Friday, March 29, 2013

Philip Dunkley: ...The Lyford Cay Property Association is "likely" to become a member of the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay - (CPCB) ... ... As the government appears "inclined" to grant Peter Nygard a lease of accreted land surrounding his property at Nygard Cay ... ...Clifton Cay could be affected

Lyford Cay ‘likely’ to support coalition

Guardian Business Editor

The Lyford Cay Property Association is "likely" to become a member of the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay (CPCB).

As exclusively revealed by Guardian Business in February, the association announced that the government appears "inclined" to grant Peter Nygard a lease of accreted land surrounding his property at Nygard Cay. It now seems that members of the community have taken their opposition to the next level.

"I think it is likely we will become a member. The environmental issues effect Clifton and our community," said Philip Dunkley, head of Lyford Cay Property Association.

"We have looked at everything they have put together. It seems like something we should support."

Support for the coalition is also forming in other property circles.

Franon Wilson, president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association (BREA), said he did not wish to comment specifically on Nygard's case.

However, speaking in general terms, anyone that expands property beyond what was legitimately paid for should be kept in check by both the private and public sector.

"The bottom line is people should go out and inspect. If you go past a certain point and expand beyond your bounders, then that has implications," Wilson told Guardian Business. "There are things you can and can't do. And that is one of the things you can't do."

Back in February, a letter to members of the Lyford Cay Property Association stated that the government “may be inclined to accede to Mr Nygard's application” in the near future.

It went on to note that government indicated it would become more vigilant to prevent any future reclamation of lands.

The issue has been in and out of the courts in recent years.

According to a statement of claim filed in the Supreme Court on April 6, 2011, Tex Turnquest, then director of the Department of Lands and Surveys, informed Nygard that the government expected him to reinstate the coastline of the property to its condition at the time of the 1984 deed, when he first purchased the western tip of Lyford Cay.

Nygard's attorneys have argued, however, that additional land formed as a result of the gradual and imperceptible deposit of materials from the ocean onto land.

The fashion mogul sought a declaration that the lands have become part of the freehold property.

Recent statements by the Lyford Cay Property Association could indicate that the issue is swinging in Nygard's favor.

The coalition, however, appears ready for a fight.

"You can be sure the coalition will be active," Dunkley added.

Fred Smith, a top attorney with Callenders & Co, has joined forces with the coalition for legal support. The alliance could indicate that the coalition is prepared to fight any ruling on the property.

Dunkley pointed out that the Nygard issue is not the only problem for Clifton Bay. The Bahamas Electricity Corporation has long been criticized for poor environmental standards at one of its main power plants in the area.

From the air, a sheen of oil can reportedly be seen on most days along the coast and heading out to sea.

In a recent trip to The Bahamas, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. threw his support behind the coalition as it relates to the pollution coming out of Clifton Pier and its destruction to the reef system.

March 29, 2013


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Bahamas is in critical and dire need of an Environmental Protection Act

Bahamas In 'Critical And Dire' Need Of Environmental Protection Act



THE Bahamas is in critical and dire need of an Environmental Protection Act. This legislation has been promised in the past by both the FNM and PLP governments.

As the Bahamas broadens its industrial investment profile; encourages large scale urban development; promotes all inclusive anchor projects by Bahamians and foreigners and continues its growth and development, it becomes more and more urgent for an independent regulatory body with teeth, to protect our often pristine, and always fragile environment.

The Bahamas, as a Small Island Nation, must make protecting the environment a priority. It is also important that stakeholders and interested parties who may be affected by industrial and/or other urban developments have an opportunity to be properly consulted. This has been repeatedly affirmed by our Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Privy Council in the Guana Cay and Abaco Wilson City Power Plant litigation.

The BEST Commission has been established for years but it is not a statutory body and needs to be institutionally created by legislation to make it effective and relevant.

There is limited space for growth and development throughout our archipelago of islands and best environmental practices also need to be observed in crowded islands such as New Providence where industrial and urban growth is booming.

The Planning and Subdivision Act was a great step in providing an opportunity for stakeholders to be consulted and participate in developments before they occur and the requirement for environmental impact assessments in that legislation is to be commended.

However, without a corresponding Environmental Protection Act and the establishment of a statutory process for the conduct of EIA’s, it will create confusion and litigation; more importantly expectations all around will be disappointed.

Further, the need to implement a health and safety committee under the Health and Safety at Work Act is important to protect the public and workers’ rights, in particular at industrial plants.

This inevitably leads us to the issue of Freeport being the “Industrial Capital” of the Bahamas.

The need for environmental, health and safety at work legislation, with teeth, is even more important as thousands of Bahamian workers and upwards of 60,000 Bahamian residents, are exposed to industrial hazards, toxic wastes and other environmental dangers moreso than in the rest of the Bahamas.

As there may be oil exploration in the Northern Bahama Banks, the Grand Bahama Shipyard grows, Burmah Oil (eastern GB), Borco and Focol expand, other hydrocarbon related industrial facilities are born and developed in Freeport, and urban growth continues, the need for regulating, policing and enforcing environmental protection is acute and critical.

Given the existence of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement there is an issue as to whether Central Government and/or the Grand Bahama Port Authority has jurisdiction over environmental and developmental matters in Freeport and/or whether each of them may in different ways share jurisdiction, which may in addition be overlapping.

I commend the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Mrs. Glenys Hanna-Martin for her commitment to a fearless and transparent investigation into the recent and repeating oil spills in Freeport. The recent oil spills highlight need for environmental legislation.

In addition, I urge Minister Shane Gibson, Minister of Labour and National Insurance, to continue his efforts in developing the Regulations and then to appoint a Health and Safety Committee under the Health and Safety at Work Act in Freeport to protect workers.

Such legislation would ensure that those responsible for any damage to the environment and for any injuries to workers and the public would be held financially accountable and could be made to clean up any damage subject to fines and/or penalties of a criminal nature.

Make no mistake about this, damage to the environment is a crime against nature. We are only hurting ourselves if we ignore it!

The Grand Bahama Port Authority is responsible under Clause 13 of the 1965 amendment of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement to protect the environment and health and safety of workers and residents in Freeport.

Some years ago a very comprehensive set of proposed environmental and health and safety bye laws under the Freeport Bye-Laws Act was submitted by the Grand Bahama Port Authority to the Government, but have not been implemented.

They need to be brought into effect! The people of Freeport deserve a clean and managed environment and the workers at the industrial plants of Freeport are entitled to the protection of their health and safety rights!

As a 33-year homeowner of Freeport and a licensee of the GBPA I urge the GBPA and Government to work closely together to implement these bye laws so that the GBPA can effectively undertake its duties, responsibilities and obligations under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement.

The GBPA has already established an Environmental Department but again, like the BEST Commission, it has no statutory teeth.

Under the Freeport Act 1993, the Government, the Grand Bahama Development Company (Devco) and the GBPA agreed to “Introduce additional environment frameworks for development”.

It is high time that this provision under the Act was put into effect.

It is high time that the Government and the GBPA make good on their promises to protect the environment and the health and safety of workers and put in place the necessary laws and regulations.

Window dressing will no longer cut it.

Tribune 242


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Since the Bahamian government’s recent announcement that exploratory oil drilling would be allowed prior to a referendum on the issue ...controversy has erupted along several fronts

The great oil debate

To drill or not to drill is the question

Guardian Senior Reporter

If Bahamas Petroleum Company’s (BPC) calculations are correct, there is a super-giant oil field lying beneath Bahamian waters.

All that needs to be done to get the nearly nine billion barrels of oil it believes is likely there, is to figure out exactly where it is, and go get it without spilling a single drop in the ocean.

If only life were that simple.

Since the government’s recent announcement that exploratory oil drilling would be allowed prior to a referendum on the issue, controversy has erupted along several fronts.

The referendum issue

Perhaps having had its reputation savaged in the gambling referendum in January, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had no wish to risk another fiasco and so opted to take a different route – see if any significant amount of oil is there, and then see how the Bahamian people feel about taking it out of the ground.

BPC maintains it will spud an exploratory well around this time next year, and the government says it will hold a referendum on the actual extraction of any oil in the latter part of 2015.

Yes, the PLP backtracked on its original promise, but is this not a considered, logical position to take in light of the fact that Russian companies are drilling for oil just miles away from our border with Cuba?

Not really, says Free National Movement Chairman Darron Cash.

In fact, Cash contends, it all seems a bit rushed.

“Given the national and international attention that the government knew this matter would receive, the minister of the environment (Ken Dorsett) should not have announced the government’s policy reversal until the proposed legislative changes and the regulatory framework could be disclosed at the same time. It is not constructive to the process that the debate has begun in earnest but there is an information vacuum,” he said last week.

“There is no information packet available, no statement of Government principles, no answers to frequently asked or anticipated questions, no secretariat and no readily available environmental impact studies.”

Cash, who may or may not be familiar with the Internet, is wrong that no environmental impact assessment has been made public.

It’s been out for a year, and the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission has it on the front page of its website.

It’s over 400 pages long and extraordinarily detailed, but more about that later.

Cash is right however, about the lack of regulations and legislation being in place.

According to a letter BEST wrote to BPC Environmental Scientist Roberta Quant on February 15, 2012, there are no specific standards for gas and oil exploration in The Bahamas.

BEST deferred establishing those standards until widespread national consultation and a required regulatory review takes place.

Last week, Dorsett said new regulations to support oil exploration "are substantially complete" and will soon be presented to Cabinet.

It is expected that they would be tabled and debated in Parliament before ultimately going into effect before BPC begins its exploration.

That would be quite a step beyond where the Christie administration was willing to go with regard to the gambling referendum.

In the run-up to that debacle, Bahamians were simply expected to trust the government and the numbers houses’ good intentions with little detail.

Hopefully, Cabinet won’t make that mistake again.

Show me the money

Possibly years away from seeing any oil, Bahamians last week flooded talk shows and social media with the concern that somehow The Bahamas was getting the short end of the stick with regard to oil royalties.

That depends on how you look at it. According to the proposed production license, the royalties paid to the government increase on a sliding scale.

If up to 75,000 barrels of oil are produced per day (bopd), then the royalty rate would be 12.5 percent.

For oil production over 75,000 up to 150,000 bopd, the royalty rate would be 15 percent.

For oil production over 150,000 bopd up to 250,000 bopd, the royalty rate would be 17.5 percent.

For oil production over 250,000 bopd up to 350,000 bopd, the royalty rate would be 20 percent.

For oil production in excess of 350,000 bopd, the royalty rate would be 25 percent.

The royalty rate on any amount of gas production would be 12.5 percent.

BPC has five licenses that cover an area of nearly four million acres in total.

It is also required to pay the government $0.92 per acre per year for its leases.

However, these payments are deductible from royalty payments.

BPC is also surely ecstatic that there is no corporate income tax in The Bahamas.

It is unclear how value added tax would impact oil drilling and or production.

The company has invested nearly $50 million so far; mostly in seismic research.

It says an exploratory drill would cost another $120 million.

It is unclear what The Bahamas has invested so far, but preliminary indicators suggest that the country has spent nothing on BPC’s venture.

That seems like a pretty good return on investment.

However, when you look at what other countries rake in in pre-tax oil revenues, what is proposed would pretty much make The Bahamas the lowest recipient outside of Ireland.

Environmental concerns

The thing most people seemed to be concerned about is an oil spill.

BPC’s research indicates that an oil spill taking place at the location where drilling will most likely take place would have “a major impact on the Cuban coastlines in the vicinity of the release point”.

“Particular wind conditions may allow for transport of small quantities of oil to the west, where it can eventually be advected by the Florida current and potentially affect the Florida or eastern U.S. coasts, or the Western Bahama Islands.

“In case of a seabed spill, it is expected that some oil will surface at a distance from the initial spill due to intense deep dynamics along the Great Bahama Bank. This would favor a wide spread of oil, with possible impact further on the Cuban coast, but also on the Florida or Eastern U.S. coasts, or the Western Bahama Islands.”

BPC’s political ties

Though the PLP tries to downplay it, there is no getting around the fact that Prime Minister Perry Christie, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis and Senator Jerome Gomez were all closely linked to BPC prior to the general election.

Davis was its lawyer, Christie a consultant and Gomez the resident director.

All three men have since said they no longer have ties to the company.

But that hasn’t stopped the FNM from asking serious questions.

The Opposition has asked for full disclosure. Davis has expressed annoyance at the line of questioning and pledged to act in the best interest of the Bahamian people.

Gomez addressed the issue last week, though both men stopped short of full disclosure.

Christie said he will address the matter in the House of Assembly today.

Whether there is oil underneath the sea remains to be seen, but what seems clear is that the great oil debate is just getting started.

March 18, 2013


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Haitian-Bahamians and Bahamian Citizenship

Haitian-Bahamians Want Citizenship

The Bahama Journal

Three young Haitian-Bahamians stood before the Constitutional Commission this past Friday making recommendations specifically surrounding children born to Haitian parents receiving citizenship.

The trio, representatives from Univision, a civic organisation geared at spreading equality amongst cultures, presented the challenges that face children born to Haitian parents in The Bahamas.

President and Founder of Univision Lovy Jean said the Bahamian Constitution has no security for those children who for 18 years have no nationality.

“As stipulated in the Constitution, the group of young people born to foreign parents in The Bahamas is not afforded the right of automatic citizenship. Therefore a formal application must be made to the Department of Immigration for that person to become a citizen. That process is normally two to six years. If you’re lucky during a General Election you’d get it right away,” he said.

“You’re in this internal conflict because you don’t know where you belong. You can’t go to school, you can’t get a scholarship because you simply don’t have a nationality. In the schools down here, you’re not a Bahamian, your parents are Haitians. But back home in Haiti, you’re not Haitian; you were born in The Bahamas. So imagine what that must be like for someone to go through that for 18 years and more until they gain citizenship.”

Mr. Jean recalled the scholarship opportunities he had to pass up on all because he did not have a passport, Haitian nor Bahamian.

Mr. Jean’s sister, Janette Jean, is the co-founder of Univision and says she believes that it’s time The Bahamas begins to benefit from the investment it makes in the thousands of children it educates and provides free healthcare for.

“The Bahamas for the past years has been investing in its people, all because they want to see a better future. The Bahamas invests in both Bahamians and foreigners. The Bahamas invested in me, and they do it for a return. Sadly, because of the present laws and policies that we have currently in place, it is difficult for The Bahamas to gain the returns that they should in the foreigners that they invest in,” she said.

Undoubtedly the portion of their presentation that came as a surprise to the Commission was the group’s recommendation of setting a date, before which every child born in The Bahamas to foreign parents would become a Bahamian citizenship, and after which every child born in The Bahamas to illegal parents would be subject for deportation.

The group acknowledged that this method would not sit well with their fellow Haitians, but Ms. Jean believes that this would be the ideal way of addressing the illegal immigration problem in The Bahamas.

“We have an illegal immigrant problem. I consider The Bahamas my home and I want to protect it. This is a decision we have to make and the line must be drawn somewhere. You must be fair to both sides,” she said.

Their recommendation also included children born to parents outside The Bahamas, saying that the parents should be able to decide which nationality the child should be given as well as they recommended that spouses of Bahamian citizens of any gender be given the opportunity to apply for Bahamian citizenship regardless of their gender.

Department of Statistics’ 2010 census shows that there are 39,144 Haitians living in The Bahamas.

However, these figures do not include the undocumented or illegal immigrants.

18 March, 2013

Jones Bahamas

Monday, March 18, 2013

What is the leader of the nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan Muhammad talking about?

By Dennis Dames:

The leader of the nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan Muhammad sounds like a cry baby and grouch – when he talks about suing The Tribune about a recent article entitled: Nygard Faces the Wrath of Farrakhan.

Minister Farrakhan was quoted as saying the following in Monday March 18, Nassau Guardian: They quoted my words perfectly, but the spin that was put on my words was vicious and ugly and very untrue.

I wonder what the esteemed Minister meant, when the following quote was attributed to him in The Tribune of March 15, 2013: “You know I’m a very simple man, my staff can tell you,” he said. “When I go, I come to do a job to teach my people what God has blessed us to have. I to teach them and go back to my hotel. I aint looking for sport and I’m not looking for play. So you can’t send no woman to me except to learn.” “And I don’t mean sex education,”…

Where did all of this come in, and what exactly was Minister Farrakhan alluding to?

Get a life big brother Farrakhan, and welcome to The Bahamas.

Monday March 18, 2013

Caribbean Blog International

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Opposition Free National Movement (FNM) has vowed to do everything in its power to block exploratory oil drilling in The Bahamas ...before comprehensive regulations are put in place ...and unless there is full disclosure of any relationship between the oil industry and senior Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) members

Opposition Calls For Full Disclosure On Plp Links To Oil

Tribune 242

THE Opposition has vowed to do everything in its power to block exploratory oil drilling in the Bahamas before comprehensive regulations are put in place and unless there is full disclosure of any relationship between the oil industry and senior PLPs.

And, with the government’s “rush to drill” – despite its own pre-election promises – FNM chairman Darron Cash claimed there were also worries the government was simply delivering a ‘favour to a financial backer’.

He said in a press release: “The FNM will use every means at its disposal to ensure that the first drill does not penetrate the sea bed until the appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks are in place and until the Christie administration officials make full disclosure to the people.”

He said Prime Minister Perry Christie and Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis both delivered services to the Bahamas Petroleum Company before they came to office, while a PLP candidate was the company’s local manager.

“Full disclosure must begin with Senator Jerome Gomez, former country manager for BPC, Deputy Prime Minister Philip ‘Brave’ Davis and Prime Minister Perry Christie, attorney and consultant, respectively,” Mr Cash said.

“Before these senior public officials vote on any issue regarding oil drilling, they must disclose to the Bahamian people everything related to their dealings with any oil or related company that requires approvals from the government to do business in the Bahamas.”

He said these men must disclose:

• terms and conditions of any contracts they had with oil companies

• how much they, their firms and other related parties were paid

• the duration of their contractual relationships

Prime Minister Perry Christie “seems incapable of designing and implementing public policy in a well thought-out and co-ordinated manner,” said Cash.

“The government has announced its intention to allow exploratory oil drilling ahead of putting in place the legislative and regulatory framework necessary to ensure transparency, safety and appropriate returns to the Bahamian people,” he added.

“The Minister of the Environment has given assurances that these are coming. But we must ask, why the rush?”

The move is reminiscent of the government’s “failed attempt to get approval from the Bahamian people” for web shop gaming.

Mr Cash said: “The government was rejected in that effort because of its failure to put in place the necessary legislative and regulatory framework to ensure accountability and transparency. History appears to be repeating itself. With oil drilling the stakes of incompetence in the Christie government are higher.

“While shortcomings in the web shop business may lead to reduced government tax revenues, lack of oversight and proper enforcement in the oil drilling business would be far more catastrophic, possibly leading to significant destruction of our fishing and tourism industries.”

Mr Cash added: “Prime Minister Christie would be aware from the General Election campaign that this is an issue of tremendous concern to the Bahamian people. In view of that, the FNM would have expected a well-considered and well-structured approach from the very beginning. As of now, the government’s haphazard approach has been enormously disappointing.”

Given the national and international attention that the government knew this matter would receive, he said, the Minister of the Environment should not have announced the government’s policy reversal until the proposed legislative changes and the regulatory framework could be disclosed at the same time.

“It is not constructive to the process that the debate has begun in earnest but there is an information vacuum,” Mr Cash said.

In addition to the government’s failure to present details of the legislative and regulatory framework, he said, there was no evidence that the structure to manage this public discussion had been set up within the Ministry of the Environment, he claimed.

There is no information packet available, no statement of government principles, no answers to frequently asked or anticipated questions, no secretariat and no readily available environmental impact studies, the FNM chairman said.

“For a debate of critical national importance that requires a wealth of information, the process is getting started in a completely backwards fashion. This could have been avoided.

“This begs the question – Why the rush? Again!

“In the interest of complete transparency, the Bahamian people deserve to know whether this action by the government is another act of payback to a financial backer of the PLP?

“While we are at the start of this process, the FNM wants the Christie administration to understand that the official opposition will not be a meaningful partner in this important national debate unless and until the members of the Christie administration with past and present ties to oil interests make complete and accurate disclosures of their past financial and other dealings with the principals of BPC and any related party or entity. This disclosure is non-negotiable.”

The FNM urged the Prime Minister to be “very proactive” in managing any public discussion on the issue of oil drilling.

“He would be well advised to outline a clear plan of action and an information/education campaign so that all stakeholders can be informed and then plan appropriately to have their voices heard on this important issue.

“The Prime Minister, as head of the government owes the Bahamian people this elevated level of transparency.”

Tribune 242

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Prime Minister Perry Christie says that his government’s commitment to an oil referendum might have been miscommunicated

Christie defends oil exploration plan

PM explains decision on ‘research drilling’

Guardian Senior Reporter

Prime Minister Perry Christie yesterday denied that his administration has flip-flopped on the oil drilling referendum.

He said it was never the intent to interfere with the relevant research needed to determine if The Bahamas has commercially viable oil reserves.

Christie said his government’s commitment to an oil referendum might have been miscommunicated.

“I think at all material times the question probably was not put properly and effectively, but the process was that we were not going to interfere with research and there was a distinction between industrial drilling and research,” he told The Nassau Guardian during the House of Assembly’s recess.

He added that if oil is found but the referendum is not successful at least the country would be informed about its resources.

“People will ask the question, ‘Why should I vote and I don’t even know if there is oil?’”

He also said if significant oil is found in this territory it would be a blessing, but whether that oil would be harnessed would depend on a public vote.

He said it has not yet been determined how revenue from oil drilling would be split between the government and the Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC).

“If God has given The Bahamas oil in the quantities some people say exist, it would be an incredible bounty for our country,” Christie said.

“But we took a position that if there is going to be the exploitation of oil in The Bahamas, it has to be done with the consent of the Bahamian people.”

Yesterday, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis suggested the government’s stance on the oil drilling referendum has shifted.

Christie has repeatedly pledged to hold a referendum before any drilling is allowed.

However, on Sunday, Minister of Housing and Environment Kenred Dorsett said the government would allow the drilling of an exploratory well before a referendum, to determine if the country has oil in commercial quantities.

Cuba is currently drilling for oil in waters south of Guinchos Cay in The Bahamas.

Christie referenced Dorsett’s recent trip to Cuba to discuss this and said this underscored the need for The Bahamas to create a proper regime for any possible oil drilling.

Some have speculated that if Cuba finds oil near The Bahamas’ borders, this country may also have significant oil reserves.

“I am told that the Cuban wells might be an indication, but because our structures are different to theirs, they believe the structures in The Bahamas are structures that contain oil, whether light crude or heavy crude, but contain oil in commercial quantities,” Christie said.

“So that will only happen when the people will obviously be consulted as to whether or not we should move ahead and drill.”

Minnis, the MP for Killarney, said the government was flip-flopping on oil drilling.

He said strict regulations must be enacted before an exploratory well is dug to ensure that the environment is protected.

“It’s a very dangerous road to tread without having proper regulations in place,” he said.

“We’ve seen what happened in the Gulf [of Mexico]. For something like that to happen in The Bahamas, where 80 percent of our employment depends on tourism, whether direct or indirect, that can be a disaster for this nation.

“Our position [is] no drilling at all until all the regulations are in place to ensure complete safety so that the Bahamian marine resources, tourism, etc, are completely protected.”

On Sunday, Dorsett said he does not expect an oil referendum before the second half of 2015.

He said the exploration data needed to verify if the country has commercially viable oil reserves would not be ready until the end of 2014 or early 2015.

BPC was granted five licenses for oil exploration in April 2007, at the tail end of Christie’s first term as prime minister.

The company has reportedly invested more than $50 million in the country to date; however, most of that has been limited to 3D seismic testing or mapping.

March 12, 2013


Saturday, March 9, 2013

The most fundamental characteristic of the modern Bahamas isn’t tradition, ambition, or national pride as we like to pretend... ...but rather shame

A Look Into The Shadows

“What happened to these masses, to this people? For forty years it had been driven through the desert, with threats and promises, with imaginary terrors and imaginary rewards. But where was the Promised Land?”
– Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon
Tribune News Editor
THE pervasive sunshine for which this country is known casts deep shadows where over the years, poisonous secrets have accumulated.
So accustomed are we to our description in the vacation brochures – a welcoming, exuberant, God-fearing people – that even we have come to mistake this mask for our own face.
But under its official, picture-postcard skin, the Bahamas has a troubled soul.
It has become a place filled with pain, rage and despair. A place where the sunlight blankets the surface but does not penetrate.
And who are the people who live in these shadows?
They are the fatherless young and the mothers of dead children. Victims of sexual predation and hostages in their own homes.
They are participants in unspeakable acts, in a constant struggle to live with themselves.
People who spend their whole lives paying for mistakes they were never equipped to avoid.
They are the wrongfully condemned and the zealous executioners. The murderers and the next of kin.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it means you are one of the privileged few.
Thanks to wealth, status or just plain luck, so far you’ve been spared contact with the tide of destructive social forces that is shaping the modern Bahamas.
But it also means you’re in the minority, out of touch with where this country is really headed.
The unwelcome truth is that 40 years after Independence, we find ourselves farther than ever from the Promised Land which was promised to us then.
And, what do we really have to show for it but an arsenal of superficial explanations, skilful deflections and short-term remedies?
Very few are willing to soil their hands tugging at the roots of our deterioration; willing to remove the mask and look the truth in the face.
One such is Dr David Allen, for whom brutal honesty is a necessary ingredient in a workable solution.
The Bahamas, he says, is being taken over by an “ominous and pervasive culture of violence and destruction”.
Reporting on the findings of his research in 2010, he said: “We found a powerful sense of anger amongst us Bahamians. Throughout the three-year study participants talked about ‘outting’, which was the word for killing; poisoning – women particularly – and suicide.
“A few months ago we had a young girl commit suicide. We have five of her friends who want to do the same thing right now.
“Bahamians are saying I don’t feel the murders anymore; it’s just what is supposed to happen. They build a wall in their heart.
“In a group of 10 to 15 year olds, they don’t expect to live long. As a result (they think), you do what you can, get as much money, and then if you get killed or kill somebody, that’s it.
“Most disturbing is we found a number of young girls who had no compunction about giving their bodies for money. They pay for their education, but they also pay for their parents’ air conditioning, refrigeration and also their cable.
“The point is they had no feeling about it. They said, ‘Doc, that is what you call survival in the Bahamas.’ That was very, very disturbing.”
For Dr Allen, the difficult economic circumstances of the last few years did not beget an upsurge in crime and violence, as politicians like to claim.
Rather, material hardship unleashed forces that have been building in the shadows for more than three decades.
These forces were born and nurtured during the drug crisis of the 1980s, when more than two-thirds of the cocaine that made its way into the United States passed through the Bahamas, leaving in its wake a multitude of hopeless addicts and converts to the cult of easy money.
The toxins have been in our system ever since, slowly poisoning our sociocultural values, giving rise to ever more destructive behaviours and adding to the tally of silent victims.
The result is that the most fundamental characteristic of the modern Bahamas, the thing that really makes it tick, isn’t tradition, ambition, or national pride as we like to pretend, but rather shame.
We have become, Dr Allen says, a shame-based society, and the things we love to condemn in our neighbour – dishonesty, callousness, aggression – turn out to be necessary consequences of this fact.
Shame, he explains, is caused by “impacted hurt” – pain that has been trapped or blocked from being worked out along its natural course. Abuse that is swept into the corner, neglect that is hidden away.
“The shame response to this kind of hurt leads to self worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness – depression and feelings of victimisation,” he says.
“We defend from intolerable shame through anger and a false self that is concerned with self absorption, ego gratification, revenge and aggressive control.
“This ultimately manifests as passive or overt aggression, and finally violence.”
He notes that nearly every person he interviewed who was involved in a serious crime had suffered some severe form of physical or sexual abuse.
One of his colleagues added that shame is “like a hot potato” – impossible to hold for long, hefted onto someone else at the earliest opportunity in an effort to seek temporary relief. And so the cycle of shame and violence is perpetuated exponentially.
If acts such as murder and suicide are not events but rather processes, it follows that to end the cycle of violence we must interrupt its progression before it manifests itself in action.
But if this is right, our after-the-fact, retribution based approach to justice is probably doing more harm than good – injecting even more anger and incentive for revenge into the cycle.
The same goes for efforts to stem the destructive tide with job creation, funding grants, and training programmes.
These are all helpful to an extent, but economics alone can’t heal shame.
Simply throwing money at the problem often does nothing but fuel a shortsighted and corrosive consumerism which itself arose as a strategy to conceal shame.
“Love is the antidote to shame,” Dr Allen says. “If we can apply love to the hurt, then we melt shame and stop the cycle of murderous rage and violence.”
His ground-breaking strategy for doing so, “The Family”, is named after what he believes was one of the most calamitous casualties of the drug years – the stable two-parent household.
The group has been running for six years and now has around 60 adult members, the majority of whom simply walked in one day feeling compelled to unburden themselves of the pain that was threatening to consume them.
A guest at their weekly meeting last Wednesday, I was profoundly moved not just by their testimonies of suffering, but also the disarming atmosphere of openness and honesty.
In a culture that has become dominated by self-denial, where everyone wears a disguise, I witnessed people giving voice for the first time to deep anxieties, profound hurt, closely held secrets.
And I watched them being welcomed with sympathy and understanding into a group of fellow travellers; into an organically developing support system in which positive emotions like gratitude and benevolence can flourish; into a Family.
The group is at once a microcosm of the problem – the full range of torments that afflict our people is represented – and a testament to the solution.
Dr Allen’s impressive results speak for themselves. But the programme as it stands is far too small to hold back the tide on its own.
So the real question is, do the rest of us have the courage to support his efforts?
Are we capable of facing up to what we’ve become, or will we continue to pretend that all’s well in the land of sun and sea, hoping thereby to attract sufficient tourist dollars to paper over the cracks?
What do you think?
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March 04, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Bahamas 2010 Census Report provides innumerable opportunities for government agencies, private researchers ...and the general public better understand our Bahamas

The Bahamas in numbers

The Nassau Guardian Editorial

Our census, a vital and complicated undertaking, describes the identity of The Bahamas through numbers.  It is also indicative of trends and analysis of data based on successive census reports.

For The Bahamas this not only means comparison on a regional scale, but also between our islands.  Remarkably, this is the 19th decennial census to be conducted in The Bahamas.  Early census counts are not likely to be comparable to recent data due to likely discrepancies in survey methods, but they nonetheless provide value to the history of The Bahamas.

Interestingly, the census report makes note of the first census in 1722 whereby 74 percent of the population was white and 26 percent black, compared to the 2010 census whereby 91 percent identified themselves as black, five percent white, and two percent as of mixed race.  Such an extreme reorientation of the racial makeup of a country identifies the need to reexamine assumptions about who we are.

Population statistics are perhaps the most widely recognized outcome of a census.  For those living in New Providence, it is all too obvious that the island accounts for 246,329 people or 70 percent of the total Bahamian population.  With an additional 35,497 people since 2000, it is all too apparent that the roads are more congested, lines a bit longer and the housing prices just a bit higher.

But herein lies the importance of data availability.  While New Providence may have experienced the greatest increase in people, several other islands had a much higher percent change in population growth – take Abaco, which experienced an increase of 4,054 people or nearly 31 percent to a population of 17,224 compared to 2000.  Though such an increase would be nominal for New Providence over 10 years, in Abaco the additional people stress local infrastructure from power generation to road maintenance.

The Bahamas’ greatest challenge is providing and maintaining basic infrastructure across the populated islands.  Even with all the controversy, Abaco needed a new power generating facility and still suffers from countless power failures.  While the population congregates in New Providence, growth and a retraction of growth on some islands must guide government expenditure and planning.

Likewise, the government must accept the diversity of residents living in The Bahamas and amend its immigration policies.  Seventeen percent of the population claims citizenship elsewhere, the majority or 64 percent were from Haiti.  Though the census claims to account for residents regardless of immigration status, it is difficult to imagine that the census was able to account for all residents of known Haitian communities such as those found in Abaco.

The Nassau Guardian has reported on specific data tables such as Internet access and usage, health insurance and access to toilets at private dwellings.  There are numerous other tables where trends can be extrapolated on for use in education planning, the looming retirement of baby boomers and their future healthcare needs, marriage trends and reproduction rates.

A copy of the Census 2010 Report became publicly available online on Monday, October 15.  Such data provides innumerable opportunities for government agencies, private researchers and the general public to better understand our Bahamas.

March 07, 2013

thenassauguardian editorial

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dr. Myles Munroe, and the women who men are looking for...

The Watchwoman: Myles Munroe's Dangerous Doctrine For Women


A sermon delivered by Dr Myles Munroe, president and founder of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI), has been making its way around the social sphere generating a lot of debate. I watched the video because it was shared by a close friend, even though the online group “Meeting In The Ladies Room” posted it with a message stating: “All Ladies Regardless Of Marital Status Should Watch This!”

After watching the sermon the first, second, third and fourth time, with an open mind, I still could not bring myself to understand, why and how so many women were giving it rave reviews. One woman declared the message to be “profound and powerful!!”. Another woman said: “Amazing word. I can’t wait to show this to my sons.” And yet another called for the message to be played on a “bull horn”. She said it was so “absolutely wonderful” the mighty word had to get out.

I was completely perplexed by these responses, because the same sermon that brought these women to a spiritual orgasm made me want to go out gunning to slay the wolf. I was not completely alone, although certainly in the minority, for there were a handful of dissenting voices amongst the faithful flock who thought the message was outright offensive.

Dr Munroe’s sermon speaks to the story of Adam and Eve, the first marriage in history, according to the Christian creation story, and shares lessons on the role of men and women in relationships.

In the words of Dr Munroe: “The third thing God told the man - Genesis 2:15 - is cultivate. Cultivate means to bring out the best in everything around you, to maximise the potential of everything around you, to make everything fruitful. He only said that to the male. That is why God will never give a man a finished woman.

“The male was created by God to create what he wants. The woman you are looking for, brother, does not exist. She is in your head. Your job is to take the raw material you married and cultivate her into the woman in your head. So if you have been married for 20 years and you still don’t like the product you get, that is your fault,” said Dr Munroe.

When are we going to move away from following doctrines that make women objects in a man’s world. Not only is Dr Munroe explicit in referring to a wife as a product of her husband, he says men are entitled by divine decree to create the women they want.

Such is the conditioning that occurs in abusive relationships, where men tell their women what clothes to wear, how to style their hair, the friends they can maintain and the places they can go. These are the conditions that foster relationships of power and control, the foundation of all abuse. And while the message is gendered in Dr Munroe’s context, it has broader meaning in the context of healthy relationships, because the same doctrine applied in reverse creates the same conditions for abuse.

Speaking about Jesus’ relationship to his wife, Dr Munroe said: “Jesus Christ is a real man, a real man. He has a wife, a beautiful woman. Her name was Ecclesia. He said about his wife, he said husband love your wife like I love my wife. He tells us how to do it. He says you wash her with the word, and then you remove every spot, every wrinkle, every blemish and then present her to yourself. That is mine, I did that. I produced that. Look at her. Look at her. That’s my baby.”

Our leaders need to start using language to affirm the value of men and women and their equal standing in the eyes of God; to affirm the individuality of every man and woman. Our leaders need to consider the way in which their language socialises impressionable young girls and boys, who are trying to negotiate gender relationships in their youth. His message is dangerous not only because it objectifies women, but also because it lays the foundation for the subjugation of women.

Patriarchal religious doctrines have been used for centuries as reason to deprive women of their individual freedoms, and we must never forget. Male interpretations of religious texts have been used to justify some of the most persistent and pervasive human rights abuses. And while organised religion has evolved since its brutish origins, the church has not shed all of its misguided ways.

It is in the language used by church leaders like Dr Munroe that we see those lingering remnants of the patriarchal order, in which robbed men “twisted and distorted holy scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy”. It is this language that often provides the foundation and justification for the abuse of women throughout the world.

Human rights activist Jimmy Carter, the former US president, recently spoke to this very issue when he stated emphatically, along with elders from many faiths: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a higher authority, is unacceptable.

“At their most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.”

In Dr Munroe’s sermon, he speaks about God placing man in his presence. He was not referring to man in the sense of the human race, but rather men, represented in Adam. Eden, as in the Garden of Eden, he said represents an environment, a place of divine presence, an open door to God, where Adam was placed.

Dr Munroe further described the spiritual hierarchy that exists between man, woman and God. Referencing scripture, he said God also gave the man his word. When God commanded Adam not to “touch the tree (of knowledge)”, God never spoke to Eve. The significance, Dr Munroe suggested, is that the male is the only one to have been blessed by God with the word (a direct relationship to God). A wife, though she too is created in the image and likeness of God, has to wait to be taught by her husband, for only he stands in God’s presence and was blessed by the word.

In response to a lonely dissenter on the video feed, one faithful follower wrote: “If you find this appalling or offensive don’t read the Bible.” Part of me believes there is wisdom in her response. Another part of me wants to believe there is hope for women of the Christian faith who reject male interpretations of holy scriptures that establish gender hierarchies and justify the superiority of men.

I will certainly question any doctrine that creates a foundation and justification for the abuse of women throughout the world, no matter how divinely ordained the messenger claims to be.

Noelle Nicolls is the Tribune Features Editor. Her Watchwoman column explores genders issues in politics and culture from a feminist perspective. Follow Noelle online at

March 05, 2013

Tribune 242