

It is obvious from the facts that Mr Hanna has overstated his case.

National Security Minister Turnquest did not blame the judiciary for the "state of murders in the country".

However, he did say in a talk to Rotarians on September 22 that the courts' growing practice of granting bail to repeat offenders of violent crimes was "greatly contributing" to the country's escalating crime problem.

In other words, the courts were not the cause, but were certainly one of the many contributors to what is now a major security and social problem. As Mr Hanna, a lawyer, should appreciate, his statement of what he alleged Mr Turnquest said and what in fact Mr Turnquest did say are oceans apart. A contributor to a situation is certainly not the cause of the situation.

Mr Hanna also claims that Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett called a press conference to defend the Bahamas' legal system against Mr Turnquest's "flagrant attack on the judiciary". Mr Hanna interpreted the calling of a press conference by Sir Michael as "of itself a most unusual event".

In fact, this "most unusual event" never took place. No press conference was either called or held. Instead, an enterprising journalist contacted Sir Michael to ask his opinion on Mr Turnquest's remarks and got a commendable interview.

Mr Hanna then criticised Attorney General John Delaney for failing to "defend the rule of law and the honour and integrity of our courts". In the matter of bail for repeat offenders -- which is what is the issue here -- the Attorney General is too sensible a man to make a fool of himself in public by defending the indefensible on this particular question.

And, in case Mr Hanna is trying to turn this into a political football we must point out that during the Christie administration, the concern of legislators over the matter of bail was the same as it is now.

If the Christie government's former attorney general - Allison Maynard Gibson - is to be believed - and there is no reason not to believe her - there was concern even in the ranks of the magistrates.

On May 19, 2006, speaking on the amendment to the Criminal Law Miscellaneous (Amendment Act), Mrs Maynard had this to say: "In conversations with Magistrates, those before whom most bail applications are made, they said they are often shocked to see how many people whose request for bail was denied by them (Magistrates) are back before them requesting bail for another offence committed while out on bail. These people had gone to the Supreme Court and been granted bail."
She then gave examples of repeat offenders continuing a life of violent crime while they awaited trial for a previous offence or offences. Her observations and comments were in lock-step with Mr Turnquest.

She also gave a breakdown of offences committed with a firearm. In 2004, she said, 7 per cent of the 234 persons arrested for fire arm offences were on bail. Also the majority of violent crimes committed that year were with a firearm.

She gave statistics of where ballistic analysis confirmed that a single firearm was linked to multiple incidents, i.e., armed robberies, shootings, murders and grievous harm. In fact, she went into greater detail than did Mr Turnquest at the recent Rotary meeting.

It was for this reason that at that time her government was amending the criminal law, specifically the Bail Act-- as the Ingraham government will be doing when parliament reconvenes next week. The 2006 Bill, which Mrs Gibson proposed, provided for appeal to the Court of Appeal by either the prosecutor or the person convicted where bail was either granted or refused by the Supreme Court.

She felt that the right of the prosecution to appeal on the issue of bail was particularly important "as statistics have shown that persons, while on bail take not only the opportunity to abscond but more importantly to commit further crimes. The police have indicated that persons out on bail sometimes interfere with witnesses either by themselves or through their acquaintances."

For anyone not to understand what an impact these repeat offenders are having on our society - and not to appreciate that they could not commit these crimes without the court's bail -- they would have to be deaf, blind, and live on another planet.

We often wonder if some of our judiciary -- and this includes certain defence lawyers -- are indeed living on another planet, as they seem to have failed to appreciate the lawlessness that surrounds them.

The judiciary needed a wake-up call. Mr Turnquest gave it, and in this he has the full support of The Tribune.

As for Mr Hanna -- and like thinkers -- we invite them to ponder the words of the learned Law Lord, the late Lord Bingham, a former Lord Chief Justice of England:

"...I do not consider it would be right," he said, "even if it were possible, for judges to ignore the opinion of the public. They do not live the lives of hermits; they are also conscious that the gift of infallibility is not conferred on them, alone among mortals.

"So when differences of opinion arise between judges and an identifiable body of public opinion, the judges are bound to reflect whether it may be that the public are right and they are wrong."

September 29, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

...we need to restore the quick connection between crime and punishment in The Bahamas... And we need to ensure that the people who lead the critical divisions of the police force and the AG’s Office related to investigating and prosecuting serious crimes are up to the task

The prime minister’s national crime address

thenassauguardian editorial

So much has been said in recent years about crime in The Bahamas. There have been four murder records in five years.  Over that same five-year period more that 13,000 cases of housebreaking have been reported.  Most of those homes were broken into in New Providence.

Bahamians are fearful.  Bahamians are not sure that their law enforcement agencies and politicians are up to the task to fix the problem.

Opposition leader Perry Christie and his party seem to understand that crime is likely the most significant issue on the minds of most Bahamians.  Christie, who is not known for leading the way, got out ahead of Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham in August.  He made a national address on crime and offered solutions on behalf of his party.

Some of the ideas Christie presented had promise; others did not.  However, in speaking to the country formally on the issue as the opposition leader and a former prime minister, Christie indicated that crime was an issue that must now be addressed and debated at the leadership level.

Ingraham said Sunday he would make a national address on crime Monday coming.  His address will come almost six months after he promised during the national address on public infrastructure to speak about the growing crime problem in The Bahamas.

Ingraham made the crime address pledge at Lynden Pindling International Airport as he arrived back in The Bahamas from an official visit to Washington, D.C.  He made the pledge after reporters asked him crime related questions.  It is unclear if Ingraham had previously decided to make the national address or if he made the pledge in an effort to end the questioning.

Nonetheless, the address is needed and it will be interesting to hear what the prime minister has to say.

Ingraham has a fine line to negotiate.  He will likely mention the millions of dollars his government has provided to the various agencies of the criminal justice system.  He will likely also bring up the refurbishment of the courts.

Ingraham and his government have also gone further.  Since coming to office in 2007 the chief justice has been changed, there have been three commissioners of police, two directors of public prosecution and at least five commanders at the Central Detective Unit.

His government has tried and it continues to try.  But, as the numbers show, the crime problem is worsening.

What the PM needs to address is the competency of the leadership of his law enforcement agencies and whether or not certain agencies are adequately staffed with competent people.

Police investigate serious crime and lawyers from the Office of the Attorney General prosecute the cases.  If the cases are poor and the prosecutors are less than capable, and there are too few of them, then few people will go to jail for the crimes they commit.

And, if the AG’s Office cannot bring forward cases fast enough, or if it does not want to because the cases were poorly prepared by police, then judges will grant bail to accused persons who would then be free to offend again.

There is too much talk now about everybody doing a good job.  In this time of civility we say the commissioner of police and his officers are doing a good job; we say the National Security Ministry is doing a good job; we say prosecutors are doing their best.  If police and prosecutors are doing their best, and the crime situation in The Bahamas is worsening, then those officers and prosecutors are not up to the task to help reverse the trend.

As we mentioned in a previous editorial, leadership is needed on the crime issue.

The prime minister must pledge bold action and show passion when he addresses his people.  The money spent so far has not yet led to any meaningful results.  We need to know what is next.

Simply put, we need to restore the quick connection between crime and punishment.  And we need to ensure that the people who lead the critical divisions of the police force and the AG’s Office related to investigating and prosecuting serious crimes are up to the task.

If they are not, something else should be found for them to do.

Sep 28, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Thank God for the Privy Council!"... It is "thank God for the Privy Council" that gives our courts an aura of stability and is an added attraction for The Bahamas as a commercial centre

A case for keeping the Privy Council

tribune242 editorial

CRIME IS out of control. All of us are concerned, and naturally everyone wants a quick solution to something that has been a growing sickness for many years. As with all growing sicknesses, there is no quick fix.

Sir Etienne Dupuch died 19 years ago, having stopped writing this column about four years before his death. But for years before that he was warning the Bahamian people that unless something were done to reverse our social decay as far as crime was concerned the Bahamas was on a downward path in Jamaica's shadow. What we are complaining about today, he predicted in this column way back then.

Solutions are needed, but they can't be found in an atmosphere of hysteria. What has to be faced is that society as a whole is to blame - either by active participation, or by ignoring the signs in an attempt to insulate itself against the threatening storm. Only a united society can now overcome our problems.

This week a group of pastors got together to express their concern about crime, especially "about the spiralling, out of control murder rate."

They blame government for not doing what is legally necessary to carry out capital punishment in cases of those convicted of murder. They believe that "former and current governments" have failed the country by allowing the Privy Council to "force its 2006 interpretation of our constitution on us" and continuing to govern as if nothing can be done about it. In short they want the return of capital punishment, and the disappearance of the Privy Council.

What most people do not appreciate is that - as one lawyer pointed out -- when the Privy Council had the opportunity to rule that capital punishment was unconstitutional, it did not do so. However, what it did rule unconstitutional was that hanging was the mandatory sentence on a murder conviction. In other words there were no degrees of culpability for the crime. It was felt that instead of the mandatory sentence, the presiding judge should consider each case on its own merits and decide which warranted death and which a lesser sentence.

In other words it left us with capital punishment still on our statute books, but it forced the courts to put more thought into how the sentence was to be administered. It is now up to our legislators to craft legislation that makes it clear what types of murders would warrant the noose.

But we have to face the fact that capital punishment in this world is seeing its last days. Even in America, one of the last bastions of the death penalty, discussions are now underway about its abolition. Consciences are being pricked in the knowledge that many innocents have been condemned to death by contaminated evidence and faulty judgments.

Many Bahamians are calling for the Bahamas to cut all ties with the Privy Council so that our penal system can again start to "hang 'em high." This of itself would be a capital blunder - it would remove the most important plank that makes the Bahamas attractive as a commercial centre. Many international businesses would not locate here if our courts did not have the added attraction of the Privy Council as the final court of appeal.

As one international businessman - despairing of his litigation in our court system - commented: "Thank God for the Privy Council!"

It is "thank God for the Privy Council" that gives our courts an aura of stability and is an added attraction for the Bahamas as a commercial centre.

Without the Privy Council as our final and truly independent high court, where would we turn? The Bahamas certainly could neither afford nor mann a local high court with Bahamians. And who can guarantee that a panel of Caribbean judges at the Caribbean court would not rule in the same manner as the Privy Council law Lords in London when it comes to capital cases? Many of them are even now debating the abolition of capital punishment. And so, even with a regional court there is no guarantee that the Bahamas will be able to hang 'em high. That is why we believe that the only way to keep the dangerous murderer away from society is to have a life sentence that truly lasts to the end of the convict's natural life.

But even so the death penalty will continue to haunt the Bahamas. Through the FTA many trade agreements have social justice clauses to protect children, workers and many other groups. Many European countries will not enter into agreements with a country that imposes the death penalty.
Some years ago we wrote in this column about a European ambassador who was paying us a courtesy call. At that time capital punishment was very much an issue. He wanted to know when the Bahamas was going to abandon capital punishment. When we told him of the feelings of the Bahamian people, his comment was that the European organisation to which his country was a member would force the issue -- the Bahamas would no longer qualify for loans.

And so for those who want to be rid of the Privy Council so that they can hang their criminals, they would be advised to think long and hard. They will be denying this country one of its most valuable assets, the upkeep of which costs us nothing, in exchange for what? Certainly no guarantee that we shall be able to tie the hangman's noose around the neck of some unfortunate wretch.

September 27, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Monday, September 26, 2011

The government is expected to unveil changes to the Bail Act when the House of Assembly reconvenes... ... it is still hard for Bahamians to understand why so many dangerous criminals are out on bail, mocking our system of justice and terrorizing us in our homes and in our businesses

Bahamians want action on bail

thenassauguardian editorial

It would appear that a public spat has erupted between the Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest and Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett, over the effectiveness of the country’s judicial system.

Last week, Minister Turnquest repeated a statement he made in the past that criminals must be kept behind bars, and said that if judges were elected officials some of them would be run out of town.

Turnquest said that while he has no wish to encroach on the independence of the judicial system, in his opinion some judges have been far too “liberal” when it comes to granting bail to career criminals and those accused of serious offenses — and he believes the police and the public agree with him.

Sir Michael hit back hard. He described Turnquest’s criticisms as unfortunate. “I am always concerned when people attack the judiciary because persons have to be careful in what they say, so as not to undermine the public confidence in those of us who serve in judicial office,” Sir Michael said.

The Chief Justice stressed that judges are independent and do not make decisions based on public sentiment; and are aware of what goes on in society.

Sir Michael makes a good point, and perhaps Minister Turnquest should have chosen his words more carefully, but that does not erase the challenges faced by the judiciary and the impact those challenges are having on the country’s crime problem.

The government and Minister Turnquest should be commended for implementing the electronic monitoring bracelet system, which it is hoped will go a long way in preventing suspects from re-offending.

But it is still hard for Bahamians to understand why so many dangerous criminals are out on bail, mocking our system of justice and terrorizing us in our homes and in our businesses.

Our murder count - now over 100 - would have been lower over the past several years if a number of those out on bail were still in custody.

The country has now recorded four record-breaking murder counts in five years. And we are on pace to far outstrip last year’s record of 94.

The government is expected to unveil changes to the Bail Act when the House of Assembly reconvenes next month.

We hope these changes meet the needs of the country.

We are also eager to hear what Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham has to say in his upcoming national address on crime.

In addition to the questions over why so many dangerous criminals are out on bail, there is also still a great deal of confusion surrounding the rulings of the Privy Council and how they have impacted our judicial process.

A ruling by the Privy Council in which it held that it would be cruel and inhumane to execute someone under the sentence of death for more than five years has had unintended consequences, mostly arising from how unprepared our national leadership was to deal with such a momentous ruling.

Bahamians want and deserve a better explanation in terms of the various issues surrounding the matter of bail. But, more importantly, they are demanding action, arising out of fear for their very lives and livelihoods.

Sep 26, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stephen Serrette - leader of the Christian People Movement (CPM) says: ...if elected he will seek to govern with help from The Bahamas Christian Council

New political party wants to give Bahamas 'back to God'


ANNOUNCING the formation of the Christian People Movement, party leader Stephen Serrette said if elected he will seek to govern with help from the Christian Council.

The symbol of the CPM is an open Bible, as it is the party's belief that the word of God is a "reservoir of solutions" for all the country's problems, Mr Serrette said.

"A CPM government will actively engage the assistance of the Bahamas Christian Council and other religious institutions.

"A CPM government will set a high standard of Christian values, conduct and code of ethics for our leadership, including Cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, and government officials," he said.

Mr Serrette, who until recently served as national chairman of the Bahamas Constitution Party and before that as a PLP branch chairman, said the CPM intends to run a full slate of candidates in the 2012 general election, and "thereafter emerge as the next elected government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas."

He said that "through the Holy Bible" the party plans to achieve its aims in the areas of education, national security, tourism, health, finance and immigration.

On this last point, Mr Serrette said: "We cannot allow other cultures to prevail in the Bahamas. A visit to these islands should be a Bahamian experience."

The party is therefore calling for better enforcement of immigration laws, including a precise record of when each visitor leaves the country.

"Our immigration laws must be so rigid that it serves as a deterrent to illegal immigration in the Bahamas. At present, too many agencies - our health care, police, Defence Force and education - are greatly taxed by illegal immigrants.

"There must be a higher cost for the education and health care received by non-Bahamians," Mr Serrette said.

He also called for "greater distribution of wealth to the common man" through Crown land leases with development stipulations.

Also on the CPM agenda is: the promotion of healthier lifestyles and state-of-the-art hospital care; deficit reduction and prudent spending; and the promotion of quality service through education and training.

Mr Serrette added: "The CPM will give this country back to God with righteous governance, being fair to all Bahamians."

September 24, 2011


Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Free National Movement (FNM) source says: ... Branville McCartney will lose his Bamboo Town Parliamentary Seat in the next election to Cassius Stuart, who is the FNM party's unofficial candidate for the area

McCartney says FNM comments a 'slap in the face to Bamboo Town residents'

Deputy Chief Reporter

SUGGESTIONS that Bamboo Town is an FNM constituency is a "slap in the face" to residents of the area who deserve full representation regardless of political affiliation, MP Branville McCartney said.

His comments came after a source in the Free National Movement said Mr McCartney will lose his seat in the next election to Cassius Stuart, who is the party's unofficial candidate for the area.

"I think that it's almost a slap in the face to Bahamian people. It is a constituency for the Bahamian people," said Mr McCartney, as he prepared to host a town meeting in Grand Bahama yesterday.

The former FNM member said he had hoped that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham would be the party's candidate to challenge him in a "leader-to-leader" battle.

"I was a bit disappointed to hear that Cassius may be running especially after the prime minister and (members of his) Cabinet went down there a few months ago and indicated that they were sure it was an FNM seat and the prime minister and the Cabinet apologised for sending me there.
"I thought it was going to be leader against leader," he said.

Earlier this week, a well-placed source in the FNM said Mr Stuart will beat Mr McCartney because constituents in Bamboo Town are "hard-core" FNM supporters.

"Bamboo Town is like what Bain Town is to the PLP, hard-core, and the people are very upset that Branville abandoned them the same way they were upset when (former area MP) Tennyson Wells did it to them. Bamboo Town is FNM and will go back to the FNM," said the source.

Yesterday Mr McCartney said he does not know if voters in the area he represents will back Mr Stuart, or the Progressive Liberal Party's candidate Renward Wells.

But he said his work in Bamboo Town over the last four years speaks for itself.

"I've done my part as a representative. We have a number of programmes that started from 2007 and we do (area) walkabouts once a week."

"I can't say whether or not they would vote for him or others. Obviously there is going to be a three-way race or more, the Bahamian people and the people of Bamboo Town will have to decide," he said.

September 23, 2011


Friday, September 23, 2011

Despite the regularity of the issuance of the death sentence, executions are uncommon in The Bahamas... There has not been a hanging in The Islands since David Mitchell was executed on January 6, 2000

Realistic about the death penalty

thenassauguardian editorial

Execution remains the most severe punishment prescribed by the state for the crimes of murder and treason.  The punishment of death is regularly issued in The Bahamas against those who murder. Treason prosecutions are virtually non-existent.

Despite the regularity of the issuance of the death sentence, executions are uncommon.  There has not been a hanging in The Bahamas since David Mitchell was executed on January 6, 2000.

In the 1993 Pratt and Morgan ruling, Her Majesty’s Privy Council ruled that it would be cruel and inhuman to execute a murder convict more than five years after the death sentence was issued.

This ruling was intended to protect the innocent and various civil liberties.  But it has had unintended consequences.

The ruling has slowed the execution process.  Murder trials take a long time to come up in this country and the appeals process after the death sentence is issued also takes years.

The country hanged 50 men since 1929, according to records kept at Her Majesty's Prison.  Five of them were hanged under the first two Ingraham administrations (1992-2002); 13 were hanged under the 25-year rule of the Pindling government (1967-1992); and the remainder were executed between 1929 and 1967.

In 2006, the Privy Council also issued a ruling, stating that the section of the Penal Code requiring a sentence of death be passed on any defendant convicted of murder "should be construed as imposing a discretionary and not a mandatory sentence of death."

The government has acknowledged that hangings are unlikely considering the five-year rule and the amount of time it takes for the appeals process to take place.  However, despite this acknowledgment, capital punishment remains a legal punishment.

This commentary is not intended to offer an opinion on whether or not capital punishment is a fair or reasonable punishment.  There are good arguments for and against hangings.

What is clear is that it is virtually impossible for the death sentence to be carried out.  And appeals against the sentence add to the backlog of cases before various courts.  If the five-year rule remains, we need to end the death penalty for practical reasons.

The appeals waste time and money.

Anecdotally, the majority of Bahamians appear in favor of executions.  This includes many of the powerful and vocal Christian clerics.  Governments fear even raising the issue of ending the death penalty.

As we all consider ways to reduce the number of matters before the court in order to make the criminal justice system more efficient, we must put this issue up for debate.  Emotionalism is useless.  The facts are the facts.  Hangings, though desired by many, are unlikely.

Bahamians want to understand what is going on.  And they want action.

We are eager to learn the details of the government’s legislative plan to address the definition of the length of a life sentence when Parliament resumes next month.

As long as the Privy Council rule remains in effect, murderers will appeal and appeal until the time for execution has past.

We must be realistic and accept that the days of execution in The Bahamas are over.

Sep 22, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial

Thursday, September 22, 2011

...Mr Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette, and the political red herring of conflict of interest

Symonette steps down as airport chairman in 2001

tribune242 editorial

ON MONDAY we discussed the claim by two PLP former ministers in the Pindling cabinet that the country now faced a "constitutional crisis" because Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette had "admitted" that his family had shares in a company awarded a government contract. They called for his resignation from politics.

We said that we would return to the discussion on Tuesday, but got sidetracked by Police Commissioner Greenslade's call for tougher sentences to deter crime.

As 100 murders were recorded over the weekend with shootings continuing, the Commissioner was asked if police were doing enough to get crime under control. Commissioner Greenslade replied that the police were doing their best. They were arresting the suspects and taking them to court, but after the courts charged and released them, it was no longer a police matter. Today Senator Dr Duane Sands said that the record-breaking murder count would be three times higher if it weren't for the country's skilled doctors who were saving many lives.

All this is true, and if one follows the plot all steps lead to the courts. The doctors would not have so many critically wounded on their operating tables, if when the police took their assailants to court, the courts returned them to prison to await trial, rather than releasing them on bail into the community.

It is now up to legislators to set penalties that will not only frighten would-be law breakers, but like it or not, limit the courts discretion in granting bail.

And now back to Mr Symonette and the political red herring of conflict of interest.

In 2001 Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, through the Minister of Transport, asked Mr Symonette to resign as chairman of the Airport Authority for apparent conflict of interest in awarding a contract to a paving company in which he had an interest. Six days after the matter was drawn to his attention, Mr Symonette resigned. Today he admits that in his efforts to get the job done quickly to prevent the threatened downgrade of Nassau International Airport by the FAA, he acted without consulting the Airport Authority's Board of Directors - most of whom were out of the country, preventing him from getting a quorum to call a meeting. However, on their return, they met and ratified his decision.

Mr Symonette's action was typical of a successful businessman, accustomed to making decisions and getting the job done efficiently and on time.

However, he will admit today that he was in the wrong, because in his position, he was no longer a private businessman, free to make immediate decisions, but a servant of the people who had to go through a slowed down process. This is the very reason that private enterprise is far more successful than any government undertaking, and the very reason why governments should never waste taxpayers' money by dabbling in private enterprise.

Three companies tendered for the airport paving job at that time. Bahamas Hot Mix, in which Mr Symonette had an interest, offered the lowest bid. "Bids came in on the 21st," Mr Symonette explained at the time, "they started work on the 29th, August."

To save money for the taxpayer, keep the FAA happy and save the downgrade of the airport that would affect tourism, Mr Symonette in August, 2000 awarded the contract to Bahamas Hot Mix to pave the airport's perimeter.

He said that at the time -- unable to get a quorum for a board meeting -- he declared his interest to the Chief Engineer before the contract was issued. The Prime Minister was also aware that he held shares in the Hot Mix company. And the information had been a matter of public record from August 22, 1992.

Although by his decision he saved the taxpayer money and achieved greater returns as a result of the contract, sacrificing many hours away from his own business for the airport, and, unlike past chairmen, never receiving pay for his services, Mr Symonette will today admit an error of judgment. Today he says many "mea culpas." He has since divested himself of his Bahamas Hot Mix shares. The shares have been transferred into a trust for his children. These are the same shares that are the centre of the current argument.

It was PLP Bradley Roberts, MP for Grants Town, who initially brought the matter to parliament in 2001 levelling charges of corruption and conflict of interest against the Ingraham government.

Behind the scenes Mr Roberts was himself in personal conflict with the Airport Authority chairman. Mr Roberts was a shareholder in a company that had a monopoly on all food and beverage handled at the airport, both in the airport building and for all incoming aircraft. This monopoly embraced the whole airport area as far as Coral Harbour, some claimed it took in about a five-mile radius. At the time that this monopoly was being challenged, Mr Symonette happened to be the chairman in the background asking unpleasant questions.

And so Mr Roberts' exposé in parliament was no surprise.

More on this subject tomorrow, unless our attention gets diverted to another subject.

September 21, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

...has the Free National Movement (FNM) done enough to earn another five years in office?

FNM Version 3.0

By Ian G. Strachan

The Free National Movement will be pursuing its fourth non-consecutive term in office in 2012.  They have ruled during truly turbulent times.  The world has been rocked by financial crises, triggered in no small measure by the reckless actions of Wall Street financiers, the cavalier war of an incompetent Cowboy-President and the greed of oil magnates.

We are a small island state, a vulnerable jurisdiction more often changed by events too large for us to control than changed by our own will.  Ingraham has had the unenviable task of steering the ship of state during a global storm that has brought disaster to bigger, older, wealthier nations.  Is he getting the credit due him or will his achievements be considered inconsequential due to the times?  Has he blown golden opportunities or made the most of a bad situation?

Our job as voters is to determine whether the FNM did their best to keep the nation on a good footing and whether their best was good enough. Record murder rates, record unemployment and an unchanging record of academic underachievement seem to be the highlights of the FNM Version 3.0.

But before we write the FNM off, let us acknowledge that Ingraham and Co. have not just been twiddling their thumbs while the nation goes to hell in a hand basket.  They have actually gotten quite a lot done.  Let’s take an inventory of the last 4 years.


Unemployment Benefit
Facing a dire job market the FNM offered short term relief to thousands who contributed to National Insurance but found themselves out of work.  In order to receive the support you had to register with the Ministry of Labour who could then determine if there was indeed work you were qualified to do.  Although this move seems to have resulted in an increase in everybody’s National Insurance contribution, I think it was the right thing to do. (And it happened early, not late in their term of office).  Over 20,000 Bahamians received support and this benefit is now a permanent facet of NIB’s services.

Straw Market
One of the embarrassing facts about the PLP’s term in office is that they failed to erect a new Straw Market in their 5 years in office. The FNM built it with time to spare.  There seems to be a court battle looming regarding the project so the ultimate cost is still undetermined.  Nonetheless, the FNM got it done.

National Stadium
This is another PLP project that they couldn’t get done.  It has been done under the FNM.  We can certainly question the merit of such a project and the ultimate cost to the Bahamian taxpayer given that costly infrastructural work is necessary to provide power, telecommunications and water to the facility, but the fact remains, the FNM got it done.

New Airport Terminal
Another feather in the cap of the FNM.  Yes, NAD was started under the PLP’s but that’s the way of politics.  Besides, I hear this airport expansion has been on the drawing board since Ingraham’s first term. (No doubt while the PLP complain about foreigners running things they will hope we forget they handed the management of the airport over to Canadians.)

Saunders Beach
Despite all the spittle and hot breath expelled as a result of this project, it went ahead and is now complete.  The beach hasn’t disappeared and the new parking lot, playground, benches and sea grape trees are being enjoyed by citizens.   I miss the Casuarinas, but they don’t produce sweet purple fruit.

I will give credit where it is due.  The decision to make Baillou Hill Road one way north of Robinson Road has improved the flow of traffic during the morning peak hours.  The purchase of a new fleet of police motorcycles was timely and has also enabled the police to have a much better and badly needed presence on the streets.  The enforcement of the seat belt law (which the PLP failed to do although they passed the law) has improved public safety.  The new highway leading from Saunders Beach to Tonique Williams Darling, has also provided a useful alternative to north-south travelers.  The new intersection at East Street South and Cowpen Road was a necessary adjustment to the population growth in that district.  And it was sensibly designed to allow a constant left turn, heading east from East Street. Small adjustments like the one made at the intersection of Prospect Ridge and JFK have also improved traffic flow and at minimal cost to taxpayers.  And those of us who take the time to stop screaming, can see where the road work is going: the five lanes at the Marathon-Robinson Road intersection, the double lanes on East Street north of Soldier Road, the widened, more attractive Robinson Road corridor, all suggest that the main avenues of the city will be enhanced and as far as possible are being refashioned to accommodate growth.  (Those are the positives).

Saving Mayaguana
The PLP cut a deal with the I-Group that gave 9,999 acres of land to a hotel/real estate development on an island with less than 500 people.  The developers were promising to build the largest airstrip in the world.  The Bahamian government was apparently an equal owner—whatever that means. I don’t care.  The deal was sheer madness in my opinion—we don’t need anchor projects that drop anchors on our heads.  The FNM re-negotiated the deal, cutting the project’s allotment in half.

This project has finally been properly financed and work has begun in earnest, on the FNM’s watch. It doesn’t matter that it was a project that was birthed during the PLP’s term in office. So was Ginn, right?  The FNM are in charge now and they are taking the credit for oversight of a deal that’s actually executable.  Bahamar is the only true hope either Christie or Ingraham can foresee in terms of placing 6-8,000 Bahamians in good paying, permanent jobs.  The problem is those jobs are years away from materializing, so whoever wins this election will be credited with the huge bite out of  unemployment that Bahamar will deliver.  I give Ingraham credit for insisting that PLPs endorse the China Eximbank deal.  I also give him credit for not allowing the thousands of Chinese laborers into the country until after the election.  He has out strategized Christie again in these cases.

BTC Privatisation
Here again, is a thorn in the PLP’s side.  They were late again.  And here again, the FNM got a deal done with time to spare.  Time for Bahamian tempers to cool.  Time for handsome packages to be handed out.  Remember when the fight was to save 300 jobs?  Well last I heard 450 had asked for packages.  So now the fight is to get one of these golden parachutes off Air BTC.  What a farce.  The issue is still whether private BTC is better than public BTC and I think that before Irene many were feeling that the former was shaping up to be the case.  However you slice it, the sale of BTC gave our strapped government a much needed cash injection—and hey, wouldn’t you know, civil servants will get some lump sums and increments.

Port Move and Bay Street
Another promised PLP project executed instead by the FNM (you notice the pattern here?).  History will judge whether the port was actually moved far enough away to truly affect down town traffic positively, but what was achieved was an opportunity for Bahamians to invest in something that was previously the exclusive right of a few families.  Will it ultimately be cheaper than the Clifton alternative?  The job’s not done yet, so again, the jury is still out.  Bay Street still has a long, long way to go to achieve the vision conveyed in the EDAW Report.  (Where’s the promised esplanade, for instance and the new green spaces and residential units?)  But at least the House of Assembly has gotten a face lift. It’s a start.  A slow start.

Prescription Drug Plan
Very late in Christie’s term a national health insurance plan was unveiled. It met with stiff opposition from the medical profession.  The FNM implemented a National Prescription Drug Plan in 2010 through NIB.  According to the NPDP website, 1 in 3 Bahamians suffers from a chronic non-communicable disease.  Although it’s not perfect and although I’m not sure how sustainable it is, I believe it has done much good.

Space doesn’t allow me to expand on other initiatives by the FNM, such as the completion of new courts, new pieces of legislation, the hiring of new judges, the training programmes they have funded and are funding, the infrastructural investment in new water mains in a place where up to 50 percent of the water was escaping through old pipes, the Self Starter Programme, reforms made to Customs and other efforts.  None of these initiatives are problem-free but they speak to the government’s attempts to address weaknesses in our systems and institutions and to empower Bahamians on some level.

Perhaps the most crucial feature of Ingraham’s term was what he didn’t decide to do to reduce our debt.  I’m referring to a non-decision which may have saved us from even greater unrest and even more suffering: he did not cut civil service salaries, or worse yet, initiate a large scale redundancy exercise (most reasonable people feel our civil service is bloated and ineffective).  This decision saved a good chunk of the Bahamian middle class and prevented a more serious economic collapse.  BTC and ZNS were the target of the FNMs downsizing efforts, not janitresses, teachers, policemen, clerks, secretaries and bureaucrats all across the civil service.

The FNM did put a freeze on salary increases but it could have been much much worse.  And FNM MPs and Ministers took a pay cut to send the message that sacrifices had to be made by all.  (A fraction of what they might be making in kick backs, some might cynically assert).  But the fact remains, austerity under the FNM was barely austerity.  No one will thank them for it but they will know that whatever they got wrong, they didn’t drive the population into the streets screaming because they couldn’t buy bread.

Ingraham’s government has been busy indeed.  The question remains, has the FNM done enough to earn another five years in office?  Have any of these initiatives positively affected average Bahamians in ways they can appreciate or are even aware of?

Next week we’ll look at the flip side of the FNM version 3.0: their miscues, outright blunders and missed opportunities.

Sep 19, 2011


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rev CB Moss - executive director Bahamas Against Crime (BAC) says: ...the new murder record "ensures that 2011 will be the bloodiest year in The Bahamas' history... setting the fourth new record in the last five years."

Bahamas 'near the tipping point' in crime


THE Bahamas is now "near the tipping point" a local anti-crime activist group has warned.

Calling the new record for murders set last week a "shameful" milestone, Bahamas Against Crime (BAC) urged authorities to change tack before it is too late.

"Only a collective effort, with less talk and more focused action, will prevent a deepening of the crisis, with the attendant social collapse," said BAC executive director Rev CB Moss in a statement.

Rev Moss said the new murder record "ensures that 2011 will be the bloodiest year in our history, setting the fourth new record in the last five years."

As if this were not enough, he said, other serious crimes are also at or near record levels.

"Obviously this state of affairs is providing opportunistic and self-serving entities a great platform to assign blame, and to promote their selfish agendas," he said.

"The truth is that most, if not all of them failed to respond when they should have, thereby making a direct contribution to the present sad state."

BAC noted that since 2005, its members have tried "with very limited success" to alert the country to the impending crisis.

"Some of those doing the most talking today were among the least responsive. On April 19, 2010 Bahamas Against Crime organised a summit for private sector organisations, followed by another on June 16, 2010. It is very interesting to note how many of the nearly 100 invitees failed to attend. A visit to our website,, will reveal their identities, which should make interesting reading.

"Bahamas Against Crime is once again calling upon the nation to act now before it is too late. If we are not prepared to act, then stop the rhetoric," Rev Moss said.

September 20, 2011


Monday, September 19, 2011

So what developments have we witnessed in our national symbols since that first Independence government? ... Unfortunately and shamefully few!

Our national symbols

By Philip C. Galanis

“We are symbols, and inhabit symbols.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Bahamas attained its independence from Great Britain 38 years ago, a very short time by any measure. During that period, much has been accomplished as a nation, but much more work remains if we are to advance as a mature democracy.  One of the obvious manifestations of nationhood can be observed in the national symbols that we erect around us. Therefore, this week we would like to Consider This… what about our national symbols?  Have we distinguished ourselves in developing our national symbols or in like so many other ways, have we failed to rise to the occasion?

Generally, national symbols are supposed to help to uniquely define who we are and what our values are. These symbols are considered to be a manifestation of a people, embodiments of a nation’s unique culture, history and values. They are intended to unite a people by creating visual, verbal, or iconic representations of national pride and goals that would make them stand out among other nations. For example, when we see the “stars and stripes” or the “hammer and the sickle” we immediately and automatically recognize which nations are being represented.

The most common national symbols are the flag of a nation, its coat of arms, its motto, national colors, and most importantly, its national anthem. These symbols are often rallied around as part of celebrations of patriotism or aspiring nationalism such as independence, autonomy or separation movements and are designed to be inclusive and representative of all the peoples of that community.  National symbols are essential to the development of patriotism and national pride.

The Bahamas has its own national symbols, most of which were adopted with the attainment of national Independence in 1973. Prior to our liberation from the British, our coat of arms bore the Latin insignia “Expulsis Piratis, Restituta Commercia" which every pre-Independence Bahamian student knew translated that once we expelled the pirates, trade was restored to The Bahamas.  We replaced both with the coat of arms and the motto for a new Bahamas with “Forward, Upward, Onward Together”.  Our Founding Fathers also liberated us from the pre-colonial national anthem of “God Save the Queen” to a far more indigenous “March on Bahamaland”.

So what developments have we witnessed in our national symbols since that first Independence government?  Unfortunately and shamefully few!  With the exception of recognizing a few of our national heroes on our Bahamian currency, all of whom, incidentally, were male political luminaries, woefully little progress has been made in this regard. And that is a real tragedy.

To make it a bit clearer, just think about the major countries around the world and how you can almost learn their history and their values by walking the streets of their cities where you are greeted by statues of their heroes and patriots, those individuals whose contributions are inextricably intertwined with the patrimony of that country.  Now cast your eyes on our Bahamas.

With a lengthy history that spans over 500 years on the world stage, the most prominent statues commemorate the contributions of foreigners to the Bahamian story.  First we have an Italian, by way of Spain, Admiral Christopher Columbus, a controversial figure but one whose name and that of The Bahamas are forever joined.  The statue itself, designed by world famous author Washington Irving, very out of place in its rather inappropriate location on the steps of Government House, was a gift in the 1830s from Governor James Carmichael Smith, a man whose dedication to the idea of abolition made him very popular with the enslaved people he championed and reviled by slave owners.

Then we have the statue of Woodes Rogers, former privateer and the first Royal Governor of the Bahamas Islands, which stands commandingly outside of the British Colonial Hilton, built on the site of Fort Nassau, reminding everyone of how he earned his fame as the scourge of the pirates by hanging nearly a dozen at one time at that Fort.  Finally, there is the statue of Queen Victoria, seated since the early 1900s in her marble glory in Parliament Square, in front of our Houses of Parliament.

Indisputably, these three individuals made contributions to The Bahamas.  But so did many others who, other than Sir Milo Butler, whose bust presides over Rawson Square, are uncommemorated and uncelebrated by tangible bronze or marble representations that would stand forever to remind Bahamians and visitors alike of who was responsible for the creation of the modern Bahamas.  The only other statue that graces our downtown hub was created by the same person who created the bust of Sir Milo, Randolph Johnston.  Ironically, it is a bronze statue that stands on Prince George Dock, nicknamed “Bahamian Madonna”, depicting a nameless Bahamian woman carrying a child.  She is a strong national symbol of how Bahamian mothers have stood strong over the centuries, often in the face of adversity, raising generations of children whose contributions are unknown and, like the “Madonna’s” name, long forgotten.

Our public spaces need to be filled with the figures of those Bahamian men and women who fought alongside Sir Milo to make The Bahamas a stable, prosperous and independent nation.  We need to see statues everywhere of not only our political leaders but also those who led us in other areas. On the grounds of our hospital, how about a statue of one of our leading doctors or nurses or midwives?  And then, if ever we have a proper arts center, why not a statue of one or more of the Bahamian giants in the field of the arts?  Outside of our Ministry of Education, why not have a statue of one of our great educators?  In fact, each of our Ministries should have its own statue of someone whose contributions helped to advance that field. Our children should be able to point with pride at these statues that symbolize national excellence and tell their stories instead of merely knowing their names in connection with schools or roads or airports.

Moreover, our Houses of Parliament should be adorned not just with paintings of British personalities who had little, if anything, to do with The Bahamas.  We should commission artists – Bahamian artists – to paint glorious portraits of those whose voices reverberated in vigorous debate through those chambers and whose ideas shaped and produced our modern age.  Those are the familiar Bahamian faces that our current and future parliamentarians should see as they go about conducting the business of the nation, not those of strangers to our islands.

There is one other national symbol that we are lacking – and its lack is becoming a national embarrassment.  Just before Independence, a committee was formed by the House to identify a location for an official residence for the Prime Minister of The Bahamas, a place where he could welcome those dignitaries who would be coming to help celebrate our new nationhood.  A place was identified and everything was in place until an inadvertent and ill-advised slip of the tongue in a Cabinet meeting derailed the entire project.  But that is long past and today we are still without an official place where our Prime Minister can have his offices, his residence and show the proper respect to distinguished visitors by having state dinners in a place established by the state.

There is no reason why we have to take our visiting dignitaries to a hotel – and one not even owned by a Bahamian – to dine with our leaders on state occasions.  We are world famous as hospitable people, a nation that welcomes visitors from all over into our homes and our hearts.  Why is it, then, that our leaders don’t have a national “home” that would symbolize all of our homes into which to welcome those most important visitors who really merit the very best in Bahamian hospitality, not the cold impersonal welcome of a hotel?

It is time, then, that we develop these national symbols and surround ourselves and our visitors with commemorations of Bahamian pride, displaying for all the world to see those men and women of whom we are most proud.  And it is past time that we have a house that symbolizes the Bahamian House and is the home of our leaders and the place where quintessential Bahamian hospitality can be displayed.  It is time to rise to this occasion and, as we near our fourth decade of independence, start to develop true national symbols that will endure and celebrate all we believe in and all that make us unique for centuries to come.

Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services.

He served 15 years in Parliament.  Please send your comments

Sep 19, 2011


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The PLPs believe that their Urban Renewal policy, which is still in existence in a new form, is the answer to all prayers... They are fooling themselves... The social deterioration in this society is so deep that it will take more than urban renewal to bring it back to health

Crime should not be used by politicians

tribune242 editorial

IT would be a tragedy if this country's escalating crime were to become an election football.

Crime in the Bahamas has been steadily building from the politically violent sixties into the drug violent seventies and eighties until it is now hitting a crescendo in our time.

The PLP believe that their Urban Renewal policy, which is still in existence in a new form, is the answer to all prayers. They are fooling themselves. The social deterioration in this society is so deep that it will take more than urban renewal to bring it back to health.

"The government must send a clear and strong message to criminals that they will be swiftly caught and swiftly punished and I am not satisfied that this is being done under this present government," Opposition Leader Perry Christie told a press conference, called yesterday to discuss the escalating crime.

Maybe justice under this government is not swift enough for Mr Christie, but nor was it swift enough during Mr Christie's administration when the backlog of court cases grew out of all manageable proportions.

Under both governments -- PLP and FNM-- we have been complaining about the justice system. In our opinion it needs a complete overhaul.

So on this score, no fingerpointing can be justified.

The problem on our streets is obvious - most crimes are being committed by criminals killing criminals, all out on bail when they should be behind prison walls. And as the Commissioner of Police has often commented, the police can't be blamed. They do their part by arresting and taking the offenders to the bar of the court, where the lawyers with their crocodile tears bleat for their release, and the courts send them on their merry way to terrorise society. Witnesses could not be killed, if those who threaten them were in jail.

We hope that when the House reconvenes after the summer recess legislation will be introduced to curb the courts in its release of persons who could be a danger to society. When that debate takes place there shouldn't be a squeak from the Opposition about interfering with a judge's discretion.

The only way to cut down on many of these murders is to keep these persons with long criminal records in prison until trial -- not only for society's sake, but, as has already been shown by the number of their bodies in the morgue, for their own sakes.

And if judges will not exercise their discretion with this objective in mind, then legislation is the only solution. Society cannot have it both ways.

The same analogy can be drawn by the rules that now have to be followed when one travels by air. No one likes to be searched -- it is demeaning and interferes with a person's rights and freedoms. However, for the sake of safety, travellers are willing to relinquish some of their freedoms.

It is the same with the judiciary when one has to make a choice between the exercise of a magistrate's discretion and the mayhem on the streets. We can't have criminals laughing at the courts.

They must understand that if they do wrong they will be punished -- swiftly and severely. And until their date in court, they will be incarcerated, not out on the streets pushing up the murder count.

In the meantime, this society has to be analysed as to what has gone wrong, what has caused us to move from a once courteous, decent people to what we see today.

To find a cure, we need parents, teachers, psychiatrists and a whole gamut of professionals to work together to try to save the next generation.

Persons complain that no one respects our institutions. That is true, and the reason is that many of the people who head them do not understand that in their positions they have to lead by example -- if they do not respect themselves, or their organisation, they cannot expect anyone else to have respect. Members of the House of Assembly should take note.

The breakdown of family life is our greatest tragedy - no father in the home, the mother out to work and the children left at home to join the village gang. In the old days when the mother was at work, the grandparents took care of the children.

Today children are having illegitimate children, so that when the young mother is at work, the grandmother is still young enough to hold down a job and so is the great grandmother.

As a result no one is at home to guide and correct little Suzy and Johnny. A great burden is put on the schools, not only to teach these little ones their ABC's, but also their manners, to point out what is right and wrong, and to make them understand that for every right there is a corresponding duty, and when they break the code, there are consequences, and those consequences can be serious.

Instead of pointing the finger of blame, these politicians should get back to basics. They should start with an examination of themselves, determined to lead by example, and then move on to helping society get back on course.

September 16, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Saturday, September 17, 2011

There is even a way that Perry Christie can confront the claims of his weakness when compared to Hubert Ingraham... and that is by challenging Ingraham to a debate and beating him

Christie’s keys to success, Part 2

Dr Ian G. Strachan

Last week we looked at the challenge facing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie in 2012, a challenge he can certainly meet, if he plays his cards right.  Let’s go a bit deeper.

First, let’s look at the people who will join him on the PLP ticket. Christie knows he will do well to enlist as many young, new faces as possible. His challenge is to keep the old guard happy while he does it. This has proven to be a challenge.

The infamous May 5, 2011 letter, penned by George Smith, Philip Galanis and Raynard Rigby, attests to this.  I suppose some would say that before Christie can ask others to step aside he should volunteer to do so himself.  Well, we all know that's not happening.

Given that some of the sitting MPs in the PLP are a liability in terms of swing voters, it may seem ironic but I think Christie should try to move the discussion away from the head to head comparisons with Ingraham and focus on the PLP’s team instead.

If he can’t dump the undesirables, his best bet is to hide them, the way Ingraham hid Symonette during the 2007 campaign.  The FNM knows he can win his seat but they also know he hurts you on the national campaign trail.

The PLP should also not be afraid to let new team members do a lot of the talking during this campaign, to avoid the Christie-fatigue voters are feeling.

The PLP still has BJ Nottage, Glenys Hanna-Martin, Alfred Sears, Fred Mitchell, Ryan Pinder, Michael Halkitis, James Smith, Philip Galanis, Raynard Rigby, Danny Johnson, Jerome Fitzgerald, Damian Gomez, Andre Rollins, Renward Wells, Romauld Ferreira, and many other young professionals who are articulate and smart.

The PLP attracts skilled communicators, who can appeal to the working and middle class and who have the potential to become inspirational leaders.  There are many whose names are not known to the general public whom Christie should quickly call off the bench.

The party practically owns the working class constituencies, so it can flood the campaign with empathetic tales of woe.  The sympathetic approach, so familiar to the PLP, which always promises “help and hope,” should go over well in a country low on confidence and uncertain (scared even) about its future.

Christie should also use his reputation as someone who consults to his advantage.  He may listen, where Ingraham may not.  He may draw on the talents of others and collaborate, not dictate. This kind of message will make sense to those swing voters who, for the life of them, can’t understand Ingraham’s approaches to our problems. It worked in 2002; maybe it can work in 2012.

There is even a way that Christie can confront the claims of his weakness when compared to Ingraham and that is by challenging Ingraham to a debate and beating him.

If Ingraham refuses, Christie still wins. The nation wants to see these men debate crime, the economy, education, health care, foreign direct investment, local investment, BTC, Bahamasair, immigration and land reform. These two men, who have been the giants of our politics for the last 25 years, owe us no less.  Some people close to Christie say he is scared of taking Ingraham on in a debate.  Perhaps he can win without taking the risk.

The PLPs must paint a picture of what might have been if they had the reins during this recession and what will be when they take over again.  Their message will have to make more sense and be more concrete than perhaps it ever has been.  Swing voters don’t want pie in the sky promises (like you will double the education budget).  What are you going to do about teacher quality?  About parental neglect?  About the weak Math scores?

Ingraham has many blind spots.  I have said many times that the FNM seemed out of touch with what the people felt were the real priorities in the country.  Christie must rip apart the FNM’s action plan of the last four years, showing all the missed opportunities.  (But they must be careful since many of the FNM’s blind spots have been theirs as well).

Ingraham’s government has ignored many progressive alternatives to our national development challenges.  The PLP needs to prove it knows how to be progressive again.

The real X factor in all this, is of course the DNA. This group will steal votes from both parties (eroding their bases) and make many races almost impossible to predict, particularly in southern New Providence. One school of thought is that the DNA will steal FNM votes since DNA Leader Branville McCartney is a disgruntled FNM.  Another is that swing voters, unhappy with Ingraham, but who can’t stomach Christie, will go green.

In the end, the PLP has to guarantee its base support and work hard to lure some of the swing vote its way.

Christie and his team can do this most effectively by leaning heavily on the NDP’s “Bahamians first” messaging, which struck a chord with the nation. They must also give their new faces heavy play at the rallies.

In the end, if the 68-year-old Christie loses this election he has no one to blame but himself.  Almost all the cards are in his hands. If he fails, it would prove two things: He was indeed ineffectual and out of touch and the PLP has learned absolutely nothing since 1997, when another old man who should have been forced to step down, drove them right into the ground.

Sep 12, 2011


Friday, September 16, 2011

What does the Bahamian electorate really think of Perry Christie? ... Is he more popular and more respected than Hubert Ingraham? ... Than Bran McCartney?

Christie’s keys to success (Pt. 1)

By Dr. Ian Strachan

Logic would seem to dictate that in this long season of discontent, in this season of record unemployment, in this season of record bloodshed, in this interminable season of frustrating, confusing, infuriating “road works”, in this season of collapse for many homegrown businesses, in this time of rising fuel and food prices, logic would seem to dictate that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), under Perry Gladstone Christie, will be swept into office and the Free National Movement (FNM) will be ingloriously swept out.

Logic would seem to dictate that the FNM will be hard pressed to secure seats in New Providence other than those held by Brent Symonette, Dr. Hubert Minnis and Loretta Butler-Turner.

But there are some problems with this assessment.  There are some very big questions looming like storm clouds over the PLP.  The first is whether enough people feel comfortable returning Perry Christie to power.  The second is whether the PLP has changed sufficiently or has a strong enough message to persuade crucial swing voters that the PLP is still the best alternative, despite how they feel about Leslie Miller, Bradley Roberts, Picewell Forbes, V. Alfred Gray, Shane Gibson, Allyson Maynard-Gibson and company.

It might seem reasonable to assume that the PLP hasn’t really lost much of its base since 2007.  In fact, that base should have grown over the last four years given all the suffering and fear in the country.  But the fact is, most Bahamians want to see a change in leadership in both established political parties, and they’re not going to get it.  So interest in this election might be lower than normal.  Even some traditional PLPs may register but stay away on election day.

It’s also reasonable to assume that some of the swing vote that was attracted to the National Democratic Party’s “Bahamians-first” message might gravitate toward the PLP, now that Dr. Andre Rollins and Renward Wells have joined and the NDP has fizzled.  Their inclusion bodes well for Christie, particularly if they both get nominations.  They will appeal to young change-minded voters.

But what do people really think of Perry Christie?  Is he more popular and more respected than Hubert Ingraham?  Than Bran McCartney?  Without the national affection and regard felt for former PLP deputy leader Cynthia ‘Mother’ Pratt to buoy him, can Christie gain the confidence and trust of the majority of voters?  The Christian community (which is mostly Baptist and Pentecostal) and the working poor identified strongly with ‘Mother’ Pratt. Where will the PLP get that kind of credibility from now?  Is Deputy Leader Brave Davis a help or a hindrance?  What about Chairman Bradley Roberts?  Should Christie have persuaded Dr. Bernard Nottage, a man highly regarded by swing voters and Bahamians generally, to go for deputyship?  Will the ghost of Lynden Pindling or the dignity and grace of Dame Marguerite be enough this time around?

Christie’s Achilles’ heel is the perception that he is a less decisive and results oriented, and a less effective manager than Ingraham.  This is a big sticking point for the swing vote and the professional class.  But Christie is not without advantages in this fight.  For one, he is the warmer of the two men in interviews and more of an inspirational leader than Ingraham.  The people may be tired of Ingraham’s short, dry-eyed approach and may want someone they perceive as more sympathetic and approachable at the helm.

Christie also has the luxury of sitting back and poking holes in all the FNM’s efforts to address the troubled justice and educational systems and the sputtering economy.  Christie knows most voters have short memories and don’t care about what the PLP did or didn’t do five to 10 years ago.  This is why he can say he supports hanging and not get laughed out of town.

Christie also has at his disposal the collective disenchantment, anger and fear that permeates the society.  He is likely to milk this for all it’s worth and it’s worth a lot.  Many of the angry and disenchanted will abstain from voting or vote DNA, but at least they won’t vote FNM.   If the PLP can get its base out to the polls and woo even half or a third of the angry voters out there, it stands a good chance of coming out on top--even if “on top” means heading a minority or coalition government.

Sep 05, 2011


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dionisio D'Aguilar blasted Bahamian commercial banks for imposing "astronomical and outrageous" hidden fees... Calls for greater government and regulatory oversight of the banks... and described the Central Bank of the Bahamas as "useless"

'Outrageous' bank fees slammed

Tribune Business Editor

A FORMER Chamber of Commerce president yesterday blasted Bahamian commercial banks for imposing "astronomical and outrageous" hidden fees that he took four months to pick up on, and urged the Government and regulators to implement greater oversight of an industry he described as "a cartel".

Dionisio D'Aguilar, president of the Superwash laundromat chain, told Tribune Business that he was "outraged" by the 2 per cent 'excess penalty fee' CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank (Bahamas) had begun imposing on clients who went into overdraft - even for one day a month - and had established no such facilities with the bank.

This fee, Mr D'Aguilar said, was on top of the normal 17 per cent that he as a businessman had to pay on an overdraft, and amounted to an effective annual rate of 730 per cent per year if funds were borrowed for one day. He questioned whether its CIBC parent had such fees in Canada.

Calling for greater government and regulatory oversight of commercial banks, Mr D'Aguilar described the Central Bank of the Bahamas as "useless" when it came to supervising the fees they charged.

He called on the Government to create a new regulatory agency, if necessary, and ensure there was "some sort of approval process" for commercial bank fee increases - focusing on whether they were fair and reasonable.

"The banks, having taken a killing on their bad loans, are implementing outrageous and astronomical fees to try and recoup some of the losses they've incurred on those loans," Mr D'Aguilar charged.

"For example, CIBC FirstCaribbean have decided to impose a 2 per cent fee on a one-day loan. If you happen to go into overdraft, and let's say you go into overdraft for $30,000 for one day, they will charge you $600 for that one day. That equates to an annualised rate of 730 per cent.

"They don't call it interest, and on top of that they charge you the 17 per cent interest they normally charge you for an overdraft if you don't have an overdraft facility fee in place. This is when they impose this fee. Why would you charge such an outrageous fee."

Mr D'Aguilar said that while CIBC FirstCaribbean ultimately reversed the 'excess penalty fees' it had levied on Superwash, totalling $955 during one month, this only happened after he vehemently complained about it.

"I'm a large and reputable customer, and I'm not sure they're doing it for everyone," he added. "I had to complain, and now they're trying to drive me to set up an overdraft facility with them.

"My concern is that I don't know whether they've contacted all their customers about this, and if people know they're being charged these fees. It took me four months to pick this up."

The former Chamber president said that by charging the 2 per cent in the form of a 'fee', and FirstCaribbean applying it in the manner it was, there was no link with the traditional determinants of interest - perceived risk, plus duration and size of the loan.

He explained that if a client without an overdraft fee went into this position for more than one day in a given month, FirstCaribbean would levy the 2 per cent 'excess penalty fee' based on the maximum overdraft amount on the account statement.

"What they do, in the course of a month, is they look at the highest negative balance you have and multiply it by 2 per cent," charged Mr D'Aguilar. "They pick the highest negative number, and multiply it by 2 per cent for the month. I think that's absolutely outrageous."

Mr D'Aguilar said he was charged $955 in 'excess penalty fees' for July as a result of two different accounts going into overdraft for two and three days respectively.

In a letter to FirstCaribbean executives, he wrote: "The excess penalty charge is 2 per cent per day, which equates to an effective annual rate of 730 per cent per year if you borrow money for one day, or 384 per cent per year if you borrow for two days, or 243 per cent per year if you borrow money for three days or 24 per cent per year if your borrow for 30 days. This is, of course, on top of the regular interest rate of 17 per cent that I already have to pay on an overdraft."

Mr D'Aguilar told Tribune Business that Bahamian businesses and consumers were "at the mercy" of the six banks - Royal Bank of Canada, CIBC FirstCaribbean, Fidelity Bank (Bahamas), Commonwealth Bank, Scotiabank and Bank of the Bahamas - who had the ability to operate as "a cartel".

As a result, there was very little option for Bahamian consumers, while changing banks overnight was not an option for many businesses given that they often had existing credit lines and properties mortgaged as collateral with one particular lending institution.

"There should be full disclosure of fees. People should see and view them," Mr D'Aguilar added. "A lot of businesses are not aware of what is going on. I was shocked when I saw $500-$600 of fees for one month.

"The Minister of Finance should focus on this issue, and not allow the banks to do what they want to do."

September 14, 2011


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Bahamas has acknowledged that its criminal justice system needs help

Adopting organized crime laws in The Bahamas

thenassauguardian editorial

The annual drug report prepared by the United States government usually provides interesting commentary on the state of drug trafficking to and through The Bahamas.

In the 2011 report, the U.S. government again made suggestions to the Bahamian government to reform the criminal justice system in this country.

“However, a need still exists to reduce the long delays in resolving extradition requests and other criminal cases as an existing trend of law enforcement successes have been undermined by an overburdened Bahamian legal system,” said the U.S. State Department in the report.

“As mentioned in previous annual reports, we continue to encourage The Bahamas to increase the resources and manpower available to prosecutors, judges, and magistrates.”

The Bahamas has acknowledged that its criminal justice system needs help. The government has set in motion a series of reforms aimed at reducing the backlog of cases before the court and speeding up the rate of prosecution in the country.

The U.S. made another suggestion in the report that should be considered.

The State Department noted that the country lacks legislation criminalizing participation in an organized criminal group.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act) is a U.S. federal law that provides for long criminal sentences and civil penalties for actions performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

Simply put, those proven to be involved with an organized crime group are jailed for long terms.

The U.S. government has used these laws effectively against the mafia. In The Bahamas, no such law exists.

According to the drug report, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos estimate that there are 12 to 15 major drug trafficking organizations operating in The Bahamas.

A RICO law in The Bahamas would provide another tool to local law enforcement to take down some of these drug gangs.

However, local police and prosecutors would need to learn to conduct more comprehensive investigations for such a law to work.

Rather than arresting one criminal for one offense, investigators and prosecutors would need to build a case against entire organizations.  Evidence would need to be marshaled chronicling the various crimes it commits. The actors in the criminal activity would then need to be defined and linked to the criminal organization.

Comprehensive indictments would follow and large numbers of criminals would be brought to court at the same time.

These investigations could take years. But when done well, they cripple or dismantle entire criminal organizations.

For such a thing to work, The Bahamas would also need to change its overall prosecutorial response to drug trafficking. Traffickers are currently prosecuted in Magistrates Court where the maximum sentence is five years in jail. Some smugglers have been found in possession of millions of dollars worth of cocaine and they have only faced that five-year sentence, or less if they pleaded guilty.

The law needs to prosecute based on weight. Those found in possession of large quantities of drugs should face trial in the Supreme Court where serious penalties can be issued. RICO prosecutions, if adopted, would also take place in the Supreme Court.

Organized crime is a threat to democracy. Those who do not believe this need only look at Mexico. The cartels there are at war with the state.  And in some jurisdictions in that country, the cartels are winning the war.

Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his war on the cartels in 2006, more than 30,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence.

The Bahamas must consider legislative tools such as the RICO law in the U.S. to assist in the local fight against narco-trafficking. We cannot just continue to hope that the U.S. requests the extradition of our major drug dealers. We must develop the capacity to lock them up for long periods of time in this country.

Sep 13, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Ministry of Health has confirmed one dengue death... However, doctors are concerned about this figure... Among the medical fraternity the chatter is that there have been at least 30 dengue related deaths

Ban the mosquito from your property


GOVERNMENT announced Friday that Pan-American Health Organisation -- PAHO -- personnel have been in the Bahamas for the past two weeks to advise on the control and eventual elimination of the dengue-bearing mosquito.

A PAHO representative also confirmed that in the past few weeks there has been a decline in the number of dengue reported cases.

The Ministry of Health has also confirmed one dengue death. A spokesman said it is now awaiting the results of two other cases before it can say with certainty whether a mosquito bite was the cause.

However, doctors are concerned about these figures. Among the medical fraternity the chatter is that there have been at least 30 dengue related deaths. Many doctors are satisfied that dengue is either the direct cause of these deaths, or the underlying spark that triggered a flare up in a pre-existing illness, resulting in death.

We were told of a recent case of a woman, who was reported to have either died in her doctor's office or become very ill there. She was so ill that resuscitation was necessary. When examined it was discovered that her blood pressure was not only very low, but her platelet count was nearing zero. A normal platelet count is 150 and above. Several doctors are satisfied that dengue caused her death.

Dr Delon Brennen, deputy chief medical officer, said last week that 10 confirmed dengue haemorrhagic fever cases have been reported in the Bahamas. This is by far the most serious strain of the disease and can be fatal. It is accompanied by massive internal bleeding and usually occurs after a person, who has been previously infected by one strain of the virus, is bitten again, becoming infected by another strain. This is serious and can cause death. This is the first time that the Bahamas has had a dengue outbreak of epidemic proportions. However, it is common in other Caribbean countries. Presently there are about 10 Caribbean countries fighting the outbreak.

A couple who lived in Trinidad for a number of years said that twice weekly every year a large truck drove slowly down their road spraying -- they did not know what for, but now presume it was for dengue. A couple of times a year, a crop duster fogged the whole island from the air.

It has been suggested that aerial spraying should be done over the lakes and all the wooded mangrove areas on the western end of New Providence. A Bahamian reported that there is a lot of stagnant water in the Sandyport area that could be a threat to residents.

PAHO also advised government to increase fogging to twice a day.

However, it was the belief of someone from another dengue-plague Caribbean country that spraying is just a psychological band-aid that makes people feel that something is being done. He hadn't much faith in spraying alone, believing the only way to eliminate the mosquito was for every resident in the Bahamas to remove all breeding areas on their property. Bahamians have to take responsibility for their own area and if each person did that the whole island would be clean. For a start all standing water, no matter how small, must be removed. All property has to be regularly maintained to cut down all tall grass, undergrowth and shrubbery. On the Eastern Road yesterday morning -- Sunday, no less, although a government minister declared last week that no one works on Sunday -- several men were hard at work raking up the debris from Hurricane Irene, bagging the leaves and branches, ready for pick-up by garbage collectors.

Derelict vehicles, old car tyres and anything that can collect water has to be removed. Unused swimming pools have to be emptied and any water that collects, for example in tanks, should be treated with chlorine/bleach. Government inspectors will have to make certain that slum areas are cleaned and all water removed.

Education is also important and government has already started a "Fight the Bite" campaign, which will be taken to the schools and into the communities. In other words, Bahamians have to clean up their island if they want to rid themselves of the deadly bite. They have to make certain that no mosquito is multiplying in their yard.

"In the long run," said Dr Robert Lee, health disease adviser, "government has to ensure a continuous water supply to all houses to prevent people from collecting water in their backyards."

Heath Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said that the "Fight the Bite" campaign will "inform people on how they can best assist the government in this fight.

"We cannot do this alone," he said. "We need the public's support. Fogging will only help if people do what they are supposed to around their homes. It only takes seven days for an egg to hatch into a full breeding adult. So we are working along with the Department of Environment, Bahamas Waste and Rotary to pass out leaflets and hold seminars so the public can be best informed on how they can help."

September 12, 2011


Monday, September 12, 2011

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA) good approach to politics

A good approach to politics

thenassauguardian editorial

The Democratic National Alliance (DNA), or the green party as it is called by some, is hosting yet another town hall meeting Wednesday.  This one will be on the topic of education.  The party has previously held town hall meetings on crime and immigration.

The new party should keep it up.  Town hall meetings are a bit more intellectually involved than Bahamian political rallies.  At these meetings there is a topic, the audience is more sober and seated and there is a speaker.  The audience then gets to ask questions – not all of which are friendly.

The give and take of the town hall meeting means that politicians have to be prepared for challenges. Rally goers are different as compared to those who would prefer to go to a town hall meeting.

Rallies are glorified parties in The Bahamas these days.  A good part of the audience is intoxicated and waiting to be entertained by speakers who provide much noise and little substance.  And as those rally speakers deliver their empty lines, loud music is usually played.  This makes it clear to those assembled that the main purpose of the event is not to listen, but to have a good time.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Free National Movement (FNM) love rallies.  The new party would do well to continue to appeal to the mind.  The Bahamas has serious problems.

Our largest private sector employer, Atlantis, is in debt restructuring negotiations in order to avoid default and foreclosure; there will be a fourth homicide record in five years this year; our economy has been weak and unemployment high since the financial crisis of 2008; the roadwork on New Providence is causing serious movement problems; and several islands are recovering from being directly hit by Hurricane Irene.

In this context, we do not need ‘rally talk’.  We do not need to hear about who did what to his sweetheart or who is weak and who is strong.  We need policy, dialogue and solutions.

At this stage in the history of The Bahamas, we need leaders who are sober and like to think.  We do not need dancers or entertainers who are masters at using rally stages to waste the time of the people.

Bahamians should always engage with politicians when they seek to analyze and discuss issues for the purpose of coming up with good policies.  We should also ignore the frivolous and the silly.  People change dysfunctional culture.

We are nearing the peak of election season in serious times and as a people we must mature politically.  By doing so, we will force the parties to organize more sensible fora such as town hall meetings and debates and fewer drunken parties at the forts and public parks.

Sep 12, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial

Sunday, September 11, 2011

John Delaney - Attorney General says: ...proposed changes to The Bahamas' insolvency laws and procedures were "long overdue"...


Tribune Business Reporter

ATTORNEY General John Delaney told Tribune Business yesterday that proposed changes to the Bahamas' insolvency laws and procedures were "long overdue", acknowledging that this nation had fallen "a bit behind" on the issue.

Mr Delaney said the revised legislation was still a work in progress, and the Government was still getting feedback on the draft Insolvency Act.

"That's still a work in progress. Hopefully we finalise it over the next month. It will be clear and more reformed, and hopefully it goes to thes consideration of Cabinet," Mr Delaney told Tribune Business while not wanting to go in-depth on the specifics of the proposed legislation until it becomes finalised.

He added: "It's designed to provide modern provisions. Our insolvency regime is very old. We haven't touched ours for more than 50 years. It's long overdue.

"The proposed changes are meant to bring it current with what you would expect in a modern jurisdiction such as ours, which has companies that are used all over the world for all manner of things. People today expect to have a very modern insolvency regime with the kind of provisions that are more universal. Our laws have fallen a bit behind. Our laws go back many decades. It's still a work in progress. Right now its just being molded in certain regards."

Mr Delaney said the draft has been circulated among accountants, attorneys and the private sector since earlier in the year.

"It has been circulated industry-wide since the first part of this year," the Attorney General added.

"I have specifically asked for the accountants now to weigh in directly, even though they would have they would have gotten it through the industry.

"But because the accountants tend to play such an important role in relation to the administration of companies when they are being wound up, I had specifically asked them to meet with me and make sure that I am left with no doubt that they have considered it line by line.

"All the feedback has been positive. I've already had a meeting with the accountants and I am going to meet with them again next week."

The proposed laws and procedures may have a dramatic impact on insolvency procedures and who can participate in the field. Several insolvency practitioners contacted by Tribune Business decline to comment on the proposed Act as it is still in the drafting stages.

September 08, 2011