Sunday, September 30, 2012

Who was Paul Lawrence Adderley? ...Paul Adderley was a patriot for whom no task was too demanding, no burden too onerous, no personal sacrifice too great ...if it was calculated to preserve The Bahamas ...and move it forward

Christie describes Paul Adderley as “a true Renaissance Man”



FRIDAY SEPT. 28, 2012

The Late Paul Lawrence Adderley
One hundred and seventy four years ago, a ship bearing slaves to Cuba was intercepted by the British Navy and brought to Nassau.  There the slaves were freed.  Among these “Liberated Africans”, as they were called, was a young man of the Yoruba ethnic group from what is modern-day Nigeria. His name was Alliday. He was an alien in a bewildering new world, thousands of miles from home with the unbridgeable vastness of the Atlantic Ocean in between; a man without connections, without family, with nothing to his name, penniless and poor.

But not for long.

By the time of his death in 1885, Alliday Adderley had become the biggest black landowner in all of New Providence. Amongst the lands that he bought and paid for out of his own pocket was a large tract stretching from Goodman’s Bay and taking in Stapledon Gardens and the land lying west of the Tonique Williams-Darling Highway, all the way down to where Robin Hood used to be.  He owned all that, and a lot more too.  And lest we forget, this was a black man who had come to this country in chains.

But Alliday produced a great deal more than just landed wealth. He also produced sons. One of them, William Campbell Adderley, would become the first unambiguously black member of the House of Assembly where before there had only been whites and the occasional mulatto or two.

A generation passed and a new one came, and with it came Alliday’s grandson, Wilfred Parliament Adderley – W.P. Adderley, for short.  He became a prominent building contractor and downtown merchant with his ambitiously-named dry goods emporium on Marlborough Street: “The Big Store” is what it was called.  Of greater consequence, W.P became the second generation of Adderleys to sit in the House of Assembly.  And he was no ordinary member either.  He was an outspoken, combative and clever legislator, and a social reformer too.

Another generation would come and go, and in the one that followed would come forth W.P. Adderley’s only son.  His name was Alfred Francis Adderley – better known as A.F. Adderley – and from the beginning of the Bahamas till now he remains the closest thing we have ever had to black royalty.

Educated at Cambridge, he became far and away the best barrister at the local bar, dominating the courtroom from his call in 1919 to his death in 1953.  But A.F. Adderley was so much more than just the pre-eminent trial lawyer of his times.  Of infinitely greater consequence, he also attained unprecedented heights for a black Bahamian in the political establishment, first as a member of the House of Assembly, later as a member of the Upper House – then known as the Legislative Council – and finally as a member of that most exclusive of all the power-sets in the colony, the Executive Council.

He would also become Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese.  Moreover, he would serve in 1951 as acting Chief Justice, much to the consternation of the dominant power clique.  His involvement in the life of the community would extend into other spheres as well, most notably in sports.  He was, for example, the founding President of the BAAA.

The litany of A.F. Adderley’s trailblazing accomplishments goes on and on.  In truth, he went where no black man had ever gone before.  No one of his colour had ever risen higher, or accomplished as much, as A.F. did, and at a time, moreover, when it was the hardest thing in the world for any man of colour to make his way upward in the Bahamas, constructed as it was back then.

And no one gave it to A.F. Adderley.  He achieved it all on merit : by brainpower, by spotless integrity, by discipline, and by the relentless pursuit of excellence in everything he did.

And of all the things he did, there was none more consequential than this: by the sheer power of his example, he became the quintessential role model for successive generations of young black Bahamian men, throughout the 20s and 30s and 40s and even into the early 50’s, instilling in them, by example, the confidence, the conviction, that they, too, could become lawyers and doctors and engineers and that they, too, could become masters of their own destiny and leaders in their own land.

There is a transformative phenomenon in human relations called “the Power of One”.  A.F. Adderley’s life and example encapsulated exactly that.

And then came Paul…..Paul Lawrence Adderley, the fifth successive generation of Adderleys to make its mark on the life of our country, and the fourth successive generation of the family to sit among the makers of laws in the hallowed halls of parliament.  That remains a record unmatched by any other self-acknowledged family of colour in our country.

But when it came to Paul, it was not just the Adderley lineage that was at work.  Paul also had a mother – Ethel Adderley nee Lunn – and she hailed from the Lunn/Rodgers clan which, over the course of a century and more, has produced a distinguished line of medical doctors, scholars, public servants and diplomats, skilled tradesmen, and sportsmen of world renown, with names like Dr. Kenneth Rodgers, Dr. Johnny Lunn, Dr. Jonathon Rodgers, Dr. Patricia Rodgers, and the late Andre Rodgers of Major League Baseball fame.

So Paul really got it from both sides.

I have begun my tribute as I have not so much to share with you a remarkable family history that too few of us know about but rather to submit to you that there was bred in Paul’s very bones from birth a profound consciousness that he was part of a trans-generational relay, and that it was now his turn to take the baton and beat a new path into the future that lay before him.

Just as Alliday Adderley had done in his own time and as William Campbell Adderley had done in the generation that followed, and as W.P. Adderley had done in his own time, and as A.F. Adderley had done in his, Paul Lawrence Adderley knew that he was a part of that continuum, and that he was in duty bound to enlarge upon the accomplishments of his ancestors.

Believe me when I say that we cannot comprehend who and what Paul Adderley was, or what he came to mean to the life and times of our country over the course of his 84 years, nor can we comprehend what the lessons of his life hold for us now and for the children of tomorrow unless we first realize that Paul himself understood that there was a family tradition of excellence, of high accomplishment, of sacrifice, and of service that he had to live up to.

 Paul was an outstanding historian in his own right.  Historical research was one of his great passions, and there was no subject that he ever researched more assiduously than that of his own family history. He knew it inside out, and he knew profoundly that the golden cord that bound him to his forbears and which, in turn, connected him to the Bahamian people, was a deep and abiding sense of obligation to apply himself to the very best of his abilities; to do so in his every undertaking; and to do so in a way that would uplift not only himself but the whole of this country that he loved so dearly.  That was at once Paul’s ethos and his mission, and in embracing it he was keeping faith with the best traditions of his own family.

To whom much is given, much is expected.  Paul knew that only too well.  He knew that much was expected of him. And as we recall the course of his life today, we see only too clearly that Paul not only lived up to what was expected of him but that he gave a great deal more, much more than could reasonably have been expected of him.

We saw it in the way he applied his mind.  He was a man of immense intelligence. He was a rationalist, a man who believed in the civilizing power of logic over mindless passion; a scholarly man of deep learning, not only in the law but in so many other disciplines and areas of study, ranging from political philosophy to photography, from history to stamp collecting, from gardening to golf, from the theatres of London and New York to Junkanoo on Bay Street.

That’s what always so impressed me about Paul, not just the depth of his intellect but its scope. He was well versed in so many different subjects, and it always seemed to me that there was no subject upon which he did not entertain an informed opinion.

Paul was a true Renaissance Man, well rounded in his interests and in his learning. He was in my personal estimation, and that of many others, the most intellectually gifted man of his generation.

We also saw Paul’s passion for excellence in the way that he practised law. The greatest compliment you can ever pay a lawyer is to say of him that he is a ‘lawyer’s lawyer’, someone that not only lay clients go to for advice and counsel but someone that other lawyers go to as well for guidance on difficult points of law. That was Paul – a lawyer’s lawyer.

He was an advocate of extraordinary brilliance and tactical skill.  He had an absolutely amazing record of acquittals as a criminal defence lawyer and he enjoyed equal success at the civil bar, beating some of the best and brightest of the English bar, including, most famously, the late Sir Robert Megarry, the pre-eminent real property lawyer of his time and later one of the truly great judges of the 20th century in England.

As a lawyer, Paul always prepared his cases with the most thorough and meticulous of care. And he applied this rigourous standard of preparation to every case he did, be it large or small, be it a dispute over a tiny plot of land in Grant’s Town or a case involving the liquidation of a billion-dollar company with assets all around the world.

And he was a paragon of ethical rectitude in his profession too. For him there was no quality more important for a lawyer to have than personal integrity of the very highest degree.  As his own father had been before him, Paul was a role model for young lawyers to emulate in this and so many other ways.

We also saw Paul’s passion for excellence in the way that he practiced his politics. O’ and how Paul loved the cut-and-thrust of politics! He was a gladiator through and through. He was a master of parliamentary debate, again because of the thoroughness of his preparation, the power of his intellect, and because of the fire and brimstone that he would heap upon his adversaries. He was a fiery orator, and he was absolutely relentless, even ferocious, in debate.  Words and logic were his weapons and he wielded them with consummate skill and with pulverizing effect upon the arguments of his opponents. It was just fascinating to see him in action.  He was positively spellbinding. And I need to add this: Paul, no matter the provocation, never stooped to character assassination.  He would destroy the argument but never the man.

While on the subject of Paul’s life as a politician I really do have to publicly acknowledge something that I do not think has ever been publicly acknowledged before, namely, the enormous debt my Party, the Progressive Liberal Party, owes him, not just for his unparalleled service as Minister of State, as Attorney-General, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, as Minister of National Security, as Minister of Education, as Minister of Finance, as Chairman of the Hotel Corporation, and late in his life, as Co-Chairman of the first Constitutional Commission – not just all that, but also for showing up and always being there when his Party needed him most.

Some of us here today have no idea of what a great boost it was for the PLP and its cause when Paul Lawrence Adderley, the Prince of Poinciana Hill, threw his lot in with the PLP in the late 1950s.  People like Their Excellencies, Sir Arthur Foulkes and the Hon. A.D. Hanna will know what I’m talking about here.  Paul Adderley joining the PLP gave instantaneous legitimacy to the PLP and its struggle for Majority Rule among an influential class of Bahamians for whom the PLP would have had little appeal until then.

Much the same thing happened again in 1971 when, following a period of estrangement between Paul and the PLP, he re-joined the Party. His embrace of the then emerging campaign for Independence legitimized it for many who would otherwise have turned their backs on it. But if Independence was a good thing to Paul Adderley’s way of thinking, it was a good thing for such folks too.

And we continue to see this dynamic at work in the years that ensued. The fact that as Attorney-General and Minister of National Security in the turbulent 80’s, Paul Adderley was seen by just about everybody, both here and abroad, as the absolutely incorruptible leader of the war on drug trafficking, gave local and international legitimacy to the PLP Government at a time when it was desperately needed.  It helped stabilize the government and, if truth be told, it contributed in no small way to the PLP’s improbable success in the 1987 General Election as well.  I have absolutely no doubt that future historians will conclude that it could not have been done without Paul Adderley.

Yes, my Party owes a great deal to the man whose mortal remains we commit for burial today, and I acknowledge that debt today before all of you here assembled.

I have up to this point spoken of things that are all pretty much in the public domain but we would do well to remember this: we gain the true measure of a man not by what he does or says when the cameras are rolling or but rather what he reveals about himself when he is off-stage, unseen by the multitudes. That’s where the public persona fades and the real man rises out of the shadows to reveal his truer self.

I was blessed to see that largely unseen side of Paul Adderley too.  More than just a colleague and mentor, he was a close and valued friend of many years, someone I really loved and admired greatly.

And the side of Paul Adderley that revealed his truer self so clearly and so beautifully, I thought, was his private life as a family man.

One of the most poignant memories I have of Paul is the look of absolute delight he would have on his face, long ago, during the time when we were in our first cabinet together, and when he would be sharing with me one story or another of how one daughter or another had fared so well in an examination, or of how impressed he was with some interesting opinion they had expressed upon one subject or another.

Paul loved walking to the Post Office each day in the hope that there would be some letter from Catherine or Roseanne or Paula while they were away in school. And when there was such a letter, it would make his day. He was so proud of each of them. A more devoted father no child could have ever asked for.

And what a gem of a wife and life-partner Paul had in Lilith!  A model of love and devotion through and through, she was always at his side, looking up to him and looking after him in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, until his death.

Lilith, you were such a wonderful support for Paul, his best friend too, and he loved you dearly.  And Catherine, Roseanne and Paula, you brought your father so much pride and joy.  And the devotion you showed him, especially in the time of his affliction at the close of his earthly life, speaks volumes of the great love that you had for your father -  and have for him still, for love never dies, and the parting you endure today is only for a time.

Finally, there was Paul the patriot. And there are just two aspects of that part of Paul’s persona that I want to touch on, and then I will be done.  But I really do have to say what I’m about to say because, more than anything else, it reveals, I think, the greatness of Paul Adderley and how faithful he really was to the family tradition of service to country that I spoke about at the beginning; service with sacrifice and service with honour.

The sovereignty of The Bahamas is something we all pretty much take for granted these days but there have been times over the past nearly 40 years of Independence, especially during our infant years as a nation, when we have had to defend our sovereignty against foreign encroachments in one form or another. And in nearly all these cases it fell to Paul, whether as Minister of Foreign Affairs or as Attorney-General or as Minister of National Security to stand up for The Bahamas and defend its sovereignty against the bullying or belligerence of others.

Paul was unfailingly courageous and unapologetically bold in this regard, and he would dress down any representative of any foreign power, be he or she an ambassador or law enforcement official or congressman or senator, indeed be they anyone who Paul felt was trespassing on Bahamian sovereignty.  When it came to fighting for his country, Paul never took last. He was a loyal and vigourous defender of our nation from its very beginnings and throughout his life.

There can be no doubt that because of Paul Adderley, The Bahamas was able to withstand many an external threat to its sovereignty and, in so doing, consolidate its standing among the free and sovereign nations of the world.

But for me the most singularly convincing and the most poignant proof of Paul’s patriotism would come in the closing years of his ministerial career when he served as Minister of Finance.

What few of us in the country appreciated at the time were the heroic measures that Paul was obliged to take every day to help keep the country afloat as it tossed about on the turbulent waters of one of the worst recessions in years.  To make matters worse, there was a general election looming.

It would have been all too easy for Paul to simply embrace a policy of reckless borrowing and profligate spending but he would have none of that.  Instead, he put country over party.  He put statesmanship over politics, declining to do things that might have made the political prospects a little brighter for his party but which he knew would definitely have made the financial situation for the country very much worse.

Paul ignored the grumbling, endured all the complaints, even from with his own ranks, because he know that by adhering to fiscal prudence and discipline and by staying the course with austerity measures, he was doing the right thing for the country.

But that’s not really the part I want to talk about today.  What I really want to tell you about is something that I only found out about the day after Paul died.

Even though I sat very close to Paul in the cabinet leading up to the 1992 election when he was Minister of finance and even though I talked with him all the time, I had absolutely no idea that even as he struggled mightily each day to hold the country’s finances together, he was privately battling both bladder cancer and heart disease.  Most of us knew that he had a history of heart problems but none of us ever knew about the cancer. He never let on. He never complained about that or anything else. He just got on with the job, as he had always done.

What a man he was!  What a patriot!  But that was vintage Paul Adderley, always putting country over self, even at peril to his health, bearing his pain in silence yet rising from his bed early in the morning to go forth into the day to lift his people up, and to serve his country to the very best of his ability.

In making that kind of personal sacrifice, it were as if Paul was taking directly into his own heart and then pouring into his devotion to duty the stirring lyrics of a well-known hymn that he would have sung at Government High long before, in the halcyon years of his youth; a hymn whose opening stanza goes like this:

‘I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.’

Paul Adderley was a patriot for whom no task was too demanding, no burden too onerous, no personal sacrifice too great if it was calculated to preserve the Bahamas and move it forward.

Paul Adderley loved this little country of ours. He loved it with all his heart and soul, and he never stopped loving it.  And he never stopped serving it either.

Paul Lawrence Adderley, a founding father of the modern Bahamas; defender of its sovereignty; patriot of the first rank; exemplary servant of the people; outstanding minister of the government; illustrious parliamentarian; a lawyer’s lawyer; historian; intellectual; sportsman; loving husband; devoted father; proud citizen of the country he helped make, he served his country and its people to the very best of his ability, doing so with complete integrity and shunning all honours.

He was indeed a prince among men.

May he rest in peace.

Bahamas Press

Friday, September 28, 2012

Constitutional reform pt. 6: ... ...I recommend therefore that the recommendations of the disbanded Legal Aid Commission be reviewed ...and used as a guide for the establishment of a Public Defender’s Office and Legal Aid Facility, funded from public and private sources balance the power and resources that the attorney general, the director of public prosecutions and commissioner of police bring to the prosecution on behalf of the state ...and to give the indigent defendant and litigant a fair opportunity to defend her or his life, liberty and property

Constitutional reform pt. 6

By Alfred Sears

In a democratic society the right of every person to be secure in the protection of the law is a basic safeguard of the liberty interest of each person.  When the liberty interest of a person is threatened by a serious criminal charge, the extent to which the accused can have a fair hearing within a reasonable time, in the face of the enormous resources of the state at the disposal of the prosecution, is the test of a democratic society.

The procedural protection for accused persons under the constitution reflects the extent to which the constitution places the state under the rule of law in balancing the interest of the individual and society.

Article 20 of the constitution provides procedural justice, through the guarantees, for example, of the presumption of innocence, public trials, right to trial by jury, the right to counsel and the right to not incriminate oneself.  These rights, based on the principle of fundamental justice, are not exhaustive because the concept of natural justice, like the constitution, is an evolving concept.  This proposition was supported by Lord Diplock, writing for the Privy Council in the case Haw v. Public Prosecutor (1981) 3 All ER 14 at 21-22, who observed that: “Their lordships recognize, too, that what may properly be regarded by lawyers as rules of natural justice change with the times.  The procedure for the trial of criminal offenses in England at various periods between the abolition of the Court of Star Chamber and High Commission in the seventeenth century and the passing of the Criminal Evidence Act in 1898 involved practices, particularly in relation to the trial of felonies, that nowadays would unhesitatingly be regarded as flouting fundamental rules of natural justice.”

Similarly, in The Bahamas our concept of fairness must be informed by the evolving standard of decency and fundamental justice under international human rights law.  The procedural justice standard to secure the protection of the law for persons in The Bahamas is outlined in Article 20 of the constitution which provides:

1) If any person is charged with a criminal offense, then, unless the charge is withdrawn, the case shall be afforded a fair hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial court established by law.

2) Every person who is charged with a criminal offense:

a) shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved or has pleaded guilty;

b) shall be informed as soon as reasonably practicable, in a language that he understands and in detail, of the nature of the offense charged;

c) shall be given adequate facilities for the preparation of his defense;

d) shall be permitted to defend himself before the court in person or, at his own expense, by a legal representative of his own choice or by a legal representative at the public expense where so provided by or under a law in force in The Bahamas;

e) shall be afforded facilities to examine in person or by his legal representative the witnesses called by the prosecution before the court, and to obtain the attendance and carry out the examination of witnesses to testify on his behalf before the court on the same conditions as those applying to witnesses called by the prosecution;

f) shall be permitted to have without payment the assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand the language used at the trial of the charge; and

g) shall, when charged on information in the Supreme Court, have the right to trial by jury; and except with his own consent the trial shall not take place in his absence unless he so conducts himself in the court as to render the continuance of the proceedings in his presence impracticable and the court has ordered him to be removed and the trial to proceed in his absence.

3) When a person is tried for any criminal offense, the accused person or any person authorized by him in that behalf shall, if he so requires and subject to payment of such reasonable fee as may be prescribed by law, be given within a reasonable time after judgment a copy of for the use of the accused person of any record of the proceedings made by or on behalf of the court.

4) No person shall be held to be guilty of a criminal offense on account of any act or omission that did not, at the time it took place, constitute such an offense, and no penalty shall be imposed for any criminal offense that is severer in degree or description than the maximum penalty that might have been imposed for that offense at the time when it was committed.

5) No person who shows that he has been tried by a competent court for a criminal offense and either convicted or acquitted shall again be tried for that offense or for any other criminal offense of which he could have been convicted at the trial for that offense, save upon the order of a superior court in the course of appeal or review proceedings relating to the conviction or acquittal.

6) No person shall be tried for a criminal offense if he shows that he has been pardoned for that offense.

7) No person who is tried for a criminal offense shall be compelled to give evidence at the trial.

8) Any court or other adjudicating authority prescribed by law for the determination of the existence or extent of any civil right or obligation shall be established by law and shall be independent and impartial; and where proceedings for such a determination are instituted by any person before such a court or other adjudicating authority, the case shall be given a fair hearing within a reasonable time.

9) All proceedings instituted in any court for determination of the existence or extent of any civil right or obligation, including the announcement of the decision of the court, shall be held in public…”

However, the effectiveness of these constitutional guarantees, such as the presumption of innocence, can be challenged when a person is charged with sensational charges or when the interests of powerful persons and countries are involved.  The issue of the secure protection of the law and state action was raised in the case of Samuel Knowles.  Knowles was the subject of extradition requests by the United States, after having been designated by the president of the United States as a drug “kingpin” under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act 1999.  Knowles applied for habeas corpus, based on subsection 7 (1) (c) of the Extradition Act (Ch. 96 of the 2000 Edition of the Statute Laws of The Bahamas).  The hearing was assigned to Justice Lyons who, at a case management meeting with both counsel present, fixed the matter to be heard on September 28, 2006.  On August 28, 2006 Knowles was extradited to the United States.  The Bahamian Court of Appeal, in Knowles v. The Government of the United States of America and another (2008) 5 BHS J No. 67, made the following, obiter dicta, observations: “We cannot leave this judgment without recording this court’s serious concern about the manner and timing of the order for the removal of the appellant from The Bahamas at a time when the executive well knew that Lyons J had fixed a date a little over a month away to hear the appellant’s application.  Further, the executive must be taken to know the law and to have understood that by then the statute conferred a right on both sides to appeal to this court from the grant or refusal of habeas corpus on the kingpin ground and that both sides would have had a further right to appeal to the Privy Council from this court’s decision.  In those circumstances, to have ordered the surrender of the appellant 10 days after the learned judge had fixed a date for hearing the application, is clearly an egregious breach of the statute and is without precedent in this country.”



Effective and equal access to justice is another issue, under Article 20 (2)(d) of the constitution, which needs examination.  This provision guarantees the right to legal representation for accused persons either at expense of the accused or at the public expense.  This provision was intended by the framers of our constitution to provide the secure protection of the law for both affluent and poor persons in The Bahamas.

For most people who appear before our courts in The Bahamas the right to counsel is merely a theoretical right, as most poor people cannot afford legal representation.  One consequence of our failure to provide a properly funded system of legal aid is that the justice or magistrate often has to intervene during the conduct of a trial to assist the unrepresented person with court procedure; thus, delaying the administration of justice and causing significant backlogs in the system.  Further, in criminal matters the registrar is forced to seek out attorneys from the private bar to accept Crown briefs, often at short notice; rather than dealing with the administration of the court and other judicial duties.

The Bahamas has no comprehensive national system of legal aid for indigent persons in both civil and criminal matters before our courts even though we boast one of the highest per capita incomes in this region.  Section 191 of the Criminal Procedure Code Act provides:

In any case in which it appears to the Supreme Court that an accused person committed for trial has no money wherewith to retain Counsel –

(a) if the accused is charged with an offense for which the punishment is death, the court shall assign counsel for the defense at public expense; and

(b) in any other case, the court, in its discretion, may assign a counsel for the defense at the public expense.

In practice, the registrar of the Supreme Court, operating with the limited resources allocated to the judiciary, tries to find lawyers willing to accept a Crown brief to

represent indigent persons primarily charged with murder.  Seldom would the more experienced lawyers from the criminal defense bar accept these Crown briefs; thus, mostly less seasoned criminal defense lawyers often handle such cases.

In other Caribbean countries, such as Jamaica, for example, the more seasoned lawyers, including Queen’s Counsels, from the criminal defense bar eagerly accept Crown briefs and legal aid cases as a part of their professional duty and for the professional challenge.  Because of the limited budget, the registrar cannot offer a Crown brief in most non-capital cases.  Therefore, many poor accused persons who face indictable charges in the Supreme Court are not provided with legal representation, at the public expense, as contemplated by Article 20(2)(d) of the constitution because The Bahamas has not made any legal provision for a public defense and legal aid system.

This state of affairs raises a serious constitutional concern whether unrepresented poor persons facing serious criminal charges receive the constitutional guarantee of due process and the secure protection of the law.

Discrimination against poor people in legal procedures was addressed by Justice Douglas, writing for the majority of the United States Supreme Court, in the case Griffin v. Illinois 351 U.S. 12 (1956): “Due process and equal protection both call for procedures in criminal trials which allow no invidious discriminations.  In criminal trials, the state can no more discriminate on account of poverty than on account of religion, race, color... .  To deny adequate review to the poor means that many of them may lose their life, liberty and property because of unjust convictions which appellate courts could set aside.  There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has... ”.

Similarly, the United States Supreme Court in the case Douglas v. California 372 U.S. 353 (1963), per Justice Douglas rejected California’s requirement that an indigent defendant had to first show merit in order to qualify for legal aid.  Justice Douglas reasoned that: “The discrimination is not between possible good and obviously bad cases, but between cases where the rich man can require the court to listen to argument of counsel before deciding on the merits, but the poor man cannot.  There is lacking that equality demanded by the Fourteenth Amendment where the rich man, who appeals as of right, enjoys the benefit of counsel’s examination into the record, research of the law and marshalling of arguments on his behalf, while the indigent, already burdened by a preliminary determination that his case is without merit, is forced to shift for himself.  The indigent where the record is unclear or errors are hidden, has only the right to a meaningless ritual, while the rich man has a meaningful appeal.”


What to do

We must ask ourselves in The Bahamas whether, in the absence of a national system of legal aid, indigent defendants facing serious criminal charges must shift for themselves and engage in a meaningless ritual compared to more affluent defendants who can afford to retain effective legal representation.

I maintain that our collective failure to provide a properly funded system of legal aid for indigent defendants and poor persons in criminal and civil matters challenges the constitutional guarantee of procedural justice and fairness.

An effort was made to remedy this situation in 2004 when Prime Minister Perry Christie appointed the Legal Aid Commission, under the chairmanship of Bishop Dr. William Thompson, to enquire into the adequacy of the system of legal aid and advice in The Bahamas and to make proposals for the way forward to improve access to justice.  However, after the general elections of 2007, the government disbanded the commission.

I recommend therefore that the recommendations of the disbanded Legal Aid Commission be reviewed and used as a guide for the establishment of a Public Defender’s Office and Legal Aid Facility, funded from public and private sources, to balance the power and resources that the attorney general, the director of public prosecutions and commissioner of police bring to the prosecution on behalf of the state and to give the indigent defendant and litigant a fair opportunity to defend her or his life, liberty and property.


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

Sep 27, 2012


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bahamas Independence... ...40 (forty) years later very many of our Bahamian youth are lost in a haze of Jamaican-grown ganja

Forty Years Later

The Bahama Journal Editorial

We shall – in short order – celebrate this fledgling nation’s fortieth Independence anniversary.

And so, we are today conveniently urged to remember that this nation of ours did some four decades ago have leaders who did dream that this nation of ours would or could be under-girded by a fervent desire for the building of a Bahamas where unity is indivisible – “…a Creation under God of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas…”

Sadly, there now seems a decided drifting away on the part of an untold many from these principles.

In their stead, very many Bahamians in now seem hell-bent on violating the spirit that once animated some of our founding fathers and mothers.

As we revert to the Constitution, we are told that, “Whereas Four hundred and eighty-one years ago the rediscovery of this Family of Islands, Rocks and Cays heralded the rebirth of the New World;

“And Whereas the People of this Family of Islands recognizing that the preservation of their Freedom will be guaranteed by a national commitment to Self-discipline, Industry, Loyalty, Unity and an abiding respect for Christian values and the Rule of Law;

“Now Know Ye Therefore: 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 Labour 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…”

Would to God were more of our people sufficiently dedicated to nation-building that they would take these words to heart.

But even as we hope, we find ourselves becalmed in a mire of despond.

And as we interrogate the matter at hand, we are slowly but surely coming to the conclusion that some of the distress and [indeed] some of the drift we note now seem rooted in certain demographic trends now surfacing with a vengeance.

Evidently, one of the more interesting facts of life in today’s supposedly ‘modern’ Bahamas turns on the extent to which so very many strangers have made this urban-centered country their home.

Here we refer to that motley mix of Haitians, Jamaicans, Englishmen, Germans, and Americans and [of course] that crowd of Nigerians who work and live in The Bahamas.

These people are making a difference that promises to transform how we regard ourselves and how people around us see themselves as they become safely and deeply-rooted in this new land.

And so today we would suggest that there is probably only a clever few among this nation’s elite who would consider truly genuine some of the troubles very many so-called grass-roots Bahamians have with that motley crew of strangers who settle and work [sometimes illegally] in this country.

While some of these troubles are deeply rooted in the kind of mindless fear many people routinely have of strangers; the fact remains that most of the conflict between these people is grounded in an economy and social order that now seems to discriminate against Bahamians and [on occasion] in favor of these strangers.

This matter is compounded in another very interesting way.

This time around the matter at hand concerns the extent to which very many of those people who work and make their living here are – on occasion – contemptuous of the ways, values, mores and laws under-girding Bahamian civilization.

Indeed, they give every impression that they are only here because they can make an easy dollar, laugh at their unemployed Bahamian counterpart and otherwise enrich themselves and their families ‘back-home’.

Simply put, some Bahamians now understand that they are being taken for a ride; thus intermittent conflicts between Bahamians and any number of these strangers.

On occasion, there is also evidence of a kind of love-hate dynamic between some of these people as in the case of how some grass-roots Bahamians relate to their Haitian and Jamaican peers.

Of note is the fact that some Bahamians are now the direct result of this fervent re-mix that is now transforming Bahamian pedigree.

As a consequence some of our youth have taken to a hot embrace of Jamaican-born Rastafarianism.

In addition, many of them have also taken to ganja as if it was some royal road to bliss, wisdom and understanding; thus some of the troubles our youth routinely have with the authorities.

In conclusion then, this Bahamian reception of Rastafarianism also brings with it a profound anti-establishment ethic; thus leading to a sad, sad conclusion – forty years later very many of our youth are lost in a haze of Jamaican-grown ganja.

September 24, 2012   Jones Bahamas  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

...the proposed gambling referendum could be dead on arrival (DOA)

By Dennis Dames
As the news surfaces about the upcoming gambling referendum and the possible questions on its ballot – one thing is certain, and that is:  the confusion mounts.  Are we going to vote half of the way or the full nine yards on Bahamians gambling in The Bahamas?
Is the referendum going to be about a national lottery, legalizing web shops, casino gambling for Bahamians, or what?  The success of the vote will depend on the ballot menu.
Some Bahamians voters want the whole hog; which is the legalization of all forms of gambling for the native gamblers period.  Others simply want to do their thing in the web shops without having to look over their shoulders for a possible law enforcement raid.  Then, there are those among us who want to play numbers exclusively; whether it’s lotto, lottery, Island Luck, Flowers, Asue Draw and so on and so forth.
Does the government of The Bahamas intends to please all the Bahamian gamblers with the referendum questions or only some?  Is it really fair to still have tourists gambling in certain places and Bahamians in others - when the smoke of the vote is cleared?
Do we actually know what we are doing in relations to the proposed referendum?  I agree that the Christie administration has enough votes in the Bahamian parliament to do whatever they want in regards to the gambling question for Bahamians in The Bahamas.
It looks like the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is playing with fire in relations to legalized gambling for Bahamians in their country, as there is no guarantee that the “yes” vote will prevail in the referendum.  If it doesn’t, do Perry Christie and the PLP have the guts to close down every illegal gambling establishment in the country?
I doubt it.
So, it is my view that the PLP government could be setting itself up for a major defeat with their proposed impending referendum on gambling for the Bahamian gamblers in The Bahamas.
It is a grossly false assumption for one to postulate that every Bahamian who gambles in some form or another in these islands - will tow a line on referendum day, and vote yes or no to whatever the questions are – in my humble opinion.  Many Pastors will ensure that their flock is motivated on voting day to defeat the gambling for Bahamians question.
So again I say, that the powers that be - is playing a serious game of political Russian roulette with this gambling matter for Bahamians; which could result in the political demise of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
Be progressive Mr. Christie, and move in the Bahamian Parliament to settle the gambling for Bahamian concerns once and for all.  If tourists could gamble legally in our beloved country, then – we Bahamians must be able to do so too.   There is nothing complicated about this; except to say that the proposed gambling referendum could be dead on arrival (DOA).

Sunday September 23, 2012

Caribbean Blog International

Friday, September 21, 2012

Constitutional reform, pt. 5: ... ...In interpreting the Constitution of The Bahamas, the Court should give a generous interpretation to the constitutional provisions ...and avoid “the austerity of tabulated legalism”... ...In an open democratic society, the protection of human rights is not just the business of judges and lawyers... ...It is everyone’s business... ...As noted by Professor Lung-Chu-Chan, human rights can flourish, only when every member ...and every sector of the community is vigilant in defending and protecting them

Constitutional reform, pt. 5

By Alfred Sears

For the average person in The Bahamas, the most important part of the constitution is chapter III, which deals with the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of “every person in The Bahamas”.  The constitution makes no distinction between citizens and aliens in relation to fundamental rights.  The fundamental rights, under article 15, are summarized as right to:

(a) Life, liberty, security of the person and protection of the law;

(b) Freedom of conscience, of expression and of assembly and association and;

(c) Protection for the privacy of his home and other property without compensation.

The rights, through articles 15 through 28, are stated broadly followed by varying degrees of exceptions or derogation clauses.  These provisions are known as the Bill of Rights.  The guarantees provided under the Bill of Rights are not static, but represent a continuing process of judicial decisions from the past to the present, in protecting our fundamental values of human dignity.  These guarantees are so highly cherished that they are deeply entrenched in our constitution; they can only be changed, pursuant to article 54 (3), through three quarters of all members of each house of Parliament and by a majority vote in a referendum of the Bahamian electorate.  The Bahamian Bill of Rights is part of the global development of international human rights law.

The Constitution of The Bahamas, like the constitutions of other Commonwealth Caribbean countries, was patterned after the Nigerian Independence Constitution and Bill of Rights of 1957, which itself was patterned after the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1953.


Emergence of international human rights law

Before World War II how a government treated its own citizens was a matter of purely national concern.  The individual citizen was not considered a proper subject of international law.  However, the treaties concluded by the Allied countries with Germany, Italy, Japan and the Central European countries following World War II imposed obligations to respect human rights.

In the Nuremberg trials, political and military leaders who had acted in the name of the state were held personally responsible and punished for crimes against humanity.  For the first time national leaders were held accountable to an international tribunal for how they had treated their own citizens.

International human rights law was further strengthened by the international human rights conventions ratified after World War II.  For example, the preamble of the United Nations Charter states: “We the peoples of the United Nations determine to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom... .”

The charter, in article 1, sections 2 and 3, state the purposes and principles of the United Nations are: “2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principles of equal rights, self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.

“3. To achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for the fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

Furthermore, article 55 states: “With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, the United Nations shall promote: ...c. universal respect for, and observance for, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

Article 56 posits a general obligation for member states to enforce human rights: “All Members pledge themselves to take joint and separate action in co-operation with the organization for the achievement of the purposes set forth in article 55.”

The term “pledge” in article 56 has been interpreted by the International Court of Justice, in its 1971 Namibia Judgment (1971 I.C.J 16), to mean that member states of the United Nations have accepted an international obligation to observe the Global Bill of Human Rights and that the provisions of the charter of the United Nations Charter are directly binding on member states.

This international observance of and respect for human rights is assumed as a necessary condition for international peace and security.  This assumption is also reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 1965, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Professors McDougal and Riesman have argued that the Universal Declaration, in particular, is now jus cogens, or part of customary international law.  The Bahamas, since its independence on July 10, 1973, has ratified all of these instruments and, therefore, has an obligation under international law to observe the human rights standards established by these international instruments.

Professors McDougal, Lasswell and Chen in the book “Human Rights and World Public Order” have posited that these instruments constitute a global bill of human rights that are now part of customary international law and reflect basic international community policies of the world constitutive process, crystallized in a norm of non-discrimination.


Enforcement of the bill of rights

Under the Bahamian Constitution, the Supreme Court is given plenary powers to issue orders, writs and directions it may consider appropriate for the enforcement of the Bill of Rights.  Article 28(1) provides: “If any person alleges that any of the provisions of articles 16 to 27 (inclusive) of the of the constitution has been, or is being or is likely to be contravened in relation to him then, without prejudice to any other action with respect to the same matter which is lawfully available, that person may apply to the Supreme Court for redress.”

Therefore, the Supreme Court, through the power of judicial review, is the ultimate guardian of the freedoms and rights of the individual in The Bahamas and the arbiter of the meaning of the constitution as the supreme law of the land.

The court, informed by this evolving international human rights law, has to give vitality and meaning to constitutional provisions, which are framed, in a high level of generality.  Through judicial interpretation, therefore, that the constitution becomes a living document, constantly evolving in response to the changing circumstances, needs and demands of the Bahamian society.  The Privy Council has constantly held that our courts should take a contextual, rather than a textualist, approach in interpreting and applying constitutional provisions to concrete cases.

The Privy Council in the case Ministry of Home Affairs v. Fisher (1980) AC 319 held that our courts should have full regard for this evolving international human rights law when interpreting our Bill of Rights.  In this case, a Bermudian man had married a Jamaican woman who brought her children, who had been born out of wedlock, to Bermuda.  Under the Bermudian Constitution, a stepchild of a citizen was entitled to Belonger status.  The Crown contended that an illegitimate person could not benefit under the stepchild provision because there was a legal presumption that the word “child” in legislative and other formal documents connotes “legitimate child”.

Lord Wilberforce, writing for the majority of the Privy Council, reasoned that since the Constitution of Bermuda was influenced by the human rights norms in the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the fact that the Bermudian Constitution uses the phrase “every person” in its Bill of Rights enabled the conclusion that the term “child” meant any child and was not restricted to legitimate child.  Specifically, Lord Wilberforce held that: “...Chapter I is headed ‘Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the individual’.  It is known that this chapter, as similar portions of other constitutional instruments drafted in the post-colonial period, starting with the Constitution of Nigeria, and including the constitutions of most Caribbean territories, was greatly influenced by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.  That convention was signed and ratified by the United Kingdom and applied to dependent territories including Bermuda.  It was in turn influenced by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948.  These antecedents, and the form of Chapter I itself, call for a generous interpretation avoiding what has been called ‘the austerity of tabulated legalism’, suitable to give to individuals the full measure of the fundamental rights and freedoms referred to.”

In interpreting the Constitution of The Bahamas, the Court should give a generous interpretation to the constitutional provisions and avoid “the austerity of tabulated legalism”.  In an open democratic society, the protection of human rights is not just the business of judges and lawyers.  It is everyone’s business.  As noted by Professor Lung-Chu-Chan, human rights can flourish, only when every member and every sector of the community is vigilant in defending and protecting them.

Over the course of the next several articles of this series, I will examine and critically appraise the individual rights and freedoms of our Bill of Rights and make certain recommendations for reform for the expansion and the more effective protection of our fundamental rights, consistent with the evolving global Bill of Rights.


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

Sep 20, 2012


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Honorable Paul Lawrence Adderley, a committed Anglican and a man of deep faith ...chose instead the path of national service; one which ultimately would assure that his labor would not be in vain

A tribute to Paul Adderley

Dear Editor,


The Honorable Paul Lawrence Adderley, was one of the two children of A.F. Adderley, a well-known and highly esteemed Bahamian lawyer.  Adderley was born in 1928, a time when there was not a large cadre of Bahamian professionals and few black Bahamian lawyers.  Especially being a graduate of Cambridge University and a U.K. trained barrister, he could have chosen to dedicate his life to private practice and to making a lot of money.  Indeed, had he chosen the private practice life, his law firm would probably today have been one of the leading law firms in The Bahamas, if not the leading law firm in The Bahamas.

Adderley, a committed Anglican and a man of deep faith, chose instead the path of national service; one which ultimately would assure that his labor would not be in vain.

Recognizing that politics is a noble profession and a significant means by which there can be fundamental transformation of a society for the benefit of all, he joined the movement to universal suffrage, self-government, majority rule and independence.  He was the longest serving attorney general in The Bahamas, as well as serving in other critical Cabinet portfolios and as acting governor general.  His stellar tenure as attorney general has not been forgotten.

He was at the genesis of the first “third political party”, the National Democratic Party.  He was at the vanguard of the fight for a thriving democracy in The Bahamas.  Certainly, history will record Adderley as one of The Bahamas’ founding fathers and the nation will forever be grateful for his tremendous sacrifices.

I celebrate and am thankful for the living example of Adderley’s commitment to family, his unquenchable thirst for knowledge, his spirit of excellence, his loyalty to friends and his work to accomplish his vision of The Bahamas as a home of and for the brightest and the best.  He believed that The Bahamas is the “best little country in the world”.

Deepest sympathy and prayers are extended to his wife, Lillith Adderley, and his daughters, Catherine, Roseanne and Paula who have lost a husband and father.  The Bahamas has lost one of its brightest and best.  May his soul rest in peace.


– Allyson Maynard-Gibson, attorney general

Sep 20, 2012


Prime Minister The Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie Pays Tribute to the late Paul Laurence Adderley

I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing this morning of one of our nation’s finest sons, my very dear friend, confidante and political colleague of many years, the Honourable Paul Laurence Adderley. This is a grave loss for our country, for myself personally, and for the many thousands of Bahamians whose lives were touched by this truly remarkable human being and nationalist over the course of his more than forty years of distinguished service to the Bahamian people. Mr. Adderley was a man of extraordinary intellectual brilliance. His accomplishments were legion. Indeed it is quite impossible to overstate the importance of his many and varied contributions to the development of our nation.

As the longest serving Attorney-General of the 20th century – a period spanning some 17 years – Mr. Adderley engineered the transition of our colonial legal system into a new era of constitutional sovereignty while overseeing the modernization of our laws in so many vital areas of national life. In so doing, he also expanded the judiciary and helped deepen the Rule of Law as the bedrock of our civilization. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Adderley was the primary architect of the nation’s foreign policy in the founding years of nationhood; a foreign policy based on mutual co-operation and friendship with our neighbours but always within the context of the principles of self-determination and sovereign independence. Mr. Adderley was absolutely determined that The Bahamas, though small, should preserve its integrity as an independent nation and never allow itself to be subjugated to any foreign power.

As Minister of National Security, Mr. Adderley was a courageous warrior against drug-trafficking. He was chiefly responsible for a wide range of anti-drug trafficking measures, including the OPBAT joint interdiction operations; the negotiation of mutual legal assistance treaties; and the introduction of a raft of new laws aimed at curbing the drug trade and bringing traffickers to the bar of justice. Concurrently, Mr. Adderley was responsible for sweeping changes to both the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force aimed at better equipping them to discharge their law enforcement mandates in the face of newly emergent crime threats.

As Minister of Education, Mr. Adderly also achieved notable successes. He introduced a raft of initiatives aimed at raising academic standards in the public school system. He restricted social promotion exercises and instituted the BGCSE examination system. He was also instrumental in expanding the Government’s building programme for new schools while instituting the Cadet Programme as a means of better preparing high school students for the transition into responsible life in the wider community. As Minister of Finance, Mr. Adderley steered the country through the extremely difficult recessionary years of the very early 1990’s, insisting on austerity and fiscal discipline as a means of surviving the crisis. That Mr. Adderley was able to rise to this challenge while privately battling both cancer and heart disease makes it even more awe-inspiring. No finer example of patriotic commitment is to be found in the annals of the modern Bahamas. But even beyond his immense achievements as a minister of the government from 1972 to 1992, Paul Adderley will also be remembered as a leader of the Bahamas Bar for nearly 60 years. He was an advocate of incomparable skill admired by all his colleagues for the depth of his learning, the thoroughness of his research and preparation, his powerful intellect, his spellbinding oratory and, most important of all, his adherence to the highest standards of ethical propriety in all his professional dealings. He was, like his father before him, the Hon. A.F. Adderley, a lawyer of truly legendary standing at the bar.

As a parliamentarian from 1962 to 1967 and then from 1972 to 1997, Mr. Adderley was always a fiery and meticulously prepared debater, whether in the House of Assembly or the Senate. Uniquely, he was the fourth consecutive generation of his family to serve in the Bahamian legislature, having been preceded by his father, the Hon A.F. Adderley; and before that, by his grandfather, Wilfred Parliament Adderley; and earlier still by his great grand-uncle, William Campbell Adderley who was a member of the House of Assembly more than 130 years ago. Faithful to this dynastic tradition, Mr. Adderley enlarged upon the accomplishments of his forebears and always gave an excellent account of himself in the halls of Parliament. Following his retirement from frontline politics, Mr. Adderley continued to serve our country in a variety of ways, most notably as the Co-Chairman of the first Constitution Commission. Even with all of the foregoing to the credit of his name, Mr. Adderley regarded his own family as his finest achievement. He was a family man for whom nothing was more delightful than the time spent with his devoted wife and daughters.

Finally, it needs be said that Mr. Adderley was the very embodiment of personal integrity. He was absolutely incorruptible. He was a public servant of the highest order. And yet he shunned all honours. He refused to even consider taking a knighthood when it was offered to him and reacted in the same way whenever any other honour was offered to him over the years. For Paul Adderley, the greatest honour of all – and the only one that really mattered – was the opportunity to serve the Bahamian people to the very best of his ability. And he did precisely that – with great distinction – for all his adult life. On behalf of the Government and people of The Bahamas, the Progressive Liberal Party of which Mr. Adderley was a long and faithful member and a Stalwart Councillor, on behalf of my wife, Bernadette, and on my own behalf, I extend deepest condolences to Mr. Adderley’s widow, Lilith, and their three children, Catherine, Roseanne and Paula. A State Funeral will be held for Mr. Adderley, details of which will be announced shortly by the Cabinet Office.

September 19, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Political victimization in The Bahamas... John Marquis concurs with Dennis Dames

Questions For John Marquis


EDITOR, The Tribune:

As we near the fortieth anniversary of independence, I too am saddened like John Marquis that some things never change. Mr. Marquis believes that the “PLP’s taste for intimidation and victimization appears to be one of them.” He wrote as much in his op ed, Marquis At Large” that was published in The Tribune on the 15th September 2012.

He went on to opine about the “redeployment” of senior staff at ZNS, playing favourites and loathsome practices within the government and government controlled corporations.

In my opinion, he sought to rewrite history and reflect the PLP government in a negative light while giving the FNM government a wink, a nod and a pass. This position is widely believed to be the official editorial policy of The Tribune.

I have this proposition and a few questions for John Marquis: Within one month of forming the government on 2nd May 2007, the FNM government released six employees from their contracts at the Bahamas Information Services (BIS). For the record, they were Gregory Christie and the late Dudley Byfield from the Grand Bahama office and Luther Smith, Al Dilette, Marlon Nichols and Steve McKinney from the Nassau office. In doing so did the FNM displayed “a taste for intimidation and victimization” as Mr Marquis so eloquently attributes to the PLP government? Was this FNM policy decision “indeed a sad and depressing state of affairs” as Mr. Marquis concurred it was as he echoed the sentiments of Guardian commentator Dennis Dames? Yes, Mr. Marquis, some things never change.

Further, Mr. Marquis had a platform in 2007 to revisit “the history of political victimization” in The Bahamas as he now finds it so convenient to do. In 2007, there was no outrage, no weeping, no wailing, no gnashing of teeth and no righteous indignation expressed over the unceremonious dismissal of our six fellow Bahamian brothers in what many believe to be part of a politically motivated purge of the public service by the strong arm of the FNM government.

Perhaps Mr. Marquis would want to dig deep and find an appropriate adjective to describe the actions of the then FNM government in the interest of fairness and balance. Does he have the journalistic integrity to direct some of the venom and invective (he ostensibly reserves for the PLP) at the policies and practices of the FNM, policies and practices he appears hell bent on excusing, winking at and looking that other way when chastisement was the appropriate response? Again he should do so in the interest of fairness and balance.

In the end I issue the same challenge to the leadership of the FNM as Mr. Marquis issues to Prime Minister Christie. I hope that the next FNM government “can summon the courage to outlaw victimization forever…for the nation’s sake.”



September 17, 2012

Tribune 242

The Bahamas has the highest inequality in the entire Caribbean... ...The Bahamas is a unique and wonderful country ...but high and rising inequality has been a largely undiscussed side effect of the development path we have taken over the past several decades

The Bahamas Is Becoming Increasingly Unequal

Nellie Day – remember her? She wrote an article claiming that the majority of Bahamians live in shacks made of straw and wood, while a wealthy elite can afford mansions made of concrete, strong enough to withstand a hurricane.
Her clearly poorly researched and shoddy article appalled The Bahamas at large and soon after it was removed from the US-based travel website where it had been posted, and the author was forced to issue an apology. And rightly so. The Bahamas is a highly developed, developing country. We have made advances in our levels of education, health, and overall economic development that many countries can only dream of. There is absolutely no truth to the claim that an “ample working class inhabits shacks and huts” made of scavenged wood and straw.
However, there is an aspect of our development experience which Nellie Day’s “article” touched upon which may in fact hit close to home. Not to give her credit for it, because the extent of her claims indicate she could scarcely have known the underlying facts, but allow me to put it to you that Nellie Day did what something of our politicians might do well to do more of: Talk about inequality. Inequality is an often-cited aspect of development, but not one that is ever talked about in The Bahamas. What actual evidence is there for what inequality looks like in The Bahamas, and should we care either way?
Data is scarce (The Bahamas and the Caribbean as a whole is what has come to be termed a “data poor region”, which severely impedes progress in policy making, but that could be the subject of an entire article in itself), but I did find something to answer my question – and the findings are troubling. For one, The Bahamas has the highest inequality in the entire Caribbean, according to a recent study compiled for a project on development trajectories in the Caribbean by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, with a Gini coefficient of 0.57 (the Gini coefficient measures inequality, on a scale of 0 to 1, with 1 representing total inequality). Secondly, inequality is only increasing.
In The Bahamas’ Department of Statistics’ most recent Labour Force Survey, a graph showing trends in income distribution from 1973 to 2011 shows a laudable closing of the income inequality gap from one of quite severe income inequality in the Bahamas in 1973 to a vastly improved position by 1989. However, the next point at which data is available – 1999 – shows that the 1990s were a turning point for income inequality trends. From 1999 onwards, income inequality has been increasing in The Bahamas. That is to say the rich hold a higher proportion of overall income in comparison to the less well off. To be clear, the increase is not massive, but it is a negative trend.
Meanwhile, data also shows that the share of the overall wealth of The Bahamas held by the “bottom” 20 per cent of the population has not changed at all in percentage terms in at least 38 years. While total household income has increased (meaning that by holding the same percentage of that total amount, their absolute income has increased) in terms of a proportion of the whole, the bottom 20 per cent’s share has remained in the vicinity of 4 to 5 per cent of The Bahamas’ total household income.
My intention in writing this article is simply to bring these facts to the fore, and suggest that inequality is something we should be talking about as a society. Firstly, I believe it would be beneficial to consider what took place in the 1990s that may have contributed to this negative trend emerging. At first glance, the growing gap seems counterintuitive, considering that the ’90s saw the Atlantis resort come on stream, in what has been talked about by many as a moment which contributed to the emergence of a substantial middle class in the Bahamas. Secondly, what does high and growing inequality say about the health of our nation and its future development? There are many well-respected academics and policy makers who tell us that a society with high levels of inequality is more likely to suffer from lower growth, higher crime and poor health and to generally be less happy.
Thirdly, how can we stop, slow or reverse this trend? And should we? As we consider these questions, it is worth noting that the economic crisis is likely to have only significantly worsened this inequality.
Indeed, the evidence is already being seen. In a shocking report in January 2012 that received far less attention than the seriousness of its contents warranted, Tribune business editor Neil Hartnell pointed out that Department of Statistics figures show that the number of Bahamian households surviving on less than $5,000 per year has increased by an “alarming” 83 per cent in the past four years.
Additionally, between the years 2007 to 2011 there has been a 33 per cent or one third increase in the number of households (to be clear, by “household” we are talking about an entire group of people who live within a particular residence and their combined earnings) earning $20,000 or less, with the number of such households increasing from 24,780 to 33,015. It is possible that the wealthy have also lost out, but with a greater safety net and more secure jobs, their fall will not have been so great. This has been the trend worldwide – it is the less well-off, those who are already more vulnerable, who have fallen the furthest due to the economic downturn.
But why should we care? There are several very good reasons which are commonly advanced. While I will not attempt to definitively link these issues to inequality, I think it is certainly worth considering them, given that academic and public policy reports worldwide have found that there are strong reasons to believe that the interconnections are very real.
The first is crime. In one of the most comprehensive reports to ever have been produced on crime in the Caribbean, a joint report of the UN and the World Bank on “Crime, Violence and Development: Trends, Costs and Policy Options in the Caribbean” (2007) the authors describe the disastrously high levels of crime in the region and find evidence to suggest that countries with higher levels of inequality have higher rates of both murder and robbery, no matter what their overall level of wealth. This is not to say that other factors do not come into play – indeed, it is likely through some of the same channels that contribute to inequality (perhaps structural unemployment, poor education outcomes) that crime grows, but it is also possible that the mere fact of inequality becomes an independent source of crime.
The second reason to care is a suggested link between inequality and long term economic prospects. Some argue that efforts to make a society more egalitarian will come at the expense of economic efficiency and growth; that it is through being able to reap large rewards that the wealthy will go on to spur further growth through investment and innovation and, if not, the economy will be stifled.
Others suggest this is a fallacy. In his own article trumping the need to redress America’s income imbalances, Professor, Nobel Laureate economist and former chief economist for the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, points to countries such as Sweden which are both economically healthy and the most “equal” of all modern economies. In one of his own recent articles on the topic of inequality, Stiglitz states that overall it is “well documented that countries that are more unequal don’t do as well, don’t grow as well and are less stable.” For one possible reason why this might be, we only have to link this back to the UNODC report’s connection of inequality with crime, factoring in the impact of crime on private business activity, on human capital, and crime’s ability to encourage brain drain – the urge for those with the intellectual and material capital to leave the country going and perhaps never come back – to see how inequality could cut growth. Add in the impact on health and education of a large group of people getting stuck at the bottom of the ladder and how this would affect their ability to contribute to economic activity and there is further intuitive evidence of why inequality may hurt growth and stability.
You might also consider how higher levels of inequality can signify less “equality of opportunity”, such that children born of poor parents are less able to live up to their potential, or as Stiglitz puts it, how “lack of opportunity means that a country’s most valuable asset – its people – are not being fully used.” He was referring to the situation in the United States of America, where inequality is the highest in the developed world, and, according to Stiglitz, is now at such an “intolerable” level that the country will “pay the price”. In a country with as few people as The Bahamas it is arguably even more important that we ensure each one can live up to their potential to contribute to our society. Reinforcing Stiglitz’s assertions with regard to why high inequality in the US is indeed a problem, the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) warned the US in June that it must fix its inequality level, noting impacts on health, education, innovation, and economic wellbeing. Meanwhile, the extent of inequality in the U.S. is one of the main messages of the “Occupy” movement, which has managed to play a major part in bringing the issue into the mainstream agenda and political debates.
“Occupy” complains, and Stiglitz also contends, that inequality distorts political outcomes as those at the top gain a disproportionate voice in the political process. When this occurs, democracy is often weakened, as is economic growth, as “rent-seeking” behaviour causes those who already have wealth to bend political outcomes to their own benefit rather than that of the economy as a whole. Some link this effect of inequality to the devastating financial crisis in the United States which led to the economic doldrums the globe has experienced ever since.
As for what the data may tell us so far, it is hard to decipher exactly what role, if any, inequality may have played in stymying economic activity in The Bahamas. Between 1980 and 1990, GDP growth averaged 3.5 per cent in The Bahamas, while between 1990 and 2000, as inequality stopped narrowing and began to grow, it averaged 1.85 per cent. From 2000 to 2010, as already high levels of inequality trended higher, there was an average of only 0.84 per cent growth, but this period also saw both the effect of the slowdown in tourism following the September 11th attacks of 2001 and the global downturn post-2008 financial crisis. Overall, from 1980 to 2011, growth averaged a low 2.11 per cent. Given that the increase in inequality beginning in the 1990s is only a minor one, but a negative trend, I would suggest that it would have been unlikely to have had any major effect on economic growth over and above these other global factors to date, but this is not to say that in the long run, and with a continued worsening of inequality levels, it could not have an impact.
Potential social and psychological implications of inequality should also factor into the debate. What does it mean to live in a society where you have multi-billionaires living within several miles of people who are struggling to keep $100 in their bank account? There is a question of how high inequality leads to a deterioration of social cohesion within a society, which, as eminent social scientists such as Professor Robert Skidlesky of Warwick University have stated, is the foundation upon which “democracy – or, indeed, any type of peaceful, contented society – ultimately rests.”
As for why inequality in the Bahamas may be on the rise, there are several potential causes which spring to mind. Firstly, our economic model as a whole. We have traditionally sought to attract high net worth individuals to The Bahamas to set up shop and residence, and as “usual residents”, some of them and their particularly large household incomes will have factored into the Department of Statistics report of November 2011 on which the latest trends in inequality are perceptible.
Another issue, however, is long-term structural unemployment. James Smith, then former minister of state for finance and today a consultant to the Ministry of Finance, told me earlier this year by email that this type of unemployment is likely to be a contributing factor given that statistics show that between 1995 and 2011 the average unemployment rate in The Bahamas, notwithstanding the rise of Atlantis and the relative boom period of the mid-2000s, remained at a stubborn 10 per cent. Structural unemployment is joblessness that comes about due to a lack of fit between the skills individuals have and the jobs being created. Hence although in economically good times, jobs were being created, there remains a core group of individuals who are not suited to benefit from them. In this regard, if we care about inequality, this is yet another reason to focus on education and to what extent our inadequate education system is growing this proportion of the population, as business leaders commonly complain, and therefore contributing to further inequality.
Taxation surely must bear some of the blame, too. Just this week we have seen the announcement of a forum to discuss future taxation options for the Bahamas, with one of the recognized reasons why this is needed being the question of “equity”. As it stands, the Bahamian taxation system which relies most heavily on tariffs on imports for revenue creation, is regressive. The poor pay relatively more of their salaries in tax than the rich. When you take more money out of the pockets of the less-well-off, you not only limit their disposable income, but you reduce their pool of resources which they can save towards options like college for their children, or invest in property and other income-generating assets, for example. In other words, you are curtailing their options and their children’s, to take a step-up on the social ladder. By allowing the wealthy to pocket a greater share of their incomes, you leave them with yet more options for investment in activities that will increase their incomes yet further.
Additionally, by continuing the use of a taxation system that in general sees this nation collect a lower-than-average amount of revenue as a proportion of GDP than other countries, as the tariff-based system does, you limit the ability of the government to potentially engage in meaningful public investment that will benefit the most vulnerable. All of this has a knock-on effect on social mobility and inequality in the long run. Similarly, the lack of an inheritance tax allows the wealthy to pass on money and property to their heirs without paying any tax on these assets, as would be the case in many jurisdictions worldwide, including the United States and the United Kingdom. This too, may perpetuate and even have a “snowball” effect on inequality in The Bahamas, as children of the wealthy can receive property and money that they in most cases played no part in producing/obtaining, increasing their options and life chances with no input of their own, without making any contribution to the state which might wish to take redistributive steps to assist those whose initial life chances are not so rosy.
The Bahamas is a unique and wonderful country, but high and rising inequality has been a largely undiscussed side effect of the development path we have taken over the past several decades. If unaddressed, some experts would say it may well contribute to derailing our progress and turning back the clock on advancements that have been made. Or it may be that inequality has little to do with our most serious problems. But as the country with the highest inequality in the Caribbean that continues to rise, isn’t it time we talk about it?
September 11, 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our children deserve better...

Some Sad Facts of Life

The Bahama Journal Editorial

Some of this nation’s youth – through no fault of their own – are fated to be failed by any number of this nation’s social institutions inclusive of both Church and State.

Most of us seem to have forgotten that there was once a time when our people [fathers, mothers and other extended family] did care about the well-being of their off-spring.

Alas! This was not to last.

To this very day, there yet remains a hardy few of oldsters among us who can remember the arrival of that time when Bahamians fell in love with a brand new kind of ethos – one that trained its eye on ego-run amok: – of all my mother’s children, I love ME the most and thus the fervent idolatry of ME and MINE.

As a direct consequence of this new worship, we now have on our collective hands some of the results that inevitably follow when greed, selfishness and rampant consumerism are allowed free rein. As some among us gloat about their good fortune; some others pig out.

Sadly, thousands upon thousands of others are obliged to beg for a crust of bread, a taste of sugar and a vulgar bed wherever the day leaves them.

Some of this nation’s children are schooled and educated in comfort while others are left to fend for themselves in places where gun-fire can blast out its bloody report in a moment and in a twinkling of an eye.

Our children deserve better. Sadly, they may be in for worse piled upon even more of the same. Information reaching us speaks a story of horror, neglect and indecisiveness as regards the current state of affairs in any number of public schools which are bulging to the point of bursting their banks with students.

Today we have schools where classrooms are chock-full of students – many of them at the primary level – where only so many can ever really benefit; and so the beat continues for hundreds upon untold hundreds of this nation’s youth.

This is no basis upon which we can ever even hope to build a thriving Bahamian Nation; and clearly, the times are hard and they may get even harder.

Scarier than this is this sad fact of life: – This nation’s children deserve far better than they are presently getting from their parents, their pastors and their parents’ representatives in parliament. Indeed, one of the signs of the times in today’s Bahamas has to do with the extent to which any number of undocumented women – especially Haitians – now make it their business to produce as many children as they possibly can.

Evidently, they do what they do because they have come to the conclusion that things are truly better in the Bahamas for them – and that – these things are going to be quite fine for their brood.

Interestingly, there is today every indication that some of the Haitian women who are – as the saying goes – ‘dropping-baby’ – are utterly dependent on their male counterparts. As interesting is the fact that some of these men have left family members behind in a Haiti where things are still verging on bad tending towards worse; this notwithstanding reconstruction work taking place in Port-au-Prince and its immediate environs.

In direct counterpoint to this Haitian story of baby-making gone rampant, we have a situation on our collective hands where far too many of this nation’s men routinely abuse drugs that can and do destroy mind, body and soul.

As the Minister of National Security recently commented, “…There is a segment of our society where the widespread use and abuse of mind altering illicit drugs, alcohol and other substances… is prevalent. We often see the consequential bloodshed and death as gang members destroy themselves and others in seeking to maintain and/or establish turf in a war between and among our people…”

Nottage goes on to note the obvious when he indicates, “…The focal point to building a safer Bahamas must be a commitment to national renovation and renewal and that the security of the country is a vital pillar on which to build a thriving nation…”

These resounding words must yet be translated into action on the ground. As night follows day, so does it follows that today’s brutalized thug was once some cooing mother’s bundle of joy.

The same principle applies to the girl-child who – at the age between twelve and fifteen – is laden with child; and thus a rape-victim.

She too was once some one’s precious princess of a child. This is all so very sad.

We can and should do better.

September 17, 2012

Jones Bahamas

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The government of The Bahamas must commit to investment in renewable energy technologies ...Diversifying the energy portfolio of The Bahamas is an act that does not require a referendum

Choosing a scapegoat for oil exploration

thenassauguardian editorial

Drilling for oil in The Bahamas is a contentious issue, yet it is one that can only be resolved by moving the process forward.  Under the previous administration, the process was delayed when a moratorium was placed on oil exploration in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon spill.  And now, the government has feigned decisiveness by confirming compliance with license requirements subject to a public referendum on oil exploration and drilling.

While public involvement is the foundation of a democracy, public officials are elected because they encompass the qualities and intellect to lead and implement policies that positively impact future generations.  When needed, government officials seek expert advice and consultation to steer technical policy decisions.

Oil drilling carries a heavy burden because the economic benefits are vast yet clouded by the potential for an environmental disaster and corruption.  This confluence of socio-economic and environmental factors compounded by cutting-edge technology requires a team of experts to model, analyze and report various scenarios to the layman.

Will the people be adequately informed and educated on oil drilling specific to The Bahamas?  For a country with a dearth of technical professions, it seems very unlikely that voters will be fully prepared to make this very important decision.

Unfortunately, whether members of the public approve or reject oil drilling in The Bahamas, they will be the scapegoat for the lack of political will by either governing party, the Free National Movement (FNM) or Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), to make a decision.

A referendum should not be used as a political ploy to deflect responsibility.

Even if the last exploratory well was drilled in 1986, why has the government decided that it now requires a public referendum?  Credible attempts to add The Bahamas to the list of oil producing countries have been on-going for the past 60 years.

A frenzy of activity occurred between 1945 and 1971 followed by a subsequent gap until 1982 when amended petroleum legislation stimulated a brief renewal in interest.  Licenses were held at one time by Chevron, Texaco, Mobile and other principle operators still largely recognizable today.

Unlike previous attempts, the combination of technological advancements, the rise in crude oil prices and the continued expenditure of resources by BPC, this may well be the first time in Bahamian history that oil extraction becomes possible as a viable industry.

With the Deepwater Horizon spill still featuring prominently in discourse, the government may fear a public relations disaster by endorsing oil exploration.  But the physical conditions south of Andros differ vastly from the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Bahamas is in a perilous economic state with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) noting the GDP-to-debt ratio approaching 60 percent in part because of “contingent liabilities among public corporations such as the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC)”.  In an ironic twist of fate, the very industry under scrutiny holds the country hostage for energy production because oil prices continue to rise.

But statements from the IMF touting the potential revenues based on the size of oil deposits should be carefully regarded.  Lessening The Bahamas’ reliance on petroleum products for energy production would be a significant economic stimulus, and oil revenues, if approved and if extracted, would be an added bonus.  The Bahamas cannot wait and count on prospective oil resources to become self-sufficient.

The government of The Bahamas must commit to investment in renewable energy technologies.  Diversifying the energy portfolio of The Bahamas is an act that does not require a referendum.

Sep 11, 2012

thenassauguardian editorial