Thursday, December 27, 2012

A. Loftus Roker wants his freedom... ...even if he's starving

The road to freedom

Guardian News Editor

Even if he’s starving, A. Loftus Roker wants his freedom.

And so, when he attended the December 1972 Constitutional Conference in London, he was determined to stay into the new year, spending Christmas away from home, if necessary.

He was not returning to Nassau without the very thing the delegation had gone for — independence. Prime Minister Lynden Pindling led government members in that delegation, and Kendal Isaacs led the Opposition.

On December 20, 1972, the delegation signed the independence agreement, and on June 26, 1973, the British Parliament enacted the Bahamas Independence Order.

The official date for independence is July 10, 1973 when the Bahamian flag was raised for the first time. 

Roker was one of the signatories to the Bahamian Constitution.

The 40th anniversary of that signing passed quietly last Thursday. 

There was no recognition from the government or anyone publicly.

Roker sat down with The Nassau Guardian on the anniversary of the signing, and reflected on the kind of country we have 40 years later.

He is but a handful of Bahamian constitutional framers still with us.  Roker pointed out that he sat on every committee established to draft a new constitution ahead of independence.

“The real independence occurred when the British agreed for us to get independence,” he said.

“It felt good to me because I believed in freedom and that is what really distresses me because we don’t preserve our freedom.

“We take it for granted; we allow all sorts of things to happen, and I’m talking about leaders on every level — the politician, the preacher, the parents.  We all seem to take too many things for granted.”

The former immigration and national security minister expressed disappointment over the current state of affairs.

After all, it’s not the kind of Bahamas he and other founding fathers had dreamed of when they attended those talks 40 years ago.

But despite the national challenges — and there are many — Roker has no regrets about independence.

“Nothing will cause me to regret independence, nothing,” said Roker, who at 77 still has a quick step and a sharp mind.

“I say I want independence even if I’m starving.  I don’t believe I should be slave to anybody. So even if I’m starving.”

Sitting in his treasure trove of independence papers; other historic documents – many with Sir Lynden’s signature; old newspapers and cherished photographs – many with colleagues and dear friends who have passed on, Roker acknowledged some of the missteps the government made in the years after independence, but also the achievements.

“The Bahamas isn’t where I expected it to be in ‘72 when we signed the document, but I say the fault is all our fault,” he said.

“If I see wrong going on and I say nothing, I am as much at fault as the fellow who is doing the wrong because if I told him he is wrong, maybe he would stop.”

Pointing to one mistake he said the PLP made, Roker said, “We said to people who voted for us that all the jobs in the banks would be available to you. 

“What we didn’t tell them is that the garbage collection also belongs to you.  And so the people got the view that once the PLP came to power, I don’t have to do any dirty work.  I can get an office job.”

Speaking of the 1972 Constitutional Conference, Roker recalled that the British adjourned the conference for a couple days.

“In the midst of this, the FNM delegation decided that if they don’t leave now they may not get home for Christmas and they signed a blank piece of paper and left us to discuss important matters like citizenship, immigration and all of that.  They left the PLP alone to discuss that,” Roker said.

“I said no matter if they stay until next year, I wasn’t going to move from here.  I came for independence and that’s what I want.  Not one of them was left.

“I said that on the floor of the House a couple times.  They wouldn’t take me up on it.  They just kept quiet.  Now I have a sneaking suspicion that they may have said to Sir Lynden, ‘We’re going, but we’re with you’.”

The Bahamian delegation did not get all it wanted in those negotiations, but it got enough, he recalled.

“If you lived in that time, you would find that the white Bahamians and foreigners who were businessmen here at that time were saying once we get independence, the PLP will take over the courts and all of that, and there will be no justice and we will confiscate their property and all that kind of thing. That’s why the Privy Council was left there as the final court of appeal.

“We kept it because we wanted to give the assurance that we were not trying to run the judiciary, that you had a final court which we couldn’t control. 

“The same thing with the queen.  They saw [independence] as breaking off all connection with Britain, and we will have our own president and we will be dictators.

“That’s why we left the queen there.” 

With all the deficiencies in the constitution, Roker said he does not think it should be “tampered with”.

“If you think about it, if it is decided that anytime you don’t like anything in the constitution you can change it, the constitution would soon mean nothing at all and the young people would feel, that’s only a piece of paper, which it is.  But if you don’t respect that piece of paper [it means nothing].”

Ahead of the 40th anniversary of independence, Prime Minister Perry Christie has appointed a Constitutional Commission, headed by former Attorney General Sean McWeeney.

The Commission is scheduled to report by the end of March 2013 and the government has foreshadowed a referendum before the July observances.

Among other things, that referendum would seek to eliminate clauses from the constitution that discriminate against Bahamian women.

While Roker said he does not think the constitution should be changed, he added that at this stage in his life, he doubted his opinion on the issue really mattered.

For A. Loftus Roker, his role in the march toward freedom developed after a years-long focus on a good education.

Born in Delectable Bay, Acklins, to humble parents who were farmers, Roker said his father, Elkin Roker, who also had a fishing boat, saw the importance of a good education early on.

And so, as long as he was interested in staying in school, he could stay in his father’s house and he could eat.

Because studying was more important than learning to farm, Roker said he never really got into farming until about 10 years ago.

He splits his time between Acklins, his first love, and New Providence, where he bought his first home in his early 30s.

Roker came to Nassau at age 18, and it was then that he realized that he and his family were poor in Acklins.

“When I lived in Acklins I didn’t know I was poor.  I never figured that out until I came to Nassau because my parents always taught us to make do with what we have,” he said.

“…Other people believed that because of the way we lived that we also were well off.  But we had hard times too.

“There was no employment in Acklins then, and there is no employment there now.  The only people who are getting a salary are those who work for the government.”

While working at the Bahamas Telecommunications Department’s transmission station at Perpall Tract, he started thinking about a life in politics. 

At age 23, he went to London.  He spent a year doing GCEs.  Then started studying law.

Roker passed his exams in December 1961 and was called to the bar in May 1962.

At the time, there were just a few black lawyers in The Bahamas.

Speaking of The Bahamas all these years later, Roker lamented the blind loyalty many people have toward political parties.

“For some people, the party is more important than God,” he said.

“It’s either right or wrong and if you check my history, I criticized Sir Lynden, who did more for me than any other politician. 

“I criticized anybody when I thought it was necessary, but whenever it was about him, I never criticized him unless I went to him first, privately, and told him what my problem was. 

“When you heard me criticize him, don’t bother go to him and tell him what Roker said because he knew what Roker was saying.  He knew that long before you.”

Hitting out at blind loyalty, Roker said there are crooked PLPs and crooked FNMs.

“There are crooked Bahamians,” said the former immigration and national security minister.

These days, Roker leads a very private and quiet existence.

But back in the late 1960s, he was the first chairman of the Gaming Board.

While initially shying away for any current position on gambling, Roker explained why he thinks legalizing gambling for Bahamians would be a negative move for The Bahamas 40 years after independence.

“Part of our campaign in ‘67 was that we were against casino gambling,” he recalled.

“The problem was though once we came to power…we felt we did not know what effect the closure of the casinos would have on tourism.  We didn’t know how many people were coming here to gamble, therefore increasing the count.” 

And so, the Pindling administration allowed the casinos to remain.

“The churches and all that were against the thing.  What happened is we didn’t want gambling and we decided this is a tourist facility and Bahamians should not [gamble], and I supported that,” he said.

“The thinking was that if a tourist came here and gambled and got broke, he’s got a return ticket, put him on the plane and he goes back home.

“If the Bahamian gambles and he goes broke, he has to stay here.  And so he has to borrow from his friends because with gambling you always believe you are going to win on the next [try].”

Roker said if Bahamians are allowed to gamble in casinos, crime would increase “because you don’t win in [the] casino”. 

“The slot machine is the easiest thing to play,” he said.  “For every dollar you put in that slot machine, somebody will win 15 cents.

“Somebody, not necessarily you.  So you realize how profitable that is for the casino?”

Roker suggested it is laughable that the government is now in talks with numbers bosses about possible legalization of their businesses.

“Something is wrong with us,” he said.

“If the law says that that thing is wrong, why are we sitting down with the fellow discussing with him how we’re going to set this thing up.  I just wonder. 

“If he is doing something that is illegal now and is still illegal today because nothing has changed and you know who he is, and perhaps the police are helping him carry his money to the bank so nobody robs him, it’s unbelievable what we have come to in The Bahamas and I am saying there appears to be no law and order in the country.” 

Roker added, “I wouldn’t agree with it, but if they want it that’s alright with me.  And there are other antisocial things too that go on with gambling in casinos.”

Dec 24, 2012


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

...while undeniably entertaining, the public spat between the National Insurance Board (NIB) director Algernon Cargill and the newly appointed chairman Gregory Moss has some actual value beyond its qualities as political soap opera

Nib: The Real Lesson

Tribune News Editor

AMID all the sound and fury of the ongoing the National Insurance Board saga, one voice rang true last week – that of former BEC chairman Fred Gottlieb.

He reminded us that while undeniably entertaining, the public spat between NIB director Algernon Cargill and the newly appointed chairman Gregory Moss has some actual value beyond its qualities as political soap opera.

In response to claims by Mr Moss that he ran up more than $240,000 in charges on his corporate credit card over three years, Mr Cargill denies any wrongdoing and points out that a review found the card was not misused.

He in turn, alleges the existence of several unexplained charges on Mr Moss' own NIB card, including some for "large amounts of alcohol and food" at the Hilton Hotel, despite the chairman being provided with a $125 allowance whenever he is in Nassau.

But, asks Mr Gottlieb, regardless of who is telling the truth, why does either man – or any other member of the board of directors for that matter – need a government issued credit card in the first place?

"I served as chairman of several public corporations and, as such, did not approve credit cards being given to any board member (including myself) as I deemed it to be unnecessary and undesirable," he said.

According to the hefty affidavit filed by Mr Cargill last week, the card was approved for use in "business development and conduct of board business; as well as to execute purchases where credit card payment is required; and to mitigate against the inherent risk present when in possession of cash; and for use as and when required as is customary in today's business environment."

But would it not make more sense, in order to avoid allegations of misuse of public funds, both valid and false, that such individuals simply charge work expenses to their own credit cards, with reimbursement coming after proof they were engaged in legitimate company business?

Surely, we aren't expected to believe such luminaries of commerce and industry as Greg Moss and Algernon Cargill can't get a local bank to extend them credit.

How many other public service chairmen, directors, board members are currently packing government-issued plastic? At what rate is this privilege abused with impunity?

"But this is how things are done in the business world nowadays," some who are more accustomed to the corporate culture, may say. Well this isn't the business world, it's the Bahamas – which suffers at the moment from double digit unemployment and severe revenue shortfalls. We are in no position to let public funds slip away unaccounted for.

The credit card issue is, in fact, only one of several "undesirable" tendencies brought to light by the Moss-Cargill blame game.

Take for example, NIB's contract for property insurance with Bahamas First. Mr Cargill's affidavit alleges that during the application process for a replacement firm, Mr Moss ordered him to award the contract to one of the bidders, Star General Insurance, despite the fact that this would have been "improper" because the other contender had yet to issue a proposal.

Mr Cargill claims the Superintendent of Insurance confirmed "management's concerns to be material".

But how can the scenario alleged even enter the realms of possibility? Why is the process for selecting a company for a government contract not enshrined in law?

In the interest of transparency and anti-corruption, why is it not explicitly illegal for any public servant, right up to the prime minister, to arbitrarily choose the beneficiary of such a contract?

There is also the matter of Kenuth's Electric, which it is claimed received around $8 million worth of contracts from NIB.

Mr Cargill denies he is a friend and former colleague of the owner and asserts he was "not involved" in the decision-making process.

But questions of nepotism aside, why, under any circumstances, should it be possible for one company to benefit to such a great extent from a government department, to the virtual exclusion of the rest of the industry?

Mr Cargill's affidavit notes that during the renovation of NIB Headquarters beginning in 2009, the project manager recommended that "due to the specificity of electrical work required, NIB not engage a variety of electricians for various projects so as not to compromise the environment and to be able to determine which company was at fault" should anything go wrong.

All well and good, but in such extraordinary circumstances, the Minister for National Insurance should be required to bring the matter before the Cabinet – or better yet Parliament, so the public can know how its money is being spent.

The construction of the Fresh Creek Clinic furnishes a similar example.

Mr Cargill's affidavit alleges Mr Moss accused the director of intervening in a contract to award it to his cousin.

Saying the discussion to award the contract to HEW Construction came from the quality surveyor, not him, Mr Cargill claims the contractor being replaced was thought to lack the requisite building experience, was said to have asked other contractors to share NIB jobs so he could "receive a portion of the contract proceeds" and had been accused of requesting "kickbacks".

The affidavit also claims Mr Moss ordered that the notice dismissing the first contractor "be rescinded".

The immediate question that springs to mind is, if a contractor is suspected of illegal behaviour while on a government job, why is it not public service policy to report it to the police for investigation?

Such decisions could then be made on the basis of evidence instead of hearsay, and would be much more resistant to outside interference of the kind alleged.

Frequent interference is the essence of Mr Cargill's complaints against his new chairman.

For example, he claims Mr Moss directed him to surrender his full authority, including control of human resources, to newly appointed senior vice president Cecile Bethel.

Mr Cargill notes that "due to the sensitivity of HR matters" it is established corporate practice "to ensure that the executives who have legated authority for HR matters continue to exercise those functions while the CEO is out of office, to avoid anyone seeking to advance separate causes with the temporary authority held."

He asserts that Mr Moss attempted to direct him "in an operational area with respect to the management of NIB, without any support for the National Insurance Act or regulations and with total disregard for my position as director and CEO of the National Insurance Board."

He adds that Mr Moss "sought to control personally the day-to-day operations of NIB."

But, he points out, "My role as director and CEO of NIB, pursuant to Section 40 (1) of the National Insurance Act, provides that I shall be the chief executive officer of the board."

It does indeed, but the Act obviously needs amending so as to be more specific about what this means.

Better yet, the distinct roles of all CEOs and chairmen across the public service should be clearly defined and delineated in law, to avoid any future confusion.

In particular, because they tend to be political appointees, board members and chairmen should be barred from assuming any functional role, confining themselves to oversight and broad policy formation.

This would perhaps bring an end to the "we reach" attitude that seems to crop up on these boards whenever the government changes hands. Mr Cargill goes on to accuse Mr Moss of:

• Ordering that they switch offices and advising a staff member to "contract an interior decorator to ensure the former director's office, now occupied by the chairman, is decorated at a standard befitting of a minister."

• Seeking to have a $42,000 energy study of NIB's properties conducted by a newly formed Grand Bahama company of his choice, when a recent study of the same kind has cost the Board only $3,000.

• Pushing NIB to invest $10 million in a private venture, against the advice of management, by saying Cabinet ministers Ryan Pinder, Khaalis Rolle, Michael Halkitis and Prime Minister Perry Christie himself wanted it approved.

Whether valid or not in the particular case of Mr Moss, do these allegations not epitomise the behaviour of far too many whose positions see them straddle the line between politics and the public service in this country?

"Constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go," Montesquieu wrote.

Whether or not anyone at the top of NIB fits this model is now for a court to decide. But the real lesson of Cargill vs Moss is precisely the existence of a grey area at the top which facilitates favouritism and corruption, and encourages all manner of overreaching and self importance.

If anything productive is to come of this argument, it will be a greater understanding not only that vague laws and lax regulations

have nourished a continuous squabble for power and influence at the top of our public institutions, but also that at the end of the day, the average citizen is the only real victim of this state of a affairs.

On the off chance Prime Minister Christie might be inclined to address the situation in a meaningful way, a fun place to start would be a public review of all cars, drivers, credit cards, expense accounts and other perks and privileges enjoyed by chairmen, directors and general managers in the government's employ.

What do you think?

Email questions or comments to, or join the conversation at

December 10, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Senator Jerome Gomez says that he plans to vote yes when the government brings a referendum on whether or not The Bahamas should drill for oil

Senator to vote ‘yes’ on oil drilling referendum

By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Guardian Staff Reporter

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Jerome Gomez said yesterday that he plans to vote yes when the government brings a referendum on whether or not the country should drill for oil.

Gomez said that on the January 28 gambling referendum he is not sure how he will vote, but he is more than certain how he will vote on the oil referendum.

Gomez said he is “convinced that oil is in The Bahamas, having worked for an oil company in the past”.

He made those remarks during his contribution to the debate on the Constitutional Referendum Amendment Bill.  He voted in favor of the bill.

Before the May 7 general election then Opposition Leader Perry Christie drew headlines when he confirmed that he was a legal consultant for Davis & Co., the law firm that represented the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC).

BPC wants government approval to drill an oil well in Bahamian waters by April 2013.

It was former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham who revealed Christie’s involvement with BPC.

Christie later said that his professional relationship with the law firm was severed “well before” the controversy erupted.

Gomez, who ran in Killarney during the election, was resident manager for BPC according to the company’s website.  He has never publicly commented on that relationship since entering politics.

Dec 07, 2012


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bahamian women have not sat by silently in the wake of the suffrage movement by any means ...but today’s calling is for more organisation, more mobilisation, and more united action... ...And importantly, there is a need to bridge the generational gap, to harness the wisdom of elders and the energy of youth... ...Today’s calling is for a movement that will inspire new generations of women to continue the good fight

Voices Of Women Must Be Heard

Tribune Features Editor

DURING the most recent general election in the United States of America, I came across an interesting online flyer captioned “The Republican Party Rape Advisory Chart”. It listed a set of talking points on the seven types of rape in the minds of a “Republican rape apologists.”

The “Gift-From-God Rape” was aptly described by Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock: “When life begins with that horrible situation of rape that is something that God intended to happen.” “Legitimate Rape” was described by Republican Congressman and Senate candidate Todd Akin: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Republican Congressman Ron Paul expounded on the category of “Honest Rape”: “If it’s an honest rape that individual should go immediately to the emergency room; I would give them a shot of estrogen.” Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon was the spokesperson on “Emergency Rape”: “It was really an issue about a Catholic church being forced to offer those pills if the person came in an emergency rape.”

The “Easy Rape” was described by Republican State Representative Roger Rivard, who said: “If you go down that road, some girls, they rape so easy.” Republican legislators sought to have “Forcible Rape” clearly defined in law under the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act”, which would prohibit federal funding of abortions except in instances of “an act of forcible rape or, if a minor, an act of incest’.”

Republican Gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams is cited as the “father of Republican rape apologists” for his championing of the concept “Enjoyable Rape”. During his Gubernatorial campaign he publicly made a joke likening rape to bad weather, claiming that: “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.”

The results of the US election were widely panned as a rejection by women of the Republican platform on women. Calls have been loud and furious for Republican men to shut up about rape “forever”.

Liberal comedian and political satirist Bill Maher called Republicans “vaginaphobes” on his late night HBO series, asking the question: “For Republicans to do well in the future, they need the woman vote: Women out vote men by 10 million. Okay. Don’t the Republican men, even if they have these views, in the future, have to shut up?”

The answer from Democratic commentator James Carville invoked Southern culture: “You know, in order to get that boy’s attention, you got to hit him upside the head with a two by four. Well the sound you heard on election night was pine on skull.”

What has become increasingly clear in US politics is that women have power at the polls: not because of the demographic distribution that sees more women voting than men; because of their capacity to organise and vote for their own self interests, exerting their influence at the polls.

In the Bahamas, we are not so fortunate. For all of our efforts over the years, which have led to much advancement for women, today there is no women’s movement to speak of; we have many women voters, but no collective women’s agenda.

Speaking at a panel discussion held last week by the Bureau of Women’s Affairs in celebration of National Women’s Month, “Women in Leadership: the Untold Story”, women’s rights activist and gender specialist Audrey Roberts described a movement as a sustained effort of mobilising and organising around a set of issues that represent the collective voices of women, opposed to a series of disjointed single actions that respond to issues that arise.

The best model we have in the Bahamas of a women’s movement was the women’s suffrage movement. While much has been achieved since the 1960s – thanks in large part to the contributions of Bahamian women who became political leaders – it is questionable whether or not the movement has been sustained.

“We are at that time again when there is a need for a women’s movement,” said Mrs Roberts, speaking to the burgeoning call from the spirits of Bahamian women for power and agency in the exercise of their collective will. I agree wholeheartedly.

The recent discussion of marital rape revealed so much about where we are as women, and the patriarchal strong hold that still grips our society. It is very much relevant to the patriarchal psychology that runs so deep in the Republican Party, as described above.

In the Bahamas, the Republican Party is represented by fundamentalist factions of the Christian church, the most aggressive force working against the advancement of women in Bahamian society. Along with partisan politics, but even more harmfully so, is what Professor Olivia Saunders described at the panel discussion as the “religiousising” of women’s issues in the Bahamas.

Referencing the way in which partisan politics results in the politicisation of issues, Mrs Saunders invented the term religiousising to speak to the way in which religious dogma and religious doctrine is continuously used to undermine arguments for the advancement of women.

Mrs Saunders posed the point as a question to Rev Carla Culmer, Rector at Wesley Methodist Church, who was a speaker on the panel. I was very interested to hear a female church leader speak to the point; however, Rev Culmer opted for a conservative answer, encouraging women to ask their 
predominantly male pastors to speak from the pulpit about issues that are important to them. She also called for more education and mentoring, which would result in the empowerment of women.

Perhaps in more private forums, at first, it is important for women of the cloth to start speaking directly to the point. The rise of the feminine in church leadership must be accompanied by the rise of the female point of view. Women in ministry must play an important role in the women’s movement, and they must become vocal advocates of women and women’s rights in public spaces. They must contest the dogmatic views spouted by their fellow clergymen or church followers when those views are spoken in the interests of patriarchy and not righteousness.

Rev Culmer has had an interesting journey in the Methodist Church. In all of her leadership capacities, her appointment was a first for women in the church. And even as Rev Culmer continues to rise through the ranks of church ministry, the battle continues, as there are traditions in which people “expect the pastor to be a man.”

The view that men are ministers and women are wives is so entrenched in the church, for one of her parishioners it took him 11 years to come to church to listen to her preach, she said. The position of wife is a standard fixture in many churches with duly assigned responsibilities.

In Rev Culmer, the church was confronted with the image of a single woman, who in the context of religious patriarchy could never been seen as a minister of religion with the moral authority to be a spiritual advisor. The church is slowly moving along a progressive learning curve, but the journey remains long. After all the Anglican church recently voted against appointing female bishops.

“As a woman, you have to prove that you have a right to be there,” said Rev Culmer, speaking of the struggle.

She has had instances of officiating events in which the letter “a” from her first name Carla was dropped off her name by someone assuming they had received mistaken information. The senior pastor after all would surely be named Carl and not Carla.

Rev Culmer’s story is an important one to share and so are the stories of countless women who continue to battle against patriarchy and sexism in their respective spheres of influence, two central pillars standing in the way of gender equality and equity.

The sad reality is that women are not sufficiently creating their own platforms and using existing platforms to tell their stories; to let their voices be heard and to stand and be counted in a united front. Our stories are hidden under bushels and our voices are muted by our own private retreat.

To excuse themselves from having participated in the public debate about marital rape, politicians often say, the government never brought a bill to Parliament. Seeing Parliament as their primary platform, politicians use the opportunity to debate bills to speak to national issues, and when no bill is brought to the floor they hide behind that cover. And even when they do speak on the floor, much of what they say gets lost in the partisan hackery. Outside of Parliament, politicians can take advantage of existing platforms and create their own platforms, as can all Bahamians.

Women’s activist Michelle Miller spoke at the forum and lamented the fact that every time she turns on the radio she hears men talking; every time she turns on the television she sees male talking heads. “Women are not speaking and presenting our agenda to the public on a regular basis,” said Ms Miller.

“Where is the platform? We need to create a platform, a consistent platform that allows us to use the power of influence,” she said.

As far as engendering a movement is concerned, Ms Miller suggested that a critical need exists for women to create and utilise public platforms. She said young people model the behaviour of their elders, and young women need to see female leaders making representation on their behalf in public; they need to see the fire in the bellies of their female leaders to spark their own spirits.

I completely understand the sentiment. Such was my only real disappointment about the ceremony held last week in the House of Assembly to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement; our political leaders said the expected things, praising the legacy of the suffragettes and calling women to work together, but I did not see the fire in the bellies of our female parliamentarians.

I was hoping for a presentation from at least one of our political leaders to match the stature of the presentation delivered by Dame Dr Doris Johnson in 1959 on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement. In her delivery, PLP Senator Cheryl Bazard reminded me the most of what I imagine Dr Johnson to have been like, but all of the speeches lacked a certain audacity.

The event was truly commendable and inspiring nonetheless, based on the strength of the 1959 speech, which still holds such relevance today. It was a moving display of bipartisanship in ancestral remembrance. My critique is not to take away from that fact. The entire presentation was laudable.

But if there was one thing missing, it was the bold articulation of a 21st century agenda that could really light a fire in the consciousness of Bahamian women. The love fest we witnessed amongst the various government and the opposition members around the constitutional issue, which was the subject of the 2002 referendum, was welcomed. Bipartisanship on this issue is long overdue, but the current efforts are redeeming efforts on the part of the government and opposition.

The emphatic statements made by Dr Johnson in 1959, asserting the invincibility of womanhood, seem farfetched in the climate of conservatism that exists today, but that kind of leadership is exactly what is needed today, not only by our political leaders, but all of our women in leadership positions.

The achievements of the women’s movement over the past fifty years seem to have put women in the Bahamas into a comfortable stupor, which is so unfortunate because our work is not done.

“Today, invincible womanhood, mother of men and ruler of the world raises her noble head and approaches the courts of justice with the clarion call of equal rights for all Bahamian women… We women press this demand and ask such enactment on the basis of not who is right, but what is right for our country. We judge expediency only on this basis. We seek no compromise. There is no alternative. We abhor any delaying action. We women ask only that you gentlemen move now to secure the rights of 54,000 women, including your wives and daughters.”

The audacity of these words spoken from the mouth of Dr Johnson on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement in 1959 is truly moving. I admire the fact that Janet Bostwick, the first woman to be elected to the House of Assembly, had the privilege of sitting in the magistrate’s court when they were actually delivered. I am grateful that I was present last week when they were read again by the women of the House and Senate in a joint sitting of Parliament.

While the suffragettes were galvanised around the issue of enfranchisement at the ballot box, they were also clear on the wider women’s agenda. In fact, they asserted there are issues which specifically require the “insight and interest of women to investigate, report on and seek improvement”; they suggested men were not naturally interested in these issues. I wonder to what extent women still hold this view.

“We women wish to serve our country and assist your efforts in attending to such projects as housing schemes, slum clearance, establishment of libraries and museums, local welfare services, supervision of food and drug supplies and the establishment of reasonable and respectable lodgings for temporary visitors from our Out Islands,” said Dr Johnson in the landmark speech.

“Education in the processing and operation of school medical services and milk distribution, care of our many weed-covered cemeteries, registration of births, deaths and marriages, proper filing system of registration of voters, suppression of nuisances, maternity and child welfare, birth control information centres, jury service, notification and disinfection of infectious diseases, care of the aged, etc, are only a few of the areas to which women can make their contributions. This is a task so large that it takes the energies of everybody, men and women, to better conditions in our islands,” she said.

The suffragettes were clear about their agenda and specific in their demands. They were persistent in their pursuit, organised in their action and united in their efforts. They affirmed the value in their very womanhood and demonstrated their worth through action.

Bahamian women have not sat by silently in the wake of the suffrage movement by any means, but today’s calling is for more organisation, more mobilisation, and more united action. And importantly, there is a need to bridge the generational gap, to harness the wisdom of elders and the energy of youth. Today’s calling is for a movement that will inspire new generations of women to continue the good fight.

December 03, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Constitutional reform - pt. 14... ...the need for a new Caribbean jurisprudence... ...Caribbean Judges should be encouraged to demonstrate flexibility in developing our constitutional jurisprudence in the Commonwealth Caribbean

Constitutional reform pt. 14

The constitution: Limitations in enforcement of Bill of Rights

By Alfred Sears

The fundamental rights guaranteed to us under the constitution contain a number of limitations which impede the effective enforcement of the Bill of Rights under Commonwealth Caribbean constitutions and demonstrate the need for a new Caribbean jurisprudence.

The first limitation is the existence of broad derogation clauses in these constitutions.  While most of the derogation clauses are fairly standard, however, in The Bahamas Constitution the derogation clauses to the protection from arbitrary search and entry are in the broadest terms excusing any action reasonably required, “in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, town or country planning, the development or utilization of any other property in such manner as to promote the public benefit.”

As Professor Lloyd Barnett in the essay “The Present Position Regarding the Enforcement of Human Rights in the Commonwealth” (October 1980) 2 W.I.L.J. 97 cautions, these derogation clauses are “... all imprecise in nature, and leave the door open to unnecessary legislative encroachments.”

The second limitation in the enforcement of personal liberties under these constitutions involves the existence of saving clauses, which preserve existing written and unwritten law from invalidation because of inconsistency with provisions of the Bill of Rights provisions.

The former Chief Justice of The Bahamas Telford Georges, in an essay “The Scope and Limitations of the State Machinery”, Int’l Comm’n of Jurists and Organization of Commonwealth Caribbean Bar Association, Human Rights and Development (1978), speaking of a similar clause in the constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, argues that such a clause “... considerably limits the scope of the machinery of judicial review as a method of enforcement of the rights apparently enshrined in the constitution.  The judicial view... is that the constitutions create no new rights.  They merely preserve existing rights.”

The case of Re Thornhill illustrates how rights stated in a Bill of Rights provision in the constitution of Trinidad and Tobago was weakened by a pre-existing common law rule.  Thornhill, who had been arrested on multiple charges, alleged that the police had denied him the right to communicate with the lawyer of his choice.  The pre-republican constitution of Trinidad and Tobago, Section 2 (2) (ii), stated that no act of Parliament should deprive a person who has been arrested or detained of the right to retain and instruct without delay a legal adviser of his or her choice and to hold communication with him.  Therefore, the defendant asked the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago to declare, inter alia, that the police had contravened his constitutional right to legal counsel immediately after arrest.

The attorney general argued that there was no right to counsel at common law therefore it did not exist under the constitution, since existing law had been preserved and could not be invalidated even if inconsistent with the constitution.

Justice Telford Georges, then the chief justice of Trinidad and Tobago and the trial judge, rejected this view and stated: “I hold that the right now exists because the constitution has proclaimed that it has always existed here and that it should continue to exist.”

The learned judge reasoned that the phrase “without delay” must not mean at the convenience of the investigators or at the stage where definable rights could be won or lost, but rather it “... is a right which arises immediately after arrest and that the right to exercise the right should be afforded without delay.”

The High Court of Trinidad and Tobago rejected this argument and concluded that the Bill of Rights was not intended to enlarge that body of rights which existed prior to the constitution.  However, the principal judgment of the High Court was based on another ground.  The court held that the police are not law servants of the state and as such they act independently; therefore, their actions could not be the basis for recovery for infringement, abrogation or abridgment of a fundamental right.

This decision by the High Court of Trinidad and Tobago elicited widespread criticism from legal commentators in the Caribbean.  Dr. Francis Alexis, for example in the essay “After Thornhill: Does Anything Remain of the Bill of Rights?”, West Indian Law Journal, October 1977, argued that this decision by the High Court was “ ... a neat illustration of the dangerous cul-de-sac towards which the courts can be impelled by holding fast to the singularly unfortunate doctrine that the Bill of Rights did not create any right where before there was none.”

Regarding the issue of whether the police are public servants or independent agents, Alexis pointed out that, unlike in England where the responsibility for financing the different police services is divided between the central government and local police authorities, in the Caribbean the financing, maintenance and control of the police services is exclusively by central government, notwithstanding public and police service commissions.  Alexis concluded that: “Perhaps the ordinary individual’s most frequent contact with the state administration is that with the police ... If, therefore, the police are excluded from the ambit of the Bill of Rights one may suggest .... that the Court of Appeal in Thornhill said an obituary on the Bill of Rights.”

However, this dire prediction was not realized, as the Privy Council reversed the Trinidadian Court of Appeal and held that an arrested or detained person has a right to consult counsel without delay after arrest or detention even while being in police custody, thereby affirming the judgment of Georges at the first instance.

The net effect of the saving clauses in Caribbean constitutions has been to weaken and create ambiguity about fundamental rights stated with apparent clarity in the constitutions; thus, undermining the clear intent of the framers of the constitutions of these newly independent countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean.


A further limitation

The third limitation in the enforcement of the Bills of Rights concerns the common law rules of construction often applied by the courts in constitutional interpretation which is based on notions derived from the British doctrine of parliamentary supremacy.  Sir Leonard Knowles, former chief justice of The Bahamas, in regard to the rules of construction applied to constitutional interpretation in the Commonwealth Caribbean, quoted Lord Diplock, who in Hinds v. The Queen (1976) 2 W.I.R. 372 stated that: “To seek to apply to constitutional instruments the canons of construction applicable to ordinary legislation in the fields of substantive criminal or civil law would, in their lordships’ view, be misleading ... there can be discerned in all those constitutions which have their origin in an act of the Imperial Parliament at Westminster or an order in council, a common pattern of style of draftsmanship which may conveniently be described as the Westminster model.”

The Privy Council in Minister of Home Affairs v. Fisher (1979) 3 All E. reiterated this principle R. 21.  At issue here was a provision of the Bermuda constitution which permitted legislative derogation from the right of freedom of movement of persons who did not “belong to Bermuda”.’

The Privy Council held that in construing the constitutional definition of “persons who belong to Bermuda”, the common law presumption that the word “child” excludes illegitimate children should not be followed.

Lord Wilberforce cautioned that a constitution should not be interpreted like an act of Parliament, but that it requires “principles of interpretation of its own suitable to its character as already described, without necessary acceptance of all of the presumptions that are relevant to legislation of private law”.

In spite of the Privy Council’s apparently clear position that a constitution should not be interpreted like ordinary legislation, Lloyd Barnett, using the Nasralla case as an example, observes that in the Caribbean “frequently in constitutional cases judges state the principle of construction in a form which is indistinguishable from that utilized in the interpretation of ordinary statutes... the approach to constitutional interpretation has been largely dominated by English techniques of statutory interpretation”.


The American context

It is instructive to contrast this practice of constitutional interpretation in the Caribbean with constitutional practice in the United States.  In U.S. constitutional jurisprudence the U.S. Supreme Court is the ultimate guardian of the freedoms and rights of the individual, facilitated through the power of judicial review established by the case Marbury v. Madison (1803) 5 U.S. 137.

Professor Henry M. Hart in the essay “The Power of Congress to Limit the Jurisdiction of Federal Courts: An Exercise in Dialectic” 66 Harv. L. Rev. (1953) 1362, argues that protection of the U.S. Bill of Rights is an essential function of the court the jurisdiction of which cannot be destroyed by Congress.

Using the political process rationale developed by Justice Stone, he contends that the Supreme Court  is the guardian of the freedoms of the individual and the protection of minorities against the state and majoritarianism.  However, Professor Derrick A. Bell, Jr. in  Race, Racism and American Law (2nd ed. 1980) contends that the U.S. Supreme Court has not been consistent in maintaining this “essential function” with respect to the fundamental rights of African-American citizens, as illustrated by the cases Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) 163 U.S. 537, Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) 60 U.S. 393 and the Slaughter-House (1873) 83 U.S. 36 cases.

Bell posits that the court’s role has been paradoxical in this area, swinging from extreme conservatism during the Post Civil War Reconstruction era to healthy activism during the civil rights era, the latter illustrated by decisions such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954) 347 U.S. 483, Loving v. Virginia (1967) 388 U.S. 1, and Katzenbach v. Morgan (1966) 384 U.S. 641.  Bell concludes that the degree of progress that African-Americans have made away from slavery and towards equality has depended on whether allowing blacks more or less opportunity best served the interests and aims of white society.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court, in an equality revolution begun by the Warren Court, established a dual standard of constitutional review, rational standard and the strict scrutiny standard and has readily found that all disadvantaging classifications resting on race and ethnicity are suspect and violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, treating discrimination based on national origin the same as discrimination against African-Americans in such cases as Yick Woo v. Hopkins, Hernandez v. Texas and Trimble v. Gordon.

Justice Black, in Korematsu v. United States (1944) 323 U.S. 214, stated that the court in such situations will use a strict scrutiny standard of judicial review and not the rational basis standard normally applied to legislation: “All legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect.  It is to say that courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny.  Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions, racial antagonism never will.

Thus, the court has outlawed invidious group differentiation which is irrelevant to a person’s capabilities and contributions.  The court, in the case Plyler v. Doe (1982) 457 U.S. 202 also invalidated a Texas statute permitting local school boards to deny free education to school-aged children of illegal aliens as violating the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has also used the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to extend individual liberties.  In Griswold Justice Douglas, using a penumbra theory, held that the right of privacy, though not specifically stated in the Bill of Rights, is nevertheless protected against unnecessarily broad state regulation.  He posited that some of the explicit provisions of the Bill of Rights created a zone of privacy.  He concluded that the right of married persons to use contraceptives fell within this penumbra.

In Roe v. Wade (1973) 410 U.S. 133, Justice Blackman held that this right of privacy includes a pregnant woman’s control over her own body and that her right to abortion was as an aspect of the right of privacy.   Professor Lung-Chu Chen in the essay “Institutions Specialized to the Protection of Human Rights in the United States” 1 N.Y.L. Sch., Human Rights Annual 27 (1983), argues that the flexible, contextual approach of the U.S. Supreme Court in constitutional interpretation has resulted in more human rights protection for more people in more areas, extending to all important value sectors.  Caribbean Judges should be encouraged to demonstrate similar flexibility in developing our constitutional jurisprudence in the Commonwealth Caribbean.


• Alfred Sears is an attorney, a former member of Parliament and a former attorney general of The Bahamas.

November 22, 2012


Constitutional Reform - pt. 13... ...I urge that the Constitutional Review Commission recommend the removal of derogation clause 4 (e) from Article 26 of the Constitution order to affirm the constitutional norm of non-discrimination ...regularize and tax the Bahamian community gaming industry ...and open casino gaming to Bahamian ownership, management ...and patronage

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Rt. Rev'd Laish Zane Boyd on the subject of the proposed legalisation of the “numbers business” - (web shop activities) - in The Bahamas... and the upcoming gambling referendum

Anglican Minister Has Say On Gambling Legislation

A pastoral letter to the Anglican family and the wider community on the subject of the proposed legalisation of the “numbers business” in The Bahamas.


DEAR brothers and sisters of the Anglican Family and wider community, I wish to address you on the subject of the proposed referendum on the legalisation of the “numbers business” in the Bahamas.

I wish to provide you with some information and also encourage broad discussion. This will aid you in your decision making.

The issue

The issue is the decision of the government to hold a referendum so that the people can decide on whether or not there should be the expansion of gambling in the country. We understand this to mean the legalisation of the local numbers business (web shop activities) but not a provision for a national lottery (this statement was issued before Prime Minister Christie added the national lottery to the referendum). The Progressive Liberal Party promised a referendum in its pre-general election Charter for Governance. The Free National Movement, when it was the government, had also indicated that it would resolve the self-same question by way of a referendum.

The context

In 1959, the government of the Bahamas made explicit provision to legalise casino gambling in the country.

The decision was made for economic reasons focused on the facilitation of the expansion of tourism. The general public was not consulted.

Since 1959, successive governments have increased the number of casino operations. Gambling is a key component of our tourism product and is also at the heart of economic activities in the country.

The country as a whole was tacitly brought into the economic reality of casinos and, thereby, legalised gambling, without paying attention to the moral argument. Few church officials have ever suggested that their members avoid employment in casino-related establishments.

There have arisen, from time to time, protests against the denial of the right of Bahamians to participate in casino gambling. These arguments usually cite the provision of the Constitution against discrimination. The government’s official reason for the denial was the desire to protect the local citizens and residents in light of the generally acknowledged negative impact of the Hobby Horse Race Track which was a thriving entity at the time.

The illegal numbers business has taken root over the past century. We grew up knowing about the place of thriving establishments that were a staple part of the Bahamian landscape and diet. The numbers business has expanded significantly over the past decade, with the introduction of gambling via the web shops: same concept, new packaging. Although verifiable data is not available, there can be no doubt that a significant number of Bahamians engage in these activities which are regulated and controlled solely by the operators of the web shops. Persons in the industry have said informally that there could be 150-200,000 web accounts in existence in the various web shop companies combined in the country.

Given the technological basis of the web shop operations, the ability of the police to prevent or control such operations is minute to negligible.

Both major political parties publicly announced their intention to hold a referendum on the future of the web shop operations. The reasoning behind this policy decision was the desire to bring some regulation and control to the present “industry”, coupled with economics – as was the case in 1959.

Both major political parties appear to be determined to remove these activities from the criminal arena. Under our existing law operators of gambling houses and persons who patronise such establishments are breaking the law.

We note that the number of “web shops” has increased tremendously all over the Bahamas since the time of the last surge of national discussion in 2009-2010. In just those 2-3 short years the increase in these locations has been nothing short of phenomenal. Anyone who travels the islands of the Bahamas can attest to this.

The reasons for this are four-fold:

• The government continues to be unable or unwilling to enforce the existing law

• The government continues to give licenses for web shops knowing that the principal function of these establishments is – by far – not providing computer caf� facilities for those who have no computer of their own, or for children to do homework after school

• Sheer supply and demand. The market forces have indicated and dictated expansion. Enough persons want to do it to be able to sustain an increase in the number of locations. There are even roving “customer-service agents” with hand-held devices who come to where you are to do business.

• The freedom enjoyed by the companies involved in an industry that is against the law. They advertise in the media, they have banded together into an association, they are touting their contribution to society (number of employees, salaries paid, NIB and other benefits paid, all adding to the economy – not to mention their contributions to sports, charitable, church and community development pursuits). They have even indicated that they are prepared to spend more than $1 million on a marketing campaign to ensure a favourable referendum result.


The whole matter has really gotten quite out of hand and, some will argue, is too big for even the police to reign in. Unless the government is prepared to simply shut down these establishments “cold turkey” – which it seems to be unprepared or unwilling to do – then the government has no other choice than to attempt to regulate and tax the existing industry. The Prime Minister indicated that, if the result of the referendum did not favour the decriminalising of the numbers business, the government would have no other choice than to shut down these establishments. This must be taken as the government’s assertion that these establishments can simply be “shut down.”

A referendum, on any issue provides the citizens with an opportunity to participate in the formulation of policy. While there may be cause for some to suspect the motive behind the use of the referendum mechanism, the right of the citizens to be consulted is an important aspect of genuine democracy. Also, one has to respect the fact that some issues are so significant, and represent such a major shift in policy, norms or behaviour, that it might be best if governments seek the comment of a majority of citizens before venturing into such a new arena.

Adequate opportunity must be provided for persons to examine the issues before they are invited to express their ‘choice’ by way of the ballot box. The church must be an agency that encourages dialogue and that creates a forum for information and wholesome discussion on this and other issues, since a part of our stewardship is being a good citizen in the country where God has placed us. Our duty to God involves our participation in national life. Remember the Biblical injunction: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This calls Christians to play their part in national life and in dealing with national issues.

We must be certain that persons who make a choice on this subject do so from an informed position, ie, knowing what motivation is informing their choice.

What is gambling?

Gambling is a broad subject area encompassing games or activities involving some risk with the potential for granting an advantage to the person or persons who “play” or “are involved”. Some persons condemn all forms of this activity. There are others who tolerate them in varying degrees. For example, many persons have no difficulty with raffles and door prizes, or with a game of bingo. These are isolated and individual events which are usually held for fundraising and charitable causes. Individuals will buy a raffle ticket, or a door prize ticket at an event, or play a game of bingo and give no second thought to it; they see it as harmless, as I believe these involvements to be.

Edward Rodgers writes: “A small stake in a raffle for a worthy cause inflicts no conceivable hardship on the purchaser of the ticket and is motivated more by generous desire to help than by anticipatory greed.” This reasoning led the 108th session of our Diocesan Synod, meeting in October, 2008, to allow raffles in our Anglican Schools as a means of fundraising. This came after many years of a moratorium on the holding of raffles in the diocese that was put in place during the time of the late Bishop Michael Eldon. Recently, the 111th Session of Synod passed another resolution to lift that moratorium entirely and to allow parishes also to hold raffles for fundraising purposes.

Kindly note that these two decisions have nothing to with, and are completely unrelated to, the current discussion on the expansion of legal opportunities for gambling. They would have occurred even if that discussion did not take place or was not taking place.

The Anglican Church has no difficulty with raffles, door prizes or bingo.

The numbers business is a completely different thing. It is a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week enterprise in which persons engage and which is definitely habit-forming and downright addictive for a majority of its participants. It is a system which is designed to exploit the participants so that the few will benefit at the expense of the many. The modern day reality is that this form of gambling is easily accessible to all via the internet, via numerous web shops and via other means. Persons can play with very little money. This easy access leads to widespread use by persons of all ages, classes, backgrounds and socio-economic standings.

November 21, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Christie’s failure of leadership is not solely one of chronic incompetence... ...More broadly and egregiously it is an outsized and shameful failure to keep faith with the Bahamian people ...and the demands of social justice... ...No posturing, play-acting or preening by Perry Christie can obscure this sad reality

Flip-flopping Christie flips and flops – again!

Front Porch

By Simon

In the embarrassing climb-down that is his most recent flip-flop on gambling, the prime minister desperately sought to make a virtue out of his incompetence and bungling, and that his government likely lacked the legal authority to proceed with a vote that it probably would have lost: “I am a prime minister who listens.  And in listening to the still evolving public discourse on the forthcoming referendum it has become clear to me that more time is needed before the Bahamian people are called upon to vote.

“I am supported in this view by the leadership of a broad cross-section of the national community with whom I have been consulting over the past few days.”

That Perry Christie believes that voters are gullible enough to believe such balderdash speaks to his contempt for the common sense of those who see through the farce he is attempting to perpetuate in this whole numbers business.  His attempt to describe his latest flip-flop as listening must be an inside joke.

There are reports of private polling to gauge whether the December 3 poll should have been postponed.  One wonders whether this figured into its postponement.

Christie may have been listening, but was it mostly to narrow interests who may funnel campaign contributions to his party, as well as those who gave him stunningly poor advice?


If he had indeed listened carefully to a broader cross-section of voices earlier rather than to the drumbeat of his puffed-up hubris and self-serving backers he would not be in this utterly confusing mess of which he is the lead author, though his Cabinet bears collective responsibility for the debacle.

Despite Christie’s involvement in public life for nearly four decades this has been one of the most disastrous performances – at the nexus of policy and politics – by any prime minister in an independent Bahamas.

Christie’s newfound listening posture is not the sign of able leadership that he pretends.  Instead, by failing to adequately consult beforehand, he failed some of the most basic tests of leadership.

His so-called listening reminds one of a toddler who, after burning his finger on the stove for the umpteenth time, stops for the moment, then brags to his mom about how well he’s listening to her advice to stay away from the stove.

There is a back story to this debacle to which Christie alluded in Parliament.  Rattled by Long Island MP Loretta Butler Turner in the House, Christie recited the PLP’s three election wins from the Elizabeth by-election, nearly three years ago, to that of North Abaco, as if to say, how dear you challenge me.

That his party failed to win a majority of the popular vote on May 7 – in part because of his leadership deficits and previous failures as prime minister – has not engendered in him any humility.  Christie’s arrogance is surreal.

It’s the same cloud nine he has been on since May 7, indicative of his narcissistic claim of divine provenance for his prime ministership:  “... But God has spoken.  God has made me the prime minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”

Often, narcissism’s fraternal twin is megalomania, a “condition characterized by delusional fantasies of ... omnipotence”, and “by an inflated sense of self-esteem and overestimation by persons of their powers.”


Christie’s web cafe debacle was conceived in hubris and megalomania, nurtured in sheer incompetence and foisted on the Bahamian people with stunning miscalculation.  His cloud nine has turned to stormy weather.

Fresh off election wins, Christie miscalculated that he would rush through a vote that his party would win giving it political cover to legalize certain enterprises that might prove generous to his party in perpetuity.  Talk of neutrality was always a ruse.  His gambit, thus far, has backfired.

Still, Christie’s hubris was only outmatched by staggering incompetence.  To refresh our memories, let’s recall this government’s comedy of errors:

The PLP’s election charter promised a referendum on a national lottery and gambling.  The government flip-flopped by deciding to hold a referendum solely on web cafes, supposedly on the advice of UK consultants who apparently suggested that a national lottery was not commercially feasible, even though they have admitted to not conducting a more thorough study.

Remember also that Christie said the consultants were preparing a report, which now turns out to be just a few letters.  The breakneck flip-flopping continued: Christie then advised there would be a poll instead of a referendum.

Now, in the latest whip-lashing flip-flop, we are told that the referendum is back on and will include a question on a national lottery, the very lottery that was supposedly commercially non-feasible based on a report which seemingly never existed.  What a tangled web cafe weave.

So staggeringly incompetent has Christie been in this numbers affair, one wonders whether certain colleagues left him to his own devices, so that he might flail, flounder and flip-flop.  The prime minister’s attempt to extricate himself from this entanglement in his most recent House communication on gambling also failed.

Butler-Turner was having none of Christie’s flip-flopping, crying shame on the whole sham, taking Christie’s nerve while taking on a government which seemed dazed as she mocked its breath-taking hypocrisy and muddled thinking.

In a weak defense, Christie boasted of his numbers in the chamber, as if he was rallying his troops in the face of the Long Island MP’s singular offensive.  Curiously, despite the largest Cabinet since internal self-government in 1964, his government’s performance on the gambling issue has been a collective disaster.

Nevertheless, Christie’s leading and vociferous role in this policy and political mess has likely encouraged those within his Cabinet who would rather replace him sooner rather than later.


Speaking of crocodile tears, as Christie did last week, an often telling sign that he is under the gun and/or on the losing side of an argument is that he becomes even more voluble and impassioned as he attempts to obfuscate certain facts with performance art, bluster, and often feigned hurt or sincerity, depending on the dramatic persona required.

He did so in the House, referring to those who are too stupid and blind to see certain facts, and those who are being “transparently opportunistic”.  Given Christie’s tin-ear, blinders, wholesale incompetence, collapsed credibility, dissembling and spectacularly opportunistic flip-flopping on this issue, his was not the best choice of language.

While Christie’s performance in the House last week may not be good enough for an Academy Award, it merits a nomination for a Daytime Emmy.  Unfortunately, his performance then and during the course of the current debate will not win him an award for excellence in public policy or good governance.

The very day that Christie was performing his latest flip-flop in the House, Fr. Jimmy Palacious lambasted the government’s web cafe intentions.  He lamented that this government would seek to push through a poll on gambling while women are constitutionally still unequal to men.

This is the crying shame of Perry Christie’s PLP, demonstrably quicker in seeking to secure the greed of private interests rather than the public good of the mass of Bahamians, and the equality of women.

Christie’s failure of leadership is not solely one of chronic incompetence.  More broadly and egregiously it is an outsized and shameful failure to keep faith with the Bahamian people and the demands of social justice.  No posturing, play-acting or preening by Perry Christie can obscure this sad reality.

November 20, 2012


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Constitutional Reform - pt. 13... ...I urge that the Constitutional Review Commission recommend the removal of derogation clause 4 (e) from Article 26 of the Constitution order to affirm the constitutional norm of non-discrimination ...regularize and tax the Bahamian community gaming industry ...and open casino gaming to Bahamian ownership, management ...and patronage

Constitutional Reform pt. 13

The Constitution: Gaming and discrimination


Since the early 1960s full-time casino gambling has been and remains the anchor attraction of the major touristic resorts in The Bahamas, without any major opposition from the Bahamian society either on moral or social grounds.  However, under the Lotteries and Gaming Act, 1969, Bahamian citizens, permanent residents, persons ordinarily resident in The Bahamas or persons in the employment of the government of The Bahamas, except with a special permit, are prohibited from taking part in any gaming and casinos in The Bahamas.  While there is a complete ban on Bahamians, visitors are invited to The Bahamas to patronize casinos.

Casino operators in The Bahamas, all of whom are foreign investors, receive each year a promotional cash contribution from the government, pursuant to their respective heads of agreements, to promote their resorts in which casino gaming is a core attraction.  As part of the public policy of The Bahamas, the government grants licenses to casinos, receives taxes of approximately $15 million annually from casinos and allows Bahamians to participate, through employment, in gaming activities in casinos, as croupiers, pit bosses and supervisors on behalf of the casinos.

On the other hand, to participate in gaming in The Bahamas, Bahamians must patronize illegal web shop operations, owned and operated by Bahamian entrepreneurs who risk, along with their patrons, arrest and prosecution.  However, in spite of this risk, the local web shops have proliferated throughout The Bahamas with thousands of Bahamian patrons.

The root of this discriminatory treatment of Bahamians and permanent residents is found in Article 26 (1) of the Constitution which declares that no law shall make any provision which is discriminatory either in itself or in its effect.  However, under the derogation clause of Article 26 (4) (e) it is stated that this article shall not apply to any law so far as that law makes provision “for authorizing the granting of licenses or certificates permitting the conduct of a lottery, the keeping of a gaming house or the carrying on of gambling in any of its forms subject to conditions which impose upon persons who are citizens of The Bahamas disabilities or restrictions to which other persons are not made subject”.

Therefore, the Constitution allows for disabilities or restrictions, in the area of gaming, against Bahamian citizens and permanent residents which disabilities and restrictions are not applicable to visitors and foreign investors.  The question is whether this blanket prohibition of Bahamians from gaming can be justified, on the grounds of public policy and constitutional principle, given the current support of and subsidy by the government of foreign-operated casino gaming in The Bahamas.

Prime Minister Perry Christie announced in the House of Assembly on October 31, 2012 that there will be a referendum on December 3, 2012 on one question: Do you support the legalization of web shops?  The prime minister disclosed that the question of a national lottery will not be included which, in the opinion of the London-based consultants, were not commercially viable and that the question of removing the prohibition on casino gambling for Bahamians will not be a part of the referendum.  The prime minister pledged to shut down web shops and enforce the gaming laws if there were to be a majority “no” vote.  If a majority of the votes in the referendum were to be in the affirmative, then the Gaming Board will issue licenses to those persons who meet a strict set of criteria, including possessing the necessary experience, integrity and expertise, as well as possessing the necessary financial resources and having organizational capacity and internal controls needed to operate in an efficient, responsible and transparent manner.  According to the prime minister, legalized web shops will pay a licensing fee of at least $1 million and a performance bond, annual taxes based on their revenue, contribute to the cost of implementing the new laws and regulations, create and maintain programs to protect gamblers from addiction and assist with the cost of setting up a system to rehabilitate gambling addicts.

According to The Nassau Guardian, as reported by Taneka Thompson on November 6, 2012 of an interview with Christie on the sidelines of a swearing in ceremony for North Abaco MP Renardo Curry as a parliamentary secretary, the prime minister conceded that while a referendum is not needed to regulate the gaming sector, his government will be conducting a referendum to glean public opinion on the issue, in the following quote:  “...Because there is nothing to do with amending the Constitution; this is not a constitutional referendum... I’m advised legally that all of the prerequisites that go into organizing a constitutional referendum do not apply, and so when I get the legal opinion I will publish it so people will see that all this is, is a government seeking an indication of the opinion of people.”

According to Article 52 (1) of the Constitution, Parliament may make laws for the peace, order and good government of The Bahamas.  Article 52 (2) provides that the power of Parliament to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by both houses, whether without amendment or with such amendments only as are agreed to by both houses, and assented to by the governor general in accordance with Article 63 of the Constitution.  The Privy Council in Cobb & Co. Limited and Other v. Norman Eggert Kropp (1966) 3 WLR 416 stated that, “The phrase ‘peace welfare and good government’ is one that is ‘habitually employed to denote the plenitude of sovereign legislative power, even though that power be confined to certain subjects or within certain reservations.’”  Therefore, the government, given its parliamentary majority can amend the Lotteries and Gaming Act to remove the prohibition against Bahamian participation in casino and other forms of gaming in The Bahamas.  However, given the apparently divided public opinion on this issue, the government has decided to poll the Bahamian electorate by way of referendum.

Section 2 of the Constitutional Referendum Act (1977) provides that, “For the purpose of obtaining the approval of the electors qualified to vote in an election of members of the House of Assembly with respect to a bill submitted to them, which bill seeks to alter an article of the Constitution specified in Article 54 (2) or (3) of the Constitution or any of the provisions of The Bahamas Independence Act, 1973, a vote shall be taken by way of a referendum held in accordance with this act.”  It is clear that a referendum, pursuant to the Constitutional Referendum Act, is part of a legislative process reserved to amending the articles specified in Article 54 (2) or (3) of the Constitution or the provisions of The Bahamas Independence Order.  Therefore, the proposed referendum on gambling would not fit within the legislative scheme of the Constitutional Referendum Act.

If the proposed referendum on gambling is intended to be a mere consultative or advisory referendum on the issue of whether the web shops and lotteries in The Bahamas should be legalized or not, in my opinion, there would have to be an amendment of the Constitutional Referendum Act or the passing of a new law to enable the conduct of an advisory or consultative referendum, as an advisory or consultative referendum is outside the parameters of the present Constitutional Referendum Act.   The Privy Council, in the case The Prime Minister of Belize v. The Attorney General of Belize (2010) UKPC 7, held that an amendment to the Referendum Act, which is not part of the legislative process and which does not purport to alter the deeply entrenched provisions of the Constitution, but is merely advisory or consultative, imposes no obligation on the legislature and therefore could not violate the Constitution.

On the evening of November 13, 2012 Christie, in a mature acknowledgement to the public questions and concerns raised about the process, announced that the proposed referendum had been postponed from December 3, 2012 to January 28, 2013.  The prime minister also disclosed that the postponed referendum will ask whether lotteries should be legalized, in addition to web shops.  On November 14, 2012 the government tabled a bill in the House of Assembly to amend the Constitutional Referendum Act and the Parliamentary Elections Act and provide a legal framework for the conduct of advisory or consultative referenda.

The adjusted proposal of the government, intended to achieve the limited objective of determining whether the Bahamian electorate supports the legalization of web shops and lotteries by way of an advisory or consultative referendum under the supervision of the parliamentary commissioner, will avoid controversy over the process of the referendum.

On a more substantive level, however, I urge that the Constitutional Review Commission recommend the removal of derogation clause 4 (e) from Article 26 of the Constitution, in order to affirm the constitutional norm of non-discrimination, regularize and tax the Bahamian community gaming industry and open casino gaming to Bahamian ownership, management and patronage.


• Alfred Sears is an attorney, a former member of Parliament and a former attorney general of The Bahamas.

Nov 15, 2012


Constitutional reform - pt. 12... ...I therefore recommend that Article 23 of the constitution be amended to include a specific guarantee for freedom of the press order to better protect the community’s interest in integrity in public administration ...through robust scrutiny by an independent press

Friday, November 16, 2012

...the current operation of the gaming industry in The Bahamas leaves much to be desired ...and in some ways contravenes international laws

Gaming Industry Breaking Int’l Laws

By Ianthia Smith
The Bahama Journal

As it stands now the gaming industry in the country poses many problems for the country, both nationally and in the international arena, which is why Prime Minister Perry Christie says the country must come to a decision soon as to how it will proceed with this issue.

Prime Minister Christie said the options for his government are simple: either shut down local web caf├ęs or make them legal.

He added that that decision would soon have to be made as the current operation of the gaming industry in The Bahamas leaves much to be desired and in some ways contravenes international laws.

“The web shop operators are unable to secure bank accounts for their businesses as they do not satisfy the relevant anti-money laundering rules,” he explained. “There are concerns regarding the way in which the cash generated from the business is legitimised.”

“The web shops are used to facilitate the transmission of funds between individual resident on different Islands in direct contravention of the relevant banking and anti-money laundering rules.”

The prime minister said continued operation of the web shops in the manner outlined leaves The Bahamas exposed to international scrutiny and sanctions for failure to implement anti-money laundering rules.

He added that this position is not acceptable and needs to be addressed without further delay – an issue Mr. Christie said has been ignored for too long.

The prime minister added that this is why his administration plans to put in place what he is calling grandfathering provisions that will ensure that operators run a well regulated business which provides appropriate player protection and complies with anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws.

“The grandfathering provisions will, however, provide no guarantee that a licence will be awarded,” he said.

“Rather, existing operators will have to prove that they have conducted their gaming operations with integrity and fairness towards consumers, and, moreover, that they have the financial capacity and organisational structure to meet the high regulatory standards that will be demanded of them.”

He said the licences for web shop operators would be conducted in a similar manner to the licenses issued by the Gaming Board for land based casinos, this would include the appointment of an independent board, rigorous investigation of operators and their employees and input from external regulatory consultants from outside of The Bahamas who will make a recommendation to the Gaming Board on the suitability of each applicant.

The taxation regime and level of charges for licenses for the web shops, the prime minister added would be a combination of a flat rate tax licence fees and a cash bond.

The referendum will now be held on January 28 next year.

The legal framework to make that happen will be debated next week.

16 November, 2012

Jones Bahamas