Friday, August 31, 2012

Constitutional reform, pt.3: ... ...The need for constitutional reform is most dramatically illustrated in the constitutional provisions dealing with citizenship

Constitutional reform, pt.3


Alfred Sears


The need for constitutional reform is most dramatically illustrated in the constitutional provisions dealing with citizenship.  Women are treated less favorably than men and, in practice; perhaps thousands of children born in The Bahamas of undocumented Haitian parents are denied their constitutional entitlement to citizenship under Article 7 of the Constitution.  The result is that these children are reduced to a condition of statelessness and marginalization, while foreign investors can purchase the predicate for citizenship, permanent residency, by investing a minimum of $500,000 or purchase a residence in The Bahamas for $1.5 million for accelerated consideration for permanent residency status.

Further, thousands of immigrants, primarily Haitian nationals, who have lived and worked in The Bahamas for decades, with Bahamian-born children, strong social and community ties in The Bahamas are denied a permanent legal status.  Why is it that the public policy of The Bahamas permits a foreign investor, with no permanent link to The Bahamas, to purchase permanent residency in The Bahamas for a minimum investment of $500,000, while an immigrant worker who gives decades of dedicated labor, with committed family ties in and contribution to the development of Bahamian civil society finds it difficult to secure permanent residency or citizenship?  Is it a question of race and class?  Why do we discriminate against immigrants from our sister Caribbean countries who give their labor for our development and often establish strong anchorage in and permanent links to our society, while we favor the foreign investor primarily from the United States or Europe who often is only here for the comparative advantage of trade and commerce?

 

Nationality and international law

The concept of national sovereignty is defined, in part, by control by a nation state over its territory, resources and people.  Membership in a political community or nation state is known as one’s nationality.  The citizen of a nation state gives her or his loyalty to the state in exchange for the diplomatic and other protections that the state affords all its nationals or citizens.  Under international law, states use certain principles to determine how one becomes a citizen of the state.  The three principles of nationality are:  Jus soli – where the place of birth determines nationality;  jus sanguinis – where the nationality of a child follows that of one or both parents, irrespective of the place of birth of the child; and naturalization – where one voluntarily assumes the nationality of another country.

Since World War II and the Nuremberg Trials, there has emerged a global bill of human rights, which imposes an obligation upon all states to treat aliens and citizens in a non-discriminatory manner.  The individual is now a proper subject of international law.

In the Nottenbohm Case (1955) 1 CJ 22, the International Court of Justice established a set of criteria for establishing nationality using the principle of the “genuine link” between the immigrant and the host country, using factors such as habitual residence of the individual concerned in the host country where the host country is the center of immigrant’s interest, the existence of family ties, participation in public life and attachment shown by the individual for the host country and inculcation of such attachment in her or his children.  By this set of criteria, many of the Haitian nationals in The Bahamas may have a claim for nationality in The Bahamas.

Professor Ian Brownlie describes this concept of the genuine link as “prima facie the effective nationality of the host state.”  Many of the Haitian immigrants in The Bahamas may qualify for Bahamian citizenship, pursuant to the Nottenbohm criteria, by their habitual residence in The Bahamas, The Bahamas is the center of their economic and social interests, their Bahamian spouses, Bahamian born children and their engagement in Bahamian civil society, such as active membership in churches.  While we must effectively police our borders to stop the flow of illegal immigration, the regularization of those immigrants with a genuine link to The Bahamas should be given the priority to ensure compliance with the Constitution and international humanitarian law.

 

Nationality by birth, descent, marriage and naturalization

The Constitution of The Bahamas, Chapter II, uses the three principles of jus soli, jus sanguinis and naturalization in relation to citizenship.

Under Article 3, every person, who had been born in the former Colony of the Bahama Islands and was a citizen of the United Kingdom or if his or her father would have become a citizen of The Bahamas or was a citizen of the United Kingdom by virtue of his or her having been registered in the former Colony of the Bahama Islands under the British Nationality Act, became a citizen of The Bahamas on July 10, 1973.

Under Article 4, with limited exceptions, every person who had previously been naturalized under the British Nationality Act in the former Colony of the Bahama Islands became a citizen of The Bahamas on July 9, 1973.

Article 5 of the Constitution entitles a woman to citizenship who, on the July 9, 1973 is or has been married to a citizen by virtue of Article 3 or whose husband died before July 10, 1973 but would, but for his death, have become a citizen of The Bahamas, provided that she applies, takes the oath of allegiance and renounces her previous citizenship.

Every person born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973, under Article 6, shall become a citizen of The Bahamas at the date of her or his birth if at that date either of her or his parents is a citizen of The Bahamas.

Under Article 7, a person born in The Bahamas after July 9, 1973 neither of whose parents is a citizen of The Bahamas shall be entitled, upon making application on her or his attaining the age of 18 years within 12 months thereafter in such manner as may be prescribed, to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas provided her or his previous nationality is renounced, she or he takes the oath of allegiance and declares an intention to reside in The Bahamas.

It is under this provision that the children of undocumented Haitian nationals are guaranteed Bahamian nationality.  The United States Supreme Court in the case Pyler v. Doe (1981) 457 U.S. 223 invalidated a discriminatory law adopted by the Texas legislature which had withheld funds from local school districts that enrolled children who were not legally admitted into the United States.  Justice Powell wrote: “The classification at issue deprives a group of children of the opportunity for education afforded all other children simply because they have been assigned a legal status due to a violation of law by their parents.  These children thus have been singled out for a lifelong penalty and stigma.  A legislative classification that threatens the creation of an underclass of future citizens and residents cannot be reconciled with one of the fundamental purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment... But it can hardly be argued rationally that anyone benefits from the creation within our borders of a subclass of illiterate persons many of whom will remain in the state, adding to the problems and cost of both state and national governments attendant upon unemployment, welfare and crime.”

However, in The Bahamas, in spite of the clear constitutional entitlement under Article 7, there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of young persons who have applied to be registered as Bahamian citizens under this category and have not been registered as citizens of The Bahamas.  The problem, in part, is the absence of clear policy guidelines for the processing of these applications.  Therefore, the Passport Office and the Department of Immigration lack the proper procedural directives and adequate resources to enable these agencies to process these applications in a prompt and efficient manner.  This ambivalence by the Bahamian public policy towards the treatment of the children of Haitian immigrants is to be contrasted with the clear National Investment Policy with respect to granting of accelerated consideration for permanent residency to foreign investors and foreign purchasers of a second residence in The Bahamas.

 

Discrimination against Bahamian women

The discriminatory treatment of Bahamian women is reflected in Articles 8 and 9 in particular.  Under Article 8, a child born outside of The Bahamas after July 9, 1973 to a Bahamian father, inside of a marriage, shall become a Bahamian citizen automatically at the date of birth.  Whereas, under Article 9, a child born outside of The Bahamas after July 9, 1973, to a Bahamian mother married to a non-Bahamian father, is not automatically a Bahamian citizen at birth.  To become a Bahamian citizen, such a person must:

1) Make application upon attaining the age of 18 years and before the age of 21 years to be registered as a citizen of The Bahamas;

2) Renounce or make a declaration with respect to any other citizenship;

3) Take the oath of allegiance to The Bahamas;

4) Make and register a declaration of her/his intention to reside in The Bahamas; and

5) Have been born legitimately.

Even after fulfilling these five requirements, such a person can still be denied citizenship on the bases of national security or public policy.  These disabilities on a child born outside of The Bahamas to a Bahamian woman married to a non-Bahamian husband constitutes invidious discrimination, when automatic citizenship is conferred at birth upon the child born outside of The Bahamas to a Bahamian father married to a non-Bahamian spouse.

Further, Bahamian women are treated less favorably than Bahamian men in granting Bahamian citizenship to their respective spouses.  Under Article 10 of the constitution, any women who marries a person who wishes to become a Bahamian citizen after July 9, 1973 shall be entitled to be registered as a Bahamian citizen, provided she makes an application, takes the oath of allegiance or makes a declaration and that there is no objection on the bases of national security or public policy.  No such requirement is demanded of foreign spouses of Bahamian men.

Under Article 11, the governor general may deprive a person of Bahamian citizenship if the governor general is satisfied that any citizen of The Bahamas has at any time after July 9, 1973 acquired the citizenship of another country or voluntarily claimed or exercised rights in another country which are exclusively reserved for the citizens of that country.

 

• Alfred Sears is an attorney, a former member of Parliament and a former attorney general of The Bahamas.  Next week will focus on the recommendations for these parts of the constitution.

Aug 30, 2012

thenassauguardian

....no license should be given to anyone who wants to trade cash for gold ...cash for silver or cash for copper ...or cash for any other precious metal... ...Cash for gold operations encompass avenues for disposing of stolen jewelry ...and the government must revoke all such ‘licenses’

Gold, Cash and Human Bloodshed


The Bahama Journal Editorial



We believe that no license should be given to anyone who wants to trade cash for gold; cash for silver or cash for copper; or cash for any other precious metal.

All such sales should be banned. There are times in life when those who would rip others off do their thing in plain sight of the Law. Today we have a situation on our collective hands where people in the community do most assuredly believe that thugs out there are ripping people off; stealing jewelry and other valuables from them – and who sell this stolen stuff to hard men and women who ask no questions; proffer a fistful of dollars; disappear the chain or ring in question – and laugh as they traipse their way to the bank of their choice. And so it goes, Cash for both Gold and human blood-shed! This is devilishly wrong.

Today we recite the fact which tells us that new information coming in confirms Ernest Hepburn is this blighted land’s eighty-first murder victim for this quite bloody year. That same new information suggests that this sixty one year old man was shot dead by two thugs interested in taking possession of the gold chain he wore around his neck.

Even now, there is wide-spread speculation concerning a possible connection between the chain theft, the gun-fire and this man’s death. A team of officers from the South Central (Grove) Division executed a number of search warrants between 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. last Thursday and retrieved an assortment of chains, bracelets and even gold and silver dinnerware like spoons and forks.

According to Mr. Wilson, many victims of theft reported that they were in the Coconut Grove and Robinson Road areas when they were confronted by teens who snatched their items and fled to the Florida Court and Key West Street areas. “What we expect from operators of Cash-for-Gold is just due process,” he said. “If someone comes to you with a chain or something that has popped, we expect common sense to kick in. If the chain is worth about $3,000 and they will accept just $300 for it, please let your common sense prevail and assist.” He is now inviting anyone who has had items stolen items to visit the Grove Station to identify and claim the items. “Please bring proof or [let us know] if you are able to confirm any special markings on your stolen items,” he added. “Let me make it abundantly clear, one will only be allowed viewing if you made a complaint with a police station or department and your data is lodged within our computer records.”

According to Superintendent Wilson, these Cash-for-Gold businesses are also popping up at residential homes that operate by appointment only and offer private one-on-one sessions. We surely believe that there is just such a bloody connection between these cash-for-gold business and some of the thefts that routinely take place on our streets; from some of the houses where some of these thieves work – and especially those grab and heist jobs done by feral Black unemployed youth. And there are all those other men and women who can and do make less than ten cents per pound for other so-called scrap metal. What makes this kind of stuff so very interesting is the extent to which some of these criminals are allowed to get away with any number of crimes against the person and against property. Of course, there are also occasions when the police do rouse themselves and do get on with doing work that matters. As we recently reported,

“…A recent crackdown of six ‘Cash-for-Gold’ establishments in the Englerston area has uncovered thousands of dollars in stolen gold and silver jewelry…” We can also report that, “…Officer-in-Charge of the South Central (Grove) Division Superintendent Philip Don Wilson said some of the operators melt down the gold items within the hour of purchasing them so that police cannot see them…” Mr. Wilson also said police would have an easier time detecting and arresting perpetrators if the owners of these establishments would assist the authorities. All of this aside, we agree with Paul Thompson – former senior man on the Royal Bahamas Police Force – when he concludes that, the cash for gold operations encompass avenues for disposing of stolen jewelry and that the government must revoke all such ‘licenses’. This trade – as Thompson also suggests – encourages criminal activity, e.g. burglaries, housebreakings, armed robberies and stealing from the person. Decent, law-abiding citizens – inclusive of our law-makers- should have no part in this destruction.

30 August, 2012

The Bahama Journal Editorial


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Haitians should be excited at the turnaround in their country - Haiti... ...Rather than risking their lives on a dangerous passage for an uncertain future in The Bahamas with its own problems, Haitians should look to be part of what appears to be a sustained period of growth in Haiti... which we are all cheering for

Haitians in The Bahamas must help with smuggling problem


thenassauguardian editorial


Based on eyewitness testimony it appears that Haitians died in the journey that ended near Mangrove Cay, Andros on Saturday.  A man who identified himself as the captain of a Haitian sloop that ran aground in the area told authorities that four passengers jumped ship at the start of the voyage and 12 others drowned at some point during their seven-day journey, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell said Monday.  No bodies were recovered and search and rescue efforts were suspended.

There is no proof to support the claim by the captain, but it is common for Haitians to die in these smuggling operations.  Eleven Haitians drowned in June in Abaco in a smuggling operation.

Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere.  It was also devastated by an earthquake in 2010 that killed more than 200,000 people.  Many of its people live in desperate circumstances and want to leave.

Many Haitians have historically thought of The Bahamas as a relative land of opportunity to escape to.  They assumed more jobs existed here compared to Haiti.  The Bahamas was thought of as less violent.

The Bahamas of today, though, is not as it was 15 years ago.  The unemployment rate was last measured here at just under 16 percent.  We have had four murder records in five years.

Despite Haiti’s historical problems, a turnaround is underway.  Many Bahamians are not aware of this.  According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Haiti’s economy grew by 5.6 percent in 2011 and it is projected to grow by 7.8 percent in 2012 and 6.9 percent in 2013.

This is good news for Haiti.  This is good news for The Bahamas.  Haitians who live here should inform their brothers and sisters at home that The Bahamas is struggling with its own economic problems since the financial crisis of 2008.  Jobs are not plentiful as they were in the boom days of the late 1990s.  Coming here is no guarantee of a peaceful or prosperous life.

Bahamian inner cities have become increasingly violent in recent years.  Successive governments have fought to reduce the high crime rate in New Providence, but no permanent solutions have been arrived at thus far.

Haitians should be excited at the turnaround in their country.  Rather than risking their lives on a dangerous passage for an uncertain future in a country with its own problems, Haitians should look to be part of what appears to be a sustained period of growth in a country we are all cheering for.

Countries become great when their citizens make them great.  Haitians can make Haiti great again.

August 29, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Belinda Wilson - President - Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) supports the government’s school policing programme ...saying that the presence of officers on school grounds will aid in conflict resolution and combat instances of students carrying dangerous weapons

Union Chief Backs Programme




By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
dsmith@tribunemedia.net


BAHAMAS Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson voiced her support of the government’s school policing programme, saying the presence of officers on school grounds will aid in conflict resolution and combat instances of students carrying dangerous weapons.

“Our executive committee, we have discussed this and we are pleased to partner with the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of National Security, and more particularly with the Commissioner (of Police Ellison Greenslade),” Ms Wilson said at a press conference at Police Headquarters for the unveiling of the programme.

“I want to also note the Commissioner tried very hard last year to have this initiative developed because we had a meeting and we agreed that the police officers will assist, and they did, so I’m happy now to see that the programme is going to be expanded.”

Ms Wilson said she wants to stress that stationing officers in schools will aid administrators and security guards already present in resolving disagreements and gathering “intelligence”.

“The police are not only going to be there for crimes, but based on the information that I have, they will be there to help with conflict resolution. They will be able to identify some of the problems, prior to the problems happening,” she said.

“You will have intelligence on the ground in the school. When you talk about a cutlass-wielding child, when you talk about the child that was in an altercation over the weekend and gets to school early on Monday and stashes a gun, a knife, a dagger, a cutlass – that’s not the teacher’s job.”

Asked if teachers are seeing such scenarios presently, Ms Wilson said: “Yes we are. That isn’t anything new – we’ve been seeing it. So we’re saying now if the police are there and they’re able to complement the security officers then that should really be able to cut down on the incidents that we’ve seen, so we’re happy about it.”

Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald announced last week officers will be stationed in schools across the islands come the start of the new term in September.

He said the programme would in no way diminish or make obsolete the authority and responsibility of administrators, teachers and security officers. Rather the officers would complement the disciplinary programmes and strategies already in place.

August 28, 2012



Monday, August 27, 2012

...the introduction of the school-based policing programme is part of the government’s efforts to “break the back of crime and violence ...and to create a safer Bahamas

School-Based Policing Launched



By Sasha Lightbourne
Jones Bahamas



In just under a week, thousands of students will head back to public schools throughout the country and when they return they will meet police officers on campus who will be assisting their school administrators with overall operations at the school.

The school-based policing programme, which is a component of Urban Renewal 2.0, was launched on Friday at the Paul Farquharson Conference Centre.

Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald said the introduction of the programme is part of the government’s efforts to “break the back of crime and violence and to create a safer Bahamas.”

“The school-based police officers will be responsible for developing positive relationships with members of the school organisation, establish protocol for the prevention and investigation of all school related occurrences of violence and criminal activities in the schools,” he said.

“This initiative will ensure that the environment in our schools is conducive to learning. Through this initiative we have strengthened the partnership between the Minister of Education and the Ministry for National Security to re-assign police officers in the schools. In the schools they will be called school-based policing officers.”

Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade could not, however, give a direct number for how many police will be involved in the programme.

“All members of the police force are part of the programme,” he explained.

“We have selected distinct officers who will be assigned to each school on a daily basis. Some schools will have three, some will have more than three and some will have two however every single police officer is going to be attuned to what’s happening come the opening of school.”

Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson also welcomed the new addition of personnel for the new school year.

“We are pleased to partner with both ministries,” she told reporters.

“I want to also note that the commissioner tried very hard last year to have this initiative because we had a meeting and we agreed that the police officers would assist which they did but we are happy to see that the programme is being developed and is back.”

Minister Fitzgerald also explained that that school-based policing is expected to compliment the disciplinary programmes and strategies that already exist in the schools.

“These disciplinary procedures are clearly articulated in the Department of Education Safe School manual which outlines the expectation of students’ behaviour and consequences for misbehaviour. This manual also outlines the responsibilities of administrators and teachers.”

The minister said the manual can be found on www.bahamaseducation.com.

“An inspector will have direct responsibility for the assignment of officers within each division,” Minister Fitzgerald.

“The school-based police officer will have a reporting relationship with the inspector of his division and the principal of the relevant school. “

A training workshop will be held this week at the police conference centre for two days for the officers, school administrators, guidance counselors, attendance officers, security officers and school psychologists.”

The officers will be in the schools as of September 3.

August 27, 2012

The Bahama Journal

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The trade union movement in The Bahamas and, indeed, the wider Caribbean region, has directly benefitted from the contributions of Leroy ‘Duke’ Hanna ...and the Bahamian labor force is in an enhanced position because of the role that Duke played

Remembering a trade unionist

Dear Editor:

 

It is with profound sorrow and regret that the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB) learned of the passing of Leroy ‘Duke’ Hanna, the founding president of the NCTUB, past president of the Bahamas Musicians & Entertainers Union (BMEU), former senator and a champion of the trade union movement in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

The trade union movement in The Bahamas and, indeed, the wider Caribbean region, has directly benefitted from the contributions of Leroy ‘Duke’ Hanna and the Bahamian labor force is in an enhanced position because of the role that Duke played.  His contributions to the growth and development of the people of The Bahamas will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of all trade unionists and should be recorded in history of our nation.

From the 1950s, Duke walked alongside the heroes of the modern trade union movement, including the late Sir Clifford in the 1958 General Strike, the late Sir Randol Fawkes in the fight for majority rule and independence, the late Patrick Bain with regards to the integration of the Caribbean Trade Union Movement and the establishment and operation of the NCTUB Labour College. Leroy ‘Duke’ Hanna was in the forefront of the social revolution in our country and his legacy will forever remain burning in the hearts of trade unionists for decades.

Sister Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson, along with her executive board, affiliates and the entire membership of the National Congress of Trade Unions of the Bahamas, extends heartfelt condolences to Duke’s wife Joan, his children and grandchildren, and his extended family, on this sad occasion.  We also wish to express our sincere sympathy to officers and members of the Bahamas Musicians & Entertainers Union as they grieve his passing.  We are mindful of the pain associated with the loss of a loved one and we are comforted with the knowledge that his living was not in vain.

It is our hope that the Almighty God keeps each of you strong as you face the difficult days, weeks, months and years ahead.  Rest assured that the officers and members of the National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas will remember you and your family in prayer.

The trade union movement has lost a great champion and our nation has indeed lost another soldier.  Duke has fought a good fight, he has finished his course, and he has kept the faith.

May his soul rest in peace.

 

– Jennifer Isaacs-Dotson

Aug 23, 2012

thenassauguardian

Friday, August 24, 2012

Constitutional reform, pt. 2: ... ...The preamble of the Bahamian constitution, I submit, has a number of weaknesses... ...First, there is no reference to the historical fact of 300 years of slavery of African people in The Bahamas ...or the genocide of the Lucayan/Arawak people by the European presence ...two critical aspects of the historical evolution of the Bahamian polity and society... ...Second, the preamble mischaracterizes the incorporation and colonization of The Bahamas into the triangular slave trade, initiated by and for the benefit of Europe, as: “...rediscovery of this family of islands, rocks and cays heralded the rebirth of the New World.”

Constitutional reform, pt. 2


By Alfred Sears


The preamble of a constitution is supposed to state the most basic principles and aspirations of a nation state.  It provides those guiding principles after which a people in a democratic state will strive to realize through their collective endeavors.  The purpose of the preamble is to underscore a sense of national identity and to express the core values and principles of the state and the people.  It must therefore be refreshed from time to time to reflect the evolving expectations and aspirations of the state and people.

The Bahamas Constitution is introduced by a preamble, which asserts that the rediscovery of the Bahamian islands, rocks and cays heralded the rebirth of the new world.  It continues that the people of The Bahamas recognize that the preservation of their freedom will be guaranteed by a commitment to self-discipline, industry, loyalty, unity and an abiding respect for Christian values and the rule of law.

The preamble then declares that the people of The Bahamas are a sovereign nation founded on principles, which recognize the sovereignty of God and faith in the fundamental human rights, and freedoms, based on moral and spiritual values, in the following words: “We the inheritors of and successors to this family of islands, recognizing the supremacy of God and believing in the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, do hereby proclaim in solemn praise the establishment of a free and democratic sovereign nation founded on spiritual values and in which no man, woman or child shall ever be slave or bondsman to anyone or their labor exploited or their lives frustrated by deprivation, and do hereby provide by these articles for the indivisible unity and creation under God of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”

The preamble of the Bahamian constitution, I submit, has a number of weaknesses.  First, there is no reference to the historical fact of 300 years of slavery of African people in The Bahamas, or the genocide of the Lucayan/Arawak people by the European presence, two critical aspects of the historical evolution of the Bahamian polity and society.  Second, the preamble mischaracterizes the incorporation and colonization of The Bahamas into the triangular slave trade, initiated by and for the benefit of Europe, as  “...rediscovery of this family of islands, rocks and cays heralded the rebirth of the New World.”

Unlike in 1973 when the constitution was founded, The Bahamas today is more of a multi-religious society with, inter alia, Muslims, BahaŹ¾is, Buddhists, Rastafarians, etc.  Therefore, the preamble of our constitution, as a historical and aspirational statement, should elaborate upon the inclusive term of “spiritual values” to better reflect the spirit and thinking of all of our people and the common identity and values of all Bahamians.  Therefore, historical accuracy and the norm of non-discrimination and inclusiveness should be the guiding principles of a revised preamble of the Bahamian constitution.

Since 1973, The Bahamas has rapidly evolved into a full-service economy, with a highly urbanized population.  The population is cosmopolitan, multi-racial and multi-ethnic.  The contemporary African-Bahamian population comprises those who are descendants of the slaves who came with or were purchased by the loyalists and settlers, freed Africans, more recent West Indian immigrants and Haitian immigrants.  All of these groups have blended to create the contemporary African-Bahamian population.  The Bahamian population also comprises other ethnic groups such as the descendants of the loyalists, colonial administrators and settlers, and more recent immigrant groups such as the Greeks, Syrians, Chinese, Jews and Lebanese.  All of these groups have made a significant contribution to the development of the modern Bahamas mosaic.  Their descendants have been assimilated into the Bahamian society and reflect the multi-ethnic character of the contemporary Bahamas.  Therefore, the preamble of our constitution should recognize the contributions of all the significant ethnic groups who have shaped our reality.


Proposal

In order to better reflect the ideals and aspirations of our multi-ethnic Bahamian society, I propose that the preamble of the constitution be amended to include the following elements:

a) Affirm our commitment to the continuing observance of the principles of individual freedom and democratic government as our inalienable heritage.

b) Acknowledge that we have been blessed with leaders of vision, with artists, writers, musicians and athletes who have carried the name of our country with honor and glory throughout the world.

c) Salute the founders of the independent state of The Bahamas.

d) Acknowledge the progress which has been made in the post independent Bahamas.

e) Honor the contributions of the Lucayan/Arawaks, settlers, loyalists, Africans in slavery and freed Africans and more recent migrants to the development of The Bahamas and celebrate the survival of the African people in The Bahamas, as part of the African Diaspora, and affirm our relationship to the African continent.

f) Pay special tribute to our national heroes such as Pompey, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Lynden Pindling,  Dame Doris Johnson, Sir Stafford Sands, etc.

g) Pay special tribute to the Suffrage Movement of The Bahamas, namely Mary Ingraham, Mable Walker, Georgianna Symonette, Eugenia Lockhart, Albertha Isaacs, Grace Wilson, Mildred Moxey, Ethel Kemp, Gladys Bailey, Madge Brown and Dr. Doris Johnson.

h) Reaffirm that the sovereignty of the Bahamian people and nation is founded upon principles of the dignity and worth of the human person, fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual, social justice, the fundamental role of the family in a free society based on spiritual values.

i) Rededicate ourselves to the building of a democratic society founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and upon the rule of law, in which the power of the government springs from the will of the people, legitimated by periodic free, fair and publicly financed elections based on universal adult suffrage.

j) Resolve that the national assets of the nation shall be preserved and used to promote the general welfare by fair access, with a proper regard for ability, integrity and merit.

k) Resolve to provide maximum opportunities for the development of the creative imagination and intellect of all Bahamians, based on entrepreneurship, innovation and employment opportunities under humane and just conditions.

l) Affirm that our Bahamian nationhood is nourished by our roots in the wider spiritual and cultural reality of the Caribbean region, and undertake to seek the closest forms of community with our sisters and brothers in the Caribbean.

m) Commit to cooperate with other nations in the quest for international peace and security and the promotion of universal respect for human rights and freedom.

I suggest that the foregoing statements may better express the current expectations and aspiration of the Bahamian people.  The preamble should be inclusive and affirming of the racial, ethnic, religious and cultural diversity and pluralism, which now make up the Bahamian civil society, and declare aspirations to guide us into the future.


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

Aug 23, 2012

thenassauguardian

Monday, August 20, 2012

Political Victimization in the Bahamian Society

By Dennis Dames

The issue of political victimization in the Bahamian society is a grim one - which every political party that ruled The Bahamas is guilty of.  Healing and resolution will only come when the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), Free National Movement (FNM), and the United Bahamian Party (UBP) principals admit to being associated with it.

Continuous denials will only sow seeds of distrust among the masses, because he who feels it knows it.  Nasty political divisions run deep in our country; and political victimization is the main reason for it – in my view.

The Bahamas will not mature gracefully and prosperously when we are hurting one another.  We are about to celebrate forty (40) years of Independence, and all we have to show for it is hazardous political gangs fighting to control our government and economy.

The people and country’s best interest have been lost somewhere along the way; and all we have just now is a battle to see who could fool the electorate to elect them, so that they could victimize the hell out of their political enemies without mercy.

Yes, we prefer to see our fellow Bahamian brothers and sisters as foes rather than partners for a better Bahamas for all and sundry.  This is indeed a sad and depressing state of affairs.

Respect is due to doctor Hubert Minnis - the leader of the Free National Movement (FNM), for admitting that his party did victimized Bahamians while in power, and thumbs down to those in the same party who say otherwise.

The good doctor should realize now that he has wicked adversaries within the ranks of the Free National Movement (FNM), and I believe that he has the public support in weeding out those who are in denial about his Party’s past victimization reality.

These are some grave times in our nation - and in order for us Bahamians to move forward, upward, onward and together – we must unite accordingly.  Political victimization is alive and well in The Bahamas today; and the governing party is not the only guilty party in this regard.

Check out the various political groups on Facebook – for example, and one would easily discover the high level of political intolerance amongst Bahamians - and towards Bahamians.  Even the most educated of us condescend to the lowest of levels when we do not agree with another brother or sister’s political perspective.  It’s like so many of us have turned in to political cannibals for the sake of dedicated political affiliation.

It’s destroying us, and we will proudly celebrate forty (40) years of being politically divisive in 2013.  What madness is this my people?

Caribbean Blog International

No 100-Day Victory for the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) as Many Problems Loom

No 100-Day Victory As Many Problems Loom


Tribune242 Editorial




DESPITE the PLP’s promises of a better Bahamas at the end of its first 100 days in office, crime continues to dominate the headlines. Running a close second are accusations that FNM supporters in key government positions are being victimised. And, of course, Prime Minister Christie, determined for government to become the major shareholder in BTC, is moving full steam ahead for a meeting with Cable & Wireless sometime before month’s end. He has named his negotiating team. He has also announced that former Prime Minister Ingraham’s plans to sell the public a percentage of government’s shares in the telecommunications company has been cancelled.

And so, the possibility of Bahamians owning shares in “their” BTC is no more. However, their ownership will be a figment of the imagination as they ostensibly will own BTC through the PLP government, who will have the final word, with Bahamians having no say. Mr Geoff Houston, BTC’s CEO, must be mystified about the PLP government’s intentions because under Cable & Wireless’ administration government’s profits for its 49 per cent ownership has almost doubled to what it was when it owned and managed the whole company.

We all know that no sensible investor would have bought BTC with government as a controlling partner. Bahamians have evidence that no government corporation in this country has ever succeeded because of political interference. At last one corporation has escaped government’s clutches, and if it is to have any future it is up to Bahamians to make certain that government gets no further control.

Mr Christie told the press that although BTC executives were going to try to talk him into agreeing with them, his difficulty was that it was not what he thought. “It’s what the people who voted for me think and I can’t go back to them and tell them that maybe the next four to five years.”

When on the campaign trail did Mr Christie make BTC an election issue? All we heard about was urban renewal, reduction of crime, mortgage assistance, health benefits and the like. We do not think that those who voted for the PLP had BTC on their mind. Maybe Mr Christie is answerable to a small group within his political party and among the unions, but, it would be hard for him to prove that he was given the green light by the general electorate.

But today the issue is ZNS and the way the news staff are being handled there. It is reported that they are to be removed from the nightly news slots so that the station can “beef up” coverage. Apparently, it is claimed that ZNS is loosing traction to private radio stations. This country can thank former prime minister Hubert Ingraham and the FNM for this freedom to express themselves as the party celebrates its 20th anniversary of removing the government of the late Sir Lynden Pindling in 1992. It was because of the disgraceful performance of the government owned corporation under the PLP, which silenced the voice of the Opposition, that one of Mr Ingraham’s first acts on becoming prime minister was to open the airwaves and give the Bahamian people their democratic right to free speech.

Now that the PLP are back in power they intend to reform their radio station. Those inside the corporation have called it a case of “blatant political victimisation.”

It is claimed that those who are being reassigned to other positions are perceived to be FNM, two of them being punished because they covered the FNM rallies during the May election. If this accusation is true, it is shocking. A reporter has no say in what story he is assigned to cover. Imagine a Tribune reporter refusing to cover a PLP function, because he is FNM. He would be headed towards the door so fast for insubordination that he wouldn’t know what hit him. In fact we do not know the political sympathies of any of our reporters, nor do we care. Our only concern is that they are competent reporters and bring that competence to every assignment they are sent to cover.

One of our reporters has been told by a ZNS insider that some ZNS managers have been overheard threatening reporters. “You gonna get what’s coming to you. We will deal with you,” they have been quoted as saying.

If this is true the corporation should be shut down. Bahamians should protest that their tax dollars are supporting a station that would employ such unprofessional managers.

As the Broadcasting Corporation is supported by the public purse, Bahamians are entitled to know whether this displaced staff is being replaced by competent professionals, or just a group of political toadies.

Where is the voice of Obie Wilchcombe, PLP MP for West End and Bimini, who in the past could be depended on to defend the Fourth Estate, having at one time been on the staff of the Broadcasting Corporation.

However, thanks to Mr Ingraham and the FNM, persons like MP Fred Mitchell and others will not have to fly to Miami to broadcast to their constituents in Nassau because they were banned from the PLP controlled ZNS. They were the days when Mr Mitchell had nothing good to say about Sir Lynden or his government. Today, Bahamians will always have a voice and can express their views on a variety of talk shows in an open and free broadcast market. ZNS is no longer an essential service. And as such we should not have to pay for its upkeep.

A message sent to Tribune242 invites Bahamians to “take a look at what’s happening at BEC…staff there are on pins and needles! People to this day are afraid they’ll lose their job because they attend FNM rallies! That’s just insane.” And Bahamians were told to “ask anyone who works at BTC what is happening there since the PLP took office. It is difficult to understand how this type of behaviour can be so blatant. It is not just the PLP it is the Bahamian political way and will keep the Bahamas back for as long as patronage is accepted.”

And so, instead of celebrating achievements in their first 100 days, the PLP are being accused of “blatant victimisation.” And as for the promised reduction in crime — thanks to Urban Renewal — although the police are fighting hard, it seems that in some areas it’s a losing battle. So it’s no sense for officialdom to try to hide the crime figures, people who live in the communities know the truth.

August 20, 2012



Sunday, August 19, 2012

...the paradox of the migrant and the missing Bahamian worker in The Bahamas

The Missing Bahamian

By Jones Bahamas:


Life as it is experienced at the street-corner level in today’s highly urban-Bahamas conjures up a medley of competing images.
 
At one extreme, there is that widely held assumption that daily life in most of our heartland communities is all about crime, hustling and other such acts of deviance.

At another remove, there is that other lived reality where daily life as experienced in all its rawness and has to do with village life; people bustling about engaged in this or that money-making enterprise.

There is that popularly held notion that life at the community level in some of our heartland-communities amounts to an ongoing struggle by one faction [the decent, law-abiding and penurious citizen] against another, [the law-breakers]: thus the current police-led thrust of Urban Renewal 2.0.

What is interesting about these perspectives has to do not only with how each has been constructed by this or that interest group; but by what each somehow or the other manages to neglect or elide.

Each misses the fact that daily life in our heart-land communities and for that matter throughout our nation is marbled through and through with foreign workers – whether at the elite level as they are to be found as advisors to government, consultants and managers in the hotels and banks.

Evidently, foreign workers – legal and illegal alike- are to be found wherever there is a need for skilled workers; thus all those electricians, plumbers, masons, cooks, nurses, teachers, security guards who are gainfully employed.

Interestingly, some of these people are savvy enough, hard-working enough and disciplined enough and honest enough to not only hold down a job, but also fit and proper enough to send remittances home to their families.

Missing from these serried ranks is an untold number of Bahamian men and women; people who would prefer hustling, drifting here, there, hither and yon armed with complaint piled upon complaint as to what they had expected this or that administration to do for them in exchange for their vote.

We sometimes wonder about why when the hard times fall – practically everyone with a voice blames someone or the other for the myriad of woes experienced either by themselves or others.

This blame-game is all for naught. When it comes to blame, there is enough of the stuff and more for all who would wish to play the game.

Now think – if you will – about this: If you want a really good tailor – there is a Haitian or Chinese who can and will accommodate you. The same principle applies if you are looking for a really good chef: here you can readily find one who is from Belgium, France or another such European country.

If you want a really good maid to live in and do your bidding, hire a woman from the Philippines – and the list goes on for any number of other jobs and occupations.

Sadly, missing from the list are so very many Bahamians who might – if only they were ready, able and willing – to man more of these jobs, some of which are fairly well-paying.

Call this – if you will – the paradox of the migrant and the missing Bahamian worker.

The migrant population in the Bahamas comprises mainly of Haitians who settle for work, while others are from Cuba and Jamaica. There is also inter-island migration, chiefly to New Providence and Grand Bahama islands.

We have a situation where the qualified, hard-working migrant gets both the job and the work; whereas his Bahamian counterpart oftentimes wants the job and the pay that it brings; but could care less about value delivered for money.

One of the more cruel jokes currently making its way around this island and perhaps also around this archipelago has to do with a Bahamian man and his wife [both unemployed] living off neighbors, family, friends and Social Service who – when interviewed by a news reporter- averred that they wanted jobs, not work.

Both were convinced that a government job was just the ticket they needed.

They wanted jobs, but were clearly not looking for work.

By stark contrast, there are thousands upon thousands of other people – some of them living and working as so-called ‘illegals’ – each and every day apply themselves to the task of earning their daily bread.

Today we look in not only on these people’s lives but also on those of some of our people who believe that the world owes them something.

The day of the free lunch – if they did not know it – is long gone.

15 August, 2012

Jones Bahamas

Friday, August 17, 2012

Urban Renewal 2.0 is working ...and is succeeding within the inner city areas of New Providence

The success of Urban Renewal 2.0


Dear Editor,

 

It is my humble submission that Urban Renewal 2.0, despite the occasional hiccup, is working and is succeeding within the inner city areas of New Providence. Some of the detractors and others who may subscribe to a politically different view than PLPs are quick to condemn and criticize the value and benefits of the same.

I have long held that a massive police presence within the urban renewal program is crucial to its success or otherwise. The bulk of our home grown criminals and other societal miscreants live and operate within our local communities. Generally speaking, we know who they are and many of them look just like us.

With the police actively patrolling on the ground, petty crimes have been noticeably reduced. The occasional alleged homicides are still occurring, especially as they may relate to domestic disputes. It would be difficult if not impossible for the police or other components of urban renewal to stop a domestically related offense because no one knows in advance what a perpetrator may or may not do within the confines of a residence.

Housebreaking, purse snatching and crimes which could be committed in public, however, are a different kettle of fish. A heavy police presence, the demolition of abandoned and derelict buildings have brought relief to many within their respective inner city communities.

In addition, the active partnering between the police and other components has led to the ‘discovery’ of individuals who are living in sub-human conditions and crime havens. It has also increased the capability of the police to gather crucial intelligence from members of the respective communities.

Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis (PLP-Cat Island) is to be commended, along with all of the related components and individuals, for the magnificent work currently being done within Urban Renewal 2.0. The recent appointments of Cynthia ‘Mother’ Pratt and Algernon S.P.B. Allen, both former members of Parliament and Cabinet ministers will prove to be the icing on the proverbial cake.

They are both passionate about our people on the ground and have both been active in ministries which have impacted tens of thousands of ordinary Bahamians. Indeed, they are both products of the inner city and are able to empathize with those who continue to live, work and play therein. Prime Minister Perry Gladstone Christie (PLP-Centreville) made an excellent choice with their timely appointments.

With the success of Urban Renewal 2.0, however, there must be strict compliance within the law. Buildings should not and cannot be demolished without the consent of the certified owners and/or the appropriate court order. Petty criminals must be assured of proper investigations by the police and, where charged, they must be brought before a competent court in short order. Allegations of police brutality should and must be kept to the minimum.

The Ministry of Social Development has its work cut out. It is a vital partner within Urban Renewal 2.0. The Minister and her hard working staff must ensure that those who apply for assistance are, in fact, qualified to so do and not merely seeking to fleece the public purse. Jobless individuals must be integrated into a job training skills program and weaned off expectations of living “the life of Riley” without having to work for it.

Where we find overt alcoholics and drug addicts, they must be persuaded to allow themselves to be institutionalized and seek out-patient treatment. A casual observation would reveal that a large percentage of the residents of New Providence are hooked on something of an addictive nature. Too much productivity is being lost and low productivity is killing the gross domestic product (GDP).

Conflict resolution courses within our schools and civic organizations, especially the collective church, must be mandated. Statistics have shown that many conflicts, both within the home and the wider society, could be avoided and/or reduced if individuals were taught just how to resolve relatively simple conflicts before they escalate into serious matters.

I wish to thank all stake holders on the apparent success, so far of Urban Renewal 2.0 and encourage them to continue their stellar work on behalf of a grateful Bahamian people.

Yes, Utopia will not come about any time soon but as The Bahamas continues to evolve as a nation, if we all do our part and play whatever role we are able to perform best, I have absolutely no doubt that we are on the right track.

 

— Ortland H. Bodie Jr.

August 17, 2012

thenassauguardian

Constitutional reform Pt. 1: ... ...After 39 years of constitutional practice in The Bahamas, it is now time that we examine our constitution ...to determine if it conforms to the demands and expectations of contemporary Bahamian society... ...Does the Bahamian constitution reflect the contemporary shared expectations and experiences of the Bahamian community today?

Constitutional reform Pt. 1


By Alfred Sears


On Wednesday, August 1, 2012, Prime Minister Perry Christie, in a communication to the House of Assembly, announced the appointment of a Constitutional Commission to review and recommend changes to the Constitution of The Bahamas, in advance of the 40th anniversary of Bahamian independence.  The commission is chaired by Mr. Sean McWeeney, Q.C. and the members include Mr. Loren Klein, a member and technical co-ordinator of the commission’s secretariat; Mr. Carl Bethel; Madam Justice Rubie Nottage (retired); Mr. Mark Wilson; Mr. Lester Mortimer; Mrs. Tara Cooper-Burnside; Professor Michael Stevenson; Dr. Olivia Saunders; Mr. Michael Albury; Ms. Chandra Sands; Ms. Brandace Duncanson and Mrs. Carla Brown-Roker.

The newly-appointed commission will be able to complete the constitutional review process that had been started by the Constitutional Commission, that had been appointed by Prime Minister Christie on the December 23, 2002, under the joint chairpersons Paul Adderley and Harvey Tynes, QC, but which process the government abandoned after the 2007 general election.

This series of 20 articles on constitutional reform in The Bahamas, parts of which were first published by The Nassau Guardian in 2000 and are now updated, is intended to engage the Bahamian community in public conversation about the constitution in a frank and constructive manner, in light of the changing shared experience and expectations of contemporary Bahamian society.

While I will examine the limitations of the constitution, I will also provide recommendations, informed by the experience of other constitutional democracies, to assist us in creating a more perfect democracy in The Bahamas.  It is my hope that these articles will encourage public discussion about our governmental structure, citizenship, fundamental rights, the independence of the judiciary, campaign finance reform, public contracts, the Privy Council, the death penalty, republican status and the need for more effective checks and balances in our system of government.

The Constitution of The Bahamas, framed during the early period of modernization in The Bahamas, concentrates too much power in the Office of the Prime Minister, discriminates against women; does not guarantee the right to vote, the freedom of the press, protection of the environment; and does not promote economic and social rights.

The American legal scholar, Professor Myres McDougal, asserted that a constitution should be “a living instrument, a dynamic and continuing process of communication, practices and decisions.  It is made and continually remade in response to the changing demands and expectations of the people under ever-changing conditions.  It should reflect not only the shared expectations of the original framers of the constitution, but also those of succeeding generations.  It should also reflect the contemporary shared expectations and experiences of community members today.”

The Bahamas Independence Order 1973, an act of the British Parliament, provides for The Bahamas to become an independent sovereign nation.  The constitution is actually the appendix to The Bahamas Independence Order 1973.  The representatives of the Bahamian people at the Constitutional Conference in London in December, 1972 comprised the following individuals: Sir Arthur Foulkes, Sir Orville A. Turnquest, Sir Lynden O. Pindling, Sir Clement Maynard, Arthur Hanna, Paul Adderley, Philip Bethel, George A. Smith, Loftus A. Roker, Cadwell Armbrister, Norman Solomon, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Kendal G.L. Isaacs, Mr. Carlton Francis and Mr. Henry Bowen.  These 15 men are collectively known as the framers of the Bahamian Constitution.  There were no Bahamian women represented at the Constitutional Conference of 1972.  Therefore, the review of the constitution will afford Bahamian women, for the first time in our history, an opportunity to be directly involved in the remaking of our constitution, as members of the Constitutional Commission, members of Parliament and electors in any referendum.

The form and structure of the Constitution of The Bahamas was patterned after the constitution of Jamaica of July 25, 1962, which was itself patterned after the Nigerian constitution of October 1, 1960, incorporating a bill of rights based on the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  All of these constitutions were drafted under the supervision of the Colonial Office in London.  The heading of chapters, the numbering of the parts, and over 60 percent of the sentences, clauses, phrases and words used in the Bahamian Constitution are to be found in exact form in the constitution of Jamaica and the earlier constitutions of Nigeria and Sierra Leone.  Due to this Westminster constitutional model received by The Bahamas and other Caribbean countries, Professor Trevor Munroe, in his book “The Politics of Constitutional Decolonization: Jamaica 1944 to 1962”, argues that the real founding fathers of these constitutions were not the Nigerians, Jamaicans and Bahamians, but the British who promoted the model to their former colonies.  Similarly, the noted constitutional lawyer, Berthan Macaulay, QC, argued that the Westminster constitutional model is an attempt by the British to “implant the legal form, conventions and understandings and governmental history of an alien people into ex-colonial societies, and expect them to grow overnight without regard to the conventions, understandings and history of the local people... In their inflexible form these constitutions leave much room for those who seek absolute power, or whose goal is the achievement of almost unlimited power, in short, dictatorship.”

The present constitutional review will provide the entire Bahamian civil society an opportunity to shape and model a constitution in our own image.

As we review the Constitution of The Bahamas, we should learn some lessons from the constitutional practice of the United States of America.  The Constitution of the United States, adopted in 1789, is the oldest written constitution in our hemisphere.  It is a living document, given new meaning and vitality under ever-changing conditions through Supreme Court decisions and formal amendments.  It extends its protection to all persons in the territory of United States, citizens rich and poor as well as aliens.  In establishing a national government, the United States’ constitution sets up three branches and provides mechanisms for them to check and balance each other.  It balances central federal authority with dispersed state-reserved power.  It protects the citizenry from the government and gives the power of judicial review to the judicial branch of government.

The limitations of the original United States constitution are very apparent from a brief historical review.  In 1789 when the constitution was founded, African Americans were still in slavery and, as property, were not considered as full citizens.  However, there has been a continued process of correction, through constitutional amendments, judicial decisions, legislation and executive measures to create a more perfect democracy in the United States, as the society moved from an agrarian to an highly industrialized nation.  The first 10 amendments of the United States constitution were passed in 1791.  The 13th Amendment, adopted in 1865 immediately after the Civil War, abolished slavery.  The 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, gives citizenship to all persons born in the United States and guarantees due process and equal protection of the laws.  Bahamians who had children in the United States, such as the parents of Sir Sidney Poitier, were and are the beneficiaries of this provision.  The 15th Amendment, adopted in 1870, guarantees the right to vote irrespective of race, color or previous condition of servitude.  Up until 1971, the United States constitution had been amended 27 times.

Similarly, our sister Caribbean countries have also been trying to bring their constitutions in line with the shared expectations and aspirations of their contemporary societies.

Constitutional reviews have been undertaken and amendments proposed or effected, for example, in Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.  Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago have totally replaced their independence constitutions.

After 39 years of constitutional practice in The Bahamas, it is now time that we examine our constitution to determine if it conforms to the demands and expectations of contemporary Bahamian society.  Does the Bahamian constitution reflect the contemporary shared expectations and experiences of the Bahamian community today?

 

• Alfred Sears is an attorney and a former minister of education, and chairman of the Council of The College of The Bahamas.

Aug 16, 2012

thenassauguardian

Thursday, August 16, 2012

...unless and until we fix whatever is wrong with our tourism industry (and fix it urgently) ...the economic and social dislocations currently being experienced in The Bahamas will continue unabated

What needs to happen in tourism


CFAL Economic View


The Ministry of Tourism’s ‘Islands of The Bahamas Arrivals Report’ released earlier this year contains some very useful and informative data on the tourism industry in The Bahamas, and a lot more information on the economic performances of those countries from which our visitors originate.

The report, compiled by the ministry’s research department, provides a summary of total visitor arrivals to The Bahamas for the year 2011, in what appears to be a record-breaking total of 5.234 million.  That figure is broken down further to show that only 1.29 million of those visitors (or about 25 percent) arrived by air.

There is something troubling about that figure when it is taken into account that about 25 years ago The Bahamas was boasting total air arrivals in the region of 1.5 million.  What is more troubling is the fact that we are in the midst of the worst recession ever experienced in a modern Bahamas and the agency which oversees our most important industry appears to be offering no concrete solutions.

Almost 75 percent of the report outlines the economic challenges facing the United States as a result of the crash of the housing market there, and the subsequent financial meltdown.  The rise in unemployment, particularly in the northeastern states, is highlighted perhaps to remind us that the reason for the poor performance of our local economy is tied to employment levels in the U.S.  It is also noted that Texas, contrary to popular belief, generates more tourists for The Bahamas than many of the northeastern states.

Similar information is provided on Canada and the western European nations whose citizens also visit The Bahamas, although not in such great numbers as the Americans.  Again, the intent is presumably to inform us that it is the global slowdown in economic activity that is adversely affecting our visitor arrivals (by air) and consequently contributing to the slow economic growth figures.

Those examples, or more appropriately arguments, would have been more persuasive had we not been made aware from other sources that air arrival tourists were up and growing impressively in our competitor destinations, such as Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Cancun, Mexico.  Some mention of the costly and perhaps unsustainable subsidies to the industry in the form of ‘companion airfare’ is given as a successful policy response to the crisis.

For more than half a century tourism has played a pivotal role in the economic development process of this country.  It has accounted for most of the foreign direct investment, more than 50 percent of direct and indirect employment, and has provided the necessary level of foreign exchange inflows to not only fund our insatiable import appetite but also to support the important one-to-one peg between the U.S. dollar and the Bahamian dollar.

Changes needed

In other words, unless and until we fix whatever is wrong with our tourism industry (and fix it urgently), the economic and social dislocations currently being experienced in the country will continue unabated.  Large numbers of skilled and semi-skilled Bahamians will join the unemployed labor force. Unable to meet their debt commitments, they run the risk of losing their homes and other assets acquired during better times.  Unable to provide the needed level of support for their immediate families, the inevitable household tension could rip families apart.

What is needed is a recognition of the importance of the tourist industry to The Bahamas in general and to the partial solution to the current economic crisis in particular.  In the short-term, attempts to stimulate other less important parts of the economy or programs to diversify production from our main service provider simply will not create the number or types of jobs sufficient to absorb the unemployed.

The tourism plant, in terms of existing and planned hotel rooms, needs some form of re-tooling to ensure it is functioning at its optimal potential.  We know for instance that the costs of labor and utilities are out of line with our competitors, placing the country at a pricing disadvantage.  Those areas need to be addressed, perhaps by permitting the hotel operators to produce (hopefully more efficiently) their utility needs rather than relying on the inefficient state-owned corporations.

Above all, we need more air-arrivals since that category of visitor spends more than 10 times what is spent by their cruise counterparts, making a larger contribution to employment and output in the country.  The Bahamas at this time in our history needs a fresh, focused and comprehensive plan to increase the number of air arrivals in order to produce the required number of jobs and to begin the process to effectively reverse the unemployment trend.

 

• CFAL is a sister company of The Nassau Guardian under the AF Holdings Ltd. umbrella.  CFAL provides investment management, research, brokerage and pension services.  For comments, please contact CFAL at: column@cfal.com

Aug 15, 2012

thenassauguardian

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

2012 will go on record as being one of the worst years in the history of the Free National Movement (FNM)


The Bahama Journal


Dear Editor:
 


2012 will go on record as being one of the worst years in the history of the Free National Movement (FNM). This was not supposed to be the case, however. You see, this month and year marks the 20th anniversary of the FNM’s stunning victory in 1992 (August 19) against the legendary Sir Lynden O. Pindling and his Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Government.

For 25 years Sir Lynden was the undisputed ruler of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. His erstwhile political son, Hubert A. Ingraham, led the perennial official opposition party to what many described as a momentous event in the annals of the history of the modern Bahamas. This would have also been a little over three months into the fourth non-consecutive term as prime minister for Ingraham had the FNM pulled off the May 7 General Election. But the Bahamian electorate voted against Ingraham and his party.

After all was said and done, only nine out of 38 candidates for the FNM were able to win a seat in the House of Assembly. The remaining 29 seats were won by PLP candidates. Many of the future leaders of the party were defeated by relatively unknown candidates. One of the FNM’s brightest candidates to fall in the May 7 electoral contest was Charles Maynard, former Member of Parliament for the Golden Isles constituency and minister of youth, sports and culture in the Ingraham administration. Like thousands of Bahamians, I was astonished and saddened after learning that Maynard had died on the early morning of August 14 in North Abaco. What makes his passing all the more shocking is the fact that he was only 42.

He was a great asset to the FNM as a chairman. I always enjoyed listening to him give radio and television interviews. He was very articulate and professional in defending the policies of his party despite being harassed and harangued by his political foes while on the radio. He always arose above the fray. He never got into mudslinging or character assassination in order to score brownie points. He always had a smile. What makes his membership to the FNM so unique is the fact that many of his family members have deep roots in the PLP.


 Yet despite having grown up in that party and having served as one of the leaders of the now defunct Coalition for Democratic Reform party, he decided to join the FNM party. His death is a major setback to a party that is in the midst of a by-election campaign. Perhaps FNMs in North Abaco will rally behind Dr. Hubert Minnis and throw their support behind his candidate Greg Gomez in tribute to a man who was determined to rebuild a great political organization that appears to still be reeling from the devastating loss it suffered on May 7.

Who knows? Maybe his death will serve as a unifying factor for a party that many political pundits are saying is badly disjointed. Maynard’s sudden passing teaches us all that death is the great common denominator. All of Adam’s offspring will be taken by the icy, cold hands of death. The Old Testament Book of Job 14:5 reads, “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”

Maynard’s death has put everything into perspective. In the last analysis, the only thing that will matter on the day we die is whether we had been fully obedient to the Lord Jesus Christ. How many elections we have been able to win or how famous we have become or how much wealth we have amassed won’t matter on the other side of death. Life is so fragile; so uncertain. You never know where the Grim Reaper is. My condolences to the Maynard family. My prayers are with you during these troubling times. I truly hope that the fallen former FNM chairman is in the presence of God and His holy angels in heaven. May his soul rest in peace.

15 August, 2012

Jones Bahamas

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Free National Movement (FNM), Charles Maynard and the North Abaco Bye-election

By Dennis Dames




The official opposition Free National Movement (FNM) has raised the stakes tremendously for the upcoming by-election in north Abaco by sacrificing their Chairman – Charles Maynard.

Like a confident gambler in a poker game, the party has gone all-in in the Abacos.  Will the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) call the bet by sacrificing their very own big man in the Chairman’s seat; or will they fold?

The approaching by-election in north Abaco has just gotten exciting, and the FNM has let it be known that they intend to go all-out to retain the seat left vacant by the Rt. Honorable Doctor – Hubert Alexander Ingraham.

The FNM clearly believes that the PLP has not got the guts to answer their wager, or they could simply be calling them bluff.

In any event, Charles Maynard is on the table – and in order for the PLP to win the game in Abaco, their Chairman will have to be the bundle used to match the FNM’s stake.

It remains to be seen if the PLP’s wizards will be allowed to call the FNM’s pot at the north Abaco poker table.

The PLP has got enough chips to control the game for at least four more solid years; so – they could go south and leave the FNM and their dead chairman alone in the room.  Only time will tell if the PLP will hold-up, fold-up, walk away or run in north Abaco.

Caribbean Blog International

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Christie-led government has remained noncommittal concerning oil drilling in The Bahamas

PM still committed to referendum on oil drilling


By Candia Dames
Guardian News Editor
candia@nasguard.com


While a referendum on oil drilling is not currently the priority of the Bahamas government, Prime Minister Perry Christie told The Nassau Guardian he remains committed to such a referendum.

But he said “there would have to be serious indications that there is oil and natural gas in commercial quantities”.

“I committed my party to if we are going to have oil drilling in The Bahamas while we are in power, we will do so by seeking the support of the people of The Bahamas, so the answer is yes,” said the prime minister when asked recently by The Nassau Guardian whether the referendum was still planned.

He said,  “One of the dangers for The Bahamas is that concessions are being given to explore in the same area by the Cuban government and it would be a very interesting development as they are in a position to start exploring and digging a well before us.

“If they were to find a well then it makes it almost a compelling case for The Bahamas having to do the same thing.  And so, we’re not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and play crazy with it.

“But at this particular time we have to continue to assess where we are on that subject matter to see whether in fact the company (Bahamas Petroleum Company) is in a position to finance drilling because it’s a huge sum of money involved in that.

“This is not a $50 million or $60 million kind of enterprise.  This is a hugely expensive enterprise, particularly with the environmental safeguards that should be in place.

“And so, at some stage or the other the company will come forth to us to say,  ‘listen, we are ready to do the following things and this is the evidence we have that you have fossil fuels there’ and we’ll see.”

Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) has committed to spudding its exploratory well in Bahamian waters by April 2013, although recent reports from the company indicate this drill date could be pushed back later in the year.

BPC is looking to bring on an operational and equity partner for the drill, The Nassau Guardian previously reported.

The Christie-led government has remained noncommittal concerning oil drilling in The Bahamas.

“We do believe that the Bahamian people ought to be consulted,” said Kenred Dorsett, the minister of the environment, previously. “Whether it goes the extent of a referendum, that will have to be determined based on the costs. That is a matter for the Cabinet to decide.”

Prior to the election in April, the previous government suspended BPC’s oil drilling licenses. There has been no formal announcement from the new government as to whether these licenses have been renewed.

The Christie administration has also committed to a referendum on gambling, which the prime minister has said will be called by the end of this year; and a constitutional referendum on citizenship matters, which the government intends to call before the end of the term.

Aug 13, 2012

thenassauguardian

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The local gambling debate: ...The number houses, Bahamian culture, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and numbers kingpin and former PLP Treasurer - the late Percy Munnings ...and the call to legalise the native numbers business; tax it, and strictly control it ...so that it is not allowed to grow into an octopus of destruction

The Destructive Face Of Casino Gambling




Tribune242 Editorial



AS A follow up to our comments in this column yesterday a Tribune reader has sent us an interesting article from London’s Daily Mail on the Englishman’s destructive addiction to the roulette machine and Labour’s admission that it made a mistake by relaxing gambling laws thus allowing casinos to flourish.

All the observations in the Daily Mail article are among the reasons that we made it clear in this column yesterday that our comments about the ever present “numbers racket” to the growing presence of web shops did not include the more sophisticated casino tables of the hotels.

However, with the number houses becoming over the years almost a part of the island culture, it is going to be impossible to shut them down. It must be particularly hard for the PLP to even consider closure, considering that their party’s treasurer Percy Munnings was the acknowledged numbers boss and with his gains a generous financial supporter of his party for many years.

If Percy Munnings could get away with it, reasoned the little numbers man, then why couldn't he? It was a reasonable proposition. Despite the police raids, the back room numbers trade became bolder and more entrenched.

This is why we accept that it has been allowed to become so much a part of the fabric of the Bahamas that government might as well capitulate, legalise it, tax it, and strictly control it so that it is not allowed to grow into an octopus of destruction.

However, allowing Bahamians into the hotel casinos is another matter and we agree with Robert “Sandy” Sands, senior vice-president of external and government affairs of BahaMar, that Bahamians are not “disciplined” enough to be able to gamble locally. Not only are Bahamians not disciplined enough, but neither are Britons — in fact few members of the human race, unless they have entrenched religious convictions, and strong wills, can easily escape the temptation of easy money.

Mr Sands’ comments came after Prime Minister Perry Christie, while promising a referendum before the end of the year to legalise gambling and create a national lottery, vetoed the referendum being extended to open casino gambling in the hotels to the local population.

According to the Daily Mail article, written by Sarah Bridge and Abul Taher, the extent of “Britain’s addiction to controversial casino-style gambling machines” was revealed with the disclosure “by two bookmaker giants that more than £12 billion was wagered on their machines in the first half of this year.”

The figures revealed by the “bookies” was staggering.

But the most interesting part of the article was the admission by Shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman, who was a senior member of the Cabinets of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, that her government had made a tragic mistake.

“I think we were wrong,” the Mail quoted her as saying:

“We have made a mistake and we need to do something about it.

“If we had known then what we know now, we wouldn’t have allowed this.

“It’s not just ruining the high street, it’s ruining people’s lives.”

The Mail reports that this is the first time that Ms Harman, who is in charge of Labour’s gambling policy, has explicitly blamed the Labour government for the increase in gambling.

Ms Harman spoke out after hearing stories from people hooked on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOTNs) that encourage people to stake £100 at a time on roulette, blackjack or poker games hoping to win £500.

“I have received the most heart-rending letters and e-mails and calls that I’ve ever had in 30 years of being an MP,” she said, “just saying, “Please, do something about this. It’s ruined my life, it’s ruined my family, it’s really dangerous.”

“And the problem is, it’s getting worse,” she said, “that is why we need the law changed so that something can be done about it.”

Ms Harman told the Mail that FOTBs were “bringing casinos right into the high street.”

“These machines,” she said, “are like mini-casinos— they’re not like the small machines you have in seaside arcades. People get addicted and lose all their money.”

This is a matter that has to be studied carefully. If it is decided to allow the betting shops that we now have, they have to be strictly controlled so that they do not grow into a greater menace than they are now.

Government now has to decided whether to close down all local gambling, or strictly control and tax the numbers and web shops. But the ridiculous situation of turning a blind eye to open and defiant illegality can no longer continue.

August 08, 2012


Friday, August 10, 2012

...the numbers business is not only popular and a cultural norm ...but is one of the biggest contributors to the Bahamian economy ...says - business consultant, Paul Major

Gambling Debate Intensifies


By: Theo Sealy & Rogan Smith
The Bahama Journal



Two top clergymen, a leading hotelier, a business consultant and a college professor locked horns tighter than ever last night over the controversial gambling issue.

Retired Anglican Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Dr. Ranford Patterson, Kerzner International VP of Public Affairs & Retail Services Ed Fields, business consultant, Paul Major and educator and civil activist, Margo Blackwell all participated in a Jones Communications Network (JCN) town meeting series at the Harry C. Moore library where they each took turns highlighting the benefits or pitfalls of gambling.

The panel was split.

Opponents argued that gambling was destructive and against God’s will, while proponents touted the economic benefits that could be gained from its legalisation.

The Christie administration has announced plans to hold a referendum before the end of the year so that Bahamians can decide whether they want gambling legalised.

The BCC has repeatedly stressed that it is “diametrically opposed” to gambling and it didn’t stray from that premise last night.

“To engage in this gambling . . . one is going counter to what Jesus stands for and for what the church is here to promote. We believe that gambling is, in its final analysis, an affront to God,” Archbishop Gomez said.

“Our problem in the church is we have been compromised by our members in that so many of our members gamble and so many of our members do not really believe what the church teaches us because if they really believed, they would apply it in our lives. So, there are a lot of persons who belong to the church who participate in gambling because they aren’t putting into practice the teachings of the gospel. Gambling produces social dislocation. That is not disputed even by persons who engage in gambling.”

Mr. Major, meantime, said the church cannot legislate morality.

“It comes down to a matter of civil liberty – people deciding what they want to do with their disposable income,” he said.

“The only ones who don’t benefit from gambling are the government and the citizens who don’t gamble. At this stage in our development and enlightenment we should not be so concerned about whether Bahamians gamble.”

Dr. Patterson said with gambling, “we can only lose, not win.”

“The negative effects outweigh benefits. It can destroy a family. Every day in our ministries we are confronted with persons who are marginalised, persons who are experiencing loss, persons whose lives are falling through the cracks and that is why we feel so strongly about this because we see the devastation. That’s where our passion comes from,” Dr. Patterson said.

“Think of the devastation that we now see and the proliferation of the web shops. We believe it’s only going to get worse and our people are going to suffer as a result of it.”

But, one audience member chastised the church for its weak arguments on the controversial issue.

“I have been listening to a lot of debates on this gambling subject and it seems that the church is relying on the argument of morality. As it stands right now those arguments are not standing up very well against the arguments that these other panellists are presenting. Why isn’t the church presenting strong arguments about the economic and social impacts of the numbers business? These are the issues we need to present as opposed to what is morally incorrect,” she said.

Mr. Major, meantime, sought to dispel the notion that the ‘house’ always wins.

He told the panel and attendees that two number houses “went broke” because they couldn’t pay out winnings.

“On average 60 to 70 per cent of winnings go back out,” he said.

When challenged to substantiate his claims by providing the statistics, Mr. Major responded, “Trust me, trust me.”

He later said the numbers business has attracted 150,000 account holders.

He said 120,000 of those individuals have online accounts, while the remaining 30,000 individuals are walk-in customers to various web shops throughout the country.

Mr. Major suggested that the numbers business is not only popular and a cultural norm, but is one of the biggest contributors to the Bahamian economy.

Ms. Blackwell, careful to “stay far away from moral and social values as possible,” said she felt that Bahamians are being denied a right to gamble.

“I am a young lady who has lived her whole life being discriminated against in an independent Bahamas by a constitution that allows people who are not Bahamian to do something in my country that I am not allowed to do. I have a real problem with that,” she said.

Mr. Fields, meantime, said the gambling issue is not about its decriminalisation, but its liberalisation.

Churches have over the years demonised gambling in The Bahamas, but many have turned to major resorts for donations even though a good chunk of their revenue comes from casino dollars.

Mr. Fields said in his 16 years at the Paradise Island resort, he has received a letter from every single denomination in The Bahamas requesting donations.

He later questioned the difference between church raffles and the numbers business.

“Either you are hot or you are cold. The reality is that if I buy a raffle ticket my intent is to win over someone else…we are in a quagmire trying to justify this thing. Either we like them all or we wipe them all out. It cannot be a case of juggling. It cannot be that it is okay for the church to gamble through raffling but it is not okay for Bahamians to do the same through gambling at numbers houses,” Mr. Fields said.

“Yes numbers is illegal and perhaps there is a problem with the concept that because it is illegal on the books the donation from that illegal gambling is a problem. But there is not a problem with the church asking donations from an entity that has legal gambling. So gambling is okay if it is legal? That must be what the message is.”

Mr. Fields said if Bahamians vote to legalise the numbers business, the government could take a percentage of the money and set up counselling for addicts.

Gambling proponents say if the numbers business is legalised it could fund various government initiatives and provide millions of dollars to the public purse.

“It would do well for us here in the country if we go ahead with legalising the numbers business. It can contribute significantly to health care, sporting and education, overall helping with national development. We need to move forward with this and try to look at the positive side of how beneficial gambling can be, economically, to The Bahamas,” attorney Wallace Rolle said.

JCN CEO Wendall Jones moderated the town hall meeting.

August 10, 2012

Jones Bahamas