Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bishop Simeon Hall - Senior Pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church says that he welcomes the issue of regularising web shops being put to Bahamians ...in the form of a referendum

Baptist Bishop Supports Regularising Web Shops- Town Hall Meeting On Gambling Tonight




By Korvell Pyfrom
The Bahama Journal


As the government gears up to hold a referendum to further explore regularising the web shop industry, a leading pastor said he welcomes the issue being put to Bahamians in the form of a referendum.

New Covenant Baptist Church Senior Pastor Bishop Simeon Hall said although it is the Church’s position to oppose any steps toward immorality, he has formed a pragmatic position on the issue of regularising web shops.

Bishop Hall said that the reality is that the practice has been happening for years and by not regularising the industry, the government continues to lose millions of dollars in revenue annually.

“Mostly, the people who gamble are those already marginalised with chronic financial and social problems. Yet, I believe the government is correct in seeking to regularise this industry and all that is involved in this trade should be exposed,” Bishop Hall said.

Bishop Hall said that even though the church and the government may have opposing views on the issue, dialogue between the two must continue and he added that both sides have very compelling reasons for their positions.

“I believe that the church’s position is clear. What do you expect the church to say other than we are against it? In principal most clergy people would be against it,” he said. “But it is a multifaceted approach on the one hand, the church is saying we are against it, but on the other hand, we recognise that government cannot just allow these practices and this industry to go on without collecting some form of tax or revenue from it.”

“I believe it is right for the government to put the issue out to the Bahamian people to see where we stand. Both the government and web shop owners have a responsibility to educate the Bahamian people on all sides about gambling. Gambling in our Bahamas is as common as conch fritters. There are some Bahamians who will continue to gamble regardless of what the outcome of the proposed referendum would be. The government is in a tenable position to regularise this multi-million dollar enterprise.”

Bishop Hall will moderate a town hall meeting on the issue of regularising web shops at New Covenant Baptist Church on East-West Highway tonight at 7:30.

Panelists will include Pastor Cedric Moss, Gaming Board Chairman Dr. Andre Rollins, Attorney Wallace Rolle and Free National Movement (FNM) Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner.

Members of the public are invited to attend.

31 July, 2012

Jones Bahamas

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Gambling Referendum Debate: ...Ed Fields - Kerzner International senior vice president says that he agrees with Baha Mar vice president - Robert Sands on casino gambling for Bahamians should not be rushed... ...the focus should be on liberalising the “numbers business” first

'Numbers First, Before Casinos'


By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMIANS should focus on liberalising the “numbers business” first before attempting to addressing the issue of casino gambling, according to Ed Fields, Kerzner International senior vice president.

While he noted it was also an “overdue” issue, Mr Fields said he sided with Baha Mar vice president Robert Sands that casino gambling should not be rushed.

“We need to go down that road, whether we’re going down it two months from now or three months, we should be doing it.

“It should be a basic question on do you agree with liberalizing gambling for Bahamians,” he said. “Now once that question is answered then the powers that be can start examining what we should be doing (next). Let’s legalize it, let’s tax the heck out of it, let’s take some of those tax dollars and put it to helping people who might have an addiction, let’s take the money and put it into education and arts and culture.”

The contentious debate over whether or not the country should liberalize “web shop” gaming and establish a national lottery has stormed since it was announced that the longstanding issue would be put to a referendum before the end of the year.

There has also been criticism of the scope of the proposed referendum, with former prime minister Hubert Ingraham stating that the referendum should address gaming in its entirety.

The Bahamas Christian Council has accused the government of rushing a gambling referendum, while some local pastors have called for all gambling participation – including the participation of tourists in casinos – to be outlawed.

While he said he could not comment on the referendum’s timeline, Mr Fields said a resolution on the issue was “long overdue”.

“We took literally 50 years to get to where we are today with the institution of Bahamians not being allowed to gamble in casinos. We can’t just overnight change that paradigm without there being some ramifications. So I ‘m supportive of it but I think it’s something that we have to take one step at a time.”

“Liberalizing the numbers business,” he said, “is something we are doing now and so let’s get that off the plate and then we can have a discussion about casino gambling in terms of how you qualify to gamble.”

In response to claims that liberalisation would engender a rise in addiction and other social ills, Mr Fields said that taxes would provide funding for counselling and related help.

“Not everyone who gambles is addicted to gambling, it’s a small percentage like every other activity, sex, shopping, eating, not everyone is a kleptomaniac,” he said.

“Right now as I speak there is zero dollars that is being committed to counselling people who are addicted to gambling, so let’s just assume that there are a number of people who are addicted to gambling, well if we were taxing the numbers business or the gambling business then we could allocate a percentage of that to counselling and helping.

He added: “It cant be worse than what we have now.”

July 30, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Urban Renewal and its success benefits the entire society ...and so every effort has to be made to involve, structurally, civil society ...so that it remains at all times a project of, for and by the Bahamian people ...says - Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development ...the Hon. Philip Davis

By Eric Rose
Bahamas Information Services



DPM Davis Gives Update On Urban Renewal Commission

NASSAU, The Bahamas – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development the Hon. Philip Davis told the House of Assembly, on July 25, 2012, that, within the first 30 days following the 2012 General Election, Community Policing was returned to ‘Urban Renewal’ in New Providence working out of established Urban Renewal Centres and, within 45 days, Community Policing was returned to ‘Urban Renewal’ in Grand Bahama.

“Within 60 days the Urban Renewal Commission was established and the Co-Chairs of the Commission announced and presented to the Nation,” Deputy Prime Minister Davis said, during his Communication in the House.

“Dr. Cynthia ‘Mother’ Pratt and Mr. Algernon Allen have graciously agreed to serve as Co-Chairpersons of the Urban Renewal Commission.

“They have begun their work, recently traveling to Freeport for the official launch of the Commission’s work in Grand Bahama when we were all happily joined by the creator of the first Urban Renewal effort a decade ago and its continuing biggest booster, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister (Perry G. Christie)."

Deputy Prime Minister Davis added that the Chairpersons of the Urban Renewal Commission bring their “outstanding and unique talents and history to this critical programme”.

“Urban Renewal is first and foremost about ‘caring’. Both of these eminent persons have exhibited a life of service,” he said.

Dr. Pratt’s life, Deputy Prime Minister Davis added, is legendary, first from her own struggles growing up, to how she approached each impediment not as a problem but rather as a challenge to accomplish something good, resulting in her own incredible achievements in sports, academics, politics, civil society and in her faith community.

He said she assisted “literally hundreds” of young people with no hope of an academic career, finding the possibility through the combination of her helping hand and their ambition and hard work, permitting them to secure university education – with many going on to achieving doctorates in many disciplines.

“Cynthia Pratt is truly a remarkable woman and a woman who always chose to look at what was possible rather than the negatives,” Deputy Prime Minister Davis said. “She brings this dedication, dynamism and sensitivity to the needs of her fellow citizens who live in the areas encompassed by the Urban Renewal Centres as her responsibility in this new venture.”

Deputy Prime Minister Davis added that Mr. Algernon Allen, too, comes from a similar challenged background.

“He is one who set out to achieve in his profession in the law and in the political life of our Bahamas,” Deputy Prime Minister Davis said. “He acknowledges that he remains a ‘political son’ to his mentor, Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, while he is a ‘philosophical brother’ to (Prime Minister) Perry Christie.

“Mr. Allen will be particularly remembered for his work in the ‘ONE BAHAMAS’ campaign and for his efforts to promote projects designed to provide for the needs of young people, those ‘precious jewels’ of The Bahamas.”

He added that the Permanent Secretaries of the "social" Ministries and other Ministries necessary to ensure the proper co-ordination of Government resources required to bring relief to citizens in need are members of the Commission, so that there is no lapse in communication.

“Urban Renewal is at the core of this Government’s Social Mission and every effort is being developed to ensure that there is never any doubt on the part of any agencies of the Government of this dedication,” he said.

The eight members of the Commission who are to be selected by “civil society” are expected to be named shortly, Deputy Prime Minister Davis added. The Co-Chairpersons of the Commission are now in the process of extending the formal invitations to nominate persons to serve, he said.

He added: “The intention here is very simple: Urban Renewal and its success benefits the entire society and so every effort has to be made to involve, structurally, civil society so that it remains at all times a project of, for and by The Bahamian people.”

July 26, 2012

Bahamas.gov.bs

Friday, July 27, 2012

The decision by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) to oppose the 2002 referendum to end constitutional discrimination against women was defended by Prime Minister Perry Christie

PM defends PLP’s position on failed 2002 referendum


By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
taneka@nasguard.com


Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday defended a decision made by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) to oppose a 2002 referendum meant to end constitutional discrimination against women.

The failed referendum, which was held in February 2002, was introduced by the Ingraham administration and included six questions. It was strongly opposed by the PLP, the opposition party at the time.

The new Christie administration on Wednesday committed to bringing another referendum to the public to alter portions of the constitution that discriminate against women.

When asked why his administration planned to hold the referendum when it opposed similar changes a decade ago, Christie said the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) was not fundamentally against ending gender discrimination.

He said at the time the party sided with members of the religious community who said the government did not consult them about the proposed changes.

“We opposed last time on a specific ground,” Christie told reporters on the sidelines of a conclave for parliamentarians at the British Colonial Hilton.

“I went to the Seventh Day Adventist annual gathering. I remember the then leader of the Seventh Day Adventist [Church] saying they weren’t consulted and that because they weren’t consulted they couldn’t’ participate.

“I then checked and found out that all of the churches were saying they weren’t consulted, and I went to my colleagues and said, for the purposes of the lack of consultation, we must oppose this unless [then Prime Minister Hubert] Ingraham decides to stop it and consult, and he didn’t and that is how we got to do it.”

When asked by The Nassau Guardian if the PLP’s stance against the 2002 referendum was a setback to women, Christie said, ‘No.’

He added: “I think the PLP’s opposition to the referendum was that you should never do something against the will of the people, and the FNM was actually acting against the will of the people.

“It was not a question of a judgment as to the substance of it; it was a judgment of the process. We attacked the process and we were successful in attacking the process.

“Now the by-product of it was that you say it wasn’t passed. Yes, it wasn’t passed, but we were never motivated against any issue on the referendum.  We were motivated against the fact that it was being imposed on the Bahamian people against their will.”

On Wednesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell said that Article 26 and the preamble to Article 15 of the constitution would have to be changed if the referendum is passed.

Mitchell did not say exactly when the referendum would be held, but said the PLP intends to hold it before the end of its five-year term.

The government also plans to call a referendum on gambling before the end of the year.

During the election campaign, the PLP said it would also hold a referendum on oil drilling if it were voted into office.

July 27, 2012

thenassauguardian

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The political victimizer​s of my life...

By Dennis Dames:



We are indeed living in some seriously interesting times in The Bahamas, where chief political victimizers like Hubert Alexander Ingraham and his band of political yes men and women – now find themselves in the victims’ seat.
I am one of those Bahamians who have politically and socially been unmercifully victimized all of my adult life; starting from the days of the C.C. Sweeting students’ revolt of 1983.  I was scorned under the Pindling years to the point of being turned down for every opportunity in which I attempted to take advantage of in the public domain.  Thanks to good Bahamian people who rescued me along the way.

I was severely victimized and blacklisted under the Hubert Ingraham Free National Movement (FNM) – because of my unrelenting support of Floyd Watkins - the party’s Delaporte standard bearer (whom Ingraham hated for personal reasons) from 1989-2002.
Then, I am clearly too outspoken for a Hubert Ingraham; so he hates me double. 

His friends do not like Dennis Dames.  In fact, some of Ingraham’s pals abhor me so much, that they have boldly told many folks that yours truly will never be anything of value in the country of his birth.
It’s the FNM’s victimization that hurts the most to me, because it’s the party that I have dutifully supported all of my voting life and a number of years before it.

I have been employed with the Urban Renewal Program since October 2008 after months of agonizing efforts to join the team; thanks to Tommy and Dion for having mercy on me.
My experience on the job with the FNM version of Urban Renewal was an unpleasant one, because of the wickedness and evil acts against me by my colleagues; most of whom are close friends and cohorts of King Hubert.  I know that the good reports in my personnel files are totally different from what was secretly written and spoken about me to those in high places. 

God is not asleep!
The government has changed in May, and many of the plotters are now on the streets; and yes – this Bahamian is still standing - despite all the evil that was worked on me to date; especially by FNMs.

So, if they denied Hubert the opportunity to say goodbye in the House of Assembly – I say that’s good for his hip!  Take that!  How does it feel - sir?

Web shop owners do not intend to get in to a fight with local church leaders over the impending gambling referendum ...says Sebas Bastian of the “We Care Coalition”

Web shops ‘not in war with churches


By Candia Dames
Guardian Lifestyles Reporter
candia@nasguard.com


Web shop owners are not in a war with local churches and do not intend to fight them in the lead-up to the gambling referendum expected by year’s end, said Sebas Bastian, the spokesman for the “We Care Coalition”.

“In any talks with the church that we may have had or tried to have, it was only to form a working relationship should the business become legal,” said Bastian, owner of Island Luck.

“Together we can work and deal with any kind of social issues.  It’s not in any way to gain the support of the church.  The church is the church and should be the church.

“We shouldn’t expect them to campaign with us, agree with us, or whatever.”

Bastian said yesterday that the coalition of web shop owners respects the right of the church to its position, as well as the right of all Bahamians to their views on gambling.

“It’s a democratic country,” he noted.  “People have their freedom to speak and ‘We Care’ has utmost respect for religious leaders.”

Bastian added, “We may be on two opposing beliefs on the issue, but in the end we share the same value.  I might say let’s legalize it to help others.  They are saying let’s not legalize it to help others.  But in the end we’re both trying to help and that’s the way it should be perceived.”

Bastian said the referendum will not be a vote for the web shops, the church or any political party.

“It’s a vote for a Bahamian citizen to express his democratic right to choose what he or she wants to do in their country,” he said.

“So you’re not supporting anyone by voting or not voting.  You’re only supporting yourself.  I’m pretty sure that if a government disrupts a country to deal with an issue of such great debate, they have a plan in place that will be entirely to benefit the country at large.”

Bastian said We Care has not yet seen the plan.  He also said the country appears to be wasting too much time on the gambling issue when there are more critical issues that need to be addressed.

“I would rather the [members of the] public spend a lot of time trying to be their brother’s keeper, and let’s go out there and try to help a lot of these inner city kids get back to school and focus on more important things,” he said.

Bastian said it is important that Bahamians be educated on the importance of moderation — and not just as it relates to numbers.

He said the coalition intends to stay in the background during the gambling debate, although it plans to release information from time to time.

“We are not going to campaign for a vote because a vote in the upcoming referendum is not a vote for We Care,” Bastian stressed.  “It’s a vote for your democratic right to choose.”

Asked about the $1.5 million the coalition has committed to education and community initiatives, he said web shops have long been quietly supporting various national development programs and will continue to do so.

The government has not yet provided details on how a legalized numbers industry would work.

Prime Minister Perry Christie has said that if Bahamians vote against legalizing gambling, the government would strictly enforce the law.

According to Bastian, web shops employ approximately 3,000 Bahamians.

July 25, 2012

thenassauguardian

Monday, July 23, 2012

Carlton Francis was right when he said gambling was no way to develop a new nation... ...previous political, community and church leaders have failed Bahamians by introducing gambling in The Bahamas... says Bishop Cedric Moss - senior pastor at the Kingdom Life Church

Pastors Calling For All Gambling To Be Outlawed





By KHRISNA VIRGIL and  RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporters
kvirgil@tribunemedia.net



AS the Bahamas Christian Council hits out at the government for rushing a gambling referendum, some local pastors are taking it one step further and calling for all gambling participation – including the participation of tourists in casinos – to be outlawed.

Bishop Cedric Moss, senior pastor at the Kingdom Life Church, has joined the debate on the legalisation of gambling and given it a new twist.

Speaking to The Big T, Bishop Moss said that civic and religious leaders failed the country when they allowed casino gambling to be introduced in 1973.

“Carlton Francis was right when he said gambling was no way to develop a new nation,” he said, adding that he believed “previous leaders and church leaders failed us by introducing gambling in our country.”

Bishop Moss said: “Bahamians are not hurt by gambling. Tourists are hurt by gambling. They are financially raped by casinos. I am saddened that we loose casinos on them to harm them and their families.”

Speaking about the effects of gambling, he said: “You just have to Google and see the negative effects gambling has on cities like Atlantic City which allow gambling. Bahamians gambling has a different affect on the Bahamas than tourists gambling in the Bahamas. What Bahamians don’t realise is that many tourists who gamble in our casinos don’t want casinos in their cities.”

“The government has ignored the church on this issue since 1973. We are opposed to all forms of gambling, including numbers and casino gambling. I think we should think thoughtfully on how we could legally bring casino gambling to a close. It was a bad decision in the beginning. To let Bahamians gamble in casinos would be another bad decision.”

Another pastor, Rev Rex Major, said casino gambling is undesirable for the country.

“The remarks by Carlton Francis during the voting on the Opposition’s resolution in condemning the government’s casino policy should set the tone for our national priorities,” he said.

“At that time, Mr Francis reminded the Parliamentarians and the nation that he thought that as a new nation, the country should first aspire for certain other qualities rather than dollars and cents value. Gambling encourages a reckless parasitic approach to life—in which one human fleeces another with no genuine personal regard for his neighbour’s welfare.”

Rev Matthew Allen, senior pastor at the Kingdom Minded Fellowship Centre International, said that while he is against gambling, he also disapproves of the hypocrisy religious leaders have exhibited.

“It’s pathetic, nauseating listening to the religious leaders of today trying to scripturally justify their opposition to gambling, whereas it’s some of these very same religious leaders who are called upon to say the opening prayer and pronounce blessing upon various resorts and casinos. How hypocritical could one be?”

Meanwhile, the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) is hitting out at the government for focusing on gambling legislation at a time when the country is facing so many pressing national issues.

BCC president Rev Ranford Patterson said yesterday that reducing crime and focusing on the country’s economy should be priorities for the Christie administration, and not seeking to expedite a gambling vote which would cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

His words came amid public speculation about the driving force behind the government’s urgency to see referendum plans through to completion. Controversy has also surrounded the level of its thoroughness, as Bahamians having the right to gamble in casinos has been dismissed.

“We are opposed to gambling in this country in any capacity. I believe there are so many more pressing issues that need our attention along with social ills. I always hear people speak about this $40 million to be gained by the numbers business, but I am of the firm belief that we would need to spend more on law enforcement to police this thing properly.

“Do you know how many people would spend all they had to gamble? Social Services would need more resources to help people. The Christian Council is here to present the fact and people should be made aware of implications as a result of making this thing legal,” Rev Patterson said.

Two weeks ago, a Baha Mar executive told The Tribune that in his view Bahamians have not matured enough to be permitted to gamble in local casinos.

Robert “Sandy” Sands, senior vice-president of external and governmental affairs at Baha Mar, said that while he supports regularising number houses, he is not an advocate of Bahamians being allowed to gamble in casinos.

“I am a strong advocate of limited relaxation for Bahamians gambling in casinos. I believe the government should examine the opportunity for high net worth for persons who can verify their ability to sustain gambling for limited periods like over a month or something like that.

“I support gambling for persons who come on short-term work permits, especially in the entertainment business.

“I also support gambling for persons of high net worth who have permanent residency in the country and people with second homes,” he said.

“However, I do not support opening the floodgates totally. We are not a disciplined enough community. I understand rights, but there are some rights we have to take away from individuals for their own benefit. We have to find the balance and even with the liberalisation of the number houses there might be an opportunity where numbers may be able to be purchased through a window at the casino. But no, I do not support Bahamians gambling in the casino.”

On Thursday, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham criticised the government for not giving Bahamians the opportunity to decide whether they should participate in casino gambling.

“The public of the Bahamas ought to have a right to decide whether they want to gamble in the casino or not,” he said.

July 20, 2012


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The gambling referendum debate: ...Current government position of not considering casino and other forms of gaming ownership ...and participation for Bahamian residents falls far short of my expectation ...says Sidney Strachan - former Bahamas Gaming Reform (BGR) leader

Gambling Argument Flawed, Says Advocate


By Sasha Lightbourne
The Bahama Journal


A former Bahamas Gaming Reform (BGR) leader said that the gambling argument is flawed and may not benefit the government once a referendum is called.

In a press statement, Sidney Strachan argued that the church may have the “upper hand” on the gambling issue.

“Current government position of not considering casino and other forms of gaming ownership and participation for Bahamian residents falls far short of my expectation,” he said.

“The BGR has long proffered that Bahamians are treated as third class citizens in their own country. To say only current players will be allowed to be owners in the ‘Numbers game’ go against free enterprise in any democratic society. The Bahamas government, in my opinion, is being disingenuous in stating it proposes to regularise gaming in its current form.”

Mr. Strachan said many of the gaming representatives who are agitating for gambling to be regularised will experience many challenges operating in a legal environment based on current gaming regulations.

“Additionally, I envision many legal, copyright and regulatory challenges for the operators and The Bahamas Government if the ‘numbers’ business is legally allowed in its current form,” he added.

“In these instances, illegal operations were ordered to come to a complete stop and licences were granted to applicants based on their ability to obtain such licences. However, in some instances some large scale illegal gaming continued. Under the current online gaming ‘numbers’ system, I envision many obstacles to having this formally instituted in its present form. The platitudes from some of our leaders can only serve to placate number bosses while pulling the wool over Bahamian eyes once again.”

Addressing the efforts of the newly formed ‘We Care’ group, Mr. Strachan indicated that current gaming owners are making critical mistakes in lobbying on their own behalf and it will prove to be a “blight and a clear conflict of interest” on the government.

“It is in poor judgment and taste and even if we were to obtain this partial gaming victory it will be a negative reflection on how we conduct business in The Bahamas,” Mr. Strachan continued.

“Make no mistake; I support regularisation of ‘numbers’ and hold that the good vs. evil argument is ridiculous. However, anything short of opening up gaming completely to allow all Bahamian residents to be owners and players can never be a complete victory.”

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis told the Bahama Journal Wednesday that his party will stick to having the referendum before the end of the year and that Mr. Christie is expected to come to the public soon with all the details.

“The prime minister will be making an announcement very shortly,” Mr. Davis said at the time.
“Mr. Christie’s announcement could come as early as next week, I’m not sure, but I know that as of now he is ready to go to the nation to explain the way forward and to set the framework for the referendum to be held.”

There has been much public debate surrounding the legalisation of gambling over of the past few weeks, so much so, that the contentious issue has even divided the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC).

The BCC has said it is “diametrically opposed” to gambling, however, Mt. Calvary Baptist Pastor Dr. Philip McPhee believes there are benefits to be derived from its legalisation.

He recently held a discussion with several other pastors and the proprietors of numbers houses.
Despite his stance, the pastor says has never gambled and does not intend to change, even if the law changes.

The Mount Calvary Baptist pastor’s stance on gambling shocked many in the religious sector who questioned why a clergyman would support the illegal trade.

While shying away from getting involved in the back and forth, head of the local Roman Catholic Church Archbishop Patrick Pinder reiterated his church’s position yesterday, which is, that it does not support the legalisation of gambling.

July 20, 2012

The Bahama Journal

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The referendum is about whether or not we have a national lottery ...whether or not we legalize the web shop gambling ...Full stop. ...It’s not about whether Bahamians gamble in casinos,” ...says Prime Minister Perry Christie

Taking it to the people


Casino question to be absent from ballot, but heavy considerations loom



By Candia Dames
Guardian News Editor
candia@nasguard.com



The government may be making a bold move in putting the controversial gambling question to the people, but it is not prepared to go the whole hog and possibly reverse a decades old discriminatory law that prohibits Bahamians from gambling in local casinos.

Although Prime Minister Perry Christie had previously made it clear that casino gambling will not be up for consideration when a referendum is held, some people still appeared surprised to hear him repeat it last week.

“The referendum is about whether or not we have a national lottery, whether or not we legalize the web shop gambling. Full stop. It’s not about whether Bahamians gamble in casinos,” Christie said.

There were those who questioned the logic behind the government’s decision to leave this discriminatory law as is, but instead allow Bahamians to vote on whether to legalize numbers houses and establish a national lottery.

As the government prepares to encapsulate the complexities of the gambling issue into perhaps a few simply worded questions, the age-old debate on gambling is already reaching fever pitch.

Church leaders are doing battle; numbers bosses have formed a coalition and pledged money for an education campaign; talk show hosts and journalists can’t seem to get away from the topic and everyday citizens are debating the issue on the streets, in bars, restaurants, on editorial pages and everywhere else.

A referendum on gambling was inevitable no matter who won the recent general election, as the Progressive Liberal Party, the Free National Movement and the Democratic National Alliance all promised to put the question to the people.

Just how widespread illegal gambling operations are is unknown.

Back in 2006, Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe reported that there were at least 45 illegal gambling houses in New Providence and 12 in Grand Bahama, and 60 percent of the population was spending anywhere from $1.8 million to $2 million locally and abroad on games of chance each week.

Kenyatta Gibson, who at the time was chairman of the Gaming Board, reported that The Florida Lottery had conservatively estimated that Bahamians playing the Florida Lottery were spending US$100 million every year.

It is not clear whether ahead of the 2012 referendum the government will make public in very specific details how a legalized gambling industry would work, or wait to provide such details if a majority of voters vote in favor of legalization.

The opinions of members of government are also unclear as the government seems determined to remain neutral, at least for now.

When the Ingraham administration revealed in 2010 that it was considering legalizing the numbers business, Christie, who at the time was leader of the Official Opposition, said the PLP’s parliamentary caucus did not have a formal position on the matter.

“The Opposition has always up to this point treated gambling as it did with capital punishment where it’s a vote of conscience...We have members who are church members in a meaningful way in our grouping in the PLP, who I know flatly will support the position of the church and there are others who will take a different point of view,” he advised.

All that is clear now is there will be a referendum at some point and that casino gambling will not be on the ballot.

Historical perspective

Gambling has existed in The Bahamas “for forever”, in the words of former parliamentarian George Smith, who said the law that still prohibits Bahamians from gambling in local casinos is steeped in racism.

“When they thought of putting casinos in prior to 1967 we have to remember that many of the tourists who came to The Bahamas at the time came from segregated states in the United States where people of the different races didn’t comingle, and when they came here there were segregated hotels,” Smith explained.

“Blacks couldn’t go in the British Colonial at one point and there were hotels, over-the-hill hotels, boarding hotels where blacks went.

“…Primarily at the time it was not about keeping the tourists separate from the high-end, wealthy Bahamian or the senior British and other civil servants or foreign people working for the hotels and other work permit holders.

“They didn’t really have them in mind but they couldn’t well say ‘Okay, we’re going to have a policy where the average Bahamian couldn’t gamble, but the Bahamian from the Eastern Road could’.  So they said, no Bahamian, no resident, no work permit holder.  It was reflected in the gaming and lotteries legislation.  So that was the genesis of the policy.”

Smith opined that the time has long passed to do away with the discriminatory legislation like the law against casino gambling for Bahamians.

“We have to address it,” he told The Nassau Guardian.

“Now when we talk about what kind of society we want, we have to decide whether in 2013 (the 40th anniversary of our independence) we want a society that still permits a facility of this country that nationals of the country cannot enjoy.

“If we want an enlightened nation, then we have to approach these things with the facts up front and we cannot say that if we have lottery in The Bahamas or legalize the numbers business it’s going to cause crime, that prostitution is going to go up.  There is no evidence to support this.”

He noted that the constitution has a savings clause that saved into law all acts that were in existence prior to July 10, 1973.  The gaming legislation was one of those acts that were saved.

The gambling debate, as noted, is not a new one.

In a December 20, 1974 position paper titled “A Christian response to the proposal of the Bahamas Government to assume control of the ownership of casino gambling operations in The Bahamas”, Pastor Rex Major took a detailed look at the issue and laid out a case for why gambling goes against Christian principles.

His position is not unlike that being taken today by many clergymen.

Major pointed out that on November 28, 1974 the Pindling government announced on the floor of the House of Assembly its intention to assume ownership and control of casinos in The Bahamas as of January 1976.

Major argued that the philosophy of casino gambling denies the ideals of a new nation.  The Bahamas at the time was just over one year old as an independent nation.

He further opined that gambling condones a lifestyle in which economic considerations are more important than moral ones.

“Gambling encourages a reckless parasitic approach to life in which one human fleeces another with no genuine personal regard for his neighbor’s welfare,” he wrote.

Major wrote that it is “not morally right to fleece foreign brothers so that our coffers can be full, by allowing them to pursue a course of action within our nation, which we deem demeaning for our own people.

“Such an attitude denies the genuine principle of the Christian faith that each of us has a responsibility to allow only the best and noblest for our fellow creatures…To promote casino gambling, therefore, as is intended, is to promote an exploitation of the worst kind.”

He also wrote that the expansion of casino gambling was an act of “blatant hypocrisy” when one looked at the position of “seemingly alert and concerned leaders” relative to the numbers racket.

Over the decades, casino taxes have been an important source of revenue for the Bahamas government.

Prime Minister Christie announced recently that a new casino will open in Bimini in December and will provide 300 new jobs.

Enforcement

While Bahamians cannot legally gamble in local casinos, many are gambling online already in the comfort of their homes, and many web shops have a casino style element.

While opponents of gambling dismiss the enforcement argument as a lame excuse to push for legalization, it is not possible for the government to stop Bahamians who want to do so from gambling.

Prime Minister Christie, however, has promised that the laws against gambling would be strictly enforced should a majority of Bahamian voters say “no” to legalization.

A commitment to enforcement of course has huge implications.

Assuming the political will exists, the police would have to find the necessary resources to crack down on these illegal operations and the police themselves — who following the government’s lead have for many years turned a blind eye to illegality — will have to find the will to enforce the law.

Additionally, several thousand people would be out of work, thereby worsening unemployment, and that would have a trickle down effect.

It is doubtful the Christie administration would have the political will to strictly enforce the laws by shutting down illegal operations and putting so many people out of work.

Advancements in technology create further challenges for enforcement.

Views

While casino gambling will not be on the ballot, owners and operators of the few existing legally operating casinos in The Bahamas have been careful not to wade too far in the gambling debate.

But they are not fearful when it comes to expressing their views.

President and Managing Director of Kerzner International Bahamas Ltd. George Markantonis said the Paradise Island property is obviously conducting its operation according to the country’s laws.

Markantonis said, “We’d be delighted if there was a method to allow locals to participate in games of chance in the casinos, but realize that there are reasons why the rules are in place today. So we will wait and see what shows up in a national referendum and what the public debate leads to in the future.”

Asked if having locals gamble in the Paradise Island casino would be good for business, he noted that it would be beneficial for the company.

Baha Mar executive Robert Sands advocates limited relaxations of casino gambling regulations, although he did not go into great detail when he spoke with The Nassau Guardian.

“I believe that gaming regulations as written today do not put The Bahamas in a very competitive position and require a major overhaul if we are to level the playing field certainly in The Bahamas and be competitive with other jurisdictions…in North American and Europe and Asia,” Sands added.

Although the government will not have to consider the implications of Bahamians gambling in casinos — at least not this time around — establishing a national lottery and properly structuring a legal numbers industry would require great effort on the government’s behalf.

A “yes” vote would be just an initial step ahead of the real work; a “no” vote could strain the government’s commitment on the enforcement question.

July 16, 2012

thenassauguardian

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Urban Renewal 2.0 is bigger than politics ...and for it to work effectively it has to be “above politics” ... says Prime Minister Perry Christie

Renewal 'Bigger Than Politics'

 


By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport  Reporter
dmaycock@tribunemedia.net


FREEPORT - Prime Minister Perry Christie says Urban Renewal 2.0 is bigger than politics and for it to work effectively it has to be “above politics”.

“Our politics must always take second place to the essential issue of moving the Bahamas forward,” Mr Christie said on Wednesday at the official launch of the programme in Grand Bahama at the Hilton Outten Convention Centre.

 Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis, and other cabinet ministers, including National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage, Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna-Martin, and Labour Minister Shane Gibson were also present.

Mr Christie expressed his complete confidence in the appointment of Algernon Allen, former FNM Cabinet minister, and Cynthia “Mother” Pratt, former PLP Deputy Prime Minister, to head the Urban Renewal commission.

He said both are distinguished Bahamians who have a feel for people and who have the capacity to rise above politics.

“As Prime Minister, I have to call on the all the people regardless of their politics. The MPs in Grand Bahama all of them should understand that it is bigger than them.  

“We are all in transition and this is about establishing a culture in this country where young men know that if they walk into somebody’s house and rape or try to rape, they will be caught and they will be severely punished.

“This is the reason why in our selection for the leaders of the Urban Renewal commission, we chose two distinguish Bahamians – Algernon Allen, a former minister in the FNM government, is that he has demonstrated in a public capacity a feel for people, and young people in this country.

“And co-leader, Cynthia Pratt, who served as DPM, brings to this mission an incredible feel for people and one, who I think, like Algernon, has the capacity to rise above politics.”

In his remarks, Mr Allen said he comes “as a spiritual son of Sir Cecil Wallace-Whitfield, but also a philosophical brother of Prime Minister Perry Christie.”  

He said that Urban Renewal is about changing lives – transforming a home, a street, and a community and uplifting those in need.

“This will be above politics. We send a clarion call to all to join us,” Mr Allen said.

July 19, 2012

Tribune242

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

...the legalisation of gambling would be followed by a push for gay marriage in the country, ...says Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson - President of Bahamas Christian Council (BCC)

Council Using Scare Tactics


By Rogan Smith
The Bahama Journal


Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Rev. Dr. Ranford Patterson has warned that the legalisation of gambling would be followed by a push for gay marriage in the country, but according to a popular clergyman, such claims are just “scare tactics.”

Mount Calvary Baptist Cathedral pastor, Dr. Philip McPhee said legalising gambling would not create such a domino effect.

“That’s a scare tactic,” he said. “We stand squarely against gay marriages. There’s a difference between gambling and gay marriage. The Bible speaks about family life. The Bible does not say anything detrimental against gambling. All who use their interpretations let them produce it.”

“But, the Bible is clear on a man and a woman. The Bible speaks about homosexuality. In its clearest sense the Bible talks about family life. Those things are not under the cover. You can’t have a child with two men or two women. The Bible says ‘I will make you the father of nations.’ How can you be the father of nations when you can’t produce a seed?”

Dr. McPhee and the Christian Council have been at odds over the controversial gambling issue.
The government has promised to hold a referendum before the end of the year so that Bahamians can decide if they want gambling legalised.

The Council has said that it is “diametrically opposed” to its legalisation.

However, in an interview with the Bahama Journal yesterday Dr. McPhee said the Bible gives no “clear, outward statement” on gambling.

He says the gambling issue has “awakened the church from its deep slumber.”

“This situation has brought new life to the church. [Now that] the church has awakened out of its deep slumber since the aroma has so enticed them to smell the fragrance of true liberty [I hope] that they will not be silent on issues that are so important to the future development of our nation,” he said.

“I see the issue of gambling as a minor issue facing this country and the times that we’ve spent talking about it and the excitement it has brought really makes you want to ask the question, where have they [the Council] been all of these years?”

During the interview Dr. McPhee addressed the controversy over his recent comments where he called on Bahamians to consider the benefits of legalising the numbers business.

The Mount Calvary Baptist pastor and several other clergymen recently met with the We Care Coalition – which includes the proprietors of several numbers houses – to hear about the positives that could be derived from gambling.

For the record, he maintains that he does not gamble and won’t start even if it is legalised.
In the aftermath of that meeting, however, he was heavily criticised.

Dr. McPhee said he never expected that level of backlash and said the hullabaloo was “not called for.”
“My meeting was for information only. It was not to persuade anybody to change their feelings about anything. I felt like we ought to know because it was in that meeting that I discovered so many things that I did not know,” he said.

“I was of the impression, in one instance, that I thought the [average] person was [spending] $40, $50 and $100 on numbers a day. We found out that it’s $0.10, $0.25 and $0.50. We had a misinterpretation about this. We were told that these people came and spent their whole wages, that’s not true. It’s misinformation and that’s why it’s important that you get the true information.”

The outspoken pastor says he understands why so many pastors are opposed to gambling.
“There are vices that come along with gambling that they are very much concerned about, but there are vices with everything in life,” he said.

“I am of the opinion that maybe because Philip McPhee brought it to light and brought the people together [the controversy ensued]. Maybe if somebody else from that group had done it, it may not have been an issue. But, maybe because it’s [coming from] a Bain Town preacher Over-the-Hill that might be one of the reasons. I’m not sure there would have been such major opposition if somebody else had brought We Care together in their church and presented their views on that they may not have reacted in such a major way.”

Pastors Lyall Bethel, Allan Lee, Cedric Moss, Dr. Myles Munroe, Mario Moxey, Alfred Stewart recently wrote a joint letter to the editor where they explained that the church does not support a national lottery.

“After speaking with several of the pastors who attended the meeting organised by McPhee, it is clear that they were unwittingly used to promote the cause of the gambling coalition and McPhee,” the group of pastors said.

“One pastor stated that they were ‘bamboozled’ and ‘tricked’ by the whole procedure and regrets that he was used in this way. The meeting was advertised as a face-to-face meeting with web shop owners, where pastors could make the church’s position against gambling clear.”

Dr. McPhee says the way the group of pastors went about conveying their message was done in “poor taste.”

“They jumped the gun and pastors should not jump guns. They should get full information; they should research before they come out shooting with knowing the effect of what they’re doing,” he said.

“I thought they were men that I respected and when I saw it I was very disappointed especially in Allan Lee who was a friend. I thought he allowed some things to happen and he was a part of it. I approached him, I spoke to him, he later apologised he said when he looked at it from a biblical perspective that they were wrong.”

He continued, “The five or six pastors who signed it are all pastors of leading churches in this country. When they speak the nation listens to them but I want them to know that the pastor who pastors Mount Calvary in Bain Town also speaks and some listen to me. It’s not a matter of me trying to start a war because certainly I don’t want to do that; we don’t need a war in the Christian faith…but you don’t kill your brother just to get some kind of recognition in the papers.”

The group of pastors has since apologised for the way it went about criticising Dr. McPhee.

18 July, 2012

Jones Bahamas

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Official Opposition Leader - Dr. Hubert Minnis on Prime Minister Perry Christie’s claim ...that the highly anticipated referendum on gambling hinges on a North Abaco by-election

Minnis Criticses Referendum Delay



By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
dsmith@tribunemedia.net



OPPOSITION leader Hubert Minnis hit back at Prime Minister Perry Christie’s claim that the highly anticipated referendum on gambling hinges on a North Abaco by-election.

Last week, Mr Christie said the referendum would take place before the end of the year but admitted that if former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham resigns his North Abaco seat, a bye-election would take priority over the referendum.

But Dr Minnis pointed out that Mr Christie had known of the impending by-election for some time.

The party leader hinted the Prime Minister could be hoping to use the by-election as an excuse if the government fails to deliver on its promise of a referendum by the end of the year.

“Prime Minister Christie always knew that Ingraham would have eventually resigned, so you could put the pieces together yourself,” Dr Minnis said.

“That’s nothing new to him – he knew that. He made the commitment that the referendum would be done by the end of this year. All I say is that he knew a resignation was coming (and) he also knew the date that it was coming.”

Last month, Mr Christie said the Bahamas can expect a referendum on the legalisation of gambling and a national lottery before the year is out.

He said a referendum is necessary to remove the “contradictions” that have led to gambling continuing to be illegal, yet widely practised and accepted.

He said this week: “If Mr Ingraham resigns it means that a seat is vacant and that at some point there will be a by-election.

“That takes priority over any referendum that I would hold, so in terms of calendar evens for the government we have to see how that calendar of events will be influenced by the declared intention to resign by Mr Hubert Ingraham.”

He added: “(The referendum) it’s on the table and it’s on the table for this year.”

The referendum has been met with criticism from several religious groups, including the Bahamas Christian Council, which reaffirmed its stance against gambling and any attempts to legalise the activity.

In public statements last month, council president Ranford Patterson maintained that the social consequences outweigh potential revenue for the government.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the public vote, several number house owners have banded together to launch an educational campaign.

With reports of at least 16 independent number houses in new Providence alone, another six in Grand Bahama and a few spread throughout the Family Islands, it has been estimated that a national lottery could pump more than $190 million into the Bahamas’ economy annually.

July 16, 2012


Sunday, July 15, 2012

...on the upcoming referendum on the legalization of the numbers industry in The Bahamas: ...A vote by the people to legalize the numbers industry will actually not legalize lottery gambling for Bahamians and legal residents... ...The Parliament would have to pass legislation amending our gaming laws

The parliamentary vote on gambling is not so simple


thenassauguardian editorial



There has been much discussion on the upcoming referendum on the legalization of the numbers industry in The Bahamas.  The industry has let it be known that it will spend $1.5 million on advertising for its cause.  The church has responded with vocal opposition to any further legalization of a practice it views as harmful to Bahamians.

A vote, however, by the people to legalize the numbers industry will actually not legalize lottery gambling for Bahamians and legal residents.  The Parliament would have to pass legislation amending our gaming laws.

In the Westminster parliamentary system votes on matters of conscience are usually free votes – that is, the party whips are removed and members vote their consciences without fear of party discipline for making a particular choice.  When the whip is on a member who votes against the party’s position could be expelled from that political party.

Assuming that there would be a free vote in Parliament on the issue of legalizing lottery gambling, it is unclear how the members would vote.  Some are practicing Christians and would not vote for gambling despite what their party leaders say.  Some members might also abstain from voting, fearing taking a public stance on such a contentious issue.  Such a scenario would put the will of the people up against the beliefs of the elected member of the legislature.

Therefore, there will be two fights in order for the lottery business to be legalized: one fight to win the referendum and the other to influence the MPs.

The church will have an advantage with the MPs.  MPs do not like to disappoint pastors and the church of Christ in The Bahamas.  A strong lobby on members by their respective pastors will be effective in getting at least a few MPs to vote no.

No MP wants to be named by the church as its opponent, pursuing an order against God.  What has for a long time prevented a referendum is the fear by our leaders of crossing the church.

Our politicians think a referendum will allow the people to choose and they will not have to be responsible for legalizing numbers, because it would be the people who make that choice.  But we all have forgotten that at the end of the day the MPs will have to do the deed.

Another scenario could emerge, however.  If the people vote overwhelmingly to legalize numbers the governing party and opposition could keep the whips on and force through the amendments making lotteries legal.

Much is unclear about what will happen with the proposed referendum and the vote in Parliament if the people say yes to the numbers game.  The governing party must chart carefully so it does not get in trouble with the process as the last government did during the referendum of 2002.

July 13,2012

thenassauguardian editorial

Saturday, July 14, 2012

....a potential North Abaco bye-election trumps the highly anticipated referendum on the legalisation of gambling

Gambling Referendum To Take Back Seat To North Abaco Vote

By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter


THE highly anticipated referendum on the legalisation of gambling will take the backseat to a potential North Abaco bye-election.

As the government continues to plan for the contentious vote, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the resignation of Hubert Ingraham will take priority.

“If Mr Ingraham resigns it means that a seat is vacant and that at some point there will be a bye-election,” Mr Christie said.

“That takes priority over any referendum that I would hold, so in terms of the calendar of events for the government we have to see how that calendar of events will be influenced by the declared intention to resign by Mr Hubert Ingraham.

“(The referendum) it’s on the table and it’s on the table for this year,” he added.

Meanwhile, several religious groups – including the Bahamas Christian Council– reaffirmed their stance against gambling and any attempts to legalize the activity.

In public statements last month, council president Ranford Patterson maintained that the social consequences outweigh potential revenue for the government.

In anticipation of the public vote, several number house owners have banded together to launch an educational campaign. Comprised of FML Group of Companies, Asue Draw, Island Game and Island Luck, the campaign will focus on community development initiatives.

With reports of at least 16 independent number houses in New Providence alone, another six in Grand Bahama and a few spread throughout the Family Islands, it has been estimated that a national lottery could pump more than $190 million into the Bahamas’ economy annually.

Dicrius Ramsey, general Manager of Island Luck, told The Tribune in a previous interview that number houses employ up to 3,000 Bahamians directly with an annual payroll of more the $6 million per annum.

Making his case for legalising local gambling or playing numbers, Mr Ramsey said number houses also indirectly employ 2,000 Bahamians and have injected as much as $100,000 per month into community organisations.

As it stands gambling is illegal in all forms for Bahamians and non-citizen residents of the Bahamas.

July 13, 2012


Friday, July 13, 2012

...it is common knowledge that many of these web shops facilitate the illegal playing of numbers with their owners being an organised group of web shop bosses “who covertly engage in the illegal numbers racket.” - says Mario Moxey - Pastor of Bahamas Harvest Church

Another Pastor Sounds Off On Gambling Issue

By Ianthia Smith
The Bahama Journal



Another local church leader is weighing in on the controversial gambling issue and demanding answers into why the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) has even entertained discussions with web shop owners.

Pastor of Bahamas Harvest Church Mario Moxey in a press release issued Thursday said it is common knowledge that many of these web shops facilitate the illegal playing of numbers with their owners being an organised group of web shop bosses “who covertly engage in the illegal numbers racket.”

“The We Care group, though holding themselves out as legitimate entrepreneurs, has in my humble opinion during recent news coverage, directly implicated themselves when identifying the true nature of their business, illegal gambling,” the release said.

“Clearly, they do not care and are not genuinely concerned with the development of our country as they claim to be; they are nothing more than organised crime bosses seeking to legitimise their ill-gotten gains.”

Pastor Moxey added that the idea of “organised crime bosses” meeting with Christian leaders to discuss the possibility of legitimising an “immoral behavior” is repulsive, reprehensible and offensive to many Christians in the country.

“The Bahamas Christian Council’s unified position has been clearly and unequivocally articulated by President Dr. Randolph Patterson: the Christian Council vehemently opposes gambling in The Bahamas,” he added.

“This position is consistent with the views of almost every major mainline denominational leader. Who then are these 20 prominent local church leaders who drank the Kool-Aid prepared by Dr. Phillip McPhee?”

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Government has promised a referendum on the thorny issue by year’s end.

Recently, a number of pastors have had talks with We Care, the group representing web shop owners, in a bid to better understand their position and intentions for the country.

However, the move has apparently caused some ruckus within the religious sector.

“Their claim to have contributed $1 million to fund various organisations and sponsor community programmes, do not, in any form or fashion, justify or make more noble or legitimise the unsavory activities of these organised crime bosses, who are alleged to have made hundreds of millions of dollars off the backs of Bahamians,” Pastor Moxey continued.

“No more so can we rationalise, justify or legitimise the criminal activities of men such as Pablo Emilio Escobar, the boss of the MedellĂ­n crime family, who although responsible for the construction of many hospitals, schools, churches and football fields in Columbia, is credited with the murder of many innocent people and the destruction of millions of lives and families. No amount of money that these organised crime bosses say they invest for the benefit of our people can turn their evil to good, or erase the stench of their guilt, or their contribution to the deterioration of the moral foundation and conscience and the corruption of our society.”

He said it is very pretentious that these “unscrupulous organised crime bosses act as though they are interested in the betterment of our society, bragging about the money they have contributed while all along “raping us of our moral virtue and perpetuating criminal activity.”

“They are criminals, plain and simple,” he said. “And should not be applauded for attempting to bribe our society; instead, they should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. How dare they openly expose themselves without respect for the rule of law or remorse for the crime they have committed against society?”

“I pray that they would all repent and ask God to forgive them for their sins. I challenge them to depart from evil and do good, and in true repentance and an act of generosity, if that’s what they are really all about, turn over all of their ill-gotten earnings to the government of The Bahamas to be used for the benefit of our people and our country’s national development.”

13 July 2012

JonesBahamas

Thursday, July 12, 2012

...if Urban Renewal fails, The Bahamas is in trouble: ...Prime Minister Perry Christie defends the past record and relevance of the award-winning and “intelligence-driven” Urban Renewal programme

Government Defends Record Of Urban Renewal Programme


Tribune242:

PRIME Minister Perry Christie yesterday defended the past record and relevance of the award-winning and “intelligence-driven” Urban Renewal programme yesterday.

Underscoring the prevalence of Bahamians still living in substandard conditions, Mr Christie said that the focus should be placed on alleviating social ills rather than trying to assign culpability.

“We can debate the question of why didn’t you fix this Christie or why didn’t you fix it Ingraham, and we can get lost in that debate, but the fact of the matter is it needs to be fixed now,” he said.

“The government of The Bahamas does not, by the policies it has implemented, know what’s happening in the communities, the strategies, the policies, do not embrace knowledge of what is happening. Therefore if you do not have public policy informed properly and accurately, it’s not relevant to what’s happening.

He added: “Urban Renewal enables the people in charge of a district to go to every home in that district and make an assessment of every home in the district, if they do that and they inform the relevant ministries, then the point I made about uninformed policies will be no more.”

Former deputy Prime Minister Cynthia “Mother” Pratt and former FNM cabinet minister Algernon Allen were appointed as chairpersons during a special ceremony yesterday.

The success of the programme was vital to the country’s tourism industry, according to Mrs Pratt, who among others recounted the formative stages and early successes of the programme.

“The police was not brought in mainly to arrest people,” she said.

“They came and they wore many caps because many of our young people are delinquent, no guidance, no direction. They need somebody to take them and sit them down and talk to them and the police did exactly that.

“They were guardians, they were fathers, they were friends, and so they were able to get these same notorious young men to turn and to change.” she added.

Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin confirmed that social workers will be stationed in each district.

With the commission appointed, Mr Christie added that he hoped Rhodes scholar Desiree Cox, the programme’s former head of research, will return and participate in its further development.

“Urban Renewal,” said Mr Christie, “is a living programme, not a textbook programme. It is grounded in the community and the experiences of the community and that is the reason why I asked police officers to head it initially. The experience you have from the streets alone is an education you cannot get in the classroom.”

“Being a part of Urban Renewal,” said Mrs Pratt, “is like the veins running through the body, if Urban Renewal fails this country is in trouble. This country is dependent on tourism, if people do not come here because of the crime then we’re in trouble, we must succeed, we cannot afford to say ‘if’, we must.”

July 12, 2012


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

President of the Atlantic Caribbean Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists (A.C.U.S.D.A) Dr. Leonard Johnson warned Bahamians not to gamble with their future by supporting the legalisation of the numbers business

Bahamians Warned Over Gambling


By Rogan Smith
The Bahama Journal


A leading pastor is warning Bahamians not to gamble with their future by supporting the legalisation of the numbers business.

The highly controversial issue took centre stage during the nation’s 39th Independence Day celebrations as President of the Atlantic Caribbean Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists (A.C.U.S.D.A) Dr. Leonard Johnson did his best to sway a captive audience – both on Clifford Park and at home – not to support gambling.

The Christie administration, in fulfilling a campaign promise, has vowed to hold a referendum before the end of the year so that Bahamians can decide for themselves whether they want gambling legalised in the country.

Dr. Johnson says Bahamians should not “resort to the easy way out.”

“Let us not seek shortcuts. The ad says everyone can be a winner, but that is not so. Only in the kingdom of God everyone wins. We must not be bought because people donate millions to charity,” he told a crowd of thousands.

“The people of God must go by the word of God. We must listen to the report of God and depend on God to bless us. I say 39 years later that we must not be mere reflections of other men bought. We must be the pastors and the persons who think and act for ourselves. We cannot force you to act for God; we cannot legislate morality, but brothers and sisters we can preach, ‘thus saith the Lord.’ We can preach to the nation; we can tell people what is in the Bible. It is [then] left to us to decide.”

But, the religious community seem to be split on the issue.

On one hand the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) says it is “diametrically opposed” to gambling, but several of its members say they are open to the idea and have touted the economic benefits.

Twenty local pastors, three of whom are BCC members, said recently that they were “sensitised” to the issue. They felt the country could benefit from the taxes.

Reverend Philip McPhee of  Mt. Calvary Baptist Church appears to be on board with legalising the practice.

Critics, however, are concerned about the social costs of gambling.

During Monday’s Ecumenical Service Dr. Johnson said there are other ways for Bahamians to make money.

“As I look at the example of Joseph I see no risk taking; I see no chance taking; I see no gambling for the success that he experienced,” he said. “There is hard work, there is discipline, there is industry, there is trust in God and a situation that seemed impossible God made it possible,” he said.

“When we place our trust in God, when we place our confidence in God it doesn’t matter how [bad] it may appear, it doesn’t matter how difficult [it may be to balance] the budget; when the people of God are trusting in God then God will stand up and bless his people and bless the nation. But, when the people turn from God and try to do it their way they cannot expect the blessings of God.”

Dr. Johnson explained that many of The Bahamas’ former leaders were opposed to gambling.

He said 39 years ago the late Carlton Francis, who served as minister of development at the time, objected to casino gambling.

“That was 39 years ago. Now, 39 years later, where are we? Carlton Francis said we are a small nation that can be easily permeated by any malicious influence that is dangerous. Furthermore he says, ‘I am saying that where we are aspiring to the disciplines of hard work and industry we are not yet off the ground.’ Thirty-nine years later are we off the ground? Are we going back? Are we moving ahead?” Dr. Johnson said.

“Mr. Francis, still speaking about casino gambling said, ‘I believe that there are alternatives. But, no one will find these alternatives so long as they can find the easy way out. Apart from the question of conscience, I don’t believe gambling is good for a growing nation.’ This is one of the founding fathers – one of the leaders who said these words in December of 1973 and [here] we are 39 years later in 2012.”

11 July, 2012

The Bahama Journal

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

...what were the salient issues facing those charged with shaping our constitution as we moved to independence ...and how were those issues reconciled?

The independence series, part 1


Consider This...



By Philip C. Galanis



Tomorrow we celebrate the 39th anniversary of Bahamian independence. The Commonwealth of The Bahamas was established by an act of the British Parliament which was passed on June 20, 1973 and took effect in the early hours of July 10, 1973, when thousands on Clifford Park witnessed for the first time the raising of the Bahamian flag after the Union Jack was lowered for the last time on this colony, ending 325 years of British rule.

This week, we begin a series of articles on The Bahamas constitution and for part one would like to Consider This... what were the salient issues facing those charged with shaping our constitution as we moved to independence, and how were those issues reconciled?

A natural progression

Bahamian independence in 1973 was a natural progression following a decade of rapid transformation, not just in The Bahamas but also in the Caribbean. In The Bahamas, the constitution twice prominently featured in the body politic, first in 1964 and then again in 1969.

The Bahamas received its first written constitution on January 7, 1964, which granted full control over its internal affairs to The Bahamas government, with the governor retaining responsibility for external defense and internal security. Cabinet government was introduced, and the upper house of the legislature, previously the Legislative Council, became the Senate. The Senate’s membership increased from 11 to 15, while the House of Assembly retained its designation and the number of elected representatives numbered 33. In 1969, the British government turned over the internal and external affairs to the Government of The Bahamas and replaced the office of premier with that of prime minister.

During this period, Caribbean countries were also obtaining independence from Great Britain. It started with Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in August 1962. Guyana and Barbados followed in May and November 1966, respectively. The Bahamas was next in 1973 and, by the end of that decade, Grenada, Dominica and St. Lucia had also gained their independence from Great Britain.

We can appreciate that the fervor for national independence for Caribbean (and African) countries was inextricably tethered to nationalistic and socio-political realities of the era, aided by Great Britain’s willingness to release its grip on the empire, upon which the sun was said never to set. For The Bahamas, the movement to independence was a natural progression, propelled by the “trade winds” of the time.

The independence conference in London

The general election of September 1972 was contested with the understanding that a victory for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) would begin the process of national independence for The Bahamas. It won and Loftus Roker was appointed to liaise with the official opposition Free National Movement (FNM) regarding matters relative to the Independence Conference before going to London.

Therefore, beginning in early December 1972, the PLP, headed by Sir Lynden Pindling, and the FNM, headed by Sir Kendal Isaacs, led a delegation to London to discuss an independence constitution with the British government.

Because The Bahamas already had the 1964 and 1969 constitutions, there was no need to start afresh so 90 percent of the issues regarding independence were agreed upon by both political parties before leaving for London.

The mood of the Bahamian delegation was upbeat and the talks were conducted in a very congenial atmosphere. Several of the delegates to the Constitutional Conference have noted that the drafting of the constitution was a moment in time where the PLP and FNM worked harmoniously, notwithstanding several philosophical points of departure.

One of the early issues discussed at the Constitutional Conference was Bahamian citizenship. The British attempted to persuade the delegation to accept the precedent that had been established by other colonies; that is, for British citizens and “belongers” living in the colonies to register at Government House, so that, at independence, they would automatically become Bahamian citizens. The Bahamian delegation unanimously objected to this, arguing instead that citizenship should not be so open-ended, and that there should be a process by which citizenship would be determined by the government. The Bahamian delegation was adamant and united, and the British relented and accepted the Bahamian position.

Another area of disagreement surrounded gender equality. The PLP proffered that full equality for women should not be enshrined in the constitution. The FNM argued the opposite view. Ultimately, the British government agreed with the PLP’s position.

There was a discussion on the issue of rustication and the freedom of movement and the right of Bahamians to leave The Bahamas. Some in the PLP expressed the concern that Bahamians might depopulate the Family Islands and were also concerned that, in the absence of a rustication provisions, the country could suffer a brain drain. This fuelled the debate about giving Bahamians the right to leave not just their native islands but the country. The British agreed with the opposition on this issue, and consequently there were no prohibitions on Bahamians’ ability to move freely within or outside The Bahamas.

With the issues fully aired and agreed, Sir Kendal Isaacs and the FNM delegates returned to The Bahamas. Some of the PLP delegates, including Sir Lynden, remained in London to finalize the terms upon which the new Bahamian constitution would be presented to the British Parliament. The delegation understood that the British Parliament would introduce and pass that all-important Bill for an Act to grant Independence to The Bahamas.

The surviving signatories of the Bahamian constitution are: Sir Arthur Foulkes, Arthur D. Hanna, Sir Orville Turnquest, Paul L. Adderley, A. Loftus Roker, George A. Smith and Rev. Philip M. Bethel. Deceased signatories included Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Clement Maynard, Rev. Carlton E. Francis, Sir Kendal Isaacs, Cadwell C. Armbrister, Henry J. Bowen and Norman S. Solomon. Although there were other Bahamians present at the conference who were not part of the official delegation, these 15 signatories to the Bahamian constitution should rightly be recognized as our nation’s Founding Fathers.

Post-conference activities

After returning to The Bahamas, the government developed the country’s flag, the coat of arms and the national anthem. It is worth noting that the official opposition was not consulted on any of these matters.

After the Constitutional Conference, the government engaged in the most impressive public relations exercise ever conducted in Bahamian history. There was a massive national campaign to inform civil society and the Bahamian people about what independence meant to the country. The post-conference activities were spearheaded by George Smith, who was the parliamentary secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and headed the Independence Secretariat.

In the early hours of July 10, 1973, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas was born.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the men who assembled in London to frame the constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas 40 years ago performed as impressively as the American Founding Fathers who assembled in Philadelphia in 1787 to craft that country’s constitution. The Bahamian delegates to the London Constitutional Conference are to be applauded for their superlative efforts in drafting a social contract which has served us these past 39 years.

In the weeks ahead, we will examine key articles of the constitution that have guided our ship of state. We will also consider some of the issues that should be addressed in amending our constitution, hopefully before we celebrate the 40th anniversary of a nation that was born on July 10, 1973.

• 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 to: pgalanis@gmail.com

Jul 09, 2012

thenassauguardian

Monday, July 9, 2012

Citizens for Justice President - Bishop Walter Hanchell and President of The Bahamas in Prophecy Movement - Pastor Micklyn Seymour both expressed shock and surprise over comments made by Reverend Philip McPhee ...about the contributions illegal numbers houses are making to national development

Pastor faces outrage on gambling issue


McPhee’s colleagues ‘shocked’ at recent meeting



By Royston Jones Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter
royston@nasguard.com



Two pastors yesterday expressed outrage over comments made by Reverend Philip McPhee about the contributions illegal numbers houses are making to national development.

Citizens for Justice President Bishop Walter Hanchell and President of The Bahamas in Prophecy Movement Pastor Micklyn Seymour both expressed shock and surprise over the statements.

The men spoke to The Nassau Guardian in separate interviews.

McPhee said on Thursday that a group of about 20 prominent local pastors, including three members of the Bahamas Christian Council, had become “sensitized” to the idea of how taxes generated from a legalized numbers industry could benefit The Bahamas.

However, McPhee did not say he supported gambling.

After reading McPhee’s comments yesterday, Hanchell urged pastors to take a public stand to warn Bahamians of the “destructive” effects of gambling, which he claimed far outweigh any benefits that could come about from a regulated numbers industry.

The government has promised to hold a referendum on gambling before the end of the year.

Hanchell said, “Gambling is not something that The Bahamas should embrace. It is too destructive. We will pay for generations down the road if we legalize the illegal numbers racket.”

Seymour said he was very disappointed by McPhee’s comments.

He said the Christian community cannot afford to be divided on the issue, and he thinks McPhee was misled.

He also said he was surprised that McPhee arranged a meeting with ‘We Care’, a coalition of web shop owners. The meeting took place on Tuesday.

“I believe that [gambling] should not be promoted and I am calling on all of the Christian leaders to unite in force and speak with one voice.” Seymour said.

“I am very disappointed in the great man to be speaking and supporting that in any which way. He ought to condemn gambling.”

Seymour added that any country that has to turn to legalizing gambling to help its people is a nation in “desperation”.

On Thursday, McPhee said, “We got a very positive input of what the web companies are all about, what they are doing and how they contribute in many ways to the benefit of the country.

“A lot of us were not aware of those contributions. One web company has given over $1 million to fund various regattas and cultural events such as Junkanoo, and has sponsored many summer programs, feeding programs and clothing programs.

“A lot of these men have been very active in giving a lot to sustain other various programs. Those were articulated to the pastors which brought about a sense of sensitizing.”

While McPhee said the pastors are against gambling, he said, “The whole aspect of it is, if the country is benefiting from national insurance [contributions] from these companies and they are getting other benefits, then something needs to be done so these people are looked at as major contributors to the development of our country.”

CEO of Island Luck Sebas Bastian said on Wednesday that ‘We Care’ will invest around $1.5 million to educate Bahamians on industry related issues, and on various community-based initiatives over the next few months.

Hanchell said he was not opposed to anyone supporting the less fortunate in society but questioned whether the motive behind the contributions was to gain acceptance and influence to support legalizing gambling.

“People are being deceived by these web shop owners with their mega bucks and all they are trying to do is stay in business,” he said.

“They have made enough money on the backs of poor Bahamians and I think we should shut them down and… tell them to invest their money in something legal.”

Hanchell said he was speaking from 20 years of experience as a gambling addict who has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some people believe that legalizing and taxing marijuana has benefits, Seymour said, but he questioned whether that meant the drug should be made legal.

Jul 08, 2012

thenassauguardian

Sunday, July 8, 2012

...several members of the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC), and a number of other prominent pastors have become “sensitized” to the idea of how taxes generated from a legalized numbers industry could benefit The Bahamas ...says Reverend Philip McPhee of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church...

Pastors ‘sensitized’ to gambling


Contributions of numbers houses highlighted

By Royston Jones Jr.
Guardian Staff Reporter
royston@nasguard.com



Despite the Bahamas Christian Council being “diametrically opposed” to gambling, several of its members, and a number of other prominent pastors have become “sensitized” to the idea of how taxes generated from a legalized numbers industry could benefit The Bahamas, Reverend Philip McPhee of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church said yesterday.

On Tuesday, McPhee organized a meeting between ‘We Care’ — a coalition of web shop owners — and a group of about 20 local pastors, including three members of the Bahamas Christian Council.

“We got a very positive input of what the web companies are all about, what they are doing and how they contribute in many ways to the benefit of the country,” McPhee told The Nassau Guardian.

“A lot of us were not aware of those contributions. One web company has given over $1 million to fund various regattas and cultural events such as Junkanoo, and has sponsored many summer programs, feeding programs and clothing programs.

“A lot of these men have been very active in giving a lot to sustain other various programs. Those were articulated to the pastors which brought about a sense of sensitizing.”

The government has promised to hold a referendum on legalizing the numbers business before the end of the year.

However, Bahamas Christian Council President Dr. Ranford Patterson said in May that if a referendum is held the council would do everything in its power to make its opposition known.

But yesterday, McPhee said the Church could not remain ‘stagnated’ on something that takes place on a daily basis, which could prove beneficial to the country.

“The purpose of the Church is to inform, alert and to keep its membership on the cutting edge of what we ought to be doing as Christians,” McPhee said.

“We stand totally against the whole philosophy of gambling but the whole aspect of it is, if the country is benefiting from national insurance [contributions] from these companies and they are getting other benefits, then something needs to be done so these people are looked at as major contributors to the development of our country.”

CEO of Island Luck, Sebas Bastian, said on Wednesday that representatives from the FML Group of Companies, Asue Draw, Island Game and Island Luck will invest around $1.5 million to educate Bahamians on industry related issues, and on various community-based initiatives over the next few months.

McPhee encouraged ‘We Care’ to meet with the other leading pastors in New Providence and on the Family Islands to make them aware of the potential benefits of a regularized industry.

“The referendum will [involve] the entire Bahamas,” he noted.  “So if the We Care group wants to be successful, they will have to meet on every island to inform all pastors, and other interested people on what their role and position is.”

Jul 06, 2012

thenassauguardian